Chloe By Design: Making the Cut

Image
(ARC copy given by NetGalley)
Author: Margaret Gurevich
Publishing House: Stone Arch Books
384 pages
Publication:  1st July 2014
Review by Lady Entropy

For viewers that love Project Runway comes a series that puts fashion at the forefront. 16-year-old Chloe Montgomery has always loved everything to do with fashion. Clothes, accessories, designing–she knows it all. And when she finds out Teen Design Diva, a new reality series for aspiring teenage designers, is holding auditions in her town, she’s desperate to win a spot on the show. She knows this is her chance to finally get her designs noticed. But before Chloe can realize her dreams, she has to survive the competition.

I have to confess I liked the designs a lot more than I liked the story, but I suspect that was because of problems with pacing. Chloe was endearing and passionate and so I was, obviously, rooting for her to win, so my few issues with this book came not from the characters but rather how it was organized.

It’s possible that this book would have worked better if split into two, allowing for the first part to be Chloe preparing for the competition, and the second being the competition itself — instead, whatever little conflicts there were, they had to be diminished because the “big payoff” was still to come. Plus, the competition section felt incredibly rushed through, with multiple challenges happening on top of each other, characters being shipped off in hordes and with flimsy excuses to reach as quickly as possible to the top three – even if the book is 400 pages long and a good chunk of it was dedicated to the competition.

Plus, Nina, who was the closest thing to a villain, was barely a villain — the worst thing she did was steal a hemline cutter — and it was so very easily replaced that it wasn’t even a challenge. There were was no conflict, no drama other than the main character stressing constantly with “Can I make this”. She doesn’t change, she doesn’t grow that much. And that is a huge pity because Chloe is likeable, has a good relationship with her mother and her friends and the rest of her family.

Still, maybe the next book will come out and we’ll see Chloe at her internship and the book will feel less rushed.

Advertisements

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet: Remakes Done Right.

Image

(ARC given by NetGalley)
Author
: Bernie Su and Kate Rorick
Publishing House: Touchstone
400 pages
Publication:  24th June 2014
Review by Lady Entropy

A modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice based on the Emmy Award-winning phenomenon, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

When rich, handsome Bing Lee comes to town, along with his stuck-up friend William Darcy, things really start to get interesting for the Bennets—and for Lizzie’s viewers. Suddenly Lizzie—who always considered herself a fairly normal young woman—was a public figure. But not everything happened on-screen. Luckily for us, Lizzie kept a secret diary.The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet

provides more character introspection as only a book can, with revelatory details about the Bennet household, including Lizzie’s special relationship with her father, untold stories from Netherfield, Lizzie’s thoughts and fears about life after grad school and becoming an instant web celebrity.


This book is the companion book to the NetSeries (on Youtube) The Lizzie Bennett Diaries — which I had watched and loved. This is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, which, as a book and love story, I never particularly was a fan of, but I couldn’t help but ADORE in the video format. Maybe it was the actresses, maybe it was the writing, the fact is that I loved it, and this book helped to fill some of the gaps. Obviously that 5 to 10 minutes episodes were limited in scope, so the writers had to cut out quite a lot and just leave the strictly necessary — between episodes there was often a jump of several days or even weeks, and Lizzie would give a quick description of what had happened and move on — plus, there was always the awareness that she was talking to “real people” so it was easy to guess the character would hold back and keep some things secretive. Especially at the end of the story when her sister’s reputation is in danger, she keeps some details secret as the subject is clearly private and sensitive, so the audience is left to mostly guess what happens.
But this book presents the perfect reason to fill in the gaps, to add small details and make the main narrative awesomer. Lizzie has a quick wit, and she doesn’t try to make herself look good – she’s as critical to herself as to anyone else.

On the one hand, I admit, it kills off a bit of the mystique, on the other hand it does clarify and presents some awesome plot points, so I am glad I read it. Plus, it dubs very well as a stand-alone book, and a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice whether or not you have watched the WebSeries.

Still, I would recommend this to anyone with a sense of humour or who loves Jane Austen — and I would also recommend picking up the WebSeries to watch while you read — it’s free, after all, and definitely worth it.

Deadly Curiosities: The Human, the Gay Best Friend and the Vampire

Image

(ARC given by NetGalley)

Author: Tim Waggoner
Publishing House: Angry Robot
464 pages
Publication:  24th June 2014
Book 1 of the Deadly Curiosity Series
Review by Lady Entropy


Welcome to Trifles & Folly, an antique and curio shop with a dark secret. Proprietor Cassidy Kincaide continues a family tradition begun in 1670—acquiring and neutralizing dangerous supernatural items. It’s the perfect job for Cassidy, whose psychic gift lets her touch an object and know its history. Together with her business partner Sorren, a 500 year-old vampire and former jewel thief, Cassidy makes it her business to get infernal objects off the market. When mundane antiques suddenly become magically malicious, it’s time for Cassidy and Sorren to get rid of these Deadly Curiosities before the bodies start piling up.

This book is a decent Urban Fantasy romp: girl with some powers needs to rely on stronger friends and allies to solve problems, while still remaining useful. It has several creature types, some truly scary and poignant moments, and manages to wrap it all up without making a mess of itself.

Unfortunately, I read it right after another, alas, far superior Urban Fantasy book so I couldn’t but be left with a sense of “meh” at the end. I am sure I would have thought far better of this book were it not for the unfortunate timing.

I can say it works very well as a light read, with a refreshing character who’s not supposed to be all-powerful or a bitch, that is not desired by all men that she comes across. She was sensible, smart, and a good person who (almost never) fell into the Too Stupid To Live category.

My pet peeve was the Sassy Gay Best Friend, who I felt was such a specimen of perfection and awesomeness (great cook, appreciates the arts, incredible smart, expert armed and unarmed fighter, with magical powers that dwarfed the heroine, incredibly attractive, sensitive and thoughtful to his lover) that I wondered why weren’t we reading the story from his point of view, instead. It felt that the writer was trying to compensate for something, or she was so afraid to be dismissed for writing a “bad” gay character that she had to heap all the awesomeness on him to protect herself.

And also, our adventurers tended to rely too much on magical artefacts to get themselves out of problems. No, literally, there is a “suit up” scene. I couldn’t but help feel that, in the process of increasing the stakes, the writer wound up coming up with a threat that the heroine simply couldn’t sort.

Funnily enough, the side and minor characters (like clockman and the hunter) wound up being my favourites and I would have liked to know more about them.

Feitiço – Sylvia Day

Título: Feitiço
Autores: Sylvia Day
Tradução: Cláudia Ramos
Págs: 216
PVP: 15,50 €

SINOPSE
Max Westin: a personificação da sensualidade. Victoria podia até cheirá-la e senti-la assim que ele se aproximava. Tudo nele era brutal e  determinado. Uma criatura primitiva, tal como ela.  Max segurou a mão dela de forma intensa e a sua respiração ofegante e excitante deixou bem clara a sua intenção de a possuir, de a domar.
“Victoria.” O nome dela, uma só palavra, foi entoado com tamanha possessividade que ela quase sentiu a coleira à volta do pescoço
“Está na tua natureza”, murmurou ele. “O desejo de seres possuída.”
Neste jogo do gato e do rato, tudo parece uma ilusão mas a paixão é  muito real.

IMPRENSA

Entre o excitante enredo e as sensuais cenas de sexo, os leitores de Feitiço ficarão a querer sempre mais.
RT Book Reviews

Excitante, agressivo e profundamente sensual (…) uma leitura que não vai desapontar os fãs de Sylvia Day.
Library Journal

Cuffed, Tied and Satisfied: How Bring 50 Shades of Gray into your Sex Life Without the Stupid Bits.

Image

(given as an ARC by NetGalley)
Author: Jaiya
Publishing House:
Harmony
208 pages
Publication: 17th June 2014
Review written by Lady EntropyAre you ready to expand your sexual boundaries? If you’ve ever fantasized about being taken by your man, dreamed of playing with handcuffs, ropes, and paddles, or been turned on by the thought of wickedly wielding power over your lover, you’ve found the right book!Award-winning Sexologist and author Jaiya will be your Mistress in this fun-to-read handbook that will transform your sex life. CUFFED, TIED, AND SATISFIED leads the kink novice and pro alike on a shame-free personal journey to sexual empowerment, including your full plan for safely playing on the edge, setting boundaries, and communicating with your partner about your deepest, darkest, untapped desires.

I like to read something weird for Valentine’s every year (something connected to romance, but, at the same time, weird), and when I saw this book being offered on NetGalley, I knew I had found this year’s choice.This book is surprisingly better than I expected it to be, even if the “do it yourself” manual of the second part wasn’t as interesting to me as the first part.Now, I am not an expert, by any stretch of the imagination, in BDSM. All my knowledge comes from either my own research, or my contact with friends who are involved in such a lifestyle, and who patiently answer my questions on the topic. So, this book hit the right spot, because I already managed to understand quite a lot of the concepts (I’m not sure how someone with no connection with the world would fare, though). It still felt a calm, easy read, who tries to help people alleviate any guilty for wishing to indulge in different sexuality and give them tips and tools to discover themselves.The first part was my favourite, where the studies on the why and how are presented, and frankly the part I read more attentively. I was amused by two things:

– Mention of a Dom called Master Eragon (who apparently is a real person: http://mastereragon.com) because, c’mon, who could take seriously someone who took the very unique name of the protagonist of a really crappy (but well known) fantasy series? This is in the lines of Mistress Hermione, or Master Bobba Fett.

– How defensive some people in the lifestyle seem to be about explaining the “why people feel turned on by non-vanilla sex”. The author remarked how several times she was told there was no point in trying to explain the why people are into it, just “enjoy it”. I happen to disagree. I really like to know the why. The same why I am fascinated how a clock works, why the earth spins and so on. Sure, a working clock is no less useful even if I don’t know why it works, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t a point (and a fascinating one at that) to it. I think it’s basically because these people never really came up with an explanation that satisfies them (or maybe because different people have different reasons), so they tried to justify it.

The second part studied “sub-types” and held the “How-Tos” and “beginners guide to_______” *insert your kink here* for the simpler (discipline, bondage, etc) disciplines of the BDSM. I can see it being incredibly useful, but it held less interest to me, because I had no willing partner at the time to test things on (maybe a good thing, since I read quite a lot of this book at bus stops). It seemed solidly made and had interesting ideas. I might have one of my BDSM friends read it to get a more informed opinion

All it all, while it wasn’t a “light” read, it was an interesting and informative one, and, while I was moderately disappointed at the mentions of 50 Shades of Gray (a book that bored me to tears and had extremely unsexy BDSM scenes, clearly written by someone who knew little of it), I can’t entirely fault it, because, whether we like it or not, 50 Shades opened the path to more understanding about alternative sex practices.

Once Upon a Masquerade: The Maid, Her Man and Some Murder

Image

Author: Tamara Hughes
Publishing House:
Entangled: Scandalous
293 pages
Publication: 10th February 2014
Review written by Lady Entropy

(ARC given by NetGalley)

A Prince Charming meets his match…
Self-made shipping magnate Christopher Black first spies Rebecca Bailey at a masquerade ball and is captivated by her refreshing naivete and sparkling beauty. 
A Cinderella with a secret…
Rebecca is drawn to the charismatic Christopher from the first, but she cannot risk him discovering that she is really a housemaid impersonating an heiress. Her father’s life depends on it.
A Happily Ever After that could never be…
When Christopher’s investigation of the murder of his best friend leads him straight to Rebecca, he fears his ingenue may be a femme fatale in disguise. Now he must decide if he can trust the woman he’s come to love, or if her secrets will be his downfall.

I rather enjoyed this book — oh yes, I confess I didn’t expect this retelling of Cinderella to be located in New York, and half the time, I’m convinced it was written with the English society in mind, but I can understand the choice — not only nationalist but also because this entire premiss would be far harder to pull off in the much stricter and informed society of the English Ton.

Oh sure, there were still moments of “damsel in distressness”, but I couldn’t but help liking the protagonist: she cared for her father (but came to a point where she didn’t want to keep slavishly throwing her life away for him), when she was attracted to someone, she took charge, and she at least tried to save herself. She was genuinely a nice person, and I found myself rooting for her.

The mystery isn’t particularly brilliant (and could be quickly guessed who the involved parties were from halfway the book) but it still keeps us entertained — the end of the second act is a bit deflated, and the arrival of Victoria, which should be a big “issue” brings hardly any consequences.

The love interest was… okay. Not particularly memorable, but not an asshole (almost) either. His flip-flopping about marriage left a bad taste in my mouth (especially because it makes him seem that he only wants marriage when he finds out she is descended from “high society”) although I’m fairly sure that wasn’t the intention.

I did love the secondary characters (even if Victoria needed to be more developed)so, with Mary as the fairy godmother, the long suffering father and, my favourite, the insane Hamlet. So, all in all, it was a fun read and one that kept me gripped. Also, it made Cinderella look like a much more intense and interesting story, rather than just the “girl sitting down and wishing for a better tomorrow” then letting others do all the work for her.

Such Sweet Sorrow: Sadly Simply Insufficient

Image

Author: Jenny Trout
Publishing House:
Entangled Teen
304 pages
Publication: 4th February 2014
Review written by Lady Entropy

(ARC given by Netgalley)

Never was there a tale of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo…But true love never dies. Though they’re parted by the veil between the world of mortals and the land of the dead, Romeo believes he can restore Juliet to life, but he’ll have to travel to the underworld with a thoroughly infuriating guide.
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, may not have inherited his father’s crown, but the murdered king left his son a much more important responsibility—a portal to the Afterjord, where the souls of the dead reside. When the determined Romeo asks for help traversing the treacherous Afterjord, Hamlet sees an opportunity for adventure, and the chance to avenge his father’s death.

Jenny Trout suffers from what I like to call “The Cassandra Claire Syndrome”: I loved everything that Cassandra wrote “for fun” like the Very Secret Diaries, but give me one of her books and I’m not running out of the room fast enough.
I like this author, a LOT. Unfortunately, not her books. I just think she’s a riot and a half in her 50 Shades reviews, and everything she writes in her blog. But all the books I read from her left me wanting.

And this one is pretty much the same.

The concept intrigued me enough to ask for the ARC (and I’ve become very careful of what ARCs I ask of, since I have way too many books and not enough time), and, on a positive note, it didn’t crash and burn as I feared it would. Shakespeare Crossover Stories seems the type of thing that could go either horribly bad or amazingly awesomely – I was expecting something in the lines of when Captain America and Thor go to hell to rescue Thor’s beloved and you have them fight hordes of zombies. No such luck. A lot of accident and coincidence push the plot forward, a little too much than I’m comfortable with, and way too much time is spent talking and arguing. I know that they’re trying to show how their friendship develops, slowly, but Hamlet and Romeo bitch and complain from the start and don’t even have the least bit of politeness to each other that two strangers normally should have.

Also, apparently, everyone’s fluent in latin. Look, I studied latin. It’s not a very good language to have complex talks in, especially if you’re not a priest who does nothing but study it, or a native Ancient Roman. Of course, these are just minor things, but some minor things are jarring. Like making Romeo 18 years of age. Now, I’ll give you, his age has been set at 16-ish, so with the year that went by, he could have turned 17\18, true. But then it only remained creepier the fact that Juliet was 13 — the author tries to smooth it by stating she was 15, but instead of making it less creepy, it makes her look uneducated because Juliet is the one with her age being openly stated in the play — 13 years of age. I wound up not knowing whether to be irritated or creeped out.

The rest of the book lost me because it wound up feeling like a video game: the protagonists stumble on the next bit of plot, find Juliet, rescue her, and then they start finding helpful NPCs who give them quests to end up leaving hell: they find bosses to fight, they have to find three bits of an artefact (the keys) that will allow them to leave hell (making us wonder then, if Odin didn’t want people leaving\controlling hell, why would he keep that artefact in hell to begin with? Why not, say, keep it with himself?) I think the main issue with this book is that it didn’t have a defined villain. Sure, maybe hell could count as the main baddie, but it was just too shifting and changing, and it lacked any ambiance or despair. Ultimately, this felt more like a D&D game, made of small multiple encounters with really no rhyme or reason or even purpose rather than spend time. The characters keep getting separated, which is understandably traumatic if you’re a living person in hell, but after the third time, it starts getting to be a really really worn way to increase the stakes, and loses all impact.

The motivations of the characters, especially the secondary ones, were very nebulous (why would the Crows of Odin be interested in helping Fenrir? Why would Fenrir want to commit suicide to avoid fighting Odin when he could just be brought back to life?)

Ultimately, there were some good moments in the book, like the explanation for Hamlet to see the ghost of his father, hence not having a lower rating, and a lot of fighting although the author can’t describe a fight to save her life. She tries putting some purple prose here and there, but it just doesn’t help at all. The ending was just confusing, so I wound up rereading it to make sure I didn’t miss something.

And then the book ends with sequel bait. I wanted to laugh.

This is one of those books I don’t know whether to recommend or tell people to stay well away from. I suspect some people will like it for the sheer novelty of it, but if you go in expecting romance, you’ll get very few moments (which, I admit, I was grateful for).