Thursday, March 31, 2016
Thursday, March 24, 2016
I am not a huge fan of sweet romances. It's not the lack of sex that bothers me; it's the conspicuous consumption -- the big houses, the luscious food, and so on. Just not my thing. But lots of readers like them, and they may very well like Dance of the Heart.
Our heroine is Maggie Campbell, who fled home after her mother's death, and who has been enticed into returning by the prospect of her beloved grandmother's 90th birthday. Upon Maggie's arrival, she discovers that a handsome fellow by the name of Desmond Kinsley has somehow wormed his way into the bosom of her family. Everyone seems to love him -- including her grandmother. Maggie smells a rat, especially after learning how entwined Desmond is in her family's financial affairs. When her grandmother falls ill, Desmond once again makes himself indispensable to her family. And even as Maggie falls for him, she can't help but wonder whether they're all making a big mistake.
The plot is fine, and so are the characters. Maggie is adorably klutzy when necessary; Desmond is the wealthy man of mystery who may or may not be romantically available. The supporting cast was pretty well fleshed out.
However, I saw some continuity problems. For one thing, as Maggie entered the ballroom for her grandmother's birthday party, I didn't realize the room was already full of people until the crowd reacted to Desmond's entrance. Then later in the book, a number of scenes take place in her grandmother's house, but often I wasn't clear which one the author meant -- whether it was her actual house, or Desmond's carriage house where she was convalescing. Also, distances seemed somewhat elastic. I didn't have a good sense of how close all of the houses were to one another. Some indication along the lines of "Grandmother's house was X minutes' walk from Desmond's" would have helped me a lot.
And there were quite a few typos in the version I read, as well as some repeated text that should have been excised in the editing process. Overall, I'd suggest another round of edits would strengthen the book.
I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
Murgatroyd Floyd is eight years old, a blond-haired, blue-eyed Singaporean boy. He loves his English expat parents, never noticing how cruel they are to him. He's bullied at school, and his only escape is an ice cream shop whose owner takes a shine to him. For the ice-cream shop owner, Yusuf bin Hassim, senses that he and Murgatroyd share a special ability: they are Oddfits, who can travel from everyday reality, or the Known World, to a place called the More Known World.
Due to a twist of fate, Murgatroyd loses his chance to meet his destiny and continues living in Singapore. At 25, he's still living with his parents, who still treat him poorly; he works for a restaurant, but the owner almost treats him worse than his parents do; his best friend is not as good a friend as he could be; and Murgatroyd continues to be oblivious to it all. Then, at last, he meets another Oddfit, and is finally given the chance to travel to the More Known World. But leaving turns out to be harder for Murgatroyd than it should be -- because none of the people he's closest to want to lose their doormat.
Tsao gives her speculative-fiction piece a literary turn. Nearly every character has a backstory, and the action often skids to a halt while the author spends a page or two describing someone we've just met. Not that the book is particularly action-packed; the pivotal scene is almost a tableau, as Murgatroyd's parents sit motionless while their son finally figures out what's been going on all his life.
Still, it's a charming book. Murgatroyd is a nice guy, and I was pulling for him hard at the end.
If you're the sort of reader who likes roundabout tales with quirky characters, you might enjoy The Oddfits. And if you end up liking it a lot, you'll be glad to know that more volumes in the series are on the way.
Thursday, March 10, 2016
As it happens, it was six years ago this month that Angelo, Leland Dirks' Border Collie, went walkabout for 40 days. Angelo had come to Dirks four years before, on the day after his beloved Suki was killed by a car, and brought him through his grief. Dirks and Angelo became inseparable. And then, one day, Angelo disappeared.
Grief-stricken all over again, Dirks spent days searching far and wide for his dog. And then he did what writers do in this day and age: he began a blog about his missing dog. Little did he know that Angelo was keeping his own sort of journal, and when man and dog were reunited (with the help of a UPS delivery man), Angelo helped Dirks fill in the blanks.
Okay, not really. I'm pretty sure Dirks made up a lot of Angelo's adventures. Then again, this dog had already rescued one human; who's to say he wouldn't have been saving others while trying to find his way back home?
Leland Dirks is one of my favorite writers. If you like good storytelling, or dogs, or uplifting stories, or...oh, heck. Just read this book. You'll love it.
Thursday, March 3, 2016
It's the first Rursday of the month, which means it's my monthly date with the Indies Unlimited 2016 Reading Challenge. This month, I'm supposed to read a book by an author who lives in another country. Canada's not all that foreign to me, but it's not the United States -- which means Julie Frayn's Goody One Shoe qualifies.
Goody One Shoe is superhero fiction. Billie Fullalove lost her leg as a child. She and her parents were at the wrong place at the wrong time -- they stumbled across a team of street punks in the commission of a crime. Billie's father pulled out his police badge and tried to stop them, and one of the punks opened fire, killing both of Billie's parents and shooting off her leg.
Despite her last name, Billie grows up full of anger, fear, and self-doubt. She copes by taking her red pen to crime stories in the paper, adding endings in which the criminals get what's coming to them. Then she begins to have odd blackouts -- and at the same time, some of the crooks she's written about get what she gave them in her rewrites. Billie has to figure out who's been looking over her shoulder, and what to do about it.
If Billie were only a cranky victim out for justice, I would have tired of the book in a hurry. But Frayn has imbued her with heart -- and a wicked sense of humor, too. I found myself pulling for Billie every step of the way. I hope Frayn is planning on writing more of Billie's adventures. This could be the first of a great series.