20 November, 2010

Review: Sons of the Revolution by Shana Galen

Shana Galen is one of those authors that I tend to forget about. When I look at her publication list, I realize I've read all of her books.  Although I can't recall a single detail, it's an overall positive impression. That's the case with the Sons of the Revolution series as well. On your left, a young orphan working as a governess is forced into life as a spy, where she discovers she is destined to be a Duchess. On your right, a young orphan is forced into life as a governess where... ok, that's not exactly fair. But that's the thing about a Shana Galen book. It's easy to fault them on the details.

The strongest section of both books is the prologue. When Julien and Armand are escaping the siege of their home the events are immediate, cinematic and relatable. Those sections of the book are up there with Joanna Bourne's work. In both cases, she has set up an excellent canvas. The eldest and his young mother escape the mob, leaving her husband and younger sons behind to face certain death. Awesome! (Ok, maybe not awesome, exactly... but c'mon! One kid wakes up to flickering lights on the ceiling. It's like riding Pirates of the Caribbean at Disney, but with actual terror!) Afterward, established in London and rich again, Julien's mom seems kind of sad. All the time. Those are the emotional stakes of the subsequent action. Sure, Julien keeps slipping in and out of France looking for his brothers. But the emotional repercussions of their experiences are not deep and traumatic. This is not angsty romance. Armand, who spent a decade in a solitary confinement, goes from mute and feral to resentful sibling fairly quickly.  At one point Armand challenges Julien "You treat me like I am an idiot!" Dude. You've been refusing to speak, wear shoes, or handle utensils. You wanted he should give you a medal, maybe? Julien responds that Armand has no idea what it cost Julien to keep searching for him. I guess Armand thought Julien found his way to France and infiltrated a prison on a lark, because Armand is all hmm, good point.

Of course, as easy as strolling in and out of the prison is, perhaps Armand can be forgiven his error. By the time it's his turn, he heads off to his former cell (guess he forgot his toothbrush) with less thought than I use to walk up to the corner for milk. (Here's another easy swipe - a spy in England knows where Armand is being held, but everyone in the prison has no idea who he is and all the people looking for him on the outside have no idea where he is, and the criminal element in France has no idea where he is... how does the spy guy figure it out? If Armand is mute, who told his jailers the name Armand?)  I could easily break these books down by missed opportunities, but it would miss the point. I enjoyed them. Do I think Shana Galen could really write something astonishing? I don't know. She has some great characters, she has some great situations, but the execution of them is enjoyably rote. The genre equivalent of the popcorn movie. You can see everything coming long before it hits, the clues to future events are clubs with kleig lights attached. It's the getting there that's the fun. You can settle down, have a read, and enjoy it. You don't need the collectors dvd afterward, it's just Tuesday night and something to do.

I will probably read everything Shana Galen ever writes. I expect to forget who she is at least three more times in my life, but I will still have that good impression. She's a fun evening, but not the girl I want to marry.

16 November, 2010

Review: Trial By Desire by Courtney Milan

You know when that band who put out that really great album that made them your favorite band ever put out their second album and you were so excited until it wasn't the first album which made you so sad but then time passed and you realized you liked the new album too?


Trial By Desire is like that.

No wait! It's not! Actually, there are two copies of Trial By Desire being reviewed. Some reviewers got an ARC of the unfinished book. While it was interesting to look at the editing process, it does Courtney Milan no favors to have a rough draft used to review the polished gem. Family drama. Super awesome courtroom sequence. Happy ending! Buy it. Read it. Love Courtney Milan if you're new to this author. Wait - why are you new to Courtney Milan? Do you hate reading? What's going on here?

Oh right. back to the book. Ned finished Proof By Seduction on the edge of a forced marriage with Kate. Kate is completely awesome. She marries Ned, has Ned do that whole "It's not you, it's me, I'll be finding myself" thing and moves on with her life. Being male, he thinks he's done her a favor. What he's really done is make her life a great deal more complex than it needed to be. While she waits for Ned to grow up, Kate works to secretly free abused women from their situations. Ned returns and slowly (again, he's male) discovers that Kate really doesn't trust him anymore. Why should she? He didn't make their marriage (or her) a priority in the past.

Ned's effort to regain Kate's trust plays out beautifully. There are no Big Misunderstandings, no Failure To Express The Heart, none of the standard shortcuts to a relationship on the edge of ending. Ned and Kate's communication issues are ones of assumption and fear. "If I show you who I really am, will you leave me?" I fell for Ned and Kate completely. If you missed this title, go back and take a look at it. Courtney Milan is one of my favorite authors.

15 November, 2010

But You Know This Already...

My views on Agency Pricing and Piracy are that I am against both. Everyone has had the discussion, everyone knows the talking points. It's all out there. But in the real world, things happen without discussion. In the real world, water follows the path of least resistance. Pull the plug on the tub, all the water runs out.

This evening I decided to buy a hardcover release from a certain Big Name Author. I had a credit I wanted to use from a Big Name Bookstore and figured putting the two together with a Small Amount Of Cash worked out for both of us. The publisher doesn't allow any credit to be used on the ebook version. I could order the paper version (and pay shipping, or order more to cover shipping) but I don't read paper anymore. I can go on the waiting list for the library (which I did) but what if I wasn't me? What if I just wanted to read the book? I googled the name. I found five places to download it 'for free' by which I mean 'stealing'. So I did. I wanted to know what the person who pirates books sees, if they are actually final drafts, page scans, stolen galleys, whatever.

They see the book. And it's not from a DRM stripper. I doubt it's from a reviewer, either. This book wasn't offered to review in digital and the earmarks on the file aren't the same as I've seen on digital review copies.  Because I don't pirate, I deleted the file after looking at the first five pages to see what it contained. (You might not believe me, but I know the author. She knows where I stand on piracy going back at least a decade. She'd believe me.)

So I'm staying on the library's e-book wait list. I'm not giving the publisher any money. I'm not paying the Big Name Author (even though I really like her). I'm not reading the pirate copy. I'm not posting a review for those of you considering it for holiday gift giving. We all wait. And while we wait I am absolutely certain that others faced with the joint hurdles of DRM and Agency finger extension just went ahead and read the book.

When you drain the pool, no one can go swimming. I've got my floaties on. I hope they get this thing fixed before winter hits.

14 November, 2010

And Now, A Brief Word From Our Sponsor....

Oh wait, this is a not for profit blog.

Ok, then a brief word from me. Hopefully there will be a new review up soon for your enjoyment, but in the meantime here's why there was no new post last week.

I took a weekender to New York.

I realized (too late) that the three reviews I'd just written were all for January releases.

Halfway through a short film about Enid getting an iPad I realized I was getting new tires first. I don't think Enid at the auto repair shop holds the same charm. Could be wrong.

So! I will endeavor to dip into my book bag again shortly and read something a bit more current. In the interim I remind you that this is A Slacker's Guide To Her Book Bag.

Here's a picture of a kitten, I hear that's what the kids do these days.

Leave me alone, I'm reading.