Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday Reviews, 7/16/2012

Bob Tarte - Kitty Cornered

People who read non-fiction books about other people living with animals have, I think, a right to expect certain things. They should expect some humorous stories about the animals in question acting in odd ways. They should expect some humorous stories about the people in question acting in odd ways. They should expect at least one trip to a veterinarian. They should expect at least one point at which it is not clear if (one of) the animal(s) in question will survive to the end of the book, which should be resolved quickly. If that point comes early in the book, probably the animal will live - if later, probably not. Unless the book is about struggling to nurse an injured animal back to health, in which case the resolution will take some time, and could still easily go either way. Some lesson should be drawn about human nature, based on the interaction between the animal(s) and the human. If that is what you are expecting from Bob Tarte's book, you will almost certainly be satisfied. The humor is a little dry, and it took me a bit to tune into it, but otherwise, Tarte hits all of the high points in the check list.

I should also say that Tarte's story feels very true, and it should feel true to any other cat people. He has five cats; we have three, but the differences are a matter of scale rather than type. Cat people are a little crazy about their cats. For instance, we struggle with their independence while considering that to be a feature. We keep the cat which lives under the bed, even though said cat doesn't actually DO any of the things that make cats pleasant - sit on your lap, for instance, or purr nicely. When my 15 pound beast of a cat flops on my lap in the 90 degree living room, I accept that as affection. Tarte describes life with cats. It will be familiar to others who have experienced life with cats. Again, if that's what you are looking for when you open the book, you won't have any problems.

In conclusion, a picture of my cat:

Ally Carter - Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy

The second of the Gallagher Girl novels. Girls' boarding school. Spies. Boys. The interaction of these three things. A delightful, if somewhat fluffy, novel - highly enjoyed. I do wonder, however, if all of the novels will end with what initially seems to be a "mission", but which turns out to be something else - I hope not, that would get predictable pretty quick.

I really like Carter's use of idiom; the way her teen characters talk is amusing, and feels authentic. I also like the way that the girls switch, effortlessly, between teen and spy in their outlook on life, and how the two outlooks often overlap - getting the kiss and getting the documents that will bring down an enemy government - equally important in the minds of the characters. Again, that feels authentic.

Isabel Cooper - Lessons After Dark

At least one of the purchasing agents at my local library shares my taste in books. (Actually, since I know that the children and teens librarian is a big fan of graphic novels, and that she often buys the sort of thing I like to read in that vein, there are probably two purchasing agents who share my tastes). This is the sequel to No Proper Lady, and it is really fun.

One of the problems that an author runs into when writing a sequel is where to place the emphasis. Obviously, you want to include the characters from the first book, because otherwise it isn't a sequel - what's the point? And yet (and this is especially true in a romance novel like this one), those characters have already had their story. You can't make them fall in lust/love/bed again, and expect it to work on the same level. So, sometimes its the siblings, or the best friend, or, in this case, the teachers who the characters have hired to train the magically empowered students at their manor house. That's right - this book is X-Men meets Harry Potter - a school for "gifted" students (in the country side of England), where the "gifts" in question are magical in nature. Olivia Brightmore is hired to teach ritual magic, and Gareth St. John has been hired as a school doctor - magic often results in injuries, and St.John has the added bonus of being magically gifted himself.

Plot wise, this one takes a little while to get going - the antagonist is a little nebulous, and so the external conflict doesn't really arise until the last 1/3 or 1/4 of the book. Which is fine, because this is a romance novel, and the tension we, the readers, are really interested in is the sexual tension between the two leads.  This book has sexual tension to spare. Olivia is a widow, St.John suspects that she's a con artist, there's mutual attraction, and mutual distrust (hard to trust a man who seems intent on exposing you as a fraud) - it's good stuff. Also, Cooper writes a very sex positive romance novel - Brightmore is a widow; she's not a stranger to sex, she knows what she likes, and she doesn't feel guilty about getting it. St. John doesn't trust Brightmore, but he also doesn't think less of her for the fact that she enjoys sex - no shrinking virgins or rape fantasies here, nicely done. Additionally, Cooper avoids the over use of the word "cock" in this book, without resorting to the absurdities of euphemisms that are so common in romance - "his tenderness", "her flower", etc etc. No, there are no vulgarities either. Also well done.

When the plot DOES pick up, it picks up in a big way. There are ghosts, and a demon, and maybe another demon, and curses, and Jack the Ripper makes a cameo appearance (well, ok, there's a mention of the Ripper murders, because it gets Mr. and Mrs. Grenville out of the house at an appropriate moment - Jack doesn't really play a role in this novel) - all sorts of good stuff, in terms of plot.

So. A good romance, a good paranormal story, some good regency stuff - lovely. Can't wait for book 3 - I'm expecting, as possible romantic main characters, either Miss Grenville, (sister of the male lead in book 1 - she's away on the Continent in this book, which means that book 3 could be concurrent, which would be fun), Miss Charlotte Woodwell (she talks to the animals), or possibly Michael Waite (he makes it rain) and either Miss Elizabeth or Miss Rosemary Talbot (daughters of the vicar who lives down the road). Hmmm. Lots of potential for sequels - the anticipation!