January, 7, 2010

7 Jan

Yesterday, we received an email that our video card finally arrived in the store. Yeah! We plan to get it tomorrow. Hopefully, the checkered screen (blue or pink, depending on the resolution) will be a thing of the past tomorrow evening because the squares are really straining on the eyes.

Recent Reads

Snowbound by Janice Kay Johnson

Outside a storm is raging…

When a blizzard strands Fiona MacPherson and her students in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, their only hope of survival is to seek shelter at Thunder Mountain Lodge. Their host is John Fallon, a handsome, enigmatic war veteran haunted by secrets and scars that may never heal.

John Fallon never imagined he’d be playing host to this captivating teacher and her eight teenage charges. But when his solitude is shattered by their arrival, his world shifts on its axis. He needs Fiona–but does she need him? There’s only one way to find out. The ex-soldier must find the courage to reach out to the remarkable woman who has transformed his life….

Snowbound is a nice and sweet read, a straight contemporary with no external conflict. Just the characters, John and Fiona (and for the first part of the novel, Fiona’s students). For me, Snowbound stood out for two reasons:

1) the hero suffers from PTSD
I haven’t come across many heroes who suffer from PTSD in my romance reading so far. But I thought it was handled rather well in this novel and not just there to make the hero sufficiently tortured. Plus sometimes it was heartbreaking to read about John’s problems to connect with other people.

2) a heroine who knows that sometimes love isn’t enough.

When John asks Fiona to stay with him and marry him, they have this exchange:

“So we’re down to show-and-tell or bye-bye?”
Fiona still looked sad, but also resolute and composed. She wasn’t wavering. She wasn’t torn. “John, it’s not that simple. I have a commitment to be in that classroom Wednesday. I can’t walk out on Willamette Prep with no notice even if I wanted to. It’s unrealistic for you to ask me. And you know I’m working on my master’s degree at Portland U. Am I just supposed to forget that, too?”
“You could finish the year out…”
“Do you intend to stay here forever?” Her eyes were clear and entirely too perceptive. “Never again work in robotics?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll go back…”
“How can you, if you can hardly bear to go into Danson?”
“Time heals. Isn’t that what they all say?”
“Is that what the veterans’ hospital counselor said?”
He didn’t answer. (225)

“If…if this was the life you loved, the life you’d chosen, then I would give serious thought to how I could combine mine with yours. But we both know it isn’t. You have to be intellectually restless… (227)

From a romantic point of view, Fiona’s reaction is very hard. But I also thought it rather refreshing that love wasn’t presented as a “heal-all” device here. I liked the acknowledgment that some problems need to be dealt with professionally. More realistic this way, IMO. (4/5)

~ * * * ~

Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier

The chieftains of Sevenwaters have long been custodians of a vast and mysterious forest, one of the last refuges of the Tuatha De Danann, the Fair Folk. Human and Otherworld dwellers have existed there side by side, separated by a thin veil between the realms and sharing a wary trust.

Until Lady Aisling gives birth to a son–a new heir to Sevenwaters–and everything changes. With Lord Sean facing his own difficulties as warring factions threaten his borders, it falls to their daughter, Clodagh, to care for the infant while her mother recovers.

Then the baby is taken from his room ab something unnatural is left in his place. To reclaim her brother, Clodagh must enter the shadowy Otherworld and confront the powerful prince who rules there. Accompanied on her quest by a warrior who may prove to be more than he seems, Clodagh will have her courage tested to the breaking point. But the reward may be far greater than she ever dreamed…

The original Sevenwaters trilogy is my favorite fantasy trilogy. Sadly, Heir of Sevenwaters didn’t quite live up to the magic of its predecessors although I can’t really pinpoint a reason.

The good: I just love Marillier’s way to write. It really fits the slightly mystical tone of the Sevenwaters’ novels and Heir of Sevenwaters is no exception there. I liked that Clodagh is an ordinary woman with no special skills who gets to prove herself. I liked that the story takes the form of a quest (once it gets going) and that part of the story took place in the Otherworld. The romance was nice although similar to Liadan and Bran’s romance in Son of the Shadows IMO.

The not-so-good: Some things were repeated/explained a bit too often for my liking and I thought the ending too drawn out: there are several loose ends that need to be tied up because beside Clodagh’s story there are politcial troubles brewing that need to be resolved. I was rather sure who would be Clodagh’s sweetheart right from the start and the big surprise wasn’t a big surprise for me – I had an idea how it would turn out early on. So maybe the for me missing surprises are what kept me from loving Heir of Sevenwaters as much as the previous novels in this series.

Or maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood for this novel. (4/5)

~ * * * ~

A Place to Call Home by Deborah Smith

Twenty years ago, Claire Maloney was the willful, pampered, tomboyish daughter of the town’s most respected family, but that didn’t stop her from befriending Roan Sullivan, a fierce, motherless boy who lived in a rusted-out trailer amid junked cars. No one in Dunderry, Georgia–least of all Claire’s family — could understand the bond between these two mavericks. But Roan and Claire belonged together…until the dark afternoon when violence and terror overtook them, and Roan disappeared from Claire’s life. Now, two decades later, Claire is adrift, and the Maloneys are still hoping the past can be buried under the rich Southern soil. But Roan Sullivan is about to walk back into their lives….

I didn’t know that A Place to Call Home is written in first person but it works well for the story. I really liked Claire’s voice, especially the voice of her younger self. And you get some insight into Roan’s thoughts in the second part of the novel when Claire reads the letters he’s written to her in the twenty years they’ve been apart. At times, A Place to Call Home is a story about two star-crossed lovers, cruelly parted by fate and family. at times, it’s a story about family and place. It’s a touching and heartbreaking novel and a novel that shows the joys (and sorrows) of having a big family. There were some slow-downs in the second part and the focus is more on the family drama than the romance IMO but overall, A Place to Call Home was a wonderful and engrossing read for me, memorable for the first part (when Claire and Roan are still children) and the sense of family and belonging that runs through it. (4,5/5)


9 Responses to “January, 7, 2010”

  1. Wendy Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

    My only quibble with Snowbound was that I didn’t “get” the hero’s logic. He wants to be a recluse, have nobody bother him, and he decides to manage an inn?! Anywho, other than that, I really liked it, and the second half really stood out for me – for alot of reasons you mentioned in your review. JKJ has a reputation for writing really emotional SuperRomances, and I’ve made a habit of snapping up her titles now.

    I won’t disclose how long I’ve had A Place To Call Home in my TBR. It’s not only shameful, it’s embarrassing. Will this be the year I finally read it? Time will tell….

  2. Jace Friday, January 8, 2010 at 5:11 am #

    You read the books I’ve read! 😀

    Snowbound – my biggest problem with it was that the heroine seemed a little dim. I liked the story overall, but I just didn’t take to her. 😦 Also, I think JKJ isn’t for me. A friend loved Man Behind The Cop but I found it to be just ok.

    Heir To Sevenwaters – It certainly isn’t perfect (not like how the 1st and 2nd books were perfect :D) but I was so darned happy to be back in the Sevenwaters world that I lapped it all up. 😀 I liked Clodagh a lot. The romance was just ok for me. Likewise, the hero. JM is writing the 5th book, Seer Of Sevenwaters, which will be published in December 2010 (tentative), after which she’ll write one more for this series. I suppose all the “unfinished business” will be resolved in these 2 books.

    A Place To Call Home – Glad you liked this one. 🙂 I loved the first 2/3 of it. The last bits sort of fell flat but I still rated it 5 out of 5. It’s a keeper for me. 🙂

  3. Taja Friday, January 8, 2010 at 1:00 pm #

    Wendy – I didn’t get that either, especially because I think (not completely sure) he bought the inn. With that kind of money at hand, he could easily have rented a small house/hut out in the wilderness and have nobody around to bother him.

    I think you have a HUGE TBR pile so I don’t think it’s that embarassing. Easy to “lose” books in there. Maybe you should sign up for Keishon’s TBR Challenge. 🙂

    Jace – LOL! I didn’t know about Snowbound but I knew you’ve read the other two recently. Actually, I bought A Place to Call Home because of you. When you said you read it, I was reminded that I always wanted to read it. So thanks.

    Snowbound was my first novel by JKJ. I think I’ll try some of her others.

    Heir to Sevenwaters – completely agree. I know about Seer of Sevenwaters. I think this will be interesting.

    A Place to Call Home – completely agree again. IMO the last 100-150 pages feel kind of flat because there’s not much tension in the romance. It’s more or less dealt with and the mystery/family drama takes over. Partly because of that I actually see A Place to Call Home more as fiction than romance, a celebration of what family can be. (I thought about going with 5/5, too.)

  4. Christine Friday, January 8, 2010 at 7:57 pm #

    I need to read Juliette Marillier. Seems everyone is these days and she’s very well liked by most.

    Good luck with the video card! 😀

  5. Taja Saturday, January 9, 2010 at 6:28 pm #

    Christine – What are you waiting for? Start with Daughter of the Forest. 😉

    Video card installed! Now we thing about upgrading the power supply…

  6. nath Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 3:54 am #

    Yay for your computer!! Good 😀

    The Snowbound book sounds good. Also, if you enjoy A Place to Call Home by Deborah Smith, try her other book, Blue Willow. I loved that one, it’s really my favorite by her 🙂

  7. Taja Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 9:45 am #

    nath – I read Snowbound on my reader. *g* I’ll look for Blue Willow. Let’s hope it’s still available.

  8. Tracy Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 9:00 pm #

    I’ve had Snowbound for a while but haven’t really had the desire to read it. That being said, the blurbs you posted from the book have piqued my interest. I think I might have to pick it up sooner than later. 🙂 Thanks.

  9. Taja Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

    Tracy – then I hope you’ll like it!

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