January so far has been a really good reading month, with lots of interesting books. I've finished 10 books this month, and have several others in varying states of reading progress. I like to finish a book every other day, so I'm a couple of days ahead of schedule. I don't have really strong impressions of some of the books, but I'll share my thoughts, such as they are.
True Love and Other Disasters, by Rachel Gibson--This was about a former exotic dancer/Playboy bunny who marries a wealthy old guy. When he dies, he leaves her his hockey team. The old guy's son is a nasty piece of work who wants to buy the team from his erstwhile stepmother, but he gets in her face once too often and she decides she'll keep the team for herself. Unfortunately, she and the team captain take an immediate dislike to each other, but their animosity soon turns to attraction.
I really enjoyed this book--it reminded me of Susan Elizabeth Phillips's Chicago Stars books. However, I was kind of bugged by some of the details in the book, especially about Faith's clothing and nail polish. As a former exotic dancer trying to go conservative, I found the constant references to short red nails a bit off-putting, because someone who switches to a basic neutral palette in her clothing would probably wear less obvious colors of nail polish. Also, sometimes the footwear sounded kind of tacky and stripperish, and I could never tell if the author meant to show that Faith hadn't quite absorbed a less flamboyant presentation or if she wanted to show that sometimes the wild girl has to escape the confines of her beige life. Other than those minor quibbles, it was a fun, satisfying read.
What I Did for Love, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips--It's always a treat to read SEP, and I enjoyed this story of a child TV star who finds herself married, Vegas-style, to her former co-star, a somewhat dissipated has-been who seems intent on arranging for a reunion show to earn some money. Of course his motives turn out to be a bit more altruistic, and there's really a decent guy under that bad-boy exterior. SEP keeps the action moving and the plot twists turning with her usual flair.
Certain Poor Shepherds, by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas--This slight Christmas tale seems like a book I SHOULD like because it's kind of serious and literary, but I just didn't love it. This is the story of a dog and a goat and the flock of sheep they tend, who follow the star to Bethlehem and have some adventures along the way, including encounters with angels and the three Wise Men. Probably someone more serious-minded than I would enjoy it more.
Getting Lucky, by Elaine Barbieri--I was actually somewhat disappointed with this story, because it was all a little too pat and relied on stock characters to tell the story. The heroine was orphaned while on a wagon train to California and had to walk the rest of the journey after her parents died. The book blurb tells us the heroine's virtue is at stake, but you never really get a sense that she's in any real danger, despite the best efforts of the villain and the jealous other woman (who is a saloon hall hooker). Everything was telegraphed well before anything actually happened, and there was just a bit too much mustache-twirling and gnashing of teeth to make a truly engaging read.
Dragon Slippers, by Jessica Day George--This was a very unique fairy tale about a girl who is offered as a sacrifice to a most unwilling dragon. She coaxes him into giving her a pair of shoes, which are coveted by an evil princess who is engaged to the heir to the throne of the girl's kingdom. The story was original, and it was a very enjoyable read, with some excellent themes.
Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery, by Eric Ives--This book was very scholarly in nature, as the author's intent was to delve through legend and letters to get to the real reason why Jane Grey, the person most innocent in the plot to put her on the throne of England in lieu of her devoutly Catholic cousin, Mary, was put to death. It was pretty dry reading in places, but thoroughly researched and eminently convincing in its conclusions.
Early Dawn, by Catherine Anderson--The heroine of this story is kidnapped from a train during a robbery by a band of outlaw brothers who molest and abuse her while preserving her virginity as they intend to sell her to a Mexican bordello. After several days of captivity, the heroine is rescued by a man who's been pursuing the brothers for years in serach of vengeance for his wife's rape and murder by these same villains. Most of the book consists of the hero and heroine trailing and/or evading the outlaws while they wait for the heroine's brothers to catch up with them and take her home. The heroine's strength of character was very appealing, and the hero's heartache was touching. Anderson has added another winner to her long list of successful books.
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold--I don't know what took me so long to get to this one, but it was definitely my kind of book. I wanted to read it before I see the movie, which opened this weekend. Susie Salmon is a captivating narrator/heroine, and the ripple effect her murder has on the rest of her family is heartbreaking and encouraging at the same time. Anyone who's lost a loved one to a murderer will find this book heartfelt and accurate in its depiction of the isolation grief causes the survivors of crime victims. I hope the movie does the book justice.
Kissing the Countess, by Susan King--It took me months to get into this book, but once it finally caught me, it held me until I finished it. Catriona is a minister's daughter who collects old songs from her Scottish Highland home to preserve them before they're lost to the clearances (when Scottish lords moved families out of their homes and cleared the land to raise sheep for maximum profit and minimum outlay). While returning from a trip to gather yet another song, she comes across an injured man. As the weather gets treacherous, they seek shelter in an abandoned hut, where they're found by Catriona's father, the local doctor, and the mysterious man's friend. Forced into marriage, Catriona learns that her husband is the new laird, whose father was responsible for moving so may people out of their homes. The subplot involving the doctor was a little nebulous and stretched belief at times, but overall, the book was interesting.
Princess Ben, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock--This was another good fairy tale, about a somewhat spoiled princess whose uncle, the king, is murdered along with her mother, while her father is missing and presumed dead. Ben ends up being groomed for the throne by her very strict aunt, the king's widow. This story incorporated elements from lots of familiar fairy tales, but combined them in a unique and compelling way. I definitely want to read more by this author, and recommend this book to all fairy tale fans.
Well, that's it so far for this month. I've read lots of new storybooks with my kindergarten classes, and have listed those titles on my shelf at www.shelfari.com. I hope to have lots more books to report on by the end of the month. Happy reading!