Book Review: The Last Grand Passion by Emma Darcy

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Just to round out a couple of months devoted to romance novels, I’m going to review some Mills & Boon books that were a formative part of my young adult reading experience. That sounds a little weird but I am talking about the latter end of my teenage years. I don’t read romance anymore but I have reread these books for the purpose of these reviews. Enjoy!

*****

I first read this book more than two decades ago and included it on a list of my top ten books about fifteen years ago, writing, “Although romance isn’t always high class literature, it can have an actual plotline that means something. This is the kind of novel I aspire to write, with believable conflicts and an ending that makes your breath catch and your heart skip a beat with the absolute beauty and perfectness of it.”

The problem is that those are the only things to recommend it. There are a few books I’ve read that while I was reading them, I didn’t like them at all. And then because of a surprise ending that was jaw-dropping, it made me forget about the fact that I didn’t actually like the book. The Last Grand Passion falls squarely into this category. Continue reading

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Book Review: Bride Required by Alison Fraser

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Just to round out a couple of months devoted to romance novels, I’m going to review some Mills & Boon books that were a formative part of my young adult reading experience. That sounds a little weird but I am talking about the latter end of my teenage years. I don’t read romance anymore but I have reread these books for the purpose of these reviews. Enjoy!

*****

As soon as you begin reading this book and discover that the main female character is just seventeen years old, the seed is planted in the back of your mind that there is going to be yet another inappropriate age gap between her and her male love interest. But the further you read, the less bothersome it is because she’s feisty and mature beyond her years and the physical contact is pretty PG right up until the last third of the book, by which time she has turned eighteen.

Continue reading

Book Review: Freedom to Love by Carole Mortimer

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Just to round out a couple of months devoted to romance novels, I’m going to review some Mills & Boon books that were a formative part of my young adult reading experience. That sounds a little weird but I am talking about the latter end of my teenage years. I don’t read romance anymore but I have reread these books for the purpose of these reviews. Enjoy!

*****

This is the first Mills & Boon book I ever read. For some reason it was in the library at the senior campus of my high school and whenever I had a free period or nothing better to do, I would sit in the aisle and read it (circa the early to mid-1990s). Continue reading

Book Review: Girl in the Dark by Marion Pauw

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There is a touch of The Girl on the Train in this story, unreliable witnesses, plenty of selfish motivations, interesting characters, great writing. But the plot isn’t mind-blowing and that makes it, like The Girl on the Train, another okay mystery. And there’s starting to be a very big pile of three-star books just like it. It needed a moment that punched the reader in the face unexpectedly but it just didn’t have one.

Iris is a single mother and part-time lawyer. Ray is in a hospital for the criminally insane. When Iris’s mother goes away on a holiday and asks Iris to house sit, particularly to look after the large saltwater aquarium full of fish in her home, she agrees. It takes nothing more than one of the fish dying to set the unfolding of this mystery in progress. The meticulously kept logbook of the aquarium’s conditions has the name “R. Boelens” on it and Iris’s mother’s maiden name was Boelens. Suddenly, Iris can’t rest until she knows who R. Boelens is.

It turns out he’s her much older half-brother. Convicted of murdering his attractive neighbour and her small daughter, he’s been in prison and a hospital for the criminally insane ever since. Still, Iris is intrigued, mostly because her mother never breathed a word of her brother’s existence. She goes to visit him at the hospital and offers to look into an appeal against his conviction, although mostly to find out exactly what happened. He agrees. Continue reading

Book Review: An Imaginary Life by David Malouf

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I first read this book in high school because it was one of many on that year’s reading list and it was chosen by the powers that be as one of four all students in my grade would study. I didn’t have great memories of it or any memories really and having read it again, I know why: it’s one of those books that make teenagers think they hate reading when really what they hate is poorly chosen books. Continue reading

Book Review: The Insult by Rupert Thomson

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What a strange, strange book this is! It suffers from many problems but the biggest is that the blurb in no way resembles what it ends up being about.

It opens in a medical clinic where Martin Blom wakes up to people telling him he’s been shot in the head and he is now blind. His neurosurgeon tells him that one of the potential complications is hallucinations as his brain adjusts to its inability to see. Then one evening as he’s wandering through the gardens of the clinic, Martin realises he can see in the dark. He’s completely blind during the day but the darker it gets, the better his eyesight is.

This is where the book’s first problem becomes obvious. The neurosurgeon has told him that he might hallucinate but Martin is convinced that what he’s seeing is real. So the reader is torn between wanting to believe and struggling to. The unreliability of the narrator is a constant concern. And when Martin’s paranoia kicks in and he starts to believe he’s actually part of a high-level experiment, you really don’t know what to think. Continue reading

Book Review: Sister by Rosamund Lupton

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I had high hopes for this book. A straight-laced woman looking for her artsy, younger, pregnant and unmarried sister after she is reported missing by her landlord. And the longer I read, the more certain I was that the end must be mind-blowing because the build-up took forever. But when it came, I realised that the author had been jerking me around, using every writer’s trick in the book, just to let me down with a mediocre ending, a not particularly complex bad guy and a cliffhanger that, to be honest, I could see coming from a mile away.

Beatrice lives in New York, is successful in an unimportant job and catalogues everything in her life according to Pantone colours (although she really only needs one – beige). She’s engaged to Todd but clearly doesn’t love him – he’s just a safe option. Tess, the missing sister, is a student at an art college in London but she’s been forced to take a sabbatical by her tutor who is also her married lover and doesn’t want his bosses to find out he’s been sexing up students. She’s just weeks away from giving birth when Beatrice receives a call from her mother telling her that her sister has gone missing. Continue reading