Wednesday, October 30, 2013

With True Love's Kiss - Jessica Woodard (Once Upon a Romance #3)

Let me preface this by saying that I have read Jessica Woodard's other two "Once Upon a Romance" books, and I enjoyed them quite a bit.  The Scottish accents in the second book were almost enough to drive me mad, because reading Scottish accents (or most accents, actually) is agonizing.  However, I still liked them.  And honestly, I liked this one, to...

...just not as much as I wanted to.  The main issue I found with this story was Bianca.  She's cute, she's charming, she's endearing, she's kind, she wants the best for her people...and she is completely and utterly boring.  Robin was cool.  I liked Robin.  I liked Queen Isabella, and I enjoyed the returning characters from other books.  But Bianca, as the main heroine, was just bland.  While I wanted her to succeed, I was simultaneously left feeling like I didn't care if she did or not.  In fact, if she failed, that would have opened up a whole new can of worms, which could have been quite interesting.

The ending wasn't my cup of tea, either.  It wasn't nearly as emotional as it could have been, and while it paves the way for future books, it didn't make me actually care about Robin and Bianca any more.  It felt more like a cop out than anything else.  I'm still interested in reading future books from Woodard, but I hope she returns to a style more like the first two books in the series.  I'm not sure how she'll do that, as I suspect the next book is Sleeping Beauty-themed, and it's kind of hard to make a girl who sleeps for most of the story into a great heroine, but I hope Woodard will manage.

Two out of five stars.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Beyond - Maureen A. Miller (Beyond #1)

BeyondOh, Beyond.  Oh, how I wanted to like you.  And I did.  It's have some issues, and those really get in the way of the reading experience.  Logic is seriously lacking in parts of this book, and not in a way that can be covered by the typical "suspension of disbelief" we agree to when we read something like sci-fi or fantasy.

Here are the basic facts of the story, just to lay the foundation for the rest of the review.  One day, just after graduating high school, Aimee Patterson takes her dog Ziggy out for a walk and ends up abducted by aliens.  Well, kind of aliens, because they're not little green men, but are instead normal human beings from another planet called Anthum.  They are cruising the universe collecting samples from all kinds of different planets in hopes of finding a cure for a plague that has decimated their people.  Aimee is told that they can return her to Earth, but by the time that happens, almost five Earth-years will have gone by.

So, let's talk about the time line first, because that's one of the biggest problems here.  At one point Aimee works out that 90 Earth days equals one week on the Horus, the spaceship in the book.  Let's just equate that to three months, for simplicity's sake, even though it's not an exact conversion.  So, for every year on Earth, Aimee would experience approximately four weeks of time on the Horus.  She would be gone for a total of twenty weeks, so about four months.  The issue here is, the story on the Horus doesn't take place over what seems like a five-month period.  It takes place over what seems like a little under a week.  Granted, there's a point at which we're told Aimee was unconscious for approximately two weeks, but that still doesn't make up for the bizarre time gap.

Second, there's the plague.  I am not at all opposed to stories dealing with weird, alien, space-plagues.  Not at all.  This one, however, doesn't make sense.  Unfortunately, I'm going to have to reveal part of the plot here, so if you're interested in not spoiling part of (but not all of) this book, skip the rest of this paragraph.  As you might be able to guess, Aimee turns out to possess the cure to the plague in her biology.  Okay.  Except...there's a point at which she's told she is genetically identical to the "mecaws," AKA humans, of Anthum, so why would her body have the cure?  Doesn't make sense.  Then that is explained away by saying that, "Oh, the cure is actually an antioxidant in her saliva that comes from something she ate that was stored in her glands."  Your body, by the way, does not store extra antioxidants for future use, so good luck with making that one work logically.

Now let's talk about Aimee and Zak.  I liked the two together, I really did.  I didn't mind the instant attraction too much because, hey, you can be instantly attracted to someone.  It wasn't insta-love, at least. least not at first, because suddenly that attraction turns into love about three days later.  Mushy, gooshy, yucky love.  Blah.  Not good.  Also, Zak was repeatedly described as a "warm haven," which was really only worthy of eye-rolling.

Now for a couple more minor things.  The "prologue" should have been the first chapter, but that's just semantics, really.  There is some inconsistent characterization with Aimee.  At one point, Aimee wishes she had her glasses--but then later, in the epilogue (which should have been just the last chapter, not an epilogue) her eyes are described as having never needed glasses.  That epilogue also seemed rushed, blowing through five years without much of a purpose.  Instead of being the end of this book, it seems more like it should have been the beginning of the next one.

Overall, it wasn't a completely awful read, but there wasn't enough cohesion to make it come across as Miller seems to have wanted it to.  It felt disjointed, and there wasn't a sense of time progressing as it should have.  If the basic story line--girl from Earth leaves Earth, visits other places in the universe, fights an alien plague to which she is strangely immune, falls in love along the way--then I recommend reading the Stardoc series by S. L. Viehl.  It's a little more graphic in the romance department, so be prepared for that, but overall it's a superior read.

Two out of five stars.