Thursday, October 27, 2011
It Had to Be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I'm pretty sure I read this book back in the day, but I didn't really remember it and since I've been on a sports romance, I decided to re-read it. It Had to Be You was published in 1994 and the book's age shows. I'm a big technology person and talk of answering services & landlines dated the book for me. In addition, the talk about safe sex, while certainly important and realistic, smacked a little of 'Hey, did you hear about this scary new HIV thing?' Why, yes, I do believe that I know about HIV. I also know that, according to a 2009 CDC report, the rate of STD transmission has dropped and is now more likely to occur in ethnic groups & the gay community. I think Phoebe and Dan, two straight, white, members of a high economic status, will be okay if they use protection. They spent more time on STDs than on the possibility of getting pregnant. You'd think that given how much Dan wants to be a father, the thought would have crossed his mind.
I think the other thing that diminished my entertainment was the fact I didn't particularly like the hero. Dan basically juggles two women, sleeping with the heroine while dating someone else. He's very dismissive of Phoebe on multiple occasions and the dude has communication problems. He's like your typically good ole boy. There's also a bit at the end where he basically beats the crap out another person. It's meant to be justifiable and Phillips's kinda glosses over the specifics, but Dan clearly has a violent streak buried within him. Phoebe fell in love with him way faster than I thought was realistic and I didn't quite get why.
The book really read more like fiction than a romance. It wasn't about Phoebe and Dan as a couple. It was about Phoebe overcoming the trauma of her past and her father's dickhood. It was about Dan overcoming his own dickhood. They had to grow as people before they could be a good couple.
I don't know enough about sports to really gauge how well those portions held up over the last seventeen years. An eight million dollar contract seems a bit low to me, but Google reveals that a standard contract would be for four years and two million dollars a year is actually on the high side for a wide receiver, so I don't know. I kept thinking about the movie Moneyball. While that was baseball, I think most of the same principles apply when managing a team and, in that respect, It Had to Be You was right on the money.
My public library system has the rest of the books in this series and I do plan on reading the next book in the series. It'll be interesting to see how it compares to It Had to Be You.
Altered Destiny by Shawna Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
To put it quite bluntly, I didn't love this book, but I respected the hell of out it. It actually reminded me of a cross between Jean Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear and Elizabeth Vaughan's Warprize series.
Altered Destiny is your classic 'two races divided by racial prejudice/historical malfeasance are now at war over land/resources' story. Neither side is blameless nor 'good.' What really intrigued me about this book is the world Thomas created. She gives us just enough of the back story that the reader can make certain assumptions, but doesn't provide anything concrete. It appears that Altered Destiny is set on our world after a nuclear event that destroyed most of the existing civilizations and altered or mutated what remained. However, it could just as easily been some alien world where there was some kind of solar event. Thomas makes reference to animals and plant life that fit what currently exists, but they are different enough to indicate we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto. Except for horses. Horses don't seem to be any different, which I'm guessing was a convenience thing, because they are the main mode of transportation. This world seems to be at the technology equivalent of the 1700s.
Despite the skillful world building, this is a four star book for me because of two related reasons. First off, this is a book about war. It may be a war fought with bows and arrows, but it is a war nonetheless. Hard decisions must be made and there is collateral damage. This leads into the second reason: Thomas kills off a significant secondary character. It was a death that meant something and did help the story advance, but damn, it was heavy. This is not a book to be read as stress relief.
I do recommend this book, but know what you're getting into. There are a few sex scenes, but I feel like this would be a good rec for older high school students. It's got that apocalypse feel, a dash of vampirism, and an ending that offers a measure of realistic hope for the future.