Friday, November 4, 2011

Review: Sweet Inspiration

Sweet Inspiration
Sweet Inspiration by Penny Watson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I bought this on Carolyn Crane's recommendation and, well, it was disappointing. Not disappointing in the 'Why did I spend money on this?' way, but more in the 'God, there's so much squandered potential' way.

It's a really interesting premise. To describe it in a nutshell, Santa has five sons and Sweet Inspiration is the story of the oldest. Nicholas Klaus is in line to be the next 'Santa Claus,' but his passion is baking. While on vacation before the Christmas rush, he comes across Lucy's bakery and her delicious cookies. There's an immediate attraction between them, one thing leads to another, and Lucy, without her express consent, gets whisked to the North Pole. At this point, she still doesn't know that the whole Santa Claus thing is real (except for the flying reindeer, apparently). She's in for a rude awakening when she wakes up and, as punishment for bringing Lucy to the North Pole without permission, Nicholas has to give up baking and step into Santa's boots.

The elves were hysterical. I could totally buy how Watson set up the North Pole and how she integrates it into our reality. I really liked the other brothers and I would read their stories if I came across them. Santa and Mrs. Klaus were a little two-dimensional. The only thing I can remember about them right now is that Mrs. Klaus can't cook and Santa is buff. The main problem for me was Lucy and Nicholas. Nicholas was a borderline ass most of the time and Lucy had that Disney princess feel to her. She accepts her changed circumstances with equanimity and barely gives two thoughts to what it will be like to leave her life behind. The elves all love her, of course, much like the Seven Dwarfs fawned over Snow White. I guess I wanted her to be more 'real.' I wanted her to react like any sane person would react after finding themselves in a fairy tale: lots of deep breathing and kicking Nicholas out of his kitchen so she can bake. I don't have the book in front of me at the moment, but I'm not even sure if we really find out with Mrs. Klaus does. I think there was a throwaway line about how she keeps everything running, like she liaisons between all the different departments, but it's not like anyone gave Lucy enough information to make an informed choice.

It was just frustrating to read because this could have been really, really great and instead it falls squarely into the 'meh' category. I have a feeling that this is Watson's debut and with a good beta reader or editor, her writing would have sparkled. Here's hoping the next book in the series, Sweet Magik, lives up to Watson's potential.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Review: The Next Always

The Next Always
The Next Always by Nora Roberts

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I first found out that Nora Roberts was creating her own Inn, I checked out the website. That was probably back in 2009. Now, I have a pretty good memory for words and, while the website copy has changed slightly, portions of The Next Always felt like they were lifted straight from the website's room descriptions. I also knew that Turn the Page bookstore, that the heroine owns in the book, is an actual place where Roberts does her Maryland signings. I took another look at the website before writing this, and it looks like Vesta, the restaurant where one of the secondary characters (likely a heroine of a future book) works, is also exists in reality.

So here's my verdict. If you know nothing about Nora Roberts except that she writes books you like, you will probably really enjoy The Next Always. At its core, it's a sweet story about family, community, and the hopefulness of love. However, if you have already heard of BoonsBoro, MD and checked out a website or two, The Next Always will seem like a commercial in book format. It's weird because I doubt Roberts is hurting for money and if she wants to drive traffic to the inn, lower the room rates! In this day and age, it's a lucky person who can spend $300 after taxes for one night's stay.

While I adore the J.D. Robb books, for me, in recent years, nothing Roberts has published under her own name has been able to top the Irish books (Born in Fire, Jewels of the Sun, Irish Thoroughbred, etc.). I've read everything she's put out, but the last book I actually bought was Blood Brothers in 2007. I keep hoping that she'll go back to Ireland, but, in the meantime, I'm looking forward to Celebrity in Death!

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