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Elise Alden – Pitch Imperfect

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Do Re Me You So La Te.

Publisher: Carina Press
Pages: 153
Type: Fiction
Age: Adult
ISBN: 978-1-322-07557-0
First Published: 20th October 2014
Date Reviewed: 30th October 2014
Rating: 2/5

Anjuli’s given up her singing career and returned home to Scotland. Sad events behind her, or so she hopes, she looks forward to the renovation of the Victorian manor she has bought and tries not to think too much about the millions she’s lost. Then there’s Rob, the man she left at the altar eight years ago, the love of her life. As much as she was happy with her career, she sorely regrets leaving him. Has he thought of her?

Pitch Imperfect is a book that starts well but all too soon falls victim to too many subplots and a whiny-for-no-reason heroine.

Anjuli moans about everyone – Rob’s receptionist who she labels a busybody for no good reason, Mac’s dress sense (the woman is a teacher, she’s not going to be wearing the carefree outfits of her younger years). She hates a woman who happens to be talking to Rob and leaves on obviously friendly rather than intimate terms; she hates reporter Sarah who has accepted that Rob will never be hers and never suggests otherwise. Anjuli is always moaning, always hating others, and it’s impossible to see what Rob sees in her.

In addition there is a lot of slut-shaming and thin-shaming, enough that to review without discussing it would actually be impractical. Women who go near Rob are sluts, Sarah is a slut, and then there is all the hatred for thin women. Anjuli has a bit of weight on her but no one points it out, quite rightly, and in fact the men in this book find her curves irresistible. Nevertheless Anjuli spews further hatred on Sarah and other women because they happen to be thin. The hate would be somewhat understandable if the women were in relationships with Rob but there is never any evidence of that – the reader knows it’s not happening, Anjuli only ever assumes.

Americanisms abound, which is understandable as far as the author is concerned because she is not British, but they really should have been caught during the editing process.

So what is good about Pitch Imperfect? Rob is good; he is a fine character. The sex scenes are very well written. Overall the language is clear and easy to read. The setting is somewhat romantic and even though it’s fictional and would realistically be unsafe, it’s nice to see people having access to castles that we cannot have in the real world. The reason for Anjuli’s angst, besides Rob and all that hatred, is fair and well considered.

But there is too much going on in this book with all the other characters (babies from one night stands, burning buildings) and whilst a character does not have to be likeable they do need to have some reasoning behind their thoughts and actions.

Pitch Imperfect may work for some but it’s best to keep your expectations low.

I received this book for review from the publisher.

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A Brief, Obvious, Contemplation Over My Blogging Slump

A photo of a stack of books

In order to write a book blog, one must read books. It sounds obvious and yet it’s not. Beyond reviews, writing reviews as content for a blog, beyond even thinking of book-specific posts, it’s important to read in order to be able to write a book blog.

I look back at the slump I’ve just got through and it’s silly really. There was I sitting at my desk trying to think up a blog post when I was going through a reading slump. Maybe it’s because I often like to write general book-related posts, but it didn’t occur to me that my lack of reading was what was holding me back from writing anything else.

But of course it was. Because it’s not just about the reviews, it’s about immersing yourself in the world of the subject you write about. Just being in the community, actively, and reading, helps to give you ideas, ideas you wouldn’t think you needed to be actively engaging and reading in order to find. But then I would expect the same of other niches. To write a fashion blog you obviously need to keep up with trends and whilst you always choose what to wear each day that in itself wouldn’t be enough. You’re thinking about the subject but are not a part of the discussion.

I think what intrigued me most about this revelation is that the ideas I’ve had are not to do with anything I’ve read be it in a book or online. They’re related only by medium. It must be like subtext or your subconscious, routine, getting back to the situation. I guess you have to be more in the zone than I thought.

My blogging slump caused by blogging needed me to carry on blogging and reading in order for me to get over it. It seems my new daily routine had nothing to do with it.

 
Erica Vetsch – A Bride’s Portrait Of Dodge City, Kansas

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As people learned to say cheese.

Publisher: Barbour Publishing
Pages: 309
Type: Fiction
Age: Adult
ISBN: 978-1-616-26506-9
First Published: 1st September 2011
Date Reviewed: 17th October 2014
Rating: 4/5

Addie moved to Dodge City with her uncle after troubles caused them to move from Abilene. Now Carl is dead and Addie is trying to build up their photography business by herself. She has a romance-minded friend, Fran, and then there’s the new Deputy Sheriff. Miles has started his new job, and has a few personal conflicts about the job, owing to his new found faith, but he’s excited nonetheless to be working as a lawman, especially given his past.

A Bride’s Portrait Of Dodge City, Kansas, is a pretty fair historical novel straddling the mystery, suspense, and romance genres.

Christianity features in this book. It is a big part of a few of the character’s lives however in terms of the novel itself the faith is woven in enough that the general reader should be okay with it. There are a couple of times where Miles feels he should be declaring his faith to his boss, which isn’t really appropriate, but otherwise the times the characters think of God are totally natural – Addie prays for help whilst hiding from shooting, for example. And there isn’t all that many textual references to it, it is more a case that the reader knows the characters have faith.

The language is generally very good, the characters well written. Addie is self-employed, a woman working as a photographer in the 1800s against various prejudices. She is strong throughout. Fran is a dreamer and doesn’t realise the potential danger ahead, and Vetsch does put her in some situations, including an scene of harsh words from the man who says he loves her, but overall you can see where the author was wanting to show how the good guy can be a mysterious knight in shining armour if given the chance. This said there is a scene in which a bad guy gets perhaps more nasty than he had previously seemed (yes, even for his associations) that readers may find uncomfortable for the way it plays out. Miles will appeal more to a Christian reader than otherwise, though either way you’re likely to see him as a fair hero.

There are repetitions, for instance you hear about Addie’s move from Abilene a few times and there aren’t really enough updates to warrant it until later in the book when she gives you the whole story, and these feel as though a word count was needed because as soon as the narrative moves away from it the story carries on well.

The book is somewhat predictable by fact of it’s romantic genre, but another thread that seems predictable is not so much. This said, the mystery and suspense take a somewhat surprising turn near the end and one of the most obvious suspects isn’t spoken of until this end. The suspense itself, however, is written excellently and Vetsch hasn’t shied away from the details, in fact it could be said she lures you in to thinking everything will be just about drunken cowboys, red lights, and saloons, until getting to the gritty stuff. And she shows the difficult and otherwise immoral choices that must be made in times of emergency.

There is a great deal to learn about photography and the times in general. There is a lot of detail given to photography but not so much as to make it boring. Indeed if you’ve even the smallest interest in the subject you’ll likely enjoy Vetsch’s descriptions. The book is firmly in cowboy territory and the balance between ‘protect the women’ and Addie’s freedom is good. Fran could have done with more freedom to choose, but given the way she is presented from the start, you know she’s going to go back on her words somewhat.

Lastly, this may be a clean romance, but its kisses and thoughts are pretty steamy all the same. Indeed Vetsch shows how you don’t need sex for a fair tale of romance.

What works in this A Bride’s Portrait Of Dodge City, Kansas (it’s a long title but interesting for its difference) makes up the vast majority. There may be flaws but looking at the big picture the book is very good. Cowboys and photography, gangs and romance, independence and dependence; if you’re looking for a western with a bit of faith, you could do worse than read this book.

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Latest Acquisitions (September – October 2014)

A handful of books today. Some you’ll see on the blog soon, others in a few months.

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Davina Blake: Past Encounters – This was one of the books I read for the Readathon, something just drew me to it and it’s fantastic. Although I’ve already read it, I’ve included it here because I’m not due to review it until December and that’s too long when you’ve loved a book.

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Elise Alden: Pitch Imperfect – Whereas my first thought was that ‘pitch’ would refer to sports, it turned out this book includes music and that’s something I love to read about.

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Kate Riordan: The Girl In The Photograph – I received a heads up from the publisher about this being available on Netgalley. No estimate yet for when I’ll be reading it but the release date is in January so hopefully I’ll get to it in time for that.

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Marc Pastor: Barcelona Shadows – I haven’t much of an idea what this is about but it’s published by Pushkin Press (who published The Rabbit Back Literature Society I reviewed on Monday) and it’s translated fiction.

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Robin Ince and Johnny Mains (ed.): Dead Funny – I’m not sure I’ll get to this in time for Halloween and I think a few people may be interested. Short horror/comedy stories by a variety of British comedians including Al Murray and Phil Jupitus.

What/which books have you bought/loaned/been sent recently?

 
Maile Meloy – Half In Love

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For better or for worse.

Publisher: John Murray
Pages: 164
Type: Fiction
Age: Adult
ISBN: 978-0-719-56771-1
First Published: 25th June 2002
Date Reviewed: 19th October 2014
Rating: 3.5/5

This is Meloy’s first collection of short stories, each confined to a scene or two and centred on emotion and the individual.

Half In Love is a short book that contains some magnificent stories and some average stories which, whilst not being in the same league as the author’s later work, do house that specialness that is unique to her.

Meloy is an expert at characterisation, pulling you into the character’s lives from the first moment; this is exactly what happens in these stories. A handful of pages long, and with Meloy’s writing style remaining as sparse as ever, you don’t expect the sheer amount of ‘pull’ there is to these stories. It’s as though an entire novel has passed before you, the stories being at once so in depth you feel you know everything there is to know about the characters whilst at the same time not being long enough. The characters practically leap off the page and it’s almost as though the lack of details as to who they are – hair colour, build, and so forth – lends the reader a freedom to truly know them. It doesn’t matter who these people are beyond the one specific subject Meloy is concentrating on. You know them.

There are a few stand outs. Four Lean Hounds, CA. 1976 presents the awful moment a man discovers his wife has been unfaithful with his now dead best friend. The way it is revealed to him is both subtle and obvious. It’s an excellent piece. Native Sandstone is pretty average by itself but the meaning in it, of wanting to keep to traditional, the status quo, for no real reason, is something to think on. Ranch Girl shows what happens when you let a bad situation control your life, as does, in a different way, Garrison Junction which is interesting in part because the author goes back to the characters in another tale. And then there’s Aqua Boulevard – quite chilling, really – and The Last Of The White Slaves – which doesn’t focus on exactly what you might think.

There are some stories that seem not to be so thought out, with less meaning to them, and so you do find yourself coming down from the literary high on occasion. That said, doubtless which stories work will differ per reader.

Sporting less tight a theme than the later collection, Both Ways Is The Only Way I Like It, you could be forgiven for thinking that Half In Love will not be as good. But if anything it is likely to appeal to more people and could well be said to be better in general.

And given that Half In Love was Meloy’s début, that’s not bad at all.

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