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Suzanne B. Kelly (Palo Alto, CA USA)
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This Heart Of Mine: A Novel
This Heart Of Mine: A Novel
by Susan E Phillips
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.54
101 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars A light, cute read in the shadow of its predecessors, July 15 2002
SEP writes a fine, humorous, light romance, and so although I wait for the paperback release I treat it with some respect. For This Heart of Mine, I re-read Nobody's Baby But Mine and It Had To Be You to re-aquaint myself with Kevin and Molly. I had a great time with both books, re-affirming my long-ago decision to put these two books in my 'keeper box.'
So I had high, perhaps unrealistic expectations for "This Heart of Mine," following in the footsteps of two great SEP comedy-romances. I was pleased with Molly--being a quirky children's book author made perfect sense for her, and made for some great, humorous lines. I agree with other reviewers, though, that Kevin was a disappointment; so much time was spent describing his muscles, and so little time spent on his internal motivations, that she could have inserted a cut-out of a Calvin Klein underwear model to the same effect.
Molly's tragedy is handled sensitively, and she is allowed a generous amount of book time to recover, but Kevin's turn-around from his own personal upheaval seems to happen in the blink of an eye. We never know why he is suddenly plunged into life-threatening activities, only that he is happy he finally found someone to share them with. I never felt I understood him. Given SEP's great track record as far as describing her male characters' thoughts, desires, and motivations, I can only assume that she didn't know what to make of Kevin, either.
So while I would most heartily recommend Nobody's Baby But Mine, It Had to Be You, and even Heaven, Texas (although it was a little 'over the top' for me), This Heart of Mine is a borrower, not a keeper.

Morning After
Morning After
by Suzanne Forster
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
38 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1.0 out of 5 stars Strong premise - but an unreadable book, March 9 2002
I picked up this book because the opening premise sounded like a winner--a woman wakes up in a swanky hotel room, all evidence pointing to a romantic wedding night, but she can't remember a thing. A great start, but Ms. Forster bungles this from the get-go with implausible plot twist on top of sorry cliche on top of irritating coincidence.
As other reviewers have noted, the romance is next to nonexistent--just about the steamiest scene is between the heroine and herself--and so the book relies on "Outbreak"-style suspense for it's energy. Unfortunately, the plot has holes the size of a Buick, and the ending was pure, unbelievable hokum; a man completely manipulates a woman's life--creating jobs, friends, isolating her in a remote location and messing with her mind, and making her pregnant--and in the end she forgives him everything. Sheesh! A very disappointing read from a fairly good writer.

Evan Can Wait
Evan Can Wait
by Rhys Bowen
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
16 used & new from CDN$ 19.85

4.0 out of 5 stars A satisfying move forward in the series, March 7 2002
Many "cozy" mystery series are peppered with colorful characters, amusing inside jokes, and interesting locations. Bowen's Evan Evans series certainly fits this bill, but with "Evan Can Wait" the series moves into deeper, more interesting waters.
As usual, this book finds Evan Evans at home in Llanfair, an underappreciated sleuth whose fellow citizens are as colorful--and as hard to get to know--as the mountainous terrain. As usual, outsiders descend upon the town to wreak various sorts of havoc and get one of their number murdered.
But the mystery in "Evan Can Wait" takes a very satisying turn--we learn a great deal about Bronwen, the town schoolteacher who has been such a good-girl cipher up to this point, and we learn more about some of the darker parts of recent Welsh history, such as the life of a typical slate miner. Not only is there a recent murder to solve, but the murder has links to a decades-old crime and the two are tied together in a satisfying fashion at the end.
In short, it is still a light, amusing read, but with a little more depth to make the characters more real, the situations more complex, the ending a little more nuanced.

Heartbreaker
Heartbreaker
by Linda Howard
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
51 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Some reprints are keepers - not this one, March 6 2002
Early Linda Howard novels all share some similar characteristics:
heroes who are overwhelmingly strong, chauvinistic, opinionated, immovable, -- walking bundles of testosterone
heroines who are pretty, helpless, dithering, fearful, confused, yet somehow able to appeal to and interest the hero
a borderline nutcase (or not so borderline) or other villian intent on inflicting Great Bodily Harm, from which only the hero is truly capable of protection.
Sometimes this formula works pretty well- other times you aren't really sure if the heroine isn't just transferring from one sort of nutcase to another. Heartbreaker falls sort of in the middle; it's not a real wall-banger, like Loving Evangeline, but it's not as successful as Diamond Bay or White Lies. The problem is both with the heroine, who is a dithering, needy mess, even though she is a jet-setter with a "minor in Business Administration" (!), and the hero, who is on the knife-edge between possessive and obsessive.
I could easily see the heroine lapsing into the same sort of relationship she had with her first husband, so I had a hard time believing in the happily-ever-after. In order for a Linda Howard book to really work for me, the heroine has to have a core of inner strength to offset the Neanderthal tendencies of the hero--Grace in Son of the Morning is a good example. This book just didn't have that balance.

Alice's Tulips: A Novel
Alice's Tulips: A Novel
by Sandra Dallas
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.99
73 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous, well-written story, Aug. 19 2001
Alice's Tulips was not the first book I've read by Sandra Dallas, but it is definitely my favorite. The book is a series of letters, most of them from one sister to another, who are separated when the younger sister marries and moves to an isolated farm in Iowa. The younger sister, only 16, writes the sort of callow, self-centered and judgemental letters that only a sheltered 16-year-old could write, but she has a kind heart and a good brain, and it is a true joy to watch her learn the sometimes painful lessons of adulthood, especially in the trying times of the Civil War. The characters were all so real, so well-defined and true that it was almost impossible not to think of them as real people, and to think about them long after I completed the book.
I recommend this book for quilters, for readers of women's fiction, and for anyone who enjoys Oprah's picks but who also likes a novel that ends on a positive note.

A Place of Execution
A Place of Execution
by Val McDermid
Edition: Hardcover
44 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars A good read, but not a great story, Aug. 14 2001
This review is from: A Place of Execution (Hardcover)
In A Place of Execution, we follow the story of Alison Carter, a pretty girl gone missing from her stark, secluded village. The story is told in several layers, the first part being a straight narrative of the search for, arrest of, and trial of the abductor, the second being a choppy series of first-person vignettes in only rough chronological order. McDermid is a talented writer who manages to hold all of these threads together (even a sappy re-created letter) but she is not talented enough to overcome the basic thinness of the story.
A girl disappears, and she is not found. A story is built around her disappearance. A trial results from this story. Years later, new information comes to light about this story. That is the entire plot, decorated by well-meaning (or not) but not very complex characters, enough coincidences to fill a Victorian melodrama, and a shocking, surprise ending that I saw a mile away. Anyone familiar with Sherlock Holmes' favorite saying will have this mystery figured out by the time they are 2/3 of the way through. And the trial, which was basically a retread of the previous 200-page narrative shouted by annoying barristers, was a bore.
I read it, because I felt it was my duty considering how highly regarded this book is. But I do not feel that all of these high accolades are deserved.

Dawn in Eclipse Bay
Dawn in Eclipse Bay
by Jayne Ann Krentz
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.54
79 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars A cold book about a closed-in couple, July 22 2001
Dawn in Eclipse Bay, the second in a trilogy about the chilly feud between the Hartes (calculating businesspeople) and Madisons (untrustworthy artists and bad-boys), deals with the romance between the anomalies in the various tribes: Lillian Harte, a frustrated artist, and Gabe Madison, a high-powered businessman. Both Lillian and Gabe have money, success, and no lack of interest in the opposite sex, but drift together like two lost souls all the same.
It is easy to see why; a more cold, repressed, introverted pair have yet to have a novel written around them. This couple is so uncommunicative that their marriage proposal is done almost by mental telepathy. There are some funny lines, and these people certainly are written true and believable--but why should we care? They were both as chilly and distant as the frequent drenching storms off the Oregon coast, and just as welcoming and easy to know.
I read the book, and Krentz had her usual writing chops up to speed so it was easy and pleasant to read, but it still left me with an empty feeling--I'd read about these people, but I really didn't want to know them. The ending especially crumbled, as the weak central characters were unable to support it. Gabe and Lillian might be fine people, but together they were a black hole, sucking all the energy out of the story, no matter how many pairs of red bikini underwear, iridescent rain slickers, and striped silk ties were thrown into it.

Murder With Puffins
Murder With Puffins
by Donna Andrews
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.49
69 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Better than the First, July 14 2001
In Murder With Puffins, Donna Andrews brings her ironmonger heroine, Meg, and impossibly handsome hero, Michael, out for their second outing, this time to a remote East Coast island populated with surly natives, raucous seagulls, nasty weather, extension cords, fanatical birders, and ... absent puffins. Andrews' second mystery bears some resemblance to her first--Meg and Michael still can't get any time alone, Meg is still put upon by all and sundry, and she again does her sleuthing in fits, starts, and stumbles. As in the first book, the mystery is fairly easy to solve, but it's a fun trip to get there. Some readers prefer the first book, which had more slapstick, manic humor and a faster pace, but I prefer Puffins.
Murder with Puffins moves at a slower pace, its humor more gentle but also a lot more realistic, and the characters also become more fleshed-out, less stereotypical. The exploration of Meg's parent's relationship, in particular, makes this book a deeper, more realistic read. I look forward to the next book in the series, as this may be one of those rare, treasured mystery series that actually allows the characters to grow, change, and become more complex and interesting.

Murder At Bent Elbow
Murder At Bent Elbow
by Kate Bryan
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
21 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1.0 out of 5 stars Breathless, truncated, and silly, July 14 2001
This book speeds along at the galloping pace of a runaway horse from which our entrepid heroine jumps and, with a quick judo chop to the neck, dispatches the evil villian while dodging arrows from a horde of scalping Indians and locating the cache of buried treasure left by the alcoholic dance-hall girl while her cousin looks on in amazement. Really.

Now That I've Found You - A Collection
Now That I've Found You - A Collection
Price: CDN$ 15.75
52 used & new from CDN$ 3.48

5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous!, July 13 2001
I can't say enough about this incredibly talented singer/violinist/violist/bandleader/talent scout. What can't this lady do? Come up with a bad album, I think. This is a great place to start down the road to Alison Krauss fandom, showcasing her ability to sing just about anything, yet stamp it with her own personality. A joy from start to finish--even my kids, at 2, 4, and 6 years old, slow down to listen and dance to this one.

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