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Monday, May 16, 2016

Things I've Read Recently (32): Special Edition

Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are usually basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason. This time around, I had a couple books where I wanted to do more than my normal "Things" entry, but didn't feel up to completing a full review, so I thought I'd do something a little different.

These will probably be a fair bit longer than my normal "mini", but shorter than an average review, and without my usual segments. I also will only be including two books, so that the post isn't ridiculously long. Since these are both books that were sent to me for review consideration, I wanted them not to get too "lost" in a post with four books.

Make sense?

A Place for Delta by Melissa Walker, illustrated by Richard Walker

Published: June 1st, 2010 by Whale Tale Press
Genre: Contemporary something, and I'll go into that more in my review.
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 250 plus a lot of extra things like further reading, a glossary, and other stuff.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: I was sent it for review, back in 2010, and I am terrible.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Joseph can hardly believe what he has been asked to do. His Aunt Kate, a wildlife biologist, is waiting for him at a research station and needs his help taking care of an orphaned polar bear cub only a few months old. He will leave his friends and family and venture to the farthest northern town in the United States.

As the adventure unfolds, Joseph and his newfound Eskimo friend Ada find mysteries wherever they look. The bear cub, Delta, remains in danger. Who would want a polar bear dead? Joseph will have to look to the North Georgia woods to save Delta.

Review: Well, I really am terrible, because I wait 5 years to review this book, and then my review isn't exactly going to be good. I really liked the idea of this one. Baby polar bears make my heart Do Things, and I have a strange love of Alaska, and I think this would be a cool thing for kids to read about. But there was so much that just didn't work for me.

Let me start with something that I really didn't like. See that summary? There's another full paragraph about Joseph's parents that I cut off because it was so long. That's probably because after a three-page prologue, the book immediately drops us twenty years back in time and spends six chapters and forty pages telling us about Joseph's parents/Aunt Kate's childhood. You spend forty pages reading about them moving to Georgia and stomping around in the woods when you really just want to be reading about the baby polar bear.

There's also a ton of headhopping, and that's part of the reason I have trouble categorizing this. I believe it's meant to be a middle grade book, since Joseph is eleven, but at least half if not most of the book is told from someone else's POV, and it's usually an adult. I'm not, frankly, fond of adult POVs in MG most of the time. They can work sometimes, but in a book with this much adult POV, it really does not read like middle grade. I also question exactly who the audience is supposed to be. It almost seems like the author wanted to tell Kate's story more than Joseph's story.

There was also, frankly, a whole lot going on. We have a polar bear, and Georgia, and twenty years of family history, Joseph makes a friend, hired guns, FBI agents, global warming, oil companies - it's just too much. The plot ends up confusing, and, honestly, unrealistic. I was never sold on the idea that an eleven year old boy would be flown out to Alaska to care for a polar bear cub over adult scientists, and the ending is just very convenient to me. Overly convenient. They get everything they want with no sacrifices or real setbacks, and everything just falls into their laps.

While the cast of characters was fairly diverse (beyond one character who seemed kind of stereotypical - constantly saying "in my country"), there were so many of them that it got to be very Character Soupy. Like the plot, there were just too many characters and too much going on. The book isn't even three hundred pages long, and I can name at least fifteen "main" or large characters off the top of my head. It's just way too much going on, it really is.

Unfortunately, with all the problems I had with this, the writing was not strong enough to pull it off. It was very "telling" instead of showing, and it just did not draw me in a way that could have saved me in this. I also was not sold on the illustrations, honestly. The cover is actually a lot brighter on my screen that it is in real life. The cover and the illustrations are just very dark, and they're hard to make out at times. The details don't pop at all. There were also very few of them, maybe only five or six throughout the book, which seems strange to me.

I did learn something. The book uses the word "Eskimo" a lot, which in Canada is something we're taught is essentially a slur (see here and here), but apparently many Indigenous people in Alaska prefer it.

This is so negative! I thought Delta was adorable, and I enjoyed reading about her. But overall, this just didn't work for me. If you're very interested in Alaska, polar bears, or environmental science, this could very well be worth it for you, but I have to say, it is pretty expensive. It's at least fifteen dollars, depending on where you buy it from. And unfortunately, while those things are neat to me, they aren't things I'm passionate about, and they weren't enough to save this for me. I'm really bummed about this because I did really want to like this one! Unfortunately for me, it's only going to get two roses out of five.

Timeless Desire by Gwyn Cready

Published: July 18th, 2012 by Astor + Blue Editions
Genre: Fantasy romance (time travelling, basically)
Binding: ARC
Page Count: 368 plus an About the Author and acknowledgments.
Part of a series? It is a standalone according to her website, but she has several other time travel books that aren't connected.
Got via: It was sent to me for review consideration. In 2012. I know, and I am sorry. On the plus side, I must be close to catching up, right? RIGHT?
Amazon (that's the paperback, but the Kindle version is seriously a buck while I'm writing this) / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Two years after losing her husband, overworked librarian Panna Kennedy battles to distract herself from crushing Grief, even as she battles to deal with yet another library budget cut. During a routine search within the library’s lower levels, Panna opens an obscure, pad-locked door and finds herself transported to the magnificent, book-filled quarters of a handsome, eighteenth-century Englishman.

She soon recognizes the man as Colonel John Bridgewater, the historic English war hero whose larger-than-life statue loomed over her desk.However, the life of the dashing Bridgewater is not at all what she imagined. He’s under house arrest for betraying England, and now looks upon her a beautiful and unexpected half-dressed visitor as a possible spy.

Despite bad first impressions (on both sides), Bridgewater nonetheless warms to Panna, and pulls her into his escape while both their hearts pull the other headlong into their soul-stirring secrets.Very quickly Panna is thrown into a whirlwind of high-stakes intrigue that sweeps her from Hadrian’s Wall to a forbidding stone castle in Scotland. And somewhere in the outland, Panna must decide if her loyalties lie with her dead husband, or with the man whose life now depends on her.

Review: Well, this was fun. I used to read a ton of romance, and it's been a while since I read one. And I do really enjoy time travel/time slip books. I definitely enjoyed this one. I especially liked how Panna was a little older than some romance heroines at thirty-four. There's also a ton of plot besides just the romance, spies and war and stuff, and that's a lot of fun so nothing drags too much. And I really liked that although it takes place over only a few days, the romance does feel earned and honest because it takes most of the book to get there.

There were a few things I wasn't so fond of. First of all, the whorephobia is kind of bad in this. Seriously, just... can we not do that? Not cool. Second, honestly, when one sex scene mentions kneading bread, and descriptions of the hero's body includes apricots and a small eggplant... I just start to wonder if the author really wanted a snack writing this. Honestly, I lost it a little at the mention of a... certain part... the size of a small eggplant.

Also, side note, mild sexual assault trigger warning. Not from the hero, and Panna isn't traumatized by it, and doesn't bring it up again, but be careful with yourself if you need to.

All in all, though, I enjoyed this. It's not outstandingly different from other books in the genre in my experience, but by no means was it bad, so if you like time travel/time slip romances, you'd probably have fun with this. If you enjoy other books with Outlander in the series name about women who time travel and meet heroes named Jamie, you'd probably enjoy this one, too, if you're into romance. (There's actually very little similarity between them. It just amused me on those little places it did.) It was a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and I wish I'd read it sooner. I probably won't keep it, just because I don't tend to reread romance and I can always get it from the library if I do want to, and my mom has already read it, so I'll probably give it away or donate it so someone else can get the chance to enjoy it. And I do think they will. Three and a half roses.

Other notes:

- The fact that the cover model is wearing green shoes and a red dress does kind of bug me. Is it Christmas? She never wears red in the book, I'm pretty sure.

- I lost the notebook I did my "A Place for Delta" notes in, so I can't tell if I had anything else. Whoops.

So what did you guys think of this type of post? Two for the price of one, sort of?

Peace and cookies,

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