Friday, July 27, 2012

What I Didn't Say

What I Didn't Say

by Keary Taylor


Young adult romance. Jake is a seventeen year old high school senior living on Orcas Island. His life his pretty good, except for years he has never been able to tell Samantha, the girl he loves, how he feels about her. After drinking too much at a party, he tries to drive to her house to tell her, but instead crashes and sustains a neck injury that rips out his vocal chords and leaves him permanently mute.

This is an unusual disability, and a terrific story. Jake is a great character, and his disability is mostly handled realistically. Although he has some dark moments, he is not consumed with anger and bitterness. I loved that even though this is a romance, he is the narrator. I wish there were more romances narrated from the guy's point of view. Samantha is great too--she's not a perfect princess (hello, Crazy Beautiful), but a nuance, real girl. In fact, she has some serious problems of her own and most of the book revolves around Jake helping her. Even so, there are lots of great dev moments.

I also loved the setting. I have been to Orcas Island, and it is every bit as beautiful as in the book. The author does a great job creating a real sense of place, and adding details about life on the island.

So why only three and a half stars? Well, like many self-published books, there are a lot of spelling and grammar mistakes. In this case, not typos, but the kind of thing that doesn't show up in MS Word autocorrect: mistaken homophones, dangling modifiers, apostrophes used as plurals, even confusing I and me. I don't care if you're self-publishing, get it right!

But more significantly, I was more bothered by Jake's (and the author's) dismissive attitude towards American Sign Language. Jake communicates primarily by writing in notebooks, but he also learns ASL. However, he only makes a half-assed attempt to really learn it, and he's constantly saying how bad he is at it. Fair enough, it's a hard language to learn. But he also says several times that it feels impersonal and impractical. This dismissive attitude really bugged me, because ASL is wonderfully expressive, far more than scribbling notes. But from the descriptions, it's clear the author doesn't know how ASL works, and she never describes any of the signs.

Oh well, those are minor annoyances in what is otherwise a great book about a disability that only shows up rarely in fiction.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Crazy Beautiful

Crazy Beautiful

by Lauren Baratz-Logsted


Young adult romance. Lucius Wolfe is about to start the first day of his sophomore year of high school. The year before, he caused an explosion that left him a DAE amputee, and destroyed his parents' house. Now they have moved to a new house in a new town, and he has to adjust both to his disability and to being the new kid. Aurora Belle is also a new kid at the same school; her mother died of cancer the previous year. Although Lucius and Aurora feel an immediate attraction, they are social opposites--he's a dark, brooding loner, while she is gorgeous, smart, and kind, and also instantly one of the popular kids. Even worse, Lucius is convinced that once Aurora learns the truth about his accident, she will run in fear.

I was really intrigued by the premise of this book. There are so few amputee characters, and to make the accident unquestionably his fault was a bold move. But ultimately the book was much slighter than the heavy premise would indicate. The biggest problem was the alternating narration, with chapters from both Lucius and Aurora's point of view. This is almost always deadly, since we see every scene twice so the plot takes forever to get going (I'm looking at you, gay-elf-romance Unseen Paths). Here at least the author eventually cuts back on the repetition, but the fact is while Lucius' voice is really compelling and original, Aurora's is not. She's a bland, boring, impossibly perfect character, and the way she just drifts along with the popular kids made me want to smack her. When half her chapters are only a sentence or two, it's evident her point of view was not necessary.

Also the ending is really rushed, which was a letdown. Yes, the plot points are all resolved in a satisfying way, but it all happens so quickly. I really wished it had been longer, and we had more scenes of Lucius and Aurora together. Oh and this is supposed to be a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but that didn't really seem to add anything to a fairly standard high school romance.

I found the dev-factor to be only moderate, which surprised me, since the premise seems super-devvy to me. The author handled his disability in a pretty realistic way, there is no magic or miracle cure or anything. There are some really good scenes of Lucius thinking about how his life has changed. But even though he talks about his amputation and prosthetics all the time, the author doesn't really linger over the details of his everyday life. In other words, the author clearly isn't a dev. But oh well, I can't really blame her for that.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Lovers Lame

Lovers Lame by Robert Rudney

Dev Rating: 1.5 *

Though the main character is a man with a mobility disability, I didn't find this book to be very devvy.

I know it seems strange to say a book was too realistic, but that was kind of how I felt about this one. It was like watching a neighbor. And I just wanted something a bit more interesting, more of something to get into.

The struggle for people with disabilities to find jobs is certainly a really important issue, but the protagonist of this book didn't seem like the kind of person who was able to make me care about it. He was more passive than I tend to like my heroes, I think.

There's some issues with more telling than showing of the story, particularly in the beginning. It takes a couple of chapters before any sort of story begins.

The feel of the book is very memoir-like, though it is fiction.

To learn more about it, I do have an interview with the author at my website:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Doctor in Petticoats

Doctor in Petticoats


by Paty Jager

Late nineteenth century Western romance. For a romance with a blind hero, it's pretty good. The novel starts with Clay Halsey, recently blinded in an explosion, starting out at a school for the blind. There he falls in love with the lady doctor, Rachel Tarkiel. Rachel is an independent career woman who throws herself into her medical work because she believes no man will ever love her--she has a big scar on her face form a childhood accident. But Clay and Rachel fall for each other right away. The tension comes first from her disapproving family, then from whether she will be satisfied living with Clay in a small mining town, being a wife and mother.

Clay and Rachel are appealing characters. He is quite sweet, not angry or bitter, thank god. The bit about Rachel's scar is such a cliche for a blind hero romance, though, I cringed every time it came up. She is such a strong character, the book would have been better without it. On the other hand, I really liked how she was a career woman, and deeply conflicted about pursuing marriage or career. It was a satisfying and believable way to present a strong female character in a historical setting.

The historical details are good. The author clearly did a lot of research, and there's a real sense of place in the Oregon setting. The author depicted Clay's blindness pretty well too. The blind school was similarly well researched, although I was a little disappointed the action shifted away from the school so quickly. After two months, Clay decides he's rehabilitated enough, even though he has barely started learning Braille, never mind anything else. However, a lot of the scenes, particularly in the beginning, are narrated from his point of view, and it's done really well. There's a lot more realism here than in most romances, which I appreciated.

This book is part of a series. I didn't read the other books, but while this mostly stands alone, there are some things that are not fully explained from the other books. I did feel a little like I was missing something.

The biggest problem, though, is that the author never stops TELLING when she should be showing. In every single scene, the narrator lays out baldly what the main conflict is, over and over. It's such a drag, even more so because the dialog and descriptions are actually pretty good, and could easily have carried the novel without all the boring exposition. As it is, though, the over-explaining really weighs it down.

Love Story

Love Story **
Janine Boissard (Author)
Marilyn Achiron (Translator)

Claudio Roman is a world-famous tenor and perhaps even more well known lothario. His life is the envy of men in all walks of life, until a fateful random attack leaves him a shell of his former self.
Now, three years later and no longer performing opera, he is still a singer in very high demand—but he knows he can’t be too careful about his security. Women still fawn over him too, so it is hard to understand why, when in need of a new aide and publicist to travel and be with him night and day, he would hire a small, average-looking woman who he will later compare to a sparrow.
Laura is surprised the morning after her twenty-sixth birthday party when she is called into the boss’s office and offered the job of accompanying Claudio Roman on his singing engagement—effective immediately. Hesitant at first, she accepts the opportunity and throws herself into it with all the professionalism she can bring. Soon becoming the only one Claudio requests from the agency, her dedication to making sure that Claudio has everything he needs at all times endears her to the singer. She takes her position so seriously, in fact, that she sees the opportunity to play her sincerity against his cynicism and bring him the hope he gave up long ago. As Laura desperately searches for ways to restore his confidence and stature as a premiere opera performer, she awakens feelings in Claudio he thought were lost forever.

I am left feeling like yes this is a really nice love story but it lacks a bit of meat on its bones.

The female lead character is a well written, rounded character, deep, insecure, can be easily identified with.

It is a nice classic love story, beautifully written, I think this is because this piece is translated from French so descriptions have a different angle/point of view than originally English works.

Loved the fact that the book was divided into Her, Him and then Him and Her. - I actually preferred his angst section best but then it wouldn't have worked as well without her section.

The story was missing something. Perhaps it is supposed to be a light love story but I would have liked more of something I cannot put my finger on. Perhaps it was missing more about how he was coping with his blindness. How she adapts to working with his demands.

When reading dev books I do turn down the corners of pages that I really like and although I thought it didn't really spark too much of my dev feelings, looking back after the book had been read there was quite a few ear dogged pages.

*spoiler* He does improve but only in one eye and that is still only usable with thick glasses.

Good holiday read, a posh version of Mills and Boons.