Goodreads | Amazon

So, Ruthless People sounds pretty good, right? 4.14 average on Goodreads out of over 3000 ratings. A combo love story/crime novel focusing on an arranged marriage between warring mafia families. By the way, the bride and groom aren’t allowed to meet until three days before the wedding.

I enjoyed the beginning of the book. Melody struck me as a very strong woman who wouldn’t give up on her dreams just because of some stupid marriage contract. And Liam, although headstrong and egotistical, would obviously do anything for his family, even if it meant throwing away his happiness. Even the first meeting between Melody and Liam was pretty great. Liam is instantly attracted to her, and Melody shoots him for getting a little too friendly.

Soon after, though, I started wondering whether this book had just been thrown together at the last moment. Did an editor even look at it? If McAvoy didn’t want to pay a professional editor, surely she could have sought the help of her friends, family, or even her readers. (I’ve read books where the author actually requested that the readers email any mistakes they find so that the book could be corrected.) Anyway, I would have forgiven most of the mistakes in an uncorrected proof, but it was too much for a finished copy, especially one that an author expects people to pay for.

The writing is, in a word, awful. McAvoy regularly leaves words out or uses the incorrect words. (Don’t even get me started on the commas.) Again, this is something that could be easily remedied with a fresh set of eyes looking for mistakes. It was almost comical how many mistakes I found in this book. Almost, because at the end, it really started detracting from the story.

“It wasn’t even really your chest. It was much closer to your shoulder-blade. The worse you needed was stitches, you big baby.”
“I’m sure this will help the families who lost love ones and those injured, overwhelmingly so.”
“We’ve already missed three masses. A forth one and people might think I killed you.”
I wanted to rip the smiled from his lips.
I wanted to watch him rain fire and brimstone on the fool, but I wasn’t sure what they knew our how much they were after.

She overuses words, particularly “however” and “hissed.” I have never read a book where people hiss as much as they do here, and nobody I’ve ever met says “however” with this frequency. There are 40 mentions of characters hissing and 114 howevers over a mere 328 pages. That means that somebody hisses an average of every eight pages, and we can’t go more than three pages without someone saying “however.”

“Liam, we need to focus,” she hissed as I ran my fingers against her neck.
“You’re lying,” I hissed, shooting him through his other ankle.
“You’re wasting words,” I hissed. “How is he?”
We didn’t cheat on our wives, and we didn’t do any of the smack or drugs we sold. Those two things alone were things the mafia world was known for.However, it was also the first thing that brought them down.
None of them cared about the charity. They only cared about upstaging each other in who had more money to give, just to prove how rich they are. None of them could hold a candle to any wife of a Callahan. However, they all wanted to come in second place.
The Valero were coming at us with everything they had. We expected as much. However, with the cops now watching us more than ever, our actions were limited.

When reading Ruthless People, I felt like it would have been much better if McAvoy had stuck to crime with a side of romance, or romance with a side of crime, rather than trying to shove murders and explosions and declarations of love down the reader’s throat at the same time. With a little less going on, and a little more attention to detail, this book could have been so much better. 

Overall, I didn’t love or hate this book. I really just didn’t connect with it, or with any of the characters. It wasn’t the violence, or the sex, or the language that got to me. I can handle all of that. I just didn’t understand Melody and Liam’s motivation. There’s no rhyme or reason to what they do. They kill indiscriminately, often just because they can. Liam kills someone for walking into the restroom at the wrong time. Melody seems to shoot, stab, or otherwise attack anyone who annoys her. Without a reason behind their actions, it just becomes monotonous and boring.

“Is this jealously? Are you mad that this woman is on the same level as you are?”

A knife flew at my face giving me only a second to react. I moved out of the way before it embedded itself in the door.

No one is on the same level as me.”

Yes, that was Melody throwing a knife at her husband for merely suggesting that someone could have the same capacity for insanity as she does. (Also, please note the use of “jealously” instead of “jealousy.”)

I’ve given a lot of negatives about this book, but I will say that it’s a very original plot and it has a lot of potential. With a little (or maybe a lot) of polishing, this could easily be a four-star read for me. All in all, my rating is 2.5 stars, rounded up.

Final rating: ★

Four different worlds. Four different Londons. Blood magicians, a feisty thief, and body snatching royalty – just a few of the things you’ll get in A Darker Shade of Magic, the newest book by Victoria Schwab.

The publisher has requested that I wait until two weeks before the release date to post my review, so it will be available on February 10.  I don’t want to say too much, but this was definitely a four-star read for me.

Goodreads | Amazon

Brooke Ellstein: middle school math teacher, head of the “Support Our Troops” pen pal program, daughter of New York’s future governor (if the election goes well)… overnight internet celebrity?

Let’s back up.

As a New Jersey native, Shane Develen didn’t qualify for New York’s “Support Our Troops” pen pal program. But rather than leave him hanging, Brooke Ellstein began corresponding with him outside of the program. What started out as lighthearted letters turned into an unstoppable attraction on both sides. The one time that Brooke and Shane meet in person, she gives him a photo of her in lingerie, making him promise that he’ll never show it to anyone else. All’s well until she wakes up one morning to find the photo all over Facebook, with her students commenting on it and alleging inappropriate behavior. Was Shane involved? Did he break his promise? How will Brooke ever get herself out of this situation?

This book is a very sweet, very cheesy, very quick read. I think I spent, in total, maybe three hours on it. Unlike a lot of new adult novels, the conflicts are fairly realistic. (No murderous fathers, no crazy stalkers, no mob connections.) The characters are described as more or less normal – no weird names, strange identifying features, or unrealistic jobs. This book would have been really easy to love (see what I did there) if the timeline had been better.

Oh, it’s so cute! you think at the end. And then you realize… Brooke and Shane have been together for all of maybe three or four weeks? Granted, a lot happens in that time, but still. Weeks.

I accepted the connection between Shane and Brooke. It was clear that they had feelings for each other. I just wish that we’d gotten to see more of their letters to each other before they met in person. It would have made the rest of the book seem less rushed.

I also wish there’d been a touch less angst. (After all, I do automatically subtract a star if I can’t handle the angst.) From the beginning, Shane thought he wasn’t good enough for Brooke, and Brooke didn’t want to subject Shane to the politics of her life. There were constant miscommunications, both accidental and deliberate. And, honestly, I couldn’t understand why Brooke put up with half of what she did from the Develen family.

Overall, Loving You Is Easy was fine. I wouldn’t turn down another book from the author, but I won’t go searching one out, either.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy!

Final rating: 

Goodreads | Amazon

The Undertaker’s Daughter seems to be another one of those books that I just didn’t quite get, as it seems that my opinion is greatly different from that of everybody else. At the time of writing my review, the book has a solid 4-star average, with nearly everybody making glowing comments on the lovely writing style, the depth of the characters, the riveting plot, and how difficult it was to put this book down. It’s been awhile since I felt so differently from the majority of people. To put it simply, I really did not enjoy this one.

Kate Mayfield was raised by an undertaker and took part in the day-to-day activities of the funeral home. In her memoir, she reflects on coming of age in 1960’s Kentucky, a time when it was still racially segregated and women were not valued. The book has been compared to The Help, which I loved – but aside from the setting, I can’t find any similarities.

Our narrator, who strangely never refers to herself by name within the book, is often offensive in her descriptions of her family, particularly her sister Evelyn. Evelyn is branded as the villain from the very beginning, while Mayfield’s other siblings are practically saints. She drops hints throughout (and finally reveals at the end) that Evelyn is mentally ill, but there is no compassion or understanding directed at her. At one point, Mayfield states:

Many days the daunting task of waking Evelyn in the morning fell to me. Oh, what a joyous task it was. Even in her sleep my sister looked angry, unsettled. It was the only time I could comfortably watch her without her snapping, “What are you looking at?”

My first question is to why the author feels the need to watch her sister so often, particularly while she’s sleeping. I know that I get a little cranky when people stare at me – I think this is a common feeling, and I wonder why she’s writing it as though it’s strange. My second question relates to how she would feel if Evelyn had written a nasty memoir about her. Did she wonder how Evelyn would feel if she read this book? She’s taken the story of her sister’s untreated mental illness and written it as though Evelyn chose to behave this way. Has Evelyn now received proper treatment? Everybody’s story is wrapped up at the end, but what became of Evelyn is still somewhat of a mystery.

The plot is often unfocused, as Mayfield begins telling one story only to get sidetracked by some minor happening. She leaves out many key details, often including her age, making the timeline extremely confusing. The way she writes herself as a young child is the same as she writes herself as a teenager and also a young adult. Her language and thoughts never evolve to give the reader a sense that she’s getting older, unless you count her developing romantic feelings. The writing overall is clumsy, as evidenced in the following passages:

Grabbing hold of a tuft of hair, she furiously teased it with her special teasing comb that if I touched I died.

The new magnet to his groin worked in one of the church’s offices.

The thing that most frustrates me in a memoir is an average person believing they’ve lived an exceptional life. In the case ofThe Undertaker’s Daughter, I felt like nothing particularly exceptional happened to our narrator. Or perhaps it did and she didn’t communicate it well. Her father was an undertaker, yes, but she reveals that there were multiple undertakers in her town, as I’m sure was common in this time period. Her father was a close friend of Miss Agnes, the wealthiest woman in town, but this is hardly relevant to the story. The most that happens is her father inheriting a mansion and having some legal trouble with Miss Agnes’ family. Mayfield reveals being deeply attracted to multiple African American boys in her class, going so far as to date them in a time of segregation. This was possibly the most interesting thing that happened in the book, and still it felt like it was just there so that Mayfield could feel good about herself for being ahead of the times.

It took me six days to read the first 150 or so pages, and I skimmed the remainder of the book. It didn’t catch my attention whatsoever, and I felt that large chunks needed to be removed or heavily edited. Again, as I said at the beginning of my review, my feelings are the polar opposite of most of what I’ve seen about this book, so maybe I’m just missing something. You might really enjoy it, as many people have.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy.

Final rating: ★

I was inspired by notsonabooreamo, so I think I’m going to keep track of the pages I read every month!

Here’s my total for November, as of 11/30/14 at midnight:

  1. Ticker (☆): 273 pages
  2. Boomerang (★☆): 336 pages
  3. Never Eat Alone (★☆☆): 170 pages (230-400)
  4. The Help (★): 451 pages
  5. Make Up Your Life! (☆): 224 pages
  6. Big Girl Panties (☆☆☆): 368 pages
  7. Under My Skin (★☆): 340 pages
  8. Finding Mr. Brightside (★☆): 288 pages
  9. Touch & Go (★☆): 240 pages
  10. The Undertaker’s Daughter (★★☆☆☆): 368 pages
  11. The Remains of the Day (★★☆☆☆): 258 pages

Total: 3316 pages

I read a few good books and a lot of mediocre ones in November.  How did you do?