More Quickie Reviews

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.

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December 19, 2012

I’ve been reading a lot of shorter novels, so this is going to be a bit of a hodge podge of reviews.

The Escape Diaries, Juliet Rosetti

The Escape Diaries, Juliet Rosetti

The Escape Diaries: Life and Love on the Lam by Juliet Rosetti is an absolutely charming romp of a debut. Reminiscent of Jennifer Crusie in a lot of ways, it’s less a romance and more a screwball comedy with a sweet little romance on top.

Mazie Maguire is serving a life sentence in a Wisconsin prison for the murder of her husband, Kip Vonnerjohn. But there’s one catch: she didn’t do it. When a tornado touches down when she’s out picking tomatoes on work detail, she takes her chances and escapes into the woods.

In addition to the tornado, there’s a murderous ex-mother-in-law who sends her poisoned cookies, an exploding wall of toilets, a grain elevator and manure pile, a sympathetic Canadian cameraman, and a fairy godmother named Magenta.

I really really really enjoyed this book–Mazie’s narrative voice is matter of fact and the chapter titles are hilarious. I also loved the way this was firmly rooted in place–this wasn’t just a generic Midwest setting, it felt very much as I imagine Wisconsin to be–I’ve never been to Wisconsin, but I am from Michigan and there are certain cultural similarities among us upper Midwest types.

If you’re looking for something fun and satisfying to distract you from the impending holidays (if you have holidays coming up, that is), you really can’t go wrong with this book.

More Than Words, Karla Doyle

More Than Words, Karla Doyle

Karla Doyle’s More Than Words, though, was a bit of a disappointment. Right after I finished it, I had a warm fuzzy glow about the book, but the more I thought about it and after reading Brie’s review I found myself agreeing with her assessment (darn it–I was looking forward to arguing about it with her).

Calli owns a sex toy/lingerie shop and she doesn’t go outside after dark, not since she was attacked en route to the bank a number of years ago. Luckily, she lives above the shop so she is able to still maintain a veneer of normalcy in her life (although I did wonder how her business stayed in business–wouldn’t she want to be open evenings at least one night a week?).

Travis is the guitar player in a band on the verge of making it big. He’s been a big fan of no-strings-attached sex and has decided to look for something more meaningful from someone who is into him for more than his axe.

So both Calli and Travis log on to a Scrabble dating site (hence the reason people have been calling this the “dirty Scrabble book” on Twitter) and meet each other. For someone with a deep seated trauma about going outside after dark, Calli is extremely free with her personal information and gives Travis enough information so that he is able to find her with a minimum of online stalking.

There’s a lot of sex in this book and it didn’t really seem to move the relationship forward very much and the arguments between Travis and Calli didn’t feel very authentic to me and the last half of the book felt rushed.

Finally, I don’t know what version of Scrabble they were playing but whatever it was, it always gave them exactly the letters they needed to make flirtatious words and high scores at the same time. This has never been my experience playing Scrabble. I usually end up with a rack full of Q’s, X’s, and K’s.

Curio, Cara McKenna

Curio, Cara McKenna

Curio (and related vignettes) by Cara McKenna, on the other hand, was wonderful. Well, I’m assuming the fifth vignette will be wonderful–it’s not out until next week.

The set up for this is pretty simple: Nearly 30 year old virgin Caroly Evardt hires Parisian prostitute Didier Pedra.

However, they both have issues: Didier has agoraphobia and hasn’t left his apartment in three years and Caroly has this weird hang-up about good looking men–which she recognizes as weird and the reason why she’s never been in a relationship with anyone. I really liked Caroly a lot–I like the way she admitted she was a mean and unpleasant kid and I liked her hang-ups.

Caroly arrives at Didier’s apartment one rainy evening for their first date. Even though she’s paying him for the experience, she still feels awkward and like she’s intruding, but Didier puts her at ease by explaining that she is the one in complete control of whatever happens that evening. It takes some time, but she eventually relaxes around him–and that’s about the time she stops seeing him as a thing and starts to see him as a human being. Once that happens, there’s an emotional connection and Caroly can feel herself beginning to become attached to Didier–so she ends their professional relationship and since she doesn’t want to presume, she leaves it at that.

Didier, though, doesn’t want Caroly to leave his life and even though it takes him three days, he manages to leave his apartment to find her at her job to let her know. It’s really lovely. I love Caroly’s voice and her growing confidence in herself as a sexual being and I love the way she’s so understanding and sympathetic to Didier.

These things only become more apparent in the vignettes, as they explore each other more thoroughly–both sexually and out in the world. Didier’s increased willingness to push his boundaries nicely mirrors Caroly’s. This relationship may have begun as a business transaction but ends up as something much greater.

There is a lot of sex in these stories–the emotional arc between Caroly and Didier is very much tied to their sexual exploration–but it never feels gratuitous or exploitative.

Also, there are perverted pigeons. How can you not love that?

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  1. Brie

    Is The Single Diaries a standalone book? I didn’t buy it because someone compared it with the Stephanie Plum series, and I immediately recoiled in disgust. But your review makes it sound like a lot of fun, although I’m still wary of the over the top comedy, I prefer my drama over the top, and my comedy subtle. It’s just how I roll 😉

    I’m sorry my review deflated your book high. The second part of the book deflated mine, because at first I felt like I was in romance heaven. But it is a fun book, so I don’t feel like I wasted my time reading it. I wonder if a different publisher/editor would have been able to fix some of its shortcomings. EC books are often problematic.

    I love, love, love Curio! I even love how Didier starts as a means to an end to Caroly, so she’s the one doing the objectification. Not that I think objectification is a good thing, but if you’re going to portray it, do it in unexpected, interesting ways. And a heroine who uses the hero, and at first sees him like a beautiful object (at least that’s how I read it) is a good way to do it.

    • Natalie

      The Escape Diaries felt like it could be the beginning of a series, but the story is self-contained and Mazie and Ben have a happy-for-now ending–I really enjoyed it a lot and it was a fast read, too. There is definitely a mystery plot–I was actually very impressed at how well that part of the story held together; it’s clear whodunnit fairly soon in the book, but collecting the necessary evidence is a bit tricky.

      I haven’t read that many EC books–after thinking about your criticisms and my initial reaction to the book, I just came to the conclusion that the book read like a second draft. It probably needed at least one more thorough going-over to be its best.

      I really liked the way the shift in Caroly’s perceptions was done in the text–it was so subtle and I think it was a pivotal point in the first book. Once Caroly sees Didier as a fellow human being, she can’t keep paying for his services. And I loved all the bits with the clocks and locks throughout the books, too. It parallels how Didier sees his life in some ways–he is a beautiful self-contained object in his own life, too.

  2. Jan the Alan Fan

    The Escape Diaries sounds interesting with shades of Jennifer Crusie (who I like). 🙂


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