Saturday, December 16, 2006

Two Books: Holly by Deveraux; Black Water by Oates

Quick reviews because I've been down with a migraine, for a few days, and they're going to fade from my memory if I don't hurry up and post.

Holly by Jude Deveraux is the story of a wealthy architect whose passion is historic preservation. Heiress Holly Latham has persuaded her now-retired diplomat father to purchase Spring Hill, the home in which her family stayed, one summer. Spring Hill is just down the river from the pre-Revolutionary estate where she spent her time, that summer, helping a young and handsome Laurence Beaumont paint and restore the home. Her ulterior motive: to work her way into owner Lorrie Beaumont's heart and get her hands on the crumbling Belle Chere estate so that she can preserve it.

Unfortunately, there's a really good-looking guy she can't keep her hands off of. And, as far as Holly knows Nick Taggert has no money. I'll steal from the cover blurb, here: "One man can seduce her with fortune and privilege; the other can promise her the simple gift of love. And on a frost-covered Christmas night, Holly's choice will unmask astonishing truths and hidden dangers--revelations that will forever change her charmed life and her vulnerable heart." I kind of hate vague cover blurbs, like that, but it does give you an impression of what's to come without giving away the details.

As abruptly as he'd clutched her, Lorrie released her and stepped away. He looked into the back of the car at her father. "Sorry, sir. Moonlight. Old friend who's grown into a beautiful woman." He shrugged in a way that was very appealing.

"Perfectly all right," James said, taking his wife's hand in his. "I've experienced a little moonlight in my lifetime."

It's that kind of light, fun dialogue that kept me turning the pages. I thought the way Holly jumped into a passionate relationship with Nick was a little unbelievable and found myself muttering, "Good grief," at first. But like several other books I've read this month, I liked the characters enough to care what would happen and continued reading. It became more and more difficult to put the book down; and, I really did enjoy the story. Plenty of action, clever dialogue, interesting characters, but not entirely believable - however, I usually have a little trouble with suspension of disbelief when I read books that are classified as "romance," so that may just be me.


Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates is quite a contrast to the light-hearted fluff I've read the rest of the month. A fictional retelling of the Chappaquiddick incident, in which Ted Kennedy drove a car into the water, killing the young woman who was his passenger, Black Water is told from the perspective of the woman and, as such, is uniquely horrifying. The writing is simply bizarre, jumping back and forth in time. One moment, Kelly Kelleher is sinking into the black water of the canal with her leg trapped so that she's unable to even attempt to swim away from the wreckage, and the next minute she's back at the party or packing for the trip. In any given moment she's pondering times with her old boyfriend or feeling her life ebb away. It's probably deliberately disjointed, but I found the storytelling rather awkward. Run-on sentences, repetition, and the inevitable return to the feeling of drowning are the methods Oates uses to evoke time and place. And, yet, it was oddly mesmerizing and I couldn't put the book down.

As an introduction to Joyce Carol Oates, I'm guessing this book is not the best. My curiosity about the Chappaquiddick incident was renewed a bit, so I looked it up online and read a play-by-play of what's known to have happened at the party Kennedy attended. Probably the two biggest similarities between the fictionalized account and the actual incident were a large consumption of alcohol and a wrong turn. Nobody knows whether Kennedy and his passenger were actually on their way to the ferry landing, but the real victim left her purse behind and didn't say "goodbye" to anyone. Very suspicious, if you ask me. But, nobody asked as I was a mere 7 years old in 1969.

Since I couldn't put the book down, but felt oddly "used" by the author, I'm going to give the book an average rating. I found it, in general, rather annoying. But, I would read more by the author, at least for the sake of seeing what else she has to offer. Assuming the author's goal was to depict the innocence of a victim of drunk driving and the horror of a drowning death, I'd say she succeeded on both counts. I just don't know that I like the way she chose to do so.


Still reading: The Four Feathers by A.E.W. Mason - loving it, but things have been hectic and that nasty migraine has gotten in the way of my reading.

Up next: A list of those who are currently signed up for the Chunkster Challenge.

Continuing daily: Blogging headaches. I am still totally unable to post on many blogs. Nat, I owe you thanks for Black Water and attempted to post several times over two days to tell you thanks for the book and for doing the "Six Weird Things" meme. No luck. Even though I'm signed on, Blogger isn't recognizing me at certain sites. I'm wondering if that's a new-beta snafu.

Thoughts, anyone?
Are those of you who have recently changed to Beta having any difficulty with losing content? I may have to consider switching over, if this continues, just for the sake of being able to communicate with friends, again. Any thoughts would be appreciated!!!

Happy Weekend!


  1. Anonymous8:05 PM

    Love Jude Deveraux!!! Beta - I just switched because I couldn't leave comments on anyone's blogs...I didn't lose content that I've noticed and (knock on wood) it seemed to go smoothly.


  2. Heather,

    Thanks. I think they're poking us, making the Beta Avoidance Holdouts have trouble posting. LOL I'm going to work on my courage for a couple of days and then go for it. I appreciate your reply!!

    Holly was my first Jude Deveraux book, incidentally. I'll definitely read more!

  3. Anonymous11:02 PM

    Ok - deep breath now cause I have got some to say...

    First, Jude Deveraux's HEIRESS was my first romance novel. Though not my favorite I still have that copy. I went to Coles book store and bought every book by her (at the time) read it all and havent kept up. I feel like her strength is in historical. Probably since its supposed to be a fantasy type it cant happen now, can it? ;) She is definitly romance.

    I can say for sure that switching to Beta Blogger is easy as the button. Not only did I do it for Biblio Files but I am a part of a blog thats related to my business ( you can check for yourself - we did it last week and it was easy. Our blog is hudge but everything made the switch. STILL back everything up - copy your template into notepad and your posts over... You never know. ANd I dont want to be the cause of disaster to come.

    If you want to read more Jude Deveraux may I suggest the following in order: The Duchess, The Heiress, The Invitation, Twin of Ice, Twin of Fire, and her first trilogy of brothers I cant remember the names now. It has to do with the Montgomery family in Middle Ages. The second book is wayyyyy amazing.

    However better than all of that is *Saving Grace* by Julie Garwood. THAT IS THE BEST OF THE BEST. I wrote a review on it... your welcome to check it out and write comments... I would mail it to you but I keep it close to heart. If you have trouble getting a copy we can work something out (where you send it back). I am pretty sure its available online though.

  4. Anonymous4:24 AM

    The posts themselves all transfer fine, but I lost a few of the 'third-party' extra bits (weather icon, for example) I had in my sidebar, but most of the other stuff transferred ok. I'd suggest copying your template to a notepad doc or something before you switch, just in case you want to retrieve some links later that didn't move over.

    Also, it seems that if you log in with a Google id, instead of your old blogger id, then you can comment on beta blogs. So far I haven't had any problems commenting on either old or beta versions (knock on wood!).

    BTW, you're welcome about Black Water. Like you said, it's not the best introduction to Oates' work. And of the few of hers that I have read, Black Water was my least favourite.

  5. I've had trouble posting comments as a "Classic Blogger" on "Beta" sights. I finally signed up for a Google account and if I sign in with that name and password, the comments are accepted. On the "Classic" blogs, I still post with my "classic" user info. I think I'll be making the big switcheroo tomorrow. I thought about doing it on Saturday but didn't want to mess around with it as we were getting ready to head to the airport. Sorry about your headaches. I've had one the entire time we've been in TX.

  6. Yes, I've also been having problems leaving comments on Blogger. I don't know if this comment will take or not, but I thought I'd let you know that you are not alone.

  7. Joyce Carol Oates makes me generally uncomfortable with her writing. Unnerved, a little edgy, and I quite admire her for that. The first title of hers I read was a little novella called Beasts. I recommend it even though I wouldn't call it a "pleasant" read.

  8. Nessie,

    Wow, quite a post, there! LOL I think I've got at least one historical novel by Jude Deveraux on the bursting shelves and piles. I'll remember that.

    I'm probably going to have to do a post on my thoughts about romance and other genres, some time, because it wasn't that long ago that I wrote a letter explaining why I went from looking down my nose at romance, in general, to becoming a staunch supporter of romance writers (the letter was altered a bit and published in at least one newsletter). What I dislike is that formulaic structure which is imposed upon writers by the publishers - the first kiss (can't remember how soon that's supposed to happen), black moment, etc. I used to know that stuff by heart because I was a member of RWA and saw the guidelines for various publishing companies, regularly.

    Anyway, yes, it's no more fantastic to imagine people falling into bed upon meeting than to visualize people on a spaceship or whatever. Most of what I write could, in fact, be classified as romantic comedy - including my one published short story. So, I'll have to clarify that, sometime soon. I'm a big Jennifer Crusie fan, so you can see my leaning if you know her books.

    Okie-doke on the beta switch. I'll save my template. I've kept the most recent posts in an email file - I'm set up to receive them by email when I post.

    I've kept your note so that I can look up the books you mentioned, thanks.


    Thanks for the advice. I'll definitely save the template. I'm going to go ahead and go for the transfer when I have a few minutes - got a ton of housework to do.

    Thanks, again, for Black Water. Even though it isn't a favorite, I was thrilled to have a quick Oates read to start out with. I've dipped my toes in, so now I'm ready to stick in a foot, so to speak. I noticed Oates has a YA novel out that looks fun. Have you seen it? Don't know the title, but I'd rather go for the least-bummer title by Oates that I can find, next. :)


    I guess we'll be diving into the beta world together. :) Sorry you've been plagued with a headache. There's no worse time to get one than while you're traveling and trying to have a good time. I had a migraine almost the entire time we were in Alaska. Very annoying. But, you know I still had fun. LOL

    While you're here . . . I just got your card, yesterday!! I haven't even sent yours - I'm so behind on life! Thanks. It is so totally cool to finally "see" you. Now, I have a real face to think of when I see your name!! Hope your headache goes away and you have a great time. Congrats to Amy!


    I got your message, as you can see! Thanks for letting me know. Hopefully, when I get switched to beta it will help clear up posting problems. Several people have told me they're having difficulty, so it's not just me. Whew! Good to know.

  9. Andi,

    Oates must have had a crap childhood. I think she's known for writing uncomfortable if not disturbing books, isn't she? I'll put Beasts on my wish list. First, I'm going to see if I can locate a copy of that YA book I know I saw somewhere and I'll save the uncomfortable reads for when I've read too much fluff and need a break. She was a break from fluff, this time, as well. :) Thanks for your thoughts!

  10. Anonymous3:24 PM

    Those are two books and authors I've not read yet. I'm not really in to romance, but I do occasionally read one that comes highly recommended. I hope your headache has gone completely away.

  11. Booklogged,

    I'm not a romance addict, but I read some on occasion. Holly has been sitting on my shelf since last year. I found it for a quarter in my library's perpetual sale corner and saved it to read for this year's holiday. I think it's the graphic sex that keeps me from becoming an avid romance reader. I don't have any interest in reading sex scenes. I love witty repartee, though, and I thought Holly had some great dialogue.

    Headache's gone at the moment, thanks. Fingers are crossed it will stay away. I'm really tired of migraines!

  12. I'm generally pretty dismissive of romance novels, but I do admit a weakness for Jude Deveraux and Jennifer Crusie books.

    About Black Water, what did you think her leaving her purse and not saying good bye meant? (Not that I've read the book. Just curious.)

    I switched to Typepad and skipped the whole Blogger thing.

  13. Anonymous3:10 PM

    I have read Dark Water but it was so long ago I don't really remember my reaction. I know I loved her book titled We Were The Mulvanies. I believe lifetime made it into a movie years ago.

  14. Carrie,

    I really need to elaborate on my thoughts about romance, some day. There are definitely some excellent writers in that genre, but I guess romance will never be my favorite.

    Leaving the purse behind and not saying goodbye were things that happened in real life, not in the story. I thought that was kind of an indication that they weren't actually headed for the ferry, as Kennedy claimed. But, then, I'm really anal about making sure I have my purse (and wouldn't slip out without saying goodbye to the hosts) and I might be thinking of the book character, who was really meticulous. I really didn't see much about the real person, so it could be she was forgetful. LOL


    Oh, good, a recommendation! I'll have to check that title out when I've made a significant dent in the TBRs. I'm trying very hard not to bring home any more books. At least I know there are plenty of Oates books in our pathetic library. :)

  15. Anonymous9:21 AM

    I had to come back and tell you my favourite J.D. novel was A Knight in Shining Armor. I loved it for the romance but also for the humour!

  16. Heather,

    Thanks, I appreciate that. My preference is romance with humor, so that sounds like one to look for. :)

  17. I haven't read Deveraux for a long time. I think I have enought on my shelves for the time being, but I may have to read "Awakening" soon. It captured my attention. I haven't switched to Beta either. It looks easy, it's the backing everything up part that I haven't wanted to mess with. I did set up a Beta Blogger account to comment somewhere but now I can't remember my password. I'm very confused.

  18. Framed,

    I was milling around, trying to decide what to read next (last night), and came across two Deveraux books on my TBRs. I'm pretty sure I have a third -- two contemporary titles, one historical. I'm very bad; I collect.

    Awakening was really great at first but lost steam about halfway, although I thought the ending was a great one. It just somehow lost its magic. I wouldn't rush to get my hands on a copy if your TBRs are as scary as mine are. I'm in danger of death by book avalanche, here.

    This beta thing is a bummer for old fuddy-duddies who like things to stay the same. I'm about to at least save all my templates, tonight. It looks like they've started switching people and they're trying to make it sound like, "Gosh, darn it, you're lucky we're taking over your blog!" Ummm, o-kay.


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