Sunday, June 25, 2017

seriously romantic: alex, approximately by jenn bennett

described as the ya version of you've got mail, alex, approximately does hit all the right beats in this young adult contemporary. bailey has recently moved to the same town as her online crush, a boy she only knows as alex. being the cautious type, she decides to track down alex without telling him that she's close by.

in the meantime, she's got a summer job at a local museum of curiosities and sparks fly with security guard, porter roth. he has the uncanny ability to get underneath her skin. yet the more time she spends with him, the more she realizes that there is a thin line between love and hate.

and as she and porter commit to a relationship, what should she do about alex? is it cheating on him? is she cheating with him? it takes a while for bailey to sort this all out. but the answers she finds are worth all the angst. this is a sweet, summertime read.

bailey and porter are delightful together and the cast of supporting characters are really quite wonderful.

seriously romantic: once and for all by sarah dessen

having grown up in the wedding business, louna is cynical when it comes to happily-ever-afters. it doesn't help that her first love, ethan, was totally epic in nature and ended in tragedy. it's been a year and she's only just trying to come out of her shell.

she meets ambrose at a wedding. unlike ethan, their story isn't love at first sight. she thinks he's an overgrown child playboy who cares nothing for his mother's happiness. her second impression doesn't go much better, but when her mom is strong-armed into hiring him to help out over the summer, louna is seemingly stuck with him. 

the thing about ambrose is that he is 100% annoying and knows it, but he's also so damned good-natured and sweet and you can't help but love him. he's a total disaster. but he's also a dreamboat. he seems shallow and not all there, but he has hidden depths and is more observant that you'd give him credit for. it takes a while for louna to see all this because she is so intent on disliking him for everything he stands for. 

one of the more interesting things about the way once and for all is structured is that we are given louna and ethan's story in flashbacks. their story is beautiful and conflict-free and yet i so much preferred louna and ambrose together. one thing louna makes clear is that what we are witnessing are her memories of that magical night she and ethan spent together. they didn't have time for conflict, and it's easy to brush over the moments that were less than perfect given the circumstances. 

and yet, as you contrast all of ethan's perfections versus ambrose's imperfections, i just found ambrose that much easier to love. he's not perfect. he's actually a bit of a disaster. but he means well. he cares more deeply than he lets on. and he's one hundred percent got a thing for louna. 

there sweet and bittersweet, loss and love, hurt and healing in this book. you get glimpses of characters we've met before in colby and lakeview. i love that dessen's characters all inhabit the same world. it's reassuring that they keep on living and breathing well after their story has been told.

**once and for all published on june 6, 2017. i received a free sampler of the first 3 chapters courtesy of netgalley/penguin group (viking group for young readers) in exchange for my honest review. i was always going to read this book, so i read the remaining chapters on my own dime. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

seriously romantic: pull me close by sidney halston

in pull me close, when katherine tries to attend her sister's engagement party at nico's nightclub panic, she actually has a panic attack. unfortunately, nico thinks she's having some sort of overdose. given the way things have been falling apart at panic since his father was arrested for a whole host of dirty deeds, the last thing nico wants are headlines about anyone od'ing.

the thing is, katherine isn't od'ing. she's having a panic attack. a survivor of the september 11th attacks, she suffers from anxiety, depression, agoraphobia, and severe claustrophobia. the truth is that over time, her anxiety has gotten worse and her life is mostly confined to her apartment.

meeting nico serves as a catalyst for change. he's interested in her, in spite of all her crazy, and god help her, she is interested in him. but in order for them to work, she has to try to get some of her anxieties under control. she will never be rid of them, but she needs to find a way to live with them in a way that doesn't require her to be a hermit.

there's a push and pull between them. nico wants more than katherine can give at times. but she also needs to be pushed because so many of her fears are predicated on irrational thoughts. and when nico experiences a traumatic event of his own, he understands katherine's anxieties more fully.

and they both realize that life is too fragile to waste on petty differences. their love is real. and that's something worth holding on to. no matter the challenges. for an "issues" book, this was entertaining and sweet and sexy. what nico and katherine experience in the novel is really something incredible. and their emotional and psychological traumas are hard won, but hopefully worth it.

Friday, June 23, 2017

seriously romantic: storming the castle by arianna hart

in this contemporary romance, musician sam castleton finds love in the hills of georgia with faith evans, the owner of a small bed & breakfast/hunting lodge. he's got a serious case of writer's block and a record due, and on top of that his last tour has left him so empty and overwhelmed that he's resorted to drinking to excess. 

renting out the entire lodge to secure his privacy and find a way to get himself back on track, the last thing sam expects is to connect with faith. she's a single mom who has no idea who he is. she couldn't be further from his rock-and-roll lifestyle if she tried. and yet, maybe someone who has no expectations from him is exactly who he needs. 

the fact that he is attracted to her doesn't hurt either. and the fact that she inspires him. well, that's even better. even if the music is a departure from his angry, anti-authoritarian rock anthems. what makes sam and faith such a great couple in storming the castle, is that they bring out the best in each other even as they learn that they are more than what they thought they could be. when they are together they really are their best selves.

i also loved that there was no huge drama or crazy separation where they had to beg each other for forgiveness. they had a little fight, stewed about it for about half a day and then had a rational adult conversation. i love it when the couples in romance novels behave like rational adults. too often they suddenly become soap opera caricatures to create drama and i find that so unnecessary. 

but that is not the case here. it's a sweet, enjoyable romance. the perfect thing to read on a lazy summer afternoon. 

**storming the castle will publish on june 26, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (select contemporary) in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

seriously romantic: dirty little secrets by a.j. nuest

this is the second book in the a likely story series, but having not read the first one i can assure you that it stands alone. however, there are events that happen in this book that are influenced by things that happen in the first book, and some things in dirty little secrets might be a spoiler for the first book if you haven't read it at all. so if that bothers you, read them in order.

xander dade has been in love with charlie mcgovern since he was a skinny tech-savant kid out on the streets. they were a team. she took care of him, protected him, comforted him. but when she was forced to leave their benefactor's care he felt incredibly guilty and stayed away because he was so sure he'd done her wrong.

charlie was always a master thief. so when she steals a chemical formula from an evil pharmaceutical mastermind that the government is watching things go south pretty quickly. when xander shows up on her doorstep out of the blue, ten years after she last saw him, she's thrilled, but also she wants to keep him out of her problems.

she's also kind of overwhelmed because the awkward teenager she remembers is a hunk of a man. and she's a fat blonde to most people. xander thinks she is gorgeous. and his opinion is really all that matters. these two are in their heads a lot of the time, xander stepping in it because he has no idea that charlie doesn't immediately know where his mind is at. he's loved her always, he'll love her always. that's clear to him from the start. how he makes it clear to her is another matter.

for a time i was worried that there was going to be a lot of outside meddling and advising, something i really detest in romance novel series is when there are know-it-all characters. but it helps that while this person is right, to a point, she isn't fully right. and xander is able to figure stuff out on his own. i like relationships without a sideline coaching section, and xander and charlie have all the love, they just need to figure out the trust in it bit.

**dirty little secrets will publish on june 27, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/kensington books (lyrical underground) in exchange for my honest review.

something from the archives: say goodbye - part 25

catch up with parts 1234567891011121314151617181920212223, and 24. part 25 continues after the break.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

slightly silly: unbreakable kimmy schmidt, season 3

this show, you guys, is totally insane.

the characters are actual cartoon characters. and they get so many things wrong about race and cultural appropriation. and yet the aura of absurdity that surrounds everyone inhabiting kimmy's corner of new york somehow lets you move on, even if you do not fully forgive the show for its faults.

this latest season starts out and everyone is off the rails in separate storylines, but over the course of the season things start to converge and the one thing i have to admit about this show is that all the actors have fantastic chemistry. it honestly seems like they are having an absolute ball filming this thing.

from titus's epic lemonade homage:

to jacqueline's successfully advocating for a name change to the washington redskin's football team. while lillian boycotts a new grocery store and falls in love with the owner. 

to kimmy not getting a divorce, getting into columbia, flunking out of columbia, losing her dream of being a crossing guard because she's married to a registered sex offender to finding her dream job. 

every moment, every crazy inside joke, finds a way to make complete sense by the end. but when you are watching it the only thing you can think is that these people be crazy. ah well. at least it makes for great background watching while i'm working on other things.