Tuesday, August 23, 2016

seriously romantic: too hot to handle by tessa bailey

tessa bailey's romancing the clarksons series follows 4 estranged siblings as they cope with the aftermath of their mother's death and struggle to honor her last wishes. belmont, rita, aaron and peggy clarkson are all emotional wrecks, with abandonment issues, imposter syndrome, commitment issues galore. the series kicks off with too hot to handle, and follows the siblings' decision to take a road trip to new york from san diego in order to fulfill one of their mysterious mother's crazy last requests and jump into the atlantic from a pier on coney island at midnight on new year's eve.

rita starts the entire chain of events when she accidentally burns down her mother's restaurant. at loose ends, her culinary career in question she guilts her siblings into driving across the country with her. when they end up stranded in the town of hurley, new mexico not too long after their disastrous road trip starts rita finds herself attracted to one of the locals, jasper ellis.

as the one sibling who followed their mother's footsteps into the cooking world, rita can't help feeling like she never measures up. her younger sister, peggy, is the pretty one. her brothers remain at arm's length for reasons that we'll likely get to explore in their books. meanwhile jasper is trying to reform his reputation, he's been the town's go-to-guy for an easy lay. he wants something more out of life, out of his relationships. he wants something more with rita. of course his hesitancy to just jump her bones feeds into her deeply held insecurities. eventually these two get on the same page about how attracted they are to one another and whether or not sleeping together will mean they don't respect each other in the morning, but it takes a while to get there, at least it takes a while in words written. the actual time frame that the novel takes place in is over a course of days. which does make the whole thing somewhat unbelievable.

and this is a romance novel with a lot of family drama. the clarksons are super messed up. being in rita and jasper's heads most of the time was occasionally difficult. there's a lot of intense emotional baggage. and these are two characters who have major self-esteem issues. and while the occasional insecure heroine is certainly a romantic trope, having both leads saddled with these feelings of unworthiness can be kind of a downer when you are looking for something light-hearted and sexy. this book was sexy, but not light-hearted at all.

i'm scheduled to read aaron's story, too wild to tame next, and i'm hoping it's a bit breezier of a read. it's not that i mind deep emotional issues in my romances, but for some reason i just found too hot to handle to be a book i needed to keep putting down and reading other lighter fare in between.i tend to be a binge-reader so this is not normal reading behavior from me. it's hard for me to put into words what i found so difficult about this novel.

Monday, August 22, 2016

seriously romantic: claiming the enemy by lauren hawkeye

the title for claiming the enemy is a bit misleading, since i'm not sure that doctors piper dawson and alexander "ace" lennox can be described as enemies. she's a resident at hampton bay hospital and he is her attending physician, her boss. after a childhood spent bouncing around foster homes, piper can't help being a people pleaser. she likes to be liked. she actually kind of needs it, craves it, because that's what a childhood filled with rejection does to you. and ace has put up walls around himself to avoid getting involved with anyone since his wife died, and doesn't appreciate piper's attempts to break down those walls even if all she is doing is fostering a friendly work environment.

it's too bad that the short length of the novel doesn't really delve more into piper's psyche. ace notes her sapphire-streaked hair and tattoos, and he also notices that at times she doesn't feel comfortable in her own skin, but instead of developing this further the author focuses on the chemistry between the two leads.

ace's own trauma of losing his first wife to a drunk driver is only slightly more developed than piper's past. it would have been nice to know whether or not ace's dominant side had always been in play or it had been something that grew out of his need for control after his wife's death. on the flipside, ace's dominant nature led to some pretty steamy scenes. once piper and ace give into their passion, it's pretty much impossible for them to keep their clothes on around each other.

there is some token complication about the relationship being forbidden due to hospital policies, but that is wrapped up tidily and somewhat hilariously in a scene where their supervisor is like "um, who didn't know you two were hot for each other?" if you are looking for a short, steamy read with a happy ending, you needn't look further.

**claiming the enemy will publish on september 12, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (brazen) in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

seriously romantic: fighting to be free by kirsty moseley

the first time i read about fighting to be free i wasn't sure if the demons were real or metaphorical. honestly i think jamie cole would be better off dealing with real demons, because his metaphorical ones are pretty killer. but even though he's dealing with some dark stuff and his past is riddled with emotional landmines he is the dreamiest bad boy boyfriend ever.

and how he lands ellie and keeps her for the most part is pretty sweet. i mean, she's also super understanding. she only mildly freaks out when she discovers some of his illegal dealings, and even when she majorly freaks out about his delinquent past it's not unwarranted.

jamie and ellie are so cool and collected for being only 18 and 17 years old. and that is my major problem with this book. it's billed as new adult. and while there is a range for what you can consider new adult, usually college age is the lower boundary. this reads as new adult except one of the main characters is 18 going on 25 and the other one is a high schooler who acts like a 21 year old. it was just so hard to suspend disbelief that the characters would be doing the things they were doing at the ages being claimed. and yeah, okay, maybe kids these days, but you know what, katie mcgarry writes similarly gritty young adult fare. and her characters manage to act their age most of the time. the problem with this novel is that the characters are acting so much older. but it doesn't feel realistic.

because in every way this book reads like a new adult romance. even with the annoying cliffhanger at the end. i know, i know, i'm just not a fan of the cliffhanger ending. i don't mind reading a series but i much prefer each book to standalone. and i'm also not sure how you come back from this cliffhanger. like the author has really painted herself into a corner. jamie is in some real trouble. not just legal troubles, but all the lies he told to keep ellie safe, all the lies of omission to her family, i'm just not sure there's a way to move beyond this believably. even if jamie and ellie are totally meant to be.

i mean, you get that these two love each other. you understand why they can't keep apart. it's just the external forces keeping them apart aren't something to sneeze at. i enjoyed this book. both jamie and ellie are really engaging characters and there's this sense of menace and dread where you know that everything is going to go to shit and when it does it happens spectacularly. the author doesn't hold back. other than the cliffhanger my biggest issue is the character's ages. i just didn't buy them as teenagers. but just pretend in your head that we're talking about college age kids and the whole thing reads a little more realistically.

**fighting to be free will publish on september 6, 2016. i received an advance review copy courtesy of netgalley/forever/grand central publishing in exchange for my honest review. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

strictly literary: thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd by alan bradley

the always delightful flavia de luce is back in the eighth installment of alan bradley's mystery series, thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd. have i mentioned how much i love the titles to all the flavia de luce novels? this one takes its name from the double, double, toil and trouble speech in macbeth. and indeed poor flavia has her share of toils and troubles in this novel.

1 WITCH.  Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.
2 WITCH.  Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin'd.  
3 WITCH.  Harpier cries:—'tis time! 'tis time!  
1 WITCH.  Round about the caldron go;     
                   In the poison'd entrails throw.—   
                  Toad, that under cold stone,      
                  Days and nights has thirty-one;     
                  Swelter'd venom sleeping got,      
                  Boil thou first i' the charmed pot!  
ALL.  Double, double toil and trouble;      
         Fire burn, and caldron bubble.  

now twelve and recently returned to her beloved buckshaw after being sent home in disgrace from miss bodycote's academy, flavia finds herself struggling to settle back in with the family she dearly missed but with whom she doesn't fit in with. her sisters ophelia and daphne remain as distant as ever, her beloved dogger is clearly keeping secrets, partly because her taciturn father has been installed in a hospital suffering from pneumonia and flavia has been unable to visit. on top of this, her cousin undine continues to be a bane to her peaceful existence.

her spirits lighten somewhat when she finds herself embroiled in another close encounter with a dead body. as always she rides about her trusty bicycle, gladys collecting clues. her distance from her nearest and dearest allowing her to actually roam the english countryside quite a bit, as she visits london twice in search of the solution to her latest mystery. flavia does get her man in the end, and the twists and turns that are taken to get to the heart of the puzzle are engaging. bradley's prose always sparkles when he writes as flavia. and this is no exception.

the book ends with a pretty awful event, and i can't wait to see what the repercussions are in the next novel. so hopefully book nine isn't too terribly far off.

**thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd will publish on september 20, 2016. i received an advance reader copy via a goodreads giveaway/courtesy of delacorte press in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, August 19, 2016

seriously romantic: the 48-hour hookup by sarah ballance

claire stevens and liam chase didn't set out to become memes. but after claire earns the reputation of a runaway bride after calling off two weddings, and after liam earns instant internet popularity as hot hvac guy when an ill-timed picture goes viral, they don't really have any say about it. after all once it's out on the internet there is no taking it back.

but when their attempts to avoid the city put them in each other's orbit they know that laying low will become problematic. after all the headlines write themselves, see "hot hvac guy keeps bride from running" for example. even worse, they can't really keep their hands off each other. from the moment they meet, a moment that involves a tree crushing liam's truck by the way, there are sparks.

when you add in a hungry raccoon named stanley, a sudden snowstorm, a broken down furnace, and a little bittersweet holiday spirit, you have the perfect recipe for a lighthearted holiday romance. the 48-hour hookup is also the last in the chase brothers series, i haven't read the books that came before, but i can only imagine they are equally as light-hearted and fun. liam and claire have plenty of chemistry and even though i haven't seen the brothers interact before this novel you get a good sense of the chase family in this one. and they seem like a fun group to be around.

**the 48-hour hookup is scheduled to publish on september 12, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (lovestruck) in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

something from the archives: headlong - part 1

so this one is an alternate universe/challenge fic. i think i always found these fun to write because it allowed me greater freedom to play with the characters. the conditions i needed to follow, as well as part 1, follow the jump.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

seriously romantic: the summer i became a nerd by leah rae miller

madelyne jean summers lives for summer. not because she likes the heat (she actually doesn't). or because she loves the time off from school (that's okay, but it's not the reason). she loves summer because she can finally stop pretending to be the popular cheerleader type and embrace her inner nerd.

she loves comic books. and live-action role playing games. and cosplay. and even though she's dating the football quarterback, she also kind of loves a nerd named logan scott. even if she refuses to admit this to herself. ever since an embarrassing incident in the seventh grade she's been hiding her nerd-love from everyone. afraid that if she admits what she truly likes her friends will abandon her and make fun of her.

but when issue #400 of the super ones fails to show up in her mailbox on release day she needs to find out what happens. she heads to the town's comic book store and is horrified to realize that logan scott is at the register. even worse he recognizes her. will he tell everyone her secret? will he blackmail her? or will he just be a great guy? and if it's the last option, how will maddie handle it?

being in maddie's head most of the novel flashes you back to those teenage years of insecurity and anxiety. but there's also the joy of self-discovery. and the highs and lows of falling in love. the summer i became a nerd is just an all-around enjoyable story. all the characters are great, even eric, maddie's dumb jock boyfriend has his moment. but the relationship that develops between maddie ad logan drives the story. and how maddie learns that being her true self can be an amazing thing frames that so nicely.

**the summer i became a nerd published may 7, 2013. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (entangled teen) in exchange for my honest review.