Sunday, July 31, 2016

seriously romantic: for better or worse by lauren layne

i'd previously reviewed to have and to hold, which was the first book in the wedding belles series and while i was more intrigued by the story simmering between alexis and logan, it made sense that for better or worse would be heather's story. i'm a sucker for many a romance trope, and the neighbors who hate each other but have crazy chemistry is one of my favorites. and heather and josh might actually end up being one of my favorite couples who fall into this category.

everything about them is awesome. the chemistry. the issues keeping them from fully committing. the way the relationship becomes a relationship without either of them realizing. the declaration of love. the big romantic gesture. it just all worked for me. and it's weird because both heather and josh are somewhat frustrating. but you also get it. the author gives you enough background to let you understand why they have the hang-ups they do. and even when the characters, and josh in particular, behaves in ways that are utterly frustrating, they are also in character and make complete sense.

but really the chemistry between these two characters was super hot. i loved that they referred to each other by their apartment numbers. i loved how they talked to each other period. even when they were arguing or talking around things, the way they interacted felt so real. and i just ate it up. the wedding belles series is definitely worth reading, and so far for better or worse is my favorite. but to love and to cherish will be released later this fall, and i'm guessing it will be alexis and logan's turn at the plate. maybe it will be a grand slam?

**for better or worse will publish on august 30, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/gallery, threshold, pocket books in exchange for my honest review. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

seriously romantic: my fair princess by vanessa kelly

in my fair princess we meet gillian dryden, the hoydenish bastard daughter of a royal duke, and charles penley, the duke of leverton, the man in charge of making her acceptable to london's high society. as far as regency romances go, this novel isn't too far off the beaten path. though perhaps gillian is a bit too modern in her sensibilities, and the other main characters a bit too accepting of them?

the relationship between charles and gillian is actually really well done. the sparks that begin at their introduction lead to a full blown fiery passion. there is no doubt that these two characters are really well-matched, they challenge each other and bring out the best in one another. but at times i couldn't help feel like gillian was a bit too headstrong, a bit too strong asserting her independence in ways that just felt counterproductive.

this happens to me a lot, and it's weird, because i believe women should be strong and independent and have every right to fight for themselves, but sometimes these especially liberated women in historical novels grate on me. and maybe that's the point, that one should think about the double standards that existed then and exist now. why is it easier to accept an open-minded hero than an enlightened heroine? i don't want to be a bad feminist. but at the same time, sometimes the too modern sensibilities make me wonder why the author bothered to set this in the past? i mean, the setting did work for the most part, it just felt like sometimes all of the main characters were from another time and that sometimes pulled me out of the plot.

in the end, this is a nice regency romance, it's one i would have loved to share with my grandmother. these kind of books were her jam. (though maybe gillian is a little too risqué for my grandmother's sensibilities.)

**my fair princess will publish on august 30, 2016. i received an advanced reader copy courtesy of netgalley/kensington books/zebra in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, July 29, 2016

strictly literary: person of interest by emery harper

person of interest kicks off a new mystery series by emery harper. while the novel struggles with tone at first, partly reading like overcooked bukowski or chandler, until it settles down and finds the main character's voice. celeste eagan is a drama teacher at a texas prep school. her life changes when she discovers the principal of her school hanging above his desk in apparent suicide.

somehow celeste finds herself listed as a person of interest. needless to say she finds this upsetting and in order to help clear her name she begins a campaign of amateur sleuthing. it's hard to say whether her efforts help or hinder the investigation. but they do certainly put her in danger, and right into the path of the detective running the investigation, shaw muldoon. while celeste doesn't aspire to be watched by the police she can't help but enjoy the moments she gets to spend with muldoon. the chemistry between these two crackles. unfortunately it's just not done to become involved with the cop investigating your role in a possible murder. one can only hope this particular scenario won't be the set up in the next novel in the series, because while this forbidden lust thing is okay for a while, it will be incredibly boring to read book after book of these two characters fighting their attraction.

the secondary characters in the novel are also fun, celeste's best friend, levi; her ex-husband, colin, and his horrible girlfriend, naomi, who are kind of at fault for landing her in the middle of the case; kellen schaefer, a local reporter and the police chief's son, and annabelle, celeste's new boss. shaw also has a large family, including one brother, finn, who is described as just as good-looking and is also a cop. there is plenty of room for these characters and the world of peytonville, texas to grow.

the novel reminded me of the heather wells mysteries by meg cabot. so if you liked those, you will definitely like this. i actually had a hard time categorizing this one, more than anything it is a comedy-mystery, but that doesn't feel quite literary. however, while there are romantic aspects, this is definitely not a romance novel, and it doesn't fit under that category either.

**person of interest will publish on august 29, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/carina press in exchange for my honest review. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

simply don't boo, vote

tonight's speech by obama was amazeballs awesome. actually all the speakers, from bloomberg to biden to kaine (who really hit his stride in the latter half of his speech and whose eyebrows i enjoy) knocked it out of the park.

there are so many reasons why this election is important. but (and this is kind of frightening) one of the best expressions of why it is so important belongs to our forefathers:

we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 
i honestly believe these rights are at risk if donald trump is elected president. i know that hillary clinton isn't the perfect candidate, but i also believe this is true:
you know, nothing truly prepares you for the demands of the oval office.  until you’ve sat at that desk, you don’t know what it’s like to manage a global crisis, or send young people to war.  but hillary’s been in the room; she’s been part of those decisions.  she knows what’s at stake in the decisions our government makes for the working family, the senior citizen, the small business owner, the soldier, and the veteran.  even in the middle of crisis, she listens to people, and keeps her cool, and treats everybody with respect.  and no matter how daunting the odds; no matter how much people try to knock her down, she never, ever quits. 
that’s the hillary i know.  that’s the hillary i've come to admire.  and that’s why i can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman--not me, not bill, nobody--more qualified than hillary clinton to serve as president of the united states of america.
it's okay if you don't agree with me. after all that's why this is a democracy. but when i think of the country i want for my kids, donald trump is not the man in charge. that makes things simpler for me come election day. i always vote my conscience, i hope you do too. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

simply keeping score

i usually avoid politics on principle. i have a deep-seated distrust of politicians and i think the us political system is all kinds of fucked up. but tonight, watching the roll call that led to the first female presidential candidate from one of our major political parties, i totally teared up. women won the universal right to vote in this country in 1920. it's been 96 years, and this is the first time there's a woman who can win this thing on the ballot. that's pretty amazing. i'm proud to be a woman today. there's real proof, we can do anything. we really can. 

here's another awesome lady saying awesome things. (doesn't everyone wish they were as awesome as michelle obama?)

and for extra proof of awesomeness here's her carpool karaoke:

Monday, July 25, 2016

seriously romantic: the tall, dark and texan series by kate meader

i think the series name is kind of stupid, especially since the titles are all about "the score", but i suppose the heroes are all texan, and honestly i have no idea if they are also tall and dark. those kind of character details are not what i consider necessary to plot so i rarely remember them.

anyway, the series kicks of with even the score, which i was the least excited about when i read the description, but actually i think it's the best of the series. hunter and tess have chemistry in spades. he blames her for his failed wedding, she has a fear of commitment, he needs a fake fiancée, she happens to be an actress. i enjoyed this because even though the characters have this history, they only know each other as by their preconceptions. and the novel shows how they realize how wrong they were about each other, and how perfect they are for one another. this was just truly enjoyable.

the next book in the series deals with brody and emma, hunter's business partner and their secretary. in taking the score emma finds herself in a financial hole due to family problems, so she takes a second job as a server at a strip joint. for #reasons brody ends up there on the very night she's been recruited to the stripper side of the employee line. brody goes all alpha-male and basically buys up all her time for a week and tries to force emma to tell him what's going on. for #reasons, she resists. honestly all the #reasons people did things in this story are kind of dumb, but at the same time i found brody and emma to be characters who were easy to like and root for. this is just one of those books where i liked the initial premise but i would have handled things differently if i had been the one calling the shots. sometimes that's how things work out.

the series ends with one week to score, which picks up their third business partner's (flynn) story and his romance with brody's sister (olivia). here again all the ingredients worked for me, it was just that i would have combined them a little differently. but again the characters are worth rooting for. this one in particular had what felt like an incredibly rushed ending. and i think it took too long to get the characters on the same page. unlike the characters in the first novel, flynn and olivia have a ton of history, and not all of it good. and it takes a long time for them to get past the apologies and explanations phase. but in the end, everyone gets a happy ending, and i got a good 6-9 hours of enjoyment in reading them.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

seriously romantic: triple score by regina kyle

i've read two of the other books in this harlequin blaze mini-series and liked them, so when i saw that triple score was being released i added it to my pre-order list. the mini-series covers the romantic entanglements of the nelson siblings. and this novel is about the youngest nelson, noelle, a prima ballerina at a new york city ballet company who is out in phoenix undergoing rehab for a torn acl. she's also recovering from a humiliating, messy break-up and terrified that the career she has dedicated her adult life to will be permanently derailed if things go poorly.

enter jace monroe [stage left], a bad boy baseball player who's ucl injury may mean his playing days are over. he pushes himself hard, but he never forgets to make time for fun. and he's the perfect person to counterbalance all of noelle's seriousness.

from the moment these two characters meet there are sparks flying, and luckily they don't deny the attraction that bubbles between them when they come close together for too long. for a category romance we do actually get a nice amount of time to see the deepening relationship between the characters before things get complicated. jace's personal and professional problems get out of hand and he doesn't handle it well. but he figures things out. it's not a spoiler to say that these two characters get a happy ending, in fact the series as a whole gets a nice bow-tie ending with the epilogue to this story.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

simply don't know how i missed this sad news

so i found out the other day that louise rennison of the georgia nicholson and tallulah casey books passed away earlier this year. and that makes me so sad. i'd been hoping for another tallulah book, especially since the last one, the taming of the tights, ended on a cliffhanger, sort of.  i mean, things were sort of tied up, but it was also clear that there was more story to be told. and now it never will be. although i'm sure people have written some decent fan fiction, but it's pretty hard to replicate rennison's style. so i don't know that i'd want to seek that out.

i loved rennison's books because they always, always made me laugh out loud. and not just like a giggle. full-on belly laughing so hard i'm crying laughter. one of my favorite moments in all her books, that still makes me laugh, is in angus, thongs and full-frontal snogging when georgia accidentally shaves off her eyebrows. i think it's because i recall using a razor to "pluck" my eyebrows when i was a kid, though i never actually caused any major damage. but i can see how you go from having eyebrows to not so easily. and the w
hole thing just strikes me so funny.

just see for yourself:

2:00 p.m.
Found the tweezers eventually. Why Mum would think I wouldn't find them in Dad's tie drawer I really don't know. I did find something very strange in the tire drawer as well as the tweezers. It was sort of an apron thing in a special box. I hope against hope that my dad is not a transvestite. It would be more than flesh and blood could stand if I had to "understand" his feminine side. And me and Mim and Libby have to watch while he clatters around in one of Mum's nighties and fluffy miles.....We'll probably have to start calling him Daphne. 
God, it's painful plucking. I'll have to have a little lie down. The pain is awful--it's made my eyes water like mad.

2:30 p.m.
I can't bear this. I've only taken about five hairs out and my eyes are swollen to twice their normal size.

4:00 p.m.
Cracked it. I'll use Dad's razor.

4:05 p.m.
Sharper than I thought. It's taken off a lot of hair just on one stroke. I'll have to even up the other one.

4:16 p.m.
Bugger it. It looks all right, I think, but I look very surprised in one eye. I'll have to even up the other one now.

6:00 p.m.
Mum nearly dropped Libby when she saw me. Her exact words were "What in the name of God have you done to yourself, you stupid girl?"
God I hate parents! Me stupid? They're so stupid. She wishes I was still Libby's age so she could dress me in ridiculous hats with earflaps and ducks on. God, God, God!!!

10:00 p.m.
Maybe, they'll grow back overnight. How long does it take for eyebrows to grow?

the first time i read this passage i was on a train in boston. i was crying because i was trying so hard to keep my composure. i was not successful. and i read this passage and remember that moment and it's just happiness.

which is why i'm sad that there will be no more comedy from louise rennison. she had a gift for the absurd.

Friday, July 22, 2016

seriously romantic: knocked out by love by abby niles

i've never met a sports romance that i didn't like, and certainly knocked out by love by abby niles proves that i am a sucker for the genre. usually boxing/mma isn't my go-to sport, like scarlett (our heroine) i'm a football girl through and through. but lord knows these sexy, strong, bad boy athletes with the soft gooey cores are my jam. brody totally fits the stereotype. and oh, it makes him so easy to love.

knocked out by love is clearly the latest in the love to the extreme series, though it is the first one i've read. being a newcomer didn't affect my ability to enjoy the story or these characters. and, in fact, there are hints of future stories i am interested in seeing and i totally want to catch up on the previous four books in the series.

anyway, even though this is a sports romance, it deals with some heavy relationship issues. infidelity, wanting kids versus not wanting them, infertility, and i love the different perspectives the novel presented. the characters have real problems, but they aren't hopeless. and things aren't magically resolved by the end of the novel, these characters have to work for their happy ending. and i believe that they get there, but allowing us to see the characters struggle with their feelings and their beliefs makes the romance at the heart of the story more realistic.

scarlett and brody don't always make the right choice, but they do try to protect each other, and they do their best to build the other person up. the chemistry between them is palpable, and when they finally give into their feelings it is oh so hot.

while i call this a sports romance, it actually isn't too heavy on the sports because it is more focused on the characters and these heavier relationship issues. but brody is also facing some tough questions about the future of his mma career, and we do get to see him work through them. it would have been nice if scarlett had been more integrated into this part of his life, though it does make sense that she isn't given the way things unfold.

anyway, if you are a sucker for a sports romance, this book is worth checking out. i'm thinking it's probably worth checking out the whole series.

**knocked out by love will publish on august 15, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

seriously romantic: summer girl by a.s. green

summer girl, is a sweet (and sexy) new adult romance by a.s. green. told in the alternating(ish) viewpoints of our two leads, katherine d'arcy and bennet whose last name is kind of a spoiler so i won't say it here.

katherine is a list-maker, a planner, someone who needs to control her emotions and her surroundings to feel safe. she has deep-seated abandonment issues and is trapped in a platonic relationship with her best friend, andrew mason, who she happens to think she is madly in love with. when their summer plans are derailed by her mother, katherine finds herself as a caretaker to a decomissioned lighthouse on little bear island in the middle of lake superior. there she meets bennet, the replacement ferry driver and other than katherine the most recent newcomer to the island.

bennet is an aspiring songwriter, but since moving to the island he's been in a rut. his agent in l.a. wants him to try moving to nashville, especially if no new songs are forthcoming. bennet has a fraught relationship with his family, disowned by his parents when he chose to follow his musical dreams over staying and fulfilling the future they'd planned out for him.

when katherine and bennet meet there are instant sparks, something that confuses katherine because she's been in love with andrew for so long. but they can't stay away from each other. and the relationship deepens quickly and as bennet pushes katherine further out of her comfort zone, the more confident and true to herself she feels. she discovers the future she and andrew had mapped out isn't actually a future that appeals to her. and starts to make changes to her life and her plans with bennet's encouragement.

the misunderstandings when they happen all center around andrew. to get into the crux of the issues would spoil the plot a bit, but they provide a reasonable bit of drama and uncertainty, but aren't so overwhelming that you ever believe these two won't get their happy ending.

bennet tends to call katherine, d'arcy. in part as a call back to pride & prejudice. it's a bit strange to hear a guy making the austen connection, but other than the names this wasn't meant to be a p&p retelling, which honestly i think is a good thing, even though i do love me some jane austen.

all in all this is an enjoyable summery new adult romance.

**summer girl is scheduled to publish on august 8, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (embrace) in exchange for my honest review. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

simply splitting hairs

so unless you live under a rock somewhere (or are my husband who assiduously avoids celebrity gossip) you've heard about the #kimye versus #swiftie feud.

it is the best. one of the things i find so amazing is when people are so offended that someone has LIED. doesn't everyone lie? and yet i'm sure that both #kimye and #swiftie are telling their truths here.

#kimye's snapchat videos of the phone call don't actually contradict what #swiftie has said. which were 1) she never heard the song and 2) she didn't approve the line "i made that bitch famous" however, #swiftie also totally exaggerated her unawareness of the song. kanye clearly quotes the first half of the lyric, they discuss it. so her avowals of it never being cleared with her ring false. but the snapchat videos have been obviously edited too. and i just don't trust #kimye's ability not to play with the truth to ensure that they come off in the best possible light. #mrswest in particular has made a career out of putting herself and her family forward in the most unREAL reality. so i'm not exactly buying what #kimye is selling.

which isn't to say that i buy what #swiftie is selling either. her moral outrage and victimhood here don't ring particularly true. at this point in her career she should be above these stupid blow ups on social media. but she's feuding with katy perry about a "backup dancer" (yeah, yeah we all know it's about john mayer who was like 4 boyfriends ago) and adam "calvin harris sounds like a black name" wiles, who is a terrible person pretty much in the same way taylor swift seems like a terrible person in that neither or them can let any slight, real or imagined go and of course, #kimye, who i just view as morally reprehensible people, so why taylor gave them any ground to claim righteousness is beyond me.

#swiftie is a brand. and she pr-manages the shit out of that brand. but they've fucked up on locking shit down, and that's where #queenbey remains queen. it will be interesting to see how this continues to play out. at the moment #swiftie is knocked down a peg or two, but i just don't see her staying down. especially not to the likes of #mrswest. but she has to play this carefully, because overexposure (like she says to #kanye) is a real problem she needs to consider. and it's a fine line she's walking with #hiddleswift/#swoki. it's hard to say that she's been #winning at her pr lately.

Monday, July 18, 2016

seriously romantic: one last fling by leela lou dahlin

one must wonder what amount of money would make a bachelor-type courtship worthwhile. especially if you aren't actually allowed to meet the bachelor in question until you are walking down the aisle. because that's the situation you read about in one last fling. i mean, these weren't questions i have ever thought all that much about. i met my non-millionaire husband in grad school and we were both poor and in publishing, so no real plans existed to make it rich. (unless you include his insane musical, movie and book careers, which you know, we're still waiting for him to make it big.)

i think the marry for money aspect of the novel is what i had a hard time getting past. when ryder and daisy were together and interacting normally it was fine, i enjoyed it. but then you'd see daisy's friend hannah or daisy's mother talk about wanting to join the ranks of the financially abundant and things would get weird again. luckily most of the novel focuses on daisy and ryder's connection, but toward the end as things reach a breaking point the focus does turn to money.

i think the way ryder's true identity as the billionaire bachelor is revealed ended up feeling rushed. daisy skipped feeling betrayed and when right to feeling bad that she had ruined things for his inheritance. and that was weird. things do end up resolving happily for all, but there maybe should have been 10% more book following the reveal. instead it's 2% and not enough.

i'm not sure if this is a standalone or part of a series, but some interesting set up was done with regard to ryder's friend and co-worker, trenton, and daisy's friend, hannah. there is more story there, something worth exploring perhaps.

**one last fling published on march 8, 2016. i received an advanced reader copy courtesy of netgalley/dahlin publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

strictly literary: a murder in time by julie mcelwain

julie mcelwain kicks of a new mystery series with a murder in time.  the blurb summarizes the plot nicely:

Beautiful and brilliant, Kendra Donovan is a rising star at the FBI. Yet her path to professional success hits a speed bump during a disastrous raid where half her team is murdered, a mole in the FBI is uncovered and she herself is severely wounded. As soon as she recovers, she goes rogue and travels to England to assassinate the man responsible for the deaths of her teammates.

While fleeing from an unexpected assassin herself, Kendra escapes into a stairwell that promises sanctuary but when she stumbles out again, she is in the same place - Aldrich Castle - but in a different time: 1815, to be exact.

Mistaken for a lady's maid hired to help with weekend guests, Kendra is forced to quickly adapt to the time period until she can figure out how she got there; and, more importantly, how to get back home. However, after the body of a young girl is found on the extensive grounds of the county estate, she starts to feel there's some purpose to her bizarre circumstances. Stripped of her twenty-first century tools, Kendra must use her wits alone in order to unmask a cunning madman.

i picked this up after my library participated in an everybody reads and the blurb intrigued me enough to check it out. the first chunk of a murder in time takes place in the present, and while that is definitely necessary for set-up reasons, at the same time it felt like it took forever to get to the good part, which is basically when kendra ends up in regency england. i really enjoyed the descriptions of a modern woman trying to fit in to early nineteenth century society and the way society reacted to kendra's inadvertent faux pas, which pretty much happened on the regular since an american in the twenty-first century has entirely different sensibilities from a british woman of indeterminate social standing in 1815. 

kendra's specialty is profiling serial killers, and how she works the case without the tools that she is used to is fascinating. the author has done some clear research into the differences in how crime was researched and handled in regency england compared to now. and seeing kendra navigate this too is pretty awesome. luckily, and certainly it's convenient to the plot, the duke whose estate she tumbles onto and his nephew are remarkably progressive. alec, the duke's nephew, is pretty dreamy and his initial distrust of kendra turns into a fascination that can't resist the sparks between them.

honestly this was just such an enjoyable read. i'm psyched that there will be more, and can't wait to see where this series will go.  

Saturday, July 16, 2016

seriously romantic: the playboy's proposal by ashlee mallory

the playboy's proposal is the third installment of ashlee mallory's sorensen family series. i haven't read the other two novels, but i didn't feel like i missed anything by not reading the books in sequence. they can really stand alone. the playboy's proposal follows youngest sister, bernadette "benny" sorensen and her relationship with her playboy neighbor, henry ellison.

the characters first meet when benny storms over to henry's apartment to yell at him for the loud music  and noise emanating from his condo and keeping her up past her bedtime. she thinks he's a frat boy, dude bro type. and he thinks she's a dumpy spinster--though he's also drawn to her fine eyes. from the start it's clear that henry gets under benny's skin, but she is suspicious of the beautiful people and henry is clearly out of her league. besides she has a major crush on her co-worker, dr. luke seeley.

as the war between neighbors escalates into a hearing petition with their housing authority, henry discovers that benny is harboring a crush on luke and certain that he can help her with this crush he proposes that she let him advise her on how to hook a guy like luke in exchange for dropping the petition to their housing authority. against her better judgment benny agrees and then the love story begins. there are obvious sparks between benny and henry. but benny has a whole host of self-esteem problems that henry helps her address by simply giving her the tools to look her best. fears about her shape, her body, had caused her to downplay or ignore her appearance, and by giving benny the confidence she needs to look her best, henry does a lot for her.

henry has issues too. his fear of commitment directly relates to his childhood neglect and abandonment issues. and while the novel doesn't focus so much on henry's healing process, as his friendship with benny grows he starts to realize what is missing from his lifestyle. and slowly he starts to build stronger connections with his family, and allows himself to believe that what he has with benny is something worth pursuing.

both benny and henry are super likable, and you root for them from the meet cute. how they overcome their obstacles is totally worth the read. and this book is suitable for anyone who is a fan of category romances. the whole plot reminds me of many of my grandmother's books, and this is one of those tropes that i enjoy.

**the playboy's proposal will publish in paperback on july 18th and ebook on july 25th. i've received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (bliss) in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, July 15, 2016

seriously romantic: you before anyone else by julie cross and mark perini

you know the trope, one night stand becomes something more, something real.  you before anyone else  basically starts when eddie and finley hook up one night and then can't stay away from each other. but they are keeping some pretty big secrets from each other, from themselves. and it's the problems that they face, and the way that they face them that makes this book a worthwhile read.

however before you get to the interesting stuff, the first couple of chapters are a bit of a confusing slog. sometimes, with these alternating pov stories things start in the middle of the action, and as a reader you have to play catch up for a while before everything makes sense. i also think sometimes you are so busy looking at the world through the character's eyes that you don't get the chance to fully invest in the character. so it's not until the two leads start spending serious time together that you begin to know them and like them. there's no easy solution to this, and it's a problem i see in a lot of books written like this, but eventually the two leads here prove to be likeable.

it would be a spoiler to get into the kinds of issues that eddie and finley deal with, but they aren't light silly issues. but watching the characters get their shit together and realize who they want to be as individuals and as a couple is rewarding. the supporting cast of characters, excluding eddie's family, are all just good people. if i have one complaint it's that everyone here is just almost too perfect, their flaws aren't really flaws, you know?

but for romance, especially a young/new adult romance, the kind of dreamy perfection works. both eddie and finley work as models and one of the comments finley consistently gets back from casting directors is that she lacks edge, she is too sweet. and the same can be said for the book. even as it tries to tackle serious things like drug addiction and eating disorders and teen parenting it doesn't really address these issues with any depth.

other authors writing in this format have maybe done a better job at adding heft to the issues, i'm thinking of katie mcgarry and huntley fitzpatrick who have covered similar ground. but that isn't to say that you before anyone else isn't worth reading. i did enjoy the book, especially once i got past the introductory stage. i think the book picks up once eddie comes along with finley to visit her family, from there i pretty much couldn't put it down. and both eddie and finley are engaging characters and their relationship is very sweet.

**you before anyone else is set to publish on august 2, 2016. i received an advanced reader copy from netgalley/sourcebooks fire in exchange for my honest review. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

something from the archives: accidents happen - part 6

i had to do a little re-writing here too. not as much as part 5, but still enough to at least improve things. sometimes i read this stuff and i cringe. it's funny to realize how i've changed as a writer. nothing is perfect, though i suppose it never is. but hopefully the story works a little better now.

you can catch up with previous parts at the links: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. part 6 is after the jump.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

seriously romantic: rock with you by rachel lacey

rachel lacey kicks off her risking it all series with rock with you, a short story that introduces us to the small town of haven, north carolina. i read the excerpt to the official first novel in the series, run to you, and i'm not sure how else these books are connected, but who cares, because let me tell you that rock with you is worth reading on its own merits. i mean, i totally enjoyed this novella. it may be true that i have a soft spot for rock and roll heroes. and the fact that the baker heroine reminded me of the heroine from one of my favorite romance short stories, chocolate kisses, which was part of harlequin's valentine 1993 collection. [it's so weird what stays with you.]

anyway, carly taylor and sam weiss meet-cute at her bakery. when sam orders a ridiculous amount of pastries, carly delivers them to his rental place only to end up stranded when an incoming ice storm immobilizes her vehicle and cuts the power. but at least they have plenty to eat. the forced intimacy of the power outage and the seclusion of sam's hideaway lets the characters get close in a way that feels realistic. in some ways it's easy to forget that the characters only know each other for a couple of days, somehow lacey manages to make the insta-romance feel organic. and now i'm definitely interested in reading the next novel in the series, even though i'm still not sure how it connects. other than both of them taking place in haven. which sounds like quite a lovely place to be.

**rock with you will publish on august 2, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/forever (grand central publishing) in exchange for my honest review. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

seriously romantic: a fine mess by kelly siskind

the second novel in the over the top series, a fine mess actually explores some deeper mental health issues than one expects to in a romance novel. we first met the two leads in my perfect mistake, the delightful first novel of this series which i bought impulsively while rocking my daughter to sleep and then ended up making the poor choice to stay up till 5 reading. it was that good.

anyway, so a fine mess has been on my too-read list since then. i enjoyed sawyer and lily a lot in the first novel, since their mutual attraction was obvious and there were also complications worth exploring. one of the things that is nice about the series is that so far each book has it's own personality. sometimes series like these can end up with the books feeling a bit cookie cutter, but that is not the case here. sawyer and lily's story is not the same as kolton and shay's.

a fine mess picks up a couple months after the events of my perfect mistake. it's not a requirement to have read the first book to enjoy the second, but in this case it does enhance the reader experience. and even though we know a bit about sawyer and lily given their roles in the first novel, a fine mess really develops their characters and gives them quite a bit of depth. there is a lot of emotional weight here, and this makes sense, especially given the kind of issues both leads struggle with.

both sawyer and lily pretend to be well-adjusted. but they both have deep-seated abandonment issues and trauma that expresses itself in different ways. one thing you never really doubt is the fact that they love each other, but you wonder if they will get out of their own way in order to get that happy ending they deserve. they work through a lot of stuff, but it's not doom and gloom. there are light frothy moments too. the characters get to experience joy together, it's how you know they are a perfect match. and when they do have to face painful things, they get through it. not easily, but they do. and i think their journey is so interesting. very much worth the read.

**a fine mess will publish on august 2, 2016. i received an advanced reader copy courtesy of netgalley/forever (grand central publishing) in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, July 11, 2016

seriously romantic: his forbidden princess by jeannie moon

his forbidden princess is the fourth book in the royal holiday series of novellas. this is the shortest book in the series, at 110 pages, and yet there is a lot of story here. maybe too much story for the short length? this is a second chance at love story, so the two characters have a lot of history, but again because of the short length you aren't given a lot of time to see how their original relationship developed.

basically you see their break-up, which happens the morning after they first sleep together and the fact that sofie is a princess to a small european country is revealed. our hero, ian, realizes that there is likely no future where their relationship can survive and she can keep her relationship with her family and country, so he takes it upon himself to break them up. this whole scene was a little weird because it didn't feel like he was really being that big of a jerk for a guy who had just discovered that his girlfriend had been keeping a pretty big secret about herself from him.

this is basically the problem with the whole novella. there is no time to let things develop so the characters jump from feeling one way to feeling another way in the same paragraph. you kind of have whiplash throughout the story. as far as these kinds of stories go, there aren't any major surprises. when they reconnect eight years after the initial scene sofie is in danger. her country is in upheaval and she is now the next in line for the throne. but there is a group of insurgents anxious to overthrow the monarchy. and here again the short format inhibited the story-telling because while the author tried to explain why these things were happening, aubonne is also supposed to be this little utopia where people love their monarchy, which felt too much like trying to have things both ways. you can have economic unrest and uncertainty without compromising your characters or their families, right? it just didn't feel realistic. and sure, you already know it's a fantasy because the country doesn't really exist, but this type of story does best when it rings true.

so that's the other issue, a lot of story is spent on the fact that because sofie and ian slept together that one time in college she's ruined because she isn't a virgin. and while i'm sure being royal requires more decorum, in this day and age no one is going to believe that a european monarchy is really going to care about that. it just doesn't ring true and is so old-fashioned and weird to fixate on. like, it's fine if sofie hadn't wanted to move on from ian, but the fact is that when she tried she was rejected as having been despoiled is just really strange. like, i don't even understand why anyone would have brought this up in conversation.

in the end, this is a fun, quick read. it's not all that deep, but it doesn't have the room to be deep. i'm also not clear on why this series is called the royal holiday series, because i can't tell what holiday season this allegedly takes place during. but eh, that is such a silly nit to pick i kind of can't believe i mentioned it.

**his forbidden princess published april 28, 2015. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/barclay publicity in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

simply catching up with my watchlist

i've been on a real reading kick lately. my ridiculous goal of reading 200 books this year is running something like 82 books ahead of schedule. i'm probably going to extend it to 250 books because i'm a crazy person. but reading all this has kept me away from my shows. so in the last few days i've actually been
watching instead of reading.

which actually isn't a good thing. because i have two library books i need to finish by saturday. otherwise i'm not sure what i'm going to do. well, i might just have to return them and then take them out when i'm back from vacation but i don't really need to sort that out on the internets.

so like i was saying i finally caught up with seasons 2 of both the last man on earth and unbreakable kimmy schmidt. both shows use unique catch-phrases instead of swear words and i kind of love it. so last man ends with an "oh farts" moment. and kimmy ended with a "what the fudge" moment. yay for comedic cliffhangers.

both shows actually did a good job of developing their main character's issues this season and allowed the characters to grow and evolve. so it's kind of exciting to know that things can go in entirely new directions. these shows are both really, really weird. like the humor is not always funny, and more dark and awkward and weird. but i still like them. sometimes things make me more uncomfortable than anything. will forte is the master of the uncomfortable moment. and pretty much anything involving jane krakowski pretending to be native american is painful, but the show has already committed to it so there's no turning back from the bit at this point.

it's nice knowing that i love more than one medium of entertainment. my first love will always be books, but i've always loved television too. i'm hoping to catch up with a couple more shows over the next couple of weeks. we shall see. i also requested a bunch of stuff on netgalley, so there will probably be plenty of reviews coming too. well, if i'm approved for the galleys, which isn't necessarily a given

Saturday, July 9, 2016

seriously romantic: no falling allowed by melissa west

the second book in melissa west's allowed series, no falling allowed, follows the story of grace and noah beginning with a spark-filled meet cute at an event that grace has planned and noah worked. from there, try as they might, these two can't keep away from each other. 

we were briefly introduced to grace in no kissing allowed, the first book of the series. but it was nice to have an expanded glimpse into what makes grace tick. she's the daughter of a famous billionaire, and pretty much the one thing everyone knows about her is that she is very, very rich. and she's always enjoyed the perks of her lifestyle. she's never had to struggle financially and she is grateful for that. but all the money in the world won't fix the dysfunctional relationship she has with her parents and the insecurities that have been ingrained since childhood. 

part of the attraction to noah is that he is a guy from the wrong side of the tracks so to speak, but also he doesn't treat her like a princess. he has no idea who her father is or what her bank account looks like, he just sees a beautiful woman who has hidden depths he wants to explore. even though his life isn't conducive to taking things further with a woman with whom he doesn't share a zip code. noah has responsibilities that keep him close to his home base of cricket creek, sc. a weekend in new york wasn't supposed to result in him being unable to think of anyone else but grace. especially since he's his younger brother's guardian and he feels that responsibility deeply. 

unlike no kissing allowed, the story unfolds in alternating viewpoints. so we get to see both grace and noah's side of things and we get to see how they deal with and get past some of their issues. the romance between them moves pretty quickly, and part of me wishes there had been a bit more time or more scenes that showed the deepening feelings between the two. you never doubt their attraction to each other, but they pretty much tumble into love without spending all that much time together. 

i made a point to read no kissing allowed first and i'm glad i did, because no falling allowed does give us an update on cameron and aidan. it also provides clues to what the i assume next book might be about--it's definitely about lauren and it sounds like she's due for some angst and romance. this is really an enjoyable new adult series and i can't wait to see where it goes next. 

**no falling allowed will publish on july 18, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing in exchange for my honest review.  

Friday, July 8, 2016

seriously romantic: no kissing allowed by melissa west

so i actually stumbled on this series after i requested the galleys of the second book, no falling allowed, on netgalley. but even though the titles are meant to be standalone i just felt like it would be better to read the first book in the series in this instance. i've said before that it's not always necessary to read things in publication order. and that's true here, it's not necessary, but having read both books now, i can say that it was the right choice to read them in order. but i'm getting ahead of myself.

right now i'm talking about no kissing allowed. here we are introduced to cameron, grace and lauren, three young women who have just graduated college and are embarking on their new careers. but before joining the land of responsibility that is adulthood, the women decide to live it up one last time. and of course for cameron, our main character in this novel, that means fulfilling a moment right out of grey's anatomy. because she totally pulls a meredith and hooks up with a random guy and tosses him out of her apartment in the morning. and then on her first day of work discovers that the stranger whose path she'd hoped not to cross again is in fact her boss's boss.

awkward right? and even worse, the ad agency they work at has a strict no-fraternization policy. but try as they might aidan and cameron can't keep away from each other. but cammie doesn't do one-night-stands and aidan doesn't do relationships. what's nice about the story is that the deepening relationship with aidan and cameron is given time to develop. even as their lives become more entangled and they struggle with whether or not their different viewpoints on relationships can be reconciled, the issues that they face don't ring false. the attraction between the leads is sustained from the moment they meet until they resolve their issues. and it all works for me. i really enjoyed no kissing allowed. and was psyched that i didn't have to wait too long to read grace's story in the follow-up, which will be reviewed tomorrow.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

something from the archives: accidents happen - part 5

i ended up re-writing a lot of this part, re-reading this section it just didn't feel like things were happening naturally. hopefully it's better it now. though obviously still ridiculous. parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 can be caught up with at the links.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

strictly literary: a curious beginning by deanna raybourn

veronica speedwell, the main character of a curious beginning, is who i imagine flavia de luce will grow up to be though poisons not butterflies are flavia's passion. i have read all the flavia de luce novels, and enjoyed them. and i enjoyed this start to a new series too. our intrepid heroine lives in victorian era england at the time of queen victoria's jubilee celebration. when the last of her guardians passes away, veronica is left alone in the world, and in danger, though for most of the novel she refuses to accept that she is in danger.

a kind older gentleman, a german baron, comes to her rescue early on, and brings her to london under his protection with the promise of more information about her past after he secures the necessary permissions to reveal some long-held secrets about her birth. for safe-keeping he leaves her with a friend known as stoker and promises to return with more to share. except the baron is murdered and stoker and veronica find themselves taking flight unsure of the dangers that await them if they stay in london.

stoker is an interesting character, an enlightened male especially for the time period, he is a scientist too. and his past holds so many demons and dangers that we don't even get to hear all his secrets in this first novel of the series. veronica is more of an open book, though part of me wishes she wouldn't proclaim her precociousness so loudly, sometimes it's more fun to witness precociousness than to be told all about it all the time. veronica is proud of her independence and her intelligence, and well she should be.

and as she and stoker figure out the mysteries of her past, the relationship that grows between them is so bittersweet. these are two people who have incredible baggage and unbound curiosity. two peas in a pod, and as close as they get during the course of the novel there is still so much that keeps them apart. i imagine that future novels will see that relationship grow, and i think that it is definitely one worth exploring.

**the paperback version of a curious beginning is set to publish on july 12, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/berkeley publishing group in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

seriously romantic: once upon a moonlit night by elizabeth hoyt

the first formally published novella of the maiden lane series, once upon a moonlit night tells the story of hippolyta royle, the poor woman kidnapped and blackmailed by the hero of the previous entry in the series, duke of sin. sometimes i wish val's motives were clearer, because one tends to love him so much in spite of his badness, that for some bizarre reason you start victim-blaming. except, really, it's all very badly done of valentine. and other than feeling societal pressure to hide the truth of her birth, miss royle has done nothing wrong.

the novella opens just where we last had the misfortune of seeing miss royle in duke of sin, in an impossible, terrified flight away from the duke of montgomery's ancestral home. she's on the run, bedraggled from being kidnapped and held captive. when she stops the carriage of matthew mortimer, only recently the earl of paxton, he grants her safe passage to the next town but he doesn't believe her when she claims to be an heiress.

circumstances keep them together, and as they ride together to london they are drawn to one another. because of the short format, this isn't a slow burn romance. they meet and are attracted to one another. and i could say more about how they get together, but it's more fun to read about it yourself. needless to say that these two characters are perfect together, and matthew makes hippolyta likable. previous encounters with her in the earlier novels didn't really endear her to me. so it was nice to be inside her head and not hate her. the villain of the piece for once isn't actually the duke of montgomery. which makes sense. he's busy with his new bride.

we do get to see characters from the earlier novels in the series, once everyone is back in london. but truly, the best parts of the novella are when matthew and hippolyta are alone together. and luckily that is the bulk of the story.

**once upon a moonlit night is available starting today as an ebook, so be sure to check online retailers for it. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/grand central publishing in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

slightly silly: wet hot american summer

other than attending the mandatory barbecues and staying up late to watch fireworks, the other best thing to do on fourth of july is binge-watch something ridiculous, like, wet hot american summer and wet hot american summer: the first day of camp. even though the television series is technically a prequel to the movie, i don't recommend watching them in chronological order. the movie is what contextualizes the show. so watch that first and then the mini-series. it's amazing that either of these two things were made, and it's also amazing how everyone involved not only committed to doing it once, they've worked on it twice. and rumor has it that there is a second mini-series/television show coming at some point in the future. one can only imagine the jokes it can yet still mine from the source material.

basically i can't say enough good things about this. it's amazing and hilarious and stupidly funny. and it's american so it's patriotic. you're welcome.

happy fourth of july!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

seriously romantic: first comes love by emily giffin

emily giffin has been on my must buy list ever since i first read something borrowed. it's one of my all time favorite novels, one that i re-read every year. but sometimes i think my love for something borrowed overshadows the fact that i don't actually love all her books. both baby proof and love the one you're with spoke to me--they felt like somehow the author had seen into my soul and knew exactly the issues i was struggling with regards to wanting and having kids and even whether or not i should keep thinking about the guy with whom the timing was never quite right. i also really enjoyed the one & only, football and complicated romance is right up my alley, though i understand why many people were put off by the ick factor in the romance. if you think about it too hard, it's definitely creepy and not romantic at all. anyway, given these things, and given that i didn't love the alternating viewpoints in heart of the matter or where we belong, i was still excited for first comes love, even though what i read about it made me wonder if it was really something that would speak to me. [an aside: aren't all her books so pretty though? i love how they look so good on the shelf one right next to the other.]

josie and meredith are two sisters who have handled the consequences of their beloved brother's death very differently. instead of bringing them together the accident severed a relationship that was already tenuous. while i mostly liked each character in their respective viewpoints, i tended to agree more with meredith, but it seemed like everyone else in the world agreed more with josie. and i guess that rubbed me the wrong way. meredith was in no way perfect, but it felt like because she presented a more well-adjusted front than her sister, when she was irrational it was less forgivable.

but beyond that, the secret at the heart of the novel in the end didn't feel big enough to warrant all the build-up and secrecy that result from it. because in the end, what happened may or may not have actually impacted the events of the night of the accident. and it's also hard to believe that it would have taken 15 years to uncover that particular bit of truth. i don't know. it didn't feel monumental enough and the way meredith reacts to it, makes it seem like she's being over-the-top melodramatic, even though she had plenty of other reasons to be questioning her life choices.

these characters all suffer from massive communication problems. they can't talk to each other like rational people. nothing they say comes out the right way and their reactions don't make any sense half the time. going from one perspective to the other highlights all the ways these two characters especially seem to purposely miss understanding each other. it's extremely frustrating to read at times. no one says exactly what they mean, or they say exactly what they mean at times where doing so is not appropriate. i just don't know.

in both the beginning of first comes love and in the end the characters make note of love coming first:

"he would be turning forty at the end of this year, an older, wiser version of the young man he had been. the kind of person who understands that nothing is as important as family. that loves comes first."

"i feel certain that this last theory is the correct one. that it all comes down to love....but there is one constant, one thing that you can always count on: that not only does love come first, but in the end, it is the only thing that remains."

and these are lovely sentiments. but i'm not entirely sure that the events of the novel really bring things full circle. or even that they truly prove these statements true. there is a lot more doubt in the novel than there is love. and maybe that's why i have my doubts about this one, as much as i wanted to love it.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

seriously romantic: carousel of hearts by mary jo putney

baroness antonia thornton was the most stunning and shocking young lady of the ton. judith winslow was the perfect complement to antonia's bold beauty, her quiet good sense an ideal antidote to antonia's radical rebelliousness. 

but when dashing adam yorke appeared on the scene, accompanied by his good friend, the startingly handsome lord simon launceston, antonia and judith found themselves divided.

whom did adam love? whom would he wed? and who could possibly prefer him to the divine lord launceston? never had romance reveled in so many dizzying turnabouts as cupid emptied his quiver at hearts that would not stay still.....

carousel of hearts is an oldie, but a goodie. it's one of the books i inherited from my grandmother, and one that i read and re-read when i was only allowed to borrow from her collection. it is the perfect confection of utter ridiculousness and emotional storytelling. there's mixed up couples, amnesia, promises made and broken, arrangements made out of jealousy becoming something real—it's quite simply a treasure trove of romance tropes and it's all done so well. you love the characters in this novel—all of them. and it is a relief when they finally sort themselves out into the pairs that they were meant to be. it doesn't happen easily or quickly, the characters actually work for their happy ending. but when they finally get there it is so worth it. this book just makes me happy. i enjoy the story, but i also enjoy the memories i have of first reading it at my grandmother's house. i love that there are still things i can share with her even though she's been gone for a long time.

Friday, July 1, 2016

strictly literary: sawbones by melissa lenhardt

i have a complicated relationship with sawbones. in part because i have a complicated relationship with the main character, catherine bennett a.k.a laura elliston. described as outlander meets lonesome dove,  i thought this new series by melissa lenhardt would be right up my alley.

it would be easier if i outright loved it (or even if i outright hated it!). but really my struggles all boil down to the fact that i'm not sure i liked catherine bennett even when i felt like i should. i understand why authors chose to write in the first person. but sometimes i think some stories would have been better off told in the third person. i think catherine would have been more sympathetic if we weren't exposed to her every thought. because even though we were exposed to her every thought, it was still hard to get a feel for her. she had at once too many and too little secrets being kept from the reader. and the thing is, given everything that happens to catherine, you feel bad not liking her. or at least i felt bad for not liking her. she suffers loss like crazy in this novel, and given that this is the first of three novels, you can only imagine what she has in store before she gets (one hopes) a semi-happy ending. it's hard to say whether catherine is someone destined to ride off into the sunset with anyone by the end of the novel. she kind of does, but given everything that she has suffered you can't imagine that there aren't scars and severe and awful trauma.

the wild west is no safe haven. that's one of the bigger takeaways of the novel. catherine escapes her life in new york when she is threatened with a murder accusation. a murder she knows she didn't commit, but where the cards seem to be stacked against her. she flees to texas, hoping to start a new life out west. but before that life can begin she must suffer more loss. and every time things start to right themselves in her world something else comes to knock her down another peg. there are two brutal attacks by natives that take place at different times during the novel. the first one is bad enough, but the second one is horrific. the specter of violence shadows everything. this is a mirror of what was happening at that time in american history, but knowing this doesn't make it any easier to read. the fact that catherine never feels safe, she's constantly worried about her past life in new york being revealed, and then there's just the danger inherent with life on the frontier.

in the end, i think this book unsettled me. but i keep thinking about it. and honestly that is a good thing. if something stays with you, then the author has done something right. the story is set to continue in blood oath and badlands. both of which i think will be released in 2017, though amazon lists the blood oath pub date as august 16th.