Wednesday, August 31, 2016

strictly literary: when in rome...find yourself by lena mae hill

though billed as a new adult romance the main character of when in rome...find yourself is so emotionally and socially stunted she seems like an insecure 16 year old. allegedly she's 21. she does suffer from severe anxiety, but then you spend a whole chapter in her head with her stream of consciousness insecurity and you kind of just want it to end. rory is sweet but so, so insecure.

she's had a bad relationship, bad break up, bad high school experience. her family is overprotective, especially since her older brother passed away when she was younger. she travels to rome with her classmates and every overture they make, rory somehow misinterprets to assume they are put upon or making fun of her. with her house mother, theresa, and housemate, ned, she assumes the same thing. and instead of really exploring rome, we get a lot of anxiety about her every step. this is also billed as a romance, and i guess it is, but it doesn't actually feel all that romantic. there's a happy for now ending, but things are actually pretty uncertain, which made me feel like maybe it would have been better to bill this as something else? more than anything it feels like an issues book, with rory working through her painful anxiety and insecurity.

the other problem is that i don't think the author properly researched italy. because the italian house mother speaks spanish instead of italian. and rory talks about rome having beaches even though there are no beaches in rome. there are beaches within an hour of rome, but not in rome, and those failures of language and geography were very off-putting. actually the worst failure of geography is when the author describes a day-trip to milan. did you all know milan is 6 hours in a car from rome? i did. i've actually been to italy. not only were the descriptions of this trip just flat out wrong, the timing was a mess regardless. pro-tip for authors: if you are going to write about a place, do a little research. make the trip to italy before you describe it. there's a reason people tell you to write what you know.

i was hoping for a book like one paris summer, which was so fantastic, and instead this is not that. it's perfectly okay, but in the end i didn't find rory or her issues all that compelling and i felt like the setting was wasted. also, i don't think ellipses in titles should be a thing. i almost didn't request the book because of it, and i should have gone with my gut.

**when in rome...find yourself will publish on september 6, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/speak now in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

seriously romantic: too good to be true by susan e. kirby

the other day i made mention of the sweet dreams series in a review, and then i came across this title on my bookshelves and realized that i conflated two of the scenes in this book with wrong-way romance another old favorite sweet dreams title. too good to be true is a super short, quick read. young adult romances in the 80s were way shorter and sweeter than they are now. this actually feels more like middle-grade to me now, it's that sweet, but the characters are sixteen so this is still definitely a young adult novel.

the characters were actually so sweet and nice i wondered if this was meant to be set in canada for a while. but i think the author actually grew up on maple sugar farms outside of chicago, so i'm assuming that this is where this story is set. for some reason the whole maple sugar farm stuck with me long after i had read this story. the book is really short, so to go into any depth regarding the plot seems mean. but basically marty meets hank who she is attracted to in spite of the fact that she has a boyfriend. he has a girlfriend so he is also off limits. but when they start working together on his grandmother's maple sugar farm, the attraction between them boils over. but they need to straighten things out in their lives first before they can get together. throw in a little miscommunication confusion, et voilá, a young adult romance.

Monday, August 29, 2016

strictly literary: burning bright by melissa mcshane

i know you're not supposed to judge a book by it's cover, but i think the cover for burning bright is absolutely gorgeous, so i was totally predisposed to like the story within. luckily for me it's a really good story, so i can just love the whole package unabashedly.

burning bright tells the story of elinor pembroke, who woke up one day to discover that she had an extraordinary talent for fire. as a scorcher she can make things burn, but as an extraordinary scorcher she can also extinguish. this makes her valuable. to her father she becomes a trading chip, a way of bettering their family's lot in life by marriage. to potential suitors she is no more than a brood mare useful for improving their family's power. and for the royal navy she is a powerful weapon. it's the height of the napoleonic wars and the caribbean is overrun by pirates. her kind of firepower hasn't been seen in over one hundred years in england, and she's barely had a chance to explore all she can do.

when she realizes that she needs to take her life in her own hands to avoid a lifetime in servitude either as a wife or poor relation she offers herself to the royal navy. and as much as they navy wants to, they can't say no. they put her on the athena under the command of captain miles ramsay an extraordinary too, though his talent is moving. and together with his crew they go to war on the brethren of the coast a merciless band of pirates led by an extraordinary seer that is terrorizing the royal navy based in the caribbean.

elinor was rather impulsive in throwing her lot in with the royal navy. life on a ship is not easy for a woman, especially not one who was a member of the gentility. everything has changed for elinor, but as she begins to know her shipmates, as she learns the extent and breadth of her powers, this life that she impulsively chose becomes the life she will fight for above anything. when she is trapped in a political tug-of-war and her life is endangered she realizes that her home is the athena. when she snuck away and left her life behind she really was leaving forever. but what she discovers about herself on that ship and the relationships that grow on that ship makes it all worthwhile.

there is romance and adventure and war in this story. elinor's power is at times uncontrollable and she struggles with the impact of her actions on others. the relationship between elinor and miles is so very proper and also so very swoon-worthy. the way mcshane integrates this world of supernatural talents into our historical regency period is very well done. the author promises future books in the series, i for one can't wait to see where she goes with it.

**burning bright published on august 15, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/curiosity quills press in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

simply finding home

i've thought a lot about what makes a home, what makes a place feel like home this weekend. we went up to visit boston for the weekend, and even though we haven't lived there for 5 years, it's still home in ways that endwell will never be. i feel comfortable in my own skin there, in a way that i never do in new york. a lot of that has to do with the people around me. i've known for a long time that me and the people of endwell are not of the same kind. but being back among my own people really made it crystal clear. this is a realization that is somewhat unfortunate, since endwell will remain my home for the long term. but it's also nice to know that it doesn't matter how much time goes by, my people are out there, ready to pick up right where we left off.

sometimes i think maybe we leave little pieces of our heart wherever we go, because this weekend the maine-endwell little league team from endwell, new york won the little league world series. these boys grew up in this tiny little hamlet outside of binghamton, new york, and they made their country proud. and it's nice to feel like i'm a part of that, even though i never paid attention to the little league world series at any other moment in my life.

but like how mónica puig won a gold medal for puerto rico and it made me so proud for my home. this also makes me proud for my home. and like when big things happen in boston, that still feels like home. they say home is where your heart is. well i'm telling you, my heart is in many places at once.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

strictly literary: the last days of night by graham moore

i needed a break from europe and the world wars, which has been the backdrop of almost all the historical fiction i've read this past year. the last days of night was a nice change of pace. set against the so called "war of the currents," we follow paul cravath as he is dragged into the middle of a battle of wills between thomas edison, nikola tesla, and george westinghouse.

i'll be honest, i had no idea that the current wars were a thing. what i knew of thomas edison was the whitewashed "he was a genius" story you're given in grade school. and since i went to grade school in new jersey where edison is also somewhat of a state hero, i didn't know that actually he was kind of an ass. the novel at one point takes pains to note that what thomas edison did so brilliantly was not invent, but rather find a way to industrialize ideas and invention. that is certainly a rather unique contribution to science and history, but he was also egotistical and petty. he was also calculating and mercenary. being those things don't make him evil. but he wasn't a saint. he was markedly human, and that is one thing this novel does well. it humanizes these great inventors and creates a compelling narrative around the drama of the current war.

because let's be honest, the merits of "direct current" versus "alternating current" technology isn't what you'd normally think of as riveting reading. but it is. and sure the author took some artistic liberty with the timeline, but he is also clear that many of the things that his historical characters say are part of the historical record he consulted. the characterizations of edison and westinghouse based on historical fact, not fiction.

ultimately this checked all the right boxes for me. it had interesting characters that i could root for, a compelling narrative with high stakes, and it taught me something. what more could i ask for?

**the last days of night is scheduled to publish on september 27, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/random house in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, August 26, 2016

seriously romantic: bad judgment by meghan march

oh, my old fave, enemies-to-lovers trope. i think it's my fave because all that animosity is so combustible. bad judgment is a new adult standalone that follows justine and ryker, and their tempestuous relationship during their third year of law school.

like so many enemies-to-lovers justine and ryker come from opposite sides of the track. ryker was born with a silver spoon, the son of a state supreme court justice and high profile attorney who comes from money. justine is the daughter of two con artists who destroyed her credit by stealing her identity while she was still in diapers. her grandfather raised her, and what little income she has from his estate was depleted by the time it came to pay for law school.

when the school decides to cut their merit scholarship program, justine is desperate. and when ryker's father offers to pay her tuition in exchange for her help in getting ryker to refocus on his studies, she has no choice but accept his offer. the relationship that grows between justine and ryker as they spend time together is full of sexy chemistry but also they are perfectly matched. for all their differences they both are really smart. ryker may be unsure of his future in law, but justine knows exactly how she wants to make a difference.

of course both justine and ryker are keeping some secrets from each other, and like secrets tend to do in romance novels, things blow up in time for the third act. luckily, nothing keeps them apart for too long, though some of the twists involving the secrets ryker was keeping were both telegraphed and didn't exactly work for me.

at one point when they are on the outs, ryker gets into a car accident, the events that happen before sort of make sense, but then what happens afterwards made me wonder at certain points whether or not he had been drugged or if something more sinister was happening. and then the fallout from that didn't seem severe enough. it's not like i wanted ryker to be caught with a dui and ruining his life, but why even start down that road? was it supposed to help justine understand some of ryker's other choices? if it was, it didn't do that all that well.

but since things do get resolved and a sweet epilogue ties things up nicely, and i just loved ryker the end result is that i have mostly good feelings about this story.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

something from the archives: headlong - part 2

so i've been doing this on a weekly schedule. this way it will take me years to get through all of my roswell archives. that seems so crazy to me. i swear i had some buffy/spike fan fic too, but maybe it was only stuff i read? i don't think i ever posted it.

anyway part 2 follows the jump. catch up with part 1 here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

seriously romantic: too wild to tame by tessa bailey

the second book in the romancing the clarksons series, too wild to tame picks up the siblings' road trip just after they've left rita behind in hurley, new mexico. their next stop is iowa, where aaron plans to somehow get his political career back on track.

it took me a while to get through too hot to handle, but i did end up breezing through too wild to tame. i think it's probably because i liked the leads just a little bit more. aaron is kind of a jerk, but he's got this soft gooey core and you can't help but feel for him because he's the guy who everyone else shut out. so of course he has his guard up. of course he keeps people at arm's length. and then he meets grace pendelton. the daughter of the man who's acceptance is key for aaron's plans.

meeting grace in the unlikeliest of circumstances--her air of fragility draws aaron's attention, but her strength of spirit captivates him. once they meet, they can't keep away from each other. the chemistry between aaron and grace is so hot. like too hot to handle there is plenty of baggage these characters are carrying. but it felt less overwhelming in this story, i think because both aaron and grace had such a strong sense of self whereas both jasper and rita were so lost that it didn't feel like they even knew what they wanted until the very end. but it's pretty clear that aaron and grace are it for each other. and yes, there are obstacles, real and imagined. but for the most part they fall head over heels for each other and being together heals the holes in their souls.

it was also nice to see belmont and aaron's relationship improve in this book. you could see there was so much love between these two characters and so much hurt. having that pain ease, it freed up the characters, but i also think it helped free the story. the deeper story this series is telling is about family and the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood. so yes, this is a sexy love story. but it's also an emotional story about how family can be the ones to break your heart and help you put it back together. i definitely want to keep reading this series, if only to get to the last book and finally see how belmont and sage get together. it's a slow burn with those two. i kind of love it.

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

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.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

strictly literary: fates and furies by lauren groff

sometimes i wonder if i might have liked a book better if i'd listened to the audiobook instead of reading it. but when i think of fates & furies by lauren groff i go back to the fact that i so disliked mathilde, and while i didn't mind lotto so much, he's also a ridiculous character. but the book won so many awards. it seemed like everyone was in love with it. and i mean, the writing is gorgeous. it's lush but not too abstruse or impenetrable. i actually read this over two nights. rather quickly because i borrowed it from the library and then let it sit on my nightstand until it was just about due and i couldn't renew it because someone else had a hold on it because everyone and their mother's book club was reading this thing.

in the end it's a story about marriage and the lies we tell each other to get on with life. and how no matter how much you love someone else, the tiny things that you do to keep the peace cut away at your soul. and sometimes when you come out the other side of the war or the argument you don't even recognize yourself.

what makes the novel interesting isn't so much the story, but how the story is told. it flashes forward and back. and part 1 is told from lotto's perspective while part 2 from mathilde's. they are clearly halves of a whole, while you can argue that reading just lotto's side of the story is satisfying, things are brought into focus when you read mathilde's side too.

i get why people loved this. but i don't read books to appreciate the artistry of putting them together. i read books for the plot and the characters. there isn't really a story here, and the characters are just kind of despicable. so for me, it wasn't the best book ever. it was a well-crafted one, sure. but more of a chore than a delight.

Monday, August 15, 2016

simply shaking things up

i don't know you guys. it's like we were maybe too comfortable. on a whim, my husband planted the seeds of possibly moving. and now i'm looking at houses on zillow and thinking of what ifs. it's crazy to move. i swore the last time we did it that i'd never do it again. but why should i stay in one place forever? we are not trees. we do not grow roots.

but i love our house. no matter what happens in the coming days i'll remember that. but oh, the chance to start fresh somewhere new is incredibly appealing too. i grew up moving every three to five years. we've been in this place five years. maybe it's time to move on.

onwards and upwards, yes?


Sunday, August 14, 2016

slightly silly: mr. bean's holiday

if you ever need a good pick-me up you should watch mr. bean's holiday. it is the best movie to watch if you are feeling slightly down. because mr. bean is both awful and utterly hilarious. there is no way to properly describe this movie. it's a road trip film. it's an odyssey. it's a story of unlikely friends. it's a story that shows how heroes can be found in the unlikeliest of places. mr. bean is no one's hero, but in the end he acquits himself nicely. and he is so, so funny while doing so.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

simply going for gold

i haven't actually watched too much of the rio 2016 olympics live, because, well, nbc does such a terrible job of airing it. the few events i've tried to catch the live stream while at work were not successful and so i've mostly gotten my news from twitter and caught the key moments via youtube. none of these things help nbc with their ratings, and i feel like they can do better. that they have done better. (though the other day i read someone on fivethirtyeight say that "the olympics are sports packaged for non-sports fans" and that made total sense to me.

anyway, today i really wanted to watch something live. for the first time in puerto rico's olympic history there was a chance to win a gol
d medal. no athlete representing puerto rico had ever done that, and no woman had ever medaled for puerto rico in her sport of choice. and then mónica puig, a women's singles tennis player did it. she got the gold. and it was so awesome to watch live. even though she was the underdog, a #34 seed playing against a #2 seed, she did it. and i spared myself the bravo broadcast with its biased announcing, and streamed the match off my fire stick with no commentary. and it was great. it made me realize that so much sports broadcasting is genuinely terrible. with useless commentary distracting from the real moments of the game.

and i love rewatching the moments that made history. i'm going to share, and hopefully it stays up because it's totally worth it:

#picapower #goldmedalist #sisepuede #olympicchampion #puertorico

Friday, August 12, 2016

seriously romantic: the pleasure of the rose by jane bonander

the pleasure of the rose is marketed as a western meets the highlands. and while i suppose it is a western meets the highlands in some ways, in that the male lead is half-comanche, in the end it's mostly just a highlands story. and that's totally fine, except it's not even an interesting highlands story. i just ended up feeling like the author kept setting us up for something to happen, and then nothing would.

there is no real conflict here. that's the novel's biggest problem. there are all these interesting characters who have depths that we don't get to explore. fletcher is an interesting character who basically disappears from the book mid-way through. the story of how a half-comanche becomes a duke and settles into his ancestral home should be something compelling. exploring the likely racism and distrust that he would have faced if this was not fiction would have been interesting. and while certainly there is racist language used, there is no real action in the novel that would show that taking control of the dukedom was a difficult thing for fletcher to do.

rosalyn, the female lead is marginally more interesting, but she also loses her fire halfway through the novel. and instead of exploring how her relationship with fletcher deepens over time, it's like the one time they have sex after they are married all is golden between them. their contentment doesn't feel earned and there is still like one third of the novel to go. this is the first of a series, and i'm guessing that fletcher's siblings will round out the remaining novels. and while i did actually like all the characters, i just don't think i could sit through another three books if they all have as many words as this one with so little happening.

**the pleasure of the rose will publish on august 23, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/diversion books in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

something from the archives: accidents happen - part 10

here is the conclusion to this one. i think this was one of the earlier fan fics i wrote, because i definitely wrote better ones. but if i want a complete personal archive i've got to post the good and the bad. anyway, you can catch up with the previous parts on the links: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 and read on for part 10.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

seriously romantic: the wedding pact series by denise grover swank

the first time i'd ever heard of denise grover swank was when i read one paris summer which i had randomly requested on netgalley back in may. then i got a riffle email letting me know that the substitute was available to read for free and i figured i'd check it out. i'd really enjoyed one paris summer and the description for the substitute made it seem like something i would enjoy. and boy did i. this books kicks off the series about three childhood friends who'd made a pact when they were nine about getting married when they turned 30. a fortune teller had cursed them (though honestly i find this part of the story confusing, even after getting it summarized three times). the fortune teller tells them that they will have weddings that will end in disaster and that they will end up marrying their true loves, not their originally intended grooms soon after. so the whole pact and curse thing seem to happen at the same time, and it seems to be less of a curse and more of a premonition. but whatever, that the thread that connects all three stories, and the fortune teller proves to be right for all three girls (megan vandemeer, blair hansen and libby st. clair).

megan's story is told in the substitute. when her fiancé backs out of the wedding and megan is too overwhelmed by her overbearing mother to confess to what has happened and suddenly it is the weekend of the wedding and she still hasn't told anyone the truth. she meets josh on the plane flight from seattle to kansas city; and when she accidentally overdoses on dramamine and alcohol josh ends up mistaken for her fiancé. he doesn't rush to correct the mistaken identity when he realizes that megan's father is one of the partners in the engineering firm that has stolen an engineering design and patented it. so he tells megan that he'll play her fake fiancé until she's ready to tell her parents, intending to figure out how it was that megan's father's firm stole his plans. i'll be the first to admit that the whole premise is preposterous. but megan and josh have plenty of chemistry and megan's mother is crazy difficult. so in spite of how crazy the whole thing sounds you end up really rooting for them. we get introduced to megan's friends, blair and libby. and it's really hard to like blair. she's so antagonistic. she goes out of her way to insert herself between josh and megan. refusing to acknowledge that no matter how crazy the circumstances, what megan and josh found together was something real and lasting.

so it was actually kind of disappointing to realize that the player, the second book in the series, is about blair. this book is a second chance at love deal. garrett lowry broke blair's heart in law school--although really the misunderstanding is so stupid and blair is so over-the-top ridiculous and unforgiving that the truth is she mostly broke her own heart and pushed garrett to fill his broken heart with a string of casual hookups. because the truth is that garrett never stopped loving blair. and when they by chance find themselves stranded in the same phoenix hotel garrett knows he must try once more to win her back. for her part, blair is starting to question whether her plan to marry the safe guy is the right way to go about things. once they are in kansas city and realize that blair's fiancé is garrett's asshole cousin and that blair and garrett will be working the opposing sides of a divorce case there is not staying away from each other and the memories of their past. but blair can't help and view everyone with suspicion. she thinks that needing others is a sign of weakness. and while she has the emotional baggage of a messy divorce and abandonment issues from an absent father, she still is such a total bitch it's hard to understand why garrett is turning himself into knots for her. because she doubts him at every turn. to the point where it feels pathological. like how do you trust her when she finally admits that maybe she was wrong? because she never really stops being bitchy and even when she makes her grand gesture of love for garrett she's pushed everyone who loves her away. sure, she asks them to trust her. but at the same time, why won't she let anyone in? i had some issues with blair, obviously. but garrett was an amazing counterpart.

while i enjoyed the substitute in spite of it's preposterous premise, and i enjoyed the player in spite of blair, i loved the gambler. libby and noah are the perfect heroine and hero. they are perfect for each other. the gambler uses the old friends to lovers trope, but it works for noah and libby because they are both peter pan types who need to grow up before they can have a real relationship. and while i could have used a little less super drama right at the end--i think the story would have been better served by libby just trusting noah and them talking through their issues together--noah does get an emotionally satisfying scence with his brother josh that makes some of the pain worthwhile. the gambler was definitely my favorite of the three stories and that's all due to noah and libby. their attraction was obvious from the moment they met in the substitute and it was well worth the wait to see them get their happy ending.

one of the things i liked about the series as a whole is that from the get-go you know that the heroes love the heroines and they don't shy away from admitting this to themselves or to others. at the same time, i think i got frustrated by how hard they had to work to make the heroines take them at their word. maybe it's just me, but sometimes i think there doesn't need to be so much drama, there shouldn't need to be a big misunderstanding and big romantic gestures and makeup scenes. sometimes the more you get to know someone, the more you realize they are right for you. and just figuring out the life stuff is drama enough.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

simply celebrating another year of life

so whenever i think of a perfect birthday scene, nothing tops this one from sixteen candles.

definitely one of my all-time favorite movies. maybe i'll re-watch it tonight as a birthday treat.

Monday, August 8, 2016

seriously romantic: the duke and i & because of miss bridgerton by julia quinn

i thought i had read all the bridgerton novels. when he was wicked is on my yearly re-read list after all. and i also love to sir phillip, with love. and this makes sense because i adore francesca and eloise bridgerton. and i could tell you i love the bridgerton books, but the truth is i love those two books and i don't really love the rest as much i think i do. so for years i was convinced that of course i had read the duke and i because it kicks off the whole series, and why would i have not read it. but then recently i read the description and had to admit to myself that this book sounded unfamiliar. and to my delight it was unfamiliar.

the hook with daphne and simon is that she is a normal girl of her time period. she wants to get married and have children. but she wants to find someone who means something to her, the way her mother and father meant something to each other. and simon is a duke, her older brother's best friend, who doesn't want to be married or have children because of the massive childhood trauma caused by his mother's death and his father's rejection. and daphne and simon make a deal with each other because his pursuit makes her more interesting, and courting her keeps him off the market.

but like most fake relationships, things start to feel all too real. and then marriage and complications and love follows and eventually the two lovebirds discover that they are meant to be together. the big complication here does follow a scene with some consent issues. and it's definitely problematic, but in the end i don't think it taints the relationship as a whole. partly because daphne realizes she was wrong. though that doesn't make it better either, because she also doesn't really regret her actions. so it's weird, but because you like simon and daphne you still root for them to figure their shit out.

after 8 books quinn took a break from the bridgertons, but eventually came back to them and moved outside of her usual regency period setting by going up to an earlier generation. because of miss bridgerton follows the story of sybilla "billie" bridgerton and george rokesby. billie is the polar opposite of daphne, because she is a woman ahead of her time. she chafes at the constraints of georgian society and longs for freedom and independence from a woman's usual pursuits of marriage and children. george is her neighbor. her judgmental, condescending, annoying neighbor. and when they are thrown together in the most awkward of scenarios, they are shocked to discover that there are sparks that fly between them and that they have more in common than they might think.

george is everything that is conventional, everything that billie chafes at, and somehow she finds herself unable to stop thinking about him. and after years of being annoyed by everything that billie chooses to do, george can't stop himself from noticing her. and the more they find themselves together, the less they are able to resist the attraction that blooms between them. like most quinn novels there is humor and wittiness aplenty, but the love that develops between george and billie is really sweet. for the first time, after a lifetime of knowing each other, they both really see each other. and that kind of discovery carries some emotional heft that grounds the lightness of the story.

george's brothers are both serving the british army, and one of them goes missing during a skirmish in the colonies. a plot point that helps george and billie come together. honestly, there isn't much in the way of obstacles for these two. once they both come to terms that they are feeling something for their previously impossible neighbor, there isn't much to keep them apart. and that's okay. i mean, sometimes it's nice to see two people fall in love and get on with their happily ever after.

what intrigues me about the rokesby brothers is that it may be that in the next novel we get to see america for the first time in quinn's literature. she's never strayed far from british shores before, even though her characters have on occasion been extremely well-traveled. so if she does set part of one of the rokesby novels in the colonies, it will definitely be interesting. at least, i think the change of scene might do quinn's writing some good. because it's possible that she's found herself in a rut. and as much as i love her writing, if i'm honest, i haven't loved one of her books in a long time. i enjoyed because of miss bridgerton. to some degree it felt like a return to form, but at the same time i can't help but wonder if her novels need something more because the more i think about it, not a whole lot happened in this novel. and like i said, that's okay. but maybe also we readers deserve something more too.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

seriously romantic: daring the bad boy by monica murphy

i never went to summer camp, but i have watched wet hot american summer and sleepaway camp and the parent trap so i'm pretty sure i know what summer camp is all about. daring the bad boy won't really change your mind about any clichés about summer camp, though there is 100% less murders in it than sleepaway camp.

this young adult summer read tells the story of jacob fazio, bad boy extraordinaire, whose run-ins with trouble have condemned him to work as a lifeguard at his uncle's summer camp. jake has to keep on the straight and narrow, breaking the rules can land him in juvie. he's definitely made some mistakes, but he's also carrying around a lot of anger and grief. his mother died of cancer when he was fourteen, and his father handled this by pretending she never existed, moving them out of their home, and starting over somewhere new. this was not the best way for jake to handle his grief, thrust into an entirely new environment when his world had been drastically altered already. so coming into this you have a lot of sympathy for where jake is coming from.

annie mcfarland is our other lead. she's the quiet type, but she's ready for a change. she wants to be braver, more outgoing. she wants to connect with people instead of keeping everyone at arms length. she wants to live her life instead of reading about someone else's. this is her first time at summer camp, and she's hoping it is life-changing. the only problem is that this summer camp is located by a lake and annie doesn't know how to swim. in fact, she has a severe phobia of water related to an incident in her childhood.

after jake saves annie from a near drowning, they start spending time together. and the more they get to know each other, the more they like each other. but jake is a counselor and annie is a camper, and this is one line he is forbidden from crossing. but soon the attraction is too powerful to ignore.

in one of my favorite moments, jake and annie jump off a waterfall together. and the moment of closeness they share is so sweet. jake is so proud of annie for conquering her fears and annie genuinely appreciates how jake is there for her. she asked him to hold her hand and never let go, and he doesn't.

there's just something uplifting about young love, which is why i have always enjoyed a good young adult romance. this reminds me a bit of the old sweet dreams series, so if you liked those books, this one is a can't miss.

**daring the bad boy will publish on august 22, 2016. i received an advanced reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (entangled:crush) in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

seriously romantic: unexpectedly wilde by rose chen

in unexpectedly wilde, rose chen uses the co-workers to fake relationship to sexy lovers trope pretty effectively. lucas wilde is cate delaney's boss, and they've been working together on a sex trafficking case. when both of them end up in vegas for the weekend--he is attending a friend's wedding, she is letting off some steam--neither of them expects to spend much time with one another. but when lucas's friend threatens him with a set-up at the wedding, lucas asks cate to play his girlfriend.

cate goes along with it, because she likes her boss, but she's also wary because she's been harboring a secret attraction to him and the purpose of coming to vegas was to find someone to help her release all that sexual tension with. of course she was right to be wary, because they can't keep their hands off each other after all. and after spending all weekend in bed together, facing the reality of having to go back to work where fraternization is frowned upon and dealing with his commitment issues proves to be a bit too much.

i think the novella format didn't give the author all that much time to fully develop the characters, but she did her best. the relationship works, but at the same time you think that everything happens so fast because there isn't enough time to let anything build up. when the characters end up breaking up for a bit it feels so weird because it's a non-fight that ends up being a break-up scene and it's just bizarre. they get past all of this, obviously because it's a romance with a happy ending. but even that felt rushed. it was a fun, quick read, as long as you don't mind the pacing issues.

**unexpectedly wilde published on july 18, 2016. i received an advanced reader copy courtesy of netgalley/penguin books australia | destiny romance in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, August 5, 2016

seriously romantic: when a lady deceives by tara kingston

kingston's when a lady deceives kicks off a new series set in late victorian london. jennie quinn is an investigative reporter for the herald in the style of nellie bly. she's gone undercover at insane asylums to reveal inhumane conditions, and her current case is more personal in nature, she's gone undercover as a barmaid at an establishment notorious crime boss claude hardwick owns to reveal his part in the death of mary mcdaniel, a source she feels like she put in danger.  mary was going to share a journal that would implicate hardwick with regard to his many crimes, a story that it too irresistible for jennie to keep away from.

among the sources she wants to pry information from stands matthew colton. a disgraced member of scotland yard and now hardwick's lieutenant, he must know secrets she is dying to share. from the moment he saves her from a drunken customer, the attraction between them flares. and he is too smart, too dangerous to stay close to, and yet, she cannot keep away from him either. there is more to matthew than meets the eye. and as he discovers her secrets, she discovers his. the leads are well-matched and the chemistry between them is well-developed. as the situation gets more dangerous and things get more volatile, both of them find themselves in danger, and they get out of it together.

they work well together, and this serves as a satisfying launching point for the series. i imagine that we'll see some of the characters we met along the way to solving this first mystery in future novels.

**when a lady deceives will publish on august 22, 2016. i received an advanced reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (select historical) in exchange for my honest review. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

seriously romantic: resisting the rebel by lisa brown roberts

resisting the rebel irresistibly uses the opposites attracts theory of story-telling. even better for me, it also uses the fake-relationship-turns-real method. obviously, i loved it. it has all the right ingredients and characters you can root for.

i mean, this plot is right up my alley. bad boy caleb torrs can't help being sucked in by mandy pennington's orbit of hippy-dippy disco cheer. there's no reason he should feel compelled to help her, but he is. and he's also really attracted to her even though she is not his type. she's a joiner. he's a loner. she's been madly in love with her best friend from kindergarten, he's got a stalker ex-girlfriend. this is how fake relationships are born. she'll get a boy to make her friend jealous, he'll get a girl to let the ex know he's moved on.

both caleb and mandy end up getting way more than they expected when they launch their crazy plan. for one, caleb can't pretend to be the boyfriend of the person planning spirit week and avoid helping out. meanwhile mandy finds that she is drawn to caleb way more than she should if she is so into gus, her best friend. then her other two friends seem to be more #teamcaleb than #teamgus. and caleb starts pushing her to change up their agreement from fake to real. but he's so volatile that she doesn't trust what he's telling her.

it's a real mess. and in spite of the teenage angst and melodrama, and the real issues the characters deal with. his abandonment issues, her adhd and dysgraphia, they somehow manage to pull it together. the "prom-posal" scene is great. it's such a comedy of errors, and everything that can go wrong does go wrong, until somehow it comes together.

in the end this book is about two characters who have been through a lot and find a true soulmate in one another. it's the perfect ya summer read.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

seriously romantic: winner takes all by erin kern

winner takes all kicks off the champion valley series, which i suspect will follow the stories of blake carpenter, brandon west, and cameron shaw, who were the last champions of high school football that blanco valley ever produced. blake carpenter rose the highest, until his career in the nfl was sidelined by knee injuries and accusations of doping. after taking a year off to sulk he returns to football, not quite triumphantly, but it is still the game that he loves. and high school football is better than no football.

sparks fly when blake meets annabelle turner, a physical therapist and divorcée who ignores his hostility and makes a point of working with the kids on the team on stretching and conditioning. blake has good reason to be wary of therapists, since he was thrown under the bus by his team and the therapists there in an effort to do everything and anything it took to win and get him back on the playing field.

but annabelle is incapable of taking a step back from someone who needs her. she's already spread thin running her physical therapy practice and being the primary caregiver for her ailing mother, but she can't stop herself from helping the kids who need her expertise. and she can't keep away from their coach who is obviously still in pain and who she can't stop staring at.

eventually it's more than their eyes that they can't keep off each other. but blake is dealing with a lot of baggage. his knee injury is still plaguing him, and he's somehow ended up addicted to oxycontin. annabelle forces him to confront his issues. and she does this in the best possible way, she's never preachy or judgmental, she is compassionate and understanding, but she doesn't shy away from speaking hard truths. and as she helps him, she begins to realize that perhaps she's taken on too many responsibilities in her life and maybe by not trying to control everything, she can be a happier person.

the story unfolds over the course of the high school football season. even though this story is set in colorado and not texas, football is what blanco valley lives and breathes. the author gives some hints of where there may be some future stories with some of the secondary characters, and i'm interested to see who is next up in the series. something tells me it will be brandon and stella.

**winner takes all will publish on august 30, 2016. i received an advanced reader copy courtesy of netgalley/forever (grand central publishing) in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

seriously romantic: run to you by rachel lacey

run to you is technically the kick-off to a new series by rachel lacey, unless you've read rock with you, and you've already been introduced to the town of haven, north carolina and some of its inhabitants. while the lead characters weren't introduced in the novella, some of the secondary characters in run to you were and it's nice to have a little bit of history with the town as you read the novel.

in any case, run to you uses my favorite romance trope, the fake relationship that turns real. i like it in books, in film, i maybe even like it in real life. here ethan hunter meets gabrielle "gabby" winters and there is instant sizzle. ethan's beloved grandmother, dixie, who raised ethan after some really horrifying things happened to his parents, recognizes that spark and is convinced that they are meant to be. dixie happens to be on the verge of dying as she has an inoperable brain aneurysm threatening to burst at any moment.

because ethan will do anything to make his grandmother happy, he decides that letting her believe he's finally settled down and gotten over the fears of relationships that have plagued him due to his dysfunctional childhood is the best thing to do. when he proposes this to gabby she's not convinced that lying is the right thing to do. but when her ex-boyfriend shows up, she impulsively agrees to ethan's scheme.

gabby is in haven to recover from some of her own traumas. at first she has no intention of making friends in haven, her plan is to lick her wounds in private and then return home once she feels ready to face her life there. but meeting ethan leads to meeting other people in the town, and then her ex shows up and she realizes that perhaps her plan of loneliness may not be the way to go. gabby is determined to stand on her own two feet, and one of the things lacey does well is to show how it's certainly well-and-good to be independent, but that sometimes it is okay to ask for help, you can be strong and still be part of a team. this is a lesson gabby must learn, and honestly it's a lesson quite a few other romance heroines could stand to learn a little better than they do.

once ethan and gabby give into their sizzling attraction, they inadvertently find themselves in a serious relationship. seeing how they come to terms with their issues with commitment and accepting that they are in love is a really sweet thing. in the supporting cast we see hints of where future novels might go, and it will be fun to see how ryan and mark, ethan's business partners, end up finding their true loves.

**run to you will publish on august 30, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/forever/grand central publishing in exchange for my honest review.