Saturday, April 30, 2016

2016 Bookish Resolutions -- April Progress Report

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So April was a good month for reading... maybe not so much for a lot of other stuff.


Blogging Goals


- 1 -  Participate in at least 50% of the Top Ten Tuesday meme (@ The Broke and the Bookish) topics for 2016--that's 26 of the TTT topics.


Running Total:  7 Top Ten Tuesday posts written
  • January:  3 Top Ten Tuesday posts written
  • February:  2 Top Ten Tuesday posts written
  • March:  1 Top Ten Tuesday posts written
  • April:  1 Top Ten Tuesday posts written


- 2 -  Continue to post Monthly Reading Wrap-ups... with a slightly less overwhelmingly bulky form.



- 3 -  Create and try to maintain a blogging schedule.

  • January:  Lots of out-of-control, lots of colors.  See January update for more info.
  • February:  No pictures this time.  Just know that things are continuing to get more chaotic. 
  • March:  Still keeping up.  See March update for more info... though not much more info.
  • April:  I've been slacking. That's all I can say really. I'm scheduling stuff, but I lost track of some of my schedule. Hopefully I'll pick back up next month.


- Bonus Goal - Attempt participating in at least two other monthly/weekly bookish memes.




Reading Goals


See Also: 2016 Bookish Resolutions shelf

- 1 - Finish reading 10 completed series that I have already started reading.


Running Total:  4 completed series finished reading
  • January:  1 series finished
  • February:  1 series finished
  • March:  1 series finished
  • April:  1 series finished

When I was counting series for this reading goal I completely forgot that I would be finishing The Raven Cycle.  I don't know if that would some sort of denial complex, because, to be honest, I still can't believe that the series is over and done with.  I might start feeling that emptiness pretty soon, I think.  But yes, I started reading The Raven Cycle in 2013, and then promptly picked up each and every book as soon as it was published following that very first in the series.

Secondly, another series that would count for this reading goal is the Heather Wells series. But being that I haven't been able to finish said series yet, I can't really count it for this month. Now, I DO plan on devouring the rest of the series next month since I found the second book much more enjoyable than the first. So I'll at least have something listed for the month of May.
  • (1)  The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater -- 4/28/2016
    • Already Read:  The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily Lily Blue
    • Read This Month:  
      • #4. The Raven King -- 4/28/2016 -- review to come

  • Heather Wells by Meg Cabot -- In progress
    • Already Read:  Size 12 Is Not Fat
    • Read This Month:  
    • Left to Read:
      • #4.  Size 12 and Ready to Rock
      • #5.  The Bride Wore Size 12


- 2 - Catch up with 5 ongoing series that I have already started reading.


Running Total:  1 ongoing series caught up with
  • January:  0 series finished
  • February:  0 series finished
  • March:  1 series caught up
  • April:  0 series caught up

Due to being a slacker, I didn't exactly get into any of these ongoing series I've already started reading. I have a few in mind for completing this goal, but this goal will definitely take some time.


- 3 - Read 5 completed series that are new to me.


Running Total:  3 new to me completed series read
  • January:  1 series finished
  • February:  0 series read
  • March:  0 series read
  • April:  2 series read

It is only April, but this is my best month so far in completing series. In the month of April I have managed to finish TWO completed series that are new to me. HOWEVER, it is also entirely possible that one of these series is still ongoing... so I'm going to temporarily include it into this goal until I find out otherwise.

The Mann Family series is likely still ongoing, but as I have been unable to find any inkling of a third book aside from a short snippet at the end of the second book's paperback version, I'm not entirely sure I know what's going on.


- 4 - Participate in at least one Read-a-thon in 2016 (Bout of Books, Dewey's 24 Hour, any personal or community improv/unofficial read-a-thon, etc.)

-- GOAL COMPLETED -- 1/10/2016 --

Running Total:  2 Read-a-thons participated
  • January:  Participated in Bout of Books Read-a-thon
  • February:  Did not Read-a-thon this month.
  • March:  Participated in 24 Hour Take Control TBR Pile
  • April:  I thought about participating in the Dewey's 24 Hour this month on 4/23, but seeing how badly I managed the last 24 hour thon in March, I decided not to press my luck. It was a working weekend and I wasn't entirely sure I'd be able to get anything read outside of a few minutes here and there.


- 5 - Pick up at least 10 new to me authors (books not pre-listed for my 2016 Reading Assignment Challenge).


Running Total:  10 new-to-me authors picked up -- GOAL COMPLETED  4/29/2016


- 6 - Accomplish my 2016 Mount TBR Reading Challenge goals.  Tackle those books already on my shelves pre-2016!


Running Total:  18 Mt. TBR Books read

See also My 2016 Mount TBR Challenge summary post for complete listing.



Personal Goals


- 1 - Clock at least 2 hours of cardio workout each month.


Running Total:  2.42 hours of cardio clocked
  • January:  0 hours cardio clocked
  • February:  2.42 hours cardio clocked
  • March: 0 hours cardio
  • April:  0 hours of cardio

I had hoped that I would start doing SOME form of cardio.  But every morning I tell myself I will go to the gym... and every morning I go straight home after my shift at work and then I crash or I piddle around.

I'm still crossing my fingers and still going to hold myself accountable for this goal.  I'm just hoping I can do better soon.


- 2 - Attempt to work out at least twice a week.  Failing that, attempt to work out at least 8 times a month (which will be met if I can get my lazy ass to work out at least twice a week).


Running Total:  3.5 times worked out
  • January:  0 times worked out
  • February:  1 time worked out
  • March: 2.5 times worked out
  • April:  2 times worked out

While I haven't been going to the gym, I HAVE been trying to make up for it with a little bit of Yoga and stretching and strength training in the mornings.  I know that what I do right before going to sleep probably might not amount to too much, but it IS still something.  And so I will count all the little semi-work outs that I do as 2 full work outs.  Just because.


- 3 - Learn 12 new recipes.  Actually make said recipes.  And take pictures.  For evidence.

Yearly Total: 1 new recipe
  • January:  1 new recipe learned // Tomato Basil Soup
  • February:  0  new recipes
  • March:  0 new recipes
  • April:  0 new recipes
I have about three different recipes I want to try... but no motivation and also I need to get off my lazy ass.


- Bonus Goal - Be better at being sociable, in general.






Previous Update Posts


2016 Bookish Resolutions -- January Progress Report
2016 Bookish Resolutions -- February Progress Report
2016 Bookish Resolutions -- March Progress Report


Thoughts: Size 14 Is Not Fat Either

Size 14 Is Not Fat Either

by Meg Cabot
Book 2 of Heather Wells series

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars



Confession: In spite of what I thought of Heather Wells in the first book of this series, I found myself loving her strange charm in this second book. While there were still a lot of things I found frustrating about her, I felt like the circumstances of the murder mystery in Size 14 really brought out the best of Heather Wells.

I definitely enjoyed Size 14 Is Not Fat Either and found Heather and the book itself a fun, entertaining read--something you don’t have to think about too hard either.

And I also confess, the murder mystery really DID manage to have me stumped. While I had a feeling that I knew there was something going on with certain characters (Kimberly, Coach Andrews, etc….), I wasn’t entirely certain what it was and my suspicions about the killer had been flaky at best--too many characters to lay suspicion on, really.


Official Blurb:
Former pop star Heather Wells has settled nicely into her new life as assistant dorm director at New York College—a career that does NOT require her to drape her size 12 body in embarrassingly skimpy outfits. She can even cope (sort of) with her rocker ex-boyfriend's upcoming nuptials, which the press has dubbed THE Celebrity Wedding of the Decade. But she's definitely having a hard time dealing with the situation in the dormitory kitchen—where a cheerleader has lost her head on the first day of the semester. (Actually, her head is accounted for—it's her torso that's AWOL.)

Surrounded by hysterical students—with her ex-con father on her doorstep and her ex-love bombarding her with unwanted phone calls—Heather welcomes the opportunity to play detective . . . again. If it gets her mind off her personal problems—and teams her up again with the gorgeous P.I. who owns the brownstone where she lives—it's all good. But the murder trail is leading the average-sized amateur investigator into a shadowy world. And if she doesn't watch her step, Heather will soon be singing her swan song!


My Thoughts:
Much like the first book, this cozy mystery is actually not so much cozy mystery as it is chick lit about Heather Wells and how her life is going. Then again, it could also be said that the genres in this book were bouncing all over the place: chick lit, cozy mystery, contemporary romance, humorous something or other… etc. But whatever it was that this book ended up being, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The tacky, untactful jokes Heather makes are still kind of tacky, but she’s toned down her penchant for over dramatisation as compared to the first book. There was a lot less of her focusing on her size and her weight, and more of her just telling the facts as they are--which made the self-deprecating fat jokes a little bit more readily received by yours truly. After all, I make fat jokes about myself as well, and the ones in this book were quite aligned with how I usually joke around.

Jokes aside, Heather is quite charming and amusing to follow, especially in this second book wherein she spends a little bit of time at the beginning of the book trying her darndest not to interfere in the murder investigation. But to be totally honest, either she’s just way too curious for her own good, way too impatient to see things getting done, or the detectives in this book are just plain incompetent. It DID kind of feel like the cops weren’t really investigating the case of our decapitated student very seriously, and then whenever Heather offers some viable information she has come across, they treat her like she’s some sort of comedian.

I might be mistaken, but no matter that you don’t want your civilians investigating a murder on their own, if said civilian DOES come up with something suspicious or a clue that might help the investigation along, shouldn’t the cops at least look into it or treat the matter a bit more seriously? Just sayin’. This is what hotlines are for, isn’t it?

Anyway, the romance in this book is still a backseat event, and I’m kind of glad that Heather’s ex, Jordan, is getting hitched--maybe he’ll stop pestering her finally. Secondly, for a woman nearing her thirties, I still find it a little bit disconcerting that Heather still acts like a teenager most times--and that everyone else around her also treats her like a child and feel the need to get into her business and tell her how best to run her romantic life.

Otherwise, Size 14 was an entirely, very enjoyable book and I definitely plan on finishing the rest of the series.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge -- My TBR List - April Winner


Friday, April 29, 2016

Brief Thoughts: Bridal Jitters

Bridal Jitters

by Jayne Castle
prequel novella, book 0.5 of Harmony series

~ Goodreads ~

Rating: 3.5 Stars

This series is also known as the Ghost Hunter series, and intersects at various points throughout with the Arcane Society series, written by Jayne Ann Krentz as Amanda Quick.   Jayne Castle is another of Jayne Ann Krentz's pseudonyms.
Virginia Burch, a psychic archeologist, can't believe her luck when she meets Sam Gage, a ghost hunter and owner of prime real estate in the Old Quarters of Cadence, above the Dead City.  He offers her his space to live and start up her business.  What follows is an even more intriguing proposal-to become his wife.  Strictly for professional reasons, of course.  Their marriage of convenience would lead to a very lucrative business partnership, Gage & Burch Consulting. Until something throws a wrench into the plan: the undeniable sensual energy that naturally exists between them-and a love so strong that it could wake the ghosts below.


Bridal Jitters is a pretty good introductory to Jayne Castle's Harmony series (also known as Ghost Hunters series).  It's a very straight forward telling, basing off of a romance with a "marriage-of-convenience" trope, which actually means something slightly different within the scope of the story's world.  Bridal Jitters doesn't dwell too much on world building or back history of the Harmony world, but we get a sense that it takes place sometime in the future and that psychic energy and psychic powers are very much a norm here, as are alien beings and something called UDEMs, unstable dissonant energy manifestations, that they also call ghosts.

I'm not entirely sure what the timeline of this world is, and DID have a little trouble figuring out what was going on in the very beginning, but afterwards, things started making sense. So in a way, I kind of liked the rapid-fire way in which everything was just introduced as if it were all normal, everyday occurrences.

First and foremost, though, I understand that this book was really a paranormal romance set to the background of a paranormal romantic suspense. Virginia and Sam were a nice couple, but nothing out of the ordinary as far as romances go.

But still, Bridal Jitters did very well setting the stage for the rest of the series and I'm quite interested in continuing on.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge -- New to Me Author #10


End of Series Review: Lady Julia Grey


Lady Julia Grey
by Deanna Raybourn
Book #4: Dark Road to Darjeeling | Goodreads | Rating:  2.5 Stars
Book #5: The Dark Enquiry | Goodreads | Rating:  3.0 Stars

See Also Previous Reviews:

Overall Series Average Rating:  3.1 Stars


As much as there were a lot of things about this entire series that bugged me, a few things were quite evident to me upon finishing the last book in this series:
  • The books and the character and Lady Julia's world kind of grows on you.
    • They may all have their frustrating moments, and you might find that no matter how much you like a character he or she will also have a lot of annoying moments; but it rings true as a little family in real life, and that's kind of what I loved about Julia's world.
    • When Nicholas Brisbane wasn't being an arrogant jackass, he was actually pretty cool; specifically in the last book of this series.  The guy seems to have chilled out a bit.
  • The books are written very beautifully and have a charm to them that make you want to continue reading even though you may have reserves about the rest of the series.
    • The atmosphere of these books never ceased to set a great mood for me.
    • The descriptions were excellent.
  • Julia is an extremely charming narrator to follow throughout the five books, even if she has a penchant to act or speak before she thinks.


Dark Road to Darjeeling


After eight idyllic months in the Mediterranean, Lady Julia Grey and her detective husband are ready to put their investigative talents to work once more. At the urging of Julia's eccentric family, they hurry to India to aid an old friend, the newly widowed Jane Cavendish. Living on the Cavendish tea plantation with the remnants of her husband's family, Jane is consumed with the impending birth of her child—and with discovering the truth about her husband's death. Was he murdered for his estate? And if he was, could Jane and her unborn child be next?

Amid the lush foothills of the Himalayas, dark deeds are buried and malicious thoughts flourish. The Brisbanes uncover secrets and scandal, illicit affairs and twisted legacies. In this remote and exotic place, exploration is perilous and discovery, deadly. The danger is palpable and, if they are not careful, Julia and Nicholas will not live to celebrate their first anniversary.


I continued to contemplate whether or not to finish this series.  The romance exhausts me.  And even though the writing is beautiful and does exceptionally well to set a moody atmosphere, the story itself seemed a bit tedious and overwrought with soap opera-like drama. Anything and everything you could think of to happen in a story to bring about angst reared into the surface.


The characters exhaust me as well, and despite how much I have been loving Julia since the first book, I'm becoming consistently more frustrated with her, with her husband (whom I have yet to find a reason to like), and with their overall interaction and relationship with each other. I am becoming increasingly tired of everyone letting Brisbane's burdens and past, tragic childhood misfortunes justify his acting like an arrogant ass or keeping all of his secrets until he feels it necessary to confide in his wife--and usually not because he wants to confide in her, but because he's been found out.

On another side note, I did not think I would become so frustrated with Portia either, but she was simply becoming irritating throughout the book. And Plum had always been a bit melodramatic.


These books are readily readable and, to be honest, aside from the sudden flux of melodrama near the end, I was actually enjoying this book pretty well.  I may have said this before, but I found myself enjoying more the scenes wherein Julia is maneuvering on her own, or whenever she and Brisbane finally stop quarreling and at least try to work together.  Their banter is lovely when they're not trying to hide secrets from one another, or whenever Brisbane isn't being a complete asshat.


The Dark Enquiry


Partners now in marriage and in trade, Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane have finally returned from abroad to set up housekeeping in London. But merging their respective collections of gadgets, pets and servants leaves little room for the harried newlyweds themselves, let alone Brisbane's private enquiry business. Among the more unlikely clients: Julia's very proper brother, Lord Bellmont, who swears Brisbane to secrecy about his case. Not about to be left out of anything concerning her beloved--if eccentric--family, spirited Julia soon picks up the trail of the investigation.

It leads to the exclusive Spirit Club, where the alluring Madame Séraphine holds evening séances--and not a few powerful gentlemen in thrall. From this eerie enclave unfolds a lurid tangle of dark deeds, whose tendrils crush reputations and throttle trust.

Shocked to find their investigation spun into salacious newspaper headlines, bristling at the tension it causes between them, the Brisbanes find they must unite or fall. For Bellmont's sake--and more--they'll face myriad dangers born of dark secrets, the kind men kill to keep….


As I'd already mentioned, the books kind of grow on you and you eventually stop letting the little quibbles and flaws bug you.  The Dark Enquiry carried a lighter, almost more comedic tone to it than the previous books. I don't know if it has to do with the main couple being married or what, but I DID enjoy the last Julia Grey book more than the previous ones, save for the first. There were still a lot of things that didn't sit well with me, but I will happily brush it off as my being unaccustomed to reading historical fiction. 

Nicholas Brisbane chills his intensity a lot in this last book and I find him much more agreeable than I have in any of the other books.  Unfortunately, with a more relaxed Brisbane, we somehow managed to acquire a much more reckless Lady Julia.

After all, I've come to like Lady Julia a lot even if Nicholas Brisbane still kind of rubs me the wrong way, so it disappoints that she hasn't quite learned to stop being so rash and ignorant.  And to be honest, it hadn't really been until this last book that I actually started to understand the extent of Julia's recklessness when certain things happened to happen.  But that's a spoiler I'm not willing to divulge.

Also, even without going into detail or even "showing" much in descriptive narrative, there is a quite a bit of... blush-worthy?... stuff being talked about in this book. And a lot of sex--fade-to-black sex, but lots of sex nonetheless.


Anyway... As I was saying...

This last book was a rather more interesting and enjoyable one than the previous, which makes for a good ending note for the concluding book in the series... even if the series still kind of continues in the form of some short novellas following this book.  But that's another post for another time.


On a side note, a little tidbit from the beginning of The Dark Enquiry:

Not that I'm discounting Mademoiselle Hortense de Bellefleur's advice or wisdom, but I'm unnaturally jaded for reasons and her exclamation that "love conquers all" seems a bit too idealistic.  Nonetheless, her little rant to Julia made a lot of sense pertaining to Julia and Brisbane... while at the same time, it kind of provokes some thoughts of mild disagreement:

"Love is the only thing that lasts, Julia, the only thing that matters.  And both of you are trying to throw it away with both hands because you are proud and stubborn.  For all your differences, you are too much alike, the pair of you.  But you are lucky, so lucky and you are too blind to see it!  This man, this magnificent man, offers you love and you take it and say, 'Give me more, give me respect!'  And he does the same to you, saying to this beautiful woman, 'Your love is not enough, I want your obedience, as well!'  Why cannot love be enough for the both of you?  It is more than some of us have or will ever have again," she finished on a sob [...]

Take what you will from this quote, but there are certain parts of it that don't really settle well with me--a certain amount of double standard inequality that I can't quite pinpoint.  Of course, I might just be overly sensitive.  However, as I'd already stated, I can kind of see what the mademoiselle is trying to get at even if I don't a hundred percent agree.

Also, this kind of speech probably wouldn't fly very well in modern relationships--not that I'd know, being inexperienced and all, but I'm just sayin'.


Series Overall Thoughts:

I've probably already said all that I need to say about this series.  And I'm actually kind of surprised I still had anything to say at all.  After all, the structure of all five Lady Julia Grey books are almost exactly alike and almost felt tedious and dragged out at times.

It's just fortunate that the writing and Julia's charm kept me interested.

I almost didn't want to write another review, but I had some thoughts that I felt the need to share.

But as I'd stated before, and my reading BFF buddy concurs:  I've run out of things to say about the series.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
• Goodreads Reading Challenge
• BookLikes Reading Challenge
• Bookish Resolutions Challenge



Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cover Crush: Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson


Cover Crush is a feature originally thought up by Erin at Flashlight Commentary.  Every Thursday, she publishes a post featuring a book jacket/book cover that she really likes with a short commentary about it.  I discovered this weekly feature via It's a Mad Mad World  and decided to join in the fun!

Judge a book by it's cover?  Absolutely!

***





This book has been hovering in my sidebars for almost every bookish (or other) website I've been browsing the past week.  It's not like I haven't seen the cover before--and I DO like it a lot.  It's very eye-catching!

But I guess while I've been doing a deliberate search through my Goodreads shelves to find a suitable cover crush, this one just kind of popped right up.  I found my eyes straying towards it every time it showed in an ad or a recommended read or something on the side, as a smaller thumbnail.

And I thought to myself, "This is most certainly a book I would have picked up based on the cover art alone." Well, actually my first thought had been, "Hmm... pretty."  The former thought is a bit more refined for blogging purposes.

Anyway, being that it is also a book written by Brandon Sanderson is also a big check in the plus column.  This only means that I should probably be picking up this book sometime soon for all of the above reasons.

Again, it's a very eye-catching cover.  I'd actually like to see the entire illustration, sans author name and book title, because that stuff just seems to be in the way.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Starting: The Raven King

It is time!

I haven't started reading yet, but I'm already so excited and conflicted that I'm stalling a little bit.  Which is probably why I'm writing this post instead of reading this book... and probably why I waited so long to buy it and start reading it.  (If you call about 3 hours long.)

I have the night off from work and I could have started already, but instead, I took a nap and am now writing this post.

And probably not making any sense whatsover.


It's the last book!




Monday, April 25, 2016

Thoughts: Size 12 Is Not Fat

Size 12 Is Not Fat

by Meg Cabot
Book 1 of Heather Wells series

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.5 Stars


Size 12 Is Not Fat started off as a promising story based around a non-standard young female character, Heather Wells, who is not only NOT a Size Zero, slender and athletically fit woman, but she’s also a little on the cuckoo side with her runaway reveries and slightly over-the-top actions and behavior. The book was very fun to start off with and had potential to maintain that fun, cute, and breezy tone.

We throw in the mystery for more excitement, right off the bat, and things just start rolling from there.

It’s only unfortunate that the going just ended up getting a little… meh… and annoying by the time you finish the book. Make no mistake, I had my fair share of enjoyment from this book. I just also found that a lot of it started to meander off of the story’s concept, using it instead as a springboard for tacky, ill-conceived jokes that ended up being overused.

Nevertheless, while I didn’t entirely like this book, it wasn’t like I disliked it with a passion or anything. A few annoying anecdotes and interludes here and there aren’t grounds for extreme dislike of something. However, I must say that the entire book DOES read like some sort of made-for-television, “this requires immense suspension of disbelief” family comedy where things only make sense if you don’t think too hard.

Humorous is humorous, but overdoing it can get annoying.

Heather Wells has potential to be a witty and likable heroine, though. I had started the book off enjoying the narration and reading along with Heather's POV... until the jokes got too overused and irritatingly eye-roll-worthy. I even really like Cooper despite his penchant for lurking in the background as the Standard Male Love Interest™. He exudes charm, but he also presents as that one "Perfect Main Male Character" who never did anything wrong to upset either our Main Female Character or even the readers. So, in a sense, he was a great guy, but he was also ultra-boring.

Again, the potential for these two in the friendship-to-romance sector is pretty good. I might read the next few books just to see how their relationship turns out, because at the very least, I loved their current friendship (even if Heather's reveries take things a little overboard).


The Official Story Blurb:
Heather Wells Rocks!

Or, at least, she did. That was before she left the pop-idol life behind after she gained a dress size or two — and lost a boyfriend, a recording contract, and her life savings (when Mom took the money and ran off to Argentina). Now that the glamour and glory days of endless mall appearances are in the past, Heather's perfectly happy with her new size 12 shape (the average for the American woman!) and her new job as an assistant dorm director at one of New York's top colleges. That is, until the dead body of a female student from Heather's residence hall is discovered at the bottom of an elevator shaft.

The cops and the college president are ready to chalk the death off as an accident, the result of reckless youthful mischief. But Heather knows teenage girls . . . and girls do not elevator surf. Yet no one wants to listen — not the police, her colleagues, or the P.I. who owns the brownstone where she lives — even when more students start turning up dead in equally ordinary and subtly sinister ways. So Heather makes the decision to take on yet another new career: as spunky girl detective!

But her new job comes with few benefits, no cheering crowds, and lots of liabilities, some of them potentially fatal. And nothing ticks off a killer more than a portly ex-pop star who's sticking her nose where it doesn't belong . . .


My Thoughts:
I understand that Meg Cabot is a pretty well-known name in the Young Adult and Sort of Adult genre with her Contemporaries, Mysteries, popular story ideas as well as that big book-to-movie The Princess Diaries deal. I certainly have a fondness for The Princess Diaries, the movie--both of them. I also have a fondness for Anne Hathaway, so that might contribute more than the story itself.

I won’t deny that, after reading Size 12 Is Not Fat, I did manage to find some enjoyment. In fact, the book started out very strong and very intriguing. The narration wasn’t too bad either if you can overlook the fact that Heather Wells is repetitive, has poor use of grammar, and needs to get her priorities straight. Even the murder mystery presented in this book was pretty solid, decently executed, even if slightly predictable.

The only downfall of the murder mystery would be that the deaths were obviously more than just a few kids being reckless, and the fact that all of these deaths and near-death accidents kept happening, one event right after another, didn't merit police scrutiny was a bit hard to believe. Any death, whether accident or not, should bring about thorough investigations.

One death could be ruled as accidental without any evidence otherwise; but shouldn't two deaths, both girls dying in the same exact fashion, merit more than simply being written off as "students are just stupid, reckless, creatures"? Especially when we've got friends and staff vouching that these two girls wouldn't have gotten themselves killed elevator surfing because they weren't the type of girls who would do something stupid like that?

But, anyway, as the story progressed, things started getting a little flat, and kind of irritatingly pointless at certain tangents. Heather’s voice actually started getting on my nerves. Like I had already stated, she’s repetitive, and even though her humor is readily appreciated, I think the jokes got a bit overused. I can handle a crazy, non-standard main female characters (and encourage it too); but annoyingly excessive is still annoyingly excessive, and I feel like we should have toned down the repeat jokes a little bit if they weren’t going to be executed cleverly.

The whole “dorm--I mean, residence hall” thing became overused. The entire schtick with the fat versus not-fat comparisons were fun at first, but started getting on my nerves. She kept repeating her same mantra, over and over again: “size twelve is the size of the average American woman”. As if even she needed to convince herself that “size twelve is not fat”; continually worshipping other girls for being smaller doesn’t help her case and continually taking shots at herself for being bigger also doesn’t help, even though she does it in a jokey manner.

It just makes me feel like we’re admitting that, yes Size 12 is indeed fat (heck, even the promotional blurb refers to her as “portly”), and the only way to deal with it is to joke about it or obsess about it: how her body falls right out of dresses in all the wrong places; how she needs to borrow her friend’s maternity gown to wear to a nice formal party; how she feels that Rachel is so much more successful because of her ability to maintain her slender physique, have multiple degrees, and look good all the time, even if the dorm director is a big bitch; how she continuously compares herself in a degrading manner with other girls around her as well as with the types of women she believes Cooper prefers which includes the term “slender”.

I’m glad she loves to eat and does so unapologetically; but the constant punches thrown at her body size does her no favors.

I’m probably the last person who should be knocking the ideal behind this book: I’m a fluctuating Size 12 to Size 14 myself and continually admit that I’m not exactly slender. It’s hard to find nice outfits to wear because nothing ever fits properly; even my physician has mentioned that I could stand to lose a few pounds… for my health.

In society’s eyes, my size isn’t the ideal, even if it is the average.

But I don’t obsess about it. I do what I have to do to live a satisfying and healthy lifestyle to make myself comfortable with myself.

Heather, however, obsesses about her own size so much that it DID start getting a bit annoying. The constant reminder she throws in about her “size twelve is the average” is sort of overdoing it.

Her ill-conceived, repetitive jokes, however, weren’t the only things that started getting on my nerves. Her constant obsession over Cooper was also a little irritating. Sure, she’s a working independent woman with a stable job and ambitions for the rest of her life. But the whole idea is busted by the fact that her ambitions revolve around how to make herself a better educated and sophisticated woman because those are the types of women Cooper prefers and she’s just trying to map out their future by becoming that kind of woman for Cooper.

As if the only way for her to attain what she wants from life is to become the ideal woman for Cooper. As if the only way to be successful is to gain higher education and several degrees.

Granted, it’s obvious that Cooper already adores her for who she is, currently; and maybe the books in this series will become more insightful for Heather’s growth and development later on. But the fact that, at twenty-eight years old, Heather still acts like a teenage girl who needs immense development into a more mature woman doesn’t help her case.


***

This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):



This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in June 2015.



Sunday, April 24, 2016

Ranting Thoughts: Dead by Wednesday

Dead by Wednesday

by Beverly Long

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.0 Stars


First of all: Apparently I'm in the minority about this book--it's got a lot of glowing reviews.

Second of all: I had only intended to write a short opinion piece... then the ranting started and here we are.


This book wasn’t the worst thing in the world; and to be honest, I thought about cutting it some slack because it wasn’t really as terrible as some of my frustrated mutterings made it seem. But it still wasn’t the best thing in the world either. It was simply your standard, formulaic, carbon-copy romance using a crime thriller as background scenery to give said standard, formulaic, carbon-copy romance a possible story to follow.

And if the crime thriller had had any substance to it, I might have been inclined to enjoy it a little bit more. But the serial killings in the book really took a huge backseat despite the fact that at least two chapters were spent on the investigation process. I just never got the sense that the ‘suspense’ part of this romantic suspense was all that significant to this particular book.


The basic outline of the story is pretty much as follows:
There’s a serial killer targeting teenage and pre-teen boys, who are supposedly dying a gruesome, torturous death. Not that I need detailed descriptions or anything, but, again, I never got the sense that the killings were gruesome or anything. There is a lot more telling about a vague “gruesome murders” happening rather than showing that these were gruesome murders. I hadn’t even realized that the serial killings were gruesome murders until someone had some dialogue somewhere that made a half-hearted mention about it.

I only knew that boys were being murdered. But that’s fine--details of gory murders aren’t really my cuppa anyway, even if I can sometimes enjoy details for the sake of chilly, spine-tingling intrigue. But I’m the type of person who avoids Saw movies like the plagues, so I can live with less gory details.

However, I still need some details.

Back to the book...

Carmen Jimenez is a pregnancy counselor; Robert what’s-his-name (I’ve already turned the book into the library and am too lazy to look up character names I don’t remember) is a police detective. And somehow Carmen’s younger brother gets caught up in the whole mess of murder and intrigue… so somehow Carmen gets caught up in this whole mess as well.

And then the story spirals on from there.


My Thoughts
The ideas in this book aren’t bad. In fact, it was the premise that drew my attention anyway--as do most crime thriller premises. Aside from a murder mystery with (unfulfilled) potential, the book brings up a lot of good discussion topics including high school bullying, teens getting wrapped up in gang violence, and teenage pregnancy.

But everything presented in this book is only second (or maybe even third, or fourth) string to the standard, formulaic, carbon-copy romance. Which would have been fine, because I don’t mind a good romance. If the romance was a good romance.

But since the romance really wasn’t all that great, I would have liked some more in-depth substance pertaining to the tangent plotlines dealing with the teenagers in this book--specifically Carmen’s teenage younger brother, Raoul, as he deals with growing up raised by his older sister and struggling to understand his deceased brother, Hector’s life that had lead to said older brother’s death.

Frankly, aside from Raoul, the characters were lackluster and boring and nothing outstanding presents in Dead by Wednesday.

Carmen is the usual romance heroine: cynical, almost virginal, always second-guessing herself, and then in the end, she pulls a TSTL even though she’s supposed to have been a character with some street smarts. For a social worker specializing in teenagers, she doesn’t know how to read her brother--but I’ll give her that, because dealing with family is always different from dealing with clients. Romance-wise, she flashes hot and cold in a very inconsistent manner in a way that makes me extra frustrated. She sends mixed signals and jumps to conclusions and makes wild assumptions and then gets over-dramatic at all the wrong moments.

Mainly, I’m a little disappointed that she made a bad decision that she should have known was a bad decision, that nearly got herself and her brother killed. I know she has spent her entire life fending for herself and her brother, but there is a line between being independent and strong versus being plain reckless.

If you know it’s a dangerous situation and there are other options, don’t just walk right into said dangerous situation without a plan--especially if you’re taking your teenaged younger brother who relies on your protection with you.

I can forgive Raoul for doing stupid things because he’s young and vulnerable and still has time to learn from his mistakes; but Carmen is a grown woman who has already gone through a lot of rough stuff in her life and is described as having street smart experience. And she’s a social worker who guides teenagers into making the right decisions for their lives. So she should know better.

Robert is the usual romance hero: broody, sexually experienced and a ladies’ man, overconfident in his own attractiveness, pushy and determined to get into a woman’s pants no matter that she’s sending him “Back off” signals every other encounter. But because he’s a good man at heart and described as a gentleman in the narration, it’s totally okay for him to force his affections onto a woman who keeps pushing him away. (/sarcasm)

And then he gets all offended when friends are telling him to leave Carmen alone if he’s not serious about her. After all, just because he plays around and has lines of women waiting to sleep with him, doesn’t mean he’s constantly breaking hearts. Not mattering that he knows Carmen is looking for a more committed and serious relationship, and he has admitted that he’s really only in it for the lusty, sexy times and doesn’t know how to do the committed relationship thing… So, hey, stop treating him like he’s an inconsiderate bastard bent on misleading a woman on into thinking that he’s interested in more than just sex.

But, of course, he then just happens to meet the right woman (Carmen, by the way) and suddenly all other women are dead to him. He transforms into a protective caveman, but he goes through the usual “Love? Where did that word come from?” phase and “Marriage? Who needs that kind of lifestyle?” as he goes off and buys an engagement ring. All of this after three scarce encounters with his true love--two of which ended in either mixed signals or the big “Back off” signals.

But that’s fine, Robert and Carmen were meant for each other, so let the instalove roll.


But I’m being harsh. Probably because I’m irritated about stuff.

At the worst, Dead by Wednesday is simply a typical romance with a typical storyline with typical characters. Monotone and boring, but NOT a bad book. At least there was a semblance of a story.

I guess I’m mainly disappointed because I’d been considering reading Beverly Long’s Return to Ravesville books since the moment I read the synopsis of the first book in that series.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge -- New to Me Author #1

Also Read during Bout of Books 15 -- See Day 6 Update


This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in January 2016.





A Progress Update (originally posted on January 9, 2016)
@ 157 of 217 pages

This is a very short book.  I should be done by now if the book was interesting enough to keep my attention.

It is not.  In fact, it feels like it's taking forever to get to the end.

And I'm getting irritated.  Or maybe I was already irritated and it's not this book's fault.  Who knows?

There might be a short rant involved later on today if I can get myself to stop being avoid-y and just spend the last hour or so it'll take to finish the book.


This progress update was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in January 2016.




Series Review: Walker Brothers


Walker Brothers
by Leslie Kelly
Book #1: She Drives Me Crazy | Goodreads | Rating:  3.0 Stars
Book #2: She's Got the Look | Goodreads | Rating:  4.0 Stars

Series Average Rating:  3.5 Stars


Written by Leslie Kelly, an author I started following after reading her Black CATs series and the first book of her Extrasensory Agents series (written under the name Leslie Parrish or Leslie A. Kelly), the Walker Brothers series is a very cute and breezy, excellently fun and sometimes humorous romantic comedy duology with enough substance to draw you in, though they are still light and fluffy in nature.  Each book covers the romance of one of the two Walker brothers:  Johnny Walker, the older brother (who was named for his Daddy's favorite drink) in She Drives Me Crazy and Nick Walker, the younger brother in She's Got the Look.

As much as I was simply expecting a breezy romance, I was surprisingly delighted to find that I had a ton of fun reading this series with some grinning, some smirking, some scattered laughs, and the usual fawning over the Happily Ever After.

Also, it didn't hurt to fall in love with the younger of the Walker brothers who is as alpha male as he is adorable--he has his moments, but it works for me.


She Drives Me Crazy


She Drives Me Crazy centers around a small town in Georgia called Joyful, and the backstory that we are immediately given is that a strip club is being built near the highway, a large billboard is sporting a huge pair of a woman's breasts, and Emma Jean Frasier is coming back to town.  You get a nice dose of small town rumor mill and gossip before the story even starts when one of the town's biggest gossips (as well as bitter old biddie with a chip on her shoulder, otherwise why the heck is she spreading rumors anyway) takes a perfectly innocent portion of Emma Jean's profession and makes scandalous assumptions about it.

By the time Emma Jean arrives in town, the entire population has already learned that she's an ex-porn star and is the owner of the new strip club and that the breasts featured on the huge billboard belong to her.

Except that Emma Jean is a financial adviser and used to work for a huge firm in New York investing people's money.  Those are NOT her bare breasts on the billboard; and while the land that the strip club is being built on belongs to her, she's not the person responsible for the development of said strip club.  In fact, she doesn't even know of its existence nonetheless realize that the land had been sold for that purpose--and then there's some conspiracy about how neither she nor her deceased grandmother had sold the land at all and there's falsified documents and a murder... the eleventh hour kind of crams a lot of plot twists into it.

But anyway...

She just happened to have been helping out with an artist's exhibition a while back and that artist happened to be displaying nude art in a gallery.  And Emma Jean happened to send the pamphlet for that particular gallery exhibition to her grandmother, Emmajean, and because of that innocent little pamphlet, now the entire town believes that Emma Jean is an ex-porn star.

Talk about an overly extreme version of a childhood telephone game.

It probably didn't help her case that she had left the town due to a completely different, equally embarrassing scandal (which was true, this one), when she was seventeen.  Something about her boyfriend running off to marry another girl on the night of prom, followed by her and Johnny Walker being found in a compromising position in a gazebo, with a lot of misunderstandings thrown into the mix.

But time heals, problems are resolved, misunderstandings are straightened out, and Happily Ever After.  I guess if the people in this book actually took the time to communicate with each other properly we wouldn't have much story to tell, but it doesn't hurt to hope, right?  While it can be a fun source of amusement that causes cute bickering, the case of miscommunications and misunderstandings sometimes can get to a point of frustration.

The progression of the story itself was kind of dragged out.  There were few scenes that were presented painfully deliberate in their attempts to keeping the secrets a Big Secret, despite being knowledgeable gossip around the entire town.  But since the Big Secret (That Isn't Really a Secret) as well as other secrets were all kind of predictable and extremely obvious, the anticipation behind the deliberate skirting of the issues ended up making me more impatient for the story to move on than anything else.

While amusing at first, when this same tactic is used too many times in a couple other moments just to drag out the Big Secret, it tends to get old.

Overall, this was a very entertaining and enjoyable book with lovable characters.

Kudos on how Emma Jean blows up at her fellow classmates during her reunion when she learns about the nasty rumors circulating about her being an ex-porn star.  Because these people she went to school with couldn't just come out and say, "Hey, why were you a porn star?" and then get the whole misunderstanding cleared up.  They had to go snickering behind her back and making crass innuendos about her.  And I also don't appreciate that the people who called themselves her friends didn't bother to tell her what the whole town was saying about her behind her back either--with friends like that, who needs enemies?

Pssh.  The rumors will die down on their own and the people will move on, my ass!


Conclusion:  Well written, amusing at moments with some flaws that might have come off a bit tacky. Fun and great characters as well.  I just felt like the whole "Emma Jean is a porn star" gossip got dragged out a little longer than it needed to be dragged out.

Also, I don't know if I can ever look at pecan pie the same way again... which is sad since it's the only pie I actually love...



She's Got the Look

She's Got the Look takes place in Savannah, Georgia, a larger city where not everyone knows everyone, unlike in Joyful.  There's quite the contrast from small town rumor mill gossip, to bigger city living where your chances of running into the same people by coincidence all the time only happens if you all get invited to the same big, rich person's party.  (Which is exactly what happens when Melody gets to meet three of the five men on her "Fantasy Sex List"--we'll get to that part later--when her best friend decides to invite them all to the same party.)

Melody Tanner moves back to her hometown of Savannah (from Atlanta) after an ugly divorce from her husband of six years.  To cut to the chase, he continuously cheated on her, never really treated her like a wife more so than some trophy to be shown off (due to her being a former child and teen model), and then when she retaliated by (untactfully) vandalizing his billboard to tell the world what kind of a douche-nozzle he is (really, if you're going to do something THAT dramatic you gotta learn how to NOT get caught), and then she gets sued for slander and loses everything to him in order to support him financially since, apparently, according to the equally douche-y judge, she ruined his reputation and cost him his livelihood.

And so, resigned to being a victim, hoping that giving all her money to her ex-husband would be good enough to get rid of him, Melody moves home to Savannah to recuperate and start her life over.  Unfortunately, this seems only to be the beginning of more chaos and trouble.

The actual story centers around a list that Melody and her three best friends had made right before her marriage.  As a joke, the four friends put together a list of five men as part of a fantasy "I'm Allowed to Have Sex With These Men No Matter What" type of deal.  In part, since Melody's friends didn't like the man she was marrying, I have a feeling they were trying to make a point by telling Melody that she has so much more to live for than marrying a douchebag with a drill (he's a dentist who ended up screwing a lot of his own patients, as the backstory goes).

One of the standards of "the list" had been that the men Melody chooses should be improbable, but not impossible.  As in, there was still a chance, even slim, that she would ever meet any of these men because they're local city folk or they're at least not Brad Pitt.  And, as fate would have it, without even knowing who he really is, Melody puts down, as number one on her list, "the Time magazine marine hero"... who just happens to be Nick Walker from his days in the military.

Fast forward about six years and Melody is on the brink of a couple breakdowns after her nasty divorce ending an equally ugly marriage and her ex-husband still harassing her.  Her best friend, Rosemary, wanting to help get the poor woman back out into life, decides to play set-up by hinting that "Oh my God, at least two of the men on your Fantasy Sex List--remember that list you made a long time ago?--have died.  There MUST be some connection.  You need to tell the police.  Let me call my police connection and set-up a meeting!"

Lo and behold, the police detective who shows up to the meeting (that Melody agreed to go to in order to placate her best friend despite how stupid the idea was), happens to be Nick Walker, Savannah PD, former "Time magazine marine hero", and number one man on Melody Tanner's Fantasy Sex List.  Yes, apparently Rosemary has been acquainted with this man for some time now (she's dating Nick's police partner, Dex) and decided that Melody needed to put her "list" into action.

Needless to say, there is a lot of muttering about murdering best friends, the couple gets off to a bad impression to start off their relationship due to the topic of "the list", and despite the sexual tension of lust clouding the air, Melody is resigned to NOT sleep with Nick Walker as dictated by her "the list", because he comes on too strong and is kind of being a cocky asshole about it.

Let the bickering begin.  But kudos to Melody for not falling right into bed with a good-looking man who is being a cocky bastard (even IF Nick was just doing it to push her buttons and meant everything in good humor rather than actually being a real jackass), and walking away from him with some self-dignity as she flips him the bird on the way out when he pisses her off.

I'm not sadistic, but I'm a little content that Nick had to put some work into getting Melody to even consider talking to him civilly after his display of teasing arrogance (much less getting her to sleep with him).  Too many romance novels make it too easy for a man to get the girl into bed simply by making him some sort of primal, sexy, being of perfection despite having a bad attitude and asshole tendencies.

So anyway, soon, the couple falls into a semi-lusting, semi-lovely, semi-sweet, semi-kicking each other's shins friendship, which quickly escalates into the typical Contemporary Romance novel Friends with Benefits stage... and ultimately start falling in love with each other.

Of course, then more antics ensue involving the "the list", a few more deaths (one of them a murder), stolen underwear of the Peacock Blue variety, Melody's ex-husband lurking in the background, a side romance story between Rosemary and Dex (which is equally as cute as the main romance), some angst, and then the heart-warming, yet somewhat cheesy Happily Ever After.

Now I know I haven't mentioned too much about Nick Walker (or even his brother, for the matter), but all I have to say about him is that he's attractive, hot, adorable, and I'm totally in love with him.  Even when he acts like a jackass to rile Melody up, he does it with such good humor and no maliciousness, and even APOLOGIZES to her about his crass behavior, that I don't mind it.  The point is, he knows he crossed a line with his teasing, and he actually apologizes for being a dickhead rather than using his terrible childhood and a subsequent nasty, yet short marriage (to a woman who then goes and turns his beloved family against him with lies) as an excuse to be a dickhead.  And he doesn't spend his time trying to manhandle her into submission or manipulate her with his sexy wiles.

And so the romance between Nick and Melody worked for me; it had a lot of "FEELS" moments that just make your heart squeeze and puts a big smile on your face.  Their relationship is sweet, lovely, and had so much fluff that you couldn't help BUT love seeing them together, whether as lovers, as friends, or just as is.

So despite some scenes where the story progression seemed to drag a little bit, I happily ignored all those little faults and decided that I love this book and I love the couple.  The real story was the love story, using "the list" as a spring board with a little murder mystery intrigue as a lurking background plot device, but ultimately, I think I enjoyed this story because of the romance more than anything else.  Nick and Melody are both excellent characters with hot chemistry and a pretty awesome relationship.


Conclusion:  Oh, so much love for this book.  Heart-warming, lovely, sweet, and adorable.



Overall Thoughts:

I think I'm going to miss the collective characters of the Walker Brothers series.  Despite how crazy the rumor mills got in the little town of Joyful, I still enjoyed the characters and each of their own little back stories and secrets.  Despite how much Melody's best friends managed to humiliate her with some tactless outbursts at a big party, I still loved their interactions as best friends.  And it's great to see female characters with best friends (plural) in these romances (since I had spent so much time watching K-drama and started wondering whether or not it was possible for female characters to have friends, period).

I don't often read contemporary romances, but sometimes you get lucky enough to come across a few really good, shiny gems that just make your day.

With this, I'm definitely going to continue to dig into more Leslie Kelly books... although she was a very prominent romance author and I'm more of the murder mystery/crime thriller action type with a side of romance.  It makes me wish she would either extend the Black CATs series, or write more similar books.

For a nice, heartwarming romance though (with lots of hot sex), at least I know she'll always be an option as a personal favorite.



This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in October 2014.



Brief Thoughts: Better Homes and Hauntings

Better Homes and Hauntings

by Molly Harper

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars


I sat on this review for a while because I really can’t think of what to say about this book that I didn’t already say in my progress update post (see below). All in all, Better Homes and Hauntings was enjoyable to an extent and had all the potential and makings for a great “Haunted Mansion Murder Mystery™” with a comedic, romance-y twist. And it took place on an isolated island and promised to delve into the historical happenings of the mansion that caused it to be haunted in the first place.

Better Homes is definitely Ani-bait. In fact, I could probably even say that this book was something I would have tried to write during my few years of “I would love to be a writer” phase when I was younger. I may have even started a story with the same premise at some point before realizing that I’m better off reading rather than writing.

But the book felt unbalanced to me. And while the century-old murder was a well-thought out background plot to spring the story from, everything else felt like insignificant side tangents that were merely fun to observe, yet lending very little to the main plot’s progression. Even the two love stories were a little bland and left much to be desired.


The Official Blurb:
When Nina Linden is hired to landscape a private island off the New England coast, she sees it as her chance to rebuild her failing business after being cheated by her unscrupulous ex. She never expects that her new client, software mogul Deacon Whitney, would see more in her than just a talented gardener. Deacon has paid top dollar to the crews he’s hired to renovate the desolate Whitney estate—he had to, because the bumps, thumps, and unexplained sightings of ghostly figures in nineteenth-century dress are driving workers away faster than he can say “Boo.”

But Nina shows no signs of being scared away, even as she experiences some unnerving apparitions herself. And as the two of them work closely together to restore the mansion’s faded glory, Deacon realizes that he’s found someone who doesn’t seem to like his fortune more than himself—while Nina may have finally found the one man she can trust with her bruised and battered heart.

But something on the island doesn’t believe in true love…and if Nina and Deacon can’t figure out how to put these angry spirits to rest, their own love doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance.


More Thoughts:
To be totally honest, the above blurb doesn’t really do the book any justice, but at the same time, it really DOES get to the point of the book’s main outline, even if it DOES leave out some things that I personally thought were significant to the book (even if not the plot itself). Ultimately, the official blurb leads you to believe that this book is more romance than paranormal... and it’s hard to say which is more true of Better Homes.

As I’d stated already, the book feels unbalanced in that it tries too hard to be both a paranormal mystery AND a contemporary romance, while juggling TWO romances at the same time, AND trying to insert a little bit of the self-revelation-esque character development for Nina and Deacon. In the end, everything just felt like they were loosely summarized rather than told as a story.

Nonetheless, it was enjoyable. I’m not going to say that Better Homes was badly written. Far from it. Molly Harper has a sense of humor and a natural style that I really love. But the story itself (progression, plotting, world-building) really just felt like it was missing SOMETHING.

And while I liked the refreshing “socially awkward” main characters with a side dish of crazy friends thing going on… there really wasn’t much else to it. And even the characters don’t quite exude the socially awkward personalities properly, really. Instead, Nina and Deacon just come off being portrayed too deliberately as attempts at socially awkward nerds with cult following tendencies. The entire thing where their relationship is based off of dropping random Star Wars or old-school pop culture references felt a little unnaturally forced.

I mean, once or twice is fine, but they do it in every conversation in almost every sentence during their awkward flirting phase. Then again, maybe the whole point of it was that they were trying too hard to impress each other with random movie fandom references ergo, the book itself came off as trying too hard to impress the reader with a refreshing couple of socially awkward love birds, because that's not typically mainstream in romances… I don’t know.

Anyway… I can say that I at least enjoyed the friendships, the witty and humorous dialogue, and some of the jokes that got thrown out there. But that doesn’t make me feel any less that the characters still felt flat and detached from their own story. Or that the story could've used a little more of... something.


***

This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):



This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in August 2015.





An Update Post  (originally posted on August 4, 2015)

"[...] Just for your information, he is very ticklish."

"How will that information ever be of use to me?" Nina asked.

Dotty wiggled her eyebrows.  "I can think of a few ways."  Nina stared at her, adopting Deacon's "impassive" expression.  "Oh, come on, I've seen the two of you together.  It's like watching a nature documentary on scientists trying to get the two most socially awkward people in the world to mate."

I'd been trying to pinpoint why I thought the romance in this book between Nina and Deacon was kind of refreshing.  And so when cousin Dotty made this point, it really made me think:  "Yea.  That's so true."

Although I still have to input that, despite being a good percentage into the book, it still kind of feels like little to nothing has actually happened in the way of Big Haunted Mansion On Isolated Island, aside from Nina's nightly dreams (only one of which was described in detail), a few sightings, and Cindy's one encounter.  Somehow, they just don't feel creepy or even significant enough to concern myself with.

And no one's even really doing anything about the whole "Haunted Mansion" thing aside from being avoid-y.  I might start getting frustrated, which will be disappointing considering I loved the last Molly Harper book I read.

However, the book is giving off a vibe reminiscent of some 90s era tacky haunted mansion on an isolated island movie-like feel where things move along for a good portion of the story without anything too significant save for a few hints here and there, and then by the end, all hell breaks loose and the excitement just comes in blasts with no holds barred.

I'm kind of looking forward to it being this way... even anticipating it a little bit.  So we shall see where this heads.  Of course, this book is also a romance as well, so I'll give it leeway to be lighter fare than most haunted house movies with a touch more cute and cuddly for the love stories unfolding.

Speaking of which--two romances occurring during this time are also kind of bland so far.  In a sense, Nina and Deacon are now sharing some kind of quiet courting relationship where they stand around and chat each other up with pop culture references, old and new, while trying to impress each other with their nerdiness.  It's cute, but I haven't seen much happening along the lines of actual romance yet... but then again, maybe something will soon.

As for Cindy and Jake, they just need to sit down and talk about their problems civilly.

And all the while, the characters just feel detached from the book, so far and I'm not feeling any connection to relate with at all.  Aside from the whole social awkward main character bit, that is.  At least I DO like the budding friendship between Nina, Cindy, and cousin Dotty--they short, quiet side quips are at least keeping me entertained.



This update was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in August 2015.



Review: And One Last Thing...

And One Last Thing...

by Molly Harper

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars


I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this story. Contemporary Romance usually isn't my preferred genre and are typically fluff that (when written well) can give me little heartwarming nudges and smiles every so often. I read them mainly because I do like romances and I like them even more with a healthy dose of tasteful humor and a great set of characters to create those rare, less than mundane tellings--this is especially since a lot of Contemporaries that I've picked up tend to have the same formula.

And One Last Thing..., however, is probably more Chick Lit with emotional development focused solely on our main female character than it is a Romance. This was something I hadn't been expecting and something that made the story more inspiring than giddily heartwarming.  Cute and breezy, oh so witty, and very well written, this book turned out quite entertaining--and caught me finishing it in one full sitting since I couldn't stop reading.


Lacey Terwilliger (soon to be Lacey Vernon) finds out that her husband is cheating on her because of a misdirected floral delivery that was supposed to go to her husband's receptionist, addressed to "Bumblebee" from "The Stinger" (insert your snortling euphemisms here). In fact, she drives out to her husbands accounting firm to confront, only to witness the two going at it in plain sight, for all the world to see.

And apparently, instead of lying down and taking it quietly like many of her community's First Estate wives seem to think she should be doing, she exacts revenge in the form of a very cleverly written newsletter sent via e-mail to all friends, family friends, and family members (which in turn gets shared with the whole world via YouTube, newspaper, and other forms of media).

And after that simple click of a button, Lacey's world begins to untangle in extremely public and ugly ways. Her husband and his mistress are suing her for slander and defamation of character, her mother-in-law is outraged that she is ruining their family and their reputation, news vans are parked outside her parents' home, people are either getting a nice snicker at her situation, or in disgust that she couldn't just take the adultery quietly, her mother (though supportive) is frustrated that she acted so rashly... her own father won't even speak to her anymore (very un-supportive).

It's like the messed up life of the Upper Echelons of society and according to Lacey's mother-in-law Wynnie, Lacey should have just let her husband Mike get away with the cheating so long as he came home each night (which is a moot point since he rarely came home, and when he was home, he was always on the phone). According to Wynnie, a cheating husband will typically feel so guilty that he'll readily spend money on his spouse to make up for cheating on her (which is also a moot point, we find out later on, because anything Mike bought for Lacey that could be construed as a sweet gift, he'd also bought something similar and better for his mistress). According to Wynnie, this is simply standard for men because they know which girls to bring home and marry and which girls they can only keep on the side to play around with... like her own husband who has his own string (not just one, but multiple) of girls.

But hey, at least he makes up for it by buying her splendid gifts out of guilt. Right?

(Imagine an eye-rolling gif here, because I saw one in my head every time Singletree's First Estate wives opened their mouths.  But don't worry, there's more eye-rolling to come.)

The publicity begins to hamper at Lacey's chances of getting out of this divorce and settling the defamation suit. In some twisted, yet sadly realistic way, Lacey's meltdown has been interpreted by society as her becoming a vindictive bitch out to ruin her husband despite the fact that he was the one who couldn't keep his pants on around other women. Mike is turning out the sympathetic points in this mess. So her lawyer suggests that she goes away for a while and lay low. As long as she doesn't speak to anyone or make anymore noise than her newsletter already made, then she won't be the one who comes off as the insane, scorned woman out for vengeance; we want her to present the public with a hurt, angry wife who was blindsided from learning that her husband was unfaithful.

You know... because people are weird like that and need proof that the cheating husband is scum and didn't have plausible reasons to cheat on his wife... as if that makes sense.

So off to her old Gammy's cabin she goes to hide out... and in a way to also heal as she revels in how her marriage fell apart, how her life has been out of her control, and how she truly wants to live out the rest of her life.


Oh yes, then we have the romantic interest, Lefty Monroe, a.k.a. Francis Bernard Monroe. He's a crime novelist with a lot of titles under his name as well as an ex-police officer. He's renting the cabin next door to Lacey's grandmother's cabin for his own brand of peace and quiet while he writes his next big seller. He also doesn't give the best first impression when he automatically assumes that Lacey's appearance in the cabin next door is like every typical Romance novel story line. Basically, he's created a very imaginative scenario where she's a recent divorcee who (despite having done nothing to draw his attention) is caught in every possible cliched romantic plot to lure him into being the next Mr. Right in her life. Fortunately, she puts him in his place pretty quickly (even if she had to do it in her birthday suit after a skinny dip in wherein he thought she was trying to drown herself), and Monroe starts to grow on her (and the reader too, cause I stopped having problems with him after he became nicer).


And One Last Thing... was extremely enjoyable and very, very well written. There were a lot of incredibly humorous quips and random nonsensical dialogue that, in a round about way, managed to make sense and elicit a nice chuckle from me. Molly Harper gives Lacey a very relatable voice and a wide range of emotional and mental development that she gradually grows into as the story progresses. From a pampered modestly rich girl who was always coddled by her mother and her brother, to a naive housewife who learns that her husband is cheating on her... she concludes the book with style, learning to be more independent, less reliant on others, and finds her niche in life.

While her newsletter DID unnecessarily air out dirty family laundry to the public, she recognizes that it was a stupid move on her part caused by pent up anger. Of course, it was spontaneous and a clever form of revenge, if anything, so it's hard to be exasperated with her for it.


This book was very much a Lacey-centric novel that really touched lightly upon the romance. While it held a decently portrayed friendship-to-romance love story between Lacey and Monroe, it was more about Lacey's growth than anything. That's not to say that the relationship between her and Monroe wasn't sweet, adorable, and laden with hot chemistry--the development to love seemed a bit abrupt in light of what Lacey's going through, but we don't dwell on the romance long enough for it to matter. The two of them made a very good couple, if only because they truly seem naturally comfortable around each other. But romance wasn't the main basis of this story, and for that, I feel it worked out very well.


Character-wise, there were a lot of good side characters with colorful personalities, rich with potential: Emmett, Lacey's gay older brother who likes to get her drunk and then give her a makeover while she's too inebriated to notice anything; Sam Shackleton, Lacey's divorce attorney who looks like she's twelve, is a nicknamed "The Shark" for reasons, and slowly becomes a friend in Lacey's deteriorating world; Maya, CEO of a card company called "Season's Gratings" specializing in greeting cards that call out other people's undesired behavior in snarky, cleverly worded "Hallmark"-like quotes... and then some.


And one last thing...

I always seem to find little gems like these when I least expect to find them, so, once again, I'm extremely pleasantly, and giddily happy that I found this book so enjoyable. And very, very entertaining. While the story was written well and the characters great, there are, of course those few nagging things that fell slightly short. The conclusion, like the rest of the book, was quite inspiring, but it also felt like it fizzled into a conclusion rather than going out with a bang. Don't get me wrong, it was a good way to end the book, but it still felt like it was missing something.

Otherwise, And One Last Thing... is thus far one of the better Contemporaries I've read (probably because I read far less of these than I read other genres).


***

This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):



This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in February 2015.