Saturday, September 28, 2013


by Bronwen Hruska
Published by Pegasus
288 pages
Genre: literature
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
4.5 / 5

I am a public school kid all the way. Public elementary, junior high, high school, college, and graduate school. In-state tuition! Holla!!!

I even teach at a public school. So private school is something of a a foreign entity to me. I hear the stories of elitism, parents who buy their kids out of trouble and into swanky private universities, spoiled brats who aren't as smart as they think they are. But how much of that is clouded by public school jealousy over private school perks?

This novel doesn't so much address the discrepancy as it does pry off the lid of what makes private schools successful. For the students in ultra private (and expensive, at over $50,000 a year) Bradley, success comes by way of medication.

Sean somewhat reluctantly sends his third grade son Toby to the school. Not that Sean foots the bill; that joy falls to his wealthy in-laws, who regularly extol the virtues of being a Bradley grad. Sean and Toby live alone in their rent controlled New York apartment, Sean's wife Ellie having decamped in a fit of depression. When Bradley's administrators suggest - which is a kind way of putting it - that Toby get evaluated for possible medication to solve a phantom ADD problem, Sean resists. But there is a hint of a threat: if Toby doesn't get on Ritalin, he might be kicked out of Bradley.

There are several stories going on here, and all of them are interesting and fun to read. There is the medication thread, complete with $350 a session psychiatrists, and there is the maternal abandonment by Ellie. We also have Nicole, Sean's sister, whose child is ensconced in a New York public school. Nicole is adamant that private schools produce snobs, but would she put her daughter in one if she had the chance? Nicole's observations and sentiments help balance out the private versus public debate, as do those of Toby's tutor. There also is a romance brewing between Sean and another character.

You certainly know where Bronwen Hruska comes down on public v. private. She leaves no ambiguity whatsoever regarding her opinion, but by the time you finish the book, you will agree with her. Despite the clarity of her sentiments, she does try to show you both sides of the issue. She addresses the bonuses of private school and the risks of public.

Sean is as likable a character as I've encountered in a while. He's hapless at times, but he's a good father and a good man. That he delves into self-loathing is understandable, just as we understand his frustration with Bradley and with his ex-wife. We want his romance to work out for him because he's a decent man trying to do his best for his son.

This is a fun, interesting book. Enjoy.

(Never) Again

(Never) Again
by Theresa Paolo
Published by Penguin Group
209 pages
Genre: young adult
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3.5 / 5

We've all been there. That teenage first love, the one you obsess over during class and race to meet in the halls. The one who makes high school more bearable.

The one who breaks your heart.

The one who finds a way to show up, just as you have put yourself back together.

Liz is just that girl. She's a freshman in college, and she rejoices over having gotten over the loss of her first love. Zach left her, moving to a different state, and, worse, he stopped calling. Just like that. She has a new boyfriend, a best friend who is on her side, and a family who loves her. Who needs Zach?

Well, she gets the answer to that when he shows up on her college campus.

This is predictable YA lit, but fun predictable. Liz is a fairly faithful rendering of a college freshman who wants to think she has her life together, but who is only fooling herself. We know she's settling for the current boyfriend, and we know where her heart lies. But Zach crushed her, and surely he can't expect to show back up as if nothing happened, right?

Zach is more than a one dimensional YA love interest. He has his own struggles, although we never quite come to understand why he behaved as he did. His apparent dumping of Liz is only tacitly explained, and doesn't make much sense once we get to know him. Still, though, we do understand why he still cares for Liz, and we also understand his frustration.

The overwrought crisis that pulls the two together is almost comically hyperbolic, but by that point, you just want Liz to realize what the rest of us have known for 200 pages: she belongs with Zach, and he's there, waiting for her.

As an unrepentant lover of YA novels, I did enjoy this one. Yes, it's predictable, but it's fun. And Zach is super cute.

Leaving Haven

Leaving Haven
by Kathleen McCleary
Published by William Morrow
352 pages
Genre: women's fiction
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
5 / 5

Oh, faithful readers. I really liked this book, and I'm still a bit annoyed that it ended.

The titular Haven in question is a newborn infant whose parentage is somewhat convoluted. His forty-year-old gestational carrier is Georgia, who has a teenage daughter with her chef husband John. Georgia and John always wanted more children, but years of lost pregnancies and failed in vitro procedures left her ready to forsake another attempt. Ready, but not quite willing. When Georgia muses out loud to best friend Alice about getting a donor egg from Georgia's younger sister, Alice volunteers. She and her husband Duncan have a daughter the same age as Georgia and John's, and the two women are best friends. Why not donate an egg?

If only it were that simple.

Just a couple of months before giving birth, Georgia discovers catastrophic news that careens her marriage, her friendship, and potentially her pregnancy into an abyss of agony and uncertainty.

Told from the perspectives of both Georgia and Alice, we get to know the two women and their families. We empathize with Georgia's lost pregnancies and her frustration and grief over not getting pregnant a second time. We hurt with her, just as we both adore and are vexed by her two sisters. We feel her love and passion for her husband, even if he may not be all that he appears. When Georgia suspects him of being unfaithful with a cook at his restaurant, we hold our breath, hoping it isn't true. Georgia deserves better than a husband who is not fully devoted to her.

Alice, too, has a husband whom we suspect is not as good as she deserves. Duncan is focused on his job, almost to the exclusivity of his family. He is a creature of habit, steady and predictable. After a decade and a half of marriage, we feel Alice's restlessness, even if she is desperate to create the stability she lacked as a child. Duncan is a good man, but he's boring. And he lacks passionate interest in his wife. We don't suspect his fidelity to her, but there are different sorts of fidelity, aren't there? Is emotional infidelity any better than sexual?

When the breach occurs between Alice and Georgia, Kathleen McCleary expertly steers us down the middle. She does not choose side and she demands that we do not either. Each woman has a reason for her actions, and rather than align ourselves with one over the other, we instead should hope that they reclaim their friendship. Even more than their marriages, their relationship with each other is the true emotional source for this novel. One of my favorite passages is when Georgia acknowledges that the loss of her friendship with Alice hurts more than any failings in her marriage.

At first, though, I thought the ending of the book pointed to McCleary picking a side. But after I thought about it, I realized that she really didn't. She ended it as it needs to end, even though I wasn't ready to say goodbye to the characters.

There are moments of humor sprinkled throughout, which is excellent planning by McCleary. Things get emotionally fraught, so having those light-hearted episodes grounds us in how real this situation is. Even Georgia's sisters, who could have been stock characters, are realistically drawn. We understand their jealousies and sympathies.

Is this a perfect book? No. Some of the character motivations do not ring true, and one of the husbands is so mysterious that his behavior is unaccounted for. That made me  question him more, which is not the direction the story should take. Our attention must be focused squarely on Georgia and Alice. One of the subplots, involving Georgia and Alice's daughters, is meant to parallel their mothers' relationship, replete with betrayals and emotional pain. The denouement of their relationship makes us wonder if the same will happen between Georgia and Alice.

Read this one, then come back and discuss it with me in the comments. Did you take a side? Whose?

The Accidental Call Girl

The Accidental Call Girl
by Portia Da Costa
Published by Virgin Digital
320 pages
Genre: erotica
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5

Say you're in a hotel bar one night, trying to relax a little and perhaps escape a dull party. An attractive man spots you, buys you a drink, and then invites you up to his room. Before you can assume it's a generic pick-up, he mentions payment. You realize that he thinks you are an escort. What do you do?

Lizzie decides to toss aside her otherwise fairly staid and predictable life and head upstairs with the delectably gorgeous John Smith. She figures a night of hot headboard rocking sounds pretty darn fabulous, so off they go. John reveals that he occasionally enjoys spicing up his sexy times with a little spanky panky, and Lizzie is amenable. When he suggests hiring her again, she agrees, fully intending to let him in on the truth about her not really being an escort.

For his part, John is drawn to Lizzie. He suspects she is new to the escorting business, but her lack of experience turns him on even more. And when John Smith is turned on, sexy times ensue. These two don't just rock the headboard, they rock a bathroom stall. Amongst other locales.

Don't go looking for a lot of substance here. This book is what it is, and that's hot. HOT, I tell you. John and Lizzie know how to enjoy the carnality out of each other, and Portia Da Costa can write some hot headboard rocking, let me tell you.

This is the first in a series, and if the rest of them are this steamy, consider me sold.


by Jennifer duBois
Published by Random House
384 pages
Genre: fiction, mystery
Thanks to NetGalley and edelweiss for the preview
4.5 / 5

Earlier this year, I read and loved (LOVED, I tell you) Dangerous Girls, which was sort of a mashup between the Amanda Knox and Natalee Holloway stories. Now comes Cartwheel, which so clearly takes inspiration from Amanda Knox's murder trial that the author wrote a disclaimer at the start of the novel.

After five weeks studying abroad in Argentina, Lily Hayes is quite certain that she and roommate Katy Kellers will never be besties. She's also certain that her host family hates her. What she isn't so sure about is how she feels about mysterious neighbor Sebastien Le Comte, whom she's dating and kind of likes, but whose eccentricities are more than she cares to withstand.

Another thing she knows is that she did not murder Katy Kellers.

Lily's family is also certain that she is not the murderer, as is Sebastien. The prosecutor, however, is very, very certain that she did.

Told from the perspectives of Lily, her professor father Andrew, her younger sister, Sebastien, and the prosecutor, Jennifer duBois expertly crafts a story that keeps us wondering if Lily might just be the killer. Her behavior is certainly Knoxian; she does a cartwheel shortly after discovering Katy's body, and she and Sebastien are seen on security footage purchasing condoms. Is that how a bereaved roommate would act? Lily herself is almost preternaturally unlikable. She is selfish, self-centered, flaky, and not nearly as intelligent as she thinks she is. She doesn't like Katy because the girl has perfect teeth and is "boring." She pursues Sebastien, albeit not terribly aggressively, but doesn't really care for him. But she is lost and fragile, and you find yourself reluctantly - VERY reluctantly - hoping she is innocent.

The likability factor of the characters in this book is fairly dim. Andrew wants to believe in his daughter, yet he doesn't seem to know how to parent her. He spares no times for younger daughter Anna and doesn't appear terribly guilty over it, and his relationship with his ex-wife is as seamless as he can make it. Anna seeks solace in running, the metaphor for which is plain. She wants to escape her family and her jailbird older sister, about whom her feelings are ambivalent at best. Anna would like to see Lily freed, even if she believes Lily has it in her to kill someone. Prosecutor Eduardo thinks himself an upright, ethical man, yet he relies too heavily on his instincts and too lightly on facts. He wants Lily found guilty, and when another character does not believe her to be so, Eduardo does not care. He thinks Lily did it, so it must be true.

Then there is Sebastien. I think we're supposed to pity him, an immensely wealthy orphan of two international assassins. (For reals.) But he's so weird and odd that we can't empathize with him. He rarely leaves his home, and when he develops feelings for one of the American students next door to him, we feel tremendous discomfort at watching him try to woo her. He does not think Lily is a murderer, and in his own awkward way he tries to help her. But his quirks are too extreme.

The thing is, this book is good. I hated having to put it down, and even if I didn't like the characters, I didn't want to stop reading about them. The ending comes in a rush, and that, in fact, is the only complaint I have. I couldn't figure out why duBois suddenly races through the conclusion after having unfolded her story with steady, sold pacing.

Read it. It's good storytelling.


by Noelle Adams
Published by Amazon Digital
194 pages
Genre: erotica
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5

Sometimes you just want to have sex.

Hot, steamy, satisfying, rock that headboard into next week sex. No strings, no commitments. Just rock the headboard right through the wall.

Such is the case with Lynn and Nathan, two Washington, DC, denizens who meet every three months to scratch their collective itches. It's great. They enjoy satisfying each others' needs, and the fact that they enjoy an occasional chat or two makes it all the better.

But sometimes you want more than just sex. So what happens then?

In Lynn and Nathan's case, what happens is confusing and discombobulating.

Nathan has a daughter in college who ran away, so to say he is preoccupied with that is to minimize his pain and discomfort. He needs his time with Lynn, not just as a sexual release but for a few hours to forget his personal pain. While Lynn's life is less dramatic, she is just as uncertain and confused as Nathan. She senses she is developing stronger feelings for him than merely sexual, and that thought fills her with fear and dismay.

The sexy times are hot. These two know how to please each other and know what each other want and need. Sometimes several times a night ... wink wink. When their need for each other goes beyond once every three months, they need to figure out why. What is it that they truly want from each other?

The subplot with Nathan's daughter is predictable, but as a vehicle for progressing Nathan and Lynn's relationship, it works.

I enjoyed this book. If you are in the mood for some steamy headboard rockin' and likable characters, you will too.

A Little Too Far

A Little Too Far
by Lisa Desrochers
Published by William Morrow
336 pages
Genre: romance; New Adult
Thanks to edleweiss for the preview
3.5 / 5

Have you ever read a book that doesn't quite know what it wants to be? Perhaps you've read a Hot Romance Novel that attempts to address an issue. Abuse, hubris, societal prejudice. And it does neither very well. Or perhaps you've read a book that addresses one of those issues but decides to throw in some slapstick comedy. You're left trying to figure out what you just read.

That, to some degree, is the problem with this book.

Oh, it's fun, and the sexy times are very hot. But right when it finds its groove, it veers off into another type of book.

The basic plot entails Lexie Banks, an intelligent and gorgeous college co-ed, jetting off to attend a year of college in Italy within hours of rocking the headboard with her irresistible stepbrother, who also happens to be her best friend and confidante. Lexie struggles with guilt. Well, she struggles to a degree. How can she truly regret the vigorous and glorious session of headboard rocking when she would really like to do it again?

Trying to help her understand her conflicting emotions is priest-in-training Alessandro, every bit as irresistible as Lexie's stepbrother.

And here is where Lisa Desrochers seems to lose the script she started out with. There are chuckle-out-loud comedic moments involving Lexie making a confession, and then there are the question-your-calling moments with Alessandro. Lexie being the super swell girl she is appears designated as Alessandro's mother confessor of sorts, and that navel gazing bogs down the story.

The good news is that the storyline with Lexie and her stepbrother is quite well done. We empathize with the two of them and the mess that their emotions cause. They are siblings, but not really siblings. They are best friends and soul mates, yet they also share parents. They love each other, as siblings and lovers. Desrochers presents these complications truthfully and unflinchingly, respecting her characters and asking that we do as well.

Unfortunately, however, there is the secondary storyline. I liked that Alessandro questioned his clerical path; Desrochers unfolded his questioning in a natural, almost organic way. I suppose it is intended as a parallel storyline, with a character second-guessing something he's always assumed to be true. Much like Lexie questioning the platonic nature of her relationship with her stepbrother, Alessandro questions his with the priesthood. But then we wind up in a sort of comedic no man's land, with Lexie bumbling through Rome like a Keystone Cop.

Despite the occasional veering away, though, this is a fun book to read. Lexie is annoying and frustrating, but we like her. We want her to figure out her feelings and find peace in her life.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My Own Mr. Darcy Blog Tour

My Own Tour

mr darcy  My Own Mr. Darcy After being dragged to the 2005 movie Pride and Prejudice by her mother, sixteen-year-old Elizabeth’s life changes when Matthew Macfadyen’s Mr. Darcy appears on the screen. Lizzie falls hard and makes a promise to herself that she will settle for nothing less than her own Mr. Darcy. This ill-advised pledge threatens to ruin any chance of finding true love. During the six intervening years, she has refused to give any interested suitors a chance. They weren’t Mr. Darcy enough. Coerced by her roommate, Elizabeth agrees to give the next interested guy ten dates before she dumps him. That guy is Chad, a kind and thoughtful science teacher and swim coach. While she’s dating Chad, her dream comes true in the form of a wealthy bookstore owner named Matt Dawson, who looks and acts like her Mr. Darcy. Of course she has to follow her dream. But as Elizabeth simultaneously dates a regular guy and the dazzling Mr. Dawson, she’s forced to re-evaluate what it was she loved about Mr. Darcy in the first place.


I am an unrepentant lover of all things Jane Austen, with special emphasis on all things Mr. Darcy. Unlike the Elizabeth of this book, however, my preference lies nearly completely with Colin Firth's Darcy, although I wouldn't necessarily turn down Macfadyen's.

This is what I'd call a Cute Romance Novel, emphasis on cute. Lizzie is utterly adorable, largely because she trenchantly is who she is. She will not change or adjust for anyone, not even if it's to her benefit to do so. She believes she will meet and marry a Macfadyen-like Darcy, and she will not be deterred.

We all know that Chip is perfect for her. We also know that Mr. Dawson is not, although to Karey White's credit, she crafts both men with pluses and minuses. At some points in the book, we even find ourselves sort of hoping that Mr. Dawson becomes Lizzie's Mr. Darcy. Still, though, like Lizzie, we are torn. Chip is a good guy; he's devoted and kind and loyal and a heck of a kisser. Dawson, meanwhile, shows us that underneath his imperious exterior, he's a man hoping to connect with a woman. He occasionally lets us see the cracks in his facade, that there is a warm, loving, lovable man in there somewhere.

As Lizzie struggles with her heart, she also has to battle a Miss Bingley-esque character, although thank goodness there are no Wickhams. In fact, it could be argued that Lizzie's determination to have her Darcy is the Wickham in this book.

If you enjoy sweet, cute romances, you will love this one. You'll love it even more if you're a Darcy girl.


karey Author Karey White Karey White grew up in Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Missouri. She attended Ricks College and Brigham Young University. Her first novel, Gifted, was a Whitney Award Finalist. She loves to travel, read, bake treats, and spend time with family and friends. She and her husband are the parents of four great children. She teaches summer creative writing courses to young people and is currently working on her next book.  
  Tour Giveaway $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 10/8/13 a Rafflecopter giveaway Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013


by Tracey Garvis Graves
Published by Penguin Group / Dutton Adult
326 pages
Genre: women's literature
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5

When I read On the Island, I fell in love with the way Tracy Garvis Graves writes. So I have been waiting to read her next endeavor, hoping that she would not suffer a sophomore slump.

Crisis averted.

While Covet may not have the depth and emotional appeal of On the Island, it nonetheless is an interesting, engrossing read.

It cannot be easy to write about the economy, if for no other reason than "economic downtown" and "riveting reading" seem somewhat like an oxymoron. But Graves does just that. Chris Canton lost his job over a year ago, and it took him twelve months to find a new one. During that time, his marriage to Claire suffered, despite their love for each other and the love they share for their children. Chris did what husbands do: he retreated, his focus solely on getting a job. Claire, meanwhile, was expected to maintain the family and the marriage, all by herself.

When we meet them, Chris has been with his new job for several months. It requires near constant travel from him, which leaves Claire not just emotionally alone but physically as well. When she is pulled over for a busted tail light and has an immediate attraction to the hot cop about to ticket her, we sympathize. She receives no affection from her husband, so of course she is wanting.

As Claire's friendship with Daniel Rush, the hot cop, takes off, her marriage remains stagnant. We know Chris loves her and misses her, and we know that he wants to reestablish their marriage, but he has no idea how lonely she is. Daniel, for his part, is viscerally attracted to Claire. Not only does she resemble his ex-wife, she also is interesting and comforting. He likes her, and she begins to like him. But Claire can't have both men. At some point, she will need to choose.

Graves peppers her story with minor characters whose lives are as fractured as Chris and Claire's. Two sets of neighbors are threatened by addiction, and a third struggles with infertility. When you are under assault by a fragile economy, you seek control and comfort over something, whether booze or pregnancy or a new friendship.

One of the better things Graves accomplishes here is that she makes us sympathize with Claire, Chris, and Daniel. We find ourselves wishing that all three will be happy, even that Claire will find a way to be with both. Daniel is a good guy; he gives Claire what she needs at a time when she is desperate to have it. He behaves with dignity and class. Chris, too, is a good man. His heartbreak over being away from his family is real and evident, even if he mistakenly attempts to shoulder more of the stress than he should. As for Claire, we do not want her to lead Daniel on, nor do we want her to be unfaithful to Chris. That Graves could so wonderfully craft characters that leave us trapped in this paradox is admirable.

For all of that, though, there are issues. The friends are somewhat too cookie cutter-ish, and for all of the time we spend with them, we need more from them. The ending is a bit too neat, although I am grateful to not be left frustrated.

Read, enjoy, and revel in Tracy Garvis Graves' ability to write a good story.

The Reunion

The Reunion
by Amy Silver
Published by Random House U.K. / Cornerstone
Genre: literature
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
5 / 5

There is nothing about this book that I did not love.

Well, that's not entirely true. A couple of the characters do things that I don't like all that much, but I understand why they act as they do. Yes, I wish they didn't, although the "why" behind their actions makes sense.

I loved this book. Loved, loved, loved.

The premise is not unfamiliar: one character gathers a group of friends to say farewell. In this case, the gatherer is Jen, who is selling what she and her friends call the French house. It was the scene of some of their happier moments together, yet returning there is bittersweet. Jen's boyfriend and fellow member of the tribe of friends, Conor, is dead, and we quickly discover that the events surrounding his death remain somewhat mysterious. All of the friends were there when it happened, and one of them is directly responsible.

Returning to the French house are Lilah, the broken member of the group who also brings her boyfriend Zac; Andrew and Natalie, a couple whose marriage appears to be splintering, and Dan, Conor's best friend. As the story unfolds, we learn that there are different connecting relationships between these people; some are still in love with others, while some no longer love others. We see the events through each of their perspectives, as each reveals not only how they feel about the others but also their roles in Conor's death. At various times, we may favor one character over another, our sympathies sliding from one to the next. That we never fully side with one is a sign of how well this book is written.

The mystery surrounding Conor's death is answered in its own time, much like Jen and her friends' grief must unfold and heal in its. Each must come to terms with Conor's death and how it has affected their lives. In some cases, those effects may not even be realized until the French house weaves its magic. These are flawed people, and those flaws are what make us care about them. When Jen spots blood on the stone steps before her friends arrive, it is symbolic of what will happen between them all while they are there, both in terms of pain and kinship.

This book will cast a spell on you, and you will not be able to put it down. It is absolutely lovely.

All He Wants

All He Wants (Book One of the All or Nothing Trilogy)
by C. C. Gibbs
Published by Forever / Hachette Book Group
376 pages
Genre: erotica
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4.5 / 5

First of all, don't buy into any comparisons between this book and those Fifty Shades creatures. It's better written, with far more entertaining characters. Okay, yes, I like Christian Grey, bless his tortured soul. But are those books well written? Seriously? Let me bite my lip, roll my eyes, and consult my inner goddess while I ponder that.

This is the first of a three-part series (for those of you in the UK, books one and two have been published under different names - Knight's Mistress and Knight's Game), and I cannot wait for the second one. Like, for reals. Please, CC Gibbs. Help a sister out.

Here is why I liked this book soooo much: the dialogue.

Yes, I know. I'm not one to choose dialogue over hot headboard rockin' (and let me assure you, there is some hot headboard rockin' going on here), but the dialogue hooked me in and kept me turning the pages. Interesting dialogue comes from interesting characters, and both are indicative of interesting writing.

The basic storyline features Dominic Knight, a self-made billionaire whose company is under some sort of cyber sabotage. His right-hand man hires Kate Hart, fresh from college, to suss out the malefactor. Dominic immediately is drawn to her, even if he can't quite figure out why. For her part, Kate is attracted to him, but the stories of his professional and personal acquisitions leaves her quite wary. The fact that his adored wife died suddenly several years earlier only increases Kate's resistance. She refuses to allow Dominic's company to hire her, but she does agree to work for him on a project. Or two or three ...

Work turns to romance when Dominic asks Kate to stay with him in Hong Kong for one week. He's convinced he can change her mind about working for his company, and she is convinced she can say no. And here is where the hot sexy times come in. Strap on your vibrators, girls, because those scenes are deliciously written. Dominic is turned on by dominating (GET IT? DOMinic? DOMinate?), but Kate is reluctant to submit. In fact, those scenes are fairly tame compared to what you read in Sylvia Day's Crossfire series. The vanilla scenes actually are more explicit.

But the dialogue. Oh, kids, the dialogue. Dominic and Kate actually talk to each other. They verbally spar, as each tries to understand what makes the other tick. They bait each other, refute each other, and challenge each other. Their conversations are a lot of fun to read, and because they are so conversationally compatible, it only heightens those scenes in which they rock the headboard.

I liked this book a whole lot. And like I said, let's hurry along the next one, CC Gibbs.

Off topic: what the hell, Blogger?

So I'm one of the hosts for the Wait for You blog tour. I wrote up my review last week and scheduled it to get posted this morning at midnight.

Do you think Blogger posted it? Do you think that calendar scheduler thingy did its job?

NO, it did not.

I am not amused.

Review and Blog Tour: Wait for You

 Wait for You
by J. Lynn
Published by William Morrow
384 pages
Genre: Young Adult
Thanks to TLC Tours for the preview
 4 / 5

At the risk of repeating myself, yet again, I enjoy YA lit. And NA lit too, for that matter. I think both get a bad rap and that people tend to assume all YA books are Twilight all over again. We fans know how mistaken they are.

That isn't to say that YA and NA are bereft of crap; like all of literature, there is garbage out there. Poorly written, dull, uninspiring.

And then you get something like Wait for You, and you realize that all of your YA/NA praise is spot on.

I enjoyed this book so much.

The story is fairly basic: Avery has escaped her stifling, rumor-ridden Texas hometown and decamped to college in a small West Virginia town. Out of sight does not necessarily lead to out of mind, however; Avery may be attempting to run away from a catastrophic incident in her past, but she won't get very far. Before too long, she begins receiving - actually, she continues to receive, as she has been getting them for some time - threatening emails and phone calls.

Like a lot of college kids, Avery reacts by hoping she can ignore the potential danger. One very hot distraction lives right across the hall: Cam Hamilton. Even the name sounds like College Stud material, doesn't it? And Cam surely is. He is drawn to Avery, perhaps because she's the first person to dismiss and reject him. The two dance around each other, although we readers know that there is no real mystery here. Cam and Avery belong together. They even share having survived past traumas, albeit in quite different ways. As Avery begins to open herself up to Cam, though, she first needs to face what happened to her in Texas.

The characters are lovingly drawn. Avery is someone we feel we know. She makes foolish mistakes, she suffers from that sort of collegiate sense of superiority, and she is awkward and insecure. She understands herself enough to recognize when she is irrationally jealous, just as she knows when she behaves childishly. But we forgive her, and we continue to side with her, because we empathize with her. She went through something terrible, she survived, and she is desperate to regain control over her life.

Cam, too, is real to us. He's gorgeous and popular and everyone loves him, but he's also sad and somewhat tortured. He sees something in Avery, something that pulls him to her. He knows how to translate her and make sense of her. He knows she's worth the frustration ... to a point, anyway. And when that point comes, he reacts in a way we accept and support.

If the secondary characters are not as fully developed, that's okay, and it does not diminish how enjoyable the novel is. Avery's parents are straight out of Central Casting for Distant and Removed, and her friends could show up in any novel we read. Avery and Cam, though, are rich and fully realized. Their story keeps us reading and engages us.

You should know that some hot headboard rockin' goes on in this book. While not wildly explicit, sex dos occur. If it weren't for the sexy times, this would be classic YA. But those scenes - which are pretty hot, I've got to tell you - make it more NA.

For more information about J. Lynn, check out her website, Facebook page, and Twitter. Better yet, pick up a copy of this book. You will not be disappointed. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

This is W.A.R.

This is W.A.R.
by Lisa Roecker and Laura Roecker
Published by Soho Press
289 pages
Genre: young adult
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5

When Willa Ames-Rowan (the W.A.R. in question) dies in Hawthorne Lake and James Gregory survives, albeit soaked, Willa's friends and fellow townspeople arrive at one conclusion: James killed her.

Four of Willa's friends band together to declare war on the Gregory family and determine to seek justice for Willa. It isn't so much that James and his twin brother Trip act entitled, it's that they are entitled, and the town allows it. Their grandfather, Captain, controls everything, but the girls are undeterred. James and his family will pay, and that's all there is to it.

Except, of course, nothing is all that simple.

Each of the girls harbors her own reason for being a part of the war tribunal, and each feels she bears some of the guilt for Willa's death. As we learn their stories, we also learn what they were up to the night Willa died. The one head we don't get into is James's, but it isn't really necessary. We learn about him through others and through what we see and hear him do.

While there is a mystery surrounding Willa's death, the particulars of it soon are apparent. That's not why we enjoy this book, though. We like it because it's well written, the characters are interesting, and we want to know if justice actually happens.

More than simply a YA story, this is also a look at class consciousness. Most of the action takes place at the Club, where you're either in or you want to be. The help factors so little in the lives of the members that they don't bother to edit themselves when maids or bus boys are nearby. Some of the little people exact their own brand of revenge. (One of the workers is underwritten, which is unfortunate; her perspective would have been interesting.) Even the haves can't have enough, which renders quite a few of them rabidly jealous of the Gregorys.

This is also the story of a friendship between four very different teenage girls. There is distrust between them, but at the same time, they are on each other's sides. I liked that aspect quite a bit and appreciated that the writers didn't go for cookie cutter characters.

An enjoyable, fast-paced read.

Love Struck

Love Struck
by Chantel Guertin
280 pages
Genre: chick lit
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5

On the day that Poppy Ross discovers that her husband Parker is having an affair, she is informed that she must get to the hospital: Parker has been struck by lightning. The good news? He has no memory of the previous three months. Those three months include the time he spent in his affair.

So Poppy is on the horns of a dilemma: tell Parker what she knows, resolve to forgive and forget and renew her attentions to her marriage, or try to make over herself into the image of Parker's side piece.

Poppy of course chooses Door Number Three.

And here is where she becomes a somewhat unlikable character. Her decisions are so half-assed that you find yourself getting angry with her. When we're supposed to be on her side, we actually begin to think she's nuts and not worth our time.

Yet if she fessed up and bared her sins to Parker, she risks sending him back to his other woman. That motivation we can understand. She loves him, as she tells us several times. We may not see much evidence of it - she seems to spurn his attentions at nearly every opportunity - but she says she does, and we have to believe her.

I wasn't always sure what book Chantel Guertin was writing here. I had the same problem with her previous novel, Stuck in Downward Dog, which I did not enjoy at all. Is this a romance? A comedy? A searing examination of what women will do when they are desperate to keep a man?

The problem is that the book reads as all the above, never quite certain which it wants to be. Poppy is entertaining, if not completely enjoyable. Parker comes across as somewhat daft, but I liked him. Half the time I couldn't blame him for seeking out the companionship of another woman. In fact, Poppy herself acknowledges the cracks in her marriage, yet she does absolutely nothing to rectify them. If anything, she continues to perpetuate them.

Despite all of that, the book is not terrible (unlike Stuck in Downward Dog). You find yourself invested in the characters, somewhat against your will, and you want them to be okay. Happy and okay.

But with a premise like this one has, the book could have been much better.

Stuck in Downward Dog

Stuck in Downward Dog
by Chantel Guertin
Published by ECW Press / Key Porter Books
272 pages
Genre: chick lit (I guess)
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
1 / 5

I wasn't sure whether to post this review or not, because I do respect writers and am aware that it is tremendously challenging to write a novel.

But sometimes, kids, books just aren't that good.

Mara just got dumped by her boyfriend, has a job she hates, friends she doesn't particularly seem to enjoy all that much, and a life that is in a deep, deep rut. Thank goodness for yoga, which is the only positive thing she has going on.

And there you have it: the sum total of this novel.

Sure, there is some social commentary about plastic surgery and cosmetics. And social climbing. And societal notions about what women should be doing with their lives. But as far as a real story is concerned? I couldn't find one. It's more of a stringing together of events than anything else.

Oh, and romance? There is NONE. Not even the hint of one. The ex-boyfriend? Mara doesn't seem too bummed that he's out of the picture. In fact, her lack of reaction beyond the surface leads us to believe that she never cared all that much for him in the first place.

Her so-called friends are horrific. One gets married and fails to ask Mara to be a part of the festivities, and the other is shallow and critical. Between them and the boyfriend, you wonder if Mara is a poor judge of character. Or, worse, if she draws all this negativity toward her.

The only reason I finished this thing was because I was convinced it would get better.

I was wrong.

Adam's Boys

Adam's Boys
by Anna Clifton
Published by Harlequin Australia
157 pages
Genre: romance; chick lit
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
2.5 / 5

Okay, so. This book. It's cute, it's entertaining, it's sweet. But it's missing something, perhaps a couple of somethings.

Abbie and Adam had a three-week fling four years ago, fresh on the heels of the death from cancer of Adam's beloved wife. Adam credits his time with Abbie for giving him the emotional strength he needed to return home to England from Australia and be a father to his new son.

But now, four years later, it appears that Adam has more than one son. When Adam and his older boy return to Australia, he is in for a bit of a shocker: Abbie is his baby mama, and they share a son.

This being a romance novel, you know that nothing will be resolved quickly. Our happy couple has to deal with Issues in their lives, both involving their respective families. And that's not all. Adam is irked that Abbie kept his second son a secret, and Abbie is hurt that Adam didn't return to her as he promised.

So with all of this drama, why isn't there more tension? It's as if the outcome is a given from the first page, and all the words in between are just words.

That isn't to say that this is not a sweet little book. It is. Abbie and Adam are enjoyable - Adam more so, because Abbie does some dumb stuff - and the little boys are adorable. Perhaps it's the slim length of the story; maybe that's why it feels so slight. I'm not sure. But just when the conflict and drama would start to get interesting, it would get resolved.

And don't go looking for hot sexy times, because there is not one bit to be found. None. Nada.

Maybe that's the problem? Maybe what heat is lacking in the story could have been made up for with some headboard rockin'?

This is a good choice for those of you who prefer your romance chaste, clean, and nice.

Plus One is a Lucky Number

Plus One is a Lucky Number
by Teresa F. Morgan
Published by HarperCollins U.K., Harper Impulse
Genre: romance; chick lit
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3.5./ 5

Weddings bring out the best or worst in people. There really is no in between. You either are impressed by someone or completely turned off.

Even more insufferable are those occasions when you are a guest at a wedding - a solo guest. You know that "plus one" on the invitation? Isn't it far more comforting and satisfying to pen in the name of your plus one than it is to leave it blank?

Sophie agrees. When invited to her cousin's wedding, Sophie dreads returning home single, without a plus one. So she checks the box and hopes for the best. With just a few days to go, however, Sophie realizes she either needs a miracle or needs to not show up.

Fortunately, the former obliges in the comely form of Adam, a coworker who also happens to be quite the heartbreaker.

Adam agrees to accompany Sophie not out of any great kinship or kindness but rather because he's guilted into it by a mutual friend of theirs. He hardly knows Sophie, and even though it turns out that the low key look she sports at work does not reflect the gorgeous woman she is, Adam nonetheless is a little nervous. The more time he spends with her, the more he likes her. The same goes for Sophie, who's heard the rumors about Adam. But he's nice to her, he plays the game in front of her friends and family, and on those occasions he "has" to kiss her? Those are quite, quite nice.

Adam and Sophie are far more alike than they would care to admit. Both of them are focused on work, both move about life avoiding romantic entanglements, and both protect their hearts. Which means they clearly are made for each other.

You can tell that this is one of those Cute Romance Novels, can't you? It's all cute, from Sophie to Adam to their families and friends. They're both so darn likable that you almost need an insulin shot. In fact, that's perhaps my biggest complaint: I needed a little something to cut the sugar, and by "a little something," I mean a hot sex scene.

For a while there, it looks like you're going to get one. Or more. But just as the action heats up, there is either coitus interruptus or the curtain comes down.

Still, for all its predictability and cuteness overload, it's a fun, quick read.

Just don't expect anything hot.