Category Archives: Contemporary

3 Reasons I fell in Love with Anna and the French Kiss Series

So it’s official, I went and fell in love with the Anna and the French Kiss series within approximately 5 hours, after finally (months behind everyone else) jumping on the bandwagon to read. My hands were literally glued to Anna and the French Kiss, which I kept promising myself “one more chapter before bed” and ultimately forgoing sleep to consume the whole book. I read the first two books within the space of a day, and then decided I needed to draw myself away and lasted all of around a week, before succumbing to the calling of Isla and the Happily Ever After. (Oh, and mentally slap myself every time I read Isla phonetically rather than Ey-la – I have problems with saying that name as much as I love it!).

Love-Potion

By the point I reached the end of Isla, this was me; entirely star struck. What on earth had I just undertaken, reading contemporary, fluffy young-adult literature, finding genuine meaning, love, friendship and just all around elation?

So here begins my list of reasons to love the series, rather than composing a review for a set of books most of you have probably read/heard about, and you are honest to god bored of reading another mundane review.

1. THE CHARACTERS

I would literally compare how I feel about all the main characters: Anna, St. Clair, Cricket, Lola, Josh and Isla to how I feel (very nearly) about the Harry Potter characters. They are not perfect, they do have issues and they may not honestly be everyone’s cup-of-tea, however I found them quirky, relatable, fun and most of all likeable. Stephanie Perkins makes real effort to flesh out her characters, give them all backstories and connect them all in different ways, despite the fact that many of them end up living in different cities. Beyond these 6 main stars, she also brings in a plethora of secondary characters to support each individual, add more dimension to their character and make you understand them a little more.

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Just sayin’, six awesome characters here, six awesome characters there..

I can literally probably talk your ear of for a good hour about these characters, but I am going to pick one as my favourite. I have to say it has to be Isla, there was just so many times when I connected with her and understood her.

“Because I thought no one could love me.”

“And why did you think that?”

“Because I didn’t think I was worth loving.”

Hattie takes this in. And then she hits me in the stomach. I yowl in surprise, and she hits me again. “Don’t be stupid.”

Ow.”

“Everyone is worthy of love. Even a dumb sister like you.”  – Isla and the Happily Ever After

YEAH SHE MAY BE A BIT OF A DORKY, INSECURE IDIOT AND YOU WANT TO SLAP HER HERE, but that is okay, I did too and I am EXACTLY the same kind of person. Like seriously, Isla and her nerves (okay, I’m not nearly as bad, but sometimes I do stupid things and make situations awkward). Her doubt of herself, her continual pushing that things are not good enough (school nerd here), and just generally everything about her. Also her inability to handle painkillers – totally me.

“Oh, shit.” I tuck up a leg and smack my kneecap on the table. “Am I acting that loopy?” – Isla and the Happily Ever After

There were so many aspects that I loved, but the part that made me applaud Perkins more was that she made Isla realise who she was without Josh. SHE DID NOT NEED A BOY TO FIND HERSELF. WOOOO FOR FEMINISM. YES. GIRL YOU CAN DO WHAT YOU WANT, GET WHAT YOU WANT AND THEN STILL FIND THE BOY LATER.

Anybody gathering that Isla and the Happily Ever After got five stars from me on Goodreads yet? Winking smile

“The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.”

And I realise…it’s okay. It’s okay if St. Clair and I never become more than friends. – Anna and the French Kiss

Although Isla is not the only book that Perkins does this in, she started it at the very beginning with Anna. SELF-REALISATION FOR THE WIN!

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2. THE SETTING

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“looks like a fantasyland castle – wet sand dripped through fingers, both sharp and soft. Bright construction lights are everywhere, and workers are tinkering around its massive spires in dangerously tall cranes.” – Isla and the Happily Ever After

I mean, I literally visited Barcelona this summer, I saw the amazing Gaudi’s church. (My beautiful photography *laughs* – it’s just so tall and I’m so small, there is undoubtedly neck cramp here. Yes it’s also the background of my blog!). THIS IS WHERE ISLA AND JOSH WERE. I mean, I literally love the fact that I was there, and so were they (I do remember they’re fictional, okay). Barcelona has to be one of my favourite European cities, it is just so beautiful. I think this has to also be why I connected to Isla and the Happily Ever After so much more.

We’re splashing towards the heart of Barcelona. Red- and yellow- striped flags – some with the blue triangle and star of independence, some without – hang everywhere from apartment balconies, soaked with storm. The city’s appearance is distinctly Western European, but it’s also filled with colourful architecture and steep hills. Palm trees and leafy trees. Purple vines and red flowers. – Isla and the Happily Ever After

Not to mention Paris, I love Paris. It has been a long time since I visited, but I have plans to go back next year and the majority of the setting was in Paris. It is such a beautiful, romantic city. Just downright being set in Europe won me over from the start because most YA contemporary teen fiction is set in America, and I don’t mind, but occasionally, I want something different, something European.

3. THE ROMANCE

Oh, Etienne St. Clair where are you? Oh, Cricket, the boy next door and Josh the troublesome artist.

I definitely have to say I found it hard to pick between love interests. As much as I loved Isla and the Happily Ever After, I do not think Josh was my favourite love interest. And whilst I think I loved Lola and the Boy Next Door the least out of them all, I do think Cricket was my love, the nerdy boy next door who cared about Lola and only wanted the best. There was just something so geeky and loveable about him.

I know you aren’t perfect. But it’s a person’s imperfections that make them perfect for someone else.Lola and the Boy Next Door.

I mean – weeping – somebody come sweep me off that feet with such a line? Perkins just seemed to make it so effortless when she sweeps you off your feet with her beautiful way with words, and carefully crafted romantic proposals.

Perkins does not just craft an easy boy + girl = fall in love and happily ever after. She brings in the fact that people fall in love with people in a relationship and are afraid to leave them when it doesn’t work, but why? She talks about how we might be too afraid to step from our comfort zone. How we might appear to others, but is that truly us? I think despite the fact that this is contemporary romance and at times, fluffy, there are real issues that she tries to deal with subtlety and with love and attention that makes reading these books such a beautiful experience.

“Mademoiselle Oliphant. It translates to ‘Point zero of the roads of France’. In other words, it’s the point from which all other distances in France are measured.” St. Clair clears his throat. “Its the beginning of everything.”

I look back up. He’s smiling.

“Welcome to Paris, Anna. I am glad you’ve come.” – Anna and the French Kiss

There are just far too many quotes to take from all these books (I realise I have taken probably lots from Isla in comparison to Anna and Lola, but there was just something magical about that book for me. 

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How could I resist the charms of these three guys?

Okay, I will admit this series is not perfect and it seriously has its imperfections, but there is just so much to love. So much beauty in her writing.

But I don’t want to give you this broken, empty me. I want you to have me when I’m full, when I can give something back to you. I don’t have much to give right now. – Lola and the Boy Next Door

This is me and how I am currently feeling towards any other book. This is The Absent Historian signing out on a serious book hangover, after falling in love with Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door and then having her heart confiscated by Isla and the Happily Ever After.

Now go read it if you haven’t already.

14 Comments

Filed under 2010 Publication, 2011 Publication, 2014 Publication, 4 Books, 4.5 Books, 5 Books, Chick-Lit, Contemporary, Dutton, E-book, Romance, Stephanie Perkins, Young Adult

Series Review (1-4): Line of Duty

protecting-tessa-baileyHis Risk to TakeOfficer off LimitsAsking for Trouble
Protecting What’s His (#1), His Risk to Take (#2), Officer Off Limits (#3), Asking for Trouble (#4) by Tessa Bailey

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Adult

The Review
This is a contemporary series from one of my favourite publishers when it comes to contemporary books, Entangled. Line of Duty follows a series of different police officers as they come face to face with a woman who will challenge them and eventually one they will find romance with; inevitable right?

I feel like this series has strengthened as it has gone along and Officer Off Limits and Asking for Trouble were both much stronger than their predecessors. I will not claim that this series is free of the typical clichés that usually accompany the contemporary romance scene, and neither are these books perfect. However they are enjoyable.

Each of the novels introduces a new officer to the tale, however in some there are connections to the previous novels and links between the police forces, so the characters are not all entirely new. However each one explores a different perspective and this serves to reinvigorate each novel with new energy and prevent it from falling into the trapping of the previous one.

Largely the female protagonists tend to be women with past troubles, who are seeing themselves as independent and without the need for a man in their life. Bailey unfortunately does seem to fall into the trappings of this typical cycle of strong female, eventually being ‘saved’ in some way by the male police officer in the end, but when read over a period of time and not directly next to each other, I think this makes the series easier to handle and more enjoyable.

My favourite book from the series is probably Officer Off Limits which deals with Story Brooks and Daniel Chase. I felt like Story stayed much more true to her strengths and independence than the other female protagonists and I really had my heart stolen by officer Daniel Chase. Although the other police officers certainly have many a redeeming quality; who after all, can resist a man in uniform? However I did feel like that for a romance novel this edition in particular had a little more of a serious note that wasn’t the typical backstory and it served to really address characterisation that sells a novel to me.

Overall, this series is fun, flirty and a quick read that has some great teasing moments. It easily fills the need for a little bit of fluff and romance in ones life whilst not being too unrealistic nor annoying. Bailey has a solid series here and I think most contemporary romance fans will find something enjoyable in the Line of Duty series!

Historical Survival Chances
Honestly, I do not think this series despite being lots of fun, will last long in the span of history. I believe much more epic romances that are on the level of Pride and Prejudice are the types of novels that should survive through history and will be the literary genius that we are remembered for.

Survival Chances: 25%

Expiration Date: 2027

 

Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars

Goodreads (#1), (#2), (#3), (#4) ~ Amazon UK / US ~ Author’s Website

3 Comments

Filed under 3.5 Books, Adult, Contemporary, Entangled Publishing, Romance, Tessa Bailey, Uncategorized

Dilemma of Contemporary Romance

Contemporary Romance

Admittedly I have been known to binge on contemporary romance, the literature kind and the movies. However, I at least try to find the well-written kind. Despite this, when I was discussing my secret love of contemporary romance with one of my closest friends, she told me she despised it, and found it boring and unrealistic.

This was my first pause for thought; unrealistic. It had me wondering, what do we call a realistic romance? Do we want to read/watch a ‘realistic’ romance? Or do we want to be wooed and blown away?

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Recently I just watched Love and Other Drugs which stars Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal. The film has a 6.7 / 10 rating on IMDB and was nominated for 2 Golden Globe awards. So it appears the film is being taken seriously in the movie industry?

Yet, it still appears to have such a mixed response. Some hail it as being a champion of the romance-comedy genre with the take on Anne Hathaway an individual suffering from Parkinson’s being well portrayed and provocative, whilst others claim its another mindless romance, filled with crude language, sex scenes and being a typical plot line of a sick girl falling for a bad-boy. Why is it we get such mixed reviews?

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Personally, I think there comes pros and cons from every contemporary romance film, which again, is based on personal preference. However, is the media designed to project moral messages and ideals to us even if overlaid with fun, flirty and flighty behaviour? Or is it supposed to be some strict, moral message in a boring fashion? Honestly, I do not believe many people would listen to something they perceived as being dull and boring. At least Love and Other Drugs manages to show by the end of the film, a steady, loving relationship where you can stand by somebody and care for them can be more fulfilling than a casual fling. It represents many values that I think are important, and is that really a bad thing? Even if it includes sex and naked skin, is that not again something that human beings want to see?

Obviously there are times in reading a book, or watching a film where you think “if only that happened in real life” because I do not think many times you will get a guy chasing after you down the street to declare his love, or driving across the country, or chasing you to the airport as I recently witnessed on an old episode of Friends when Ross Geller raced to the airport after Rachel Green. I mean, it would be nice, but when it came down to it, I think if somebody did such a thing for me, I would laugh or be awkward and not know how to react. However, I think I like reading these declarations of love and thinking maybe somewhere, somebody does such things because it makes me feel happy, and that is why I read right, to have my emotions played on, to be entertained and made smile? I want my main love interests to wooo me, to draw me in.

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I want an Augustus Green (The Fault in Our Stars) to be there for me…

“I’ll fight it. I’ll fight it for you. Don’t you worry about me, Hazel Grace. I’m okay. I’ll find a way to hang around and annoy you for a long time.” I was crying. But even then he was strong. holding me tight so that I could see the sinewy muscles of his arms wrapped around me …”

I want a Levi (Fangirl) who will hang around my roommate’s room to see me, to walk me home in the dark, to tease me, to bring me out of my shell…

“I mean…” Levi leaned forward, hands still fisted in his pockets. “I mean, I spent four months trying to kiss you and the last six weeks trying to figure out how I managed to fuck everything up. All I want now is to make it right, to make you see how sorry I am and why you should give me another chance. And I just want to know—are you rooting for me? Are you hoping I pull this off?”

“I’m rooting for you,” she whispered. She wasn’t even sure he could hear her from the bed.

Levi’s smile broke free and devoured his whole face. It started to devour her face, too. Cath had to look away.”

I want myself a Finn the Robot (The Mad Scientist’s Daughter) who is smart and heartfelt.

“I can’t tell you what it means to be the only one of my kind,” he said. “I can’t… There is a lack in myself. But your thesis almost filled it in. It was… a start.”

Even a little bit of Vlad the Impaler (Night Prince Series) to melt a woman’s heart…

“No one feels like you do, so every brush of your skin is a cruel reminder of what I’ve lost. I can barely stand the sight of you because you’re more beautiful than I’ve allowed myself to remember, and when I cut that wire off Maximus and smelled you all over him, I wanted to kill him more than I’ve wanted to kill anyone in my life, yet I couldn’t because of my promise to you.”

These are just a few of the many fictional crushes, and there are probably many more, but these are a few of the more recent ones. Who are your fictional crushes? (because I severely hope I am not alone in my love of fictional characters *slinks away to hide in a corner* if I am). I’m going to leave you with one of the most iconic moments in film history and an all time favourite romance of mine, this film will always have a special place in my heart.

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19 Comments

Filed under Contemporary, Rambles, Romance

Wallbanger

WallbangerWallbanger by Alice Clayton

Series: Cocktail #1

Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Chick-lit

The Plot
Wallbanger is a light, entertaining and humorous read, following the journey of Caroline who upon moving into a new apartment discovers her neighbour is quite the man! He in fact, is often found making nightly noises (I’m sure your imagination can fulfil the gap for now) with several different women that definitely hits the wall and is heard through the wall since Caroline and the mystery ‘Wallbanger’ share a bedroom wall she is also kept up nightly. The plot unravels from there following the journey of Caroline, her relationship troubles, her neighbour and the novel builds upon the premise of an unlikely relationship forming between her and the ‘Wallbanger’.
The Review
Wallbanger is one of those novels that is light, fluffy and pure entertainment! There is very little that is serious about this novel and it serves to be the perfect escape romance. However I do fear that the novel is very much based upon taste in terms of the humour which is obviously different amongst individuals. Personally I am not a massive chick-lit fan, but I engaged well with Wallbanger and although near the end I had a tendency to skim a little bit, overall I found myself immersed in the story.

Caroline had a solid character and personality that made her almost certainly a likeable character.  She likes to cook and bake, and she’s an interior designer who is proud of her job and this is evident by the hard work she puts in. However I did not really feel like she really brought this into her own home and I felt like we could have sensed more of her personality throughout the novel. There were moments where I felt she also had a tendency to fall into emotional dramatic scenes that were rather unnecessary in my opinion and did frustrate me. In addition to that, I felt like the strength of her character drained a little by the end of the novel and she was not nearly as strong as at the start. This disappointed me a little because I felt like it would have made the last part of the novel much stronger.

The ‘Wallbanger’ himself is quite the enigma and not as he first appears. He was incredibly suave, kind and caring and not at all what you first expect. I actually really liked his character and at moments he found himself floundering with Caroline who refused to give him a chance or hear him out entirely. However his persistence is certainly something that is a strong redeemable quality and maybe a very romance novel based quality!

I fear this novel could not be complete without the trusty pet, the cat, Clive. He certainly makes a strong addition to the humour and I found myself enamoured with him. I feel that novels without animals these days appear to be a little incomplete as they always tend to round character with their unexpected antics and Clive certainly is a pesky little devil, but a loveable one. In addition to this, Caroline was clearly a loveable owner and that showed throughout the novel and this affection is certainly the right way to portray pet owners, so Clayton is given both thumbs up here!

The plot, well it basically centres on the romance of the ‘Wallbanger’ and Caroline, but it does not just appear out of nowhere and that is the strong element of Wallbanger as chick-lit because it creates a friendship and emotional connection between the two that builds up over time. In addition to this, there are several plot strands to the romance that interweave and give it a little more substance.

Overall, Wallbanger is a solid addition to the chick-lit genre, and admittedly it won me over to a genre I don’t usually venture into. I can see that Wallbanger will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I enjoyed it and I am certainly tempted by the future sequel to see where things go even for a novel that is not perfect. If you have a spare few hours, I recommend giving it a chance since you might just find you enjoy it after all!

Favourite Quotes

“No woman has ever done breakfast bread foreplay the way you do.
Ha! When you coming?
Can’t. Drive. Straight.
Can we have one conversation when you’re not twelve?
Sorry, I’ll be there in 30.
Perfect, that will give me time to frost my buns.
Pardon me?”

“The girl next door was meowing. What in the world was my neighbor packing to make that happen?
Clive, at this point, went utterly bonkers and launched himself at the wall. He was literally climbing it, trying to get where the noise was coming from, and adding his own meows to the chorus.”

Rating: 3 / 5 Stars

Goodreads ~ Amazon UK / US ~ Author’s Website

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Filed under 2012 Publication, 3 Books, Adult, Alice Clayton, Chick-Lit, Contemporary, E-book, Omnific Publishing, Romance

Walking Disaster

Walking DisasterWalking Disaster by Jamie Maguire

Series: Beautiful #2

Genre: New-Adult, Contemporary, Romance

The Plot
Walking Disaster for those of you who have read Beautiful Disaster is basically a retelling of that from Travis’ perspective and for those of you who are yet to read Beautiful Disaster (although I would not recommend it), it is a novel recounted from the perspective of the male love interest, a boy with severe issues.  This novel depicts an obsessive, controlling and frankly disturbing tale of ‘romance’ in which violence, possessiveness and drugs, drinking and gambling all appeared to be advocated in young-adults to excessive qualities. Read with caution.

The ReviewWhat was I thinking? Starting Walking Disaster seemed like such a good idea at the time, however after making my way into this book, my opinion descended rapidly, within the first few pages. However I continued the torture of reading and repeating the events of everything that happened in the first book with a painful expression. By 60% I was losing the will to live, but for some reason I continued and skim read largely to the end. I guess part of me would hope Walking Disaster would be able to redeem itself from the first book, however it just made the experience ten times worse. There is absolutely no need for the first book to be rewritten from the perspective of Travis. In fact,  being inside his head just made the whole experience worse. Travis is beyond the worst example for a boyfriend to the young-adult population. He is a controlling, possessive and violent individual who supports the view that it is acceptable to pick up your ex-girlfriend and carry her through a party because some other guy danced with her, after punching him. He has a very negative attitude off the female population that is derogatory and demeaning and when this is written by a female author I frankly find it disgusting. Not only does she continue to promote themes of violence, excessive drinking and gambling, but she presents a very archaic, cave-man approach to man and a very bad relationship ideal. NO girl should aim to find a boyfriend like Travis and the thought of people seeing him as acceptable makes my stomach want to turn.
Pigeon or Abby annoyed the living daylights out of me. She continued to allow herself to be deluded by Travis, fell into all of his traps and basically led him along in an unnecessary string of angst and pain. It was physically frustrating to read. I do not honestly understand her thought patterns even when I read Beautiful Disaster. She is almost certainly not a strong individual or a type of girl anybody should ever aspire to be!

The plot… What plot? There is no direction with this novel. It is fully a teenage angst drama that deals with two individuals breaking up, crying, drinking and going wild and then getting back together, then breaking up again. The two appear to continue to fight and basically hurt each other intentionally because they can.
I will not ever be reading another Jamie McGuire book and I can safely say, I am so utterly sorry for ever starting this series. In this case my curiosity for bad books, this was a very bad decision. I just warn you all away.

The Rating: 1 / 5 Stars

Goodreads ~ Amazon UK / US ~ Author’s Website 

12 Comments

Filed under 1 Book, 2013 Publication, Atria Books, Contemporary, E-book, Jamie McGuire, New-Adult, Romance

Fangirl

fangirl

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Young-Adult

The Plot

Fangirl is about a girl called Cather moving away to college, dealing with new people, new experiences, living alone and being without her twin Wren for the majority of the time, who is off partying and ‘living the college experience’.

Cather is a quiet, shy individual, who is awkward and geeky and still stuck in her world of Simon and Baz, characters from her favourite book series, who she writes tonnes of fanfiction about.

Fangirl also happens to be about growing up, learning to communicate with people, relationships and family. It has a lot of dynamics that make it about more than being just a ‘fangirl’.

The Review

Fangirl has to be one of my favourite contemporary reads, it also happens to be my first Rainbow Rowell book and I just could not tear myself away from the book. It definitely left a little bit of itself with me when I read it, especially when moving away to University around the same time as I was reading it, I could definitely understand and empathise with some of the situations Cather was in. Personally, I think this book will depend on the type of person you are, to how much you like it, in terms of whether you fall absolutely in love, or just like it.

Cather for me is an adorable heroine. She’s awkward, geeky, frustrating and always seemingly out of her depth, but she shows real growth throughout the novel and she is a likeable character. Her obsession with Simon and Baz, fictional characters, is kind of one I wanted her to lose throughout the novel, but she never did and whilst that annoyed me a little bit, I think it demonstrated that no matter how old you are, you can still enjoy getting lost in fiction, and manage to mature at the same time. Cather went through quite a few difficult moments in terms of family when dealing with her dad and his mental health issues, becoming estranged from her twin and meeting her mother who abandoned her when she was younger. It definitely shows Rowell was not afraid to tackle more serious issues with this novel, but then I liked how she still managed to interweave romance despite Cather’s blissful ignorance.

Levi is one of my all time favourite love interests, he is charming, cute and he cares about Cather. Despite the fact she is not aware that he flirts with her and goes out of his way to help in an attempt to get her to notice that he likes her, he does not give up. He is definitely a good guy, and the type of love interest contemporary romances should be projecting because whilst the ‘bad boy’ might hold appeal, he is not always the perfect guy for every girl or always a good role model. 

Finally, the bunch of secondary characters beyond this which were Wren, Reagan and the twin’s father happen to be fairly well developed in terms of their personalities, style and story. I wish in some ways we had gotten to know a little bit more about Reagan who is Cather’s room mate, but despite her surly exterior, I loved the way she took Cather under her wing and looked out for her as a friend despite saying she wasn’t that type of person. In addition to this, the twin aspect of the story was one I really enjoyed, and whilst for the first half of the novel I did not particularly like Wren, I understood her behaviour and style. I was pleased largely by the resolution of the plot line between the siblings and I definitely think the family aspect of the novel was important.

One of the reasons I loved Fangirl was because it became so much more than a contemporary romance, it definitely looked at growing up, discovering yourself and facing challenges with family and studying as you are away from home. There were a couple of aspects such as the lack of real resolution between Cather and her mum and the lack of knowledge about how Cather ended her Simon and Baz story that I would have liked to have seen more fully developed. Nevertheless, Fangirl for me had a lot of potential that it fully lived up to and I’ll be putting it on my shelf for a rainy day re-read when I need a book that is bound to tick all the boxes.

Favourite Quotes

“I know.” Reagan shook her head. “But you’re so helpless sometimes. It’s like watching a kitten with its head trapped in a Kleenex box.”

“You’re not the ugly one.” Levi grinned. “You’re just the Clark Kent.”

Cath started checking her e-mail.

“Hey, Cath,” Levi said, kicking her chair. She could hear the teasing in his voice. “Will you warn me when you take off your glasses?”

“How do you feel when I smile at you?” he asked—and then he did smile at her, just a little. Not like myself, Cath thought. She gripped his hands tightly, for balance, then stood on tiptoe, leaning her chin over his shoulder and brushing her head gently against his cheek. It was smooth, and Levi smelled heavy there, like perfume and mint. “Like an idiot,” she said softly. “And like I never want it to stop.”

The Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Goodreads ~ Amazon UK / US ~ Author’s Website

17 Comments

Filed under 2013 Publication, 4.5 Books, Contemporary, E-book, Rainbow Rowell, Romance, St. Martin's Press, Young Adult

Charm & Strange

Charm & Strange

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Genre: Young-Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Werewolves

Publication: June 11th 2013 by St. Martin’s Griffin

The Plot

When you’ve been kept caged in the dark, it’s impossible to see the forest for the trees. It’s impossible to see anything, really. Not without bars . . .

Andrew Winston Winters is at war with himself.

He’s part Win, the lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts all his classmates out, no matter the cost.
He’s part Drew, the angry young boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who spent a fateful, long-ago summer with his brother and teenage cousins, only to endure a secret so monstrous it led three children to do the unthinkable.

Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles both the pain of his past and the isolation of his present.

Before the sun rises, he’ll either surrender his sanity to the wild darkness inside his mind or make peace with the most elemental of truths—that choosing to live can mean so much more than not dying.

My Review

Charm & Strange was utterly compelling from the first moment I entered the pages and it haunted me long after putting it down. It’s hard to fully review this book without giving everything away because there is a complexity that is intriguing and the plot whilst I could guess was truly unexpected from my first thoughts. This book is certainly not what it first appears and I applaud Kuehn for her choice of topic and clever handling of it. She chooses to do so in a rather unique fashion and this for me separates Charm & Strange from every other debut on the shelf. Kuehn strove for that originality and in my opinion, she certainly achieved it.

At first I struggled with the narrative style that switched between present and past and Win our unreliable protagonist only managed to make it seem more choppy and jolty with his odd ways and stilted manner at times. However I soon became sucked into the time switches and the prose was genuinely beautiful. I’m not usually one to be bothered by the narrative style all that much, but there was something rather haunting in Kuehn’s style that kept me entranced. I did find that the last part of the book was a little abrupt and rushed compared to the first, very large section of the book and it was rather a let down in terms of suspense. The ultimate end felt like a little bit of anti-climax, but despite this I would urge you to read the book.

From what I can tell, mortality is a word. Nothing more. There’re the things people do when others are watching and the things we do when they aren’t. I’d like to believe Anthony Burgess knew that, but then that dumb last chapter of his book went and ruined the whole thing. That made me mad, and so I think the movie version got it right: people don’t change. Their nature, that is. There are other kinds of change, of course.*

Another point that caused me great confusion to begin with was how to label this book. Is it contemporary or is it paranormal? Well, Win is a very confused and broken teenage boy and it was utterly heart-breaking to feel from his perspective and see through his eyes. I appreciated that we had the teenage boy perspective that wasn’t full of bravado and strength because not every teenage boy is that. Still, he believes he is a wolf and this is the driving force behind the novel and only adds to the unsettling chill and fear that seeps into your bones as you read. It really has an unnerving edge to be in Win’s mind, especially when he moves further and further to the edge of sanity. The journey he takes to uncover himself is one that doesn’t quite slip away from you and for that reason I urge you to read this book. To take the journey with Win and uncover the beauty of Kuehn’s writing craft.

Finally, Kuehn’s novel was absent of romance for Win and for that alone I found it different and refreshing. She focuses on the state of a teenager and the bond between family and I think this enabled me to relate into the storyline and connect with the characters. However I must warn you, the book isn’t all that happy and the rather sombre, dark colours of the new cover certainly reflect the air of despair and mystery at times that encompass this book. It’s poignant, innovative and thought-provoking so don’t miss out. I have nothing else to say, but read it now and be prepared for the unexpected!

4.5 Books / 5 Books

*Quote taken from an uncorrected e-arc copy.

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Filed under 2013 Publication, 4.5 Books, Contemporary, E-book, Mystery, St Martin's Griffin, Stephanie Kuehn, Werewolves, Young Adult

Dare You To

Dare You To

Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Series: Pushing the Limits #2

Genre: Contemporary, Young-Adult, Romance

Expected Publication: May 28th 2013 by Harlequin Teen

The Plot.

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk’s home life, they’d send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom’s freedom and her own happiness. That’s how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn’t want her and going to a school that doesn’t understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn’t get her, but does….

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can’t tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things.The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn’t be less interested in him.
But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won’t let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all…

The Review.

Dare You To is a contemporary novel as equally engaging as McGarry’s Pushing the Limits. However, Dare You To didn’t quite push the same buttons as Pushing the Limits for me, but despite this, I loved it all the same. I found that I engaged with the characters and their story and after the introduction took a while to assimilate with because the introduction felt a little stilted, but from then on out the novel was a whirlwind and it kept me hooked from start to finish playing on my emotions and making me smile as well as cry. I think the reason that I didn’t truly connect with McGarry’s Dare You To as much as Pushing the Limits because I felt that Pushing the Limits had more layers to it with the mystery and dynamic that it didn’t seem to be entirely romance centric and whilst McGarry draws in other elements in Dare You To with deprived neighbourhoods impacting upon the characters and their ideals and how the environment can manipulate the individuals. However, Dare You To lacked the mystery that pushed me on to read and devour and the romance took a major part of the story that reminded me it was contemporary. Despite this, I think McGarry reminded us so much why we love her characters and how well she allows the words to flow together.

I know so many people expected Beth and Isaiah to be together, and whilst I did, I actually preferred this route to that which McGarry took and the justification she gave in her novel for her decision. I think the choice she made for Beth and Isaiah represents how well she understands her characters at their deepest level and the progression they need to become who they truly are. Beth and Isaiah I felt would have restricted each other and McGarry addresses this factor in the novel because they had their ups and downs, but the friendship I think they’ll sustain will hopefully be a strong enough bond. After all, Beth never felt invested for me in Isaiah in book 1 and that troubled me, so I’m actually glad McGarry took a different direction. I urge you to not let this put you off reading Dare You To because of the couple she chose because the direction doesn’t take away from the novel at all.

Beth is a character that I struggled to like. I just couldn’t wrap my head around her decisions because she was on a path of self-destruction from the start and I just wanted to shake her, but I guess part of this was her love for her family and I appreciated that McGarry didn’t allow her to give up so easily. Beth was a stubborn, tenacious character with a rather broken spirit and that needed somebody to help rebuild her to a whole rather than like Isaiah, I felt he would have allowed her to spiral further into destruction, Ryan didn’t allow this. I liked that Beth always stood up for her beliefs, but at the same time her proneness to running annoyed me because it felt like a cliché for a lot of novels and she was such a strong character that she had the ability she just chose the easy way out. Most of all, I loved Beth’s spunk and her fashion sense and self-expression that really made her the diverse character in the small town so she wasn’t conforming to the way people expected her to behave. And the fact that by the end on her own terms she managed to form bonds and friendships between the other characters made me smile because truly, her tale of isolation was heart-breaking! This quote actually broke my heart a little bit at how innocent and endearing Beth could be at times despite her crusty exterior there was a girl I just wanted to wrap up and take away from all the hurt and pain.

“With a room like this, I bet he buys rand-name cereal.”

Ryan is a male protagonist that I really liked. If you’re worried about not liking him, he’s an easy character to worming his way into your heart. At first he seems like the player, but beneath the surface and the POVs splits between him and Beth really enabled you to uncover his thoughts. I liked that McGarry continued the theme of POV switches like she did between Noah and Echo is Pushing the Limits because it created consistency and enabled us to really understand both characters. Ryan seems to be rather one dimensional to start with and this is why I struggled with the introduction, but I guess McGarry tries to incorporate the theme of mystery around his family, but I don’t think she achieved it as successfully with Dare You To it felt more of a slow unravelling of the plot rather than mystery. However his character built up as we went along and despite some of the things he did and his first intentions he was a very sweet, caring character and he’s passionate about what he loves; baseball and writing. It’s so infectious.  And with Beth’s help, he eventually stands up for what he believes in.

“Baseball isn’t just a game. It’s the smell of popcorn drifting in the air, the sight of bugs buzzing near the stadium lights, the roughness of the dirt beneath your cleats. It’s the anticipation building in your chest as the anthem plays, the adrenaline rush when your bat cracks against the ball, and the surge of blood when the umpire shouts strike after you pitch. IT’s a team full of guys backing your every move, a bleacher full of people cheering you on. It’s … life.”

Beth and Ryan worked well together as a couple and I thought they challenged and pushed each other to change and do what needed to be done rather than they felt comfortable with. She really makes their characters to be real and not unrealistic Mary Sues.  I think this is truly where McGarry shines when she depicts the true relationships of characters and not something fluffy and unrealistic that some contemporaries I feel play on, which is why I can happily award her novels more than 3 stars because they appear to have more dimensions than one.

Oooh, McGarry also manages to write despicable character who you really hate. Gwen is a character I definitely despised. From the moment I met her, McGarry clearly showed us why we shouldn’t like her and she continued to build the case uncovering sub-plots that related to Lacy, Beth’s friend which I think it would have been nice to have seen explored more.  There was just something about Gwen that really grated against me and I’d be surprised if anybody liked her. She was just so self-centered and I liked how Lacy saw straight through her and supported Beth in the right direction. My only annoyance was how Beth allowed Gwen’s poison to get to her and that was the only real element of McGarry’s novel that I found unrealistic. I just didn’t understand the irrationality of her actions, but I like to think Beth used it more as an excuse than anything.

“Gwen,” I say in return. Reaching the concession stand, she sweeps her hair over her shoulder as she refocuses her attention. I keep staring, trying to remember why we broke up.

“Drama!” Lacy purposely blocks my view of Gwen’s ass.”

– Man much, Ryan, staring at her ass?

One element of this novel that I didn’t like was the reappearance of Echo and Noah. I adored their relationship in Pushing the Limits, but I don’t think McGarry captured the dynamic the same in bringing them back for a snapshot in this novel and that disappointed me. I didn’t want to see them in Dare You To if they appeared different because they seemed tainted by their environment in the destructive environment and Pushing the Limits seemed to show a new direction and I felt like they’d taken a back-step. Maybe it was just me, but I’d have rather McGarry had eclipsed them entirely from the novel and not allow them to encroach on Beth and Ryan’s novel because Beth didn’t really get on well with either of them and I felt that the connection relied with Isaiah who wasn’t seen that much to say that they had such a close friendship. Thus, I expect to see Beth in the next book because of the dynamic Isaiah and Beth had.

For those of you wondering about Isaiah, he gets his own book, Crash Into You to make up the third book in the series and I’m very much looking forward to this one to summarise the little troupe, hopefully with happy endings because whilst McGarry delivers with an emotional rollercoaster, I don’t think she’ll leave you in despair.

Overall I really enjoyed Dare You To and fully expect most people to fall head over heels in love with it, if not more than Pushing the Limits, but for me, I think there was something special and new about the development of Pushing the Limits that didn’t quite touch Dare You To. However, I recommend the novel without reserve and I am eagerly awaiting the next because McGarry is an addiction all on her own.

*Quotes taken from an uncorrected e-copy provided through NetGalley thanks to Harlequin Teen.

~ 4 Books /  5 Books ~

Nerd Fact

So personally, I know very little about baseball except it involves bases and sounds like an English version of rounders. Therefore it being Ryan’s love, I thought I’d look up some facts about it.

It involves nine players on either side and you basically have to hit a ball and run around the four bases at the corners of a 90-foot diamond. With turns of batting and pitching, which I’m sure most, if not all of you know.

However, the early form of baseball was being played in the mid-eighteenth century in England with the first reference in A Little Pretty Pocket-Book by John Newberry and immigrants brought it to North America where they developed the modern version and by the nineteenth century it was seen as the Unite States’ national sport.

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Filed under 2013 Publication, 4 Books, Contemporary, E-book, Harlequin Teen, Katie McGarry, Romance, Young Adult

What A Boy Wants

What a Boy Wants

What A Boy Wants by Nyrae Dawn

Series: What A Boy Wants #1

Genre: Contemporary, Young-Adult, Romance

Published: April 6th 2012

The Plot.

Courtesy of watching his mom’s relationships, Sebastian Hawkins knows what girls need to do to get a guy. He has what he considers a PHD in hooking up. When he needs extra cash for a car, Sebastian starts up an online venture as The Hook-up Doctor, to anonymously help girls land the guy of their dreams. Of course, his services don’t offer a happily-ever-after guarantee. He’s seen firsthand getting together never means staying together.
And then he falls in love…
With the last girl he would expect…
Totally not in his game plan.

Suddenly, Sebastian finds himself muddled in the game he’s always prided himself on. He can’t even pick up girls at parties anymore! Why would anyone want to be in love when it turns you into a stuttering, screwed-up, mess with really lame stalker tendencies? Stalking? Totally not his gig.

But the Hook-up Doctor won’t let himself go down easily. He’s always known how to give a girl what she wants and now it’s time to figure out what a boy wants… and he definitely plans on getting it.

The Review.

What A Boy Wants was a huge disappointment for me. I expected something light, funny and just an easy read and I got this for the first 40% and could have easily awarded the novel four stars for that without a thought, but then once we got past this the novel began to drag, the plot fell apart and it became exactly why I stay away from contemporary novels. Sebastian who had wormed his way into my heart became a possessive crazed teenage boy that wanted to posses his girlfriend as well as being a huge jerk. He did things that I didn’t like and couldn’t really forgive him for. I didn’t understand his girlfriend all that much and there was very little substance to the novel. It might be light and fluffy but that doesn’t mean the characters should have no background.

Sebastian claims to be the “Hook-up Doctor” and he’s cocky, arrogant and assured in his sexuality and ability to attract girls. He was humorous in his all knowing state even if he was a little annoying, but I could deal and he made me laugh. He was a charmer and a guy that was fairly easy to like and his easy going relationship with Woodstock his best friend was really nice. However, there was no mention to how he become the “Hook-up Doctor” or why which annoyed me, his family history and his mum’s inability to keep a guy was brushed over and his raging possessive attitude that showed him to be pretty misogynist frankly annoyed the hell out of me. I am far from being a feminist, but his objectification of women was blood boiling. He just saw them as disposable and that he was protecting them from himself. I don’t claim to be the worlds expert on the mind of a guy, but it seemed a little extreme.

“Don’t be an asshole.”

“I’m not. I’m just sayin’. You go over there all me-Tarzan-my-woman before she even knows you’re into her and you’re going to look like an ass. You need to chill. They’re just talking.”

Woodstock Sebastian’s best friend was fun enough, but I didn’t feel like we ever got to know her through Sebastian. The novel seemed to assume that because she was Sebastian’s best friend that he knew everything and therefore the reader did and we didn’t need to know anything about her. I liked her enough, but I don’t think there was that much depth to her character or her relationship with Sebastian. I liked the nickname and her supposed family that we never really met and I have to admit, Sebastian did touch me when he made a grand gesture for her, but it still wasn’t enough to redeem himself.

The secondary characters consisted of their two best friends Jaden and Pris who seem to be a couple brewing that are the next novel and this novel seemed to set those two up in the process as well. There was also Bastian’s mother who was a huge influence over his life. It was nice to see a caring parent who clearly loved her son, but there weren’t many secondary characters in the novel that really rounded it that makes up my favourite part of a novel.

Pris: “You’re such a cerdo.” She turned to face Aspen and they started girl talking about clothes and that British guy who sparkled in all those vampire movies.”

The plot was utterly predictable and although the author attempted to make a plot twist, it wasn’t honestly that believable and still didn’t really surprise me. I’m sad to say I didn’t enjoy this novel so much and I think it’s put me off contemporary for a while again.

Overall I wouldn’t really recommend this novel even being so short because of Bastian’s behaviour. However it can be fun and entertaining in parts and I think the author has lots to offer if she draws it all together a little more.

2.5 books

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Filed under 2.5 Books, 2012 Publication, Contemporary, E-book, Nyrae Dawn, Romance, Young Adult

Contemporary Blend #3

Vanilla on Top

Game for Marriage

 

 

 

    Versus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vanilla on Top by C.J. Ellisson                                Game for Marriage by Karen Erickson

Series: Walk on the Wild Side #1                                                Series: Game for It #1

Published: January 11th 2013                                                     Published: January 11th 2013

As you know I’ve recently developed an obsession for Entangled Publishing books, particularly their Brazen collection and here are two more, very different books to add to my collection. So I thought I’d try and mix something up with my review and do a little bit of a rating system.

  Vanilla on Top Game for Marriage
Seduction 7 / 10 9 / 10
Angst Levels 8 / 10 4 / 10
Fun 6 / 10 8 / 10
Male Candy 6 / 10 8 / 10
Sexual Adventures 8 / 10 7 / 10
Strong Female Character 8 / 10 6 / 10
Plot 6 / 10 6 / 10
Set-up for Sequel 4 / 10 7 / 10
Clichés 7 / 10 6 / 10
Overall Rating 6 / 10 8 / 10

Mini-Reviews

Game for Marriage

Game for Marriage was an awful lot of fun and exactly what I needed to put a smile on my face and make it stay there. It had very little angst as it focused on a fake wedding between a super hot, quarterback, Jared and struggling artist, Sheridan. They have lots of laughs and problems, but they tend to work them through with minimal pain and angst that can get a little oppressive in the contemporary genre. My favourite quote from the book has to be…

“No, not really. My grandma said she was like Elizabeth Taylor. I guess Elizabeth was once quoted saying she was in love with falling in love. My grandma said that described her to a T.”

Jared was all around sexy, he had me drooling and sighing in all the right places and he was certainly the man for me. I couldn’t have wanted anybody else. He balanced confidence, arrogance and the ability to let loose as well as being serious to give him a fairly rounded character. He plays the “bad boy” appeal, but beneath the surface he genuinely cares about Sheridan and watching their relationship blossoming is exciting.

It’s not perfect, they’re not perfect, but Game for Marriage has to be a fun, flirty read and my only complaint is it was far too short. I felt that the author could have added more to flesh out the time period because she seemed to skim over it all very quickly to cram it into the time period and that she would have gained much more in adding in a few more details just to give substance to the characters and the plot as we moved through several months in a very quick time.

Overall, I recommend this to contemporary and romance fans alike and somebody looking for a little fun.

4 books

Vanilla on Top

Vanilla on Top takes on a very different approach to the contemporary genre, and it wasn’t quite what I expected. It was nothing alike to my recent read, Game for Marriage but I appreciated the differences and found Vanilla on Top to be a refreshing addition to the contemporary genre. Vanilla on Top focused on Heather our main character coming out of herself from a rather downtrodden character to somebody with confidence, esteem and authority and whilst she still had her doubts, it was enchanting to watch her progression since the story focused around her character.

“Turn it off,” I say, with a challenge in my tone. I sit up straighter and stare into the depths of his caramel eyes. “You want someone to tell you what to do?” He nods, his calculating gaze on me as the phone continues to ring, “Turn off that damn phone,” I bite out, pretending I’m issuing a command. “Now.”

Vanilla on Top very much entwines business and pleasure and we get a lot more angst as we look at relationships, confidence and personalities and changing images, but it works for the novels approach and whilst it felt well placed in Vanilla on Top it hasn’t in previous angst novels. Heather and Tony have sexual encounters a dozen, but the real entertainment comes when they realise who the other is and how they develop from there on out.

I loved how Heather took the control of the novel and whilst it isn’t entirely my thing, she was very much an assertive woman and she knew what she wanted. I like how she teased Tony, yet again the typical “playboy” which to be honest, I didn’t really see it.

I didn’t like the supporting characters in Vanilla on Top and I felt very little time was given to developing their characters and especially if they are to be in the sequel to this as a series, which I fear they will. I found that the secondary characters changed their attitudes a lot and were very self-centered and unsupportive of the protagonists so I didn’t take to them at all.

Overall, Vanilla on Top was an interesting read and I may read the sequel, but I haven’t fully decided.

*Quote taken from an uncorrected e-arc provided through Netgalley by Entangled Publishing.

3 books

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Filed under 2013 Publication, 3 Books, 4 Books, Adult, C.J. Ellisson, Contemporary, E-book, Entangled Publishing, Karen Erickson, Romance