Genre: Contemporary Romance

Exclusive Excerpt + Giveaway! The Girls of Mischief Bay (Mischief Bay #1) by Susan Mallery

Posted January 29, 2015 by Bonnie in Book Tour, Excerpt, Giveaways, TLC Book Tours / 65 Comments

Exclusive Excerpt + Giveaway! The Girls of Mischief Bay (Mischief Bay #1) by Susan MalleryThe Girls of Mischief Bay by Susan Mallery
Series: Mischief Bay #1
Published by Mira on February 24th 2015
Pages: 416
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Format: Paperback
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Also by this author: The Girls of Mischief Bay

Susan Mallery, the New York Times bestselling author of Three Sisters, is world renowned for her "insightful, funny, and poignant" stories (Booklist). With her brand-new Mischief Bay series, she brings vivid color to the story of three friends on the brink of a new life. 

Nicole Lord wants to be a good wife, but there's a difference between being supportive and supporting her husband, who quit his job to write a screenplay she's never seen. He won't even help take care of their son, leaving Nicole to run the house and work full-time.

Sacrificing a personal life for her career is how Shannon Rigg became VP at her firm, but she wonders now whether she made the right choice. An exciting new relationship with a great guy convinces her that it might not be too late—until he drops a bombshell that has her questioning whether she really can have it all.

Although Pam Eiland adores her husband, she feels restless now that the kids are grown. Finding sexy new ways to surprise him brings the heat and humor back to their marriage, but when unexpected change turns her life upside down, she'll have to redefine herself. Again.

Through romance and heartbreak, laughter and tears, the girls of Mischief Bay will discover that life is richer with friends at your side.

About Susan Mallery

New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery has won the hearts of millions of readers around the world with books described as “immensely entertaining, intensely emotional” (RT Book Reviews), “hilarious” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram), and “heartwarming” (Publishers Weekly). One major retailer recently described her as “the queen of romantic fiction.” While she deeply appreciates the accolades of critics and booksellers, Mallery is even more honored by the enthusiasm of her readers and the word-of-mouth that catapults her toward the top of the bestsellers lists time and again.

Mallery lives in not-so-sunny Seattle with her husband and a toy poodle who makes her laugh every day and who’s not even a little bit impressed by her growing fame.

I’m thrilled to be a part of the Exclusive Excerpt tour for Susan Mallery’s new book and series, The Girls of Mischief Bay. Be sure to check out the full tour list below as all excerpts are in sequential order and each stop has a separate giveaway opportunity for you to win the fabulous prize pack!

The Girls of Mischief Bay Excerpt Tour:

Monday, January 26th: Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, January 27th: Luxury Reading
Wednesday, January 28th: A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, January 29thFor the Love of Words
Friday, January 30thThe Romance Dish
Monday, February 2ndRead – Love – Blog
Tuesday, February 3rdPeeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, February 4thBook Mama Blog
Thursday, February 5thBook Reviews and More by Kathy
Monday, February 9thBooks a la Mode
Tuesday, February 10thSatisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Wednesday, February 11thAlways with a Book
Thursday, February 12thAs the Pages Turn
Monday, February 16thA Bookish Escape
Wednesday, February 18thWhy Girls are Weird 
Friday, February 20thFrom the TBR Pile

 

Chapter Two

Pam walked through from the garage to the main house, Lulu keeping pace with her. In the mudroom they both paused. Pam fished her small handbag out of the tote, then hung the larger bag on a hook.

The open area served as a catchall for things that otherwise didn’t have a home. There was a built-in storage unit with plenty of hooks, shelves and drawers. The latter were mostly filled with Lulu’s various clothes.

Now Pam eyed the lightweight sweater her pet wore and decided it would keep the dog warm enough until bedtime. Like the rest of the family, Lulu wore PJs to bed. Pam didn’t care if anyone laughed at her for that. She was the one Lulu cuddled next to under the covers and she wanted her dog wearing something soft when that happened.

They continued through the house to the kitchen. Pam pulled her cell out of her purse and stuck it on the side table by the hall, then checked on the Crock-Pot she’d left on that morning. A quick peek and stir confirmed the beef burgundy was coming along. She added the vegetables she’d already prepared and stirred again, then went out the front door to collect the mail.

The day had warmed up nicely. February in the rest of the country could mean snow and ice. In Southern California there was every chance it would be sunny and seventy. Today was no exception, although she would guess it was closer to sixty-five. Hardly reason to complain, she told herself as she pulled the mail out of the box and started back toward the house.

Mischief Bay was a coastal community. Tucked between Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach, it had a small pier, plenty of restaurants, a boardwalk and lots of tourists. The ocean regulated the temperatures and the steady light breeze made sure there wasn’t much in the way of smog.

She and John had bought their sprawling ranch-style home ages ago. Jennifer, their oldest, had been what? Three? Pam tried to remember. If Jennifer had been three, then Steven had been a year and she’d been pregnant with Brandon.

Oh, yeah. She had been pregnant all right. There’d been the charming moment when she’d thrown up in front of the movers. Brandon had been a difficult pregnancy and she’d been nauseous a lot. Something she brought up every so often—when her son needed a little humbling. As all children did, now and then.

She paused to wait for Lulu to do her business by the bushes and studied the front of the house. They’d redone much of both yards a few years ago, when they’d had the house painted. She liked the new plants that edged the circular drive. Her gaze rose to the roof. That had been replaced, as well. One of the advantages of having a husband in construction—he always knew the best people.

Lulu trotted back to her side.

“Ready to go in, sweet pea?” Pam asked.

Lulu wagged her feathered tail and led the way. Pam glanced down at the mail as she walked. Bills, a letter from an insurance agent she’d never heard of—no doubt an ad—along with two car magazines for John and a postcard from the local high school.

Pam frowned at the postcard and turned it over. What on earth could they…?

Lulu walked into the house. Pam followed and automatically closed the door. She stood in the spacious foyer, afternoon light spilling onto the tile floor.

But she didn’t see any of that. She didn’t see anything but the stark words printed on the postcard.

Class of 2005. Fellow Cougars—save the date!! Your 10-year high school reunion is this August.

There was more, but the letters got blurry as Pam tried to make sense of the notice. A ten-year high school reunion? Sure, Jennifer had graduated in 2005, but there was no way it had been ten years, had it? Because if Jen was attending her ten-year reunion, that meant Pam was the mother of a woman attending her ten-year high school reunion.

“When did I get old?” Pam asked, her voice a whisper.

Involuntarily, she turned to stare at the mirror over the entry table. The person staring back at her looked familiar and yet totally wrong. Sure the shoulder-length dark hair was fine and the irises were still hazel-green. But everything else was different. No, not different. Less…firm.

There were lines around her eyes and a distinct softness to her jaw. Her mouth wasn’t as full as it had been. Ironically, just last November she’d turned fifty and had been so damned proud of herself for not freaking out. Because these days fifty was the new thirty-five. Big deal, right?

John had thrown a huge party. She’d laughed over the gag gifts and had prided herself for achieving the big 5-0 with grace and style. Not to mention a pretty decent ass, thanks to the three-times-a-week classes she took at Nicole’s studio. She hadn’t felt…old. But that was before she had a daughter who had just been invited to her ten-year high school reunion.

Sure, she’d had kids young. She’d married John at nineteen and had Jen when she’d turned twenty-two. But that was what she’d always wanted.

She and John had met at Mischief Bay High School. He’d been tall and sexy, a star player on the football team. His family had a local plumbing company. One that worked in new construction rather than fixing stopped-up toilets.

John’s plans had been set. He was going to get his AA in business from Mischief Bay Community College, then work in the family firm full-time. He would start at the bottom, earn his way to the top and buy out his parents by the time he was forty.

Pam had liked how he’d known what he wanted and went after it. When he turned his blue eyes on her and decided she was the one to share the journey, well, she’d been all in.

Now as she studied her oddly familiar and unfamiliar reflection, she wondered how the time had gone by so quickly. One second she’d been an in-love teenager and now she was the mother of a twenty-eight-year-old.

“No,” she said aloud, turning away from the mirror. She wasn’t going to freak out over something as ridiculous as age. She had an amazing life. A wonderful husband and terrific kids and a strange little dog. They were all healthy—except for Lulu’s ongoing issues—and successful and, best of all, happy. She’d been blessed a thousand times over. She was going to remember that and stay grateful. So what if she wasn’t firm? Beauty only went skin deep. She had wisdom and that was worth more.

Text Copyright © 2015 by Susan Macias Redmond
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.

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One lucky reader will receive the California Dreamin’ Prize Package which includes the following prizes:

A Pacific blue beach towel
Pure Paradise body cream
Luxury moisturizing bath bar from the San Francisco soap company
An autographed copy of EVENING STARS by Susan Mallery (the first book with a character from Mischief Bay)
Flip-flop tea candle holder
Map of Mischief Bay
THE GIRLS OF MISCHIEF BAY Post-It book
THE GIRLS OF MISCHIEF BAY bookmark
Handy bath mini-tote
Susan Mallery lip gloss
Susan Mallery 3D luggage tag
Susan Mallery pen

To enter, use the Rafflecopter widget below.
Open to U.S. and Canada residents only
Giveaway ends February 12th, 2015

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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This post was a part of ‘The Girls from Mischief Bay‘ excerpt tour.
Click the button below for a complete list of tour stops and the tour stops for the upcoming review tour.

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Book Review – The Perfect Present by Karen Swan

Posted December 25, 2014 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2014 / 1 Comment

Book Review – The Perfect Present by Karen SwanThe Perfect Present by Karen Swan
Published by Pan on November 8th 2012
Pages: 531
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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Also by this author: Christmas at Tiffany's

four-stars

Haunted by a past she can’t escape, Laura Cunningham desires nothing more than to keep her world small and precise - her quiet relationship and growing jewellery business are all she needs to get by. Until the December day when Rob Blake walks into her studio and commissions a necklace that will tell his enigmatic wife Cat’s life in charms.

As Laura interviews Cat’s family, friends and former lovers, she steps out of her world and into theirs – a charmed world where weekends are spent in Verbier and the air is lavender-scented, where friends are wild, extravagant and jealous, and a big love has to compete with grand passions.

Hearts are opened, secrets revealed and as the necklace begins to fill up with trinkets, Cat’s intoxicating life envelops Laura’s own. By the time she has to identify the final charm, Laura’s metamorphosis is almost complete. But the last story left to tell has the power to change all of their lives forever, and Laura is forced to choose between who she really is and who it is she wants to be.

Laura Cunningham is a jewelry maker specializing in beautiful charms, lives with her long-term boyfriend Jack and has a secret side to herself that she’s desperate to keep contained. When she’s commissioned to create a personalized charm bracelet for Rob Blake’s wife Cat, Laura ends up immersed in their lives and subsequently awakens a part of herself that she’s struggled to keep dormant.

So the not so great. The enigma of Laura’s past took up the vast majority of The Perfect Present and made it less straight forward than you would think. It was engaging at first and gave her an air of intrigue but this was such a long story that the desire to learn her secret became a need rather than a desire after a certain point. The mystery unfolded near to the very end of the story and could have definitely been given more page time in order to fully explain everything so as to make Laura’s actions throughout the story much more plausible.

Now the good. Karen Swan has managed to create a multi-layered character in Laura Cunningham. She remained a complete mystery throughout the entire tale (which is both good and bad as you’ll see below) which was infinitely important in a 500+ page story. In addition to Laura’s character, there is a full cast of characters which Laura has to interview in order to complete the commissioned job and each of them were given a solid back-story. Kitty was by far my favorite and was the most realistic and likable one of the bunch. The men were all the brooding sort but it was never taken too overboard. I also loved that this was a far from perfect tale and there wasn’t technically a happy ending, or at least not the type of happy ending that you would have gone in expecting.

After reading Christmas at Tiffany’s I was desperate to get my hands on more of Karen Swan’s work. Tiffany’s was A+ and one of my most favorite stories of the year. Perfect Present wasn’t an enthralling but was still enjoyable and was far from your typical chicklit type tale which I appreciated. Taking place throughout the month of December including Christmas day so this was the perfect time to read this story. This is now my second read of hers and I will either need to have more of her stories shipped from the UK or hope that US publishers pick up her stories… or both would work too. 🙂bonnie blog signature

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Book Review – Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor (Friday Harbor #1) by Lisa Kleypas

Posted December 24, 2014 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2014 / 0 Comments

Book Review – Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor (Friday Harbor #1) by Lisa KleypasChristmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Friday Harbor #1
Published by St. Martin's Press on October 26th 2010
Pages: 211
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
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three-stars

ONE LITTLE GIRL NEEDS A FAMILY
One rain-slicked night, six-year-old Holly lost the only parent she knew, her beloved mother Victoria. And since that night, she has never again spoken a word.

ONE SINGLE MAN NEEDS A WIFE
The last thing Mark Nolan needs is a six-year-old girl in his life. But he soon realizes that he will do everything he can to make her life whole again. His sister’s will gives him the instructions: There’s no other choice but you. Just start by loving her. The rest will follow.

SOMETIMES, IT TAKES A LITTLE MAGIC…
Maggie Collins doesn’t dare believe in love again, after losing her husband of one year. But she does believe in the magic of imagination. As the owner of a toy shop, she lives what she loves. And when she meets Holly Nolan, she sees a little girl in desperate need of a little magic.

…TO MAKE DREAMS COME TRUE
Three lonely people. Three lives at the crossroads. Three people who are about to discover that Christmas is the time of year when anything is possible, and when wishes have a way of finding the path home…

When six-year-old Holly’s mother dies in a car accident, her Uncle Mark is named her guardian. Holly is devastated and hasn’t spoken in the six months that she’s lived with him. To top it off, Mark just found Holly’s letter to Santa where she was asking for a new mommy. Wandering the local shops in town, the two go into a toy store where the store owner Maggie gets Holly to finally come out of the shell she’s created around herself which sets in motion an attraction between Mark and Maggie.

The story felt incredibly rushed with only 224 pages and extremely large font but it was nonetheless still a quick and entertaining Christmas read. I would have loved for the story to have more detail and back-story and I especially wanted more build-up as far as the romance went though. The connection between Mark and Maggie was instantaneous which wouldn’t have been as problematic if Mark wasn’t already involved in someone. I would have been able to enjoy this short and sweet tale if we weren’t dealing with the dramatic aspects of the love triangle. Having Mark be a single guy connecting with a very motherly character would have sufficed.

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor reads much like a story that should be included in a Christmas anthology but it’s the start of Kleypas’ ‘Friday Harbor’ series. I enjoyed it enough to continue the series but hope those future installments are further fleshed out. Definitely, a worthy Christmas read for those looking for a sentimental albeit predictable story to get quickly absorbed in. (And there’s also a Lifetime movie adaptation of this to check out!)

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Book Review – Elevated by Elana Johnson

Posted November 22, 2014 by Dani in Dani's Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review – Elevated by Elana JohnsonElevated by Elana Johnson
Published by AEJ Creative Works on February 14th 2014
Pages: 290
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Verse
Format: eBook
Source: Freebie
Amazon
Goodreads


one-star

The last person seventeen-year-old Eleanor Livingston wants to see on the elevator—let alone get stuck with—is her ex-boyfriend Travis, the guy she's been avoiding for five months.

Plagued with the belief that when she speaks the truth, bad things happen, Elly hasn’t told Trav anything. Not why she broke up with him and cut off all contact. Not what happened the day her father returned from his deployment to Afghanistan. And certainly not that she misses him and still thinks about him everyday.

But with nowhere to hide and Travis so close it hurts, Elly’s worried she won’t be able to contain her secrets for long. She’s terrified of finally revealing the truth, because she can’t bear to watch a tragedy befall the boy she still loves.

“I’d told Travis ‘always and forever’ once, And look at us now. Caged in this elevator, Secrets thick as cement, Silence suffocating us both.”

I absolutely loved the concept, and have seen some non-YA versions of the novel-in-verse that blew my mind with how beautiful they were – check out Late Wife by Claudia Emerson. Elana Johnson’s use of language and structure were interesting at times and always highly accessible. My biggest issue with this book was the main character, Eleanor. Thus begins my mini-rant.

Can we stop with the young women who are completely crippled after a break-up? Like to the point they now need medical attention? I remember being young and dumb and wholly devastated, but developing a fear of riding the elevator simply because you used to ride that same elevator with your ex – that’s not ok. Let’s give our younger selves and our sistahs a little more credit than that. I am tired with the frequency with which I see hollow shells of girls and women – even in books that I unapologetically love, like Twilight. We can be strong and resilient, and damn it, awesome without men. Dust yourself off and ride the hell out of that elevator (or just use the stairs, seriously).

Eleanor faces some very real issues (that I won’t spoil in case you decide I’m batty and you still want to read). I found them mostly convenient and used for dramatic effect to the point it was ridiculous, rather than called for by the narrative or well established through the frequent flashbacks/forwards. Books like these legitimize the popular notion that YA is pithy and somehow removed from being qualified as “literature” – and that makes me upset for the genre. If you’re looking for a novel in verse, I would highly recommend some Ellen Hopkins, or Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. Want something about how miserable and complicated love can be? Check out Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin, or High Fidelity by Nick Hornby.

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Book Review – Lola and the Boy Next Door (Anna and the French Kiss #2) by Stephanie Perkins

Posted November 15, 2014 by Dani in Dani's Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review – Lola and the Boy Next Door (Anna and the French Kiss #2) by Stephanie PerkinsLola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #2
Published by Dutton Juvenile on September 29th 2011
Pages: 384
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Funny-ha-ha
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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In this companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss, two teens discover that true love may be closer than they think

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn't believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit - more sparkly, more fun, more wild - the better. But even though Lola's style is outrageous, she's a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket - a gifted inventor - steps out from his twin sister's shadow and back into Lola's life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

Anna and the French Kiss series

Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss #1) by Stephanie Perkins {PurchaseReview}

The one. It stops my heart. I thought Max was the one, but… there’s that other one. The first one.”

Dolores Nolan, aka “Lola”, is in quite a pickle. She is madly in love with Max, an older guy in a band. Max never wants to hang around Lola’s friends and only tolerates Sunday brunch with her dads Andy and Nathan. Simply, Max is a bad guy, but Lola is too blinded to realize he has little regard for her feelings. Enter Cricket – the first love who got away – and Lola’s new next-door neighbor. Lola’s feelings come rushing back, causing her to question every interaction when her heart already knows the answer.

In this book, Perkins tackles much more adult and complex issues than in her previous work, especially around the idea of family. Lola’s family dynamic strays from the “normal” nuclear family. Her dads adopt Lola from her teenage/junkie/homeless parents at birth. Lola’s mother happens to be one of her dad’s sisters, and she only appears in need of rescue.

“We take each other in. My mind spins as it tries to connect the Cricket of the present with the Cricket of the past. He’s grown up and grown into his body, but it’s still him. The same boy I fell in love with in the ninth grade. My feelings had been building since our childhood, but that year, the year he turned sixteen, was the year everything changed.” 

Perkins has a gift for making her characters fall in love at the right pace. Lola has to work on her relationships and struggles with decisions about to whom her heart really belongs. Oh, Lola. I know this girl. I have been this girl. While there is no instant gratification in her works, the extra strain tugs on heart strings, makes her characters seem more human, and the payoff is so worth it. I read a lot of girly love stories, but I connected with this book more than I have with any other because of its realism. Or rather realism AND a happy ending.

My least favorite part of Lola and the Boy Next Door is that it was marketed as “Anna and the French Kiss #2” – which is certainly is not. While my beloved Anna and Étienne do make appearances as supporting characters, I was expecting more of their wonderful love story with her at film school, him at Berkeley. This is a completely trivial complaint, but the only one I have for this book. Instead of my usual list of recommendations, I am going to stick to one that I haven’t even read yet. If you liked Anna and Lola, you must read Isla and the Happily Ever After.

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Book Review – Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss #1) by Stephanie Perkins

Posted November 8, 2014 by Dani in Dani's Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review – Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss #1) by Stephanie PerkinsAnna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #1
Published by Dutton Juvenile on December 2nd 2010
Pages: 372
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Travel
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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four-stars

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris--until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all...including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?

“The whole school is as intimidating as it is impressive. It should be reserved for students with personal bodyguards and Shetland ponies, not someone who buys the majority of her wardrobe at Target.”

Meet Anna Oliphant. She’s your average teenager about to start her last year of high school in Atlanta, Georgia. But thanks to her recently wealthy, author and “total dick” father, she will spend her senior year in a boarding school…in Paris. Anna almost instantly falls in lust with Étienne St. Clair. (You don’t even have to read the book to know that only a boy who is stupidly hot is named Étienne St. Clair.) And as the book continues, lust turns to love and sometimes hate – both for Anna and the reader.

“St. Clair flops down beside me, breathing heavily. He’s lying so close that his hair tickles the side of my face. Our arms are almost touching. Almost. I try to exhale, but I no longer know how to breathe. And then I remember I’m not wearing a bra. And now I’m paranoid.”

Anna is immediately likable. She’s got the “fish out of water” thing down like a pro. The only French she knows is “oui” and now she finds herself living in the City of Lights – too afraid to order food in the cafeteria or leave her dormitory. Anna is awkward in her interactions, especially with Étienne. He leaves her dumbfounded and tongue-tied. What sets Anna apart from her other YA leading lady rivals is her inner monologue. She’s downright hilarious. Rarely do books make me laugh out loud. Sure, they will warrant an internal chuckle or a smile, but Anna and the French Kiss had me giggling, chuckling, roaring with laughter.

“’Hello’ and ‘please.’ I’ve learned all the polite words first, in hopes that the French will forgive me for butchering the remainder of their beautiful language.”

This book is full of cliché stock characters. You have the amazing and instantaneous gal pal next door who (of course) saves Anna from her first meltdown, plus gal-pal’s best friend who has a tough exterior but a heart of ooey-gooey gold. There is the hunky Brit that all the American girls love, including Anna and the aforementioned gal pal. Throw in a dash of innocuously evil French teacher, the “bro” BFF of Brit-boy, the “bitch for no reason” nemesis, and the gang is all there. Guess what? I totally love it! Usually I would hate such predictable characterization, but this book gave me everything I wanted: moderately angsty teens with light and fluffy problems, and ultimately, a happy ending.

Did it change my life? Nope. This book is the literary equivalent of a funfetti cupcake with extra sprinkles. And sometimes, the world just needs more sprinkles. I’m very excited to jump right into Lola and the Boy Next Door for more laughs and cutesy teenage love, and can’t wait for the library to deliver Isla and the Happily Ever After. If you’re looking for more boarding school fun, check out Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. If you’re after another lovable outsider, grab The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot. Lastly, for the best of both worlds plus a little paranormal action, you must read Fallen by Lauren Kate.

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Audiobook Review – Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Posted October 18, 2014 by Dani in Dani's Reviews / 0 Comments

Audiobook Review – Fangirl by Rainbow RowellFangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Narrator: Maxwell Caulfield, Rebecca Lowman
Published by Listening Library on September 10th 2013
Length: 12 hours and 48 minutes
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Attachments, Landline, Eleanor & Park

four-stars

A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan...

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

“’No,’ Cath said, ‘Seriously. Look at you. You’ve got your shit together, you’re not scared of anything. I’m scared of everything. And I’m crazy. Like maybe you think I’m a little crazy, but I only ever let people see the tip of my crazy iceberg. Underneath this veneer of slightly crazy and socially inept, I’m a complete disaster.’”

I always know that I have loved a book when I don’t want to leave its universe. Rainbow Rowell has a gift for making her characters so real, but with Fangirl it was a new experience. Not only did the characters seem relatable, I wanted so desperately to be in the story right along with them. I wanted to befriend Cather when she was feeling lonely, or struggling with a new short story to write, or being downright crazy. I wanted to learn to be a cool girl from Reagan, and smack Wren when she was being awful. And Levi, *sigh*.

“To really be a nerd, she’d decided, you had to prefer fictional worlds to the real one.”

The most frustrating part of Fangirl is that both the Simon Snow series and Carry On, Simon fan fiction used throughout DOESN’T EXIST. The fictional series is a coming of age tale in magical universe with wizards and vampires and quests to save…who knows what – like a perfect love child of Harry Potter and Vampire Academy. It’s a serious problem that I can’t read these books, because they sound like they were written exactly for me. I have to know what happens with Simon and Baz. I want to read the faux-published series, and I MUST read the fan fic by MagiCath.

“Happily ever after, or even just together ever after, is not cheesy,” Wren said. “It’s the noblest, like, the most courageous thing two people can shoot for.”

This is my third Rainbow Rowell novel in as many months. It’s pretty safe to say she’s becoming one of my favorite contemporary authors. She reminds me just how much I can enjoy books that don’t happen in far off places, with regular folks, and that give me “all the feels”. If you are looking for some chick lit with substance and an ooey-gooey center, you have found it. Already exhausted Rowell’s four novels? I highly recommend checking out Sophie Kinsella or Emily Giffin.

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Banned Books Week – Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Posted September 25, 2014 by Bonnie in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2014, YA / 12 Comments

Banned Books Week – Eleanor & Park by Rainbow RowellEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Narrator: Rebecca Lowman, Sunil Malhotra
Published by Listening Library on February 26, 2013
Length: 8 hours and 56 minutes
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Attachments, Landline

three-stars

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.

Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

 

“You saved my life, she tried to tell him. Not forever, not for good. Probably just temporarily. But you saved my life, and now I’m yours. The me that’s me right now is yours. Always.”

It’s 1986 and Eleanor is forever the odd girl out at school due to a combination of her weight, her crazy red hair (causing the nickname “Big Red”) and her eclectic fashion sense. Her home life isn’t any more glamorous where she lives with her mother, her cruel step-father and her group of siblings that all share a room with her. School might not be the sanctuary she might hope for but it’s still an escape. One day, not finding a single seat on the bus, she takes a seat next to half-Korean Park who is almost just as much of an outcast as Eleanor. They begin sitting next to each other every day, not saying a single word to one another and slowly but surely, their relationship grows over comic books and music without words being spoken.

I went a long time without picking this one up. Mostly because I’m extremely selective when it comes to contemporary YA but I had read (other than Fangirl) all of Rowell’s other books and I figured I should at least give it a shot. I didn’t find any real issue with it but it wasn’t a breakthrough novel for me. It likely didn’t help it that I had read Pushing the Limits earlier this year which is extremely similar: opposites attract, one of the two have a bad home life, they develop a strong and ‘unbreakable’ bond that changes their lives. I didn’t really care for Pushing the Limits and I felt about the same for Eleanor & Park. It must be said though that I appreciated the less than perfect girl, Eleanor was overweight with crazy hair and has a mad love for music. I wanted to love her. I loved how we didn’t have the obligatory insta-love, but rather a slow-building love that developed in silence. I wanted to love it, I really did.

When we aren’t given glimpses of Eleanor & Park falling in love, we’re shown just how awful and terrible Eleanor’s home life is. She has to make sure to take her baths when her step-father isn’t home since their bathroom is lacking a door, she can’t afford a toothbrush or batteries for her Walkman which is everything to her, she’s not allowed to have friends over and she’s interrogated fiercely if she leaves the house. Her mother, in fear of her husband, won’t help her and leaves her to suffer his wrath alone. It was heartbreaking yet resonated an honesty that I think is sorely lacking in most YA contemporary. While it was heartbreaking though, it was also hopeful, because Park gave Eleanor a much-needed spark that she needed in her life.

So where did it go wrong for me? I loved their slow-build love, their lack of vocalizing, it was obscure and different from any other love story I had read before. It didn’t stick to that same path though, it ended up veering off into typical territory with them declaring their undying love for one another after a few short weeks. I can completely understand finding that person that gives you that spark when you need it most in your life, but must it always transform into an “I simply cannot live without you. I will die.” It’s overboard and dramatic. Their bonding over comic books and music was wonderful and built a friendship between the two of them before the romantic feelings ever came. I kind of wish that it would have been kept as a friendship because I never truly felt the attraction between the two of them like I should have. The aspects of this book I loved, mostly the beginning, still made this well worth the read and I’m glad that I finally picked this up.

From a post on BookRiot “…members of the district’s Parents Action League deemed the Rowell’s breakout YA novel Eleanor & Park “dangerously obscene.” The”too hot for teens and taxpayer money” novel was ordered off school library shelves and there was a call to discipline the school librarians who chose the book.” Also, “The Parent Action League cited 227 instances of profanity in the book (including 67 “Gods”, 24 “Jesuses,” and four “Christs.”) as well as crude and sexually charged material that was inappropriate for students.” Despite my less than glamorous rating, I still feel like this is a valuable read that will open teens eyes and I would personally recommend it to my teens to read. Sure, there’s profanity. Sure, you’d like it if your teens don’t use it but regardless of how sheltered you keep them it’s simply not possible to shelter them from everything. Dangerously obscene. You know what’s dangerously obscene? Banning books. The only thing we’re accomplishing is making sure that our future generations are narrow-minded and in denial about the realities of the world.

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Book Review – Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

Posted September 18, 2014 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2014, YA / 4 Comments

Book Review – Wanderlove by Kirsten HubbardWanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on March 13, 2012
Pages: 354
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Travel
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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two-stars

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists are hardly the key to self-rediscovery.

So when Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspoken sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path. Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel through Mayan villages and remote Belizean islands, they discover they're both seeking to leave behind the old versions of themselves. The secret to escaping the past, Rowan's found, is to keep moving forward. But Bria realizes she can't run forever. At some point, you have to look back.

“See, wanderlust is like itchy feet.” […] “It’s when you can’t settle down. But Wanderlove is much deeper than that… it’s a compulsion. It’s the difference between lust and love.”

Wanderlove is a coming of age story about Bria, an 18 recent high school graduate who is getting over her first bad breakup. Her and her ex had been planning a trip together but after the breakup, she decides it’d still be a good idea to go off by herself to gain some much-needed independence.

So… Wanderlove. Easily one of those books I’ve been wanting to read forever but because of the hype, I had been putting it off. And so two years later, I finally picked it up. Gawd. Was this ever one giant massive disappointment. Baa Baa Black Sheep, I know.

I was initially interested in this because I have a strong desire to travel the world someday, but don’t we all? Given this fantastic opportunity to travel wherever she chose to before going off to college seemed like a dream come true. The one thing I loved about this novel was the vivid descriptions of her surroundings. They definitely made me want to see the sights first-hand. The one thing I did not love was Bria. Bria’s heart was in the right place, having the desire to gain some independence and feel like she could get out into the world and take proper care of herself without anybody else. I could understand and appreciate that need to prove to yourself that you can do it on your own.

The trip started off right, but it slowly morphed into Bria trying to be somebody completely different, somebody that wasn’t even close to her seemingly true personality. It felt out of character despite how little I knew of her as a character. Then issues started coming out about things that she refused to do, primarily swimming, which we’re told had something to do with her ex-boyfriend. I feared the worst, thinking some sort of violence happened to her in the water. No, it was far less dramatic than that.

View Spoiler »

There were other major issues I had and most of them had to do with Bria putting her trust into strangers and going off with them into the mountains of Central America without even informing her parents she was leaving her tour group. Now maybe I’m a little hardened having seen Taken one too many times, but that whole situation was a recipe for disaster. Of course, nothing of the sort happened and Liam didn’t need to come save her but the possibility of disaster ruined the whole ‘adventure’ for me. Add to that, as the book progressed it slowly became less about independence and more about the new guy she found.

Overall, I was massively disappointed. I wanted this to be more ‘coming-of-age’ and less ‘romance’ and I definitely wanted to love it like everyone else seems to. Bria’s desire for independence kept me reading in hopes that she’d truly find it but the end result had me wishing I had quit while I was ahead.

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Early Review – One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Posted June 28, 2014 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2014 / 7 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – One Plus One by Jojo MoyesOne Plus One by Jojo Moyes
Published by Pamela Dorman Books on July 1st 2014
Pages: 384
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Funny-ha-ha
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
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Also by this author: Me Before You, The Girl You Left Behind, Still Me

five-stars

One single mom. One chaotic family. One quirky stranger. One irresistible love story from the New York Timesbestselling author of Me Before You
 
American audiences have fallen in love with Jojo Moyes. Ever since she debuted stateside, she has captivated readers and reviewers alike, and hit the New York Times bestseller list with the word-of-mouth sensation, Me Before You. Now, with One Plus One, she’s written another contemporary opposites-attract love story that reads like a modern-dayTwo for the Road.
 
Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.
 
One Plus One is Jojo Moyes at her astounding best. You’ll laugh, you’ll weep, and when you flip the last page, you’ll want to start all over again.

Jess is a resolutely optimistic single mother who struggles with two jobs and two kids after her husband, seemingly suffering from depression, leaves them to move back in with his mother. When her daughter Tanzie gets the opportunity of a lifetime at a prestigious school, the only way the tuition can get paid is if Jess gets her to a Math Olympiad in Scotland. The only problem is, they don’t have a car nor the funds to get there. Ed, a tech millionaire who’s house Jess cleans, has gotten into a world of trouble involving being accused of insider trading and he needs to get out of town in hopes that his troubles blow over. Ed ends up offering to drive Jess, her two kids and they’re stinky dog Norman to Scotland in what ends up being one seriously stressful yet hilarious road trip.

In this hysterical and emotional tale of opposites attract, Jojo Moyes continues to solidify her spot as one of my favorite authors. Her portrayal of life as a single mom struggling to keep her kids fed was sobering but terribly relatable if anyone has ever struggled financially. Jojo Moyes also tackles the topic of economic differences, bullies and deadbeat dads with ease. Her characterization is unerring with each and every character well-written and detailed without managing to tread too far into predictable territory. Her stories have always managed to throw me with their unexpected twists and One Plus One is no different. The two main characters both possess enough wittiness and differences which cause their attraction to not be immediate. The romance is a slow, subtle build that even though you’re expecting you still won’t really see it coming.

One Plus One’s summary would suggest a typical, formulaic chick-lit story of opposites attract but culminates into a simple and pleasing page-turner that fans of the genre won’t want to miss.

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella {Purchase}
Sweet Nothings by Janis Thomas {PurchaseReview}
Vanity Fare: A Novel of Lattes, Literature, and Love by Megan Caldwell {PurchaseReview}

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