He Should’ve Stayed Dead: Stormswept by Sabrina Jeffries

The first wedding night that Lady Juliana St. Albans spent with the dark and daring Rhys Vaughan was intoxicating, the heady culmination of her new husband’s driving hunger and her own awakened sensuality. When he mysteriously disappeared the next morning, she waited for him in hope and desperation. And when he was finally proclaimed dead in a shipwreck, she bitterly mourned the loss of her love.

The second wedding night that Juliana spent with Rhys Vaughan was six years later, after he returned to claim her just as she was about to wed another. This Rhys was different—bolder, harder, and convinced that she’d betrayed him. Only their blazing passion remains from their years apart. But is it enough to light their way through the maze of mystery, menace, and mistrust—to the love they once shared and would have to find again?

Source: GoodReads

Remember, how I was griping the other day—okay, last post about reunited love interests who should call it quit?

This is another one of those books.

So, get out the liquor folks because I’m going to bitch and moan about Stormswept.

Yeah, I know, me bitching and moaning nothing really new there. The thing is, I sort of do it to myself. When done right, I love reunion stories especially if it involves high drama. What can I say, but I was a soap opera baby (I grew up on ABC soaps). So back from the dead, marriages that hadn’t been quite yet annulled, all that good stuff gets me reading. The thing is, in romance especially—Stormswept being a prime example the fallout is often handled in a despicable way where the bad guys aren’t punished, the hero has suffered so it gives him every right to be a douche, and the heroine suffers from a little too much TSTL.

This all occurred in Stormswept. To be fair, it was originally written in the 90’s BUT the book had been revised. Some of the problem tropes of that era—and yes, there were problem tropes—still existed in the revision.

Okay, a lot of these tropes did.

Whenever I review something, I always try to list something positive believe it or not. I know as of late, I’ve been whining a lot about my reading choices and to be honest I sort of hate that. I love reading, and I do try to find something nice to say about each book I read and for this book I will say it had trope after trope that sucked me in.   Which made the reading experience, at least swift.

Okay, nice bits over. The execution of the tropes, the characters. HATED.

HATED.

HATED.

HATED.

I had a problem with both leads.

The main lead had to be the most immature, dumbest twenty-one year old I’ve read about in awhile. I could buy her maybe being fifteen or sixteen, but not twenty-one or later twenty-seven/twenty-eight. Yes, I understand she was sheltered but for a lady of that period, she would’ve been a little less naïve. Or at least known better than to have smacked lips with a guy at a meeting you weren’t supposed to attend. Besides being extremely stupid, the lead is way too forgiving. Like I expressed in my review for Somewhere I’ll Find You, I’d like for once for the lead to give the returned “tormented” hero the boot when he acts like a asshole for no reason. But nope, completely forgives the boob. She even let’s her treat him horribly when someone offers to tell the douche the truth because he needed to see the truth for himself.

In other words, Jefferies wanted to add thirty or forty extra pages to the readers misery.

That wasn’t sarcasm.

I just couldn’t figure out why Juliana didn’t just have her brother and Rhys’s friend tell the truth. It was clear that Rhys was too pigheaded to realize the truth, and it wasn’t like Juliana was actively doing anything to convince him otherwise except having sex with him.

And yes, I know, sex is the cure for anything in historical romance.

Rolls eyes.

As insipid as I found Juliana, she wasn’t near as bad as Rhys.

God, I hated this fucker more than I hated Jordan in Something Wonderful and if you’ve read my review of that book, you know I wanted Alexandra to ditch his ass for sweet Tony.

Well, at least Jordan’s douche-ness was countered with logic, Rhys though not so much….

I mean, it’s blatantly obvious that Juliana did not betray him. But of course, Rhys can’t get a clue and is controlling. He basically imprisons Juliana until she has sex with him.

True thing.

Once she spreads her legs, he’s like okay you can ride your horse now. But before then…

Nope.

And yes, I get he was tortured we were told about it, but this is where some fucking flashbacks could’ve helped the hero’s cause.   Again—I keep making comparisons to it, but the books were so similar—Something Wonderful at least had one or two scenes of Jordan being tortured. It at least allows us to know what happened to the douche, so we don’t outright hate him.

But with Rhys, just get over yourself you annoying crybaby.

I mean, seriously, all he had to do was have one mature conversation with Juliana. And yes, I know, it’s Juliana but still…one fucking conversation and the book would’ve been a lot better.

I think the thing that got me the angriest about this particular stinker was that the villain was never really punished. And boy do we have a particular nasty villain named Darcy of all things.

Sorry, Mr. Darcy.

Really, though was the name supposed to make me like him a bit more? Because it didn’t. If anything it made me hate him because he was running one of literature’s sexiest hero’s names.

Boo to you, Darcy. That’s more than what most of the cast in the novel did to you. As a reader we want payoff. Having a character do so many wretched things, like Darcy, isn’t going to make him endearing to us.   We want him to suffer. Giving him a piss poor motive, and a slap on the wrist isn’t what the reader wants.

Then again, that’s what they did with Elizabeth Webber after she kept the secret about Jason’s identity for almost a year on GH so…

Yeah, that storyline sucked too because no payoff. We at least need someone to slap Darcy. Personally, I’d like to see Rhys pummel him but to forgive over one dinner and a big fat donation.

No.

Obviously, I don’t recommend this one. It is flawed even with a rewrite. If you like these tropes read the frequently referenced book (Something Wonderful). It has its problems with a douchey character, but at least there is a payoff and the heroine is not a big fat moron.

Overall Rating: C-

 

 

 

I Cannot Get Behind This Ship: Somewhere I’ll Find You by Lisa Kleypas

The toast of the town…

All London is at Julia Wentworth’s feet—and anything she desires is hers for the asking. But the glamorous leading lady guards a shocking secret: a mystery husband whom she does not know, dares not mention … and cannot love.

For years Damon Savage has been searching for the stranger his parents wed him to without his consent, hoping to legally free himself from matrimony’s invisible chains. And he is astonished to discover his “bride” is none other than the exquisite lady he’d hoped to make his mistress! But though his wife by law, Julia will never truly be Damon’s—until he conquers her fears, his formidable rivals … and her proud, passionate, and independent heart.

Source: GoodReads

This ship reeks guys.

I mean, it’s not one of those ships where you want to take the heroine’s hand drag her away and slap hers silly for wanting to be with an abusive asshole, but it’s close.

I mean, the only reason I didn’t completely hate Damon Savage was because I recently was reminded of that Phillip asshole in Catherine Coulter’s Midsummer Magic.  But I did hate him, I mean claiming that just because Jessica/Julia was aroused meant that having unwanted sex with her wouldn’t be rape…then there’s that whole abduction thing at the end.  And how the heroine had to be constantly almost raped so that Damon could look like a good guy.

Yeah,  book throwing time.

Also, I just HATED how much this ship was pushed.  The book seemed to have a central theme about independence, but the entire ship ruined it.  And while it might’ve been the cliche route, I really wished Kleypas had gone with Logan/Julia.  And yes, I’ve read the companion sequel (Logan’s story) and the heroine in that book was an insipid little twit.  Both Julia and Logan would’ve been better off together than with the morons they were paired with.

To be honest, I really do wonder how much of a cliche it would’ve been to do Julia/Logan pairing.  It seems like in any book where the heroine  doesn’t want to be with a character in a relationship that is forced, somehow that’s who the MC ends up being with (see Something Wonderful).  Even if the author has to force the relationship on us, like in this case.  It’s especially odd with Julia and Damon since the initial meeting between Julia and Logan was the type that in much books would equal instant pair.

Instead, though I guess that chance encounter at a May Day celebration was supposed to have me rooting for Julia to be with her “husband” even though….

In addition to the gag worthy ship, there is also a gag worthy forgiveness side plot to a God awful character.  This is something I see recurring in all different romance novels and God knows I hate it.  The character in question was a dick until he got deathly ill and somehow got a personality transplant and was able to make bunny rabbits and roses with everyone.

No.

Add in addition to those two groan worthy cliches, some ample slut slamming and…

Book Hulk anyone?

The thing is, this is the better two out of the Capital Theatre duology.  That’s the sad thing.  There were some interesting things with this one, I just hated where it went.  It’s definitely not Kleypas’s best and that might’ve been in part because it was written in the 1990’s-which while not an as rapey era in romance and the 70’s and 80’s still had it’s share of foul moments.

Do I recommend it?  Honestly, no.  Like I said, I got a shit load of Kleypas’s books at a used bookstore and have just decided to read them all this summer.  I really prefer the Wallflower books and the Hathaway series to this fuckery.  Even her newer historical series which I’ve read-haven’t reviewed yet- with it’s faults is better than this.  I just couldn’t stand the ship in this one, and I just won’t be convinced otherwise.  On a side note, if anyone can recommend me any books where the author inverses the cliche-meaning, the heroine dumps the douche she’s tied to-let me know.  I want to read the fuck out of that book.  However, I haven’t found one as of yet and it almost, almost has me willing to write my own book flipping this sad cliche.  Alas, I don’t think I have the time to do the adequate research or the stomach to write cringe worthy sex scenes that are required for a historical romance. But still, give me that book.  Please, someone.

Overall Rating: A C+ that’s higher than the rating I gave to this book’s sequel, right?  I mean, it’s better than that dunce of a book.  But really, really, hated that God forsaken ship

 

Test Feature: Was This Real?

I am tentatively trying a new feature on this blog called Was This Real?  The idea behind this proposed feature is to list a few book summaries of books that make you really question whether or not it’s real or not.   I’ll list like four or five summaries-all of them save for one will be real.   You can guess in the comments which one you believe is false and if you can even pick what books I’m discussing you get bonus points-I’m sort of low in finances right now, otherwise I’d send a prize or something (depending on how much response this gets I might try to do that in the future).  But the overall point of this feature, is to get people discussing  books-good and bad-that we’ve might’ve forgotten about and it allows me to come up with one ludicrous YA book that will hopefully never be in existence.  Note, for all of you who are trying to figure out what books I’m referring to.  Some of them have been published pre-2000.  I think there’s one or two I listed that were even out in the 80’s.

Elsie can't believe that some of these are real.

Elsie can’t believe that some of these are real.

 

Book A:  Because Taking Laxatives is A-Okay

So, the MC is apparently fat.  We’re told this five thousand times in the book as well as her current weight, which I think at the start of the novel was like 150 pounds.   Anyway, this book is essentially like the encyclopedia of eating disorders since the MC seems to have both anorexic and bulimia.  She tries to tell herself that she’s not bulimic since she takes laxatives rather than sticking her finger down her throat.  She does get super skinny and of course gets sent to rehab, in which her problems are completely fluffed over and she gets with this really annoying guy and they dance to “My Guy” at the end of the book.

Book B: Because Dressing Up Like a Frog Isn’t Creepy at All

As in most high school coming of age tales, the protagonist just does not fit in.  She’s not blonde, and this causes her best friend to ditch her.  She also apparently has man shoulders because she likes swimming.  However, she and her soon to be former b.f..f. go through this awkward trying to be friends thing still and it’s just painful to watch.  There’s also a painful scene where the MC tries on an unflattering dress, and later a climax involving a frog suit.

Book C: I’m Just a Small Town Girl

So there’s this small town idiot who’s like this fashion prodigy.  But rather than doing the sensible thing (i.e. trying to get into design school or at the very least auditioning for Project Runway) she buys a ticket to New York than goes up to like the corporate headquaters of Ralph Lauren or wherever and is like hire me.  Of  course, they don’t.  But instead she meets this cute guy and he ends up stealing her designs and she has to work for a lingerie story that isn’t exactly a classy lingerie store-though because this is YA the book isn’t going to go into details about that sort of thing.  But of course, she meets a cute guy and then they turn the trashy lingerie store into a classy lingerie store

Book D: Puppy Love

So, the MC is like obsessed with dogs and wants to be a vet or something and ends up working as a gopher for a famous dog trainer (think Cesar Milan).  So, one of their “problem” clients is this real rich actress’s  horrible yorkie-or some sort of small dog, I forget the actual breed- and she has a son that the MC accidently thinks is the pool boy.  And hijinks commence.  If I remember correctly, there’s this whole side plot where the MC thinks the actress is having an affair with the Cesar Milan wannabe.

Book E:  Girl Turns Into a Monkey and Likes It

This is sort of the exact opposite of Meg Cabot’s Airehead series in which the MC’s brain is transpanted into a chimp’s body rather than a models.  But considering both chimps and models are exploited well…it’s not that different.

Garfield Would Have a Stroke: A Week Full of Mondays by Jessica Brody

When I made the wish, I just wanted a do-over. Another chance to make things right. I never, in a million years, thought it might actually come true…

Sixteen-year-old Ellison Sparks is having a serious case of the Mondays. She gets a ticket for running a red light, she manages to take the world’s worst school picture, she bombs softball try-outs and her class election speech (note to self: never trust a cheerleader when she swears there are no nuts in her bake-sale banana bread), and to top it all off, Tristan, her gorgeous rocker boyfriend suddenly dumps her. For no good reason!

As far as Mondays go, it doesn’t get much worse than this. And Ellie is positive that if she could just do it all over again, she would get it right. So when she wakes up the next morning to find she’s reliving the exact same day, she knows what she has to do: stop her boyfriend from breaking up with her. But it seems no matter how many do-overs she gets or how hard Ellie tries to repair her relationship, Tristan always seems bent set on ending it. Will Ellie ever figure out how to fix this broken day? Or will she be stuck in this nightmare of a Monday forever?

From the author 52 Reasons to Hate My Father and The Unremembered trilogy comes a hilarious and heartwarming story about second (and third and fourth and fifth) chances. Because sometimes it takes a whole week of Mondays to figure out what you really want.

Source: GoodReads

Side note, where is the book trailer, Brody?  I know they’re not as popular as they used to be.  But damn, if you didn’t have some of the best-if slightly cheesy-book trailers out there.  Or was it just that hard to find the teen female version of Bill Murray?

Anyone who has ever been on a fan fiction website has seen the story that copies almost every plot moment of a story but changes it with characters from either a) a different cannon—i.e., using the Harry Potter cast to tell a retelling of a cheesy rom com OR b) using a Mary Sue to recreate the cannon story.

Those stories suck, by the way.

I mean, okay, occasionally they work but if you’ve seen the movie you know what’s going to happen. Unless, the author, of course decides to grow a pair and change things up.

A Week of Mondays is sort of like those fan fics, except it’s a real honest, published book that pretty much is a retelling of Groundhog Day if Bill Murray were female and in high school.

Seriously.

You seen the movie of Groundhog Day you pretty much have a blow by blow of what’s going to happen before it does. And okay, I guess Brody tries to make things original by adding a rather predictable twist to the love story but come on. Every single quirk about Groundhog Day remains. From the asshole lead, to the annoying side characters, to the way the entire story is structured is exactly the same. Except YA-ified. The main character, for example, doesn’t try to kill herself like Bill Murray did but she sort of did the YA equivilent to it. And the whole curse of being stuck in the same day over and over again, isn’t broken until the asshole lead fixes everyone’s life and surprisingly fixes her own.

It works better on the big screen, btw. But it didn’t mean I hated this book. It was okay. I read it really fast, like in an hour and a half fast and it was like 400 pages but because the story is repetitive you can easily skim through a lot of it.   And honestly, even though I found the lead gag worthy it wasn’t that bad of a book.   In fact, I dare say compared to some of the YA I’ve been reading lately it was fairly decent. That being said, it was hardly good since it was so formulaic and some of the actions borderlined on cartoonish.

I was sort of hoping that Brody would add a twist in there like after that really awful day let it turn Tuesday then and deal with the consequences. It would’ve been fun, but of course that’s not what happened.

Of course.

The book just remained as formulaic as can be, and while that sort of killed what potential this book had for a story I don’t think it exactly killed the book.   It was enjoyable…just predictable and a bit disappointing.

Overall Rating: B- slightly better than average, but not worthy enough to have a shelf position.

Not a Diamond in the Rough: Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

On her eighteenth birthday, Lady Truthful, nicknamed “Newt,” will inherit her family’s treasure: the Newington Emerald. A dazzling heart-shaped gem, the Emerald also bestows its wearer with magical powers.

When the Emerald disappears one stormy night, Newt sets off to recover it. Her plan entails dressing up as a man, mustache included, as no well-bred young lady should be seen out and about on her own. While in disguise, Newt encounters the handsome but shrewd Major Harnett, who volunteers to help find the missing Emerald under the assumption that she is a man. Once she and her unsuspecting ally are caught up in a dangerous adventure that includes an evil sorceress, Newt realizes that something else is afoot: the beating of her heart.

In Newt’s Emerald, the bestselling author of Sabriel, Garth Nix, takes a waggish approach to the forever popular Regency romance and presents a charmed world where everyone has something to hide.

Source: GoodReads

I just didn’t like this one.

The style just didn’t work for me.  And it’s not because I’m not a fan of Historical Romances, I am (I read a shit ton of them this year).  I just think this book tried to imitate what it thought a historical romance was (or what it used to be) and didn’t take aspects we see in more modern novels in this genre.

And I’m talking about the sex.

Jeez, I get that it is a YA novel.  But the lack of characterization is pretty apparent in the novel which is a shame because it was a pretty neat set up and Nix has a lot of successful books out there so I thought this would be a slam dunk.

Instead, I gave up for it when I got to the 200 mark.

Yes, I know, yet another DNF.  I seem to be doing that a lot this week.  But I can’t help when I get bored, and bad characterization is very easy for me to get bored especially when the bad characterization effects what could’ve been a romance filled with troopy goodness with bonus magic.

I really like the idea.  I think that’s what kept the book from getting a lower rating from me, I appreciated the spirit of the book but it just didn’t work.  And I’m not sure if it’s because the novel execution is just faulty.  It really tries to stylize itself as a historical romance and while the basic research was done, I did have some issues with how the mannerisms were handled.

Because really, a well to do lady of the period is not going to encourage her niece to pretend to be a boy-even though this trope is used in a whole lot of HR’s out there.  Not the old lady encouraging the girl to throw some dirt on her face, chop off her hair, and hide her tits, or in this case wink up a magcial mustache bit.

And that’s the thing, the whole magic aspect of this book was very poorly done.

I just really didn’t like it.

Which is sad.

Sigh.

Like I said, I ended up not finishing it because the way the book was written didn’t work for me.  I don’t think it was that bad of a book though.  There were some decent ideas there, but I really thought a well versed author such as Nix could’ve came up with something better.

Overall Rating: I DNF’d it.  I think it’s more of it’s a me not you book reason I DNF’d, but the characterization is fairly lousy.  If you like potential for an interesting story though, you might want to give this one a try.

Should’ve Been Called Skeleton : Gilded by Lucinda Gray

After growing up on a farm in Virginia, Walthingham Hall in England seems like another world to sixteen-year-old Katherine Randolph. Her new life, filled with the splendor of upper-class England in the 1820s, is shattered when her brother mysteriously drowns. Katherine is expected to observe the mourning customs and get on with her life, but she can’t accept that her brother’s death was an accident.

A bitter poacher prowls the estate, and strange visitors threaten the occupants of the house. There’s a rumor, too, that a wild animal stalks the woods of Walthingham. Can Katherine retain her sanity long enough to find out the truth? Or will her brother’s killer claim her life, too?

Source: GoodReads

So….

You know I’ve been reading a lot of Historical Romances lately and thought hey a Historical Romance YA seems too good to be true, except….well, this one sucked.

The good news is that The Gilded Cage is a mercifully short book (under 250 pages) which means I finished it in under two hours.  The bad news is that I really didn’t give a flip what happened in this book, really didn’t care what happened to the character because they were flat as could be.

Plus, I kept really wondering with all the other books I read in the period if Katherine would really be able to inherit.  I don’t think she could inherit the tile and all that came with it even if she was the only heir.  God knows, there have been plenty of HR books that deal with the issue of having no male heir.  And it wasn’t until very, very, recently that the British monarchy changed a rule allowing for a first born female heir to inherit the title.  So, I had some doubt whether or not Katherine could’ve inherited faux Downton Abbey.

But hey…what do I know.  Maybe there could’ve been a way for Lady Mary to inherit the Abby after all without having to marry Matthew Crawley.

Anyway, that possibly big error aside I could never really get into this book.  The characters are really sparsely drawn out.  It appears at the beginning that the MC is pining after some guy named Conner or at least whining about him, but then it quickly shifts to her being introduced to British society then a half ass murder mystery of her brother whose death was so quick and swift after his introduction that I really couldn’t care much that the character died.

And then it was like the MC was having some sort of pining for her family solicitor and there’s some creepy relative whose into her and then there’s an insane asylum and some other shit.

Like I said, I read it really quick but the story just doesn’t work for me because it’s so quick and plot point after plot point that I can’t really couldn’t keep track enough to know where this one was going.  There’s an inheritance, we really don’t get told how big or great the inheritance is and there’s someone who wants to steal it.  The MC’s brother paints, this also has to deal with the mystery of his death.  And somehow the MC gets thrown into an asylum…

Yeah…it’s about confusing as that paragraph sounds.  On the bright side, I guess I can’t hate any of the characters since they were all sort of boring.  So, plus there?

I think one of the reasons this book lacked anything was that it was packaged.  To be blunt, I sort of snub my nose at packaged books because it really does annoy me the whole concept of them.  It’s true that some of them are better (and more ethical) than others.  While I know nothing about the packaging company that produced Gray’s book, I do know that this book felt very phoned in.  There was nothing that invoked passion concerning the book or it’s subject matter to me.  While the plot could’ve been interesting it was dull.

Which is a shame because Gothic novels, when done right can be pretty awesome.   This one though seemed a little bit more than a skeleton outline than anything else.  Usually, I complain about books in YA being too long, but this is one case where I think a hundred or so pages could’ve done the book good.

Overall Rating: A D.  I finished it, which is something and there were some aspects and bits interesting. It was just more or less a skeleton of what could’e been a very good book but wasn’t.

AKA Privilege Brat Gets a Book Deal to Get Into an Ivy: Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia

I’m your protagonist—Reshma Kapoor—and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me.

Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.

What’s a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent’s help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.

But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she’s already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success—a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.

Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)

Source: GoodReads

Enter Title Here, is one of those books where you want to deck the main character face then give her a swirly and wet Willy before finally screaming like an insane person and being hauled off to that special place people go to after they read one too many YA books.

Luckily, I didn’t go to the special place since I DNF’d the book— if reading the entire Halo trilogy has taught me surrendering if often kinder than forcing yourself to have to be rehabilitated through the power of pudding cups (yes, pudding cups are the only thing that can help ill used tropes and the power of love).

To be honest, Enter Title Here was a very strange read for the 72 pages I read. I might’ve been able to stomach it if my tolerance level for bad YA weren’t so low right now. And honestly, I don’t know if the book was bad so much. I mean, I think for all intents and purposes if  Kanakia wanted an unlikable protagonist he had one. I could not stand the MC for the life of me, but at the same time I wouldn’t exactly say that Rashema was an antihero. There was nothing likable about this book.

The book is literally like Election had a baby with that Opal Mehta book and the back-story surrounding the rise and fall of its plagiarist author. Rather, than rehash the entire controversy (which seems to reappear every three or four years despite having happened a decade ago) I’m just going to link you to my review of the book and discussion of the controversy and plagiarism in general. But for those who aren’t inclined to read it here’s the general gist: rich Harvard attending girl got a book deal in which she created a Mary Sue version of herself sort of doing a Legally Blonde in reverse and took numerous passages from popular chick flick and YA authors of the day and got called out for it on the Today Show and other media sources.

Honestly, publishing a YA book that’s a rift on a YA plagiarist is sort of creepy in a weird way, but creepy in that it could potentially be interesting but it wasn’t since everything about this book felt like it was cartoonish. And honestly, if I was Kaavya Viswanathan (the plagiarist) I’d be a little freaked out by this book, but since said plagiarist is a litigator now I guess she really doesn’t have time to concern herself with such things.

But this book is a slap in the face to that scandal if there ever was one, and it does come out as creepy since the Kaavya character is cartoonish, mean, and like I said you want to stuff the character’s head down the toilet.

I don’t think the rifting on Viswanathan was what really made me DNF the book, though it did make me mighty uncomfortable there was also the fact that it seemed to think YA books as a whole were stupid. At least that’s the MC’s approach to them thinking that all a good YA book takes is a popular girl with pretty clothes that has a boyfriend. Again, I think the author was sort of mocking the Viswanathan scandal and books, BUT at the same time it felt like the YA genre as a whole was being mocked.

So, I don’t…I really don’t know about this one.

In the end, I didn’t finish it mainly because I just felt so damn uncomfortable. While I am not a fan of Viswanathan I do thinking the rifting might’ve been a little too much, maybe that’s why I got squeamish. Or maybe I just got squeamish because the MC of the book constantly mocks the genre and readers. It just didn’t work for me.

I have a feeling that some people will like this book, but it’s going to be a polarizing book either you’re really going to like it or hate it like yours truly. Scratch that, I didn’t totally hate Enter Title Here it just made me feel ridiculously uncomfortable.

Overall Rating: A DNF. The deplorable MC whose life closely mirrors a plagiarist and her rip off book was just a bit too much for me.

It was Sort of a Snore for Me: Where Dreams Begin by Lisa Kleypas

“We’re strangers in the darkness,” he whispered. “We’ll never be together like this again.”

Zachary Bronson has built an empire of wealth and power, but all London knows he is not a gentleman. He needs a wife to secure his position in society—and warm his bed in private. But one alluring, unexpected kiss from Lady Holly Taylor awakens a powerful need within him beyond respectability.

An exceptional beauty whose fierce passions match Zachary’s own, Holly always intended to play by society’s rules, even when they clashed with her bolder instincts. But now a dashing stranger has made her a scandalous offer that does not include matrimony. Should she ignore the sensuous promise of a forbidden kiss…or risk everything to follow her heart to a place where dreams begin?

Source: GoodReads

Eh.

This is not really one of my favorites of Kleypas.  It’s overall not a bad book, but there are some things about it that grate on my nerves.

I”ll talk about what I liked though first.   I thought that the characters-by themselves-were fairly interesting.  Zachary was a fascinating character who had potential to be a Derek or Simon type of character but just didn’t reach the oomph that either of those characters did.  I think a part of the reason why I couldn’t love this character was that while those characters had some vices as well, I didn’t feel like either of them were trying to force the MC to love them as much as Zachary did to Holly.

Yes, I know it wasn’t like he forced her to move in with him, but the way he went about it and the way he slowly encroached himself into her life was a bit creepy.

I also felt like some McNaught like flashbacks showing how he got rich and not just telling us he was poor once upon a time might’ve helped somewhat.  I know that a lot of times Kleypas does the tell not show background and it works, but here I think a little further backstory might’ve at least made me sympathize for the male lead more.

As for the lead female, I felt like we got enough backstory with her and I liked her struggle with moving on.  What I didn’t like was the end where Kleypas sort of diminishes what Holly’s relationship with her dead husband was.  Like, her relationship with Zachary is something more and her other relationship was insignificant.

Really, is it that difficult to admit that hey both relationships were great but different.  You can have more than one love of your life.

The whole ending, really cheapened the effect of the book and I also saw this with one of Kleypas’s previous books as well.

The plot wasn’t really anything special.  I will give Kleypas this that she didn’t try to invent some overdramatic plot at the end with a random villain-though we do get a overdramatic event that sort of made me cringe than the usual mustache twirling villain.  But the book is decent enough.

If you’re Kleypas’s binging, sure why not give this one a try.  The reason I read it is because I’ve been doing just that and got a good discount on the book.  However, if you see it in the bookstore and haven’t tried any of her work before I highly recommend reading the Wallflower series or Hathaway series before this one.  It  is a bit meh.

Overall Rating: A B-

Not a Perfect Ten But…: Tumbling by Caela Carter

Five gymnasts. One goal.

Grace lives and breathes gymnastics—but no matter how hard she pushes herself, she can never be perfect enough.

Leigh, Grace’s best friend, has it all: a gymnastics career, a normal high-school life…and a secret that could ruin everything.

Camille wants to please her mom, wants to please her boyfriend, and most of all, wants to walk away.

Wilhelmina was denied her Olympic dream four years ago, and she won’t let anything stop her again. No matter what.

Monica is terrified. Nobody believes in her—and why should they?

By the end of the two days of the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials, some of these girls will be stars. Some will be going home with nothing. And all will have their lives changed forever.

Source:GoodReads

Obviously, with the Olympics on I have been watching a lot of gymnastics.  While my favorite Olympic sport is figure skating, in the summer games I love watching the gymnastics and it seems like unlike with YA books focusing on figure skating  I actually liked Carter’s book.

The book itself takes place over the two days of the Olympic trials in multiple point of views.  I will say that each character seemed to have a unique voice so the multiple view points weren’t bad.

That’s always a good thing.

I also liked that the book focused primary on the competition, rather than extraneous stuff.  Though, of course, details about the gymnasts lives outside the gym  were explored a bit.  But only in the sense that it applied to what was going on in their lives at the time of the trials.  I think that it focused on the competition, the cut throatness of what occurs in those few hours of competition was what made the book such a success rather than a blunder.

Carter also obviously did her research as well which was nice too.

The characters, like I said, all have their own distinct voice and some are more likable than others.  But even the ones that weren’t as likable you could still get a sense of understanding for why they were the way they were.  Though, even though Carter left the book on a hopeful note for changes for a certain character I don’t hold up much hope for her.

Scratch that, there were actually two characters I didn’t like but unlike the first character the second character I thought was a little more redeemable.

There is some bull shitty drama that was a little eye roll worthy towards the end of the book that knocked it down from being exactly perfect.  I mean, while a characters accident was a little popcorn eating worthy to read it wasn’t needed and just added unnecessary drama.  There was also a subplot about eating disorders that sort of appeared out of nowhere as well, but I sort of understood why Carter put it in there, but it was a little after school special.

I think what really worked for me though was that it seemed pretty realistic, or as realistic about a group of elite gymnasts is going to get.  You had characters that were pretty multifaceted whose lives evolved around their sport-some more than others.  Each handling it differently.  While I do think the outcome of the trials was a bit cliche in some regards, I’m overall pretty happy with this one and recommend it if you’re a lite gymnastics fan-if you know the sport more rigorously than I do you may not like it as much.

Overall Rating: A B+

Boo: All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St Amant

Kat inspected rows of the same old cupcakes. They seemed to blink back at her, as if they knew she was capable of so much more.

Kat Varland has had enough of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.

At twenty-six years old, Kat is still living in the shadows of her family in Bayou Bend, Louisiana. Still working shifts at her Aunt Maggie s bakery. Still wondering what to do with her passion for baking and her business degree. And still single.

But when Lucas Brannen, Kat s best friend, signs her up for a reality TV bake-off on Cupcake Combat, everything Kat ever wanted is suddenly dangled in front of her: creative license as a baker, recognition as a visionary . . . and a job at a famous bakery in New York.

As the competition heats up, Lucas realizes he might have made a huge mistake. As much as he wants the best for Kat, the only thing he wants for himself her is suddenly in danger of slipping away.

The bright lights of reality cooking wars and the chance at a successful career dazzle Kat s senses and Lucas is faced with a difficult choice: help his friend achieve her dreams . . . or sabotage her chances to keep her in Louisiana.

Source: GoodReads

I’ll read a lot of things, but I sort of draw the line at Inspirational romance. While I am a quasi practicing Catholic (meaning, I only attend mass at holidays and when I’m dragged to it—i.e. when it’s my mother’s birthday—and don’t believe the church’s views on several social issues), I don’t like reading about people’s religion that are like a written version of all those lame Kurt Cameron movies. All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes is marketed as a contemporary, which was why I picked it up, but it soon became clear after reading the author’s bio and some brief God allusions that this is light inspirational lit.

I still continued on though, because it wasn’t blatantly in Kurt Cameron territory, but I couldn’t finish the sucker because it was just bad. And that’s not include the random Bible versions and come to Jesus talk which is annoying enough when it would randomly appear in a text conversation of all things.

The summary of the book drags you in, the book is set in a cooking competition that looks like it’s akin to Cupcake Wars—but this show is called Cupcake Combat. It’s sort of funny they changed the name when the fictional show airs on the Food Network in this book, it’s like be a little more obvious St. Amant but I’ll relent. But seriously, what’s wrong with making up a network like I don’t know like even the Food Channel. You have to use the Food Network’s name but then blatantly change the obvious show you’re trying to mimic.

Anyway, set in a food competition this book features around a woman named Kat who is the blandest crybaby to ever live. You see her life sucks because she wasn’t born blonde like her sister—STELLLA (always have to put a Streetcar Named Desire reference when I hear/read that name) and she banished to working at her aunt’s cupcake shop (apply named Sweetie Pies, even though they only sale three flavors of cupcakes) because everyone in her family hates her. And her life is so horrible mixing those Duncan Hines cake mixes of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. Because no one in the town Kat has been banished to have ever heard of the special cupcakes that she likes to do—like throwing cherries into her chocolate cupcakes—and it’s just draining the life out of her. Luckily, she has her best friend and resident asshole Lucas to fix things for her.

Obviously, I have little sympathy towards Kat. Maybe if her problems weren’t so superficial I’d care. Or maybe if I could understand why the bakery called itself Sweetie Pies when it served no pie, or made do with just three cupcake flavors despite being in freaking Louisiana which is sort of known for their variety of desserts. And really, Kat, red velvet isn’t that hard of a cupcake to make for an experienced Southern baker. You are just showing your inexperience. But I guess when you mix three flavors of Duncan Hines mix all your life, red velvet would be a difficult to make. And as much as Kat likes to complain about her life, I really didn’t think it was that bad. I just wondered how a bakery stayed open making three cupcake flavors and how they named themselves Sweetie Pies when there’s no freaking pies? Talk about misrepresentation. The only somewhat coherent explanation I made up in my head is that Aunt Maggie is making some special pies that she sells when Kat’s not there that would get her in trouble with the local sheriff. Either that, or the town only has one bakery, and you’re sort of stuck with three flavors of cake.

I think I was supposed to feel sorry for Kat, but I there wasn’t really any significant development for her whining to look anything more than first world problems. Really, if you don’t like making Duncan Hines cake mixes be assertive, work and compromise with your aunt rather than having your Duck Dynasty wannabe best friend entire you into some faux Cupcake Wars competition—again, did Cupcake Combat have to be on the Food Network? Really, did we need to be that obvious?

I could not stand the male lead in this one folks. He is creepy as fuck. And looks down at anything that is not deep fried and generica. Seriously, they leave a nice restaurant in order to go for the pink slime at a fast food restaurant.  Seriously, he basically pouts when Kat was like let’s eat at this nice place, though she eventually agrees that fine dining= snotty people. Note, I might be a little prejudice in this regard since the last time I ate a Mickey D’s burger I received such severe food poisoning I haven’t gotten anything more than a Coke from there in about a decade. But regardless of my own fast food prejudice, I just found it a little odd that someone who is entering a food competition would be more happy with a gross Mystery Meat burger than fine dining. And who gives a fuck that a salad is fifteen dollars? It’s fine freaking dining. If you didn’t want to spend so much on food, you could’ve looked up restaurants near you on Yelp. But alas, it’s fifteen dollars a salad or Mickey D’s. And it just doesn’t end with the we take pink slime instead of filet mignon incident, Lucas constantly snarks at people for dressing “metro” and says he doesn’t want Kat looking one of those evil city people with makeup and shiny lips.

Really, he mocks anyone with any education or culture background that is different from his own? Honestly, I think one of the reasons I despised Lucas is because he rang Trump voter to me. That and besides being anti-intellectual he is creepy as fuck. So, he secretly tapes Kat to get her on the show and then he follows her around like a puppy dog and is just God awful controlling and their not even together yet. Like he snaps at her for watching The Wizard of Oz instead of football.

Well, Lucas, if it would’ve been me I would’ve told you to fuck football. I was forced to attend stupid football games in high school because I had to be in stupid marching band so that I could be in concert band and I still have no interest or know how that fucking game works.

And at this point dear reader you’re probably like resentment much?

Hell yeah, when idiots like Lucas say that football games are better than classic movies and who like fucking McDonalds better than surf and turf.

I actually ranted about more of the superficial problems that I had with Lucas (sans creepy taping Kat behind her back scene, I honestly wondered if the douche had one installed in her shower that’s how big of a creep he came off as). The real problem with the character is that he’s emotionally manipulative and as a result emotionally abusive. There’s obvious control issues there, and while what I mentioned was petty it’s just examples of how the character acts throughout the book. Full disclosure, I DNF’d this one, but the way the book was going it was clear that Lucas was thinking about sabotaging the MC so that she wouldn’t win and could be his woman and make him some special cupcakes (note, not specialness is not the same as my head cannon Aunt Maggie’s special pies).

Like I said, the pairing was really wasn’t working for me. And from the page flipping I did there seems to be some complications with a creepy judge. But really, from what I saw the judge wasn’t as creepy as Lucas—but from the various page flipping and reviews I read he transforms to being really creepy.

Besides the bland characters and horrible ship, the other HUGE problem I had with this book was the fucking cupcakes. I’ll admit I’m not a baker. I can’t really bake unless it’s gluten free shit, and to be honest if you ever try to make something gluten free you know that it’s a) going to taste bad or b) you’re going to need a whole lot of skills so unless it’s those bake and break gluten free cookies, I usually don’t go there unless the flour has already been properly mixed with the proper thickening agent—and FYI, getting preprepared gluten free flour with xanthium gum already mixed in it is expensive. However, I have binged profusely on a lot of baking shows—because when you can’t eat delicious bake goods you might as well enjoy watching people talk about them. I will say without a doubt, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood would’ve crucified Kat and everyone else in this stupid competition about the quality of their bakes.

Seriously. I’ll just go through some of the cupcakes that were made. The first competition cupcake ingredient included a mixture of peanut butter, chocolate chip, and caramel with a stinking topping decoration of an animal crackers and caramel corn. Mary and Paul would probably remark how it wasn’t an innovative use of the ingredients, I mean sticking a freaking animal cracker as decoration. On most food shows they probably would’ve at least crumbled the sucker and incorporated it into the batter somehow. The same with the caramel corn using it as garnish and decoration is just downright lazy. The peanut butter, caramel, chocolate combination to me seemed to be a little too heavy—peanut is a heavy flavor on it’s own and while chocolate can work with it, with caramel added to it to me would seem overly sweet. You’d have to balance it somehow correctly (often with the amount and quality of ingredients), but nothing is said here at all. Instead, all we get is Kat bad mouthing someone’s brownies because they were gooey. And gooey brownies are just bad, ya’ll.

At the end of the day, I gave up on this one before it could cause my headache to get any worse (172 pages). Oddly enough, the inspirational crap didn’t even get to me. Yes, there were some annoying biblical quotes—really book, people don’t text Bible quotes—but other than that I didn’t want to throw this book against the wall at least for that. I did want to throw the book against the wall for it’s judgmental hillbilly leads who think apparently adding animal crackers as a decoration in a food competition is innovative.

Overall Rating: DNF. Burn book, burn.