Synergy Sells: As Old as Time by Liz Braswell

What if Belle’s mother cursed the Beast?

Belle is a lot of things: smart, resourceful, restless. She longs to escape her poor provincial town for good. She wants to explore the world, despite her father’s reluctance to leave their little cottage in case Belle’s mother returns–a mother she barely remembers. Belle also happens to be the captive of a terrifying, angry beast. And that is her primary concern.

But Belle touches the Beast’s enchanted rose, intriguing images flood her mind–images of the mother she believed she would never see again. Stranger still, she sees that her mother is none other than the beautiful Enchantress who cursed the Beast, his castle, and all its inhabitants. Shocked and confused, Belle and the Beast must work together to unravel a dark mystery about their families that is twenty-one years in the making.

Souce: GoodReads

I was less than impressed with Braswell’s A Whole New World and was content on just forgoing her obvious pandering to Disney synergy series when I saw As Old as Time‘s premises and then I was like.

Need this.

Because Beauty and the Beast and the twist looked actually interesting.  And besides, surely after two books with poor reviews, surely Braswell was able to pick up some pointers on what was going wrong with the synergy pandering series.  Obviously, I was wrong.  The same habits that made A Whole New World  a hot mess, were included in As Old as Time including the whole let’s quote the movie.

Note, I had to wonder how it was possible to regurgitate an eighty minute movie’s script in 400 pages but oh-the twist, oh the twist is that we’ll include Maurice’s romance with Belle’s mother who’s the Enchantress.

Yes, Maurice.

The bumbling absentminded idiot of a father of Belle’s who gets together with Mrs. Potts at the movie.

Well, at least I think they get together.  It’s in my head cannon anyway.  But when I think of romance with Maurice unless it involves Mrs. Potts it’s a no go.

And yes, I know that cannon assumes that Belle’s mother must’ve been a pretty hot number given the fact that Maurice is…well, Maurice and everyone in town sings about Belle who looks nothing like Maurice.  But the Enchantress?????

It’s not like it’s even explained that well in the alternating chapters where I’m supposed to ship Enchantress/Maurice.

It just doesn’t work.  Much like the fact I’m supposed to like a woman who cursed an eleven year old spoiled little boy and then…well, then regurgitate the screenplay which while simple enough in it’s Disney form was enjoyable because you know great voice actors/animation  and Alan Menken songs.  Not so much here.

The characters are extremely flat.  And it’s not the story.  The story has been retold many times in YA before.  Sure, those versions aren’t based on the Disney movie, but that shouldn’t really matter.  At the core the book was a retelling of a fairytale and while Braswell was using the Disney movie as a template there were plenty of jumping off points  that could’ve made the story interesting.

But to focus half of the book on Maurice??????

Really, Maurice.

I feel bad for all you Potts/Maurice shippers that’s for sure (surely, there have to be some) As for me, I am not planning on touching this series with a ten foot pole ever again.  It doesn’t matter what movie they decide to retell.  Although, I did accidentally grab buy Once which I didn’t realize was by Braswell until it was too late so….

You know, I could just give that book away.  Yeah, that’s how annoyed I am with this author’s writing.

Overall Rating: DNF.

Why I DNF A Book in Under Forty Pages; The Return of Brody McDouche by Jennifer Ryan

The black sheep of Fallbrook is back . . . and he’s in for the surprise of his life.

Former bad boy, now-decorated Army Ranger Brody McBride is home and on a mission: Find the woman he never should have left behind and right the wrong he did eight years ago.

When the man she loved broke her heart and skipped town, Rain Evans picked up the pieces. But along with heartbreak, Brody left her something infinitely better than she could have imagined: two beautiful daughters. One she gave birth to, and the other she rescued from the woman who helped destroy her relationship with Brody.

Brody is shocked to discover he’s a father, and he’s more determined than ever to win back Rain and protect his girls. Can they rekindle the love they once shared and become the family they were always meant to be? Or will a danger from their past return and ruin everything?

Source: GoodReads

I have been having a slew of DNF’s lately but The Return of Brody McDouche  McBride broke a world record of DNF’ing in under 40 pages!  Usually, I make it at least past the fifty page mark.  But I thought I’d list the reasons why I DNF’d Brody McDouche (yes, it really should’ve been named that).

  1. Secret baby plot:  It’s an annoying trope, but I’ll be willing to put up for it if it’s different and the girl doesn’t like give up her entire life for the baby.  Doesn’t happen here.
  2. Double secret baby plot with multiple women knocked up at the same time: Ew, ew, ew.
  3. Women randomly is able to adopt second child from the Evil Bitch-Slut! character despite having no familiar connection: Maybe it was threw illegal means or something, but generally the adoption goes through blood relatives first when someone’s parental rights are revoked.   There was a blood uncle to kid 2 here, so I didn’t get it.  This is one of those times you wish you didn’t have some experience in family law.
  4. Characters having weather and seasonal names: The female MC’s name is Rain her biological daughter’s name is Dawn.  Gag reflexes yet.  And Dawn’s half sister’s name is Autumn so there’s seasonal, weather, and dish soap names here.  It’s annoying it’s obnoxious.   And if you have those names I’m sorry, BUT….whatever. Combined its hideous.
  5. Brody McDouche says that Rain is his woman despite having no contact with her for eight years, and because of that not paying her the requisite amount in child support: Yeah.  He’s a McDouche.
  6. Brody McDouche’s brother is a caring uncle who is also a lawyer that seems to have never told Rain about maybe she should seek child support: Despite the fact Rain is pretty broke because she’s raising two kids as a single mom and doesn’t seem to be making much money, he doesn’t suggest informing McDouche even though McDouche would probably owe her a good chunk of his earnings because um, child support.
  7. Brody McDouche is rich despite working for the government for eight years: Because being rich is a requisite for a romance novel and somehow being deployed makes you an expert at the stock market or wherever McDouche got his money?!?!?!?!
  8. Demonization of Roxy (the other woman) being a complete bitch: Never mind it takes two to tango, and Brody McDouche willingly went into Roxy’s bed.
  9. Rain still dreams about Brody McDouche besides the fact that he abandoned her and she was forced to raise both of his children without child support: ew
  10. The fact that Brody McDouche is the hero: Enough said.

And that is why I DNF this book.
Simple enough, huh.  Sad thing is, that the other titles in this series don’t look that bad.   I just, I just don’t know if I want to touch it with a ten foot pole after Brody McDouche.

Another Day Another DNF: Diplomatic Immunity by Brodi Ashton

Aspiring reporter Piper Baird decides to write a scathing exposé on the overprivileged students at an elite Washington, DC, school, only for her life to change when she begins to fall for the story’s main subject, in this new realistic contemporary romance from Brodi Ashton, the author of the Everneath trilogy.

Raucous parties, privileged attitudes, underage drinking, and diplomatic immunity…it’s all part of student life on Embassy Row.

Piper Baird has always dreamed of becoming a journalist. So when she scores a scholarship to exclusive Chiswick Academy in Washington, DC, she knows it’s her big opportunity. Chiswick offers the country’s most competitive prize for teen journalists—the Bennington scholarship—and winning will ensure her acceptance to one of the best schools in the country.

Piper isn’t at Chiswick for two days before she witnesses the intense competition in the journalism program—and the extreme privilege of the young and wealthy elite who attend her school. And Piper knows access to these untouchable students just might give her the edge she’ll need to blow the lid off life at the school in a scathing and unforgettable exposé worthy of the Bennington.

The key to the whole story lies with Rafael Amador, the son of the Spanish ambassador—and the boy at the center of the most explosive secrets and scandals on Embassy Row. Rafael is big trouble—and when he drops into her bedroom window one night, asking for help, it’s Piper’s chance to get the full scoop. But as they spend time together, Piper discovers that despite his dark streak, Rafael is smart, kind, funny, and gorgeous—and she might have real feelings for him. How can she break the story of a lifetime if it could destroy the boy she just might love?

Source: GoodReads

I was more than a little impressed with Brody Ashton’s debut, Everneath the other two books in the series were decent for the most part-though I was a little more than disappointed with the finale in that book.  Seeing that she had another book-a DC set contemporary I was more than a little interested.  The thing is, I honestly had to wonder after I decided to DNF this book if it was even by the same author.

This book is just….bad.

And it’s so cliche.  I mean, yeah, the synopsis seems a little cliche, but it could’ve been original in a The Fixer type of way.  But as cliche as the summary might’ve seemed, the actual book was way worse.  I think I should start with the program.

The voice.   The freaking voice.

Piper is supposed to be a genius or at the very least very, very, smart.  She gets into this elite DC school, and she’s supposed to be a senior too, but she acts like.  Well, she’s a freshman or a very immature sophomore at most.  I have nothing wrong with younger YA protagonist, in fact they can be very entertaining.  I spent five books reading about fourteen year old Mia Thermopolis, but one of the reasons I’m able to tolerate immaturity on Mia and other characters’ part is because they are younger.  And younger protagonists have just as much as a place as older protagonists do, but Piper…

Yeah, acting like a fourteen year old when you’re either a seventeen or eighteen year old just doesn’t settle in the stomach well.   Especially for an apparently “tough reporter” protagonist.  It just got annoying, to the point you wanted to smack here.

As for the rest of the plot, it’s very cliche.  She complains about being a scholarship student.  And there’s of course some hot mystery cocky boy who she’s going to get a story from and…

I didn’t care to finish it.

I mean, I understand that it’s YA and to some degree we’re going to see some familiar tropes and plots, but with the annoying voice I didn’t care to see where this went.  The sad thing is like I said before Ashton can be phenomenal.  I just didn’t like this one.

Overall Rating: DNF.

Eh: Rook by Sharon Cameron

History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.

Source: GoodReads

As regular blog readers know, lately I’ve been binging on a lot adult romances.  One of the tropes that I have been seeking is the hero in disguise trope.  I’m always a sucker for this trope because I think it really shows that the characters a capable of loving each other no matter what form.   Plus, it’s a little nod to The Scarlet Pimpernel which is always good fun.  Rook, is a YA book that is said to be a loose retelling of the story, but man does it not live up to what I wanted and because I wasn’t in the mood to waste time I DNF’d the book after like 120 pages-meaning, long enough of a read to get enough to write a decent size review.

My main problem with Rook was the world building.  While I don’t like info dumps, I want at least some explanation.  Other than having machines blamed for everything, we get no explanation to why we’re suddenly thrown back to the dark ages-or really Georgian period, since they’re not exactly praying all the time and all the stuff they did in the middle ages and are instead having balls and wearing wigs.  Other than I guess, Cameron wanted a reason to have the two characters betrothed and wear wigs.

Yay!?!?!?!?

The book opens up interesting enough.  Or it held my interest.  The main character rescues some aristocrat’s brats.  It’s an exciting enough beginning but it goes downhill after that.  I just had a hard time making connections with any of the characters and I didn’t feel any of their motivations or anything.

That’s one thing that can never hold my interest, if I can’t make any connection to the characters.  Had I liked or cared about Sophia or Rene or anyone, I might’ve held out and ignored the shoddy world building as it stood I could care less.

This might be a matter of taste though.  I know that a lot of people like more action oriented books than character oriented books, and to be fair there seemed to be “some” action going on in this book.  Some being the operative word because it was sort of hit and mess and filled with dialogue and confusion at best.  But there were things happening…so there was that.

Like I said earlier, I ended up DNF-ing the sucker.  It really just wasn’t holding my interest.

Oh Boy: The Boy Series by Meg Cabot

I probably reread a few-a lot-of Meg Cabot’s books each year.  Meg’s books are like good comfort food.  And yes, I find that even if I have had a God awful week, and this week has been full of stress they’ll make me smile.  It’s good to know that whenever there’s no chocolate or if I don’t want to exercise I can always pull out a Cabot book and get the requisite endorphins from it.

Although, like I said in my previous Cabot binge some of the rereads are better than the others.  Fortunately, The Boy series was one of those series that held up better-save for the fact that they’re titles are so similar that I start getting them confused.  Really, I have probably referred to Boy Meets Girl as The Boy Next Door more than I’d liked to admit.  Though surprisingly, I don’t have the same problem with Every Boy’s Got One.  And to make things more confusing another boy book-The Boy is Back is going to be released later this year so I am going to be more confused than ever.

Whatever.

It’s another Meg Cabot book to read and by that time I’ll be depressed or need cheering up and like I said before her books are better for you than chocolate or wine.

Gossip columnist and single New York City girl Mel lives in the most exciting place in the world, yet she’s bored with her lovelife. But things get interesting fast when the old lady next door is nearly murdered.
Mel starts paying closer attention to her neighbors—what exactly is going on with the cute boy next door?
Has Mel found the love of her life—or a killer?

Source: GoodReads

In a lot of ways this is the best one in the series.  The reason why, the relationship is the most developed and I love the Trents.  Though, the Hertzogs are just as amusing but a lot more dysfunctional-and that’s saying something since Daddy Trent is in jail.

I think the style that this book is written in-emails, notes, phone messages, etc. really works well for it. I don’t know if it-or its sequels-would work well in any other style.  I often wonder if I would’ve like her vampire series better if it had been written in this style, because there is really something perfectly done that most authors never can get right but Meg Cabot does.

Yes, there are the typical Cabot tropes that are used throughout the book.  And yes, there are a lot of shaking your head this is totally unrealistic moments but I don’t care.   There is just so much charm in this book that it makes you smile throughout reading it.

The supporting characters aren’t that bad either and they do seem to have their own lives-well, some of them.  Some like Dolly Vargas are definitely one note characters, but their one note-ness isn’t bad at all.   I didn’t even mind the ditzy model character, Vivica, and her weirdo obsession with driftwood sculptures.

If you like cute light reads that will perk up your mood, you should pick this one up.  It’s not the most serious book by any means, but I wouldn’t want it to be serious.

Overall Rating: An A-.  I really liked it.  Yeah, there were some things that could’ve been developed and changed a bit but not much.  I highly recommend it.

Meet Kate Mackenzie. She:

– works for the T.O.D. (short for Tyrannical Office Despot, also known as Amy Jenkins, Director of the Human Resources Division at the New York Journal)
– is sleeping on the couch because her boyfriend of ten years refuses to commit
– can’t find an affordable studio apartment anywhere in New York City
– thinks things can’t get any worse.

They can. Because:

– the T.O.D. is making her fire the most popular employee in the paper’s senior staff dining room
– that employee is now suing Kate for wrongful termination, and
– now Kate has to give a deposition in front of Mitch Hertzog, the scion of one of Manhattan’s wealthiest law families,who embraces everything Kate most despises … but also happens to have a nice smile and a killer bod.

The last thing anybody — least of all Kate Mackenzie — expects to find in a legal arbitration is love. But that’s the kind of thing that can happen when…

Boy meets girl.

Source: GoodReads

Back in the days before I found out I could not eat wheat without bad things happening to me-don’t ask-in addition to reading this book I used it as a cookbook.  Since the days I have been forced to make bake goods with glutten free flour and xantheum gum (I so did not spell that right) this book has collected dust a bit but I just pulled it out for its story and remembered why I liked it so much in the first place.

Plot wise, this is in a lot of ways my favorite.  I like Kate and Mitch too, but the actual development of when they got together was a little too rapid for my liking.

Seriously, they only went out on like two dates and slept together like once when he asks her to move in.  And yes, this is a Meg Cabot book and you know they’re going to live HEA.  But you would think after being homeless because of a break up Kate would be a little more hesitant to move in with a guy so soon again.

You know what, I really don’t care because at the end of the day I still love this book.  Like I said in the previous while the Trent family is lovably eccentric with a couple of relatives in jail, the Hertzogs are just so dysfunctional and not all of them-save for Mitch, Stacey, and Sean are likable.  In fact, I pretty much wanted to stuff Stewart and his mother’s head in a toilet throughout most of the novel, especially in that bit where they wanted to send Sean to a conversion camp.

So, so, wrong.

But I like the fact that the fact that good people can have horrible families were addressed and there were realistic consequences for everyone-meaning the TOD marries Stewie and they live miserably ever after.

Oh yes, the TOD how could I forget about her.  She is probably one of the most despised characters that Cabot has created to date.  I don’t think Lana even when she was in full brat mode was this bad.  The character would fit right at home in that basket full of deplorables.  I think that’s all that needs to be said about her.  But wow.

I think having her be such a horrible person was in a lot of ways what made the book and its whole story so good.  You wanted this character to get her just desserts and she did in a fairly realistic way.

Overal Rating: B+.  Like I said, enjoyed it and I did like Kate and Mitch’s chemistry but man did they get together fast.  So, so, fast.  Also, if you can eat wheat try those recipes.

Cartoonist Jane Harris is delighted by the prospect of her first-ever trip to Europe. But it’s hate at first sight for Jane and Cal Langdon, and neither is too happy at the prospect of sharing a villa with one another for a week–not even in the beautiful and picturesque Marches countryside. But when Holly and Mark’s wedding plans hit a major snag that only Jane and Cal can repair, the two find themselves having to put aside their mutual dislike for one another in order to get their best friends on the road to wedded bliss–and end up on a road themselves … one neither of them ever expected.

Source: GoodReads

This book has gotten better with reread. I  remember liking, but not loving it the first time I read it but surprisingly I liked it a whole, whole, lot this time around.  Cal and Jane have some fantastic banter. The love hate vibes were pretty much spot on and reached the level where I can insert a Pride and Prejudice gif without cringing.

Yeah, they did get together sort of suddenly towards the end but in a lot of ways I’m sort of glad it was sudden because the hate/love banter was so good.

The setting is also divine.  I really like it when Cabot does Europe.  The first Queen of Babble in my opinion is the best in part because of the setting.  She describes Italy just as well as  rural France, though I do wonder about the wi-fi signal at the villa.  Because really, they have that good wi-fi in the mountains in the middle of nowhere in Italy.  Because I remember my wi-fi being bad in my urban Ireland apartment.

Whatever.

I did like how while we moved away from The New York Journal, there were still references to the paper and the previous books.  It was just enough of a departure where it wasn’t a complete departure and there were Easter eggs for fans of the previous book.

So yes, I liked it.  As much as the other books….yes but in a different way.

Overall Rating: B+

 

 

It’s Like You’ve Got Mail Sans Product Placement: PS I Love You by Kasie West

Signed, sealed, delivered…

While spacing out in chemistry class, Lily scribbles some of her favorite song lyrics onto her desk. The next day, she finds thatsomeone has continued the lyrics on the desk and added a message to her. Intrigue!

Soon, Lily and her anonymous pen pal are exchanging full-on letters—sharing secrets, recommending bands, and opening up to each other. Lily realizes she’s kind of falling for this letter writer. Only, who is he? As Lily attempts to unravel the mysteryand juggle school, friends, crushes, and her crazy family, she discovers that matters of the heart can’t always be spelled out…

Source: GoodReads

My mom is in love with the movie, You’ve Got Mail and I’ll admit I like it too.  But because of her I have seen it maybe one too many times, but whatever.  Still seeing the premises of this book gave me a nice flashback to the day’s of 90’s product placements, where Meg Ryan didn’t have bad plastic surgery, and Tom Hanks was…well, Tom Hanks.

I like that movie and I like this book.  Was it the best book ever-well, no.  But it suited it’s perfect now and rather than directly being a blow by blow to the movie, like A Week of Mondays was to Groundhog Day, I was pleasantly surprised.

The main characters were decent enough.  Lily was memorable enough with her song lyrics, I guess and I liked that it wasn’t obvious who the male lead was going to be at first.  That was one of the best changes made from You’ve Got Mail.

The one thing that annoyed me, if anything in this book was Lily’s family. This if anything solidified the fact that if I ever have children I don’t want more than two tops.  I hated how irresponsible these parents were having all these kids-though to be far it’s only four hardly Duggar level-and then not having stable and sustainable jobs where they can’t buy their fucking daughter a spool of thread.  Plus, the brothers getting into her room and not really even getting reprimanded for it and Lily being told to forgive and all that bullshit without even having them having to compensate her for her damage property….

Bad parent central.

Though, maybe it’s not bad parents so much as my parents raised me to understand personal and private spaces.  This just really annoyed me.

That aside though, fun book.  I did think after the reveal that the book did drag a bit, but other than that and the annoying family I say give it a try.  If you like that movie or like any story where there’s a mystery romance this will be a fun read.

Overall Rating: An A- very enjoyable with minor flaws that are mostly personal.

Hocus Pocus Is Better: How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

It’s the Salem Witch Trials meets Mean Girls in a debut novel from one of the descendants of Cotton Mather, where the trials of high school start to feel like a modern day witch hunt for a teen with all the wrong connections to Salem’s past.

Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?

If dealing with that weren’t enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with The Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it’s Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.

Source: GoodReads

There’s a reason I’ve been sort of burned out on YA this summer and it’s because of books like How to Hang a Witch, which has an awesome premises and an awful execution.

The whole witch trials is something I’ve always been interested in reading or learning more about since I read The Crucible back sophomore year.  There’s not much of an offering about this bat shit crazy period of time in YA, so seeing a modern day book that features it I was interested.  Added the fact that the premises said handsome angry ghost in the blurb I was so there.

Because ghost in YA make me think of Jesse de Silva from The Mediator Series and that means insta purchase.

However….yeah, Sam was no Suze Simon even though she’s from New York and wears a leather jacket.  Correction, vegan leather jacket (that is pointed out like five thousand times).  If Suze was here, she wouldn’t be bullied and complain about it like Sam did.  She’d get even.  She wouldn’t be spooked by ghost boy in her house, she’d punch his lights out and make fun of his puffy shirt or whatever.

But this book does not feature Suze Simon….and Sam is well a drip who reminded me heavily of Bella Swan (sulky disposition and all) so…

Yeah, I didn’t finish this one.

I made it through to about 90 or so pages which is a shame because everything about the book really should’ve been cat nip to me.  It wouldn’t have taken much.

Hell, it could’ve been kooky like my favorite Halloween movie (Hocus Pocus) and I would’ve been happy with it.  But instead, it was just dull as could be.  All I got besides Sam being bullied, oblivious to the fact that there’s a God damn ghost in her bedroom,  was she somehow was looking into the library for the locations where the hangings in Salem took place.

Really, the library?

Like, there wasn’t a little thing called Google but she had to go to the library and look in the records.  I mean, it’s nice to see a character go in the library but you would at least think she would’ve gone through electronic options in this day and age first.

And I don’t exactly know if the local library would even have those sort of records but…

I digress.

The whole evil witch bully gang thing was utterly bizarre as well. From the blurb, I was expecting that they’d be somewhat like the girls in Jinx but they were much more overt in that.  Plus, Mather isn’t exactly that uncommon of a surname and I doubt that one teen let alone several would know or care to know the history surrounding Salem or for that matter who the New Girl was related to.

Whatever though.

I knew it would be a little far fetched based on the premises, but with the poor characterizations I couldn’t even buy it that much.

Really, the only thing that would’ve kept me reading at that point was if Sam suddenly decided to light a candle and brought back the Sanderson sisters and they started showing the Mean Girl Witches how real witches asked.

Overall Rating: DNF

Stereotype Much?: Every Breath You Take by Judith McNaught

Unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and riveting suspense: these are the trademarks of McNaught. Returning to the lavish Chicago setting of her novel Paradise, and revisiting some of that book’s characters as well, this story will captivate readers.

Source: GoodReads

I really think McNaught was doomed with this book from the moment she titled it. She did realize the song is about stalking, right?

giphy

Honestly, she probably didn’t care. But just saying…the creepy element of the song though really doesn’t fit with the disappointing nature of the book.

If you haven’t read my other reviews about McNaught’s work all you should know is she’s one of the founding members of the modern historical and contemporary romance and when she’s on—she’s on. But when she’s not on, the reader feels like pulling out the various fictional characters’ hair, dunking their heads into a dirty toilet and then flushing it hoping that somehow the toilet will pull these pieces of shit down the drain.

Wow, after reading that line it sounds a lot more graphic than I mean it too—oh, well.

To be fair to McNaught, this isn’t the worst book I read for her. That would be Tender Triumph, a book you really never want me reading and reviewing because it would be a mega sized rant. However, Every Breath You Take is pretty bad and isn’t the sort of book you’d expect from a seasoned best selling author.

The general plot description of the book is promising, it looks like there will be some sort of mystery, a romance, and there’s glimpse of past favorites from Paradise and Perfect (though Julie Mathison’s head could spend some time in a stinky water closet too, come to think of it). However, the book fell flat.   While there were some elements that made me nostalgic for McNaught’s 90’s contemporaries this book felt half bake. The mystery that I described really wasn’t investigated and the resolution was told to us with very little fanfare.

Worse than the mystery, are the characters. Kate and Mitchell are both stereotypes at best.

Kate is especially offensive. She is what you think of what an Irish American Catholic might’ve been back in the 1950’s—complete with the stereotypical name (Mary Kate), Maureen O’Hara red hair, an Irish temper, a Catholic priest uncle, a father named “Danny”, a rendition of “Oh Danny Boy”, and the cherry on top is the pub she owns.

Yeah, get out the Guinness and me Lucky Charms out for that one.

Mitchell isn’t much better since he’s deemed the international business man. Though to be fair, he has no national identity—not really—so his culture and beliefs can’t be trashed that much. Though, he does have a stereotypical Italian sidekick…so

Yeah.

In addition to the murder mystery, there is a secret baby and the fallout and resolution of that is ridiculously smooth. I just…yeah, I missed the god damn angst from the previous McNaught books. I know McNaught released a revise version with an extremely creepy (from the dead dad’s POV) epilogue a few years after the original book was released but quite honestly other than sneaking a peak at that epilogue in Barnes and Noble I have no desire to buy another copy of a bad book. Especially after seeing that creepy epilogue. Really, you think I want to read the Dead Dad’s POV that’s like watching Ghost Dad—no bueno. Though to be fair, that epilogue was slightly less creepy than that bad movie since it didn’t have Bill Cosby in it.

I know that McNaught hasn’t realeased a title since this book—and I think it’s been almost ten years—and while a part of me wanted that book which was supposed to feature a modern day Westmoreland hero, but if it’s going to be the same qualitiy as this book I frankly don’t want it.

Either McNaught really had a phenomenal editor in the earlier part of her career, or she was just using this book as a tax write off to go to Antigua. Either way, I feel slightly cheated.

Overall Rating: A C

Hilaribad: The Raider by Jude Devereaux

Jude Deveraux continues her beloved Montgomery saga in America with this dramatic, passion-filled tale of rebellion and love — a breathtaking adventure to be savored all over again — or discovered for the first time!

The Raider

In colonial New England, the British are hunting a fearless, masked patriot whose daring foils them at every turn. He’s known simply as the Raider.

Jessica Taggert, a proud-tempered beauty, thrills to the Raider’s scorching midnight embrace, but despises Alexander Montgomery, the drunken town buffoon.

In truth, the cleverly disguised Montgomery lives two lives…and only his triumph over the hated Redcoats will free him, at last, to know the full pleasure of Jessica’s love.

Source: GoodReads

This is sort of a weird one to read. Honestly, if we’re going to be objective it deserves one big fat star, if even that. It’s pretty horrible with bad characterizations, bad pacing, and a feeling of the book not being completely resolved—because I would’ve liked a little more fall out after the reveal—when it ended. BUT, BUT this is one of those cases the tropey goodness of the romance ran out and made it an enjoyable crack read. The thing is, I don’t know if I’ll be able to read The Raider again but for the couple hours I read it in total exhaustion. Man, it was hilaribad and the sort of book you’re not exactly proud about reading or enjoying.  But it’s such a train wreck and you can’t help but continue reading it.

So, the main premises of this story is that the hero is like a Zorro figure in the colonial days and disguises himself as a large dandy. Of course because of this hijenks occur, especially since he’s attracted tot the hot shrew in town.

Yeah, it’s about as cringe worthy as it sounds especially since I didn’t understand how the idiotic heroine would think that the hero was the complete moron he portrayed when she touched him and could obviously feel padding not fat—but, but, yes the it’s fiction excuse comes in here.

Honestly, it was a neat set up and I do enjoy these tropes but the execution was quite hideous. I think one of Devereaux’s issues which is why I can never completely get into her books is that her characterization is so weak. Give this to another author: Judith McNaught, Lisa Kleypas, etc. and it could’ve been a “wow” book for me. Not that the book has it’s fan base, I came across it several times in recommended books BUT the characterization really was lousy.

Jessica, our heroine, is probably one of the worst female leads that I’ve read about in awhile. She is whiney, mean, and cruel, and not in a loveable or redeemable way. I think her being thrown in dirty water was suppose to be her “punishment” for basically making Alex the town’s punching bag but it didn’t work. I still hated her. And for being portrayed as being such a shrew in the beginning, her revenge against Alex when she found out about his secret identity was weak at best.

Alex—uh. I hated him less than Jessica if that’s something. Well, I did until he made his little sex ultimatum—either have sex with me or be raped. Seriously. And his whole reason for keeping up the charade after they got married was weak. You know, the book would’ve been more interesting if he revealed himself to Jessica post wedding and they had to keep up the charade. But nope, the reveal was put off so long I actually didn’t really care when it happened.

Like I said it was bad. But very entertaining, this time around. I’m actually looking for some romance novels that handle this trope better than this one. Surely, they have to be out there. However, if you want to be entertained by pure ridiculousness give The Raider a try. You’ll at least be cringing and snarking for a couple of hours.

Overall Rating: A C/C- but a very entertaining one.  If it wasn’t so entertaining though it would’ve been a total flop.

Fun But a Bit Disjointed Revisit: Queen of Babble Series by Meg Cabot

Ah, Meg Cabot, my YA gateway author. If you read this blog, you know that I own pretty much all of Cabot’s full novels—I gave up trying to collect the short stories years ago, unless they involve a character that I adore from a book or series. Needless to say I was a Cabot-aholic back in the day though I’ve sort of weaned off of her books a bit since I started blogging. Still, I find time each year to binge read on a few (or a lot) of her books. Sometimes the reread is fantastic (see Mediator and Princess Diaries reread mini-series) sometimes not so fantastic, see reviews on How to be Popular and Pants on Fire. Since I was in the process of cleaning out my shelves, I recently reread the Queen of Babble series. The result—uh, I didn’t hate them but there was a real disconnect between the first book and the rest of the series. Honestly, to sum up my feelings, if Cabot hit autocorrect and changed Lizzy and the rest of the cast’s names she could’ve had a standalone and a duology. Still though, there was some nostalgia there. Let’s get looking at this trilogy shall we:

 

What’s an American girl with a big mouth, but an equally big heart, to do?

Lizzie Nichols has a problem, and it isn’t that she doesn’t have the slightest idea what she’s going to do with her life, or that she’s blowing what should be her down payment on a cute little Manhattan apartment on a trip to London to visit her long-distance boyfriend, Andrew. But what’s the point of planning for the future when she’s done it again? See, Lizzie can’t keep her mouth shut. And it’s not just that she can’t keep her own secrets, she can’t keep anything to herself.

This time when she opens her big mouth, her good intentions get Andrew in major hot water. So now Lizzie’s stuck in London with no boyfriend and no place to stay until the departure date written on her non-refundable airline ticket.

Fortunately, there’s Shari, Lizzie’s best friend and college roommate, who’s spending her summer in southern France, catering weddings with her boyfriend, Chaz, in a sixteenth-century château. One call and Lizzie’s on a train to Souillac. Who cares if she’s never traveled alone in her life and only speaks rudimentary French? One glimpse of gorgeous Château Mirac – not to mention gorgeous Luke, the son of Château Mirac’s owner – and she’s smitten.

But while most caterers can be trusted to keep a secret, Lizzie’s the exception. And no sooner has the first cork been popped than Luke hates her, the bride is in tears, and it looks like Château Mirac is in danger of becoming a lipo-recovery spa. As if things aren’t bad enough, her ex-boyfriend Andrew shows up looking for “closure” (or at least a loan), threatening to ruin everything, especially Lizzie’s chance at ever finding real love…

Unless she can figure out a way to use that big mouth of hers to save the day.

Source: GoodReads

So, set aside this one really works even after eight years.

Yeah, its pop culture references are a little dated, but not as dated as Princess Diaries. I actually sort of liked Lizzie in this one. Yes, she was dumb.

Oh, how will I be saying Lizzie is dumb throughout most of these reviews. The character is just innately stupid. I mean, while her so called major is cute. Really, fashion history??!?!?!?!? And she justifies it because she had free tuition.

Uh, no.

Whatever.

In the real world, Lizzie would probably be lucky if she could get a job at Kohl’s. Just saying.

Anyway, this is your fairly typical girl goes to Europe and falls in love stories that are nice to read about in the summer. Really, the series is sort of an inverse of British chick lit where a British chick goes to America and does pretty much the same thing Lizzy does ( see Shopaholic series sequel and the whole concept of I Heart New York, oh and that Jemima J book). Seriously, I mean there’s even the stereotypical set up: one book establishing the character, one making it in the big Apple, and one that focuses on getting married…okay, sort of getting ahead of myself and not all those books I listed follow that exact format.

But a lot of them do.

The point is, the plot is generic but cute. You know what you’re getting into and the book is by Cabot so that is sort of an added bonus. And as for a predictable book, I really liked it. Like I said, Lizzie is as dumb as a box of rocks but she is endearing in this book. The babbling thing makes sense enough, and I liked the set up with her and Luke even though it was a little too much of a coincidence to happen in real life.

The thing I did not like though, is that when I was rereading this book I kept thinking of the rest of the series and shaking my head. Because unlike Insatiable, where I sort of figured who the love interest was going to be—and boy I think he’s probably one of Cabot’s worst heroes—it wasn’t so obvious here. Even on reread, yeah, there might’ve been a few hints of what was yet to come but it wasn’t that obvious and I can get why some fans of this series would be hurt.

Still though, if you really like certain aspects of this book give it a try. I mean, you can always act like the book is a standalone. Really, I basically autocorrect Lizzie’s name to Izzie  for books 2 and 3, Luke into Duke, Chaz into Chad, and Sherri into Sheryl. It works people. Totally works.

Overall Rating: I’m giving the first book a B+. It holds on it’s own but is a little predictable.

Lizzie Nichols is back, pounding the New York City pavement and looking for a job, a place to live, and her proper place in the universe (not necessarily in that order).

When “Summer Fling” Luke uses the L word (Living Together), Lizzie is only too happy to give up her plan of being postgrad roomies with best friend, Shari, in a one-room walk-up in exchange for cohabitation with the love of her life in his mother’s Fifth Avenue pied-à-terre, complete with doorman and resident Renoir.

But Lizzie’s not as lucky in her employment search. As Shari finds the perfect job, Lizzie struggles through one humiliating interview after another, being judged overqualified for the jobs in her chosen field—vintage-gown rehab—and underqualified for everything else. It’s Shari’s boyfriend Chaz to the rescue when he recommends Lizzie for a receptionist’s position at his father’s posh law firm. The nonpaying gig at a local wedding-gown shop Lizzie manages to land all on her own.

But Lizzie’s notoriously big mouth begins to get her into trouble at work and at home almost at once—first at the law firm, where she becomes too chummy with Jill Higgins, a New York society bride with a troublesome future mother-in-law, and then back on Fifth Avenue, when she makes the mistake of bringing up the M word (Marriage) with commitment-shy Luke.

Soon Lizzie finds herself jobless as well as homeless all over again. Can Lizzie save herself—and the hapless Jill—and find career security (not to mention a mutually satisfying committed relationship) at last? 

Source: Goodreads

See, a lot of people really hate the third book in this series but to me the second book is the worst. I mean, by the third book you know that the series is headed for a train wreck but the second book really just sort of gives you whiplash because everything is just so different from the first book.

First there’s Lizzie, who I even think got dumber between books. I don’t know how she did that too, because she was almost at Bella Swan level of stupidity in the previous book—I mean, really walking around commando in an airport (ew).

But I relent, in this book she is so oblivious to what’s going around her. I often wonder if her relationship would’ve been salvageable had she actually had the intelligence to speak out and not focus on trying to hide the extra weight she gained in Europe in Spanx.

Okay, off side note, but upon rereading these books and the Heather Wells series I can’t help but get annoyed how many body image issues these characters have. I get that we all complain about our weight—and for Heather’s sake her series does sort of address her weight in the title so she sort of gets a break—but the lifestyle these characters live are just plain unhealthy. Lizzie constantly complains about the size of her butt and then eats like five thousand calories in the next paragraph. I seriously, wondered if there was some sort of over compulsive eating disorder there but luckily Cabot never went there—though it was alluded to enough.

Size of Lizzie’s fictional butt aside, it just annoyed me that this character was just focused on the superficial things when her life is fucked up.

She’s in New York, a fresh college graduate. An undergrad at that and not really a graduate since she still has that pesky thesis—we never find out through the series if she got the diploma, I’m assuming she didn’t since the dean or whoever read it probably cringed too much about Ancient Egyptians using crocodile dung as birth control—to complete and needs to find a job.

And yeah, honey, could’ve told you Vera Wang wasn’t going to hire you. But even though she gets rejections things are ridiculously easy for her when she’s hired for Chaz’s dad’s law firm for twenty fucking bucks an hour.

Okay, as a legal professional I can tell you some lawyers don’t even make twenty freaking bucks an hour when they first start. Oh yeah, some entry level salaries suck ass—I’ve seen like ten dollars an hour in some job ads, and grads will do it because the market is so saturated.   Law students and new grads will even do receptionist work just to get  into the firm, so a idiot like Lizzie who is more focused on the size of her butt than doing her job would likely not get hired based on her skill set let alone for twenty fucking bucks an hour with benefits for fucking part time work. Especially since she can’t keep her trap shut and it’s a freaking family law firm.

Sorry, but having gone through this process it’s a little hard not to roll your eyes at someone like Lizzie working in big law.

The revelations in this book—Sherri being bisexual and Chaz being in love with Lizzie are just randomly thrown there and I’m just like really, really, how did we get there? Especially the Chaz thing, as far as the Sherri thing goes there were at least some allusions to the fact a jack ass character in the previous book thought she might be gay. Though, him being sort of right is just sort of….I don’t know weird. I mean, the guy was a jack ass. I thought it was cool that Sheri was bi, but sort of didn’t like the fact that the jack ass called it. As for Chaz and Lizzie FORCED.

Sorry, but though the pairing improves quite a bit in the last book it just comes out of nowhere. Now, I know that parts of the trilogy are based on real life events—I think I read an interview or two that Cabot mentioned Lizzie getting together with Chaz was sort of how she got together with her husband—with notable fictionalization occurring. It’s just that, I don’t know, if she wanted to do a story like that it might’ve been just as well if Lizzy had ended up with Andrew in the first book OR you know before suddenly exchanging saliva with Chaz, there had been some exploration there.

The pairing, like the book just didn’t work for me.

Overall Rating: Uh, a C- for being a downer it was an entertaining downer.

 

Big mouth. Big heart.

Big wedding. Big problems.

It’s the wedding of the century!

Things are looking up at last for Lizzie Nichols. She has a career she loves in the field of her choice (wedding gown restoration), and the love of her life, Jean-Luc, has finally proposed. Life’s become a dizzying whirl of wedding gown fittings—not necessarily her own—as Lizzie prepares for her dream wedding at her fiancé’s château in the south of France.

But the dream soon becomes a nightmare as the best man—whom Lizzie might once have accidentally slept with . . . no, really, just slept—announces his total lack of support for the couple, a sentiment the maid of honor happens to second; Lizzie’s Midwestern family can’t understand why she doesn’t want to have her wedding in the family backyard; her future, oh-so-proper French in-laws seem to be slowly trying to lure the groom away from medical school and back into investment banking; and Lizzie finds herself wondering if her Prince Charming really is as charming as she once believed.

Is Lizzie really ready to embrace her new role as wife and mistress of Château Mirac? Or is she destined to fall into another man’s arms . . . and into the trap of becoming a Bad Girl instead?

Source: GoodReads

Often called the worst in the series, I don’t exactly hate it. Don’t get me wrong, it was illy paced and rushed and the ship was a bit sudden. But as sudden as the ship came, it wasn’t detestable. In fact, I liked Lizzie and Chaz though both of them are just as fucked up as Luke

I get that Cabot kept trying to do—lessen the blame game, especially with having Luke being revealed to be what he was at the end of the book. But come on, it doesn’t lessen what Lizzie and Chaz did. And sure, I don’t really give a flip one way or the other about the cheating, but I think it was just a cheap shot to villainize Luke so that Lizzie wouldn’t feel that bad about being a “Bad Girl”

Seriously, Bad Girl. That’s what Lizzie calls herself throughout this book because she wants to get into Chaz’s pants while judging others.

It should be noted, that this time upon reread I wanted to throttle her.

Full disclosure, when I first read this book eight years ago, it was during a very painful period in my life. I thought that some of my reaction to the plot might’ve because I was experiencing a similar situation. But nope, years of distance I still feel as disgusted as before.

Also the blatant Paris Hilton character wannabe even annoyed me now upon reread especially since she seemed like a pretty irresponsible Chihuahua owner and since I own like the two best Chis ever—because seriously Pinky and Brainy rule and then some—I get pretty pissed when people treat the dogs like their toys. They’re not.

Brainy is NOT a toy.

Brainy is NOT a toy.

In fact, Pinky and Brainy hate it whenever I have to pack them in their snoozer to get groomed or whatever. Forget about me trying to put them in a purse at any time, Pinky might kill me.

Dont doubt this innocent stare he could hurt him.

Dont doubt this innocent stare he could hurt him.

Yeah, so making the Chihuahua act like a toy in a book—um, not so much.

God, I didn’t think I would rant about Chihuahuas in this review.  There are like ten thousand other things to rant about like the blatantly obviously slammed down moral lesson that I can’t quite pinpoint what exactly it’s supposed to-maybe being true to yourself?-but it makes it presence known especially with how smug and successful Lizzie is at the end of this book.

Look, I like happy endings more than the next person BUT….

Yeah.  It was a little too unbelievable.

I think one of my biggest issues with this one is that I felt like the main character never had to deal with her fuck ups.  Sure, she’d mope for ten pages or so but somehow they’d be miraculously resolved.

Overall Rating a C+ but an entertaining C+