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review 2015-12-23 13:07
Thoughts: Head Over Heels
Head Over Heels - Jill Shalvis

Head Over Heels -- Jill Shalvis

Book 3 of Lucky Harbor

 

 

Head Over Heels is definitely my favorite of the first three Lucky Harbor books. I had been looking forward to this book for a few reasons, one of them a bit shallow, but what are ya gonna do?

First of all, I was the most interested in reading about Chloe since she was first introduced in Simply Irresistible. She just seemed so much more complex than the other two sisters, but probably moreso because she’s the less standard type of Romance novel heroine I have typically seen reading a lot of contemporary romances. Second, we will have seen much more interaction and have a bit more backstory on Chloe and Sawyer by the time their love story rolls around (unlike Maddie and Jax’s instalust to instalove story). And as much as second chance romances are more believable in the relationship developing arena (for Tara and Ford’s love story), I sometimes also like to see a developing romance in progress without pre-storyline emotional ties being an issue.

Finally, Sawyer is Lucky Harbor’s town Sheriff--and I like men in uniform with hero-style jobs. Yes, this is my shallow reason for being more interested in this book.

Romance-wise, the romance between Chloe and Sawyer is extremely sweet and cute, very wonderfully developed over the course of the book. With a case of opposites attracting, a straight-laced sheriff and a free-spirited “wild child”, the two seemed to be meant for each other. But in regard to what actually occurs in Head Over Heels these two have earned their Happily Ever After™.


The Story:
Chloe is the free-spirited “wild child” with a penchant for wanderlust and, according to the Lucky Harbor Facebook newsreel, a knack for getting into trouble. Of course, we get to see over the course of the book that Chloe’s trouble-making life in Lucky Harbor borders more on a Robin Hood-like vigilantism than actually just getting in trouble for the sake of getting into trouble. But for the past six months that she has been living in Lucky Harbor with her newly found half-sisters, Chloe has finally found a place she feels like she’d love to call “Home.” And to be able to call someplace home, she’s slowly started to show her sisters that she, too, would be able to settle and whittle down her wanderlust ways.

But Chloe is far from wanting to change her free-spirited personality.

Meanwhile she has drawn the attention of town Sheriff, Sawyer Thompson, who is somehow determined to save her when she’s in distress, or keep her out of trouble as much as possible. In turn, Sawyer’s altruistic nature and hero complex has also drawn Chloe’s attention as well.

In other Lucky Harbor news, there’s a new Cute Guy in town who is now the center of our Lucky Harbor gossip crew’s attention; two of our three half-sisters are currently engaged with one sister’s wedding pending; and some intrigue may be afoot in the more secluded wooded areas around Lucky Harbor.


My Thoughts:
To be totally honest, once again it is my love for the characters of Lucky Harbor that keeps me so hooked on these books, and the fun, crazy humor in the narration. Chloe and Sawyer’s love story isn’t all that unique even with a much more non-standard heroine as Chloe. And to be totally honest, without the wonderful bantering between these two, they’re courtship (if you could call it that) might have been kind of bland since they spend more time than not either having “Moments” together or trying to seduce each other.

And then you get some mundane, side tangent stuff such as a look at the everyday happenings of Lucky Harbor town sheriff and what he has to deal with on a regular basis; which is great, but almost too mundane to be of significance. Granted, it shows you more insight into Sawyer’s personality and his day-to-day life, but it’s not really all that exciting even if some of the events are newsworthy.

On the other hand, Chloe’s self-development was actually quite interesting to follow as she goes from traveling all over the place and being without roots, to finding a place she could see herself settling down into, if only her sisters and the people of Lucky Harbor would give her a chance. And the heart of the matter is, you also get to see the thought process in Chloe’s mind, wrought out from years of growing up following her equally wanderlust-y mother and having no real place to truly call “Home”. I also think it’s great that, even in her process of finding a group of people to belong to, she doesn’t completely banish her free-spirited attitude towards life.

Again, Chloe is the much more complex of the three sisters, which is probably why I loved her book so much more than the first two, even if I had a blast reading all three of them.

The romance developing between Chloe and Sawyer, though not all that unique, stands out in their interactions with each other. After professing their attraction and their interests to each other, they actually spend more time trying to be in each other’s presence as much as they can manage. And they spend a lot of their developing friends-with-benefits relationship building a rapport, learning about each other, and in general, trying to take care of each other in their own little ways.

Sawyer may be a commanding caveman at moments, but with Chloe, I love how he’s so sweet and thoughtful, especially during those times when she needs someone to lean on the most. And during sex, I’m absolutely thrilled that an asthma attack doesn’t completely scare him off and instead, he goes and learns how to best give Chloe pleasure without putting her in the hospital since Chloe has admitted that she cannot have sex without straining her asthma and ending up in the ER. If that doesn’t scream “sweet” for the Lucky Harbor sheriff, I don’t know what does.

The sexy times in this book were probably much steamier and hotter for that fact, even if they were already kind of hot and steamy by their own merit.

The romance between Chloe and Sawyer is so much fun to follow, and as I love Head Over Heels more than the first two books, I also love this couple more than the first two as well. As I already stated, despite the implied “Meant for each other” vibe that the whole polar opposites attracting plot device gives off, I’m satisfied to say that the love the between these two was actually developed and outlined really well. They got their Happily Ever After™ because they earned it--not that other couples don’t deserve theirs as well, but we actually get to see the relationship slowly develop from mutual attraction and lust, to friendship, and then finally a much more caring and deeper love for one another.


Final Side Thoughts:
I have every intention of continuing into the rest of the Lucky Harbor series. The writing is witty and fun with a great dose of humor infused. If the character interactions are going to continue in the same vein as what I’ve come to love in the first three books so far, then I know I’ll enjoy the rest of the books. Certainly, it will be hard to replicate the awkward, yet tightly-knit, sweet and loving continued development between the three half-sisters, but I’m holding out that we’ll still get to see a bit of them here and there throughout the rest of the series.

And skipping forward to peruse the summary blurbs of the rest of the Lucky Harbor works, I’m pleasantly surprised to see a return to Chloe and Sawyer in a side novella--although it does happen to be listed as Lucky Harbor #12.5. Nine more novels and another short story and another novella to go before we come back to my favorite Lucky Harbor couple...

I am absolutely anal enough to read everything just to make sure I get to that last novella at the proper chronological moment, even if I don’t know if I’ll enjoy all of it.

 

 

***

 

This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):

 

 

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text 2015-12-20 08:50
2015 Reading Challenges Wrap-Up

Original 2015 Reading Challenge Post

 

 

As the post title states, this is really just a general wrap-up for all the reading challenges I participated in this year.  There's a sense of accomplishment in completing so many challenges, but at the same time, I know that I had chosen several of these challenges because they WOULD be easy to complete (Romantic Suspense Challenge, Men in Uniform Challenge, and so on).

 

My biggest accomplishment, honestly, would be the 2015 Reading Assignment Challenge hosted by Michelle at Because Reading and Berls at Fantasy is More Fun.  To create a large list of assigned reading, stick to it, and officially complete every book I set out to complete for the year... it feels good.

 

 

What I'm Currently Reading

These are the books that I am still reading and hope to have finished by the end of the year.  I've also listed which reading challenge they will qualify for if I DO manage to finish reading them before 2016.  Otherwise, another year is another year.

 

 Head Over Heels by Jill Shalvis

  • General Reading Challenge @ GR and BL
  • Outdo Yourself Challenge
  • 2015 Reading Assignment -- extra credit book #2
  • Men in Uniform Challenge -- Police

 

 The Chimes by Charles Dickens (narrated by Richard Armitage)

  • General Reading Challenge @ GR and BL
  • Outdo Yourself Challenge

 

 Risky Christmas (two story anthology)

-- Hidden Secrets by Jill Sorenson

-- Kidnapped at Christmas by Jennifer Morley

  • General Reading Challenge @ GR and BL

 

 

What I Hope to Read Before the Year is Over

There are still eleven days left of the year and so I'm in hopes that I will be able to 1) finish reading the above listed books, and 2) add a couple more books to my 'Read' pile for 2015.  So the following are books I DO plan to start reading before the year is over and hope to have completed, as well as the challenges they will be part of.

 

 Shadow Dance by Julie Garwood

  • General Reading Challenge @ GR and BL
  • Outdo Yourself Challenge
  • Mount TBR Challenge
  • Romantic Suspense Challenge
  • Men in Uniform Challenge -- FBI agent
  • Neverending Series Challenge -- final book to complete!!!

 

 Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis

  • General Reading Challenge @ GR and BL
  • Outdo Yourself Challenge
  • 2015 Release -- not an actual challenge, but I'm keeping track

 

 The Immortal Heights by Sherry Thomas

  • General Reading Challenge @ GR and BL
  • Outdo Yourself Challenge
  • 2015 Release -- not an actual challenge, but I'm keeping track

 

 A Family For Christmas by Mona Ingram

  • General Reading Challenge @ GR and BL
  • Outdo Yourself Challenge

 

 

The Stats

  • General Reading Challenges -- COMPLETED 11/13/2015

Goodreads Reading Challenge -- GR list/shelf

BookLikes Reading Challenge -- BL list/shelf

My Goal:  150 books

Progress:  170/150 books read

 

This is a typical reading challenge I participate in every year and aside from cheating my first year participating in 2012 (by dropping my goal at mid-year when I realized I probably wouldn't make it), I've actually been pretty good at keeping up.  I think I increased my goal by a small amount last year and ended up surpassing that number, which gave me the confidence to set a more stable number of books to read as my yearly goal.

 

Of course, this particular reading challenge includes everything from short stories, anthologies, novellas, and even manga volumes.  Last year I had read several manga volumes, each listed as one individual book on my list.  This year, my count actually has more full-length novels included.  Last year I managed my time a little differently.  This year I struggled through a lot of pre-chosen books for reading challenges that made my time management a little more difficult.

 

I will be participating in this same general numbers goal challenge next year and my goal will remain the same.

 

 

  • Outdo Yourself Challenge

-- CHALLENGE COMPLETED -- 12/17/2015

2015 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge

Hosted by Book Vixen

My Goal:  Getting My Heart Rate Up: read 1 - 5 more books

(I read 154 books for this challenge in 2014 / My goal will be 155 - 159 books in 2015.)

My Progress:  155/155

See Also: 2015 Outdo Yourself Challenge shelf for list of books

 

This is probably one of the harder challenges I picked up two years in a row, although last year, it was no difficult feat to surpass the number of books I had read in 2013.  But since I pretty much stretched my limits in 2014, this year ended up being a real challenge to try and outdo my final reading count from last year.

 

The reading count for this challenge is a little more restrictive as we can only include books that are at least 100 pages or more in length.  So, no manga volumes, no short stories, no picture books.  So this particular reading challenge number is a bit more accurate describing the number of books I've read (or audio books I've listened to).

 

I barely made it to complete my goal this year.

 

I will not be participating in this reading challenge next year, if only because I'm pretty sure I've found my yearly book average and will probably remain fairly steady for a while to come.  Maybe in a year or two I will try my hand at this challenge again.  Knowing myself, however, I'll probably still keep track of books for this challenge and maybe join the challenge at a later date.

 

The Book Vixen will no longer be hosting this Reading Challenge, but Corinne Rodrigues will be taking over:  2016 Outdo Yourself Challenge.

 

 

  • Romantic Suspense Challenge

  -- CHALLENGE COMPLETED -- 4/9/2015

2015 Romantic Suspense Reading Challenge

Hosted by Book Vixen

My Goal:  SWAT: read 21+ romantic suspense novels

My Progress: 77/21

See Also: 2015 Romantic Suspense Challenge shelf for list of books

 

 

  • Men in Uniform Challenge

  -- CHALLENGE COMPLETED -- 3/17/2015

2015 Men in Uniform Reading Challenge

Hosted by Book Vixen

My Goal:  Chief: read 16+ men in uniform novels

My Progress: 71/16

  -- 16 books read -- COMPLETED -- 3/17/2015

See: 2015 Men in Uniform Challenge shelf for book list

See: 2015 Men in Uniform Challenge post for detailed list

 

The above two challenges were the easiest two challenges I've ever chosen.  Knowing full well that I can binge-read several Romantic Suspense novels (a good percentage of which involve Men in Uniform), I was certain I couldn't fail these two challenges even if I tried.  On top of that, the goal levels were also pie.  And as anyone can see, both challenges were completed in full at the highest goal level before June even rolled around.

 

I will not be participating in either of these challenges next year, if only because they really just present an extra set of statistics I need to record... despite the fact that I will probably continue to record these statistics for future use.  Maybe.

 

The 2016 Romantic Suspense Challenge will be hosted by Shooting Stars Reviews.

 

 

  • 2015 TBR Pile Challenge

 -- CHALLENGE FAILED -- 

Hosted by Roof Beam Reader

My 2015 TBR Pile Challenge Summary Post

My Progress: 10/12

See Also: BookLikes shelf / Goodreads shelf

 

This is the third year I participated in the TBR Pile Challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader.  This is the third year I have failed, even if not miserably.  You would think that if I could finish a 48 book Reading Assignment Challenge (see below), then I'd have no trouble at all finishing a 12 book reading challenge wherein I can read any of these books at any time during the year.

 

The problem is, I keep choosing books to place on this list that I can't find the motivation to read.  This is my "I would love to read these books one of these days" challenge, with books that I include that are books that I keep telling myself to read and books that are sort of outside my comfort genres.

 

It probably helped that I did some challenge crossover books between this challenge and the Reading Assignment Challenge, but by the time the last stretch of the year rolled around, I was so obsessed with the Reading Assignment Challenge that I sort of blew off this challenge.

 

I will probably not be participating in this challenge next year for obvious reasons.

 

 

  • 2015 Reading Assignment Challenge

Hosted by Because Reading & Fantasy Is More Fun

My 2015 Reading Assignment Challenge Summary Post

My Goal:  Reading Level 5:  48 books (4 books/month), 4 Extra Credits, 1 Pass

My Progress: 48/48 (4 Extra Credits used / No Passes used)

-- Goal Reached on 12/13/2015

Extended Goal:  Added on 2 Extra Credit books

Extended Goal Progress:  1/2 Extra Credit books read

See Also: BookLikes shelf / Goodreads shelf

 

This was my favorite reading challenge this year.  I can't really say why, but I had a lot of fun with making my list, formatting my update posts, and in general, reading books I would have otherwise avoided reading (**coughcough**Allegiant**coughcough**).  But I don't deny the huge sense of accomplishment bestowed upon myself for setting out a large list of books to read, with a restricted number of books to read monthly, and completing this grand mission.

 

I've picked up new-to-me authors because I chose to list books I probably wouldn't have picked up dependent on my reading mood.  New-to-me authors include: Molly Harper, Tess Gerritsen, Christine Feehan, Roxanne St. Claire, Meg Cabot, Robin Benway, Meagan Spooner, and a few others.  Unfortunately, I can't really say that I've actually liked all of them, and really only a small percentage of the new-to-me authors picked up due to this challenge actually made my "interested in reading more from this author" list.

 

Fortunately, I also picked up a second or third book of an author I had previously only read one book from and had never been sure whether or not to continue reading said author's works.  These authors include: Jill Shalvis, Julie Garwood, and Marie Lu.  Jill Shalvis' Lucky Harbor pilot novel turned out fun and I'm not opposed to continuing that series.  Julie Garwood's Heartbreaker was an average start to a long series, but I'm now kind of hooked to said series.  And Marie Lu's Legend trilogy was excellent and I look forward to continuing on with other books she has written.

 

I will definitely be participating in this challenge next year and have already formulated my list and other thoughts.  I have even given thought to including series that I need to finish, that I actually DO want to finish as well as some new authors or new series I've been circling around for ages without making time for.  Some of these authors will include Jeannie Lin, Amanda Quick, Nora Roberts, Lisa Gardner, and others who've always sat on my radar only, or who have drawn my attention recently.

 

 

  • Mount TBR Reading Challenge

 -- CHALLENGE FAILED

Hosted by My Reader's Block

My Goal:  Mt. Ararat:  Read 48 books from your TBR pile/s

My Progress:  31/48

See: 2015 Mount TBR Challenge shelf for book list

 

I have a huge bookshelf.  I keep adding to that bookshelf.  Both digital and physical.  Unfortunately, I also have a huge reading list that also keeps growing, a bad spending habit, and this uncanny ability to always check out four weeks worth of reading from the library at least once a month.

 

When I first set out to participate in this challenge--to read books I acquired on my shelves before the reading challenge year--I had even made a list and had done some rough guesstimation calculations and came up with a realistic number of 48 out of all 200+ books on my shelves.  I figured that of all the books I owned, 48 was a reasonable number to whittle my shelves down by.

 

And I have failed spectacularly.

 

HOWEVER, I will not be deterred.  I'm going to try again.  2016 is another year and I will always have more books on my shelf to add onto my challenges... or something like that.

 

 

  • The Series That Never Ends Challenge

Hosted by Delighted Reader

My 2015 The Series That Never Ends Challenge Summary Post

My Goal(s):

First Goal:  Surviving the Book Tsunami - 5-9 books / COMPLETED

- 5 books completed -- 3/8/2015

- 9 books completed -- 6/1/2015

Next Goal: Removing the Thorn From My Side - 10-15 books / COMPLETED

- 10 books completed -- 6/9/2015

- 15 books completed -- 7/31/2015

Next Goal: Goddess of Reading the Never Ending Series - 15+ books / COMPLETED

- 16 books completed -- 8/16/2015

My Progress: 18/15 books

Listed Series Goals Completed:  2/3

See: 2015 Series Never Ends Challenge shelf for book list

 

 

I chose to participate in the Neverending Series Challenge because I had recently started into a few long-running Romantic Suspense series that were still getting new installments as the years go by:  Tracers by Laura Griffin was a new one I started in 2015.  Buchanan-Renard by Julie Garwood was a series in which I had started the year before with the first book--curiosity and continually loving the next book more and more got me interested in continuing the series.  Bishop/SCU by Kay Hooper was another series I'd been following for some time, but just never made time to continue even though I wanted to read the entire series.

 

In the ensuing months of 2015, I went on to reading other long (5+ books) or ongoing series such as KGI by Maya Banks, Steele Street by Tara Janzen, Bullet Catchers by Roxanne St. Claire, and so on.  I wasn't sure how dedicated I was to reading these other series so I didn't include them in this challenge, but they would have totally qualified.  And also, I'm already up to book #9 of KGI and I recently finished book #6 of Steele Street.

 

I'm a little conflicted as to whether or not to participate in this challenge in 2016.  For one, this is not an easy challenge unless it's crossing over with other challenges.  I've still got one book left to go in the Buchanan-Renard series to complete my challenge.  On the other hand, I had only planned on reading 5 of the Tracers books as part of my challenge goal, but ended up finishing all 8 of the already published installments, then continuing to read the newest, recently published installment #9, thus catching me up with the entire series at present..

 

In 2016, some of the books for my Reading Assignment Challenge are part of some really long series, both ongoing and completed, with at least 5 books in the total series book count.

 

So this might actually be a good challenge to continue to participate in.  I just haven't quite made up my decisions yet.

 

 

In Summary

I will be publishing an official Reading Challenge post for my 2016 Reading Challenges, but here is the gist of everything:

 

I have decided to cut back on the number of challenges I will be participating in next year.  Keeping track of all of my books read and for what challenges and any other statistic has become something of a tedious, obsessive activity for me this year and I realize that I might have gone a bit overboard.  If I showed everyone my bookish spreadsheets, it could get a little scary.

 

So aside from the general number goal challenge via GR and BL, I will only be participating in 3 other challenges (decided as of this moment):

 

2016 Reading Assignment Challenge

2016 Mount TBR Challenge

2016 Bookish Resolutions

(I will update links as I create each starter post.)

 

I will probably still end up keeping track of the number of series I've read and completed and started as well as all other statistics I normally keep track of on my personal spreadsheets, but that's probably about it for me.

 

I DO, however, want to participate in more Read-a-thons, so those are still in the 2016 bookish plans.  I'm particularly interested in the Bout of Books week-long read-a-thons, though I haven't decided which one to participate in yet.

 

Otherwise, this year, I feel like I've managed pretty well.

 

 

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review 2015-12-19 10:12
Thoughts: The Sweetest Thing
The Sweetest Thing - Jill Shalvis

The Sweetest Thing -- Jill Shalvis

Book 2 of Lucky Harbor

 

 

It's safe to say that The Sweetest Thing is much like my impression of it's preceding book, Simply Irresistible. It's formulaic as a typical love story with an overused plot device.

HOWEVER, that is where my complaints stop, honestly. Because sometimes you just need something lighthearted and fluffy to make your day, and, so far, the books of Lucky Harbor seem to fit this definition very well. Much like Simply Irresistible, The Sweetest Thing is fun and enjoyable, with a lot of strange, nonsensical humor and some laugh-out-loud moments. It's sexy in its own way (even if the sex wasn't really all that hot to write home about), and it touches the heart in just the right places.

The continuation of the three half-sisters in getting to know each other and the continuation of their new lives in Lucky Harbor is a treat. I may have liked The Sweetest Thing a bit more than Simply Irresistible if only because the love story was slightly more in-depth. And also, there was a lot more bonding going on between the three sisters, something that I had wished we could have seen more of in the first book. So I'm glad we're seeing more of it in this second book and I'm hoping to see more still, in the third book.

I might have had some feels at some point thanks to the three of them.


The Story:
Picking up from where the first book left off, Tara Daniels has chosen to stay in Lucky Harbor to help her sisters revive their mother's dilapidated, rundown dockside inn. A lot of renovations and rebuilding are in progress and the small, cozy business will be seeing it's grand opening soon. And, of course, Tara is at a crossroads in her life (as are all Contemporary Romance heroines), not quite sure whether to remain in Lucky Harbor with her sisters after all is said and done, or run away back to Texas where she'd been raised most of her life and do... whatever.

Tara's life is kind of out of sorts after her recent divorce and inheriting her mother's inn with her two half-sisters. But things are only going to become more complicated still. Her old childhood first love, Ford Walker is doing whatever he can to get back into her good graces (as well as into her bed), and after what had happened between them seventeen years ago, Tara's not sure if she can withstand another round of deep passion followed by disappointment and heartbreak. After all, it's not like Ford wants the same things she wants for her life.

To make matters even more interesting, Logan Perrish, Tara's ex-husband, shows up in Lucky Harbor determined to reconnect with Tara and make their marriage a thing once again.

Meanwhile, youngest sister Chloe is still on her wild streak, Maddie and Jax (from Simply Irresistible) are in the honeymoon phase of their relationship (as they disappear at odd moments to consummate like bunnies), Lucille the town gossip is running a Facebook poll on which man will win Tara's heart, and a seventeen year old girl arrives in Lucky Harbor set on learning about her origins. There might have been a lot of male posturing, wet t-shirts on boats, some sailing, and maybe a washboard abs contest in a bar as well.


My Thoughts:
To be frank, a lot of things happen in this book, even if not all of it significant. It almost feels like the next ten episodes in a story arc of a long running mini-series sitcom, or something like that. New characters are introduced vaguely and the next big coupling pair starts up a probable relationship with sexual tension and everything by the time the end of the book rolls around (hint: it's Chloe and Sawyer, and I've been most looking forward to their book since day one, Head Over Heels).

But the story line itself is nothing unique: A set of young lovers were wild and passionate during their teens, but had a bumpy First Love story, ending in heartache and separation. Years later, the powers that be give them a second chance by bringing the two back together for whatever reason, but both parties have their own reserves about getting too close lest they be burned once again, but they just can't seem to keep their hands off of each other.

Of course, to complicate matters, let's throw the ex into the little mess that's already complicated enough (even if the mess really didn't need to be complicated in the first place, but what do I know about relationships?).

What makes The Sweetest Thing so much more than just a typical love story, however, are really the characters and all of their interactions, relationships, and bonds with one another. I simply love the developing care and love between the three half-sisters, Tara, Maddie, and Chloe--how they've started to take care of each other in subtle ways, but how they also bond in a straight-forward, harsh-love type of way. They say what they feel, they get mean if they have to, and they're not afraid to dish out jokes or make each other's lives miserable so long as they maintain their biggest goal: Getting to know each other better as sisters and surviving each other together.

In and around the sisters are other great friendships and relationships to be had as well. Jax, Ford, and Sawyer are as good as brothers. Lucille and other of the elderly women are like mother hens and an extensive and over-imaginative gossip network. Everyone in the town of Lucky Harbor are good people without an evil bone in their bodies. Even if they side with certain people on certain matters, they don't do it by rolling over other people.

Again, sometimes you just need a light, fluffy romance with a heart-warming setting to make your day. Because even while The Sweetest Thing isn't the most unique story line in the world, just the character interactions make me all grinning and fuzzy and smiley and awe-ing. It's a pretty great feeling all with a Happily Ever After™ tying everything together.

Also, a lot of Tara's little quips and quotes are pretty awesome. And there's nothing wrong with some weird situations that just make you gape a bit or give a hearty little "Ha!" at how well it tickles your funny bone.


***

Chloe came up behind them. "Hey, thought we were doing yoga this morning."

"I get enough exercise just pushing my luck," Tara said, still watching the houseboat through the binoculars.

***

"Change is good but dollars are better."

-- Tara Daniels' recipe box of quotes


***

The inn's first real guests arrived as scheduled [...] Maddie and Tara checked them in together, and Chloe gave them a gift basket full of her natural products. The wife fingered through the items, cooing at the bath salts, the herbal teas, the...

"Massage oil?" the woman asked, lifting the bottle. She had to slip her glasses on to read the label, "Edible strawberry massage oil," she said out loud. "Perfect for that special someone. Put it on your--Oh my."

Mia gaped.

Maddie covered Mia's eyes.

Tara looked at Chloe in horror.

Chloe laughed and reached for the oil. "Whoops, I was wondering where that went. Here, try this instead." And she quickly replaced the oil with body lotion.

"Oh," the woman said, sounding greatly disappointed. "Could I maybe have both?"

"Well, sure." Chloe handed back over the oil. "Enjoy."

[...]

Mia giggled [...] and then Maddie snorted. She slapped her hands over her mouth, but it was too late, and the sound of it sent Mia into a new fit of laughter. Chloe promptly lost the battle as well.

"It isn't funny," Tara protested. "They're going to be up there doing... things." But her daughter was still cracking up, and Tara felt the helpless smile tug at the corners of her own mouth at the sound of it, and the next thing she knew, they'd all slid down the wall to the floor laughing like loons.

Together.

 

 

***

 

This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):

 

 

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review 2015-12-14 03:17
Thoughts: Vitro
Vitro - Jessica Khoury

Vitro -- Jessica Khoury

Book 2 of Corpus

 

**This book can be read as a stand-alone apart from the first book in the series, Origin.  In fact, there is some dialogue alluding to the South American facilities, another research group owned by the fictional company of Corpus, which, if I'm not mistaken, is where the events of Origin takes place--possibly concurrent to the events of Vitro.

 

 

I am actually quite conflicted with whether or not I liked this book. In the end, I can only say that I found it entertaining and gripping, maybe enjoyable. However, really liking it is a bit of a stretch. The story's progression was consistently forward moving without any room for breath--there was constant action and constant activity, and everything was just moving so fast you don't get much of a chance to think about anything.

Jessica Khoury's writing is great and the premise of Vitro an attention-grabbing idea. Certain controversial subjects are raised, and the story can be quite thought-provoking. But aside from that, there wasn't much that stood out about Vitro to make it a memorable book. While the characters were great, there is nothing memorable about them nor about their stories.


The Story:
Sophie Crue has looked forward to working with her scientist mother on Skin Island her entire life. Ever since her parents split up and she was whisked away to Boston to live with her father, Sophie has desired nothing but to prove to her mother that she can be useful and can help with her mother's research of finding cures for certain human ailments such as Alzheimer's. So when she receives an urgent e-mail from her mother asking for her to come to Skin Island because Moira Crue is in distress and needs Sophie immediately, she does not hesitate to fly all the way out to Guam where she hires a young pilot, Jim Julien (an old childhood friend of hers before she moved to Boston), to take her to Skin Island.

But upon arrival, the duo realize that there is something much sinister happening on the isolated island. Instead of researching to find cures for Alzheimer's, Sophie finds that her mother has been creating Vitros, young, teenage children artificially born and grown, with chips embedded in their brains who are programmed to imprint upon the first person they see upon awakening, and thus will become a slave to that person.

Moreso, Sophie discovers Lux, one of these Vitros, who is her own twin sister.


My Thoughts:
There were just a few things here and there that did not work for me: mainly a lot of Sophie's actions that get her onto the island in the first place, and some of the sci-fi logic surrounding the creation of these Vitros. Not that I'm a scientist or anything, so I just went with it and enjoyed the horror-like aspect of the sci-fi part of the story.

As for Sophie's actions: Had she not been so reckless and naive to begin with, I might have enjoyed the book a lot more. But I found her actions maddeningly stupid. While I understand that she's been wanting to be with her mother for all these years and takes the first chance she gets to run off to Skin Island, I can't help but think that someone more level-headed would have thought things through first before flying across the world based on a single e-mail SOS from a mother who has denied her requests to visit Skin Island for so many years.

On top of that, while I don't begrudge her getting into a plane with Jim Julien because he IS a childhood friend, and as she states, her only ever closest and best friend, she also has not seen this boy in over ten years. HOW do you know he's still that same friend and trustworthy enough to climb into a plane with him and rush off into the air where he has full control over where you are going and where you will end up?

And THEN, by the third chapter, Sophie once again runs off with another strange boy she DOES NOT EVEN KNOW when they land on Skin Island. Nicholas just shows up, says a lot of cryptic things, doesn't even acknowledge whether or not he is taking Sophie to see her mother, and Sophie just goes with him without hesitation.

Honestly, change the way the events at the beginning took place--get Sophie and Jim to Skin Island in a different way with some more tangible reasons, and I might buy into the story a little bit better. But after three very bad decisions, I started becoming wary of everything else that Sophie did such as continuing to trust Nicholas and trying to help him despite the fact that he'd lied to her, sabotaged Jim's plane, and got her stuck on Skin Island.

However...

At the halfway point of the book, when secrets start coming out and the entire island starts becoming chaos and mayhem, things started getting MUCH better.

And to be honest, Jessica Khoury's writing is spectacular in laying down the foundation of a world and creating excellent imagery of the island's setting. The story concept was also intriguing, and the characters were all pretty awesome. If not for the few bad decisions that Sophie makes, which seem highly illogical, I might have liked this book a lot more.

The character interactions were kind of meh, though. Aside from the whole "childhood" friends memories to go on, the friendship bond between Sophie and Jim was a little flimsy. So it's fortunate that Jim's got a good altrusitic hero complex going on for him and couldn't abandon Sophie, putting his own life in danger time and time again to help her and Lux. But otherwise, even for a friendship, their tight bond felt a little forced.

It makes me a little glad that the romance was so back-seated that it might have been non-existent. And I'm okay with that, really.


Final Thoughts:
I had had stars docked from this book's rating for quite some time until halfway into the book and things started getting exciting and the story world's events and logic felt a bit more stable.

Vitro can be an entertaining and enjoyable read. I didn't like it nearly as much as I liked Origin, but it IS serviceable as an action-packed, fast-paced, science fiction.

 

***

 

This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):

 

 

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-12-06 14:28
Thoughts: Allegiant
Allegiant - Veronica Roth

Allegiant -- Veronica Roth

Book 3 (final) of Divergent

 

 

As much hype as Divergent has gotten because of its movie adaptation (and the lovely Theo James who is the big screen version of the lovely Four), this series was admittedly never really one I especially loved. Sure, the books have been well-written and fairly intense and exciting in comparison with a lot of other dystopians in recent years. And sure, this trilogy had its appeal. But at the same time, there really wasn’t much to set Divergent apart from every other YA dystopian ever written--save for the fact that there was never a love triangle nor a cynical YA female lead.

Tris can be said to be strong and ideal and kickass. I don’t deny that. And Four is her soul mate OTP counterpart as the strong, broody, hero. They make a great couple and they make a strong pair of teenagers, created to save the world and stuff like that.


I put off reading Allegiant for the longest time ever since word leaked about the ending that had fans breaking into two camps of love or outrage. It was amusing to see all the discussions, the debates, the anger and such stuff. I was indifferent since I was never really invested in these characters enough to care what would happen to them in the end.

Nonetheless, I’ve always been a Happily Ever After™ ending type of person and anything that deviates from that rose-colored ideal tends to give me pause. On the other hand, as I’d already stated, it wasn’t as if I was ever really a huge fan of the Divergent series to begin with.

In the end, I realize why I’d subconsciously pushed the book back time and time again when it was purposefully chosen as a book for my Reading Assignment challenge.


Allegiant (and its preceding two books) is well written, fast-paced, and intense. It’s hard NOT to fall into the story, narration, and progression. I can kind of see why it exploded into something so big--it also probably helped that the book ended up on the big screen.

But that’s probably where my personal likes stop.

I’ve still been quite uncertain about how I’ve felt about the entirety of the Divergent series’ world building. In the first book, the world was slightly confusing and the set-up monotonous--you also end up asking more questions than getting answers and you know you won’t get any of those answers for a while to come. Thus is the life of a trending YA trilogy.

The second book became more fast-paced, focusing more so on story progression and character development, yet we still see very little world building (or at least any that makes sense). Yes, you get to see more of the other factions. But really, who cares when I don’t know why they matter?

Finally, in this concluding installment of Divergent, we get to see the basis of the Divergent world and we get our answers to why things are the way they are. And I’m only slightly content with that. The problem is that it wasn’t all that unique considering all the other dystopian story lines in existence. And also, nothing really made much sense concerning the history of the Divergent world or anything else that we learn anew about factions, the people, and the technology and sciences.

More so, I never got a sense that I understood what time frame this world takes place in or even what what the state of the rest of the world is in, or even what’s actually going on outside of this community of factions. It was explained, but it was still vague.


To be honest, however, what really bugged me the most about this book wasn’t the ending that everyone else seemed to be upset about, though it wasn’t helpful either.

Allegiant was drawn out and dragged on. The beginning of this last installment gave us a meandering journey in which we had no idea what direction the story was going. At least I had no idea what was going on and what was supposed to be going on. And then when the action finally DID pick up, more events occurred that honestly did not make sense to me.

Tobias’ behavior was out of character and a bit hard for me to believe. Tris’ attitude became more annoying as the story progressed. It’s hard to believe that someone who presented as so level-headed and quick on his feet as Tobias would completely lose his composure and end up causing problems. And Tris’ holier-than-thou attitude made me irritated, especially since everything always seemed to work out for her anyway despite how reckless and thoughtless she’d always been and still continues to be.

No. The ending, while eliciting a pang of sadness in me, wasn’t what made me the most frustrated with this book. Although it wasn’t as if I really liked it either. Written well and handled well, yeah. I guess.

But in the long run, Tris’ death just felt a little unnecessary. Yes, it’s sad. And maybe it’s symbolic. But it felt like it was a stupid death because it could have been avoided if Tris would have just been developed beyond her typical reckless, unthinking self. There was no reason why she couldn’t have just stepped back and thought about her options before rushing headlong into danger just because it was her instinct to do so. There was no reason for her and her friends not to think of more options. I might be in the minority here about the ending, but Tris’ death was a needless one. I’m not saying it shouldn’t have happened; I’m saying it shouldn’t have happened the way that it did. There are better ways to stage a symbolic, heroic death, in fiction, and the way that Tris was killed really made no sense when I could see holes where that event might have been avoided if Tris really wanted stay alive.

(spoiler show)


My frustrations with this book really hinge on how pointless a lot of actions were, how much a lot of things didn’t make sense, how there seems to be no tangible story line outside of that global "this is a dystopian society and we're here to save the world just because", and how the characters just seem less relatable to me than they had even been in the first place.

As far as conclusions go, Allegiant wasn’t the best thing in the world, even if it wasn’t the worst. But it had taken two books just to come up with an explanation for the world surrounding the Divergent series, and it just didn’t feel satisfying, and in a way, kind of poorly thought out. With a draggy progression and a world that made little sense, I would have at least preferred a Happily Ever After™ to make up for it.

 

***

 

This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):

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