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review 2016-02-15 01:37
"The Hooker and the Hermit" by L.H. Cosway & Penny Reid
The Hooker and the Hermit - Penny Reid,Luci Cosway

I had some believability issues with this book, but on the whole I enjoyed it quite a bit. Ronan is staying in Manhattan after being suspended from his rugby team after beating up a teammate for sleeping with his long-time girlfriend. He reluctantly hires a P.R. firm to help clean up his public image, where he meets Annie, a deliciously uptight nerd who can do wonders with his online reputation. Unbeknownst to everyone, Annie is the public alter-ego of famous celebrity blogger Socialmedialite, who has already established a slap-slap-kiss-kiss email correspondence with Ronan after posting a post-workout picture of him on her blog. 


I've never read L.H. Cosway, but I like Penny Reid, and this book had the funny-yet-decidedly-oddball flavor I've come to associate with Penny Reid, especially in the dialogue. I found the plotting of this to be tighter than other books of Reid's that I've read, which was a good thing, and the dialogue and the authors' voice was smart and funny, which I really enjoyed. The sexy parts are a little racier than Penny Reid's usual fare, with a mild BDSM-kink, but nothing that the average mainstream romance reader would find too off-putting. 


As I mentioned, I struggled a little bit with willing suspension of disbelief. First, there's the coincidence that Annie-as-Socialmedialite and Annie-as-P.R.-professional both run in to Ronan at the same time. Second, Ronan gets followed by paparazzi everywhere he goes, which I can buy when they're in Ireland, but I had a hard time believing that the NYC paps would give a fig about a disgraced Irish rugby player. Third, Ronan's fall for Annie is pretty insta-lovey, especially since he's just getting out of an ugly relationship. 


Those issues didn't do much to diminish my enjoyment of the story, though, which was fast-paced, lighthearted, and a lot of fun, and very engaging even as I had several quibbles with the plot. I will definitely read on the series. 

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review 2016-01-16 21:59
"Dare You To" by Katie McGarry
Dare You To - Katie McGarry

This second installment in the "Pushing the Limits" series wasn't as angsty as the first book (Pushing the Limits), which I liked. At the same time, though, Beth and Ryan's story doesn't pack the same emotional punch. That's not to say it's not chockfull of melodrama: Beth has a truly horrible backstory, trying to keep her addicted mom away from an abusive boyfriend, when her mom doesn't want to save herself or Beth, either. When Beth gets arrested (taking the fall for something her mom did), a long-lost uncle swoops in to take her to the suburbs for a better life -- but like her mom, Beth doesn't exactly want to be rescued. Also, living in a bible-thumping backwater isn't her idea of a better life. 


By comparison, Ryan is living the dream: steadily (if not happily) married parents, popular at school, good grades, champion baseball pitcher being courted by professional and college scouts. Yet Ryan's life isn't as charmed as it seems: his older brother was disowned after coming out of the closet, and in the wake of that scandal, Ryan's nuclear family is in the midst of a nuclear meltdown. 


I liked Ryan. I liked Beth. I enjoyed most of the individual subplots of this story. On the whole, the writing was well done and the plotting was tight and well-paced. I just didn't really feel Ryan and Beth as a couple, and I'm not sure why. 

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review 2016-01-13 16:53
"Pushing the Limits" by Katie McGarry
Pushing the Limits - Katie McGarry

I had heard good things about this series, but approached it warily because high school romance is not generally my speed anymore. I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy this as much as I did, since it's much more angsty than I usually like. The two main characters have backgrounds so tragic it was a bit of a trial to willingly suspend my disbelief. Yes, maybe such a series of extremely unfortunate events could happen to one person, but two? And I'm to believe that these two so completely damaged people would be a good match for each other, rather than being too broken to help themselves, much less each other? 


Still, for purposes of a good story, I went with it. I ended up liking Noah and Echo very much, and I liked the way the story revealed the layers of their tragic histories gradually, without info dumping or excessive navel-gazing. I liked that both characters had their own individual character arcs, independent of their evolution into a couple. I liked that supporting characters were well-developed and had important roles in the story, and were not just there to give the main characters someone to talk to when their significant other wasn't around. -And the romance was very satisfying, though much angstier than I generally prefer. 


Because this book is about and for high school readers, the main characters don't have sex, though there is discussion of it and progress toward that end goal. 

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review 2015-12-15 15:17
Beautiful, Sexy Little Holiday Read
Snowfall (Novella) - Mary Ann Rivers

This is probably the best holiday novella I've ever read, and possibly the best novella, full stop. Jenny, a microbiologist who makes her living viewing tiny organisms under a high powered microscope, moves across the country to become a research scholar, and then almost immediately receives a life-changing medical diagnosis:

she's going blind.

(spoiler show)


While working through the stages of grief related to her condition, and adjusting to her new job and new city, Jenny strikes up a serendipitous cyber relationship with the former tenant of her apartment. After several innocuous online interactions, their relationship turns to very spicy cyber sex, which is both a physical and an emotional refuge for Jenny, who is lonely and tending toward depression.


Meanwhile, Jenny also has sexual tension developing in her contentious relationship with her occupational therapist, Evan, whose job it is to help her adjust to the new reality necessitated by her medical condition.


The reader realizes much sooner than Jenny that Evan and her online lover are one and the same, and when Evan realizes and doesn't immediately tell Jenny, that could have been a huge turnoff for me (I hate intentional dishonesty tropes), and yet Mary Ann Rivers negotiates that plot twist deftly enough that both characters' motivations and reactions are both relatable and ethical.


The writing is hauntingly beautiful. I'll be thinking about this story long after finishing it, and I'll definitely read it again -- perhaps every Christmas season.

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review 2015-12-07 13:21
Too Many Characters, Too Many Secrets
Staying at Daisy's - Jill Mansell

A friend recommended I should check out British author Jill Mansell, and I can see why she thought I would like this. It's constructed sort of like Love Actually, with lots of intersecting plot lines, and of course it's full of adorably British people saying adorably British things. In theory, this ought to be right up my alley. In practice, it missed the mark.


Staying at Daisy's is about the father-daughter owners of a schmancy hotel in the Cotwolds, their staff, guests, lovers, and neighbors. There are a lot of characters. I didn't have trouble keeping track of who the characters were, but since several of the intersecting plots hinge on characters keeping secrets from one another, I did have trouble keeping track of who knew what.


All of those secrets were my biggest problem with the story. Not my confusion, but the fact that all of these characters were so dishonest with one another, keeping secrets and sneaking around. For me, that made it hard to like these people.


I also found many of the characters very flat and underdeveloped, likely because there were so many characters that, in the interests of space, the author sacrificed character development in order to move the plot. Unfortunately, if the characters aren't developed, I have trouble giving a fig what happens to them in the story.


Anyway, this just wasn't my cuppa.



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