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review 2016-02-15 01:14
"Act Like It" by Lucy Parker
Act Like It - Lucy V. Parker

I enjoyed the heck out of this book. I loved the smart, fast-paced, funny dialogue. I loved the British slang. I loved the London setting. I loved the sensible, intelligent, kind heroine and the cranky, misanthropic hero. I love discovering a new author I will definitely read again. I really loved that it only cost $0.99!


Lainie is an up-and-coming actress with a supporting role in a West End play, and work has become very awkward since her boyfriend-slash-onstage-love-interest got caught very publicly stepping out on her. This makes Lainie a sympathetic figure in the media, and the bosses at her theatre decide to capitalize on her newly-single, media-darling status to help polish the reputation of the actor who plays the show's villain, who has a bit of an anger management problem in real life. Richard is delightfully grumpy and gruff, which is only fun because Lainie doesn't waste time trying to please him. She does as she likes, and in time, he comes around to wanting to please her. 


Everything about this book was fun, and I loved that the setting and the language made  "Act Like It" different from everything else I've read lately. I loved the interplay between the characters' private relationship and their public personas as London theater celebrities. I loved that their work was an integral part of the plot. I loved how smart both Lainie and Richard are, and how they communicate like reasonable, responsible adults. I'll definitely be re-reading this one again soon!

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review 2016-01-19 17:48
"Crash into You" by Katie McGarry
Crash into You - Katie McGarry

My full-on glom of this YA series continues. This third installment focuses on Isaiah, who is about to age out of the foster care system. (Readers of prior books in the series will know Isaiah as the best friend of book one's hero, Noah, and the boy who was in unrequited love with book two's heroine, Beth.) Needing to come up with rent money, Isaiah enters his Mustang in an illegal street race, where he meets Rachel. Rachel is the precious daughter of one of Louisville's most privileged families, but when she can sneak out from under the parents' and brothers' overprotective thumbs, she likes to race. She winds up at the street race more or less by accident, because Plot.


When things at the race go sideways, Rachel and Isaiah end up indebted to a scary crime boss who will hurt/rape/kill them if they don't pay him back. (Also because Plot.) This makes them unlikely allies, who eventually become unlikely lovers. (Well, unlikely heavy petters, anyway -- this is YA.)


I was fond enough of Isaiah from the previous books to be excited to read his story, and mostly this didn't disappoint, though this whole series is a little angsty for my tastes. (Again, it is YA.) I thought Rachel's backstory was interesting and well done. (There are only so many ways you can make a "poor little rich girl" a sympathetic figure, and McGarry did well in taking an unexpected route.)


I really disliked the ending, which was abrupt and rather of the deus ex machina variety, but otherwise this book was fun. On to the next!

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review 2016-01-11 21:33
"The Rogue Not Taken" by Sarah MacLean
The Rogue Not Taken - Sarah MacLean

I really enjoyed this first installment in Sarah MacLean's new historical Scandal & Scoundrel series, which is nice because I haven't really been connecting with historicals in about a year. The heroine, Sophie, is the youngest of five daughters known collectively as the Soiled S's, 'soiled' because their father bought his earldom after making a fortune mining coal, and 'S's' because their names all begin with S. At a ton fete, Sophie catches her brother-in-law cheating on her pregnant eldest sister, and pushes him into a fishpond. One might think his reputation would be the one to suffer as a result of this scandal, but no, he is a duke and Sophie is a coalminer's daughter, so she is the one ruined.


Desperate to flee the humiliating scene, Sophie comes upon King, who is climbing out of a soon-to-be-married lady's bedroom window. No stranger to scandal himself, the Marquess is nevertheless unwilling to help Sophie, so she poses as one of King's footmen to hitch a ride home. (Just go with it.) Unbeknownst to her, though, King's carriage isn't headed to Mayfair: he's on his way to Cumbria to see his estranged father, having heard his father is on his deathbed. On the journey north, Sophie and King's misadventures lead, gradually, to the correction of the wrong assumptions each made of the other on their initial acquaintance, and ultimately to love, though trust is harder to come by.


Much of the appeal of this book, for me, stems from the fact that apart from the initial scene at the garden party, "Rogue Not Taken" is a roadtrip story. It doesn't take place in London's drawing rooms and ball rooms, but in carriages and curricles and posting inns along the North Road. I also appreciated that Sophie isn't truly of the aristocracy, nor does she aspire to be, but she is also keenly aware that her past life of comfortable anonymity, before her father became an earl, is no longer available to her either. She's truly adrift in that sense, without a community, which makes her a more compelling character.


King didn't really stand out from the crowd of romance heroes, to me, and yet I appreciated his character arc as he grows from someone who treats Sophie fairly badly early on, but ultimately comes around to be her champion.


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review 2015-11-27 19:18
Hero Ran Out of Chances for Forgiveness
Need Me - Tessa Bailey

Honey has a crush on her English Professor, Ben, but professors aren't allowed to date students at this college. Then, surprising exactly NO ONE (except Ben and Honey), Ben turns out to be Honey's roommate's boyfriend's best friend (because in a city as huge as NYC, of course he'd just happen to be the same Ben, right?). Once they're part of the same crowd, it's even harder to resist the attraction.


I struggled with this book -- well, with the last two books in the series -- because while the characters are good and the writing is snappy and entertaining, the plotting gave me whiplash. There's a conflict, and then just as it's about to be resolved, something else happens just to keep the plot moving and drag the book out a little longer (all three books are pretty short). Here, the thing that kept happening to create more conflict tended to be Ben misunderstanding Honey, getting pissed off and behaving like an ass, only to realize his mistake and have to fix it. Now, I can go with an honest misunderstanding and a good grovel or grand gesture to win back one's girl, but only one per book. In real life, if a guy ever screws up as badly and as often as Ben does, he needs to be out of chances.

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review 2015-10-25 19:34
Infodumps All Over
Carry On - Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell's stellar writing makes her books auto-buys for me, though her stories often leave me unsatisfied or disappointed in some way. This is the worst of the lot so far, and honestly, I probably should have known better. I read Fangirl (and enjoyed it, except I was disappointed by the too-hasty ending), but I remember being a little bored by the excerpts from the Simon Snow fan fiction (Simon Snow is a British orphan who gets admitted to a boarding school for magic kids when he's 11. Sound familiar?) that the protagonist in Fangirl, Cath, wrote so feverishly. 


Carry On is Rainbow Rowell's attempt to give Simon and his roommate, Baz, the story they didn't get in Fangirl, having been only a subplot in that book. One needn't read Fangirl first; frankly, having read Fangirl didn't keep me from feeling lost here. The main problem with Carry On is that it's like very like the Harry Potter series, but only the final book. Like Harry Potter, the premise is that Simon and friends have been at school for years, having adventures and quests each year, but rather than writing all of these stories, Rowell only writes the last year, and all of the backstory, all of the character development, all of the buildup to the final confrontation, is summarized in clunky infodumps throughout the narrative. It doesn't work. I didn't know the characters well enough to root for them or care about them, and the main characters, especially Baz and Angela, I flat-out didn't like. 


As for the romance

between Baz and Simon

(spoiler show)

, I wasn't feeling it. It's not the gay aspect (I'm bisexual, married to a woman, so generally I'm thrilled that teen literature deals more openly with GLBT themes and issues than when I was a kid); it's that I didn't feel invested in the characters, and their romance came on so suddenly and with so little introspection or development, it just didn't resonate with me. 

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