Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

after reading this book all in one sitting (seeing a trend here w/ me?) – i looked online and found out that Jamie McGuire recently went from self publishing to working with a small publishing group.  This is great for all of you guys that haven’t read her stuff and really ought to.

**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS BELOW – BE FOREWARNED**

The cover art is kind of what drew me in at first and i’m not sure how that all ties into the actual story, but i have to say that this is a book that i LOVED! and i don’t say that too often i don’t think.

We are introduced to our characters right in the middle of a fight – and that’s kind of the basis of this whole story.  everything for everyone seems to be a fight – but for most, it just works

Abby/Pigeon – Abby is our focus for the book – she’s the one telling the story and she’s the one that we are drawn to.  Abby is a Freshman at ‘Eastern’ University, where she’s gone with her best friend America to escape her past and hopefully hide it.  What is she hiding – well we don’t find that out for a long long time, and you kind of want to think the worst.  The impression of Abby that we’re given is that she’s really naive, and innocent, but if you just listen to how she stands up to people, especially Travis (we’ll talk about him in a sec) – you see that maybe there’s more that her package has to offer.  Anyway, she’s the good girl who falls for the bad boy (Travis) – and yet doesn’t want to fall for him so she instead tries to aim for the friend zone.  which isn’t a good thing anyway.  what i love about her though is that she’s trying to do the right thing and not compromise herself too much when ultimately she puts herself and Travis (and all their friends) through so much more stress than is actually necessary.   her secret mind you – her father was one of the best professional poker players ever until Abby turned 13 and some how managed to have the tables turned and became the better player.

note – i loved that it was Thomas – Travis’ brother that figured it out – that was great

Travis – he’s THE guy from every book that’s got massive sex appeal and a temper, yet you want to root for him.  you just know that there’s going to be some innocent little thing coming along to make him turn his life around and this time it was Abby (or Pigeon as he likes to call her)  Travis grew up hard, as he likes to say, little money, drunk father (who changed – and from what we see is actually a great father after all) and lots of older brothers.  he had to fight to survive in his family and how he is now is a result of that.  what i still don’t get w/ him though is how he’s such an amazing fighter.  no one can beat him, yet that can’t just be from dodging punches from family can it?
America/Shep – these are our usual suspects of supporting characters.  america is Abby’s best friend from Kansas *ahem* Vegas  who’s goal is to make sure that 1) Abby’s identity is a secret 2) make sure Abby is happy/safe.  Shep is her boyfriend and ironically enough, Travis’ cousin/roommate.  makes for some cozy stuff right?  anyway, i found that i liked Shep a bit more than America.  I felt like he contributed a lot to the story  the insight on who Travis was and why he did stuff – how he tried to help be voice of reason, and what i LOVED was the scene towards the end when he thinks that Travis is bringing a random girl home, he stomps out and yells at Travis, only then to see that it’s Abby and all is right in the world.  America – well she’s a sweet enough girl, i just didn’t feel like she contributed as much as she probably could have

if you don’t read anything else this week – please get this book.  here’s the short of it:

innocent girl meets bad boy fighter.  eyes lock – instant connection, however girl doesn’t want to be another notch on a bed-post so here comes ‘friend’ strategy.  that kind of backfires when REAL feelings develop between the 2.  virginity is taken, fight ensues, break ups follow – then reunions of course.  a scummy father comes in to the picture luring Abby to help pay off gambling debts – revealing her true identity – calling for a road trip to Vegas – where another BIG TIME fight comes along causing yet another break up and then moping by all folks involved – and then a drunken reunion, followed by ANOTHER trip to vegas where there’s a wedding and everyone lives happily ever after.

yes i made that sound all very cliche and blase – but really it’s a GREAT book, and again, i don’t stay that often – so please just trust me ok?  i’m sitting here waiting on the edge of my seat for ‘Walking Disaster’ – the follow up story all from Travis’ perspective – that’ll be good.

These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen

Being a fan of Sex and the city and Girls and all of those New York city based stories of friends or groups of women co-existing, i thought this could be a slam dunk of a book.  Ironically it was my husband that must have seen something on TV about this title and suggested that i pick up These Girls.

he didn’t steer me wrong, but i have to say that i feel a little like i was left high and dry by this story.  We’re introduced to 2 of the main characters who work together and live together, but who really aren’t close close friends.  they are roommates more so out of convenience than anything else, but that’s not such a bad thing as we’ll find as we read the story.

Cate – she has recently been promoted to Features Editor of Gloss Magazine which is a small coup for her, especially since she keeps wondering if it was because her boss Nigel had a thing for her or if it was on merit.  I like to think that it was on her merit, and i’ll therefore think of Nigel as a tool.  We’re never really given insight into Cate’s upbringing except to know that she doesn’t necessarily struggle for much which is a feat in itself living in NY and making ends meet, but i guess that’s what’s to be expected because no one outside of NYC really wants to read about how god awful it can be on a measly salary.  We do get a back-story on her though – about her college years, falling for her teacher which of course is a big NO NO – and then having that change her for life, and make her re-think everything.  What she should realize is that everyone has a skeleton in their closet and she makes a big deal of hers.  like at her trip to DC – she seems really freaked that the couple that she’s talking to went to Ohio State, but it’s a big school – it’s not likely that they would know about the ‘scandal’ or even have been there at the same time.

Renee – she’s a beauty writer who’s up for the newly opened role of beauty editor.  What we know of Renee though is that she perhaps isn’t the skinniest girl out there and feels like she needs to be in order to fit into the role that she’s trying to get.  this sends her down a path that’s just not good – and teaches a little bit of a good lesson had our author here really taken that into account.  She talks about Renee’s blossoming Eating Disorder, yet she doesn’t talk at all about the long term affects that will come of it or even how she copes with coming out of it on the other side.  that’s more important to me than the 2 second wrap up that we get on her story line.  Besides that – we know that Renee makes like no money which is kind of normal for NYC so i appreciated that, but we find that her father had an affair right after getting married, and now Renee has a 1/2 sister that she’s been contacted by and ultimately doesn’t meet.  again – another loose end i think.

Abby – so here’s the girl that i really liked in the story and the one that i was rooting for all along the way.  she’s a nanny for a family living in Maryland and she adores the little girl that she cares for.  as cliche as it gets, she then falls for the husband who is more of a parent to the child than the mother is, especially since the mother doesn’t seem to spend any time with the child – and therefore a bond is formed.  what i don’t get though is that there are so many hints that the wife joanna is having an affair with the politician that she works for yet nothing comes of it.  it’s like it’s forgotten.  why is that?  anyway, we learn through the story that Abby is the one in her family that gets ‘no love’ and actually that her parents are rather cold to her.  her brother Trey is this hot journalist that is entwined into the story – dating renee a couple times, helping out Cate, and well – is actually a great guy.  there was also another brother Stevie who died from a ‘mysterious illness’ when he was 2.  mind you i thought SIDS at first and then realized that there was more to it when we got all that imagery of Abby’s panic attacks trying to put Bella into the car.  we find out that when Abby was 4, she accidentally cause a car accident that killed her brother leading to the reason why her parents weren’t nearly warm enough to her.

anyway, along with all that character development and the story lines for each, the story kept me reading and when i finished it i wondered if i missed something, fell asleep, the book ran out of pages or what….cause there was ZERO RESOLUTION for anything.

1) we know that Cate’s first issue of the mag was a success because Trey writes a great story and Renee’s eating disorder story gets into it as a feature and people love it

2) renee gets a promotion – but is it for her?

3) abby is confronted by Joanna for having the affair with Bob the husband, but no one really gets all that mad

so this leaves me with a few questions

1) Cate and Trey – do they ever get together?  there is chemistry for sure, and we know that Trey won’t just give up but will Cate be willing to work on that aspect of her friendship with Abby and Renee to have them all comfortable with her dating Trey?

2) Renee – we know that part of the promotion process, there was a social media component.  what ever happens with that?  what happens with Diane one of the other girls up for the job who some how managed to get invites everywhere and had all this great paid media supporting her social media effort?

3) Renee again – how does she come out of her Eating Disorder?  she took so many pills for so long – did she gain the weight back? did she have health issues? is she going to counseling?  what’s going on there

4) we know that Abby is going back to school and feels better about things – but really – is her family situation better?  we just don’t know.

so for the story line – i give it like a 7 out of 10 – but i really feel short changed since there was no real ending to the book.  just a feeling that it ran out of steam and the author really just wanted to be done with it.  there’s so much that could go into a sequel but i don’t feel like this was the intention.  oh well.  enjoyable for sure – but not a can’t live without type of book.

Always Something There to Remind Me, by Beth Harbison

what a nice 2 days it’s been – discovering that one of my fav authors has 2 books that i had no clue existed.  that on top of the fact that i had a bit of time to actually read through both was the icing on the cake.

so here we are, introduced to a plot in what is sometimes a confusing way, but in general, a manner that just worked for the story.  Different than other stories by Beth, ever chapter basically alternates between past and present.  This way we’re given the history which is really key to ‘getting’ the relationship, yet we’re also given another perspective on how things changed and went in life, because that’s just what happens.  history shapes things and you move on.

so we meet Erin who is a single mom that right off the bat you just LIKE.  she has a 15/16 yr old daughter that she luckily has a GREAT relationship with (would we expect anything otherwise), a relationship that most people would want,  a really cool job, and great friends.

top that off with a pain in the ass job situation with a reality show filming an unreasonable version of ‘my super sweet sixteen’, and the memory of first love that really isn’t the kind of puppy love first love that we always think about from high school.  it was INTENSE.  that’s what we’re reminded about all the time.

in any event, what i really liked is that Erin is trying to be mature and sane about things, but she can’t help but wonder about the past and if that really f’d her up in the long run. i also really liked the fact that when she broke up with Nate, the unrequited love god, well, she wasn’t just depressed, she almost went off the deep end depressed.  that’s normal if you think about it.  you’re a teen, you’ve dated someone for years, you gave yourself entirely to them, pictured yourself married and growing old, and then shit happens, life happens and well, you break up.  it’s cataclysmic i think.  life just ends for you when that happens.

it did for erin, yet some how she picked up the pieces, got preggo by some other guy, realized that there wasn’t romance there but great co-parenting, and then the dad dies, leaving erin on her own.  she wasn’t miserable about that though and i think that it’s because her love for Nate really killed off any level of deep emotion.

so that’s what i love about this story.  you know that she was broken, she thinks about him when she should be accepting a marriage proposal from some other guy, yet that’s not even just it.  she happens across him, sleeps with him, finds out that oops he’s married, and to her best friend from high school, and still, she’s broken but she knows that only he can fix her

and that he does – in the end.  seriously, that’s really all that i wanted to see happen, and i stayed up all night reading the story just so that i could see that.

*le sigh*  thanks Beth, you made my night last night!

When in Doubt, Add Butter by Beth Harbison

one thing that i love, when i find that an author that i favored in the past actually has more books than i realized.  it leaves me a happy girl since it means that i’ll have a couple more days of good reading to enjoy.

From the author of Shoe Addicts Anonymous, and Secrets of a Shoe Addicts, and Hope in a Jar, and Thin, Rich, Pretty,

one of the things that i LOVE about Beth’s writing is that she’s giving you female characters that really know how to give it their all, in circumstances that aren’t ideal, and still come out on top.

Here we have Gemma (mind you i LOVE this name because it’s my daughter’s name too) – she’s a personal chef because well she doesn’t like to work in an office and likes to work for herself, and she’s forced to deal with every personality under the sun.  that’s one thing that i have to give Beth credit for.  it’s not that hard to create all sorts of personalities, but she really carries those through in great detail that makes you feel like you’re in each one of their crazy homes and lives.

Well, Gemma, has different families that she cooks for just to make ends meet, she’s single and looking for love, kind of find ‘love’ in a one night stand all while flirting with Mr. Tuesday – one of her clients.  that’s what i love – i guessed it right away and made the connection between Mr. Tuesday and the mysterious Mack – and i loved that she didn’t figure it out right away.

I also loved that Lex was rooting for her all along, and that he wanted to see her succeed, put her in touch with his niece (i think) that didn’t have too many people on her side, and well – that was the beginning of great things happening.

i know i’m all over the place here with what i loved about this story, but what i LOVE too about Beth’s stories is that you get it all resolved in the one story and you’re not resigned to waiting until the next book comes along.  you have a nice sweet story where you see that the people you want to do well actually do well.  if another book / sequel comes along then great, but you’re pleased with how things ended.

Review: Seraphina (Seraphina #1) by Rachel Hartman

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Title:  Seraphina
Author: Rachel Hartman
Publisher/Year:  Random House Children’s Books  7/10/12
Length:  480 pages
Series: Seraphina #1

Overview

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

My Thoughts

What do you get when you cross a dragon with a human?

SERAPHINA (and perhaps at least 18 others)

Gotta love stories that dabble into the fantasy realm when they aren’t looking at angels, vampires, werewolves and things like that.  I have found that i LOVE to read those types of stories since they are familiar, yet it kind of seems like they all take a different twist that i find myself trying to guess where the twists are going to go and what characteristics they are going to have for their species.  not the case with Dragons.

the only other story that i’ve read recently that had some level of Dragon-ness or monsterness is Fire by Kristin Cashore.  i think there was some sense of dragons but more so as monsters than anything else.  regardless – i liked the diversion into the dragon realm and to see how those 2 species lived amongst one another

so, we are introduced to Phina, who is 1/2 dragon since her mother was a dragon but kind of hid that fact from well, just about everyone that wasn’t a dragon.  She was able to fit into her ‘human body’ well, and not let on that she wasn’t what she appeared to be.  interestingly, the man that fell in love with her then finds himself in a situation where he’s left surprised by a child that’s part dragon, and he himself gets into a profession where he’s the legal counsel defending all things dragon when they are brought against society/the palace for infractions

i like the plot line of a treaty that was put in place ages ago that generations may not support, and want to fight back and overturn.  that’s something that resonates with a lot of different non sci fy type stories.  i also liked the fact that there were all these factions in the society that were either fighting for or defending the dragons – showing that you can’t be told what to do – you have to make your own choices on that one.

what i want to get to know more about are

1)the quig developed figurines

2)the ‘grotesques’ that are in phina’s mind- who are they, how did they just appear to her, and can she ‘speak’ to all of them and can they talk to each other

3) what happens with Lucien and Phina (and Selda for that matter)

all so much to look forward to in book 2 (when ever that one comes out)

the re-reading of Fifty Shades Trilogy

now that i’ve found myself back into the romance/’erotic’ (gasp) genre, i felt the need to revisit 50 Shades of Grey. I’m proud to admit that i read it before it was even talked about to the extreme levels that it is now.  i came across it when it was first published all those months ago, and i actually told my book reading friends about it just as the hype was starting to build.  Ironically, when i was reading it the first time around, i got the heavy sex context of it, but i picked up a lot more on the actual story and found myself drawn to that more so than the graphic quality.

in my second pass at reading it, i really delved more into that, and was actually impressed with things that i remembered and little details that i didn’t.  if you take out maybe 50% of the sex, you still have that element of the story, but you have a really good plot.  there are a few things though that i think about a lot of time that i wonder if we would ever get those things answered (assuming that E.L. James decided that maybe after writing the stories from Christian’s perspective that she’ll do additional stories).

1) Mia / Ethan – what’s the deal there?  did they enjoy that first lunch?  were they just thrown together every time after that because of Christian and Kate’s tie to the relationships?  Did Ethan like Mia?  we know she liked him

2) secondary characters – i think that there could be some great plot lines developed over a few of these guys.  maybe we can get a story about Kate/Elliot going?  since they are quite major/minor characters – i think that there’s at least one book there.  what about Taylor?  What about Ros? or Elena?

3) what’s the tie from Jack Hyde and Mr. Lincoln?  why did he post bail?  was it really just jealous?  was that the motivation there and that he wanted to get revenge from Christian having the ‘affair’ with Elena?  I feel like there’s more for some reason.

Lastly, in reading about the development of the movie and how they are still in talks about how this can be made into a PG/PG-13 movie vs. an R – i definitely see how it can be done.  i think that there’s much more of a story there than people want to think about and yes there’s sex, but that’s not what it’s really about.  it’s just a piece of it.

we’ll have to wait and see – but what i DO know is that after reading those post chapters of Fifty Shades Freed – i kind of feel like the christian POV stories will be great.

 

Bared to You by Sylvia Day

who wants to know all about the NEW 50 SHADES OF GREY?  i was on the search for another series that would keep my interest as piqued as that one did, and i’ve found it.  Alas, Sylvia Day has mastered the art of creating a story that’s relatable, romantic, and yet oh so unattainable. 

in walks Eva, you’re fresh out of college, yet not quite so naive main character.  the thing that i like about her is that she’s been through the ringer in her past, and she’s actually well established in herself, being from a background that opened doors for her and all that.  i really liked that it was a change from the innocent in 50 shades so there was a character that we wanted to root for because she could hold her own.

now…here comes Gideon, the successful male lead, who you can’t help but create yummy pictures in your mind about.  he’s young, yet really successful, knows what his power is, and to be honest, has a back story that doesn’t take over book 1 which is nice.  i feel like that was kind of the case in 50 shades.  (trust me, i’m not mocking 50, i just like the change in pace that Crossfire offers).

anyway, so Eva literally falls at Gideon’s feet for her first meeting just like we saw in 50, and got basically the same reaction.  it was like deja vu but in a good way. the way the story was crafted, learning who Eva’s roommate was to her and how they got acquainted, how Eva was ‘damaged’ and all that yet how she still felt good about herself and knew how to make men want her – that was all really refreshing and enjoyable.

There’s so much that i want to know more about that i now have to wait until Oct to resolve.  Here are my questions:

1) do we ever find out what really went on in Gideon’s past – especially with his family and brothers?

2) why does he reference ‘safe words’ – since it doesn’t seem like he’s into S&M? is he though?

3) will his harem fall away and leave him and Eva in peace?  i’m not sure it’ll be that easy, but we’ll see

4) where does eva go professionally?  and how will that intertwine with Gideon’s business?  seems like he owns the world and all that, and she not only loves her job but is good at it – so will we see anything come of it?

suffice it to say, October can’t come fast enough for me since i really want to read book 2.  Thanks Sylvia though for such a great alternative to 50 Shades.  i’m already recommending it to everyone i know!

Chase Brothers Series by Lauren Dane

reading this series takes me back quite a bit to when i was in middle school and my mom finally felt like i was mature enough to handle romance novels.  That was my first introduction to the art of seduction and well, really long books to be honest.  Given that i was in desperate need of a change of pace in what i was reading, i decided that maybe it was time to return to that genre and see what i could find.

Lauren Dane crafts a series around these four undeniably hot brothers who all have the best hearts but maybe didn’t want to open those hearts up yet to anyone.  they’d rather be ‘players’ for lack of a better word.  Lucky for each of them though, there was a woman complicated enough with their own ‘baggage’ out there to tame them and to make them finally eternally happy.

what i find to be funny is that 2 out of 4 of the brothers managed to ‘share’ the woman that they ended up with, and well, there was no awkwardness there.  that’s just interesting to me since in real life i don’t know if that would have happened so smoothly but i suppose in fiction, anything goes.

Book 1 -Giving Chase – we find ourselves rooting for Maggie and Shane – the oldest of the brothers and the most intimidating…and then, well he lets us down as only a handsome brooding guy can, and in walks his younger brother Kyle, who is EXACTLY what Maggie needs.  After he share of a stalker and kidnapping, all ends up well and they live happily ever after

Book 2 – Taking Chase – Cassie is in her own ‘witness protection’ type program trying to get away from an ex husband who tried to kill her.  no drama there right?  anyway, in perfect romance novel style, a Chase brother swoops in to protect her and make her feel safe – or does he?  this is where Shane actually decides to not let us down and he manages to somehow tame his own internal ‘stuff’ as well as make Cassie feel like she’s going to be ok.  Suffice it to say, said evil ex tracks cassie down, tries to kill again, and Shane comes to the rescue.  they live happily ever after too…

Book 3 – Chased – we are reunited with Liv (Olivia) who just happens to be Maggie’s best friend….well, she’s yet another one who’s made her rounds a bit with the Chase family…(ok that was a bit harsh of me but still)…she was in a decent relationship with Matt (brother #3) and that didn’t work because she was more in love with him than he was with her, so that fizzled and she’s kind of moping.  In walks brother #4 Marc who really knows how to ‘woo’ and he manages it some how.  i think that it’s really nice to see that he’s able to bring liv back into the family that she loved so much since she really didn’t have a family of her own.  i’m a sucker for the old fashioned ‘woo’ so i think this may be my favorite of the books (after #1 that is)

Book 4 – Making Chase – the series ender introduces us to Tate who is not at all what you’d expect a handsome
Chase guy to fall in love with, yet he does.  Matt that is.  I think that it’s nice that we’re not sucked back into the tall modelesque love interest here, and that she’s beautiful yet curvy, and she’s one of the nicest people inside as is typical.  Her drama of course if that she’s from the wrong side of town, has a family that she supports, and alchy/abusive father who’s trying to exploit her for money…and well, chase family comes to the rescue. 

personally i couldn’t get enough of the Chase boys coming to the rescue of their damsels in distress and taming their crazy ways.  what i also really liked though is that the stories were great, the books were long but they kept me so interested that i had no choice but to read each in 1 night a piece…so it was 4 days of really good reading.  Thanks Lauren Dane for yet another great few days!