Category: Romance

Nov 11

Strange Bedpersons by Jennifer Crusie: Every Bit as Saucy as it Sounds

Chick Lit, Romance 22

Happy Monday Bookworms!

I can hear you groaning at my greeting. I know, Mondays suck. They don’t suck if you can win prizes though, which you totally CAN right now from a crap ton of literary blogs. You’ve got until Wednesday to enter- get on with it! (Here. Click it. You’ll thank me.) Now that the formalities are out of the way, let’s talk about my latest read. A while back I was turned on to the romantic stylings of Jennifer Crusie. I really enjoyed Bet Me and Getting Rid of Bradley was a great little palate cleanser for me after a run of more serious reads.

I spent October mired in zombies, vampires, and nightmare scenarios of all variety. It’s safe to say I needed a break, so I pulled up the Jennifer Crusie bundle I’d purchased for my Kindle. BTW, Amazon, I’m so onto you. Bargain-schmargain, all these books are dated re-releases of Crusie’s Harlequin titles. Ah well. Four books for $9.99 is still a deal.

strangebedpersonsStrange Bedpersons is a sweet little story about a girl raised on a hippie commune who falls for the yuppiest lawyer in all the land. Tess and Nick are our star-crossed lover. He is a straight laced pillar of the community while she is a thrift store diva who works for minimal pay tutoring underprivileged kids. The book takes place in the early 90s, a fact I can corroborate based on a handful of references. Nancy Reagan and Marilyn Quayle’s fashion sense comes up (and for anyone international and/or who doesn’t give a fig about the wives of US politicians, that means a lot of shoulder pads) and the classic Julia Roberts film Pretty Woman is alluded to on a number of occasions… Particularly the scandalous scene with the piano. Bow-chicka-bow-wow.

That sound means that this book most certainly contains some sexy-times, so if you’re offended by that sort of thing I wouldn’t recommend this book. Of course, in the grand scheme of love scenes, I found these pretty to be pretty tasteful. My eye rolling was very minimal. I am really digging Jennifer Crusie. Her heroines are always spunky and typically not damsels in distress. Her books read like rom-coms. They’ll never win Nobel prizes, but most romantic comedies aren’t Oscar contenders either. Crusie managed to bring to life one of the most God-awful awkward dinner parties I’ve ever witnessed in all its cringe-inducing glory. To that, I award her a slow clap… And I snap a jewelry box in her general direction.

Since this book was so delightfully rom-com, what are some of your faves? You KNOW you’ve a guilty pleasure movie, own up to it, Bookworms!

*If you’re interest in purchasing your own copy of Bet Me, Getting Rid of Bradleyor Strange Bedpersonsplease consider using these links. Any purchases referred to Book Depository from my blog net me an eensy weensy commission.*

 

 

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Sep 16

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell: A Fellowship of the Worms Experience

Book Club, Contemporary Fiction, Humor, Romance 34

Greetings, Bookworms! The Fellowship of the Worms is back in session. Our book club choice this month was Attachmentsby Rainbow Rowell. WARNING: We will be discussing the WHOLE book. This will no doubt include SPOILERS. If you did not read the book and would like to participate, pick up a copy of Attachments and give it a read. This post will be here waiting for you when you finish. Now that the particulars are out of the way, I’ll remind you of the premise here. I’ll pose questions in bold and answer them in regular type.  If you don’t want your opinions influenced by my rantings, stick to the bold first. Feel free to answer them in the comments, or if you’re so inclined, leave a comment linking to your review of Attachments on your own blog! :)

smarty-mcwordypants-199x3001. Attachments features an unconventional love story. In the late 1990s, Lincoln is hired to monitor the e-mail activity of a newspaper staff. He comes across regular exchanges between a woman named Beth and her best friend Jennifer. Lincoln begins to fall for Beth despite having never caught a glimpse of her. Do you think “love before first sight” is a romantic ideal, or do you believe it could happen in real life? 

I love the idea of falling in love with someone purely on the basis of their ideas. I really WANT to believe that seeing someone’s kicky digital exchanges could lead to unconditional love… Unfortunately, in the age of Catfishing, I don’t know how realistic this idea is. I mean, when Lincoln finally sees Beth, he’s attracted to her. Sure it helps a TON that he’s already got an idea of how great she is as a human being, but if there were absolutely zero physical attraction? I’m not sure how that would play out. Of course, stranger things have happened. I would love love love to be proven wrong on this one!

2. Rowell has a gift for creating characters that you feel astonishingly real. Was there anyone in Attachments that reminded you of someone in your real life? 

Rainbow Rowell writes some of the quirkiest and most fabulous characters I’ve ever read. While reading FangirlI was struck by how much Levi was like one of my friends. I didn’t have as intense a reaction to any of the characters in Attachments, but of COURSE I had a moment. I was sitting on the couch reading the very beginning of the novel when I busted out laughing. My husband was sitting next to be and wanted to know just what I was cackling at. Remember Beth’s sister Kiley? She of the awful wedding? When Beth was describing Kiley’s fiance to Jennifer, she mentioned that she always made fun of him for having an homage to his fraternity tattooed on his ankle. My brother-in-law (whom I love to pieces, he’s an awesome guy) was TOTALLY in the SAME fraternity as Kiley’s fiance. He ALSO has a frattoo on his ankle. I could have died. attachments-rainbow-rowell

3. After Lincoln has been monitoring Beth and Jennifer’s e-mails for a while, he begins to see himself referenced as “My Cute Guy.” Beth has a giant crush on him in spite of being in a long term relationship, and even resorts to very nearly following him home. Confess! What’s the “creepiest” thing you’ve ever done while pursuing a crush? 

I think “creepy stalker” has taken on a while new meaning since the advent of social media. It’s easy to learn a lot about a person based on what they’ve got up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like. At least with social media allows the creator of the account decides what is available to be seen (unlike someone reading your personal email… LINCOLN!) Of course, a little light stalking is a time honored tradition when it comes to courtship.  John stole Meg’s glove in Little Women, right? I spent an awful lot of time hanging around the audio-visual labs when I was trying to get Jim to notice me… I mean, it’s not like I looked up his name in the student directory, found out his middle initial, and daydreamed about what the P might stand for or anything… (It’s Patrick, just as I’d hoped.)

4. How did you feel about the Beth and Lincoln’s encounter in the movie theater? 

That was pretty intense, right? I mean, that crazy pent up sexual tension had to go somewhere. I was a little surprised it progressed so quickly, but you know. You find out someone loved you before he knew what you looked like, you meet him in a dark theater, you’ve had time to get over the shock of his enormous invasion of privacy… Make out sessions are bound to happen!

5. If you were Beth and Lincoln, would you publicly admit your “how we met” story to your friends and family?

I think Beth and Lincoln were pretty smart to keep the details of how they met to themselves… And Jennifer, naturally. Heck, people even now are sometimes embarrassed to admit they met online even though it’s pretty commonplace. I think that given the late 90s early 2000s era of this novel, it was best for Lincoln and Beth to keep their circumstances quiet. I really don’t think that Lincoln’s hippie chick mother or Beth’s troupe of sisters would understand their back story and find it as charming as I did.

So Bookworms, how did you feel about Attachments as a whole? I adored it, much like everything Rainbow Rowell has written. Now I shall wait in suspense for the 2014 release of Landline. Sigh. Seems so very far away! In the meantime though, let’s talk about our plans for October. In the spirit of Halloween I thought we should read a little something spooky. October’s book club selection will be The Passage by Justin Cronin.

Creepy!

Creepy!

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Sep 12

Getting Rid of Bradley (Because He Totally Sucks)

Chick Lit, Romance, Trashy Romance Novels 40

Howdy Bookworms,

Sometimes you just need a break, you know? I’ve been reading a lot of dystopias and apocalyptic fiction lately, and I decided I needed a goofy little romance. I read Jennifer Crusie’s novel Bet Me a while back, and enjoyed it so much I decided to buy a bundle o’ Jennifer Crusie on the Kindle at a bargain price! I had the set waiting for me for just such an occasion, so I decided to cleanse the old brain palate and dive in.

gettingridofbradleyThe first book in my set was Getting Rid of Bradley. Lucy, our protagonist has just gotten divorced. As in, she has JUST gotten out of the courtroom. Lucy’s obscenely wealthy sister managed to grease the wheels of justice so thoroughly that Lucy’s divorce was finalized a mere two weeks after the initial filing. I don’t know a lot about divorces, but I’m pretty sure even rich people have to wait their turn. Of course, what’s a little fudging of reality between friends?  Lucy and her sister headed to a diner for a post divorce lunch when…

A pair of cops saunter in. One is clean cut, the other dashingly rugged. The cops are hot on the trail of a white collar criminal, lying in wait in said diner thanks to an anonymous tip. While they wait for the perps to show up, Zack (Mr. Rugged) laments the fact that he’s 36 and has no desire to settle down. He’s more than a little bit moody and broody.

Lucy and her sister head out of the diner and the cops split up to follow and question them. Lucy naturally mistakes Zack for a mugger, and during their little alleyway tussle, a shot is fired. MYSTERY and DANGER now follow Lucy. Zack is predictably smitten, despite her horrendous dye job. (Women always give themselves tragic makeovers when they are trying to put a failed relationship behind them… Or they choose vodka and Chaka Khan.)

Because it’s totally normal and in line with police policy, Zack decides to bunk at Lucy’s house until they’ve figured out who the mystery shooter is. It seems that Lucy’s ex is somehow tangled up in the whole white collar criminal thing- it doesn’t help that they’ve both got “Bradley” in their names (this was funnier in The Importance of Being Earnest.) Anyhow. INSTA-LOVE ensues and the bedsheets are all a-tangle. Also there are dogs with science names. And mysteries are solved. Love conquers all. You know how it works.

I didn’t like this book nearly as much as Bet Me, but I didn’t have super high expectations. I wanted a fun little romance to take my mind off all the doom and gloom, and this book did exactly that. If you need something light with a hint of steam, this could be a good book for you.

So, Bookworms. What do you like to read when you need a palate cleanser? Any hopeless romantics out there enjoy the occasional romp through this type of novel?

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Jul 25

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

Art, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance 31

Bonjour Bookworms!

Remember back when I read Me Before You and I was all agog over Jojo Moyes? Her upcoming release (August 20th!) was listed on NetGalley and I hit the “request” button so enthusiastically, I might have sprained my finger. Alright, that bit about the finger sprain is untrue, but I tend to get hyperbolic when I’m excited. As you saw right there, I am TERRIBLE AT LYING. Therefore, when I tell you that I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, you won’t question my integrity. 

The Girl You Left Behind is told from the perspectives of two different women, living decades apart, who are connected through a painting. The book begins in 1916, at the height of WWI. Sophie LeFevre finds herself living in her hometown in northern France with her sister, brother, niece, and nephew as her husband and brother-in-law fight in the trenches. The town has been occupied by German forces, and life is bleak. The German army has requisitioned food stores, supplies, furniture, and fuel. The local French population is on the brink of starvation, and they are completely cut off from the outside world. Sophie’s source of strength is a portrait her artist husband painted of her. Its beauty offers solace in a home that’s been stripped of its comforts. It represents a connection to Sophie’s beloved Edouard. Her intense expression reminds her in her weaker moments that she’s not a woman to be trifled with.

Cover.Girl You Left Behind

Olivia Halston lives in London in 2006. She is a young widow, and devastated by the loss of her husband. She draws her strength from a painting her husband purchased for her on their honeymoon. It depicts a woman with an intense expression who looks as though she could survive anything… A woman who happens to be Sophie LeFevre. (Dun dun dun!!!) As Liv’s tale unfolds, the origins of  the painting she so cherishes are called into question by a lawsuit. In order to defend her claim to the contested painting, Liv embarks on a journey of historical and personal discovery.

That’s all I’m telling you because I’m lazy and I don’t want to be Spoilerella today. I DEVOURED this book, you guys! Is historical fiction about art and personal discovery a genre unto itself? It should be. I would buy ALL THE BOOKS! This book reminded me of all my favorite historical fiction and art novels: The Girl in the Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland, Girl With a Pearl Earring and The Virgin Blue both by Tracy Chevalier, and The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan. It also reminded me of Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay what with the historical events and the modern day sleuthing to uncover the truth… Of course this was (overall) significantly less depressing than Sarah’s Key, so don’t be frightened away.

I was going to suggest that my authors get a thesaurus for their titles, because there are so many "The Girl..." going on. I just pulled up this lovely impressionist piece by Renoir, titled (ever so creatively) "A Girl." I should probably be blaming the painters...

I was going to suggest that my favorite authors consider getting a thesaurus for their titles, as they’re all so similar. Then I pulled up this lovely impressionist piece by Renoir, titled “A Girl.” I should probably be blaming the painters for the repetitive titles. (source)

Dear Jojo Moyes, please consider this your invitation to the imaginary slumber party I’m having with Diana Gabaldon and JK Rowling. That’s my super creepy way of telling you that your books are fabulous and I’m a big fan. Don’t worry, I’m way too lazy and not nearly crazy enough to actually stalk anyone. I just think you’re the bees knees, Jojo. And your name makes me want to sing Beatles songs.

Now, if you’ll excuse me while I get back to where I once belonged, tell me, Bookworms. Do you ever hang out in antique stores and just wonder what the stuff would tell you if it could talk? How DID those antique penguin salt and pepper shakers wind up in my curio cabinet?! I mean, sure I know that “Aunt” Shelly got them at a swap meet, but who had them first? I want to knoooooooow! Is this my own personal brand of eccentric or does anybody else play this game?  

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Jun 20

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Book Club, Contemporary Fiction, Family, Friendship, Psychological, Romance, Tear Jerkers, Travel 42

Good Day Bookworms!

Have you ever paid attention to the stuff you do every day? I’m not talking about the chores or the errands or the work. I’m talking physical stuff. Walking. Climbing stairs. Getting dressed. Bathing. Eating. Driving. Typing. What would you do if you couldn’t do ANY of that for yourself anymore? The thought probably makes you uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable. It makes me sad. It makes me feel guilty for being able bodied when others may not be, but extremely grateful for my independence.

I don’t typically give this line of thinking much attention, because it bums me out. However, several people recommended this book about a quadriplegic to me and I figured I’d give it a shot.  Somehow Jojo Moyes managed to make Me Before You devastating, uplifting, heart-wrenching, and heart-warming all at the same time. Don’t ask me how she pulled it off. The talents of authors are beyond me, but this one, THIS ONE got to me.

Me-Before-You-Cover_

Louisa Clark is a 28 year old girl living in an English tourist town that features a castle. She has spent several years working in a local cafe and is caught completely off guard one day when she’s told the cafe is going to close. Suddenly, Louisa finds herself out of work in a terrible economy. She has no college education (or, uh, University, as the British would say) and is qualified to do little more than work in a chicken processing plant, which is just exactly as gross as it sounds.

Louisa’s qualifications will allow her to be a “caregiver,” and it is one of the few positions available through the unemployment agency (which is called something different in England but it sounds like roughly the same thing.) She’s sent on an interview with no real idea of what’s in store for her. To her shock (in spite of an embarrassing skirt splitting incident during the interview) she lands a job helping to care for Will Traynor. Will was hit by a motorcycle while crossing a street. A serious mover and shaker in his previous life, Will has been without the use of any of his limbs for over 2 years. As you can imagine, he’s not too happy about it.

Louisa and Will don’t start off especially well, what with his intentionally trying to make her uncomfortable and all, but over time they grow rather fond of each other. Everything seems to be going pretty smoothly (or, at least, as smoothly as possible when catheters, muscle spasms, and infection are par for the course) when Louisa is hit with some dizzying news. I AM NOT GOING TO TELL YOU WHAT IT IS! But. The rest of the book is about Louisa trying to get Will to get out of his grumpy funk and have some adventures. Will is from a very wealthy family and was very successful before his accident, so the fact that he is practically a sommelier and has a penchant for evenings at the symphony come as no surprise. Apparently rich people are very fancy and predictable that way. No mention of cheeses. Pity.

Read this and your next long trek through the parking lot in the rain won't seem so inconvenient.

Read this and your next long trek through the parking lot in the rain won’t seem so inconvenient. (SOURCE)

I was not expecting to like this book. I thought it was going to be a complete downer, but, while there are some seriously sad elements, there are also some uplifting bits, and occasionally, it’s downright funny. Me Before You also raises some ethical conundrums that will leave you reeling. I’ve got so many FEELINGS, you guys! I want you to feel them too.

Bookworms, have any of you read Me Before You? What did you think? We can’t really discuss the elephant in the room because of SPOILERS, but we can talk about how much it sucks when people who don’t need it steal the disabled parking spots. That is some nasty karma y’all. I have many, many faults, but I never park in a handicapped space. I also return my shopping cart to the cart corral. Perhaps this will keep me from being reincarnated as a turd. How about you?

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Jun 13

Impossible Standards of the Impossibly Wealthy: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Audio Books, Classics, Romance 45

Salutations Bookworms,

I’ve made a delightful discovery. You know that I love to listen to audio books on road trips. You also know that I like to switch it up every now and again and read a classic. Part of the reason I have been avoiding classics lately is that they tend to be dense. They require more brain power than contemporary works written in my colloquial vernacular. I’ve been buying audio books to play through my iPhone only to have discovered that new releases are OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive. Solution?! AUDIO BOOK CLASSICS! I was able to buy The Age of Innocence for less than $2 and the audio book narrator put the emphasis on just the right phrases for me to appreciate the humor and sarcasm in the dated volume. The cherubim are singing and the clouds have parted! It’s a MIRACLE!

200px-TheAgeOfInnocence

Guys, I like Edith Wharton. I’ve read Ethan Frome and Summer and enjoyed them both. (That doesn’t mean I didn’t laugh appreciatively when Sarah at Sarah Says Read made a joke about the sled-as-suicide-method…)  She does such beautiful things with language that I FEEL like I’m THERE. While listening to The Age of Innocence, I could picture every ensemble and glance of the NYC upper crust.

Newland Archer is a rather shallow fellow. He’s been born to privilege and spends his days contemplating fashion and proper behavior for the people of his insular community. One evening at the opera, Archer meets the cousin of his soon-to-be-made-public fiance. Ellen Olenska originated from New York Society, but was married to a Polish count and spent a number of years in Europe. Sadly, this count was a bit of a douche. He philandered and was cruel to Ellen. Leaving your aristocratic husband in the 1870s, despite his douchebaggery and mistresses (and perhaps misters?), was universally frowned upon. It was an era where the wealthy thrived on hypocrisy (okay, so maybe THAT hasn’t changed) and discreet affairs were tolerated.  An affair was no grounds for divorce amongst the New York City elite, PARTICULARLY if the spouse in question is a fabulously wealthy European aristocrat.

Archer’s primary concern with Ellen’s arrival is for the reputation of his naive and pretty betrothed, May Welland. He doesn’t want her good name sullied (because he’s supposed to be marrying into a GOOD family, see?) Rather than allow Ellen’s appearance to scandalize their fashionable set, Archer hijacks the occasion and uses it to announce his engagement to May. This is viewed as a gentlemanly move all around, and the Countess Olenksa herself appreciates the gesture of drawing the attention away from her arrival. At first, Newland finds Ellen to be a novelty with her European ways and her lack of care for the opinions of the fancy folk. Soon, however, Newland Archer finds himself drawn to Ellen Olenska, and she to him. However. She’s married. To a count. And Newland is about to marry her cousin May. Their love seems star crossed- it’s thwarted at every turn despite their passions.

No, that's not the Countess Olenska. That's Edith Wharton. Maybe she's on her way to the opera. Or posing for a portrait in Newport. Whatever. SOURCE

No, that’s not the Countess Olenska. That’s Edith Wharton. Maybe she’s on her way to the opera. Or posing for a portrait in Newport. Whatever. SOURCE

Can you spoil a book that’s been around this long? Maybe. I’ll do it anyway. I have no scruples. Ellen and Newland never do get to hook up, other than a few kisses and scandalous conversation. A lot of promises, near misses, and inconceivably bad timing combine to make their romance desperate and tragic. This book reminded me a lot of Anna Karenina, only with some gender swapping, role reversal, and lack of suicides by train, sled, or other means of conveyance. In short? Totally worth the effort. Particularly when half the work was done for me by a brilliant narrator whose inflection kept me enthralled and never drowsy. Three cheers for carriages, parasols, and the impossible standards of the impossibly wealthy. Hear, hear, Edith Wharton! May your subtle, snarky social commentary live on in perpetuity.

Alright, Bookworms. Apparently there was a 1991 movie version of this book made starring Daniel Day Lewis as Archer (tolerable), Winona Rider as May Welland (a stretch, at best) and Michelle Pfieffer as Ellen Olenska (horrendously and completely wrong and awful.) I learned of this while trolling the internet, and I sure as heck won’t be seeking it out. You know you’ve been waiting to rant about this one. Every book lover has this problem. What casting decisions for the movies based on your favorite books have made you CRINGE?

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Jun 10

I'll See Your Romance Novel and Raise You a Chicken Marsala (Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie)

Chick Lit, Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Trashy Romance Novels 45

Woah! It’s Monday!

Ain’t that a kick in the teeth? It is for me, because I had last week off to staycation. It should come as no surprise that I spent many of my gloriously unencumbered hours devouring books. Oh yes. And visiting my nephew. He’s brand new and cuter than a son of a gun. Gratuitous Auntie photo!

I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine. And he shall be my Squishy. (Seriously. I nicknamed my nephew Squishy. It's sticking.)

I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine. And he shall be my Squishy. (Seriously. I nicknamed my nephew Squishy. It’s sticking.)

I’m not really here to write about my Squishy. I’m here to talk about a book! I’ve mentioned that I enjoy a little romance novel from time to time, right? One of my Certified Awesome compadres, Sarah of Sarah Says Read recommends Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie with a fair amount of frequency on her Top Ten Tuesday lists. Given her penchant for OutlanderI trust her taste in the romance department, so I decided to give it a shot.

Bet Me is the tale of an unlikely romance. Minerva Dobbs (who is second only to Minerva McGonagall on the list of Minervas who rock) is an actuary. She’s 33, not especially thin, and a rabid Elvis Prestley fan. One night she’s out at a bar with her girlfriends. Shortly after being dumped by her douchebag boyfriend David, she overhears David making a bet with a studly gent that he won’t be able to get the matronly Min in bed within a month.

Min may not be a fashion plate, but the girl is smart, and she’s got her pride. To spite her newly ex boyfriend, she takes Calvin (AKA the beastly dreamboat) up on his offer for dinner. Cal is successful and astonishingly good looking. Since Min knows he’s only with her to win a bet, she allows herself to let her guard down. She is honest, pithy, and has delightful taste in shoes (If you can rock a sandal with a goldfish on it? Get down with your bad self.) Calvin is not used to being so challenged by his lady loves and finds himself unexpectedly attracted to her.

betme

You guys. For a romance novel? I really liked this! I liked that it was unconventional. Yes, Minerva does get the “makeover” that’s so common in these tales. HOWEVER. Cal tells her that she dresses like she hates her body. Which is true. And I think that’s a trap a TON of curvy ladies fall into. Really, any woman who isn’t completely thrilled with her body can fall into this trap, no matter what size she wears. Confidence is what’s preached, not dieting, and that’s refreshing.

Also refreshing? This book was NOT just a series of bedroom escapades. I don’t necessarily have a problem with those sorts of books, but sometimes lingering looks and a handful of smoldering kisses are just as effective. I mean, HELLO, everyone loves Pride and Prejudice because it’s so swoony, and there’s nothing even remotely hanky panky like that goes on in Austenland. True, it is a little bit cheesy. It has some decidedly Julia Roberts movie undertones. But it’s charming enough that it makes up for the cheese factor. This would be a fabulous summer beach read! (Fair warning, you will really want chicken marsala and donuts after/during reading this. Worth it.)

So, Bookworms. Romance novels. Yay or Nay? Do you ever tread into these waters? Do you like a little romance or are you completely put off by the silliness that so often accompanies it? Do tell.

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Jun 10

I’ll See Your Romance Novel and Raise You a Chicken Marsala (Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie)

Chick Lit, Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Trashy Romance Novels 45

Woah! It’s Monday!

Ain’t that a kick in the teeth? It is for me, because I had last week off to staycation. It should come as no surprise that I spent many of my gloriously unencumbered hours devouring books. Oh yes. And visiting my nephew. He’s brand new and cuter than a son of a gun. Gratuitous Auntie photo!

I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine. And he shall be my Squishy. (Seriously. I nicknamed my nephew Squishy. It's sticking.)

I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine. And he shall be my Squishy. (Seriously. I nicknamed my nephew Squishy. It’s sticking.)

I’m not really here to write about my Squishy. I’m here to talk about a book! I’ve mentioned that I enjoy a little romance novel from time to time, right? One of my Certified Awesome compadres, Sarah of Sarah Says Read recommends Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie with a fair amount of frequency on her Top Ten Tuesday lists. Given her penchant for OutlanderI trust her taste in the romance department, so I decided to give it a shot.

Bet Me is the tale of an unlikely romance. Minerva Dobbs (who is second only to Minerva McGonagall on the list of Minervas who rock) is an actuary. She’s 33, not especially thin, and a rabid Elvis Prestley fan. One night she’s out at a bar with her girlfriends. Shortly after being dumped by her douchebag boyfriend David, she overhears David making a bet with a studly gent that he won’t be able to get the matronly Min in bed within a month.

Min may not be a fashion plate, but the girl is smart, and she’s got her pride. To spite her newly ex boyfriend, she takes Calvin (AKA the beastly dreamboat) up on his offer for dinner. Cal is successful and astonishingly good looking. Since Min knows he’s only with her to win a bet, she allows herself to let her guard down. She is honest, pithy, and has delightful taste in shoes (If you can rock a sandal with a goldfish on it? Get down with your bad self.) Calvin is not used to being so challenged by his lady loves and finds himself unexpectedly attracted to her.

betme

You guys. For a romance novel? I really liked this! I liked that it was unconventional. Yes, Minerva does get the “makeover” that’s so common in these tales. HOWEVER. Cal tells her that she dresses like she hates her body. Which is true. And I think that’s a trap a TON of curvy ladies fall into. Really, any woman who isn’t completely thrilled with her body can fall into this trap, no matter what size she wears. Confidence is what’s preached, not dieting, and that’s refreshing.

Also refreshing? This book was NOT just a series of bedroom escapades. I don’t necessarily have a problem with those sorts of books, but sometimes lingering looks and a handful of smoldering kisses are just as effective. I mean, HELLO, everyone loves Pride and Prejudice because it’s so swoony, and there’s nothing even remotely hanky panky like that goes on in Austenland. True, it is a little bit cheesy. It has some decidedly Julia Roberts movie undertones. But it’s charming enough that it makes up for the cheese factor. This would be a fabulous summer beach read! (Fair warning, you will really want chicken marsala and donuts after/during reading this. Worth it.)

So, Bookworms. Romance novels. Yay or Nay? Do you ever tread into these waters? Do you like a little romance or are you completely put off by the silliness that so often accompanies it? Do tell.

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May 13

Awww, Sookie Sookie Now: Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

Crime, Fantasy, Mystery, Mythology, Romance, Supernatural, Vampires 27

Hello to my Bloodsucking Bookworms!

Oh, that’s right. The REAL vampires are still “in the coffin.” I get it, I get it. I don’t blame you for keeping it to yourselves. Actually, I may have mentioned it before, but my very existence is proof to me that vampires are not real. I am DELECTABLE to all blood sucking insects. Every mosquito within miles comes to feast on my sweet sweet blood. (I’m beginning to think I may be part fairy.) Anyway. Considering I’m so delicious to fleas and flies and mosquitoes, it would only make sense that vampires would find me irresistible, drink all my blood, and render me a whole lot of dead in very little time. Let us suspend our disbelief, shall we?

In Charlaine Harris’s version of vampire-lore, vampires “came out of the coffin” to the general public after a medical company was able to manufacture synthetic blood. The theory was that they would no longer be a threat to humans if they just drank bottled fake blood instead of guzzling humanity. After the vampires came to light, so too did werewolves and other shape shifters (I’ve yet to hear of a were-penguin, but I like to hold out hope that it is completely possible. Sam Merlotte, the resident Bon Temps shape shifter/bar owner can turn into just about anything. Just because he never pulled out the penguin tux doesn’t mean he COULDN’T if he wanted to, right?) In a world where vampires, shape shifters, and werewolves, are real, the floodgates are open to all sorts of mythical creatures. Fairies, demons, elves, and hybrid supernaturals of all kinds have encountered the lovely Sookie Stackhouse over the last 12 books. Sookie, our heroine, is a waitress in a bar in small town Louisiana.

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Sookie has been a telepath all her life, which is typically the bane of her existence. I don’t want to hear what goes on inside anyone else’s head any more than I want someone listening in on my thoughts. You can’t control thoughts, you know? All the impolite things you think but never say are what Sookie deals with on a daily basis. The fact that she was drawn into the world of supernaturals was largely based on this gift- she isn’t able to hear vampire thoughts at all, and other supernaturals are difficult for her to read clearly. Finally, some peace and quiet! Only… Not at all. Because hanging out with witches and vampires and werewolves and fairies and shape shifters makes life AWFULLY interesting… And leads to an impressive pile of dead bodies, human and otherwise.

This has all been leading up to the finale of Dead Ever After, book 13 in the series. Sookie’s had a series of love interests, among them two scandalously sensual vampires (the quintessential southern gentleman and the outrageously hot Viking), a were-tiger, a were-wolf, and exactly zero humans. Her fairy blood has proved a mixed blessing as it makes her vampire catnip (though it’s diluted enough that they don’t just eat her outright), but lands her in a world of conflict with another dimension of existence. Sookie’s dearly departed Gran left her a token of love called a cluviel dor, which is super powerful fairy magic that allows the owner one insanely powerful wish. At the end of her last adventure, Sookie used her cluviel dor to save the life of her close friend and business partner Sam Merlotte (after he was injured in a werewolf battle. Dangerous business hanging around supernaturals, even if you are one.) Unfortunately, Sam starts acting all weird about the whole thing (much to my dismay because I’ve been ‘shipping hard for Sookie and Sam to have a happily ever after since book 1, y’all.)

Sookie + Sam = Supernatural love that can reproduce and lives only the length of a normal human life!

This is a screen cap from True Blood. It’s a great show, as long as you don’t expect it to follow the books very closely… As in, the books are less of a code and more of a loose set of guidelines…

To add to the crazy, Sookie’s ex friend Arlene managed to get herself sprung from jail (because of that one time she joined a cult and tried to crucify Sookie…) and shortly thereafter get herself murdered. I know, right? Thanks to the work of some devious douchebags, Sookie is framed for the crime. While Sookie’s had to mow down a few supes in her life, it’s largely been in self defense. She’s a sweet gal, Sookie. Murder really isn’t her jam. So now she’s got to rally her troop of supes to solve the crime and prove her innocence.

I didn’t have exceptionally high expectations for this finale book because the series is fun, but campy. It would have been hard for me to be upset if she’d ended up with the hottie hot hot Eric, or her first love Bill, or Quinn the were-tiger, or even Alcide the werewolf. Sure, I was Team Sam all the way, but you know. They’re fun silly books about imaginary people and imaginary things that didn’t get all up in my SOUL the way that Harry Potter did. Fun distraction, but I’m surely not feeling bereft knowing the series is finished. I won’t tell you how it turns out, but I found the final book satisfying. A follow up book which is NOT a novel is due out in the fall. It will detail what becomes of all the characters in their happily ever afters. I’m sure that will provide any closure to any lingering questions fans have, and I applaud Harris for taking the step.

Have any of you bookworms been following the Sookie saga? Have you read the finale? How did YOU want things to turn out? Are you pleased with the results? Talk to me, my dears. I love to hear from you!

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May 06

The Best of Us, For the Rest of Us (Not to be confused with Festivus)

Chick Lit, Family, Friendship, Romance 36

Howdy Bookworms,

It’s a Monday, and let’s face it… I’d rather be on a beach. As luck would have it, I was offered a new title to review from Netgalley that is set in Jamaica. While visions of sand, surf, and fruity cocktails dance in your head, I’ll go ahead with my full disclosure statement. I may sound like a broken record, but here it goes again. I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen is about a group of friends from college who take a trip to Jamaica to celebrate one of their 35th birthdays. You know how every group of friends has that one internet billionaire who randomly calls his friends from 15 years ago and offers them free vacations? Oh you don’t? Yeah me neither. But. Let’s suspend disbelief for a moment and live in book land. If we can accept boy wizards and the occasional dragon, we can get down with the filthy rich.

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Dwight the billionaire and his wife Pauline decide to treat Dwight’s college buddies to a week long Jamaican vacation complete with private plane and fancy chef. Their motley crew of guests is comprised of 3 couples, or at least it’s supposed to be. First, there’s Tina, an overwhelmed stay at home mother of four young children and her overly macho husband Gio. Next we have Allie, Tina’s BFF. Allie is a social worker with two daughters and a seemingly flawless marriage to her easy going husband Ryan. Finally there’s Savannah. Savannah has recently split up from her two timing doctor husband Gary, but doesn’t want to reveal that to the group. Instead she claims Gary is working, and she prances around in very little clothing and hits on every male in the general  vicinity.

What follows during the week in tropical paradise puts all kinds of relationships to the test. Friendships, marriages, and the all important relationship between the really rich people and the help. Actually, it’s not at all about the help, but I’m still astounded by the lives of the rich and important. Who has this much money?! Seriously!

You're absolutely right. I DO have a penguin butler. I should simmer down on the wealth jealousy.

You’re absolutely right. I DO have a penguin butler. I should simmer down on the wealth jealousy. Alfred doesn’t approve of hypocrisy.

Okay guys. Honesty here. This book was not my favorite. It was a bit heavy on the melodrama for my tastes. I think part of my problem was a lack of connection with the characters, and that’s on me more than it is on the author. Of the four women in the novel, I didn’t see any representation of myself or my circumstances. I don’t  have kids, so it was difficult for me to relate to the plight of Tina, the SAHM. The way Allie chose to handle her personal demons isn’t an approach I would have taken- keeping secrets to “protect” people seems counter productive to me. Pauline was really uptight and came from old money, so she hid her feelings pretty well, which I ALSO don’t get because my heart is forever out on my sleeve. I’m a crier, okay?!  Savannah used her sexuality in a way that made me uncomfortable. I’m kind of a prude, and it bugged me that she was so open in her flirtations and was scantily clad all the time. It’s hard for me to connect with a book when I don’t empathize with the characters.

Also. Gio. I’m not sure what Pekkenan was going for, but he felt like a caricature to me. He’s Italian and super Catholic and has a breadwinner complex. Tina seems miserable as a stay at home mom, and it’s unclear to me whose decision it was that she stay home- it felt to me like Gio may have pushed that traditional ideal on her. (Don’t get me wrong- if you’re a SAHM and CHOSE that path for yourself, more power to you. I just got the feeling that Tina was kind of forced into it and that pissed me off.) He also gets competitive when faced with the massively wealthy Dwight and tries to childishly beat him at basketball and pinball. It’s hard to draw a clear line between cultural differences and flat out stereotypes, but Gio. I just don’t know about that guy. I LIKE flawed characters, but I just couldn’t get into this set of flaws.

HOWEVER. Just because I didn’t like this book, doesn’t mean you won’t. I would recommend this title to people who enjoy reading about marital strife, the complexities of friendship, drool worthy vacations and neatly packaged endings. If you’re a stay at home mom who is conflicted about her choices, you might just feel like Tina is your soul mate. Maybe you are an internet guru with an outlandish amount of money and would appreciate reading about your personal lifestyle in fictional form. I don’t know. Books are so often a matter of perspective. This didn’t suit mine, but it might just put the rum in your hurricane.

Bookworms, I must know. Do you feel the need to relate to and/or empathize with a character in order to enjoy a book, or are you able to appreciate it for its aesthetic virtues from a distance? I’m basically asking if I’m a giant jerk got not liking this book on shallow grounds. What are your thoughts?

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