Tag Archives: contemporary

Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer
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Links:

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: contemporary romance/mystery.

My rating:

Agnes and the Hitman is the third Jennifer Crusie novel I read (though it’s co-written with Bob Mayer), after I loved Bet Me and enjoyed Charlie All Night. Agnes and the Hitman was the best of three, even if it was completely different.

Agnes is a chef, hot-headed and fed up with being treated like a fool by the men she knows. She’s angry and violent (she’s handy with her cast iron skillet) and in no way your typical romantic heroine. I loved her, she was everything that I wanted in a romance heroine but didn’t know how to express. It’s rare for me to fall so completely for a female character, especially in romance, I always have some complaints about gender issues and whatnot. If I had to make a comparison, Agnes is like an angrier, Southern version of Stephanie Plum (who is one of my all-time favorite fictional people in case you didn’t know).

Shane (no surname), her love interest, is a hitman (the body count of AatH is unusually high for a romance, that’s true). He’s the guy who takes care of things for you, and he’s on a mission. So why he ends up living with Agnes, saving her life, and repairing her house, is a mystery. I was afraid he’d end up being one of those one-dimensional macho-types, and while he was certainly macho (look, it’s not really something I like, either, but stay with me), he was a complex love interest with separate motives and experience, so I really liked him, too.

I mentioned Stephanie Plum – and I think Janet Evanovich’s entire series is a great comparative title for Agnes and the Hitman. The supporting characters are over the top, hilarious, and ridiculous, there’s a flamingo wedding, a secret basement, and a mob war. So be prepared for some seriously high-level twists and turns. It was one of those reads that I couldn’t put down because the plot just pulled me in and refused to let go. I also snort-laughed a lot and debated making my husband read it (I didn’t, in the end, he’s not much of a romance reader).

I’ll be re-reading this one for sure, it’s a fabulous pick-me-up when a fluffy romance just doesn’t cut it and you need something with a bit of a bite.

Have you read Agnes and the Hitman? What did you think?

Do you have any other romance recs with unconventional heroines for me?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Three Romances I Wanted To Love But Didn’t

Sometimes, books just don’t work out for me. It’s not even that these books are bad, because they aren’t. They just each pushed some buttons and I didn’t enjoy them as much as I hoped I would. I decided to do shorter reviews for books that didn’t work for me from now on, since my posting schedule is different and I’d rather spend my time and effort talking at length about books that I actually loved.

Love Story (Love Unexpectedly #3) by Lauren Layne
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Links:

Source: Publisher via NetGalley. Thank you for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: contemporary NA romance.

My rating:

Love Story…Ahh, I wanted to love it so much. I read it at the end of a serious Lauren Layne binge (I discovered her last year and was then lucky enough to read this as an ARC, so I’m super late posting my review, oops), and maybe that’s why I wasn’t entirely impressed by it.

I mostly just couldn’t connect with the characters. Lucy was too “spoiled princess” for my taste, I didn’t really see what her conflict was here, and Reece was an asshole one too many times. I mean, the plot itself (a road trip across the US and a second chance romance) should have been enough for me to completely fall for it because those are some awesome tropes right there. And I did enjoy it, it was a quick read, I just wished to empathize more with Lucy and Reece.

It’s a standalone, even though it’s listed as a part of a series, which is kind of nice in the world of romance. If you’re already a Layne fan, go for it, you might connect better with the main characters. But if not, try another LL book first and fall in love with those (they’re great and she’s one of my favorite contemporary romance authors).

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Rescued by the Space Pirate (Ruby Robins Sexy Space Odyssey #1) by Nina Croft
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Links: Goodreads.

Source: Publisher via NetGalley. Thank you for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: space opera erotica.

My rating:

(Trigger warning for rape and dubious consent) Uhhh this book. I wanted this book to be campy and ridiculous and maybe sexy. I mean, when you pick up a book with such a title, you don’t expect to find serious literature of Nobel-prize-winning kind. But I expected some sort of space opera, with kissing. (Somebody find me that, please, I really want it now!)

What I got instead was alien porn with questionable consent and some uncool views on rape. *sad trombone* No but seriously, a hero who takes one look at a woman who was repeatedly gang-raped by weird tentacly aliens and says “she’ll get over it, people can adapt to anything” is not a hero I want to read about. Our heroine also gets bullied (aka fired from her job) into accepting the position of a spy which gets her into a situation where she gets touched by an alien against her will (she gets an orgasm out of it but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s non-consensual), so I wasn’t too impressed.

Look, I kind of wanted to continue reading the series because a three-way with a hot blue-skinned alien and a man who’s half-droid sounds like great fun (in writing, lol) but there were just too many issues for me to ignore. Now please, give me your space romance recs (aliens and tentacles are…fine, just as long as everyone’s there of their own free will).

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Royally Screwed (Royally #1) by Emma Chase
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Links:

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: contemporary romance.

My rating:

Whyyyyy are allllll the heroes such assholesssss? Don’t get me wrong, I like a good bad boy now and then, but not if he’s a straight-up jackass. I’ve seen a lot of positive reviews for Emma Chase’s Royally series, and this was a fast read (what contemporary romance isn’t?), but I didn’t get the appeal of Prince Charming, so the whole thing fell short for me.

He behaved atrociously towards Olivia, insulted her and treated her like crap, AND YET she went with him and they somehow fell in love. Being fantastic in bed doesn’t make a hero a good person, and at the end of the day, I want my romance heroes to be good guys the heroine can trust to stand beside her no matter what. Prince Nicholas just didn’t deliver on that. Meh.

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Give me all your romance recs, especially the sci-fi kind if you have any. 

Any new contemporary romance authors I should try? I’ve been on a real contemporary kick lately.

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert
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Links:

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: contemporary romance.

My rating:

Ohh, this is another one of those books. It has a great premise, some fantastic elements, I loved the heroine so much, and it made me hungry because the food descriptions are marvelous, but the whole just didn’t do it for me. This will contain spoilers because I want to talk about it some more, so if you want to read it, please stop reading now. You’ve been warned.

Lou is a small restaurant owner who gets a horrible review after she has a really bad day in life/her kitchen. The person responsible for the bad review – Al – is a nasty food critic who enjoys skewering restaurants and chefs, and takes perverse pleasure in seeing the effect of his words.

Now, Lou is fantastic. She’s warm and hardworking and trusting and a great friend. She’s also a fantastic chef, and I enjoyed her parts of the story so much. But Al…He was just such an asshole. He vents his own frustrations on unsuspecting people, and when he finds out he’s the reason for Lou’s misfortune, he hides behind his pseudonym like the coward that he is. When he didn’t come clean to Lou, I lost all interest in the story. The moment when he stated calculating how he could save his stupid ass and still stay with the woman whose life he ruined, I just sort of skim-read his parts because he annoyed me so much.

And the fact that she forgave him? Nope, sorry. He was so self-assured, so convinced that he was doing the world a favor by being nasty, I couldn’t empathize with him at all. Which is a pity, because I loved so many other things about this story.

The setting, the details of Lou’s life in the restaurant, Lou’s relationships with virtually everyone else…were great, really well-done. This reads more like chick-lit than romance, that’s worth mentioning. The story also dragged a little – I read it on my Kindle, so I don’t have a good sense of how long it was, but it definitely could have been shorter. So yeah. I might look up Reichert’s other books (are there any?) because I liked so much about this one, but I can’t whole-heartedly recommend The Coincidence of Coconut Cake because of the issues I mentioned.

Have you read The Coincidence? What did you think?

Would you forgive the person who ruined your life and lied about it?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr
Published in January 2017 by Penguin.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Penguin for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA contemporary.

My rating:

Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

The One Memory of Flora Banks is a strange, claustrophobic story. Flora has a medical condition that prevents her new memories from sticking, so she forgets everything that happens to her almost instantly. Her overprotective parents understandably hover over her every move and her friends (especially her best friend Paige) help her by explaining things to her when she gets confused.

Flora writes everything in her journals, takes photos with her phone, and writes messages for herself on her arms so that when she finds herself lost and blank, she can read everything she’s written and find her way again. When you think about it, it’s a horrifying condition that makes me anxious just by thinking about it. I had a brief moment of unease when I was reading it because I imagined not remembering my kids – my mind is the most valuable thing I have and not being able to rely on it is deeply scary for me.

Flora’s last memories before the illness that caused her condition were of her being ten years old, so she’s basically a child in a young woman’s body. But she has wishes and thoughts of a teenager, too, and ends up kissing her friend’s ex-boyfriend on the night of his departure for Svalbard (he’s going to study there). The next morning, she wakes up and, inexplicably, remembers the kiss.

Convinced the boy will help her fix her memory and left alone in the house because her parents left to visit her older brother, whom she barely remembers, she packs up her things, buys a plane ticket, and travels right to Svalbard, though she has to keep checking her journal because she keeps forgetting what she’s doing. It’s a mad plan concocted by someone who is not thinking very clearly, but it’s also the bravest thing she could do, because she’s so very alone.

This is all I’m saying about the plot. I liked the story, I liked the plot twist, and even though the thought of being/becoming like Flora made my stomach clench painfully, I enjoyed reading about Flora’s thought processes. I’ve never read a story with a similar mental problem before – sure, you get amnesia, which is also scary AF, but is usually not permanent in the way Flora’s condition seems to be. Flora is also a cool young lady, though it was difficult to really get to know her, especially since she’s both a child and a young adult, and has very little sense of self apart from the journals she keeps.

The mystery surrounding Flora’s condition, her brother’s messages, hidden and confusing, the bright light of summertime Svalbard – all the elements are geared towards creating a slightly paranoid, claustrophobic environment that complements Flora’s sense of disorientation quite perfectly. I think Barr did very well with writing the right atmosphere for Flora’s story.

What bothered me is actually an inherent part of the story: the constant repetition of known facts. Every time Flora’s memory is lost, she goes over the basics – how old she is, what she’s doing, who she’s with, etc. As this happens multiple times a day, reading about it can become slightly tedious, though I then felt like an asshole for begrudging Flora her repetitions. I don’t know if the author could have done things differently without hammering home the effect of Flora’s memory loss, but I thought the constant litany of basic facts became too stretched out.

It’s also hard to imagine how this story would actually go down in real life. This is a contemporary story, which usually means: “Hey, this could happen any day, right around the corner.” I’m exaggerating, but you know what I mean. I just think that overprotective parents would not leave such a confused child on her own (even if her best friend promised she’d check on her). She was still a minor and prone to wandering off. Also, how did nobody at the airport(s) notice her strange behaviour? How did she get all the way to Svalbard without attracting the attention of officials? Eh, I don’t know. I just had trouble believing everything.

All in all (wow, this review is longer than I thought, thanks for sticking with me!), this was a good contemporary story about disability, friendship, and bravery, with a twist of mystery thrown in. I’d recommend it if you’re intrigued by her condition, which was superbly rendered, and like a bit of ominous anticipation in your contemporaries.

Have you read The One Memory of Flora Banks? What did you think?

Can you recommend any books with similarly intriguing mental problems (OK I know that sounds horrible when I put it like that but you know what I mean)?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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How Not To Fall by Emily Foster (Series Review)

How Not To Fall and How Not To Let Go by Emily Foster
Published in 2016 by Kensington.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased for Kindle / ARC via NetGalley. Thank you Kensington for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: contemporary romance.

My rating:

Data, research, scientific formulae–Annabelle Coffey is completely at ease with all of them. Men, not so much. But that’s all going to change after she asks Dr. Charles Douglas, the postdoctoral fellow in her lab, to have sex with her. Charles is not only beautiful, he is also adorably awkward, British, brilliant, and nice. What are the odds he’d turn her down?

Very high, as it happens. Something to do with that whole student/teacher/ethics thing. But in a few weeks, Annie will graduate. As soon as she does, the unlikely friendship that’s developing between them can turn physical–just until Annie leaves for graduate school. Yet nothing could have prepared either Annie or Charles for chemistry like this, or for what happens when a simple exercise in mutual pleasure turns into something as exhilarating and infernally complicated as love.

PEOPLE, listen up. I’ve found a romance so good, I gave it five stars! And the sequel is great, too, so sit back and let me gush, okay?

I saw How Not To Fall on the Smart Bitches newsletter (it’s funny, really, how many of my romance reviews should start this way), checked Goodreads, and saw Becky gave it a very good rating. I proceeded to one-click buy it and emerged several hours later, teary-eyed and heartbroken, to DM Becky about how good it was and how I wanted to read the sequel immediately. As luck would have it, the sequel, How Not To Let Go, was available on NetGalley, and I immediately plunged back in, with very satisfying results. I rated the first book with 5 stars and the second with 4, which is why we have that 4.5 rating up there.

It’s difficult to review just the first book, How Not To Fall, because it doesn’t have an HEA  and ends on a cliffhanger. I’m putting this out there even though I dislike spoilers, because when reading contemporary romances, happy endings are expected and you might feel hoodwinked if you get to the end of book one and the couple aren’t where you wanted them to be. So if you want to get the whole beautiful story of Annie and Charles, you’ll have to commit to both books (like that’s a bad thing).

Let’s start with the characters, though, shall we? Both Annie and Charles are scientists. They’re both very smart (like genius-smart), which makes for some really interesting conversations. However, I never felt like the scientific parts were too much, I liked how the subject of Annie’s studies pertains to the story itself.

The first thing I noticed about this book (reading the preview on Amazon), was how strong Annie’s voice was – the story is narrated by her and she’s funny and honest and awkward. I wish I could write voice like that. It also made me root for her from the beginning. Annie is wonderful because she’s got this great self-esteem, she knows she’s smart and young and pretty, and there’s very little hesitation on her part. (The second book has both characters’ POVs, which was a nice addition.)

Charles is a very interesting romance hero. His traumatic past makes him sound like another Christian Grey, and while there certainly are similarities between that stupid series and this one, Charles’ troubles are addressed in a much more sensitive, realistic manner. The first book focuses more on Annie, while the second explores Charles’ past in more detail. He’s got some serious commitment issues, so their involvement begins with an expiration date: Annie is leaving for grad school and they only have a month to enjoy each other’s company. Naturally, things don’t go as planned.

If you’re thinking that you’ve read this kind of story a hundred times before, just trust me: you haven’t. It’s a smart romance and I liked it, even if it’s not perfect (*spoiler in white* Like the fact that Annie is a virgin at 23 and Christian needs to, erm, show her the ropes. *snort-laugh* *end spoiler*). The author is a sex educator by profession, so you can bet that sex is medically accurate and also very hot. No “fade to black” scenes here.

If you’ve read the entire review and I haven’t convinced you to read these two books, I’m sorry. I also hope I didn’t create too much hype and that you’ll give them a try, be amazed, and report back to me. I’ll just be sitting here, waiting for Foster to write another book.

Have you read How Not to Let Go? How can I convince you to give it a try?

Do you like angsty books when they’re good?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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The Best Books I Read in 2016

The year has come to an end. Finally, most people will say, given that 2016 has been a pretty tough year. But as I said, it has been a good year for me, and these books made it better. Books have the power to do that sometimes. I divided them into categories and linked to my reviews where they’re available – I’m still behind with writing them, oops.

It has been a year of comfort reads and losing myself in fantasy worlds, so the list reflects that, I think. The lists themselves are in random order.

Best of Fantasy

Best of Romance

  • To Love and to Cherish by Lauren Layne – this one spawned a binge of Layne’s backlist. I haven’t reviewed any others yet but I fell in love with her stories! I especially loved Blurred Lines.
  • How Not To Fall and How Not To Let Go by Emily Foster – maybe the only romance that made me cry? I *loved* them!
  • Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn – I read this one twice and I still think it’s great!
  • Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie – okay so it’s not just a romance but it was laugh-out-loud hilarious.
  • The Year We Fell Down and the entire Ivy Years series by Sarina Bowen – sports NA romance at its finest, really.
  • Act Like It by Lucy Parker – very good + bantery.

Best of Other

  • When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore – gorgeous writing and packs a real punch.
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – this was fantastic. Not my usual fare but so good!
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – I loved the book so much but the movie just wasn’t that good.
  • The Martian by Andy Weir – one of the few Sci-Fi titles I read this year. I loved it!
  • Saga by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan – I really need to catch up with this one.

 

Which books will you remember most from 2016? 

Was it a good reading year for you?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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