Sam's Reading: A Work in Progress

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16 candles but like...way better

Ernessa T. Carter's32 Candles: A Novel [Hardcover](2010) - T., E.,   (Author) Carter

 I'm no fan of John Hughes movies, never really was, but I can also understand the fairy tale endings and romantic appeal in a big way. And Davidia Jones just thinks she deserves her Molly Ringwald ending. 16 Candles is her favorite movie, and her movies are essential for her. She quickly finds her Jake Ryan in James, a new boy at school who is as sweet as he is beautiful. 

This book had far more layers than that (this review won't even scratch the surface), though, from concepts of beauty in an all-black town , self-loathing, abuse, and class divides, finally to choosing your own family and making your own way against all odds. It even features easy-to-fall-into relationships that are, at their core, complacent, and how to heal and move on with someone you care deeply about. (This is one book where centralizing the story on Davie, as she's later known, and her relationships wasn't distracting--it was just her book) The beginning of this book is not gentle, much in the same way her idol's life is at the beginning of 16 candles, Davidia's is in shambles. Far worse off than Sam, though, Davidia chooses not to speak due to prior trauma with her abusive mother. James is extraordinarily warm and kind but Davie's life are quickly set about a different path through necessity, heartbreak, and desperation.

But we don't see all of the 16 years between 15-31 as clearly--and warning here--Davie edits for us too. We learn that Davie has made some terrible, awful, hurtful choices herself. I wondered if I would ever come around on her again. 

I need to mention though, because I see others reviews say this isn't romance, I believe it is at its core. James eventual pursuit of Davie is clearly entitled, won't take no for an answer (see where he reminds me of Hardy Cates), but in a much less threatening way. However, this bit is a pretty big hang up for me--it was a little too persistent for me to love their courtship at the beginning. The meat of that romance is where this wonderfully grounded novel shine, along with its humor and sneaky social observations. I also have to say another highlight is the end, where we begin to see Davie as a protagonist making her own way and dealing with her choices-maybe in a miraculous way, but I love good endings.

There's an awful lot of growth. James isn't as fully fleshed as he is 'perfect' but the surrounding secondary characters with all their flaws, love, mistakes, loyalty, along with Davie's absolutely stunning journey more than make up for it. 

I do warn, if it's not clear, this book isn't always easy to stomach. It didn't have me weeping, but it is certainly not fluff. It is a novel that is centrally about redemption, surviving,thriving in hostile environments through loyalty, luck, and love-and yep that romance too.


Rebellion - Nora Roberts I have to say, this is the first Nora Roberts book that didn't really grate on me. Similarly, I'd have to check my notes but it is also a highlander romance that didn't get all bogged down in the mystical side of Scotland and make me hate the characters for all their time-traveling selfishness...I'd also like to point out this is the first pre-2000 book (I think!) that I've actually liked at all.

It was nice to read about an English man and a Scottish woman also. I might even be tempted to continue on this series to see how the fam makes it home again or whatever it is they end up doing

Based on the fact I'll never reread-it's just a 3.

2018 on Goodreads

2018 on Goodreads - Various I read Brothers Sinister twice this year. Had a blast buddy reading favorites, new ones, and really old books. Category nominees and best book awards are according to me, when I read them....

Nominees for Biggest Disappointments in 2018:

Muse of Nightmares

Book I loved to hate

My favorite non-romance reads of 2018
Long Way Down,Kate Clayborn by like .001.

February Nominees:
(Belongs to Duran)
A Lady’s Code of Misconduct

March Nominees
No five star reads, but some 4.5
The Failing Hours and barely.

April Nominees
A Girl Like Her takes it barely - this was a 5* reading month!

Nominees for May
A Gentleman's Position/The Ruin of a Rake

July Nominees
The King’s Man

August Nominees
A Hope Divided

September Nominees
Best of Luck

4TH QUARTER: there were clear standouts here, and I was rereading quite a few
The Suffragette Scandal
[bc:An Unnatural Vice|32161804|An Unnatural Vice (Sins of the Cities, #2)|K.J. Charles||52798546]
An Unnatural Vice

Playing Dirty

Playing Dirty - Mickey Miller well, that experiment failed. It failed quickly.

I was wondering at all these positive reviews. I don't think my favorite books have this level of adoration. I thought one of two things: 1) it's great. 2) no one remotely mean had read it.

A PR agent walks into a crowded post game locker room. Why? I'm still not clear. Maybe this is the job. For the social media? Idk. But fine.

Then, nude-ish baseball player makes all kinds of innuendos using this very nuanced style. Putting everything that can be interpreted sexually in italics. In case we can't read between the lines.

Player did this in front of his team, at the best it's offensive. At the worst, it's humiliating. At least if you're anything like me. Both are on the job. Basically it is all of the above to me. Andrea got Jake back with her quick wit, so that's good...I guess...until he leans into her, talks about her legs and also asks her on a date essentially saying he doesn't have the time now so it'll have to be that..the men scoff knowingly, and she... Can't believe her former crush would actual hit on her.

Here's what I love about romance: authors get to play with the power dynamic. They get to do the unexpected. They get to balance the scales. But this was expected. This is shit we have in our everyday. but It's not cute it's not flattering. It's threatening. Hot former crushes can still be huge dangerous pricks. Should I left hope for the rest of the book? Perhaps. But ob-la-di and all that.

Also not if you're going to go into Chicago demographics, your back history and all in a skimmy cheap way.

Then Andrea proceeds to tell us how she got chewed out and wasn't tough enough and all her boss was saying... And then showed us for like 2 lines.

So...tell tell tell. And maybe tell again. Horrible power dynamic/working relationship angle.

But kudos for a heroine that is 6' and athletic.

(Oh, the hero told us how smart she was too. And how competent)

The Governess Game

The Governess Game - Tessa Dare This was a sweet, light-hearted read. The hero lacked depth, I think, but i didn’t care, I was still kinda swoony from his first eulogy. (I love when people take kids seriously. I don’t mean humor them, I mean live in their reality). Alex was a spark. The romance was cute, but I kind of liked this for the ensemble most of all...quite a few laughs...

Romancing the Duke

Romancing the Duke - Tessa Dare As they ( you know who they are) say, leave reality behind for these Tessa Dare fairy tales. There was nothing historical in this other than petticoats basically…And at first I didn’t think the determined, intuitive heroine was going to do it for me-or do enough anyway. It was, as so many Dare novels are, a spectacular meet-cute followed up with loosely held plot that uses sexual tension as its glue. This plot is so silly, so fantastical, so…did I say silly? There might as well have been unicorns and pegasus along with witches and, well, actual ghosts.

“Even if you did read my father’s stories, I doubt you’d enjoy them. They require the reader to possess a certain amount of…”
“Gullibility?” He suggested.
“Inexperience? Willful stupidity?”
“Heart. They require the reader to possess a heart.”

Izzy Goodnight (I mean, really) met Ransom, the Duke of Rothbury (who has like 4 other names + titles but we all know I like shortcuts) outside his castle, or was it hers? The meeting was the type I’d come to expect from Dare: memorable and funny. The beginning plugged along in a similar vein, but less memorable and more “cute” and I thought, “Well, here’s a two star novel with 5 star sexual tension (and sex).”

Until it wasn’t. It’s not that anything dramatic happens exactly to make this switch. It’s not that she’s fantastic at developing her characters. I don’t think she is generally. It’s actually that she’s so fantastic at showing vulnerability and tenderness. Then she layers it with 5 star sex and memorable dialogue. Maybe in this ridiculous plot she’s poking fun at the genre herself, but in the end-if we leave these where they ought to be-on shelves for ‘adult fairy tales’ (or something) With ridiculously sweet and tender moments-and something just a little more-both characters acting out of regard and respect for the other-being what they didn’t know they’d need…well, I’ll live in that land with those characters for a few hours.

Just to prove it…just to get back at him for all his crude, sensual games earlier…she bent over and pressed a tender kiss to his forehead. And she held it, for two heartbeats more.
Take that, sweet man.
Then she pushed to her feet and did her best to cover herself with her displaced corset and the torn bodice. He remained exactly where he was, flat on the threadbare carpet.
“Are you hurt?” she asked.
He let his arms fall to the sides. “I’m slain.”

Me too.

Laird of the Mist

Laird of the Mist - Paula Quinn I kinda of started to lose focus. So many books and all that.

Claiming the Duchess

Claiming the Duchess - Sherry Thomas I'm not even rating this. It was sweet, but not even a novella.

Kiss of Steel

Kiss of Steel - Bec McMaster The first part was easy to read and leave and then I got 50% and didn't want to put it down. Then I got 85% and just wanted it to end.

I enjoyed it enough, but not to unreservedly continue the series. I'm just not sure yet.


Apples Should Be Red

Apples Should Be Red - Penny Watson I thought this was a fun, short, sweet, sexy read. I could not get on board with Tom's voice and POV in the beginning, but it settled by the end. He was gruff - and sometimes it was just plain crude-and really pulled me out of the story. However, he was a great hero overall, and someone that came across as genuine in the end. I did struggle with his voice in other way-that it didn't feel authentic. But 2/3 through that irritation vanished. And he was forward and sweet and had some seriously swoony moves.

It was really refreshing and sweet to read about an older couple, though i wish their prior spouses weren't so demonized. Perfect Thanksgiving bridge between buddy reads. Thanks Gaufre!

One and Only

One and Only - Jenny Holiday I think this is the kind of book that "a sexy romp" is the phrase for. The beginning... Whew. Clunky. Half of it felt like Canadian geography. In the end though, this opposites attract couple had me rooting for them. I enjoyed how intimacy was built and how the heroine really instigating bigger moments for the couple. What was a little odd about this book, though, was it was like reading all the stereotypically romantic things you'd do with a boyfriend in high school. In a sense that made it fun, but it also meant these two were not in their everyday. Some things I liked about that.

I appreciate Holiday's vocabulary. Truly. I never felt like I was reading the same old tired lines. There's one thing there at the end I'd change, by essentially cutting out the end because that situation is tired, it's silly, and I like when women make the grand gesture. ... Instead we end up with a cheese factor of approximately 11. Edit, people, edit.

All in all, this rambling is meant to say this is another solid romance by this author. A sexy romp, if you will.
Unlike the rest of you, this wasn't on my radar till Vengeful came out...

And while I enjoyed this twisty adventure and all these characters who I do not relate to one bit but find fun to read and fascinating nonetheless, I have one very strong opinion:

It doesn't need a sequel.

Perhaps I'm saying this due to my high level of bitter over the utterly disappointing sequel I just read, but maybe it's just...true. I kind of just want to leave it there.

But there is a sequel. So I guess I'll likely read it. I don't know when or why. (Yes, I see your 5 star reviews, I'm just not convinced yet)

Tempting the Bride

Tempting the Bride - Sherry Thomas It's weird I don't have a jackass shelf, considering the jackass hero is one of my favorites. By jackass I mean in a fond, ridiculous way "selfish and / or immature asshole" *winks at Jack Talent & Joshua Templeman*

Friends, they are my favorite kind. The stupid, immature oddly sensitive yet super defensive heroes. (Or some of my favorite anyway). The ones with their who would die for their beloveds but make her think (or sometimes out of fear I suppose) his head is shoved so far up his ass he no longer makes good sense. Hastings was one of them. In fact, I haven't read many reviews past opening paragraphs, but if there's a problem to be had with the amnesia plot and it manipulation, that's not my problem with the hero. I have more of a problem that he lay in wait for Helena to screw up so he could pounce in the most self-centered way possible. But, I also don't blame him for it. It is his sheer and utter desperation for her-revealed bit by bit that makes you understand how heavy and bright the flame he holds for her is. And she hates him for it. We can understand that too-there were 1,000 different ways to solve a problem, and he took the one that most suited him.

And then she got amnesia. It sounds contrived. It sounds easy. But it most certainly did not feel that way. What it gave them was a clean slate. On that slate, he still drew their history (albeit a simplified version) and remained forthright. And underneath his jackass exterior, he was a marshmallow of a hero who'd been planning for her forever. Kind of creepy when I say it that way, kind of sad when you read how clueless she is and how she always assumed the worst of him (and that was his own doing since the worst is often what her gave her).

The relationships and family really made this book work and made it convincing. In isolation, Hastings wouldn't have come off the right way. And as usual, Helena is to die for-with a different kind of spirit and strength than the heroines of the prior two. In the end, much like the two I mention there above, his tender heart is revealed, and it is wonderful.

A Dance in Moonlight

A Dance in Moonlight - Sherry Thomas Without this review (or the opening two paragraphs) I wouldn't have read this book:

This book was a ridiculous premise and winds up being pretty stupidly cute. It actually worked, where Isabelle could come across as a bit vapid or shallow when pitted against the guarded Millie, here she comes across as vulnerable, sweet and free-spirited--kind and loving too. She was delightful and slightly uncomplicated (though not 'simple'). Which made the novella just right for her. It's definitely quick, yet somehow convincing.

However, I suggest you just read Wollstonecrafthomegirl's review.

Ravishing the Heiress

Ravishing the Heiress - Sherry Thomas I rate this about a 4.25. I'm big into rounding down these days.

About 4.25 of those stars are for Millie's fortitude. Her stoic pragmatism was something here, and her strength something else.

I won't recap, but I'll definitely say in many ways this isn't an easy read. And it would be easy to malign Fitz for his choices and seemingly constant rejection of Millie, but part of why this book worked was that he, too, was rejected time and again by her. (At least in my eyes. If my spouse is all, "hey, going to meet another lover?" or "hey, jumping off the bed when you are sexy snuggling" it'd feel kind of shitty) I'm not sure why he'd think anything but what he thought, and his appreciation of her really did ring true from the very early 'bricks' of their relationship. Also well done was her 'status' in his eyes. This very sweet "no one treats my wife rudely" thing, which could sound ironic, but isn't.

And friendship is such a lovely foundation, isn't it? I think the choices in this book were brave and made for a unique plot. It would be easy to have Fitz hung up on his long forgotten lover but Thomas made her available to him, and in the end that's what set this book apart. I did feel like the end was too quick--would have loved some more quiet scenes from these two once they really start their lives together.

So a couple random paragraphs there, but in the end I'll just say this: I loved their quiet humor, I loved their quiet strength, and I loved their quiet and powerful love.

Beguiling the Beauty

Beguiling the Beauty - Sherry Thomas RTC. Cause that was a binge read and it’s bedtime.

The review hasn't written itself, but I did so appreciate the conversation and intimacy built between these characters. I HATE mistaken or hidden identity plots, but this one did work for me. The hero makes a mistake and is punished in a singular fashion for it, but of course that goes awry because he's also a really decent guy.

There's some sexy hairpin action (aka sexy consent) and what results is a sweet, convincing relationship. When it all falls apart--less a big misunderstanding and more a big understanding--it is also dealt with in a convincing way and all character vulnerabilities melt away in favor of their regular defensive modes. The secondary characters play a large role here and have set this series up so I'm almost reluctant to step away from it now.

Last night, because I enjoyed it and binged it to no end, I might have given it a 5. This morning, I think it's not quite that, perhaps the rush to the end and the device employed, so I'll leave it at 4 for now. Probably.

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