Quick Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

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**This Review contains some Spoilers**

This series was meant to only be a duology and I thought it worked pretty well as just To All the boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.  So I was a little hesitant but excited when I found out that Jenny Han had decided to write one more book.  On the one hand, I felt that Lara Jean’s story wrapped up nicely.  Yes, it had an open ended ending but there was a sense that Lara Jean had finally started to find her Identity.  And on the other hand, there was some unanswered questions, like were her and Peter really going to make it?  What about their senior year?  Would Kitty continue to be awesome?  The answer is to that last questions is of course.  Reading through this book and getting back to Lara Jean’s world of baking and arts and crafts, I was little disappointed to find that Lara Jean’s new found identity pretty much was all Peter.  Her new friends were all his friends.  Their plans mostly seemed to revolve around his schedule of Lacrosse games.  To be fair, she did build friendships on her own with Lucas and Pammy but she wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for Peter.  This became more apparent when they started to talk about college.  Peter had already been accepted into UVA on a Lacrosse scholarship and Lara Jean had always wanted to go there.  It’s a good school and only 15 minutes away so she could stay close to her family.  Well, when she doesn’t get into UVA, there is a panic because now they have to deal with a long distance relationship.  So she makes a plan to go to William and Mary for one year and transfer to UVA so they can be together.  Things get even more complicated when Lara Jean who gets accepted into UNC after originally being wait listed.  After a quick drive to Chapel Hill, Lara Jean is in love and it’s clear this is where she is meant to be.  Now she will be 3 and half hours away instead of only 2.  All this talk of college and what school would is the best, I can’t remember of any talk about what she wants to study.  We know that she loves to bake and loves to crafting but what else in her life?  Is she going to be an English major?  biology? French?  We have absolutely no idea who she is outside of her family and Peter but I could say the same thing about Peter too.  As frustrating as Lara Jean’s behavior I started to realize that Peter’s identity is just as dependent if not more so on Lara Jean’s.  He is very much the perfect boyfriend.  He’s polite and good looking, athletic and charming.  He organizes her father’s bachelor’s party to not only get on his good side but make her happy.  He is also afraid of losing Lara Jean. Thanks for a moment of true honesty they seem to have finally found each other and where they want to go.  They are going to try to make it work and I hope they do but where does it leave them.  I sort of feel like we are left in the same place as were with the last book.  They both are still growing and finding themselves as they should be at 18 and they are still together and going to fight to make their relationship work despite the distance but their future is still up and the air.  I think it’s a very good development for Lara Jean to spread her wings and live on her own for once.  Her life has always been about her family and then Peter.  Finally in college she will be able to truly find her identity without them around and I think it will only make her stronger.  It will make her relationships stronger and if her and Peter do work out them both stronger.   Now, I hope in a couple of years, we come back to Virginia for Kitty, the high school years because I think that would be the most amazing story of all time.

Series You Should Check Out: Unearthly Series by Cynthia Hand

unearthly I can’t believe that I haven’t written about this series yet.  It’s one of my favorite series to go back and read. In particular, it’s my go-to series when I’ve finished one book but the book I want to read next is coming in a couple of days.  (Like for instance, I’ve finished My Lady Jane but A Court of Wings and Ruin, The Dark Prophecy and Always and Forever, Lara Jean comes out of Tuesday) I usually don’t want to start a new book that I might not finish before they come out so Unearthly or one if it’s sequels, Hallowed or Boundless because I’ve read them so many times, I can skip over parts or not feel bad if I don’t finish.  It’s a romance, it’s a comedy. It has some action!  and it has one of the most swoon worthy love interest of any teen novel.  Unearthly is about Clara, a half human half angel, who moves with her family to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to fulfill her purpose.  All Angelbloods, as they are known, are put on this earth to carry out some divine purpose.  For Clara it starts when she starts having visions about meeting a boy her age in the woods during a forest fire and wouldn’t you know that guy is super dreamy too.  Christian is the guy in high school that every girl has a crush on and every boy wants to be.  However, he’s the guy that makes me swoon.  That title guys to the other love interest.  Tucker Avery.  Tucker Avery is a cowboy.  He wears cowboy boots and hat.  He rides in rodeos and is very outdoorsy.  He would be the perfect boyfriend.  They relationship starts off in the stereotypical bickering back and forth before they realize how much they love each other.  Aww.

hallowed I would say the real theme of the series is fate and destiny and how much control do we have over our future.  Clara is not your normal teenager.  She has Angel blood in her and because of that is she expected to carry out her purpose. At first she is all about it. If it means getting to know Christian, the hot boy is school, she is all for it but what does divine really want from her.  Is she only supposed to save Christian from the forest fire?  Are they supposed to be a couple?  Is God trying to set her up on a date?  She discovers that finding out her purpose in life is not that easy and only gets more complicated when a.) she starts to fall in love with Tucker and b.) she finds out that she has more in common with Christian then she thought.  How much about her future does she get the decide and how much of it has already been planned for her.  She is impulsively drawn to Christian but is that because she is supposed to because of her purpose or does she really have feelings for him and him for her?  And if she is supposed to be with Christian then why does she fall in love with Tucker. (because he’s perfect! but I digress)

boundless All the while she’s trying to find out why she was put on this earth and fighting evil Angels, she still has to dodge of the landmines of attending high school.  Taking test, finding new friends and keeping them.  Going to Prom.  It’s not easy but an Angelblood in high school.  Clara is able to navigate all of these things thanks to other awesome character, Angela, another Angelblood.  Together help each other to figure out each other purposes and the other mysteries of being half angel.  Their friendship is one of those great but sadly rare in fiction, solid friendships between two girls.  They truly love and support each other throughout the everything.  Yes, they have their disagreements but when it matters, they are there for each other.  They push each other to be better.  Challenge each other to learn and know more about who they are and what they are supposed to.  There really should be more relationships like this featured in YA novels.  Too often female friendships get pushed aside once the heroine starts a relationship. But then again, Angela is not someone who would ever let a boy become between her and her best friend.  So yes, go read this series.  It’s the perfect weekend getaway book.  Just don’t let the cheesy covers scare you away.

 

Review: The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper

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First, I have to start with review by saying that these are fun books. They’re ridiculous books, but they are fun books. This is the second book in a series about a wolf pack in Alaska. Instead of centering on a woman who marries into the pack, it focuses on a woman in the pack, the love interest from the first book’s sister. There is a little drama. There is a little mystery. There’s an unbelievably hot scientist. There’s a happy ending. You know the drill. Amanda Ronconi who narrates the audiobook does a nice job. So, if you’re into fluffy, paranormal romance or if you’re looking for something light, I recommend you give this a go.

 

Potential Spoilers Ahead.

 

And now that I’ve said that, I need to talk about something that bothered me so much in this book. The werewolves are infertile with anyone but the partner they’ve bonded with. I can’t imagine that there is any evolutionary benefit to this. At all. It seems like the stupidest design feature of a creature ever invented and it also perfectly explains why werewolves as a species are dying out. I’d get it if werewolves were monogamous and pretty devoted (possibly to the point of being creepy) to their partners. I mean, I wouldn’t want it, but I’d get it. And, there’s evidence in the animal kingdom of some animals mating monogamously and/or for life (easier done when life is only a few months or years, I’d venture to guess.) But, being fertile with only one partner forever? Whu?? What kind of testing apparatus would the body have to have internally to be able to tell one partner from another? And, what about close genetic matches? I couldn’t stop either questioning how that worked or feeling completely flabbergasted that it happened at all.

 

Anyway, this featured heavily in the plot and it took me right out of the narrative because it was ridiculous. So, if you like fluffy paranormal romance but you also like at least a modicum of believable scientific accuracy, this book is not for you.

 

 

This book is my audio book selection for the Diverse Stacks, Diverse Lives Challenge.

Series You Should Check out: To All The Boy’s I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

to all the boysNot that long ago, Barnes and Noble was having a sale on teen books, buy 2 for $20, basically you get one for free.  I kept seeing To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before pop up on my Tumblr dashboard that I decided to check it out.  Contemporary Fiction and Romance are not my usual go to reads but I do dabble in it from time to time and since both it and it’s sequel, P.S. I love You were apart of the sale, I decided to just go on get them both.  If they are as good as Tumblr insists then I should read them, right?  Tumblr would never steer me wrong.  Tumblr did introduce me to Rainbow Rowell after all.  It was a wise decision because once I finished the first, I had to read the second. Actually, I read the sequel in one day, it was good.  To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still I Love are both delightful.  True they are not really groundbreaking, besides it centers on a Korean American teenage girl but it’s sweet, kind and lovely.  Lara Jean is the middle Song sister.  Her older sister, Margot is about to go to College in Scotland and her younger sister Kitty is well a firecracker.  Their mother died unexpectedly when they were little so it’s just been the girls and their dad.  Margot has been their surrogate mother the last couple of years but with her going it’s now Lara Jean turn.  Lara Jean is a romantic in true sense of the word.  She is sixteen and is about to start her junior year in high school.  She’s never had a boyfriend but she’s been in love before.  More accurately she’s had crushes, five of them and she wrote all five letters and hid them in her hat box.  One day she finds out that her letters that were never meant to be seen were mailed out to the boys she loved before and well this is a problem.  One of those goes to Josh, Margot’s boyfriend that she just broke up with and Lara Jean had a crush on before they had started dating and those feelings for him start to return. Another one went to Peter a former friend from Middle School that was her first kiss and her ex-best friend, Genevieve’s recent ex-boyfriend.   Lara Jean and Peter decide to fake a relationship to save face with Josh and to make Genevieve jealous.  Of course in true Rom-Com fashion they end up falling in love for real and things get messy.

P.S. I still love youIn the sequel, Peter and Lara Jean decide to date for real and well it’s not as simple as it once was. Old insecurities come up and when another recipient of Lara Jean’s letters shows up it complicates things even more.  John Ambrose McClaren was also apart of Lara Jean’s middle school group of friends until he moved away.  Lara Jean goes from a reserved girl, who lived in her sister shadows to a more confident girl who knows what she wants but a lot happens for her to get there.  First she has to get over this idea that she is not worthy.  Peter is the golden boy.  He’s the boy that every girl in high school wants to be with and Genevieve is the beautiful blonde girl that you would expect to be with the golden boy.  Lara Jean is not popular or in the “in crowd”.  She constantly compares herself and her relationship to Genevieve to the point her jealously and insecurities take over.  It’s something that all of us have dealt with from time to time. This is Lara Jean’s first relationship and she is closer to her sisters then to anyone else, so it’s hard to open up and trust other people.

Now let’s talk about the guys. Josh, her sister ex-boyfriend and the literal boy next door.  He’s nice and caring but I felt he was more of the big brother type then anything else.  It’s a shame that their friendship never truly recovered after the break up and the letter but they did find a way to be friends again.  John Ambrose McClaren is nice.  He’s the kind of boy who would be perfect for Lara Jean.  He’s smart, sweet and unassuming but he doesn’t really enter the story until the second half of the second book so we don’t get to know him as well as the other two.  And finally Peter.  He comes at first as egotistical and vain and well there is some of that too but he’s also caring and observant. Of all the guys he’s the one who truly challenges Lara Jean the most.  He brings her out of her shell without forcing her to change or wanting her to be different.  I liked that Lara Jean had different suitors.  She didn’t fall for the first guy that noticed her, she realized she had options.  I think that’s important to girls to know that if a relationship doesn’t work out that they are going to be others too.  Another important element of the story is the double standard between boys and girls.  At one point of the story, a video goes viral of Lara Jean and Peter kissing in a hot tub. Typically, all the comments on the internet are about slut Lara Jean is even though she is doing nothing wrong.  As far as anyone knows, Lara Jean is only kissing her boyfriend.  Of course nothing is said about Peter.  When she goes back to school, teachers and counselors talk to Lara Jean about the video and how disappointed they are in her but no mention of Peter.  It’s sad how true this scenario is.

So in conclusion, I really loved these two books.  With beach season coming up soon, these are the perfect books to take on vacation with you to read and just mellow out.  Also for anyone participating in our reading challenge, this is a good choice for a book with an Asian American character.

P.S. If Jenny Han somehow reads this, can we have a spin-off series about Kitty?

Review: Gage by Tess Oliver

 

 

I had thought that I bought this book because my Mom recommended it but when I was reading it I told her thank you and she didn’t think it sounded familiar.

 

And, now I don’t know if I want her to read it because there was a lot more sex in it than the ones she usually recommends and I’ve had some weird conversations about the contents of romance novels with my Mom.

 

But, if you’re into romance novels, oh my, do I ever recommend this one. Gage is a lumberjack. He’s thinking about getting out of the dangerous rough and tumble lumberjacking world and has the perfect opportunity when the owner of his favorite bar dies. (Total bummer. Everyone was very sad.) He’ll buy the bar, he’ll retire from lumberjacking in Montana, he’ll have a quiet, peaceful life. That is, until Summer, the bar-inheritor, decides that she would prefer to be a bar-owner herself.

Just knowing that, you know where the rest of the story is going. Will they get together? Will Summer’s asshole mother upset the apple cart because her father didn’t leave her anything? Will Gage go back to lumberjacking and meet his maker on the mountain? Who knows?!

 

I really enjoyed this novel. I liked the characterizations of the folks and there was just enough tension between the characters and outside life pressures that it wasn’t boring. I would totally read another book in this series. A+, good job!51plUhb7VAL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_

Review: The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

royal weIf you are on the internet and you follow fashion, especially celebrity fashion then you probably know Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan or as their known, the Fug Girls.  Their fashion blog, GoFugYourself, is one of the most popular on the web.  It’s a mix of humor and fashion as they dissect what celebs are wearing and the latest trends.  They are also huge Royal watchers and not just the British royal family but all of them.  Although the Wills, Kate, Harry and the Queen do hold a special place in their hearts so it’s really no surprise that they inspired this luscious book.  Unless you have been living under a rock for the last ten years then you know how Prince William and Kate Middleton became the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  Their romance took the world by storm since Kate is a commoner and basically living almost every living girl’s fantasy of meeting a Prince and marrying him. (If I can take a moment here: Kate was a commoner but it’s not like she was poor.  If I remember correctly her parents have a very successful business and were considered upper middle class.  They just were not apart of the aristocracy.) The Royal We mirrors their relationship but ups the ante by making our Kate, Bex an American.  Bex meets Prince Nick at Oxford instead of St. Andrews and live in the same house throughout university and even break up for a while only to get back together.  So while the trajectory of their relationship was familiar, it’s what happens in between that is truly interesting.  Bex is wonderful.  I’m not just saying that since she’s from our home state of Iowa but she’s funny, smart and real.  Nick is rife with insecurities and a sense of duty.  It must be hard to be born into a position.  Nick is in constant fear of being caught doing the wrong thing that he he has to hide who he is.  In fact throughout the book both Nick and Bex go through periods of indecisiveness about who they are and how they are supposed to act and it usually gets them into trouble.  They behavior is understandable.  I wouldn’t want to live under the constant scrutiny that the Royals live in today.  With social media and everyone having a camera on their phone you must be on your best behavior all the time.  That must be exhausting.  They both had a lot of growing up to do and even after all they still find ways back to each other and forgive because that is what you do when you are in love.

The story wouldn’t be complete without a Prince Harry and Kate’s sister Pippa.  Prince Freddie is a ladies man.  Sleeping his way across London and the world and escaping any kind of condemnation by his charm.  Lacey is Bex’s twin sister who is the good girl to Bex’s bad.  I’m not sure what I make of her.  She’s an intelligent woman who is full of life and optimism. When we meet her she is premed and eventually starts Medical school but she gives all that up to be a party planner in London to be closer to Bex.  In one way, I do understand Lacey’s motivation.  Bex isn’t just her twin, her sister but her best friend.  They shared a womb, shared bedrooms and even went to the same college and then all of a sudden Bex decides to study abroad at Oxford, meets and falls in love with a Prince.  Lacey starts to feel left behind.  I get it.  Kate may not be my twin (though we have asked multiple times if we are) but she’s my sister and my best friend.  We have lived together and have the same group of friends but like Bex, Kate has studied abroad (many times) and yeah I felt a little lost without her being close by.  I look at her and see all that she is doing to realize her dreams and ask myself what am I doing?  It was one the reasons why I made the decisions to move to NYC.  Kate was moving to Buffalo to work on her phd. and I just sorta felt stuck in Iowa City.  So why not move and try something different.  But as close as I am to her and my desire to live nearer, I never thought about giving up what I want or ask her to give up what she wants.  Sure I’ve had thoughts of moving to Buffalo but those are thoughts never stuck.  As close as we are, we are our own people.  For Lacey to give up Medical school that she has been working for most of her life to be near Bex, live the high life and possible have a chance with Freddie just doesn’t sit right with me.  Maybe I’m being to judgmental.  I’m not upset with Freddie who spends the book partying and sleeping with women so why should I be with Lacey?  The difference is that Freddie is the spare.  While Nick was born with too many expectations, Freddie was born with not enough.  He’s not going to rule but he’s not going to have to get a job either.  He acts the way he does because he knows it will get under the skin of his father, who is real piece of work.  So I guess his actions are more understandable.

All the characters are fun.  I do love Bex and Nick’s group of friends. Especially Cilla, Gaz and Bea.  They make the story more real and when Bex gets in one of her funks, they save the day.  I hope that real Kate and Will have friends like that because how else do they survive.  I was looking for a good romance and that’s what I got.  They are not perfect, actually they both are flawed but through it all there was no question about how much they loved each other and in the end they found themselves.  Anyone looking for a nice beach read or a little light reading to get you through the cold months, this is for you.  Even if you are not a royal watcher.