*Review posted on Mundie Moms Guilty Pleasures blog on 6/19/2014*
I'll let you in on one of my biases, I don't mind sexy plot lines, but I do like them...more*Review posted on Mundie Moms Guilty Pleasures blog on 6/19/2014*
I'll let you in on one of my biases, I don't mind sexy plot lines, but I do like them to be really well written. I want character development and plausible back-stories. I want a tension-filled plot line (and not just one sexy scene after another). I want a really well told story. Really, it's the same criteria I place on every story I read. But let's face it, a lot of NA/adult romances fall short of meeting that criteria, and I tend to yawn and count the number of repetitive words they use to describe what should be a hot moment (oh yes, I've been known to make notes on just that). As a result, I don't finish a lot of them and in fact, I kind of avoid them as much as possible. But then I find authors like Sarra Manning, Alice Clayton and yes, Christina Lauren, and I realize that I need to explore that category a little more.
Without any spoilers let me tell you what the dynamic duo that makes up Christina Lauren does right. Did you hear me sigh as I wrote that? They do so many, many things right. First you can tell from the first bit of dialogue that their cast of characters, both the the girls and the boys, are true, long-time friends. They've been through things together and experienced major, life changing moments. You can tell by their banter and the ease with which they assume their roles. I felt like I could completely identify with both sets of friends. But then, THEN, Christina and Lauren pick two of my absolute favorite (honestly, if they added a HotBoywithSword it would be all my favorite characters in one place) character types -- the quiet, good girl who takes a risk just once in her lifetime and the boy, oh dear BoywithaDimplySmile, who always does the right thing (well, on most days).
Just to keep it interesting there is the matter of a drunken weekend in Vegas where apparently a wedding (or three) took place and the fallout of that moment which begins a story so delicious with tension that I finished it one day. But, it's their writing that needs to be applauded because in what should be a sexy, little romp of a story there are these absolutely lovely moments (from chapter 11):
His kisses slow and tame until he's just pressing his smile to mine.
And (in chapter 20):
Hang in there, Lola says. Life is built of these little horrible moments and the giant expanses of awesome in between. I love you, I reply. Because she's right. This summer was the most perfect stretch of awesome I've ever had.
I spent a lot of time nodding my head and just plain old swooning at one of the sweetest, most mixed-up couples I've read.
And now to the matter of setting. Okay, I'm making a public plea to all authors (I'm looking at you Stephanie Perkins, Gayle Forman and yes, Christina Lauren) -- stop setting my favorite stories in Paris. Your descriptions of French pastries send me on a wild goose chase for the perfect crepe (Anna and the French Kiss), a summer of trying to perfect the fussy baking of macarons (Just One Day) and now for the sake of all the points at Weight Watchers, I am craving a pain au chocolat. And no, I can't have just any American chocolate croissant. I want the one that Ansel left on the kitchen counter for Mia along with an espresso. All kidding aside, Christina and Lauren's descriptions of Paris made me want to explore all the little neighborhoods and niches of that beautiful, ancient city.
If you're looking for the perfect beach read, one that will distract you from all the noisy kids kicking up sand everywhere, pick up Sweet Filthy Boy and be whisked away to Las Vegas and Paris with Mia and Ansel's gorgeous story of a love that maybe shouldn't have happened, but boy am I glad it did. I also have to not thank Gallery Books for including an excerpt of book two, Dirty Rowdy Thing, at the end of the book because now the wait until November 4th will last forever and ever and ever. Okay, one more EVER because Harlow and Finn make me laugh and they hate each other, too. That would be my other favorite type of plot line -- the natural enemies one. Oh, Christina and Lauren, please write faster.
I'm kidding (okay, only partially) Gallery Books, because I will thank you for (spoiler warning if you click over!) Ansel's POV of that first fateful night, which was released on VH1 yesterday and I also have to thank them for the very cool Sweet Filthy Boy Pinterest board where I can gaze upon an Ansel-ish looking boy in a sheet and a view of Montmarte all at once.
This is one hot summer book, Mundie Moms, go get it. (less)
First a disclaimer, I didn't know that Paula Stokes is also Fiona Paul (author of the Venom series), and I...more*Review posted on Mundie Moms on 6/29/2014*
First a disclaimer, I didn't know that Paula Stokes is also Fiona Paul (author of the Venom series), and I haven't read her historical series, Venom, yet. I read this story because I love the plot device of using The Art of War as a way to get back an ex-boyfriend. I wanted this book to be a little more like Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall. Lainey and Samantha are so similar -- both popular girls ruling the realm of their high school. Neither one are likable characters, at all, but the differences in how the authors handle the characters is dramatic.
It's tough to write an unlikeable character that is relatable, and there are few authors who do it extremely well (I'm thinking of Holly Black's Gavriel in The Coldest Girl in Coldtown although he's more of an anti-hero). As a reader, I admit, I have a tough time understanding these characters. And Lainey is just that character -- wrapped up in her popularity, her success as a soccer player, whining about not being able to get into a Division1 school (because her mother works at a college where the tuition would be free and incidentally Lainey did a commercial, that everyone loves, for that very college…Lainey needs my "money doesn't grow on trees, kids" lecture) and on and on and on. Lainey is perfect. Everyone (including her) tells us that over and over again, so why does her equally popular boyfriend dump her? I wanted to know, I really did, but in the end, there just wasn't enough tension holding that thought in place.
I confess that I almost didn't finish the book. Lainey's best friend and her co-worker/pretend boyfriend were such flat, two-dimensional characters that I kept reading because I thought, surely, there will be a twist explaining why they even bother to hang out with the obnoxious Lainey. Sadly, there is no twist. What I did get was a sweet moment or two with the fake boyfriend's sister that were genuine and true. Really sweet moments. I wish there were more of those with the other characters.
I think my own expectations of what should happen to Lainey's character made me want to walk away from the story. What would have made me increase the rating was if I saw the always manipulative Lainey grow or even suffer for some of her mistakes and biases. The story never gave me that feeling of satisfaction, and it never explored the shades of gray in these very black and white characters. (less)