Chick-Lit, Reviews, Romance

Review: What You Wish For

What You Wish For

What You Wish For by Katherine Center
My rating: 4.75 of 5 stars

Thank you to Goodreads.com and St. Martin’s Press for this ARC of Katherine Center’s What You Wish For. Sometimes it is difficult to properly rate these uncorrected proof copies because even disregarding the obvious typos, you never know exactly how much more of the writing will be cleaned up. Parts of the story needed tightening up and there were times when it was somewhat repetitive. So, I give it 4 stars for writing, and 4.5 stars for story, and 5 stars characters, and setting.

And based entirely on the story and characters, I have to say that I absolutely adored this book. The cast of lovable characters is wonderfully drawn, especially the main character, Sam, a small-town school librarian who after a life of pain and upheaval seems to have found a home at a progressive coastal school. When a blast from her past finds his way to Galveston and her school, Sam is afraid it will all fall apart and she’ll lose the only home she’s ever known. But it is so much worse than she imagined.

Though Sam can be, at times, a little slow on the uptake about others and herself, she has a delightful sense of humor, real strength, and a few thoroughly human flaws. I identified with her in a way that I’ve done with few other characters. I really don’t know if I’ve ever met a character who spoke (or even thought) so exactly what I feel inside.

As for the story, it is a sweet but not unrealistic love story – romantic love as well as love for friends who are more like family, and learning to love yourself. The setting of Galveston, TX is lovingly described so that I felt like I was there with the characters. What You Wish For has beautiful, uplifting messages about creating your own joy and learning from your past but not letting it define you.

For me, reading What You Wish For was a lot about the characters and the messages their story conveyed.  There have been a few books that have struck a chord with me like this book.  Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane by Kelly Harms, Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen, The Late Bloomers’ Club by Louise Miller, and The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman are among my recent reads that have touched me as deeply as What You Wish For, particularly through the characters.  They’ve also all earned a 5-star rating from me proving, I think, how important well-written, relatable characters are for good fiction.

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Chick-Lit, Reviews

Too Close to Home?

Louisiana LuckyLouisiana Lucky by Julie Pennell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thank you to Goodreads.com for the opportunity to read an ARC of Julie Pennell’s Louisiana Lucky, the story of three close-knit sisters each struggling to make ends meet until, after years of playing the lottery together, they win the Powerball jackpot.

As a reader born and raised in South Louisiana, I once complained about novels set in the state but written by non-Louisianians being filled with stereotypical characterizations and descriptions of what the world thinks Louisiana is like. With Louisiana Lucky, it seems like the Louisiana born author made an effort to avoid that by giving very little characterization to her characters and mundane descriptions of sunsets and moss hanging on oak trees. I was not transported to places that I could easily have pictured. The only things that indicated that the novel was set in Louisiana rather than any other southeastern state were the requisite mentions of New Orleans, LSU football, and gumbo. Although the writing lacks a bit of finesse, Louisiana Lucky is a sweet, quick read great for summer reading.  If I were looking for new material for a Hallmark movie, Louisiana Lucky might be a good place to start.

The quality of the writing wasn’t my only issue with this Louisiana set novel.  Though I’ve complained in the past of the stereotype-filled books where all Louisianians live in the swamp and speak as if we dropped out of school in the fourth grade, as I reader I personally don’t necessarily want to read about the places and things I hear about every day.  One of the sisters attended my alma mater, University of Louisiana, which was actually kind of cool, but I have heard enough about the LSU and its rivalry with Alabama to fill multiple lifetimes.  Perhaps if the writing had been more refined and the characters and places more well-defined, I would have enjoyed reading this story that could happen in my hometown.  Or maybe I’m just nitpicky when it comes to novels about my home state.

If you’re wondering if I’ve ever enjoyed a novel set in Louisiana, they are few and far between because I’ve all but avoided reading novels set in my home state since I had one terrible experience but here are a few I’ve really enjoyed:

50972888._SX318_SY475_The Awakening by Kate Chopin

ConfederacyA Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (one of my favorite books ever)

yayaDivine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells (another favorite)

MudbugTrouble in Mudbug  by Jana DeLeon

Sissy LeblancThe Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc by Loraine Despres

Celiseum StreetThe House on Coliseum Street by Shirley Ann Grau

PollyThe Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall (technically set in Texas but part of the story takes place in Louisiana and it is a great read)

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Chick-Lit, For the Love of Books, Reviews, Romance

Review: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

The Bookish Life of Nina HillThe Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

My rating: 4.75 of 5 stars

In public Nina was a quiet, reserved person; in private she was an all-singing, all-dancing cavalcade of light and motion.

We are introduced to the heroine of Abbi Waxman’s latest novel in the bookstore where she works as a customer attempts to return a certain literary masterpiece after reading it, claiming that it was boring. Thus we are introduced to Nina Hill and the general feel of this novel. That literary classic was Pride and Prejudice and there is something about The Bookish Life of Nina Hill that feels like reading a Jane Austen work.
Like an Austen novel, this one centers around a lovable, complex heroine that many readers will recognize very well (I know that I did, sometimes thinking that Waxman somehow has seen inside my head) and will probably want to be friends with. Nina’s expanding world is filled with delightful characters with personalities that pop of the pages, making the reader feel even more connected with Nina herself as she struggles to take it all in. Those familiar with Waxman’s work will recognize a few of those characters from her previous novels, The Garden of Small Beginnings and Other People’s Houses as well as her trademark irreverent wit. Also like Miss Austen’s work, the romance storyline, while wonderful, is just icing on an already delicious cake.
Like Nina’s life, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill is not a fast-paced, thrill a minute story. This is a comfortable read with plenty of laugh-out-loud humor and insightful wisdom. Being a story about a book lover who works in a bookstore there are also a few book recommendations to be found in its pages, which is always a nice bonus.

There are a lot of books out there about book lovers like Nina and you and me.  Try They Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms, How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry, or Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell if what you’re looking for is a character with which you can identify.  Also, I don’t think I can state enough how much I love Abbi Waxman’s books so, if you haven’t already, check them out The Garden of Small Beginnings and Other People’s Houses.

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Chick-Lit, Reviews, Romance

Review: Well Met

Well MetWell Met by Jen DeLuca

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Thank you to Goodreads and Berkley Publishing for the opportunity to read this ARC of Jen DeLuca’s first (of what will hopefully be many!!) novel, Well Met. I loved this rom/com set around a small-town Renaissance Faire from the word go. Emily is a delightful heroine with an intelligent sense of humor and a wounded heart that just makes you recognize her and want to root for her. But it is Simon with his deep emotional scars and lost sense of self that combined with his swaggering, swashbuckling alter-ego makes for a not only swoon-worthy but relatable hero.
Emily and Simon’s early encounters – even before the start of the faire – crackle like a cross between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, and Benedick and Beatrice. And if their dialogue crackles, then their love scenes absolutely sizzle.
Nerd that I am, though, I believe that it is all made better by the Ren Faire setting and the many allusions to Shakespeare. I only wish there had been more scenes from the fair in the last chapters because I enjoyed Emma and Captain Ian’s banter so much.

I’m a sucker for a well-written romantic comedy like Well Met with intelligent, relatable characters.  If you are too, I recommend the novels of Kelly Harms – I particularly enjoyed The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane – and Louise Miller whose The Late Bloomers’ Club was one of my favorite reads from last year.  If you enjoy the modern-day meets historical setting of the Renaissance Faire, I loved Shannon Hale’s Austenland.

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Chick-Lit, Reviews, Romance

Review: Bidding for Love

Bidding for Love Bidding for Love by Katie Fforde

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

Katie Fforde’s romantic chick-lit novels may not be the most well-written, and the plots may be formulaic, but they are sweet and a little sexy – just what you need sometimes, especially in summer. I particularly enjoy the rural English settings which always make me feel cozy and more than a little envious. Bidding for Love, like most of the other of Fforde’s novels I’ve read feature a spunky young woman trying to make it on her own in an unfamiliar setting. In this case, Flora has inherited more than half of the family auction house from a distant relative.
Flora, despite a rocky start, and a less than warm welcome, makes friends and starts to settle into the small village, her cozy cottage, and eventually the business. Until she realizes she’s falling in love with her stuffy, unavailable business partner. It is, as expected, a sweet, easy, breezy read. However, and maybe this is just because I’m an average American, but I kept getting hung up on the fact that Flora and Charles are cousins even though the distance of that relationship was reiterated often throughout the novel. It didn’t bother me enough to stop me from enjoying the story and the setting though.

I just love British Chick-Lit and I’m always looking for a new author in the genre (so if there’s someone you enjoy reading, please pass it on!) but for now Katie Fforde is my go-to writer for a gentler romantic comedy thanks to those cozy rural settings, spunky heroines, and sweet romances.  I particularly enjoyed Artistic License, Stately Pursuits, and Highland Fling.  

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