January mini-review round up!

A Heap of Texas Trouble by Carolyn Brown
Pub. Date: December 6, 2016
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Sourcebooks!)
Summary:Carlene Lovell is going to hit her no-good, deadbeat, cheatin’ ass, soon-to-be ex-husband where it hurts: at the annual chili cook-off, which he’s won for 10 years in a row. To win, though, she’ll need more than a little help…Police Chief Jack Landry has been smitten with Carlene forever. Now that she needs some help keeping the peace (and getting revenge), it’s his chance to prove that not all men are dogs….
Genre: Contemporary, RomanceSometimes a book sounds too good to be true. A fun, fluffy romance with a cop and a chili cook-off? Um, yes please! Unfortunately, this was a case of a great premise with a not-so-wonderful story.

The book opens with a bang: Carlene discovers a teensy pair of lacy underwear in her husband’s briefcase…and they most certainly do not belong to her though, because she owns the lingerie shop that handmade them, she knows exactly who they belong to: the 20-year-old secretary. Guns a’blazin’, Carlene storms down to the car dealership where her husband works and lets loose, not caring one bit about the scene she’s making. She heads home, grabs what she can fit in her car, and hightails it to the shop, a converted house where she’ll move in upstairs for the time being.

This was all fine and dandy and would have led to a great story, so why did I DNF 17% into it? I’m all for marriage and I am a fierce believer in working through problems (I’m sure we all know an old high school classmate we have added on facebook who’s constantly changing their relationship status back to single anytime he or she argues with their partner), however, I also feel that, sometimes a line is crossed and there’s no returning. For Carlene, her trust was shattered when she realized her husband had been unfaithful and she insists that she wants a divorce. Her family has other plans. It seemed like the entire town nosed its way into Carlene’s business (her marriage, for that matter) and felt the need to voice their opinions. Certain relatives are also extremely religious and make it a point of reminding Carlene that she took a vow, that she should forgive her husband, that she should try to be more of a woman so his eyes won’t wander. I’m a religious person and enjoy reading religious fiction, but their holier-than-thou attitude was too much and completely ruined any enjoyment I hoped to find. At one point one of Carlene’s relatives was ostracized from the church simply for being related to someone contemplating divorce!

I’m clearly in the minority here, since the book has received numerous glowing reviews, but I couldn’t do it.

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak
Pub. Date: February 7, 2017
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Simon & Schuster!)
Summary:A dazzling debut novel—at once a charming romance and a moving coming-of-age story—about what happens when a fourteen-year old boy pretends to seduce a girl to steal a copy of Playboy but then discovers she is his computer-loving soulmate.

Billy Marvin’s first love was a computer. Then he met Mary Zelinsky.

Do you remember your first love?
Genre: YA, Contemporary

I’m so disappointed. There have been so many comparisons made to Ready Player One and John Green and I was expecting something fun and fresh and a little nerdy – but in a good way! After all, the author is a publisher at Quirk Books, you know, that publishing house with books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? Yeah, that. Instead I got a novel full of fat-shaming, a plot that centered on a centerfold in Playboy, and a horrible, heinous act that absolutely ruined the book.

Billy is 14 years old in 1987 and a photoshoot of Vanna White is in the latest issue of Playboy. What 14-year-old boy wouldn’t want to see that? Unfortunately, Billy and his two pals are a few years too young to buy a copy for themselves, so they start work on a plan, a plan that will allow them to see those nude pictures of Vanna and possibly make them rich in the process. The key to securing the magazine, however, lies in a keycode for the local corner store and, in order to get it, Billy offers to get close to the owner’s overweight daughter. In doing so, he discovers Mary is actually crazy smart when it comes to computers and, over time, he realizes he enjoys spending his afternoons with her as they create their own computer game.

So where’s the bad, right? Throughout the novel there is an absurd amount of fat-shaming. Mary can’t possibly be seen as attractive because she’s overweight. Behind her back the boys refer to her as Miss Piggy and act as though Billy is doing the ultimate sacrifice by going near her. I saw red when, surprise, it turns out that Mary was just pregnant! Well thank goodness for that, since after the baby is born she no longer hides behind oversized, shapeless clothes. She has a slim and slender figure and, only now, is totally hot. Spare me. I wanted so much more from this book.

A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh
Pub. Date: January 1, 2009
Source: e-book via my library
Summary:Reginald Mason has been a wildly extravagant expense to his father for too long. He must marry and settle down. And it so happens that Lady Annabelle Ashton, daughter of the Earl of Havercroft, the Masons’ neighbor and long-time enemy, has just disgraced herself by trying to elope with her father’s coachman. At last Mr. Mason sees a way of forcing recognition for his wealth even though he is not a gentlemen by birth. Reggie will marry Annabelle—or be cut off forever from his father’s vast funds.

Annabelle is about to be banished to her father’s most remote estate in northern England. She is ruined and unmarriageable. But at the last moment she is offered a reprieve from complete disgrace and her father is offered a reprieve from the financial ruin he has been facing for some time. All the earl has to do is swallow his pride and marry his daughter to the son of his enormously wealthy neighbor, whom he has despised for years. His decision is soon made. Annabelle will marry Reginald Mason or be cast into outer darkness for the rest of her life.

It is not a promising start for the lifelong commitment of marriage. But it would seem that Reggie and Annabelle have no choice but to make the best of it. They have no control over their destiny, after all. …or do they?
Genre: Historical Romance, Novella

A few weeks ago I shared a link to a list of romance recommendations on author Sarah MacLean’s website. In that post I mentioned I had already added quite a few to my library request list and at the very top was Mary Balogh’s A Matter of Class, a barely 200-page novella. I’ve been a broken record these past few months going on and on about my newfound love of historical romance, but what really caught my eye about this one was Sarah’s blurb about it: I don’t want to tell you anything about it, just trust me. And do not read about it before you read it. No lie – I was VERY curious after that!

Annabelle outshone every other debutante around and could have easily had her pick of the wealthiest men in the world. That is, until the day she was caught running off to elope with the coachman. Now she’s locked away in her bedroom with only her embroidery and Bible for company, certain to live out the rest of her days as a ruined, soiled spinster.

Though Reginald’s parents still have their northern accents (and rather appalling table manners), the wealth they’ve amassed has far surpassed that of the other families in the area and Reggie was sent off to have the finest education (namely to get rid of that accent and be able to pass for one of the truly upper crust gentlemen.) However, he’s sown a few too many wild oats and has racked up an impressive amount of gambling debts – his parents need him to settle down now.

A young woman who’s reputation has plummeted, a young man who needs to be reined in. Sarah’s right – going into this one completely blind was an absolute joy and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone! Just know I tore through this novella in a sitting – the twist at the end was SO worth the wait! I’m thrilled that A Matter of Class was my introduction to Mary Balogh! I had heard of her and had seen her books many times when I was a bookseller, but it wasn’t until now that I read one and my oh my I’m kicking myself for taking so long. This story was fantastic and I’m definitely planning on reading more of her work soon!

The Crooked Sixpence
Pub. Date: January 31, 2017
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Crown Books for Young Readers!)
Summary: When officers brandishing toilet brushes arrive at their door, eleven-year-old Ivy Sparrow and her older brother, Seb, go tumbling into Lundinor, a secret underground city. The siblings find themselves in a world of enchantment, where uncommon people, alive and dead, trade in uncommon goods belts that enable the wearer to fly, yo-yos that turn into weapons, buttons with curative properties, and other enchanted objects capable of extraordinary feats.

But the charm wears thin when Ivy and Seb learn that their family is connected to one of the greatest uncommon treasures of all time and if they don t find it, their parents lives are forfeit. It s a race against time as Ivy and Seb attempt to unearth the treasure and rescue their parents.
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy

Oh dear, I was excited for this one (yay Middle Grade! yay Fantasy! yay cute cover!) and ended up skimming very early on, ultimately DNFing at 68% when I realized I just couldn’t force myself to do it any longer. It’s extremely telling when there are more 1-star reviews on GoodReads than there are 5-star reviews.

I’m honestly finding myself not even caring enough to bother with a review – I didn’t care for these characters, I didn’t care for their predicament (after their grandmother winds up in the hospital, Ivy and her brother Seb discover their family is NOT like others, that they actually hail from a magical underground world), and while the similarities to several other highly popular series didn’t turn me off, they were certainly prevalent – and obvious – enough to where I couldn’t ignore their presence. This book was very much a Middle Grade Neverwhere with its magical London Underground. The Harry Potter inspiration was also LARGELY (yugely?) there and one character in particular distinctly made me think of Dobby anytime they appeared.

Perhaps actual Middle Grade readers might enjoy this one far more, but I couldn’t take it. Strange pacing, answers and rescues that come all too easily, characters I just didn’t care for, it all mingled into a novel that most definitely was not for me.

4 thoughts on “January mini-review round up!

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