Amazon has discontinued the ability to create images using their SiteStripe feature and in their infinite wisdom will break all previously created images on 12/31/23. Many blogs use this feature, including this one. Expect my archives to be a hot mess of broken book cover images starting in 2024 until I can slowly comb through 20 years of archives to make corrections.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Review: When Grumpy Met Sunshine

I have loved some of Charlotte Stein's erotic romance work. I would go so far as say she is one of the very few erotic romance writers out there that I will even bother to read anymore. Why? She writes passion. Not an endless series of kinks supposedly there to titillate - actual passion. The kind of soul-searing passion that has the reader gripping their Kindle and screaming "OMG WHEN ARE THEY GOING TO KISS ALREADY I CAN'T TAKE MUCH MORE OF THIS!!!!!!!"


Which would make one think that I'd be super anxious to read her new contemporary romance, When Grumpy Met Sunshine the minute I scored an ARC many (many) months ago. Oh gentle blog reader, let me give you a peak inside Wendy's warped reader brain:

1) Apparently the hero of this book was inspired by the Roy Kent character on Ted Lasso. I refuse to get Apple TV (I realize I've sold my soul to Google but I have an deep-seated dislike for Apple), have never seen Ted Lasso, and have no idea if the hero in this book is remotely like Roy Kent. What I do know is I loathe when authors let "inspirational" tidbits like this slip. My mind immediately goes to fan-fiction and stays there.

2) It cannot be overstated how much I hate the illustrated cover trend on EVERY. SINGLE. CONTEMPORARY. ROMANCE. being published. Stein writes sexy. I KNOW she writes sexy.  This cover is about as sexy as my elderly grandmother's cotton dressing gown.

3) While I'm at it - I kind of hate the "grumpy sunshine" thing. Hey remember when we didn't have cute names for everything in the genre?  We just called this shit Opposites Attract.

Thanks, now get off my lawn.

Anyway, the book. Reviews for this one are all over the place. Readers seem to really be loving it or really not loving it. I was firmly set on dragging my feet and probably unearthing this ARC from my Kindle three years from now (as you do), but Azteclady told me to read it, so I moved it up the queue. 

And here I am - word vomiting all over my blog. You're welcome.

Alfie Harding is a grumpy ex-footballer (soccer for us Americans...) who is getting harassed into writing his memoirs.  For that he needs a ghostwriter, of which he's scared off a good many already with his surly, uncooperative attitude.  Finally, in a last ditch effort to get this thing done, the publisher brings in Mabel Willicker, cute as cotton candy fluff, There's bickering, there's a lot of romcom-style banter, and the partnership ends up sticking. She's needling him, getting him (ever so slowly) to open up, and some progress is being made - until this business relationship gets mistaken for a new romance and is splashed all over social media and the British tabloids. There's nothing for it, to extricate themselves from the misunderstanding, and to get the book done, they have to fake it.  That is until they make it - which boy howdy...

Stein has a very particular writing style that takes some getting used to. As much as I have loved some her work, I recognize this as a hurdle not everyone will clear - so I always tell readers to try a sample first. It'll save you time. 

This one kicks off with a lot of banter and a lot of romcom style shenanigans. Unfortunately, after a while, the banter doesn't seem to go anywhere. They're talking in circles. In fact they're talking without really saying a whole lot or worse still - not saying enough.  Stein teases the reader with some really interesting character backstory (both Alfie and Mabel had alcoholic fathers and grew up in working class neighborhoods) but none of it is explored with much depth.  Alfie carries the baggage of his reputation (a brawling, bruising footballer) while Mabel carries the sting of a thousand cuts of living in a fatphobic world.  Girls that look like Mabel do not date guys like Alfie.  This is all good stuff, stuff I could sink my teeth into and yet? Endless, endless banter. Just streams of it.  And for all the talking that these two do they decide to stop talking at the end to necessitate a third act break-up (that lasts a year!) and then we get THE WORLD'S LONGEST EPILOGUE where all the heartfelt emotion comes pouring out and we get the happy ending.

Look, I'm not a monster - this one managed to hit me in the feels in a few places. Even during the THE WORLD'S LONGEST EPILOGUE. But in the end it's the lack of emotional depth (I needed more of the backstory to really root for these two as a couple) and the pacing that held this back for me. The trademark Stein tension seemed muted here (probably because I needed more character backstory...) and the sex is all backloaded in the final third of the story. I wasn't anxious for them to "do it" because the tension was so thick, I was anxious for them to "do it" because I was hoping that maybe more emotional bits would rise to the surface.  They do - in THE WORLD'S LONGEST EPILOGUE but by that point I was ready to move on. Some good parts but I never got the whole.

Final Grade = C+

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

#TBRChallenge 2024: The Raven Prince

The Book: The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

The Particulars: Historical romance (Georgian!), 2006, first in The Princes Trilogy, In Print

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: Because everybody and their dead grandmother has read this book - except for, apparently, me. In fact, it's my first read by Hoyt ever. Look, I know. I can hear y'all screeching across cyberspace as I type this...

Spoilers Ahoy!

The Review: I have not been reading. And when I do try to pick up a book for some good ol' fashioned eyeball reading? I've been left feeling very meh about the whole experience. Part of it is me and part of it is the books.  That is until I dug The Raven Prince out of my TBR.  I didn't read this so much as inhale it in a matter of hours.

Anna Wren is a respectable young widow who lives in a respectable country cottage with her mother-in-law and an inept maid they hired to save her from the poorhouse. They've been muddling along alright since Peter's death, but the nest egg wasn't all that robust when he succumbed to a fever and now finances are getting tight.  Anna needs a job - the problem being that jobs are scarce for respectable young widows living in the country.

Edward de Raaf, the Earl of Swartingham, is the last of his line - scarred from a small pox epidemic that claimed his entire family as a child.  His first wife died in childbirth (the babe also perished) and it's past time for him to do his duty. He needs to remarry. He needs children. Certainly for the title, but also because deep down, Edward wants a family.  It's why he's back at Ravenhill Abbey, desperately hoping to recapture the sense of home he felt there as a child.  Instead all he's done is cement his reputation for having a bad temper and scaring off secretaries.  He's gone through two already, and he's ordered his estate manager to find him another in an obscenely short amount of time.

We all know where this is going. The estate manager is in a bind. Anna needs a job. Yes, it's highly unusual, borderline scandalous, to employ a mere female as a secretary, but she's a widow (no innocent miss) and frankly the estate manager has no desire to tell Edward he's failed in his mission.  After some minor spluttering and sparring, the arrangement is made. It also doesn't hurt that Anna is intelligent and the best damn secretary Edward has ever had.

I fell right into this story. Grumpy, growly Edward who has lost so much. A widowed Anna who spent her whole life doing the right thing only to end up with a husband who did-her-dirty prior to his death.  Working for Edward is just the first step in a series of choices she makes in this story that upends her perfectly respectable and boring life. What did doing "the right thing," "the expected thing," ever get her? She's done with that. She's going with her gut, and eventually her gut tells her she wants Edward.

One thing I've always heard about Hoyt is that she has a penchant for the Bananapants - and boy howdy, she does.  I loved the set-up but will admit my eyes crossed once we got to the brothel.  Yep, you guessed it! We get the heroine who hides her identity at an upscale London brothel so she can bang it out with the hero. They meet twice (!) and in Classic Dunderheaded Hero fashion, he has no clue who he is boning.  He went there to stop thinking about Anna, had the best damn sex of his life, and failed in his mission. Yep, still getting pants-feelings around Anna.  Then, of course, he figures it out some time later when they're back in the country.  And of course this all leads to a blackmail plot thread that leads to a duel (yes, a duel) in a brothel (yes, a brothel) at the end of the story 🤨

Oh, and did I mention the heroine believes she is barren because she was married for something like four years and never got pregnant?  But of course our hero has a Magic Wang - so just roll with it. 

(I'm actually more forgiving of this nonsense in historical romances because lack of modern medical understanding and all that).

Which makes it sound like I didn't like this book.  I did!  Did I mention I inhaled this in a matter of hours?  Also, there's even a delightful dog in this story - hence me finally reading it during Furry Friends theme month.  An agreeably affable (and giant!) wolfhound / mastiff mix that doesn't have a name until nearly halfway through when the heroine finally goads the hero into accepting one of her suggestions.

In the end, I rather enjoyed it. Some of the bananapants stuff was a bit out there, but I liked these characters, I liked them together, and the love scenes were suitably steamy.  I've already decided that I really need to do my best to plow through the rest of this series at some point this year.

Final Grade = B

Friday, February 16, 2024

Reminder: #TBRChallenge Day is February 21!

TBR Challenge 2024

Hey, so is it just me or does 2024 feel like it's been 6 months long already? Y'all I'm tired and Not. Reading. So here's hoping that the #TBRChallenge on Wednesday, February 21 will kick my butt into gear. This month's (always) optional theme is Furry Friends.

Another suggestion from the annual theme poll, this one is all about animals and/or pets who worm their way into our hearts as our couple are falling in love.  Not gonna lie, I had to leverage looking at some GoodReads lists to see what I could dig out of my dormant print TBR.

That being said, remember that the themes are completely optional. The goal of the challenge has been, and always will be, to read something (anything!) that's been languishing in your mountain range of unread books. 

It is certainly not too late to join the Challenge (to be honest it's never too late).  You can get more details and get links to the current list of participants on the #TBRChallenge 2024 Information Page

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Library Loot Review: Only Say Good Things

I don't watch reality TV. Just the concepts of easily 99% of it I find off-putting and gross. So it's not terribly shocking that I never watched The Girls Next Door, a reality series about Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and his bevy of blonde girlfriends who lived at his mansion.  Why anyone would want to watch a show about an old man parading around with blonde models who could have been his grand-daughters - sorry y'all, didn't get the appeal. 

Which probably begs the question - why was I drawn to reading Only Say Good Things: Surviving Playboy and Finding Myself by Crystal Hefner? She joined the series towards the end of it's run and was married to Hefner the last five years of his life. I'm never entirely sure what draws me to some celebrity biographies over others, but in this case I think I was hoping for some honesty - and boy howdy, that's what I got.

Crystal Harris was a lost 21-year-old woman when, on the urging of a friend, she submitted a photo to Playboy. This photo scored her an invite to the annual Halloween party at the Playboy mansion. It was at that party that Hugh Hefner spotted her in the crowd of beautiful young women and beckoned her to join him behind the velvet rope with him and his harem of girlfriends.  She spent the weekend at the mansion and a couple weeks later when Hefner called - she moved in permanently.

If you want to be flippant about it, this is a book about a young woman, adrift, who thinks she's found her Golden Ticket, only to get more and more lost once she's inside the mansion.  And what's inside that mansion wasn't shocking to me, Harris simply confirms it.  Hefner is a narcissistic misogynist trying to keep up the appearance that he's "The Man." He's a lonely, sad man obsessed with his legacy with no idea what love really is, although Harris suspects he secretly wants it. The mansion itself is frozen in time, largely unchanged from the 1970s, almost like Hefner is trying to stop time from moving forward.  And in what is surely the world's most perfect metaphor? It's discovered after Harris falls desperately ill that the mansion is riddled with black mold.

If 2023 was the year of Britney Spears' memoir, 2024 should be the year of Crystal Hefner's.  In one important way these two women are very much alike - they're people pleasers. Even as Crystal was feeling trapped, the idea that she should could open her mouth, say no, pack up and leave - these thoughts didn't occur to her. She eventually does leave, becoming Hefner's highly publicized "runaway bride" - only to gaslight herself into going back and eventually marrying him.  And this is where the book gets interesting because Harris, bless her heart, cares for Hefner in a way that a young person would care for an aging relative. She becomes protective of him and his legacy. She's outraged to realize that instead of storing various gifts and memorabilia per Hefner's instructions - the storage units were empty. Trusted employees had been ripping him off.  This man was not good for Crystal, honestly I can't imagine he was good to any woman ever, but towards the end she was loyal, she took care of him, and upon his death she kept the party line to "only say good things."  She fell into protecting and preserving his legacy. She was lost when she met him and she was just as lost (if not more so) after he died.  Hence this book appearing seven years after his death.  Honestly I think it took her that long to even start unpacking all her baggage and the impression I get after finishing this book? She's still unpacking.

Crystal Hefner has lived a life that will mean she has her fair share of detractors. Those who can't believe she allowed herself to traipse into the situations that she did. Those who think she's a gold-digger. And certainly those who think she's on a money grab now, seven years after his death, overturning the various ugly rocks littering the garden that is Hugh Hefner's legacy.  I don't see any of that. I finished this book believing that Crystal wrote it because she needed to. Not only for herself, but for all the young women out there just as lost as she was. That finally, with some time and perspective, she was ready to fling the doors off the literal hinges. That this was her story, her legacy, and she was going to scatter it out into the open to let the winds carry it away.  I think Crystal Hefner is on her way to finding out who Crystal Harris truly is, and I wish her nothing but the best.

Final Grade = A

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Library Loot Mini-Reviews: Karma And Dead Teens

My reading in 2024 has started out like my reading in 2023 - I'm going great guns on audiobook listening but my eyeball reading, um not so much. Happily living in a library dense area and being eligible to get cards in multiple jurisdictions means I'm not suffering for want of audiobook content.  Here's what I've listened to recently:

Boy George has written a couple of books already but his latest, Karma, is being touted as a definitive memoir.  I wouldn't classify myself as a Boy George and/or Culture Club fan, despite generally being a sucker for 1980s pop.  I'll be honest, I read this for George's personality. I'm not above enjoying some well-done catty bitchiness.  I mean, when you've mainlined as many soap operas as I have in 40+ years it's to be expected.

This was, unfortunately, not very good.  It's written in a way where it's assumed the reader is a fan and/or already knows at least some of the details of George's life. Hey, I've seen the Behind the Music episode, but that's about it. You're just dumped right into this book and he starts talking about people in his life like you, as the reader, already know who these people are.  I had to resort to Google a couple times just to make the puzzle pieces fit.

What does work in this book is George's disarming self-awareness. I mean yes, there's an exorbitant amount of astrology talk, but even with his foibles George comes off as a straight shooter.  This is a guy who will say it to your face and not just behind your back.  He also owns and acknowledges his own foibles and failings. To be blunt, this is a guy I would love to have a one-on-one conversation with. Not only would it be a lot of laughs, but it would be an interesting, intelligent conversation. He never comes off as a phony.  Also, even though I felt this book wasn't particularly well written as a memoir, the chapter where he talks about his mother's death was very well-written and very moving. 

Final Grade = C-

I'm quickly developing a yen for teen suspense, probably because that's what Teenage Wendy desperately loved to read and self-preservation had me moving to adult suspense by the time I was 13. Nostalgia is a powerful drug.  Anyway, I heard about Win Lose Kill Die by Cynthia Murphy somewhere and this is another book with problems - but listen, sometimes all I want is to get sucked into a crazy, twisted ride, and on that score this one delivered.

Morton Academy is a British boarding school that caters to the cleverest and smartest kids. You don't need to be a blue-blood born with a silver spoon in your mouth, so long as you're clever and smart you've got a chance.  Which is how Liz ends up there, despite neglectful, largely absent parents.

The previous year Liz and her friends were welcomed into the school's secret society, Jewel and Bone. However on the night of their initiation there's a horrible accident. Liz sustains a head injury and the golden Head Girl of the school, Morgan, accidentally drowns. Liz spent the entire summer recuperating at home and while she's still haunted by what happened, she's ready to be back at school.  That is, until the new head girl, the one named to replace Morgan, also ends up dead.  Soon the best and the brightest of the student body start dropping like flies...

The story centers around Liz, her two BFF's Taylor and Kat, Taylor's hottie boyfriend, Marcus (Head Boy) and new student, Cole - who Liz quickly develops a crush on.  Morgan's death was chalked up to an unfortunate accident, but two dead bodies dropping in quick succession at the start of the new term, and the head mistress acting cagey and secretive soon has our clique turning into amateur sleuths.

This was a middle of the road read for me for a long time. For the sheer number of bodies dropping (it's more than 3 by the end...) the story lacks urgency, and frankly I expected the teen characters to be a lot more freaked out than they were.  Also, "accidents" start befalling them personally, including Taylor who gets a cut on her face thanks to a rusty nail found in a make-up brush.  I'm sorry folks, but a pretty teen girl with a hottie boyfriend who develops a festering wound ON HER FACE and refusing to see the school nurse about it?  It beggars belief. 

Then we get to the ending. Other reviews have cried foul, basically saying it doesn't make any sense. Does it defy some logic? Well, yes.  Did I care?  Not really.  Honestly it's twisted and gruesome and perverse and well, I'm only human.  I walked into this thinking I was getting a teen suspense novel and really it's more teen thriller / horror adjacent. It certainly wasn't without it's faults, but by the end I didn't care.  I'm already planning on reading more by Murphy.

Final Grade = B

Monday, January 22, 2024

Mini-Reviews: Aggressively Fine

Part of my reading resolution for 2024 is taking a deeper dive into my Kindle and pulling out long lost ARCs.  Unfortunately my first two picks for the new year fell into the "aggressively fine" category.  I don't know about you all, but there's something about average reads that can be just as depressing as the duds. 

Harlequin Blaze was never a favorite line of mine, but a few still ended up finding their way into my TBR, usually because the back cover blurb tickled my fancy in some way.  Make Mine a Marine by Candace Havens was published in 2016 (yikes on bikes Wendy) and is, from what I can gather, part of a series featuring hunky Marines. 

Chelly Richardson is marking time in Nashville when an obsessive ex who won't take the hint that they broke up has her making the drastic decision to get out of dodge. She heads to Texas only to discover the friend she was planning to crash with took off to elope (and said "friend" knew Chelly was on her way). She's near broke, her car is on it's last gasp, so Chelly decides to do the one thing that always gives her some comfort - she comes across an estate sale and stops.  That's where she meets said hunky Marine, Matt Ryan. His parents have died and he's left with their house full of "stuff" (Mom was a bit of a collector with plans to remodel the house) and instead of hiring an expert to liquidate the holdings, he's doing it himself - and a terrible job of it. Chelly tells him he's underselling stuff and before you know it - bingo bango she's staying in his pool house, takes on liquidating his parents' stuff, and will help him remodel the house to put on the market. He gets the help he obviously needs and Chelly gets a leg up in starting her own business.

On the surface this story is fine. Unfortunately it takes enough wrong turns that ultimately sink any hope I might have had for a solid category romance. Look, I get that the police do not have the best track record with domestic situations but Chelly doesn't even take a whiff near the cops about the obsessive ex. She just runs. In fact that's her solution to every problem life throws her way - she runs. Yeah, she's one of those heroines. Then there's the fact that she's a hot mess and our frickin' Lieutenant Colonel hero just offers her the keys to the kingdom even though he acknowledges she's a hot mess. She's flighty and artistic, he's so uptight he probably starches his underwear. The conflict in the story centers entirely around their inability to communicate with each other and assuming the worst. 

Is this the worst category romance I've ever read? Absolutely not.  Is it pretty ho-hum? Yes.

Final Grade = C

Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia was a debut historical mystery that I was pretty intrigued by when I downloaded the ARC in 2021 - and well, here we are.  And of course I was intrigued! It's set in the 1920s during the Harlem Renaissance!  What's not to love about that concept?  Unfortunately, while I found the heroine intriguing, I was let down by the pacing and writing.

It's 1926 and young Black women are turning up dead in Harlem. Their bodies are being dumped in front of Maggie's Cafe, where Louise Lloyd works as a waitress and where the dead girls all worked in the not-so-secret speakeasy run by the proprietor's son ahem serving the customers more than bootleg liquor if you catch my drift. Ten years earlier Louise escaped the clutches of a kidnapper and rescued captive girls in the process. She was dubbed the "Hero of Harlem" - notoriety she's been running from since and that helped lead to her estrangement with her father. Through a series of happenstance (OK, it's Louise's temper getting the better of her) she ends up in the cross hairs of the cops - and the lead detective on the dead girls' case says they won't press charges on one condition - she has to help them.  Frankly Louise can get into places, talk to people, that the white cops cannot.

What I liked best about this book was Louise as a character - she had depth and contradictions that I found intriguing. Her estrangement from her father, her relationship with her three sisters, her relationship with her girlfriend. The author really embraced the era and setting and it's also a book that is unapologetically queer. 

Unfortunately the pacing is a mess. Most reviews cite a slow beginning, but I was more bored with the final 1/3 of the story - which by then our "bad guy" has been unmasked and the whole thing slogs on until I literally noticed there was less than 5% left and we were rushed to the final showdown. The transitions between chapters were also a problem which didn't do the pacing any favors.  To give one example: in the final chapters of the story Louise breaks into an apartment and finds a secret compartment. Then the chapter ends.  One would think that at the start of the next chapter would be Louise still in the apartment revealing what she found, right? Nope. It's a completely different scene - we have no idea how Louise got out of the apartment undetected, and what was in the secret compartment isn't revealed until several pages into the next chapter. 

Nothing about the pacing of this story was smooth and while I liked the story for the most part, I was just ready for it to be over by the time I got to 60%.  I will say this though, the author wasn't afraid to "go there" and kill her darlings. There's a shocking turn towards the end that actually made me gasp in a "Oh wow, I can't believe she did that..." sort of way.

Will I read the next book in the series? Jury still out but it's looking doubtful. Frankly I found Louise's lover a little annoying and it seems like she plays a more prominent role in Book 2. Maybe? But honestly, I'm feeling kinda meh about the idea at the moment...

Final Grade = C+

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

#TBRChallenge 2024: The Boy Is Back

The Boy Is Back Book Cover
The Book: The Boy Is Back by Meg Cabot

The Particulars: Contemporary Women's Fiction / Romance Adjacent, Book 4 in the Boy series, In Print, 2016

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: I'm a fan of Cabot's YA Princess Diaries series and I snagged a copy of this ARC from work. Yes, I'm aware the book came out in 2016.  Anyway, the ARC has been in my TBR all this time and it fit perfectly with this month's Once More With Feeling theme, so here we are.

The Review: A couple of things right out of the gate - while this is book four in a series, the series seems very loosely connected.  I have not read the previous Boy books and did just fine reading this one as a stand-alone.  Also, remember when books with illustrated covers actually meant "romantic comedy?"  This one definitely takes some broad strokes and while aspects of the story weren't always "funny" to me (more on that in a bit) - it was an enjoyable reading experience once I reminded myself to not take it so bloody seriously.

Reed Stewart is a golf pro whose game has been on the skids and now he's summoned back home to Bloomville, Indiana - a place he left 10 years ago and never looked back from.  His parents, who disowned him and threw him out on his ear, are in serious hot water.  They tried to pay for a dinner at a local casual dining establishment (think Applebee's) with a postage stamp they told the waitress was worth $100.  Yeah, turns out it was only worth $4, the cops were called, and charges have been pressed.  This is just the latest in a series of incidents with his parents.  Feral cats setting up camp around their home, out of control "collecting" turned to hording, and turns out...they're broke.  Flat broke. His older sister, Trimble, has washed her hands of them and basically tells the middle brother, Marshall, and his wife, Carly, that it's their problem now - hence begging Reed to come home after a 10 year exile.  If nothing else they need his help financially to sort out the mess.

The fly in the ointment? The girl Reed left behind, Becky Flowers. The night Reed's father disowned him happened to be their prom night. Teenage drinking, a golf cart, and a country club swimming pool later - Becky has a dislocated shoulder, Reed hightails it out of town, and she never hears from him again. Now running her father's moving company, Becky specializes in helping seniors downsize and get their affairs in order - which is how she enters back into Reed's orbit. His sister-in-law, Carly, hires Becky to help sort out the mess with his parents. She is also dating the owner of the local wine and cheese shop, although it's a relationship on life support by the time Reed blows back into town.

This is a epistolary retelling of Austen's Persuasion, with the story told through emails, text messages, and group chats. It works surprisingly well and was compulsively readable.  I tore through the majority of the book in a couple hours one evening.

What doesn't work as well?  There are uncomfortable underpinnings to the humor. The situation that Reed's parents are in is not a laughing matter, but is played that way through the tone and some light wackiness. It's a little squirm-inducing at times. Also some of the humor is aging rapidly - like Reed's niece who is obsessed with wearing her Chief Massasoit costume (although there's some funny bits about parenting and cultural appropriation during those scenes).  Again, the only way this really works is if you don't take it seriously, which is generally easier for me to do with a Cabot novel because she tends to keep her tone so light and frothy.

While there is a second chance romance in this book, there's also a fair number of secondary characters and it takes a while for Reed and Becky to cross each others' paths again.  Also, while it was FANTASTIC that Becky and Reed pay lip service to 10 years being a long time, they're not kids anymore, they've both grown up, yada yada yada - they still are incredibly hung up on each other and fall right back into a relationship without too much heavy lifting. It's all right as rain in the end without the reader seeing any real "work" for the two characters to get there.

Is this a good book I would recommend?  Well, it depends. I certainly had issues with it, but it kept me entertained and it hit my brain candy sweet spot.  I don't have a burning desire to necessarily go back and read the other books in this series, but I also don't regret reading this one - if that makes any sense whatsoever.  I had a good time reading it even with the quibbles, even though it didn't change my life.  Oh, and I liked the ending. The resolution to what's been going on with Reed's parents and how Reed and Becky address their new relationship (he's in California, she's in Indiana).  He's not doing all the taking and she ain't doing all the giving.  That was good enough for me.

Final Grade = B-