Staff Book Reviews by Genre: Romance

Book Review: Unmarriageable
Kamal, Soniah
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Unmarriageable is a very charming Pakistani retelling of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice. If you aren’t familiar with the original, all you really need to know is that it’s a period romance with a lot of social commentary around sexism and classism. Unmarriageable is a very faithful adaptation set in Pakistan in the early aughts, so I think if you like the original, you’ll also enjoy this one.

The best part of Unmarriageable, to me, was the social commentary. Not only does Kamal approach the sexism and classism from a more modern Pakistani lens, but she addresses racism and colonialism as well. Pakistani culture in the early 2000s apparently had some attitudes towards women’s place in the home and sex and sexuality that somewhat mirror that of Georgian England. It was (is?) frowned upon to have sex or most types of sexual contact before marriage. Women were expected to tend to the home. Light skinned folks were seen as being more attractive than darker skinned folks. Kamal addresses all of this and much more quite deftly without compromising the swoony romance.

Speaking of romance, if you like Pride and Prejudice for the romance, Unmarriabeable will make you quite happy. Alys Binat and Mr. Darsee are just as likable as their original counterparts (so, in Darsee’s case, it may take a minute to warm up to him). Their chemistry and enimistry is almost palpable. The book definitely swings hard towards being cheesy at times, but that didn’t really compromise my enjoyment of the book.

The other thing I really enjoyed about this book was the Sherry (Charlotte) character. I always thought Lizzie was kind of horrible towards Charlotte, and Sherry and her relationship with Alys get a lot more time and consideration in this version of the classic.

Clearly, I really enjoyed this one. If you are a fan of Pride and Prejudice, you should definitely check this out. It’s perhaps a bit too close to the original, but as an Austen fan, I wasn’t much fussed by that. 4 stars.

Thanks to Ballentine Books and Netgalley for providing me with an advance copy of this book which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Unmarriageable is available now!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Muse of Nightmares
Taylor, Laini
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This follow up to the beautiful best seller Strange the Dreamer picks up right where the first one left off. This book is just as intense, dark, raw, magical, entrancing, dreamy, atmospheric, and amazing as the first one. I can not sing the praises of Laini Taylor enough. She is a force in YA fiction that infuses her characters with such deep emotions, that the reader cannot help but to be pulled in to the tide of emotion that the character is feeling. This is definitely a very emotional book that transcends the story itself, to explore the power of the human spirit.

When we left Lanzlo and the others in Strange the Dreamer, the citadel had nearly fallen, Lazlo had just discovered his true identity, that he was more than just farangii junior librarian who liked to dream, but a god blessed with the very god like power that caused so much pain and anger all those years ago when the godspawn first came to Weep. Sarai his lover also was no longer a goddess but a ghost. She goes to join the ranks of other ghosts all held together and controlled by her sister Minya who is still intent on the revenge of Weep, and holds both of them hostage using Sarai’s soul as a bargaining chip. We also have the addition of two new characters Kora and Nova, and their stories intertwine to meld with the main narrative in both beautiful, surprising and painfully sad ways. As these various characters go through the grief and trauma, and pain that resulted from the citadel’s near fall, they also discover all they are truly capable of.

If Strange the Dreamer was about the question of Identity, Muse of Nightmares is about the question of origins. This book also explores origins from many different perspectives. It explores origins of the citadel and how it came to be in Weep, of Weep the city itself, it explores the circumstances of Lazlo’s true birth and nature, it also explores how the other characters in the book, such as Minya, developed to become the people they are today and how their perspectives shape their future actions. It asks the question What really happened all those years ago? And the various answers to this question once their discovered, are anything but simple. They open up paths to new worlds, characters, and horrors that are both painful and beautiful. Filled with mystery, intrigue, loss, pain, beauty beyond imagining, and so much
more, Muse of Nightmares is a diamond in the rough of YA fiction and needs to read by everyone. Laini Taylor is a truly magical and memorable writer. If you haven’t yet please pick up the first book of this series Strange the Dreamer, these characters are truly memorable characters that everyone needs in their life. This book come out October 2, so now is the time to catch up if you haven’t yet. You can put both on your holds list today! Trust me, you won’t regret it!

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
Genres:
Book Review: The Romantics
Konen, Leah
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Cute book about love, told from the perspective of Love. I liked the idea behind it, having Love narrate the story. I'm not the target audience, but I enjoyed it. Teens that are into rom-coms will enjoy it even more.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
The First Grave on the Right
Jones, Darynda
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is the first of a 13 book series and it is FANTASTIC!!!!! It is hilarious, the characters are very well developed. The story line is very intriguing as well as entertaining. All around this book is a great mix of romance (beware it seems a little surprising how descriptive it is), supernatural and comedy!!

Reviewer's Name: Meg
Awards:
Genres:
Metro Girl
Evanovich, Janet
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

I can honestly say, this is the worst book I have read in 2018. I couldn't believe it was written by Janet Evanovich. It lacked her usual wit and laugh out loud moments. I actually thought I would love it since I enjoyed the graphic novel. But no. I didn't care about any of the characters.
I thought the story line plodded along and at the end, I just didn't care. I was hoping a canister of nerve gas would just destroy every copy of this book so no one else who's thinking of reading will suffer.

Reviewer's Name: Melissa M.
Book Review: Tell Me Three Things
Buxbaum, Julie
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I think this book would have been better if I had read it instead of listening to it. The person who voiced it was highly annoying. Too bad, it may have gotten 4 stars otherwise.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Book Review: Doubting Abbey
Tonge, Samantha
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Very stereotypical chick lit. Not particularly well-written but I finished it so it was okay.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
That Inevitable Victorian Thing
Johnston, E. K.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

In the near future, if Queen Victoria’s reign and the general principles of the time had been perpetuated, crown princess Victoria-Margaret is travelling to Toronto to masquerade as a commoner so that she can have a proper debut season. Regardless of who she meets, however, she will be required to marry a strong genetic match to ensure the strength of Queen Victoria I’s line. At the same time, non-socialite Helena and her beau August are heading to Toronto for Helena’s debut, and introduction into high society. The three will meet, and the events of the summer will change their lives forever.

I’m a huge sucker for books set in Victorian and Edwardian England, so I was eagerly anticipating this read. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me. Part of the problem is that the charm of reading about Victorian England is that it is in the past. We certainly don’t accept a lot of those social sexist, racist and classist norms now (or at least, we pretend not to, but that’s a whole different discussion) and I think that’s for the best. It was weird to read a book about the future that’s not meant to be a dystopia where many of those awful norms are still acceptable. The author does acknowledge this in a note at the end, which is why I’m giving this two stars instead of one. There were also quite a few worldbuilding holes, if you will. For example, at one point, Margaret has a question about sexual identity. Bear in mind that this is a near future book in which the characters have access to computers and some form of the internet. So, instead of doing whatever the equivalent of googling the question would be, she e-mails her uncle, the archbishop, which no teen ever would actually do. Little inconsistent things like that popped up relatively often, and I found that it pulled me out of the story.

Speaking of the story, there’s not much in the way of plot here. That’s perfectly fine, if plot is being sacrificed for character development, but the characters here were not particularly compelling. The POV switches between the three main characters, and while all of the characters were nice and likable, they were also fairly bland. I didn’t care about anyone but Margaret until a big reveal about halfway through the story, at which point I started to find Helena interesting as well. I never could make myself care about August. All of that being said, I definitely think that romance readers will respond positively to this novel. I just kept getting bogged down in the worldbuilding or lack thereof, and never could connect with the characters. It wasn’t for me. Thanks to Dutton Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for the eARC. 2 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Review: After You
Moyes, Jojo
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

See, here's the problem: I wasn't that enamored with the first book in this series (Me Before You). It just didn't wow me. So with that book as a jumping-off point, this book didn't stand a chance at getting above 3 stars. Still, it was pretty good. The ending was super cheesy, though, which tempts me to give it 2 stars. But hey, I'm feeling generous, so 3 stars it is.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Under a Painted Sky
Lee, Stacey
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Under a Painted Sky was just okay for me. The book was probably very similar to being on the Oregon Trail - every once in a while something exciting would happen but for the most part, you're on the trail with a long stretch of boring ahead of you! That being said, I really do like the fact that Stacey Lee used a "historical" setting to present two strong, multicultural female characters. Annamae (African-American) and Samantha(Chinese) came into each others lives at a critical time and in the end, they realize that you can choose your family. Also being accepted for who you are was a central theme. But I felt Under a Painted Sky was a historical novel with not much history. The story takes place on the Oregon Trail, and we do hear of some of the hardships of traveling that the pioneers faced, but Stacey Lee only did one mention of Native Americans in the book. One sentence about the Cheyenne. It's hard to believe that on the trail, they didn't encounter any Native Americans. I think this book will be popular with teen girls. They will love the romance!

Reviewer's Name: Melissa
Awards:
Book Review: Me Before You
Moyes, Jojo
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This was a good book. I found it engaging but not so good that I couldn't put it down. Actually, towards the end I found myself carving out time to read it. It's a romance with a twist. I'd like to see the movie. I'm going to read the second in the series, After You next, so that's saying something.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
When Dimple Met Rishi
Menon, Sandhya
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Dimple Shah is excited to head off to Insomnia Con - a summer camp/contest for coders looking to build a real world app. She's shocked when her traditional Indian parents agree to send her, even though the camp is kind of expensive, and it's not the sort of thing they'd usually let her do. Imagine her surprise when she finds out the reason her parents let her go - unbeknownst to Dimple, her parents have been arranging her marriage (sort of?) with their friends' progeny Rishi. Dimple, as a feminist and career woman, is NOT HAVING IT.

This was ADORABLE. It reminded me of a slightly younger, more diverse Sophie Kinsella book - the characters are well developed and likable (who am I kidding, LOVABLE), it was hilarious and light while still having a lot of heart. I don't know a ton about Indian American culture, so it was interesting to read a little bit more about the struggles of first generation Indian immigrants. The dialog between the characters seemed pretty realistic to me, and while everything is wrapped up pretty neatly...I mean, hey! It's a romcom. And a great one, at that.

If you are looking for an eminently readable romantic comedy to relax with this summer, look no further. This was fantastic. 5 stars - I loved it!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Heartless
Meyer, Marissa
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

In Marissa Meyer's (The Lunar Chronicles) new standalone novel, she explores the Queen of Heart's origin story. Lady Catherine Pinkerton wants nothing more than to open her own bakery with her maid, Mary Ann. But as the Kingdom of Hearts operates in a style similar to that of Victorian England, Catherine finds herself without the money or permission to do so. Worse yet, she's being courted by the king, a silly man that she has little interest in marrying, though she is under constant pressure from her mother to accept his advances. And then, at a royal ball, a hot new court jester with murky motivations appears alongside a Jabberwock and Catherine's life and the Kingdom of Hearts will never be the same.

This was a pretty hotly anticipated read for me, as I adored the Lunar Chronicles. And a lot of the best things about the Lunar Chronicles were present here too: Wonderland and its delightful, sinister, and delightfully sinister characters are definitely a part of the story without overwhelming the character development or seeming trite. It was brilliantly executed. The romance, for me, was just a bit overbearing, and I had a hard time investing in Jest, the love interest. He was introduced as a magician, and then all I could envision whenever he was around was GOB Bluth dancing around to Final Countdown. Decidedly not sexy. We also didn't really learn enough about him for me to ever really care about his fate. I really enjoyed the other parts, though - Catherine's struggles to do right by her parents while preserving her dreams of opening a bakery were realistic and relatable, and her transition from hero to villain was pretty believable in the context of everything that happened. Warning: the food is well described - this book will make you eat any and all baked goods in your house. Oh, and the last 100 pages, the end game, was fantastic. It's a lot of fast paced action laced with emotion, and it's marvelous.

While there was a bit too much romance in this one for my taste, I think those that enjoy a bit more romance in their fantasy reads, or those that love a well-written, somehow inventive fairy tale retelling will love this one. I liked it - 3 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Vinegar Girl
Tyler, Anne
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Vinegar Girl is a modern retelling of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. In this version, Kate Battista lives a stagnant life - she got part of the way through her college degree, works a job that she hates, and lives with her scientist father and younger sister, Bunny. Kate's father starts to shake things up when he suggest that Kate marry Pyotr, his research assistant at the lab who is in desperate need of a green card.

I was pretty curious about how this book was going to shake out as the very premise is extremely offensive in modern times - it's really unpalatable to think of a strong woman being "tamed" by her husband. And unfortunately, the book does sort of go there. Pyotr did and said a few things that made him Dead To Me, and on the whole, I found most of the characters to be pretty unlikable. Kate herself was interesting and relatable much of the time, though the circumstances of her situation were pretty avoidable. The epilogue was cute, the writing fine, and the narration was great. I just think it could've been better - after all, 10 Things I Hate About You (don't judge) was a pretty successful modern retelling of the story. Sadly, for me, this book was just ok. 2 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Awards:
Genres:
After You
Moyes, Jojo
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

It’s been 2 years since Will Traynor’s death. Louisa Clark traveled for a while, but now she is stuck in a bad job and just treading water. Even surviving a fall from the rooftop of her apartment building doesn’t shock Louisa into wanting to experience more of life. Louisa joins a support group to deal with her grief and develops a relationship with the paramedic who saved her. However, it’s the arrival of teenage girl with a link to Louisa’s past that sets her life into a spin and changes it in more ways than she could ever have imagined. After You, Jojo Moyes’ sequel to Me Before You, is a well-written, realistic look at dealing with grief and all the curves life throws at a person. Fans of the first book will feel like they are catching up with an old friend. Be prepared to cry and laugh out loud as you spend more time with this loveable character.

Reviewer's Name: Milissa
Carry On
Rowell, Rainbow
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Rainbow Rowell's "Carry On" had me laughing and tearing up and cheering along the protagonists like a crazy person, which -- as I listened to the audiobook in my car -- I'm hoping didn't concern my fellow drivers. This book is not only a clever love letter to the Harry Potter universe/the concept of a "chosen one" narrative, it's one of the cutest teen fiction romances I've read in a long time. I'm going to try not to spoil anything, which is why this review is so very, very short, but... Awww. What a simultaneously goofy and emotional book.

As you may or may not know, "Carry On" takes place in the universe Cath is fangirl-ing over in Rowell's other novel, "Fangirl," but I'd say it works very well as its own independent story. You could read it as a set with "Fangirl," or just read it for its own sake, I imagine both ways are fun and interesting for different reasons.

Categories: Teen Fantasy, Just Plain (?) Fantasy (if you love the Harry Potter books, this is kind of intended for you, I think, regardless of age), GLBTQ Fiction, Humor (?), Romance, Satire/Reinterpretation

Reviewer's Name: Kate
Nine Women, One Dress
Rosen, Jane L.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I have to admit, I chose to read this book based on the title alone! I liked the title and I loved the book. Classic chick-lit. The main character of the book is the LBD (Little Black Dress) of the season. The dress that every woman, no matter her age or size, wants! The dress affects the lives of not only the nine women, but a few men too! If you are looking for an easy read, this book is for you! It made me laugh and smile. A fun read! I can't wait for Jane L. Rosen's next book.

Reviewer's Name: Melissa M.
Awards:
The Thorn Birds
McCullough, Colleen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is an epic love story that spans, not only generations in Australia, but follows them around the world. Yes, it was made into a mini-series in the 1983 (worth watching), but you would be doing yourself a disservice if that is your only exposure to The Thorn Birds.

Reviewer's Name: Jennifer
Genres:
P.S. I Like You
West, Kasie
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Lily is a hopeful songwriter who is struggling in chemistry. After her teacher bans her from having her notebook in class, she writes on the desk instead. This sparks an ongoing conversation through notes with an unknown pen pal. As the letters continue, more and more personal information is shared, and more feelings surface inspiring Lily to write lyrics. With a typical cast of characters – the best friend, the mean girls and boys, the crush(es) – P.S. I Like You isn’t anything too different from many of the other cute, light romances, but it’s still a quick, enjoyable read.

Reviewer's Name: Becca
Genres:
Empire of Storms
Maas, Sarah J.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Book 5 (Empire of Storms hereafter EoS) picks up right where book 4 left off, and the action quickly ramps up. At the beginning of EoS, most of our heroes are together after the events that unfolded at Rifthold, and, to a lesser extent, Morath. After defeating and destroying the King of Alderan, Aelin travels to Terrasen, and after receiving no help or support from the various Dukes/Earls or whatever, Aelin opts for some different kind of support. The kind of support that comes from pirates. So Aelin and her merry band of heroes (well, some of them are pretty angsty, actually) depart to get support from Aelin's old "friend", the Pirate Lord Rolfe.

I was kind of expecting to not like this book as I seem to only like every other Throne of Glass book (I really like 2 and 4 and didn't care much for 1 and 3), but this entry in the series defied my expectations in a good way. The action is fairly constant, and the characters continue to develop and act in ways consistent with their current development. Things that annoy me about Aelin continue to annoy me - she makes really key decisions without informing or soliciting advice from her much more seasoned travel companions/court, but a reveal at the end made Aelin a more compelling character (although still, girl, COMMUNICATE). The real fun in the books, for me at least, comes from Aelin's surrounding cast of characters. Even though many of them took a back seat to Aelin in this book (Chaol is unheard from) their interactions were delightful to read, and I will never be sorry spending time with my favorite, Manon. Lysandra also gets a time to shine, and Elide starts to come into her own as well. There are some new characters that wouldn't be new to those that read the prequel novellas, so if you have not read those yet, I strongly suggest reading them before you embark on the 700 pages of awesomeness that is EoS.

On the downside, there was a bit too much romance in the book for me. Like, EVERY character doesn't need to pair up. Especially since they are all hetero-normative (even though there is some discussion of characters being bi). Also, the sex scenes were fairly repetitive and at times unintentionally hilarious (a character literally BURSTS INTO FLAME). I mean, there was a ton of:

Claiming of mouths (what does that even mean and ew)
Going over the edge
"Maleness" (I'm not sure about this one either but probably ew)
Heating at one's core (I'm pretty sure your core is your abs, but whatever)
Nipping at necks

Right. So that all happens a lot.

Oh, and consider yourself warned, this book ends on a cliffhanger.

Anyway, overall, EoS was a great entry in the series and a strong fantasy story. I really really really cannot WAIT for the last one. 4 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:

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