Archive for November, 2017


Some books I got for free that weren’t all that great. CBR9 Review 60-63.

Unknown-1Over the past few months, I’ve been lucky (lucky?) enough to receive a whole bunch of books for free. Some from work, some from ARCs, and some that I won in contests. None of them were terrible. But none of them were terrific.

Lucky in Love by Kasie West

Maddie is about to turn 18, and on a whim, she buys herself a lottery ticket. She wins millions of dollars and suddenly everything changes. Her parents don’t fight quite so much anymore. Her depressed brother might get off the couch and go back to college. She has more friends at school and a shiny new car. Everyone is treating her differently, except for her friend Seth Nguyen, who she works with at the zoo.

As Maddie and Seth fall for each other, she struggles to figure out who her real friends are and who is just interested in her money.

Look, the crush between Seth and Maddie was cute. Seth seemed like a cool kid. BUT EVERYTHING ELSE infuriated me.

The fact that not a single adult tried to get her to manage her money in a responsible way literally gave me anxiety. When she bought a corvette and had a party on a yacht, I could barely keep reading.

Her parents and her brother were the worst. I hope at the end of the book she decided to emancipate herself from them and live with her money all alone.

Two stars.

Girl in a Bad Place by Kaitlin Ward

This was the most interesting of the free books I picked up. The execution wasn’t top-notch, but the story was interesting.

Mailee and Cara live in Montana and are planning for college. They’ve always been best friends and have always planned to move to Los Angeles after high school. Until Cara falls in with a new crowd, a bunch of young people who live out on a commune in the countryside. Mailee gets a weird feeling from these new friends, especially their bizarre leader named FIREHORSE, but Cara continues to spend time with them instead of with her friends and boyfriend.

In time, Cara decides to move to the commune, which of course, is clearly a kooky cult. Blah blah blah, can Cara save her friend in time? Yes, of course she can, but not without a whole bunch of unbelievable (meant as in, I really did not believe any of it) stuff happens.

Once again, the adults in this story weren’t award winning. They didn’t seem to mind that the girls were hours away at some weird commune with a conspiracy theorist named Firehorse. This annoyed me.

Two stars.

Kissing Max Holden by Katy Upperman

This had glimpses of a good book inside of it. But Max Holden was simply too much for me in the end.

Jilly and Max have been neighbors forever, but they’ve grown apart over the past few years. Max’s dad is sick and Max spends all of his time drinking and hanging out with his truly horrific girlfriend. Jilly spends most of her time with her gay best friend (also the star of the football team, so kudos for that one) and her dad and step mother who are about to have their first baby.

Everything changes when a drunk Max crawls through Jilly’s window one night and kisses her. Then they suddenly can’t take their hands off each other and struggle with what to do about it. Max continues to drink and make simply horrible decisions and Jilly continues to forgive him because its been hard for him.

Meanwhile, Jilly’s dad is an asshole and her step mother isn’t so bad.

Some of this book worked better than other parts. Max was just TOO MUCH. He was too much Judd Nelson in the Breakfast Club. All trouble and smoldering good looks. And Jilly’s dad made me want to throw the book and break something. He was the worst.

Two stars.

A Match Made by Chloe by TB Pearl

This was my least favorite. I did not care for it.

Chloe has a special ability to make romantic matches. She can see “fate” and the matches she makes last forever. And we never find out how she can see this or why or anything and it frustrated me beyond belief.

Anyhoo. When Chloe matches up a star NY pitcher and his gorgeous new bride, some stupid magazine wants to write up an expose on her, with the end game being that they find out she is a fraud. Ian King — THE FAMOUS AND HANDSOME AND PULITZER PRIZE WINNER, NATCH — is assigned the story. He lies and says he is an architect who just wants to settle down. She takes him on as a client. Blah.

The one thing in this book’s favor it that the ending did surprise me. I expected things to go one way, and they didn’t. Not that the real ending was better, it was just unexpected.

What I hated most about this story was the made up lingo that the author clearly thought was totally endearing. It wasn’t. It was annoying and grating. If I had been her editor I would have run out of red pens.

One star.


I wish the alphabet had more letters. CBR9 Review 59.

UnknownThis is the second-to-last Kinsey Millhone book that we’ll probably ever get, and that makes me sad.

Eleven years ago, when I was home with an infant and a toddler and living next door to a tiny library, I picked up a ratty paperback copy of A is for Alibi on a whim. And I became obsessed. I read every single one of Sue Grafton’s “alphabet mysteries” that featured this weird, cranky PI named Kinsey Millhone. And I loved them.

I loved Kinsey’s bizarre little universe out in her tiny California town. Terrible things happened that required her attention, and the mysteries were always interesting. But I looked forward to the other parts of the story…what was going on with Henry the landlord? What was Rosie cooking up the street at the bar? How many peanut butter and pickle sandwiches would Kinsey eat?

And now I’ve finished the 25th book, Y is for Yesterday, and can’t believe there’s only going to be one more.

This wasn’t my favorite mystery that Kinsey’s been involved in. But it was still entertaining. Told partly in flashback, we learn about a terrible murder that took place 10 years prior. A high school junior named Sloane was killed because of secrets that she had about some of her classmates, including the location of a sex tape that could send its participants to jail for the assault of a minor.

In the present (which is actually 1989), one of the boys who was sent to jail for his part of the murder has just been released, and his parents are being blackmailed. And so they call up good old Kinsey for advice.

As Kinsey digs into the lives of these bored, rich private school kids who committed several upsetting crimes for no real reason, she becomes rather unsettled, and would prefer to stay out of it. But of course, that’s not how things go for Kinsey.

I didn’t like a single one of the characters involved in the murder and sex tape mystery (except for the murdered girl, unfortunately. She seemed to be the only sensible one of the bunch), but I did enjoy Kinsey and her cohorts living their lives, drinking cheap chardonnay, and eating hard boiled egg sandwiches.

I’m looking forward to the final installment in the series. But I’m also dreading it. I’m really going to miss Kinsey.


I love you, Sarah Dessen. But no. CBR9 Review 58.

UnknownThere’s nothing better than hearing that one of your favorite authors has a new book coming out. But what if that book doesn’t live up to your expectations? And even worse, what if you actually hate the book?

I’ve had a long history with Sarah Dessen. I’ve gobbled up everything she’s written about her little Carolina Beachtown universe, and have always anxiously awaited whatever comes next from her. And so it was with Once and for All. I waited and waited on the library list for weeks and months for it to finally be my turn. I was excited when l got the email saying I was finally next. And then.

Well, and then I read it.

And even though I didn’t really like it as I was reading, I held out hope that it would get better. But it didn’t. It got worse.

And now I feel betrayed. How dare one of my favorite authors write something that I didn’t like!

Here’s the deal:

Louna (just no with that name) just graduated from high school. She works for her mother’s extremely exclusive and popular wedding planning service and is very good at it. She has high expectations for everything in her life — from weddings to personal relationships.

It’s been a year since her last relationship — things with her first love, Ethan, didn’t end well (ooh, a mystery!). But her best friend Jilly and new (and annoying but handsome) wedding employee Ambrose keep putting her out there, trying to get her back out in the dating world.


Seriously, I’m going to wreck all of the surprises here. So don’t read if you don’t want to know.

Ethan — the great love of her life — is dead. He was killed in a school shooting. Which, sure. I’m ok with Dessen using current events and social issues to influence her characters. But what I’m not ok with is the nature of their relationship in the first place. Louna and Ethan only spent one single night together and then texted and face timed for a few months before he died. This whole “one perfect night” situation was absolutely ridiculous and I didn’t buy any of it for a minute. They met, talked, walked, had sex, ate pie, and then Ethan went home to New Jersey, calling and texting her 900 times a day, and immediately changing all of his social media to “in a relationship”. I found Ethan’s behavior to be creepy and needy, not amazing and loving.

This was a huge problem for me. I can’t get past it.

Also, I really didn’t want Ambrose and Louna to end up together. It was obvious from the moment he was introduced that they would, but I wasn’t excited about it and it bugged me how they both strung other people along because they were so stubborn. I was steaming mad at how they treated their other romantic interests, especially the cute coffee guy. Sure, he’s a pretentious writer, but he’s also a friend and she treated him like absolute crap.

This book was trying to be super romantic — But it simply fell flat for me. And now I don’t know what to do about future Sarah Dessen books. This might have soured me for all time.


I totally judged this book by its cover, and I’m so glad I did. CBR9 Review 57.

UnknownOver the summer, I kept seeing this book on display in bookstores. And it pulled me in like a magnet. The cheery orange cover. The close up of the smiling girl whose face was slightly off center. The henna tattoos. The iced coffee. All of it just spoke to me. And then, like most things in my life, I got busy and forgot about it.

But…then I saw it at my library last week and knew I had to read it RIGHT NOW.

Dimple has just graduated from high school and is soon headed off to Stanford to study computer engineering. She honestly can’t believe that her traditional Indian parents have approved this momentous change in her life. She feels like all her mother wants for her is to find a smart, hard working, Indian husband, and so maybe she’ll find one at Stanford.

But Dimple has dreams of becoming a top-notch programmer and developer, and has no time for Indian husband hunting. That’s not what she wants in life.

What she does want is to attend a super cut-throat engineering program in San Francisco for six weeks of the summer. And when she casually slips it in to conversation with her parents and various “Aunties” that she really wants to attend, she is shocked to discover that her parents are ok with spending the money and letting her go.

What Dimple doesn’t know is that her parents have been secretly planning that she would go to the summer program to meet Rishi, her future husband.

Rishi knows why he is being sent to the camp. He knows all about Dimple and is looking forward to meeting her. He understands tradition and its importance to his family. He tries at all times to be the picture-perfect Indian son — he respects his family, his culture, his traditions, and the expectations that the Indian community has for him. He is willing to give up his dreams of being an artist in order to be what his family expects him to be.

Of course, Dimple and Rishi have a meet cute soon after arriving in San Francisco. He approaches her with personal information that shocks her, and she throws an iced coffee in his face. Dimple is horrified and vows to have nothing to do with Rishi.

But of course that’s not how things go.

Dimple and Rishi find themselves thrown together again and again during the summer program. And they start to realize that maybe that isn’t so bad. They encourage each other and understand each other and help each other figure out who they really are while they’re away from their families, and whats important to their futures.

I loved a lot about this story. I loved how filled with Indian life and culture it was. When Dimple and Rishi spoke to their parents, the conversations alternated between English and Hindi…and very rarely was any of the Hindi actually translated. But it didn’t matter — it gave the dialogues an authentic feeling that would have felt forced if they had been all in English. I loved Dimple’s goal of building an app to help her father and to raise Diabetes awareness. I loved the scene between her and her mother when they both end up crying.

There were a few things I didn’t love. The “Aberzombies” subplot. The fact that the college where they were spending the summer JUST SO HAPPENED to have the greatest Comic Book Art college courses ever. (Is this even a thing you can major in while in college? Am I just old and boring?). And the ending. SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER. Yes, of course, I’m glad they ended up back together. But I hate endings where everyone looks for each other and misses them and then finally find them in the last place they would have though to look. NOTE TO ALL ROMANTIC COMEDIES: YOU WILL NEVER FIND SOMEONE YOU ARE LOOKING FOR IN AN AIRPORT IF YOU ONLY HAVE VAGUE DETAILS REGARDING THEIR TRAVEL PLANS.

But the good outweighs the bad here. I really enjoyed this. I look forward to reading her next book when it comes out next summer.


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 37 other followers

Twitter Updates