It Had to Be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (Chicago Stars #1)

Synopsis:

6651365The Windy City isn’t quite ready for Phoebe Somerville—the outrageous, curvaceous New York knockout who has just inherited the Chicago Stars football team. And Phoebe is definitely not ready for the Stars’ head coach, former gridiron legend Dan Calebow, a sexist jock taskmaster with a one-track mind. Calebow is everything Phoebe abhors. And the sexy new boss is everything Dan despises—a meddling bimbo who doesn’t know a pigskin from a pitcher’s mound.

So why is Dan drawn to the shameless sexpot like a heat-seeking missile? And why does the coach’s good ol’ boy charm leave cosmopolitan Phoebe feeling awkward, tongue-tied…and ready to fight?

Review:

I can see why many people like this book but I have to wonder if it’s a generational thing. Is this one of those pre-enlightenment books I’ve heard about where the guy is an asshole, the girl is a pushover, and the plot is maddening?

Phoebe, a girl abused in her youth that has no real connections to her family, was left her father’s football team in his will. She gets to keep the team if, and only if, the league basement Chicago Stars make the AFC championships this year.

She decides the best thing to do is ignore the team completely as she knows nothing about football. Contracts need signing and she’s the only one with any legal authority, but hey, not her problem.

She finally comes around and decides to go to work. In the process she falls in love with the coach, Dan, for no reason I can possibly see. He’s quick to anger, crap at apologies, and seems to think fleeting good intentions make up for all his faults. The only person he is consistently nice to is Molly, Phoebe’s teenaged half sister, as he demands admiration above all else and she readily provides it.

Many passages made me downright mad.  Shall we have a sample?

A sprinkling of African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians, all well-dressed and prosperous looking, mingled with the crowd.

You know, instead of the shabby, poor looking minorities you’re used to. ~fume~

And in the waaaah? department:

He grinned as he pulled away from the curb. If the Russians had been smart, they’d have taken Phoebe’s radioactive body into account before they’d signed off on that nuclear proliferation agreement with the United States.

Does. not. compute.

So getting to the end of the novel was hard. While Phillips’ writing style is technically solid she leaves little for the reader to figure out herself. Even with all this explaining I find Phoebe’s emotional journey unrealistic.

Is this Old Skool?  Am I just missing something? If I didn’t need this book for a challenge I would have never made it to the end. GRAH.

Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye by Victoria Laurie (Psychic Eye Mystery #1)

Synopsis:

574955Abby Cooper is a P.I., psychic intuitive. But her insight failed her when she didn’t foresee the death of one of her clients-or that the lead investigator for the case is the gorgeous blind date she just met. Now, with the police suspicious of her abilities and a killer on the loose, Abby’s future looks more uncertain than ever.

Review:

I picked this book hoping for a quirky cozy mystery but ended up in romantic suspense hell.

Abby Cooper is a psychic intuitive that can call on her spirit guides for advice and wisdom. She uses her ability to run a successful business advising people on everything from cheating lovers to financial matters. I like the general idea of a psychic but man, she was spot on all the time. Any little tidbit Abby spit out would be verified sooner or later, allowing her an “I told you so” smile.

In this vein many times Abby would do a reading for someone she thought didn’t believe her. A simple, “…and you should get that knee checked out, the next time you lift something heavy it’s going to pop” would have sufficed but no, she had to tell them about their wives and daughters and upcoming vacations. Always right, always on the nose, often annoying. In fact, the only time she ran into trouble was when she didn’t listen to her “crew”… they’re infallible, of course.

That time she didn’t pick up the “intuitive phone”, along with any other fishy happening, felt like it had a neon sign with “THIS IS FORESHADOWING!” painted on top. Grah.

A few lines that bugged me:

“I looked at the painted decal on the back hood.” Hoods are in the front. Trunks and tailgates are in the back. Decals and stickers are usually put on by owners, insignia and logos by the maker.

“I knew immediately that I’d have to tip the mailman extra big come Christmas.” Postal workers are federal employees and are legally obligated not to accept cash tips over $20. Getting some extra nice chocolate or maybe knitting a pair of convertible mittens would be fine, but not an extra big tip.

“In my next lifetime I wanted to come back as a guy. They always seemed to get the upper hand.” No irony, no nothing.

And I haven’t even gotten into the romantic or suspense bits. Abby goes on a date with a guy she met online who happens to be a cop. Of course, Dutch ends up being the lead investigator of a case that ends up falling into her lap. If he ends up doing anything Abby perceives as less than perfect she storms off, vows she’s done with him, and screams like holy hell the next time they meet. Yet he is still attracted to her.

I don’t get it, either.

As for the mystery surrounding an apparent suicide, Abby’s leads us via one perfect hunch after another to the bad guy. I felt zero suspense because the perfect spirit guides would never let her fail. Don’t they get annoyed with her, too? Wouldn’t they want to slip her a bum piece of info about something trivial and have a good laugh? I would, but maybe that’s why I’m not a spirit guide.

Not bad enough to abandon halfway through, but also not deserving of more than one star.

Whatever You Like by Maureen Smith (Brand Clan #1)

Synopsis:

9068545By day, Lena Morrison is an ambitious grant writer. By night, she’s an escort to some of Chicago’s most successful men. Sex isn’t on the menu—Lena’s job is to provide her elite clients with comanionship and sparkling conversation. She enjoys the extra income, but even more, Lena loves the empowering feeling of being appreciated for her beauty and her brains.

When tycoon Roderick Brand hires Lena as his date for a private party, their electric attraction leads to the most erotic night of her life. Incredible as the experience is, she vows not to mix work and pleasure again. But Roderick is relentless. His irresistible proposal: three weeks fulfilling all his fantasies, in exchange for a million-dollar grant that will guarantee Lena a major promotion.

Lena can play that game. She’ll give him the hottest, wildest sex he’s ever had, then she’ll walk away, leaving him aching for more. But when it comes to desire, rules—and hearts— are easily broken. And the best-laid plans have a way of working out in ways neither could expect….

Review:

This book starts well enough – classy escort falls for a super sexy client who happens to be an energy magnate. Sparks fly, she manages to (mostly) stick to her principles, they have hot sex. All well and good… until they jet off to Tokyo.

I almost wailed, “Nooooo!” Japan is so hard to get right, and having lived here for the better part of a decade every mistake sticks out. And wow, there are a bunch. Flowers symbolizing death decorate their hotel room. One of the stickiest snacks ever is used as a “finger food”. Tea ceremony is done with plain ol’ sencha (simple green tea) and called an acquired taste (the correct tea is matcha). They take the bullet train for short hops around town, which is impossible because as a long distance train the stations are few and far between. Many-layered kimonos slip off with a shrug.

And then their whole relationship turns on one candid photo. GRAH! So while the beginning was okay this ended up a one star read for me. I feel kind of bad about it – if the trip to Japan was mentioned in the cover copy I wouldn’t have even picked it up. Ah, well.

 

Taint by S.L. Jennings (Sexual Education #1)

Synopsis:

18366077You’re here, ladies, because you can’t f*ck.

Oh, stop it. Don’t cringe. No one under the age of 80 clutches their pearls.
You might as well get used to it, because for the next six weeks, you’re going to hear that word a lot. And you’re going to say it a lot.
Go ahead, try it out on your tongue.
F*ck. F***ck.

Ok, good. Now where were we?

If you enrolled yourself in this program then you are wholly aware that you’re a lousy lay. Good for you. Admitting it is half the battle.

For those of you that have been sent here by your husband or significant other, dry your tears and get over it. You’ve been given a gift, ladies. The gift of mind-blowing, wall-climbing, multiple-orgasm-inducing sex. You have the opportunity to f*ck like a porn star. And I guarantee, you will when I’m done with you.

Review:

From the synopsis I thought, “Hey, a book about teaching women how to enjoy sex! Maybe some tips on how to spice things up in the bedroom, hands on lessons with our hero and heroine… it’s gonna be a fun romp!”

No. Nononono.
Continue reading “Taint by S.L. Jennings (Sexual Education #1)”

The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller

Synopsis:

20910034A working father whose life no longer feels like his own discovers the transforming powers of great (and downright terrible) literature in this laugh-out-loud memoir.

Andy Miller had a job he quite liked, a family he loved, and no time at all for reading. Or so he kept telling himself. But, no matter how busy or tired he was, something kept niggling at him. Books. Books he’d always wanted to read. Books he’d said he’d read that he actually hadn’t. Books that whispered the promise of escape from the daily grind. And so, with the turn of a page, Andy began a year of reading that was to transform his life completely.

This book is Andy’s inspirational and very funny account of his expedition through literature: classic, cult, and everything in between. Beginning with a copy of Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita that he happens to find one day in a bookstore, he embarks on a literary odyssey. From Middlemarch to Anna Karenina to A Confederacy of Dunces, this is a heartfelt, humorous, and honest examination of what it means to be a reader, and a witty and insightful journey of discovery and soul-searching that celebrates the abiding miracle of the book and the power of reading.

Review:

From the title and cover copy you’d think Andy Miller was a man in crisis that was saved from the brink by great literature, or maybe a former reader that found himself enlightened and his life enriched by a year with the classics.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Miller is a man of letters through and through, a reader born into a family of readers. He went to college for literature, worked for years at a bookshop, and eventually became an editor for a London publishing house. Books are, and have always have been, his life and his livelihood.

But then something happened – he had a kid and moved to the suburbs. This, apparently, is what his life needs saving from. You see with a young child in the house he had trouble finding time to read. Oh dear. I guess that no one told him kids are time consuming?

His solution is to make a list of 50 books that he’s lied about reading and actually finish them. He manages this easily by cutting out the sudoku on his commute and disappearing for hours at a time on the weekend to get the 50 pages in.

The list gets read without much hardship. Miller does a great job discussing some titles, making weighty tomes approachable and interesting. He has me considering reading Anna Karenina and War and Peace, books that until this point I thought would require two weeks of solitude to even attempt. Most other books, though, are a springboard into memories from his childhood. I’m glad that this or that book means a lot to him and that it connects deeply with his past… but I’d like to hear more about the actual book, you know?

This is the main problem I have with Reading Dangerously. Instead of examining books through the lens of his life he plops his life front and center, dressing it up with classics and cult novels. (But never, ever genre. The horror.) Every once in a while Miller manages to hit something more universal, more human, but it happens so rarely I think it must be a fluke.

Other problems abound. Miller harangues Dan Brown for filling his writing with the odd “clunking… expository dialogue or pseudo-scholarly statistic or shockingly ugly sentence.” Then he writes this in a chapter that he admits if it were up to him (wasn’t it?) would have been cut out entirely:

I am writing to you from the lobby of the British Library in London. The St Pancras facility, which consists of reading rooms, galleries, cafes and a shop, was designed by the architect Colin St. John Wilson and opened to the public in 1997. It is the largest public building constructed in the United Kingdom in the twentieth century, requiring approximately ten million bricks and 180,000 tonnes of concrete….

Pot, meet kettle.

Much of the second half of the book feels like vamping for the sake of meeting a page quota. We have detailed descriptions of his four(-ish) encounters with Douglas Adams, a “fan letter” to an author, and three appendices – the original list of 50 books, 100 books that influenced him, and books “I still intend to read”.

To top it all off there is stuffy disdain for books with a plot, the “feminization” of reading, and all those people on the internet that are diluting the opinion of professional critics. “The Internet is the greatest library in the universe,” he writes. “Unfortunately someone has removed all the ‘no talking’ signs.”

So yeah. Way to piss me off.

While I made a fair share of notes throughout the book the overwhelming majority are quotes by other people. I was hoping Reading Dangerously would open my eyes to new books and new ways of looking at old favorites, but instead I was saddled with a navel-gazing working father that spouts all sorts of things that don’t add up to very much.