Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Diana Holquist

Dear Author

REVIEW: Hungry for More by Diana Holquist

Dear Ms. Holquist:

book review I almost didn’t write this review because it was such a struggle for me to pinpoint why I didn’t respond well to it given that I liked The Sexiest Man Alive so much. Ultimately, I think I failed to connect to the hero and heroine in a "it’s not you, it’s me" manner.

Amy Burns is a psychic who went on to Oprah to reveal Oprah’s one true love. Unfortunately, Amy and her psychic voice Maddie have had some communication problems of late and just when Amy needs her (in front a live Oprah audience), Maddie decides to stop talking to Amy altogether. Amy’s goal, notwithstanding her humiliation in front of Oprah, is to find Maddie.

Amy tracks Maddie to a gypsy named Roni to a restaurant in Philly called Les Fleurs. There she finds the hot chef/owner James LaChance but no Roni. Amy expends a huge amount of effort to find Roni which is extraordinary in that Amy’s only other huge expenditure of effort in the past is related to doing nothing, being a ne’er do well.

James LaChance’s claim to fame, other than his cooking prowess, is his bedroom prowess. He’s well known for his virility and the fact that his overpriced dishes are all inspired by women. All the dishes are named Denise, Josie, Trudy, Amanda, etc.

Throughout the story Amy has imaginary interviews with Oprah and James has imaginary sex with Amy. They spar and look at each other hungrily. All this is observed by a young Rom boy who works for James and dreams of being the next Top Chef (actually really just dreams of being a rich and famous chef like James).

From my many hours watching Top Chef and my own wait staff experiences, the restaurant parts are full of authenticity. Amy’s character growth from being an irresponsible and immature girl to a woman is appealing and James’ exudes a lot of macho sex appeal. James’s restaurant and James’ as a chef are my favorite parts of the book. I loved the waitstaff and the foul mouthed sous chefs. I loved James’ idea that the restaurant was a team and everyone had everyone else’s back even if he arbitrarily decides what mistakes get you kicked off (showing up late) and what keep you on (being hot like Amy). (That’s really not what I see when I watch Kitchen Nightmares but that would probably explain why those restaurants are going out of business and why James is close to getting his third star).

Food + sex = greatness in most equations so why did this story take me a week to read? I had a hard time with Amy as the con. I wasn’t sure if she ran cons because she liked the thrill; because it was the only way to make a living and she did so reluctantly. It seemed like the morality of the story was that the cons were run on bad people so the con was essentially good. But Amy runs cons on everyone from fifteen year old Tony to thirty something James. It’s not that Amy doesn’t grow. She totally does. By the end of the book, she’s changed. But I really wanted to know the “why” of the con so that I could believe in the fact that she could give it up. Further, I never really bought any depth of relationship between James and Amy. After four days of Amy working in James’ restaurant, he declares her his biggest weakness. Really James? That kind of shows that you’ve got the depth of a saute pan. Maybe women are your greatness weakness but Amy, a chick you’ve known all of four days?

I keep thinking as I review this book that I should have liked it. And maybe it was PMS. Bad time of the month, season, year, and that had I tried some other time, I would have appreciated it. Alas, I’ll blame this lackluster response on Gisele. Of course, I’m still up for the next book and I suspect I might re-read this one in a few months and see if I have a different response. In essence, this review is a plea for someone else to read the book and tell me that I am all wet. Or right. B-

Best regards

Jane

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

Dear Author

REVIEW: Sexiest Man Alive by Diana Holquist

Dear Ms. Holquist:

Book CoverI was skeptical that I was going to like this book given the back cover copy, the title and the concept. It just sounded too hokey, too precious. If it wasn’t sent to me for free, I don’t think I would have read it because I wouldn’t have bought it. However, what is inside the cover is a funny, sweet and tender contemporary romance that reveals our insecurities are sometimes what makes us so attractive if we don’t let them stop us from moving forward. It’s a romance in the truest sense of the genre definition and it does not rely on secondary romances, sappy epilogues, or contrived suspense to make it work.

Jasmine Burns has a sister who’s psychic talent is to be able to touch someone and hear the name of their one true love. She gets only the name though so it’s up to the person to figure out which John Smith is their One True Love. Jasmine is told that her One True Love is Josh Toby. There is one Josh Toby she knows and he is the Sexiest Man Alive.

Jasmine Burns suffers from androphobia which is “an abnormal and peristent fear of men.” Like most extreme phobias, this seriously limits Jasmine’s life. She cannot speak to them without getting physically ill and thus her tailoring business run from her tiny efficiency on the “Upper-Upper West Side” of Manhattan consists of only females. To males who inquire, she simply gives the “too busy” excuse. However, an opportunity arises for Burns to apply for a position on an off Broadway product of Romeo and Juliet with a famed designer, Arturo Mastriani.

She tries to get ready for this by talking to a naked Ken doll which is suggested by one of the multitude of not so helpful self help books she has purchased.

She paced. Seven steps. Pivot. Seven steps. Pivot. Exercise #12, page 127 in her Good-bye Shy! workbook had made sense in theory: Practice job interviews with a doll to focus on until the panic is gone. To achieve maximum vulnerability, rehearse the interview with both parties naked.
Jasmine couldn't get completely naked. She settled on a black lace teddy for herself. Ken wasn't so shy. He went all the way without complaint.

Josh Toby is a two time Sexiest Man Alive designee and a movie star who’s action films haven’t lead the critics to say anything nice about his brain power. Josh wants to be known as a true actor and has a not so brilliant idea of disguising himself as a non entity in order to achieve the dream of acting on stage and thereby ridding himself of the nothing more than a pretty face accusation.

Both Jasmine and Josh have their own insecurities which makes their hook up more believable. Josh’s movie star fame has led to an estrangement with his parents. Jasmine’s neurosis has kept her from having even the remotest acquaintance with a male. They are both incredibly lonely individuals.

Together they find strength to face and conquer their fears and that is what leads me to believe in the connection of the two. Further, the character flaws are important plot points to the story and how those flaws or neuroses are dealt with, accepted and even embraced makes the story poignant.

You did a great job of showing both the bad parts of being famous and the good parts. Josh Toby really did enjoy being famous but when it prevents him from having Jasmine, he begins to regret it.

There are some great comedic moments that are inserted here. There is more than one Josh Toby in New York. One is a librarian at the NY library. Apparently a lot of homeless people come and take refuge in the library and the first time that Jamine meets librarian Josh, he assumes she is a bag lady because of her appearance and her crazy story about One True Love and so forth.

She felt desperate to explain. "I've never felt this way around a–"" She stopped herself from saying "man." It sounded too sexual. "A stranger. Ever. I guess that sounds kind of crazy.– 

"Oh, no. It sounds perfectly normal to me." He leaned in toward her, took her hand from his wrist, and placed it gently on the table. "You can stay here as long as you like, and you can sketch me all you like if you do it quietly. But I can't have you and Eleanor fighting.– 

Jasmine looked from Eleanor to Josh and then back to Eleanor. Eleanor and her friends are bag people. "You think I'm crazy.– 

Josh motioned to the table. "We don't say 'crazy' here. We're a public facility, and all are welcome if they sit quietly. That's Tony. He thinks he's Jesus Christ. Which is fine. Jesus was a very quiet man. Sometimes he thinks he's Elvis, though. That can be a problem. Next to him, the woman with the Indian headdress, that's Suzanne, but she likes to be called Crouching Panther. Eleanor, who you met earlier, thinks she's my wife. Which is okay so long as she's quiet." He raised one freckled finger at Jasmine to prevent her from replying. "If we have complaints about body odor, we have to ask you to leave.– 

"No, you don't understand! I'm not crazy! Let me explain. See, the voices that Amy hears are–"– 

He gave her a practiced librarian shush: one finger lightly against his lips, his lips pursed, no sound, but warning eyes. Maybe they taught that in library school. "Amy's welcome too. Whenever it's cold outside, we get lots of friends who come in to keep warm. The weather turned this morning, and I'm glad you found us!" He looked to Eleanor and waved. Then he said very seriously to Jasmine, "No fighting with Eleanor. If you want to be my wife, too, that's fine. So long as everyone gets along.

There’s even a convenient HEA for all those involved but it worked perfectly in the scope of the book that it only made me smile. That’s what I can say about this book. The Sexiest Man Alive made me smile, laugh out loud and sigh in appreciation. B+

Best regards

Jane