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REVIEW:  In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins

REVIEW: In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins

In Your Dreams Kristan Higgins

Dear Ms. Higgins:

Ok, I admit it, any book that begins with a strong heroine almost getting to use her Taser automatically has an edge with me. Add in the fact that the female protagonist is in law enforcement, is a firm believer in the use and abuse of common sense, and loves dogs? I’m hooked. I’m right there with you. It’s all the best parts of contemporary romance wrapped up in a neat little package.

Emmaline Neal is a small town girl living and working as a deputy in the tiny New York hamlet where she spent her high school – and happiest years. Jack Holland is a multi-generational vintner and has always been the town’s golden boy, but that reputation skyrockets when he saves some of the town’s teen boys from drowning in a freezing lake on a cold winter’s night. For years, they’ve orbited each other, moving in the same social circle, but never moving together. Well, until Em gets the invitation for her former fiance’s wedding.

Em needs a date – fast. And Jack wants out of the limelight – and away from the ex-wife from hell. It’s a match made in heaven – right?

With wit and some surprising passion, you managed to make me fall in love with both characters. Not only did I want to BE Em, I wanted to hug her. I wanted to beat her ex about the head and shoulders with his own stupidity (though, to say that he got what was coming to him is putting it SO mildly. I somehow got the sneaking suspicion that you’re not a Jillian Michaels fan). I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that you let us into Em’s head and let us feel right along with both her and Jack as they took their literal and metaphorical journeys.

And that brings me to the part of the book that absolutely blew me away and made me fall in love with your writing all over again. When you took me deep into Jack’s psyche and introduced me to the ghosts that haunted this gorgeous, intelligent, amazing man – I broke, just a little. You handled his psychological journey with compassion and an amazing amount of wisdom. The fact that Jack was able to save all but one of the boys (though that one was still alive, just in a coma) made what he did seem more realistic. Anyone in the first responder field – from law enforcement to EMS to firefighters – has learned the hardest lesson of all: Not everyone will come out of a traumatic event and make a quick recovery. And the second hardest lesson is that every time a first responder works a traumatic call, they leave a little piece of themselves behind. I’ve found that some romance authors have a difficult time with balancing an accurate portrayal of human response to crisis situations with the romantic storyline. You handled this with such poise and dignity, I wanted to grab a hundred copies of the book and hand them out to everyone I know, yelling “THIS! Someone did it right!”

Now, lest you think everything is 100% positive… I have to take just a couple points off for The Bitter Betrayed Book Club and Em’s wishy-washiness. While I love the idea of the Bitter Betrayeds, the ladies came across as a little too stereotypical, a little too bitter and just a touch too…much overall. And Em, while generally strong, really seemed to struggle a little too much over her fiance’s defection. Of course, the way he did it, I’m not surprised she had issues. But she just seemed too waffle-ish for me, especially about her appearance. Some might say she had good reason, but on the other hand, at some point, a woman just has to suck it up and love herself for who she is.

Overall? I loved the book. The wedding from hell was…wow. I’ve heard of destination and theme weddings before, but forcing guests to stay at an all-vegan, all-healthy, super-high-energy-workout resort? Well, let’s just say that Dante called. He’s adding another circle just for the resorts where Snickers bars make the staff go into Richard Simmons’ paroxysms of panic. A-

Still Shuddering over the Brown Rice Cake with Prunes,

Mary Kate

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REVIEW:  Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

REVIEW: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

IHEA

Dear Ms. Perkins:

Charming. Adorable. Sweet. Dramatic. Compelling. Each word can be used to describe your latest release, Isla and the Happily Ever After.

Isla Martin is high. She’s sitting in her favorite cafe in New York City, Kismet, spacing out when the object of all of her lust filled fantasies walks through the door — Joshua Wasserstein. She must be high, because what happens next is so completely out of character for her. She blurts out Josh’s name, calling him over to her table. She flirts, is coquettish, and in the end someone helpless. You see, Isla really is high. She’s had her wisdom teeth removed and is taking Vicodin, which explains her sudden gregariousness.

She’s spent her entire high school career lusting after Josh from afar. Josh is also a rising senior, is known to be a troublemaker, and is also the son of a prominent NY Senator. She’s spent the last three years watching Josh fall in love with someone else, break up with her and come back to school. The night they meet in Kismet, Josh walks her home and she doesn’t see him again. She’s mortified over her behavior and is dreading seeing him again when they return to their Parisian boarding school.

When Isla returns to school, she’s delighted to find that she’s actually in the dorm room that Josh had the year before. This is great for her for a number of reasons. First, it’s easily accessible, which means that her best friend, Kurt, who has a very high functioning form of autism can easily get to her room, and even more importantly in Isla’s mind, she’s sleeping in the same bed that Josh slept in. Josh routinely disappears from school, and is somewhat at loose ends. He is almost exclusively focused on his art, and doesn’t really want anything to do with being a student, which lands him in detention and on the radar of the faculty on a regular basis. This doesn’t stop Isla from loving him from afar. And when she finally has the opportunity, she apologizes for her behavior that night at Kismet. She and Josh strike up a friendship, occasionally going places together or sharing a meal. And still Isla pines from afar. When they finally admit their attraction and begin to fall in love, Isla finds herself doing things that are out of character. She is studying less, spending less time with Kurt, and making choices that she’s not sure her parents would approve of. When she opts to sneak away from Paris with Josh for the weekend, she’s scandalized by doing something illicit, yet so delighted to have Josh all to herself. Of course, they get caught, and the consequences are dire. Josh is expelled and sent back to America, while Isla pines for him from school. Will their relationship be able to handle long distance and the vigor of Josh’s father’s campaign and Isla’s determination to finish school?

This book is ridiculously sweet. It captures all of the things about teen love that I remember fondly: loving from afar, the intensity of teenage love affairs, the passion of the anger, the drama. Isla is a wonderfully complex character, with smarts and insecurities and charm. Josh is a dreamboat of a boy, full of rebellion and art and moods. They have a wonderful chemistry and their relationship doesn’t shoot off like a gun, it’s a charming slow build that captures all of the things I remember with affection about being a teenager (and living with one now). On top of that, beloved past characters return, and the secondary characters, like Isla’s sisters and Kurt are vividly drawn. Plus, Paris is lovingly described, evoking the mystery and amour in every word. I’m as besotted by this book as I was with Anna and the French Kiss, the first in the series. I can’t possibly recommend it enough. Final grade: A.

Kind regards,

Kati

 

 

 

 

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