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REVIEW:  Snow Falling on Bluegrass by Molly Harper

REVIEW: Snow Falling on Bluegrass by Molly Harper

Snow-Falling-on+Bluegrass

NOTE – this series is in e or audio only.

A love triangle of colleagues heats up the winter lodge where they get snowed in for a week.

Kentucky Tourism Commission employee and executive assistant extraordinaire Kelsey is known around the office for having everything under control. So it’s not surprising that she and her boss, Sadie, have everything planned to the second for the office winter retreat. But there are things even Kelsey can’t micromanage.

An unprecedented snowstorm smothers half of Kentucky and knocks out the power, closes the roads, and generally shuts down the state. Luckily, the lodge has working fireplaces and enough food to keep the staff from turning on each other like something out of The Shining. Kelsey wouldn’t mind being stuck inside if it wasn’t for the tension with her not-so-secret crush, Charlie, the office’s statistician. But handsome Ranger Luke, the lodge’s only employee on hand, is there to take Kelsey’s mind off her discomfort.

Even though this weekend is supposed to be a planning session for KTC, Kelsey can’t help her mind from wandering and finds herself conflicted over Luke and Charlie. Someone’s love will keep her warm, but whose will it be?

Dear Ms. Harper,

Somehow this one escaped my notice when it was released but as soon as I knew it was out, I was all over it. This is the third book in this series but the previous two are only briefly and succinctly recapped. Both h/h’s appear here but are included to show how their relationships are progressing rather than merely to hawk their book. I’ve been waiting for Kelsey’s book and you answered my need to know if she was finally going to get shot of her deadbeat, loser boyfriend and hook up with the hot, geeky guy at work.

Only technically things don’t happen “at work.” Asshole Boyfriend Darrell has already exited the scene leaving Kelsey with a fistful of unpaid bills he’s run up in her name even before the entire staff of Kelsey’s workplace leaves for their annual retreat – thank God my work place doesn’t have these Kumbaya/survival meetings from hell – just as Snowpocalypse hits the state. It seems that the characters of this series often need to be in enforced proximity with potential loved ones in order to work out their issues but this isolation is taking it to extremes.

As the story kicks off, I am loving Kels’ snark and humor. She makes me laugh with her worries that if zombies ever happened, she’d be attacked while in the shower thus becoming the only naked zombie with a loofah. When the lights go out and her coworkers begin to panic like barnyard fowl, she lightens the mood with conjectures on which of them would get eaten first if they run out of food.

But she has her focused moments of defending her boss Sadie against attacks from outside staffers sent to “monitor” them, getting the staff organized for Life without Electricity, and vowing to get to know her coworkers better. Kelsey’s genius is organization and we see her hard at work throughout the two week snowbound retreat.

As with the first two books, this is a paean to the great state of Kentucky – which I happen to love anyway so I don’t mind reading more about it – but haters or those uninterested in learning more about the Bluegrass Commonwealth beware.

What is the deal with Charlie? Since story is from Kelsey’s POV, his thoughts and motivations and intentions are hidden. When he finally tells Kelsey how he feels, it’s nice, it’s great, it’s wonderful for her but I did shake my head a little and wonder how two people could so totally miss their signals. For years.

Kelsey is definitely not an isolated heroine in that she has strong relationships with two of her female co-workers and 4 tech/nerd male neighbors. Even though she mentions some ditsy past moments, she’s also good and effective at her job thus avoiding one of my pet peeves – The Pratfall Heroine for Comic Effect.

The story is racing along and going well once Kelsey and Charlie get their signals clear only to suddenly bog down with a Big Mis. Then this gets cleared up and I’m left shaking off Plot Whiplash and wondering why those short few pages of misunderstanding were needed. Once the staffers are back in civilization, the other lingering issue on Kelsey’s life gets taken care of – thankfully in more or less legal fashion – and the HEA shines brightly as I power down my ereader. Without the Big Mis this one would have been a higher grade for me but with it, I’m afraid it dips to a B-

~Jayne

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REVIEW:  Variables of Love by M.K. Schiller

REVIEW: Variables of Love by M.K. Schiller

Variables of Love by M.K. Schiller (Goodreads Author)

Dear Ms. Schiller:

I’ve enjoyed every book that you’ve written to varying degrees. When this was submitted for review, I started it right away.

The first half of the book was a bit of a struggling as we are told repeatedly that Ethan Callahan, hot math major, has fallen in heavy lust for Meena Kapoor, a senior economics student. But the second half saves the story and becomes a unique, sometimes painful, but enduring romance.

Ethan and Meena attend Stanford and each are in their last year share an Advanced Statistics. What I found a bit strange was how forced Ethan’s internal narrative was as to how beautiful he thought Meena was, how he had to meet her, and was desperate to have any kind of interaction with her at all.

Her name was still a mystery, so I just called her Sunshine. I’d never called a girl that before, but it fit because she made me feel warm, calm, and happy. I’d never seen her smile, but I knew it would be a beautiful sight….

I wasn’t capable of more than a few words in the presence of that sexy mouth of hers. It was ironic how something that created speech made me speechless.

For Meena’s part, she thinks he’s beautiful, charming, and engaging but he’s not for her. Meena will enter into an arranged marriage, as per her family and cultural tradition, following her graduation from Stanford. Meena’s staunch belief in the importance of the arranged marriage and Ethan’s more romantic, Western notions of couplehood form the unique conflict for this book. And importantly, Meena is not merely reciting childhood dictum. She believes in the arranged marriage. (And really it is important for her to have conviction or the conflict is a false construct).

“Yes, I can deny anyone I don’t like. It’s kind of cool in a way. I can ask any question, no matter how private. I can ask them how much they make, what their deepest fears are, who they idolize. Things that might take you twenty dates to figure out, I’ll know in one meeting.”

Ethan shook his head, keeping his eyes fixed on the lake. “You’re missing the best part, Sunshine.”

“What’s that?”

He ran his fingers through his hair, and it miraculously managed to fall right back in place. I had to look away from him. Ethan’s voice was quiet, but his words coursed through me like a physical presence, gravelly and deep. “It’s not the knowing. It’s the finding out.”

Ethan is undeterred. He describes himself as having success because he knows how to break big goals down into little steps. Step 1. Get Meena to smile. Step 2. Get Meena to laugh. etc.

And ultimately, no matter how hard she tries to resist, Meena falls for Ethan but she tells him that their love and their relationship, whatever it may be, has a time limit. When they graduate it will be over. Ethan accepts this, not because he believes in that, but because he is convinced he can change her mind.

But we, the reader, know Meena’s mind whereas Ethan does not so he doesn’t see (or is unwilling to see) her very real belief that Ethan is a wonderful diversion, that she’ll have significant heartbreak but that her family cultural values have meaning beyond a one year romance in college. The time limit lends a bittersweetness to each romantic encounter.

Meena and Ethan become well articulated characters. Ethan’s very logical. He writes pros and cons lists, for instance, but underneath he is quite romantic. The New Year’s Eve gift was the perfect blend of his thinking. Meena is bound up by guilt over a teenage mistake and her need to make up for it. Much of her actions are driven by the loss of her brother and the resulting pain it inflicted on her family.

There are several secondary characters who affect Meena and Ethan. They aren’t sequel bait or orbiting satellites having only tangential importance. One of Meena’s friends is Indian and is struggling with his sexual identity. On the opposite spectrum is a girl who readily has sex. I felt she was castigated overly much for her sexual freedom, although I understood it to be set in contrast with Meena’s more rigid upbringing. I just wish that Meena’s female friend wasn’t the only one villainized for her sex driven behavior.

I was a little surprised at how readily Meena disposed of her virginity with Ethan. She admitted virginity wasn’t a requirement of an arranged marriage but because she’d refrained from sex for so long, the easy capitulation to Ethan confused me.

The talk about arranged marriages was well done because it wasn’t villified. Instead it showed Meena experiencing both range of choices–from the bad to the very good. In the end, this was a battle between heart and head. Meena has to decide whether Ethan is more important to her or whether her family, her cultural values, and everything she’s ever held dear is worth tossing aside for one single individual.

The second half made this book a worthwhile read. The deep dive into cultural beliefs and the examination of the emotion of love was unique and refreshing. B-

Best regards,

Jane

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