Tuesday, November 29, 2011

This Is Teen Giveaway!

Thanks to Big Honcho Media, I have a trio of boy-friendly books from Scholastic to give away to one lucky person! Just in time for the holidays, eh? Here is some info on the books:

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

In the aftermath of a war, America’s landscape has been ravaged and two thirds of the population left dead from a vicious strain of influenza. Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn and his family were among the few that survived and became salvagers, roaming the country in search of material to trade for food and other items essential for survival. But when Stephen’s grandfather dies and his father falls into a coma after an accident, Stephen finds his way to Settler’s Landing, a community that seems too good to be true, where there are real houses, barbecues, a school, and even baseball games. Then Stephen meets strong, defiant, mischievous Jenny, who refuses to accept things as they are. And when they play a prank on the town bully’s family that goes horribly wrong, chaos erupts, and they find themselves in the midst of a battle that will change Settler’s Landing forever.

Underdogs by Markus Zusak

Before The Book Thief, Markus Zusak wrote a trilogy of novels about the Wolfe brothers: The Underdogs, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, and Getting the Girl. Cameron and Ruben Wolfe are champions at getting into fights, coming up with half-baked schemes, and generally disappointing girls, their parents, and their much more motivated older siblings. They’re intensely loyal to each other, brothers at their best and at their very worst. But when Cameron falls head over heels for Ruben’s girlfriend, the strength of their bond is tested to its breaking point.

iBoy by Kevin Brooks

Before the attack, Tom Harvey was just an average teen. But a head-on collision with high technology has turned him into an actualized App. Fragments of a shattered iPhone are embedded in his brain. And they’re having an extraordinary effect on his every thought. Because now Tom knows, sees, and can do more than any normal boy ever could. But with his new powers comes a choice: Seek revenge on the vicious gangs who rule the South London housing project where he lives, and who violated his friend Lucy? Or keep quiet and move on? Not even the search engine in his head can predict the shocking outcome of iBoy’s actions. A wifi, thriller by YA master Kevin Brooks.


Visit This Is Teen on their Facebook page.

One winner will receive all three books. This giveaway is open to US mailing addresses only, and ends Tuesday, December 13. To enter, fill out the form below. Good luck!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Author Interview with Julie Kagawa!

Happy Thanksgiving to my American-ish friends, wherever in the world you are! I'm a little late in putting up this interview with Julie Kagawa, which is part of a blog tour to promote her newest book, The Iron Knight. Welcome, Julie, to Steph Su Reads!

1. Out of all four books which has been your favorite to write?

I think my favorite to write was The Iron Queen, because that's when everything came together; the last battle, Meghan's destiny, her and Ash's fate, all the loose threads that wove together as this was the final fight. And it was satisfying seeing Meghan's story finally come to a close. Everything worked out, with the exception of her and Ash, of course, but that's where The Iron Knight comes in. ;-)

2. What are some of your favorite martial arts movies? Classics, animated, or modernized.

Too many to list, lol! But here are a few: Yojimbo, The Seven Samurai (anything by Kurosawa, actually), Ip Man, The Forbidden Kingdom, Zatto Ichi, Lone Wolf and Cub, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (hush), Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Hero, and the list goes on. (Don't even get me started with anime, we'd be here all night.)

3. Had you already started Blood of Eden series before the Iron Fey series, or did the idea come from nowhere and wouldn't disappear?

I'd been toying with a post-apocalyptic world as I was finishing up The Iron Knight, but the idea to add vampires didn't come until my agent and I were discussing ideas for my next series. She mentioned that HarlequinTEEN was on the lookout for vampire books, and the idea to mesh the two together just sort of clicked.

4. Is Puck going to get his own book? Are you going to do any spin offs of other characters now that Ash and Meghan are together? Any chance for a novella of Ash and Meghan's new life together in the Iron Kingdom?

There is a spin off series in the works. This time it's Ethan Chase, Meghan's younger brother, as the protagonist, and I'm sure there will be many a cameo, including the original four. But that's all I can reveal at this time.


Thanks, Julie! If you've been following the Iron Fey series, be sure to check out its fourth and latest installment, The Iron Knight, now available in bookstores!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Review: Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

Tags: YA, magical realism, theatre, incest


Madeleine and Rogan are first cousins from a large family whose lives intertwine beyond just the usual ways: they are each other’s first loves, and they both have a passion for the theatre. As they participate together in their school’s production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, changes force them to evaluate their relationship, as well as what the future holds for them, both together and apart.


ILLYRIA was far from what I expected. I wanted something slim yet fulfilling, with a magic that is solidly grounded in reality. Instead, I felt no connection to the characters, and felt like the author was trying to go for mood instead of engagement, with the end result that neither was accomplished.

Content aside (because there have been other YA books written about incest), how is ILLYRIA a YA book? It reads like the work of an adult author who chose to write about teenaged characters without any real consideration for the emotions that teenagers may feel. Madeleine and Rogan’s togetherness lacked actual affection, both in the way Rogan treated Madeleine and the way Madeleine narrated their relationship with an old-woman-at-her-confessional manner. Characters spoke to one another with no real purpose behind their conversations except—well, in my opinion, except to fill up the pages, to give off a “mysterious” vibe at their ambiguous feelings and statements. And I hate hate hate when things in stories only appear for the purpose of accomplishing something—in this case, the author’s unrealized intention of creating an eerie yet compelling atmosphere throughout the novella.

ILLYRIA could have been an interesting, subtly magical, and deeply unsettling story. I think, however, that it was definitely marketed to the wrong audience, and thus I can’t commend it as a work of YA literature.

Similar Authors
Jeffrey Eugenides
Clare Dunkle
Alyssa Sheinmel

Cover discussion: Oh, but the cover I do like. It captures the "magical realism" intention perfectly--like intruding on this couple's lives by scrutinizing them through a dusty snowglobe.

Viking Juvenile / May 13, 2010 / Hardcover / 144pp. / $15.99

Personal copy.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Review: Saving June by Hannah Harrington

Tags: YA, contemporary, grief, road trip, romance, music


Struggling to deal with her perfect older sister June’s suicide, Harper sets off on a road trip to California, accompanied by her best friend, Laney, and Jake Tolan, a boy who was somehow connected to June. Harper is not sure what their road trip will accomplish, except that it was always June’s dream to go to California. However, their journey takes unexpected twists and turns as Harper learns about Laney, Jake, June, and herself in a trip that none of them will forget.


SAVING JUNE is a debut YA contemporary novel that lives up to its hype: it is a wonderfully told story that weaves standout characters and a genuine passion for music into a journey that is moving for Harper as well as for us readers.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d like SAVING JUNE at first. The beginning one-fifth of the book had more than its fair share of features that are all too common to YA books dealing with grief—or, for that matter, any YA contemporary story: the main character with suppressed anger towards her dead sibling, the dead sibling, the more outgoing best friend, the good-looking mysterious boy with secrets, the over-the-top ridiculous mean relative. I mean, there is a “life-changing road trip,” for goodness’ sake.

Once Harper, Laney, and Jake finally, finally hit the road, however, it was like someone had flipped the switch and turned on the life to this story. Spending weeks together in a car is really a great way to get to know characters: personalities clash, secrets are revealed, and unshakeable bonds develop. The three main characters completely grew on me. Harper’s grief became less plot-driven (i.e. there for the sake of the story) and more character-driven (genuine poignant grief over June’s death). Laney started out as simply the outgoing best friend, but grew to have more depth than I initially thought.

As for Jake, well, his character development definitely impressed me the most. You’d have to be slightly naïve not to guess what role he plays in the story, but what impressed me was that his “ideal love interest” character developed not from a set of parameters thrown at us at the beginning, but, rather, gradually through the course of the story, each new chapter revealing another lovable aspect of him. Authors, take note of how to write a truly swoon-worthy love interest, please.

All in all, SAVING JUNE pleased me to no end. It broke the constraints it imposed on itself by having a rather tired premise and, through genuine and memorable characters, makes itself stand out in the crowd. If you love YA contemporary, please, do yourself a favor and give this a try. Odds are you won’t regret it.

Similar Authors
Courtney Summers
Lili Wilkinson (Pink)

Cover discussion: Well, this is a, um, quite morose cover for this book. I definitely didn't pay attention to this book on account of its cover, until people started raving about it.

Harlequin Teen / Nov. 22, 2011 / Paperback / 336pp. / $9.99

Requested for review from NetGalley.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (118)

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Generations ago, a genetic experiment gone wrong—the Reduction—decimated humanity, giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Eighteen-year-old Luddite Elliot North has always known her place in this caste system. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. But now the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress and threatening Luddite control; Elliot’s estate is floundering; and she’s forced to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth—an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliott wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she abandoned him.

But Elliot soon discovers her childhood friend carries a secret—-one that could change the society in which they live…or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she has lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s PERSUASION, FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.
I have been intrigued by this book ever since Diana announced its deal a while ago. A dystopian/steampunk-ish retelling of a Jane Austen novel? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! (The Pride and Prejudice movie quote was totally unintentional, by the way.) Diana is remarkably good at writing realistic and relatable characters, and I can't wait to see how she does this. CANNOT. WAIT.

For Darkness Shows the Stars will be published in hardcover by Balzer + Bray on June 12, 2012.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Author Interview with Jaclyn Dolamore!

Yesterday I posted my review of Jaclyn Dolamore's lovely book Between the Sea and Sky (Bloomsbury / Oct. 25, 2011). Today I have for you an interview with the authoress herself! Welcome, Jackie, to Steph Su Reads!

1. The characters in BETWEEN THE SEA AND SKY have such beautiful names: Esmerine, Dosinia, Alander. How did you come up with them?

They just come to me. Which makes it sound easy! But sometimes the right name can take MONTHS to come to me. When I first started writing I was calling the mermaid "Millea" but it never sounded right... The story didn't actually get going until I found Esmerine's name.

2. Alander is an interesting and complicated character: a bit of a literary snob, but also deeply loyal. Who were your inspirations for Alander?

I saw him as kind of a Mr. Darcy figure but with an intellectual bent. I've periodically known guys like him, too, where you'll be talking about something and they'll, like, reference Dostoevsky or something, and you'll think, "Ooh, he's smart, I like smart" and "God, but Dostoevsky? How pretentious" at the same time.

3. What was the most interesting job you had?

The first job-let I ever had was working a booth at an anime convention. My sister and I were at a convention and this guy is like, "Hey, you want to work for me?" Like, he would just show up to a convention and hire reasonably attractive girls (the better to get anime nerd boys to part with their dollars) on the spot as they browsed his booth. We didn't have anything else to do at the convention so we spent the rest of the day working the booth and at the end he paid us in merchandise. We then used this to convince our parents to take us to Anime Weekend Atlanta, because he got us in for free. It was a lot of fun, but grueling. We had to work the entirety of the dealer room hours, which was like 10 hours, without any break or barely any food (and the whole time I was wearing a Fushigi Yuugi costume complete with those little cheap Chinese shoes with NO support) and in the end I was paid in anime soundtracks. I had an awesome collection of anime soundtracks after that, though. I always worked the CD section because I could read some Japanese and so I could find CDs for people much easier than everyone else.

4. What are some of your favorite mermaid stories, both classic and new?

I love Splash, in all its 80s movie glory. And The Little Mermaid in various incarnations--the heart-wrenching original, the Disney version. As a kid I was obsessed with Saban's Adventures of the Little Mermaid.

5. What is your favorite thing about autumn?

Cooler, drier weather, in theory, although living in Florida we're lucky to see much of my true favorite weather, with a high of about 60, until December. (With any luck next year I'll be living in Maryland.) Ditto for changing leaves...I love them, but they don't really change here! Autumn is my favorite season, actually, but in Florida it's kind of a big tease, where you only get hints of the best parts.

6. What is your favorite Miyazaki film? (This can be expanded to include all Studio Ghibli films.)

My two favorites actually are not Miyazaki films: Whisper of the Heart and Only Yesterday. They are both slice of life stories, that capture certain aspects of what it's like to grow up and find your place in the world, as well as to fall in love, although in Whisper of the Heart, the growing up and falling in love happen together, in the moment, and in Only Yesterday we see flashbacks of the protagonist's childhood, and then her current life going to rural Japan, a sort of "back to the land" thing. Both have beautifully rendered backgrounds of Japan, but they aren't fantastical like so many Ghibli films. To my chagrin, Only Yesterday still has not been released in the US. But I am also a big fan of Miyazaki himself. Howl's Moving Castle is my favorite of his, but I love so many of them!


Thanks for answering my questions, Jackie! Whisper of the Heart is also, in my opinion, one of the best Studio Ghibli films ever (remember my old blog banner?). I hope you consider checking out Between the Sea and Sky when you have the chance!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Blog Tour Review: Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore

Tags: YA, fantasy, mermaids


Now that Esmerine has finally become a siren, she can’t wait to guard the underwater mermaid world from overly curious humans alongside her older sister Dosia. But when Dosia seems to have been kidnapped by humans, it is up to Esmerine to enter the human world and find news about Dosia. Esmerine is forced to accept the reluctant help of Alander, the winged young man who used to be her friend and taught her how to read. But it’s been years since they’ve talked, and they are now, more than ever, aware of the great differences that separate them. What happy ending can occur for these former friends who have come from such different worlds?


BETWEEN THE SEA AND SKY is a mermaid book for those who are wary of books categorized by the particular creatures that inhabit the stories. Told in Jaclyn Dolamore’s trademark writing style—straightforward narration that nevertheless paints a lush magical world—BETWEEN THE SEA AND SKY is a charming story that, while not perfect, is still a quick and enjoyable read.

Much like in her debut novel Magic Under Glass, Jaclyn Dolamore has the quiet but valuable ability of deftly portraying elaborate new worlds with no over-fanfare. The first few chapters pulled me completely into the unfamiliar mermaid world of Dolamore’s creation, where magic lanterns are borrowed as a sign of status and being chosen as a siren is one of the highest honors a mermaid can receive. Mermaids, humans, winged people, and who knows what else exist in an unusual society that nevertheless seems to operate in a completely natural and self-contained manner—the mark, in my opinion, of a skilled world-building writer.

Where this book falters a bit is in plot and pacing. BETWEEN THE SEA AND SKY starts out so engagingly, with the introduction of this new mermaid world, and the somewhat uneasy dynamics between the different creatures. Unfortunately, I felt that the plot was rather uneven: for a great amount of time, Esmerine is simply waiting to hear of news about her sister, and then the next thing we know she and Alander are off on a confoundingly simple adventure to seek Dosia. I say “confounding” because, with such a wonderful beginning to a novel, I really wanted more from the plot.

That being said, BETWEEN THE SEA AND SKY is a humbly sparkling story that will make for a sweet read one quiet afternoon. If you are a fan of mermaids or Magic Under Glass, Jaclyn Dolamore’s sophomore novel is not to be missed!

Cover discussion: A gorgeous work of art, befitting the world of this book.

Bloomsbury / Oct. 25, 2011 / Hardcover / 240pp. / $16.99

eGalley courtesy of publisher and NetGalley.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


So today, I'm part of a very special blog tour. Upcoming debut author Sara Wilson Etienne has put together a cool blog tour that reveals pieces of original artwork inspired by her debut novel, HARBINGER (Putnam Juvenile / February 2, 2012). Here is the Goodreads synopsis:
Girl, Interrupted meets Beautiful Creatures in this fast-paced thriller.

When sixteen-year-old Faye arrives at Holbrook Academy, she doesn’t expect to find herself exactly where she needs to be. After years of strange waking visions and nightmares, her only comfort the bones of dead animals, Faye is afraid she’s going crazy. Fast.

But her first night at Holbrook, she feels strangely connected to the school and the island it sits on, like she’s come home. She’s even made her first real friends, but odd things keep happening to them. Every morning they wake on the floors of their dorm rooms with their hands stained red.

Faye knows she’s the reason, but what does it all mean? The handsome Kel tries to help her unravel the mystery, but Faye is certain she can’t trust him; in fact, he may be trying to kill her—and the rest of the world too.

Rich, compelling writing will keep the pages turning in this riveting and tautly told psychological thriller.
Click on the image below to go to the full-resolution image!

Walk the Path! Explore the whole gallery of HARBINGER-inspired artwork at www.holbrookacademy.com/sketchbook.php.
HARBINGER by Sara Wilson Etienne debuts February 2nd, 2012.
Follow Sara: @wilsonetienne

Monday, November 7, 2011

Review: Legend by Marie Lu

Legend, Book 1

Tags: YA, dystopian, he-said/she-said


In the war-happy Republic, located in the former western United States, 15-year-old Day is the most wanted criminal. Not because he’s the most dangerous, but because his elusiveness—he was supposed to have died five years ago, after all—discredits the Republic’s control. When Day’s latest break-in leads to the death of Captain Metias Iparis, Metias’ little sister, the child prodigy June Iparis, vows to be the one to hunt Day down.

But as their lives cross paths and they get to know one another, the truth they learn about the Republic will change them forever…


A premise that sounds like a dystopian Robin Hood? You didn’t have to ask me twice if I wanted to read this. Marie Lu provides us with a solid dystopian read in her debut novel that, while not incredible, still proves to be very enjoyable.

LEGEND’s strength lies in Lu’s writing. Written in alternating POVs, Day’s and June’s voices feel completely natural: both of them have genius-level intelligences, which shows in the way they approach and analyze situations (a great relief from those YA novels whose main characters claim to be smart but then they do or think the most idiotic things). LEGEND will appeal to readers who like their dystopian books endearingly unsentimental, in the way Katniss is a reluctant but still beloved hero. Both June and Day are like that: they are very focused on what needs to be done, and do not exhibit the types of thoughts or behavior that normal teenagers do.

This makes it believable that they live in a world where violence is part of the job description. This is no half-hearted dystopian world: the government does things that leave even me shocked and uncomfortable. LEGEND will surely become one of those books that censorship-happy critics target due to its darkness.

The trouble is, LEGEND’s violence does feel a bit gratuitous. It’s not that I have qualms about violence in YA fiction; I love The Hunger Games, after all. It’s more that I still struggle to understand what purpose the violence in LEGEND serves, except to make the government as scary as possible. But the revelation that June and Day uncover about the government is rather anticlimactic, considering all the setup. I feel more scared by less violence-proven fictional dystopian governments, such as The Giver’s, than I did by LEGEND’s over-the-top controlling government.

While I adored June and Day individually, I felt like their romance left something to be desired. Here, I suppose, is where their age shows, for their mutual attraction seemed to arise more out of the fact that they each find the other to be different than anyone they’ve ever met and less due to an actual liking of one another. Still, I did like them individually, and thought they were pretty well developed in that regard. I had no problem with those two as the main characters, but perhaps if the book hadn’t been sold to me with such a heavy emphasis on an epic romance I would’ve been more impressed.

So LEGEND is not perfect, but solid writing and two sympathetic main characters make it a cut above most other dystopian YA out there. Dystopian fans will surely want to keep this on their radar, though perhaps toning down your expectations a notch will make it a better read for you.

Similar Authors
Veronica Roth (Divergent)
Suzanne Collins

Cover discussion: Um, this cover is FANTASTIC. I love how it goes in the vein of The Hunger Games and is a simple design, yet devastatingly effective at drawing your attention. What's even cooler is that inside (the ARC, at least), Day's sections are printed in gold. Wonder if they'll keep that in the finished copy. I don't see why they wouldn't!

Putnam Juvenile / Nov. 29, 2011 / Hardcover / 336pp. / $17.99

Sent by publisher for review.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review: Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

Dearly, Book 1

Tags: YA, paranormal, steampunk, zombies


Several centuries into the future, Nora Dearly, daughter of a renowned and recently deceased doctor, lives in New Victoria. Her physically comfortable but emotionally stifling life is shattered when she is kidnapped by what appears to be an army of good zombies…and finds out about a virus that infects humans and turns them into either good or bad zombies.

As Nora learns more about “the Laz,” the government’s cover-up, and the truth behind her father’s death, she spends time with Bram, an intelligent and kind-hearted zombie. Bram may technically be dead, but he still cares about others—especially, as they get to know one another better, Nora.

Can Nora and Bram’s feelings for one another find a place in the midst of the looming catastrophe?


Oooh. DEARLY, DEPARTED was fun, fun, fun. If one overlooks some inconsistencies in worldbuilding, supporting character development, and plot, then Lia Habel’s paranormal/steampunk debut is a charming read that’s sweet and funny.

I’m at the point now with my YA reading where any mention of a romance in the synopsis puts me on guard. Because, come on now, how many more insta-romances, too-good-to-be-true boys, or dickwad love interests do we really need? This, however, is why Nora and Bram stood out to me so much. The multi-POV narration (admittedly unnecessary at times) really added to this couple’s attractiveness, both to one another and to us readers. Bram is a total sweetheart who is nevertheless also a guy, not some ideal creation of a love interest.

The premise is moderately well-developed and the pacing uneven at points—quite action-packed in the beginning, followed by uneven spurts of information and a climax that felt the tiniest bit rushed. But it’s the characters that make DEARLY, DEPARTED stand out from the pack of paranormals or steampunks being released. These characters are a RIOT! They deliver the most wonderful zingers in their dialogue that made me literally guffaw. DEARLY, DEPARTED may be set in a futuristic/anachronistic world that may require a bit of suspension of disbelief, but these characters could be kids in any high school today. Lia Habel fills her characters with heart instead of ideals, with the result that readers will have a good time hanging out with Nora, Bram, & Co.

If you’re looking for a funny and romantic speculative fiction read this fall, consider checking out Lia Habel’s debut novel, DEARLY, DEPARTED and be prepared to be thoroughly entertained!

Similar Authors
Cynthia Hand
Scott Westerfeld

Cover discussion: It's a lovely image, one that I would love to have as a print. However, after reading the book, I'm not sure if I think this picture does the story justice. That girl just doesn't strike me as having Nora's feistiness. But hopefully this will encourage paranormal romance lovers to pick it up...?

Del Rey / Oct. 18, 2011 / Hardcover / 480pp. / $16.99

Sent by publisher/author for review. Thank you!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Review: All I Ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins

Tags: contemporary romance, humor, veterinarians, Vermont


Callie Gray knows that she should’ve gotten over first kiss, boss one-time fling, and love of her life Mark years ago. Yet when Mark gets engaged to a woman who is everything she’s not, Callie finally decides to attempt to move on. Unfortunately, in their sleepy Vermont town, there aren’t that many candidates. The most eligible bachelor, the new vet, Dr. Ian McFarland, is antisocial and seems to have a stick up his bum. And yet Ian is precisely who Callie keeps on running into. As their paths continue to cross, Callie begins to wonder if she may actually be able to love Ian after all…


The problem with reading my first two Kristan Higgins novels back to back is that, the second time around, the formula becomes glaringly, embarrassingly obvious. In one breath, here are the characteristics that, after reading just two of her books, I suspect hold throughout all her novels: a theoretically smart female MC (often a middle child with an unusual interest or hobby) with a bad history in men and who turns into idiots around men, a quirky family, a cantankerous grandparent, an over-hyper and disobedient canine pet who gets talked to in frighteningly embarrassing babytalk, eCommitment and horrible blind online dates, a gay best friend… I guess I’ll stop here for now (although I’ll just say: seriously, a requisite gay best friend? Isn’t that so 1990s?).

Furthermore, the plot progresses at pretty much the same “ratio”: for example, the requisite lovers’ misunderstanding occurs at around 85% of the way through the novel. GAH. I don’t know whether I should laugh at the unapologetic adherence to a formula, or cry a little.

Now, I understand that this is romance and that bestselling romance often follows a formula that everyone knows yet still loves. And yep, that’s pretty much the case here. This is classic Higgins (if one who has only read two of her books is allowed to reach such a conclusion after having just dissected her formula in a disconcertingly easy way). Callie is likable (and has the requisite quirky hobby!), and her awkwardness/stupidity around men is still infuriating yet relatable. Zany humor abounds in conversations. The dog is still annoying.

But Ian. Oh, Ian. He totally makes this book. Think a blond, Slavic version of Mr. Darcy, with a reticence slightly reminiscent of Asperger’s but with puppy-like loyalty that is hard to earn but oh so worth it. Shy guys! Stories these days are overflowing with guys who know they’re good-looking and know how to say just the right thing to get what they want. Ian, however, has NO CLUE what he’s doing most of the time, as far as relationships go, which makes his rare right actions all the more genuine and truly endearing. We need more Ians in stories, that’s for sure.

It’s probably going to be hard for me to pick a favorite Higgins romance, because they all follow pretty much the same formula, and yet are all so much fun to read. Hopefully this review will push you in the right direction and encourage you to pick up a book by Kristin Higgins! And if you already have, well, let’s just giggle and gaggle and gossip together over which Higgins man we’d like to have for ourselves…

HQN Books / July 27, 2010 / Mass Market Paperback / 384pp. / $7.99

Personal copy.


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