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Monday, November 28, 2011

♥♥♥♥♥♥: Alison Wonderland by Helen Smith

Release Date: August 16th, 2011
Publisher: AmazonEncore
Page Count: 189
Source: Complimentary ARC provided by Little Bird Publicity in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)

"I need some information. Can you help me get it?"

"OK." I'm opening my post but I have a pen and pad ready.

"I need some statistics about which part of the country babies are abandoned most often, what time of year, and where to find them—outside hospitals or police stations or under hedges or in phone boxes."

"Oh, OK. Yes, of course." I move the phone receiver into my left hand and hold it against my left ear so that I can make some notes. Mad cow, I write.

After Alison Temple discovers that her husband is cheating on her, she does what any jilted woman would do: She spray-paints a nasty message for him on her wedding dress and takes a job with the detective firm that found him out. Being a researcher at the all-female Fitzgerald's Bureau of Investigation in London is certainly a change of pace from her previous life, especially considering the characters Alison meets in the line of duty. There's her boss, the estimable Mrs. Fitzgerald; Taron, Alison's eccentric best friend, who claims her mother is a witch; Jeff, her love-struck, poetry-writing neighbor; and—last but not least!—her psychic postman. Together, their idiosyncrasies and their demands on Alison threaten to drive her mad... if she didn't need and love them all so much. Clever, quirky, and infused with just a hint of magic, Alison Wonderland is a literary novel about a memorable heroine coping with the everyday complexities of modern life.
What Stephanie Thinks: I will say that Helen Smith, like all British literary novelists do, has a certain restless charm in her writing. For once though, I didn't totally fall in love with the story behind it.

Alison Wonderland's premise doesn't even sound terribly exciting; from the blurb, I hardly gain an understanding of what exactly, the plot and main point of the book are. After reading it, I still haven't gained a sense of them. Such a shame, because it's a completely readable novel. The prose is paradoxically both smooth in tone and choppy in structure. It sounds weird, but it fits well. Alison's insights are attentive, and her friends lively and distinguished. But the storyline is so erratic: random crimes occur and fantastical creatures appear, which I cannot relate to the book at all—and it overall makes for a confusing and tiresome read.

To sum this book up, I would say it's a bit of Sherlock Holmes meets Bridget Jones (obviously with a dash of Lewis Carroll as well!)... except a little less hilarious and a lot less sexy. However, in my opinion, the cleverness and conscience Smith discloses through her writing parallel with those of Doyle and Fielding, so it isn't all that bad of a read.

Stephanie Loves: "I stare out at the sea, trying to make out the horizon. I cannot see where the sea ends and the sky begins. The stars are very bright, a shower of electric lights. When I look back at the sea I can see the stars reflected in the water. I didn't notice them before; I only saw the blackness. I can't see where the sky ends and the sea begins."

Radical Rating: 6 hearts: Satisfying for a first read, but I'm not going back. ♥♥♥♥♥♥

Saturday, November 26, 2011

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins

Release Date: November 1st, 2011
Publisher: HQN (Harlequin)
Page Count: 378
Source: Complimentary copy provided by Little Bird Publicity in exchange for an honest an unbiased review (thank you!!!)

She's having serious prom-night déjà vu...

Posey Osterhagen can't complain. She owns a successful architectural salvaging company, she's surrounded by her lovable, if off-center, family and she has a boyfriend—sort of. Still, something's missing. Something tall, brooding and criminally good-looking... something like Liam Murphy.

When Posey was sixteen, the bad boy of Bellsford, New Hampshire, broke her heart. But now he's back, sending Posey's traitorous schoolgirl heart into overdrive once again. She should be giving him a wide berth, but it seems fate has other ideas...
What Stephanie Thinks: The heartbreak of high school romances—the imes in our lives we all consider HUGE deals when we're actually involved in them, but actually look back upon ten years later and laugh at—is wistfully and emotionally conveyed through Higgins's latest. She's back with everything we love about her: the nostalgia, the sentiment, the kickass heroines, and sexyass heros of her usual novels, but this time around, she incorporates the importance of parents—whether birth parents or not—and the timelessness of childhood in Until There Was You.

Posey is a well-developed, likable character; her clumsiness and quick wit are sure to grow on readers because even as a prime dork, she is so relatable. Even though I hated her at times . . . . . . (I mean, the girl can EAT but doesn't ever gain weight!), she is probably my favorite character in the whole book. Actually, scratch that. If possible, I like Liam even better. He's one of those male protagonists (that, I am getting used to in Higgins's books) I can't help but fall in love with. He's a bad-boy gone sexy single dad. Le swoon.

Higgins blends together a perfect concoction of romance, humor, and childhood longing in Until There Was You. From the glory days of childhood sweethearts to the "high school was probably the worst era of my life" reminder, this contemporary romance that flits upon Posey's socially traumatic high school experiences, connecting them to her present dilemma, will charm and engage you. While it isn't one of those lingering, addicting reads, it's definitely a fun contemporary with a heartfelt twist, and is one you enjoy through every page.

Stephanie Loves: "He glanced in her basket. Tapioca pudding, at least four pints of Ben & Jerry's, whipped cream, a block of Cabot's cheddar, a Pepperidge Farm coconut cake, two frozen pizzas with cheese-stuffed crust, and a carton of Egg Beaters. 'Watching our cholesterol?'
Her eyes narrowed. 'The Egg Beaters are for my dog.'"

Radical Rating: 8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥