May 31, 2014

Listmaniac: With a Fizzle and Not with a Bang - Series that Ended Badly

It's that time of the month again... when I write up a list of a topic of your choice. 

This month's winner: Series that ended badly. 

Now, the usual disclaimers apply - this is all my personal opinion, and I mean no harm by it. Please, feel free to tell me what you guys think in comments. Also, SPOILERS AHEAD

So, here we go:

I started very iffy with this series - I'm culturally catholic and sometimes the whole angels imagery got a little too cray-cray for me, but I pushed through since Vampires were everywhere back then and I figured I might as well stick to this series and it was all good... for about two or three books.

But then, the ever present danger with series set in: the author began to stretch it nonsensically, making three books out of something that could have been resolved in just one and generally just cash-cowing the heck out of it. 

Still, nothing a good series can't recover from with a proper series finale but what did we get instead? Oliver ends up with Schuyler 2.0 (blond, Schuyler 2.0) and got to be a vampire, Jack and Schuyler get together - final-fucking-ly - and Mimi and Kingsley, by far the most interesting characters by then, are in hell. But by then... who cared?

Well, I'm on and off with this series, honestly. In the first couple of books Jenny Han made it a point of showing rather than telling in this series, she slowly built up the relationships in the story, only to have the ending happen off the page and summarized in just a few paragraphs.

I know that in the paperback edition they added a bit more from Conrad's side (some of the letter's Belly mentions), but in the origina print, that wasn't there and the story was had this very rushed feel to it and really... unfinished.

And yeah, it made me angry because I stuck to those people for almost a thousand pages and the execution of the ending was pretty meh. 

3. The Bridgerton Series by Julia Quinn
I was a huge fan of this series for years and years, and some of the books are still some of my favorite romance reads ever. But this was a really long series (8 books total) and the ending wasn't great.

Usually, romance novels build up to the fan-favorite character getting his or her book last, so the payoff is bigger, but with the Bridgerton, the fan favorite for a lot of people was actually Hyacinth, the character we had known the longest, but she got the seventh book in the series and it was okay, wasn't great.

In the last book we got Gregory instead, the youngest of the brothers and the one we had spent the least amount of time with through out the series - he had spoken maybe ten lines across the 7 books prior -and his story was way too convoluted. The writing was ok, because Julia Quinn is a great writer, but the payoff was minimal and the plot not so great.

2. Starfish Sisters by J. C. Burke 
This is actually just  duo-logy, but the first book (Starfish Sisters) was excellent, one of my favorite YA books I've read in a long time and the plot was pretty original - about the lives and trials of four young surfer girls who wanted to make the Australian Junior Team - I was ecstatic when I heard there was a second book.

But that book, Ocean Pearl, well... it just didn't live up to it's predecesor, and you got the distinct feeling that the author just wrecked the lives of these girls just so she could keep writing about them, particularly when it came to Ellie and Ace. So the final book just left a bitter aftertaste.

1. The Gallagher Girls by Ally Carter
Here's the thing... I love Cammie Morgan and her friends, particularly Macy and Liz - though Bex is probably  my least liked character of the whole series - and I really love the Gallagher series.

The books had every potential to be fun and awesome: they are about a bunch of teenage girls at an elite spy school; and yet they had some depth and my heart broke for Cammie and how she felt about her dad's death.

This was a rare series that actually got better as the books progressed. usually the first book is strong and then it starts going down hill, but with the Gallagher Girls it was more of a slow build up, and books 3 and 4 where excellent... and then the series took a dark turn and it never recovered from it, in my opinion.

Book 5 was all dark and gloomy and though book 6 was a bit better, I started to find Cammie's narration very tiresome, to be honest. And by the end, I just didn't care about any of it.

So that's me, the series finales that have most disappointed me.

What about you guys? Please let me know in comments!

Also, up for next month:
Hidden Gems - books I love but that never really got popular
Make it a Movie - books that I would LOVE to see in a movie/tv format. 

May 26, 2014

Whats Making Me Happy... (4)

Sorry I just couldn't do this last week because I was rushing to finish some books - which mostly turned out be excellent - so yeah, time got away from me.

So, what's making me happy this week:

1. Sandy-Belle a.k.a. Pirate Penguin graduated from college!!!! *throws confetti around * She's one of my dearest bloggy-pals and I'm just so happy for her, plus! this probably means I'll get to see her around more.

2. Sabrina the Teenage Witch - I've been re-watching the series from the very beginning. I grew up watching Sabrina and really love the show - I was actually kind of surprised to see how many of my favorite episodes were from season one!! - and it has been lots of fun. Makes me feel like a teenager again.

3. Mash-Potatoes - Had some yesterday and found it very comforting.

4. Mom is out of her dietary restrictions so everything is back on the menu!!

So, that's me, this week. What about you?

May 25, 2014

Book Review: The Heiresses by Sarah Shepard

The Deal: They Saybrook family made it's fortune in diamonds, and they are Upper East Side royalty, with their good looks and pots of money. Their lives are charmed (or maybe cursed). And all that before a clause in the patriarch's will says that only his granddaughters can inherit the massive fortune. 

Corrine, Rowan, Aster and Poppy are the heiresses (and each other's cousins), each with their own secrets and longings, and their own role to play within the diamond empire. There is also Natasha, the black sheep of the family who "disinherited" herself recently. 

But when Poppy, she of the perfect life and wonderful husband, is killed, the remaining heiresses are drawn together to figure out who killed Poppy and why, before one of them becomes the next victim.

My Thoughts: The Heiresses is like a grown up version of Gossip Girl with a dash of Shepard's own Pretty Little Liars thrown in. There are secrets and scandals and all type of inappropriate behavior that we all seem to find (morbidly) fascinating when it involves the beautiful and rich.

The book in general was dishy and trashy and somewhat fun... but it also had several issues. For starters, you're introduced to tons of characters all at once in the first couple of chapters, it was really hard to keep track - or even care about any of them. It was easier to keep the cousins straight by remembering who was the party girl, or the ugly duckling or the lawyer, than anything else, because their voices didn't sound that distinct to me. 

So, if you're looking for a Gossip Girl for grown ups type of book, this might work well for you (though I think the too large cast of characters might still be a problem for some). Otherwise, stay clear. 


May 20, 2014

Book Review: Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan

At First Sight: Josie understands everything in terms of the languages people use to express themselves. She's particularly well versed in the language of her sisters Maggie and Kate, specially Kate with whom she's very, very close.

But now Kate has brought home a guy, Geoff, whom she thinks is the one and can't see how wrong he is for her, in Josie's opinion. And no matter how much Josie protests, no one is listening to her.

So Josie is a bit lost in translation, with a boyfriend whom isn't sure she loves but seems to love her; with Kate who used to be one of the two people who spoke Josie's native tongue; and with her best friend Stu who doesn't say much at all. 

Second Glance: I really enjoyed Love and Other Foreign Words. And I really liked Josie - she's incredibly smart and often unintentionally funny because she marches to her own drum so much. I loved that she's not an outcast and actually has lots of friends and normal-teenage relationships with them.

I loved the relationship with her sisters, Maggie and Kate - I really identified with her in that score, I'm the youngest girl from my mom's side of the family and I'm used to being doted-on by my many, many female cousins and sister and I felt very proprietary about that, kind of like Josie does.

Kate annoyed me a bit, and Geoff too, at the beginning I was like "OMG! I hate you already!!" and could understand Josie, even though I knew she was an unreliable narrator, I was still on board. But maybe he isn't so bad in the end ;)

Also loved Stu and Sophie, they were adorable. You could totally see the love between them even when they were screaming at each other, plus they were really good friends to Josie. 

Bottom Line: Definitely recommend Love and Other Foreign Words, it's a lovely read with lots of humor as Josie went on her quest to break up Kate and Geoff, it's a little crazy and twisted but, then again, so is sisterhood. 
This review is par to of the Summer Reading / Love and Other Foreign Words Blog Tour.

PS - Sorry for the late posting, was at work all day and my schedule post didn't go up as planned. 

May 16, 2014

Book Review: Unforgettable You by Georgina Penney

At First Sight: Jo Blaine just wanted to sleep in her own bed after working in an off-shore oil rig for months and then traveling for 24 hrs straight to get home in Perth, Australia; but when she got to her apartment, she found a man was in residence and had, in fact, taken over her home.

The man was none other than Stephen Hardy, whose family owns the big vineyard where Jo and her sister Amy had grown up and who once started a rumor about Jo that ruined her life. Stephen has always felt very guilty about it and wants to make it up to her somehow, even if that means looking after her place and her cat while she's away.

After a few blow ups, Jo eventually decides to let Stephen stay and they start developing a friendship and then a bit more, even if Jo's job keeps taking her away for months at a time. However, as they grow closer, Stephen realizes that it's something very wrong in Jo's life, something in her past that neither her nor her Amy are willing to talk about and which is coming back to cause her trouble. 

Second Glance: Unforgettable You is the companion novel/prequel to Irrepressible You and it tells the story of how Jo and Stephen (who are an item on Irrepressible You) got together, shedding more light into things that Amy's story just hinted at.

I enjoyed reading Unforgettable You, once I started and settled into the story, I couldn't stop reading it and Georgina Penney has a prose that flows very nicely, you kind of read it fast and progress quickly  without even noticing (which is always a plus in my book). Now, I didn't love Jo as much as I loved Amy, and I didn't always agree with her or with how she handled things, but Jo made sense to me. Her actions were congruent with who she was and what she had been through.

On the other hand, I really liked Stephen, he was a really decent guy trying to atone for past mistakes and to move on after a long-term relationship that had gone south, sometimes he was even too nice but I couldn't even get mad at him about it. Like I said, decent fellow.

Their story went back and forth and bit, but I totally give props to the author because, even though they were away from each other for long-stretches of time, I totally believed in their relationship.

Plus, I'm even more intrigued about the other members of the Hardy clan - like Scott, Rachel and Mike - and I would love, love, love to hear their stories.

Bottom Line: Unforgettable You was fun to read, it grabbed me from the start and I genuinely enjoyed spending time with these people, they felt like old friends to me and I always love when that happens. 

May 15, 2014

Book Review: Heartbreak Cake by Cindy Arora

At First Sight: Life should be sweet for pastry chef Indira Aguilar: she and her best friend Pedro own and run Cake Pan Shoppe - a small but trendy cake story that is quickly becoming a staple of the Laguna Beach community - and they are becoming a hit with the less traditional brides.

They even got in on the biggest wedding of the year, which is quite the coup even if the bride keeps changing her mind on the theme for the wedding.

But there is another side to Indira's life that isn't going so well: everything that has to do with Josh Oliver, her former boss at the Crystal Cover Resort, where Indira used to work.

With the return of Josh absentee wife Valentina a few months prior, and the end of Indira's affair with him, rumors start running wild in the community, threatening to take Indira's shop and pull it under, unless she can keep it together.

In the midst of all of it, she meets Noah, the hot new chef at Crystal Cove, who might be interested on being more than just friends.

Second Glance: I really loved Heartbreak Cake mostly because I really loved Indira. She's in her mid-thirties and striking out on her own professionally, confident in her skills set yet always trying to improve, she's smart and driven and has lots of talent. But she has also made lots of bad choices in her personal life. Her relationship with Josh was complicated as they come; and things weren't black and white at all. Plus, she recognizes she made a big mistake and ends things and deals with the fall out.

I respected her for it, in a way I rarely respect or even put-up with characters that indulge in wildly misguided love or romantic naiveté. Indira was one tough cookie and a decent one at that; and for me this book was really all about her and how she healed her own broken heart with the support of her family and her true friends, and the thing she loves doing the most: baking.

Yes, there is a very strong romantic element to the story - and Noah was a very nice and swoony love interest, I really liked him, even in his imperfections (like his stubbornness and bit of hot-headedness) - but Heartbreak Cake was about more than that, and definitely more chick lit than a straight romance.

Also, I loved how they book showed the curative power of baking, of creating, or just doing something that you really, really love. 

Bottom Line: Thumbs up for Heartbreak Cake. It's a charming debut novel with a very strong central character, a delightful cast of secondary characters - I particularly loved Simon and Pedro - and lots of baked goods (warning, though, this book will make you super hungry). And, in conclusion: croissants!

Favorite Quote: "One always needs hope after a break up, I think, as I remove the foil from the milk chocolate bar and begin to chop it. A beacon to remind you that you will survive and eventually, thrive" 
starstarstarstarPersonal Favorite  (Kissy Bear Likes Baked Goods!)
Love, Alex

This review is part of the Heartbreak Cake Blog Tour hosted by Fictionella. Click here for past and future tour stops. 

May 14, 2014

Book Review: Irrepressible You by Georgina Penney

At First Sight: Ben Martindale, a successful comedian and writer, decamped to Perth, Australia, partially to live down the scandal his latest fling with a reality tv 'star' brought down. One night, he was hanging out with a friend at a bar when he happened to meet Amy Blaine.

Amy owns a barber shop called Babyface, likes to dress up like a 50's pin up girl and is a generally nice and sunny person, even if her persona can be a little over the top. She and Ben don't like each other and at first, but after Ben goes to her shop, sits down for an old-fashioned shave and asks her out, Amy agrees and they start seeing each other.

Unbeknown to her, Ben has been using her in his writing, nicknaming her Babyface and using their budding relationship as fodder for his weekly column - which publishes in England. There is just something about her that makes his writing and his creativity flow.

But, as they start to open up to each other, Ben starts to see that under all that sunny disposition and kindness there is also a very hard past, which still haunts her; and that forces him to deal with a few skeletons in his own closet.

And then Amy finds out about his column... and all hell breaks lose. 

Second Glance: Irrepressible You has a weird sort of charm but it is very, very charming. I liked Amy a lot, even when I didn't always agree with her choices, they made sense for who she was and the life she had lived.

She has a loving but very complex relationship with her older sister Jo, who basically raised her, and a close relationship with Jo's best friend Scott, whom she sees as another sibling; and loves the life she has created for herself, even if not everyone understands it. I loved that about her, she's not a downer, even when things get crappy, she has her breakdowns and takes her a bit to process her feelings, but she keeps going and tries to be positive.

Ben was a harder sell. He's not a bad person and you can see that pretty early on, yet he does very jerky things, not out of meanness but out of obliviousness. And I think Georgina Penney did a great job in portraying that jerky, artistic type of guy who is a bit selfish and self-involved but still made him a sympathetic character.

I never hated Ben, even when I hated some of the things he did. And that's hard to pull off. 

Bottom Line: Irrepressible You was engaging and sweet and it really grabbed me from the start. I'm really looking forward to reading more from Georgina Penney, and I'm really interested on Scott! I want to read his story sometime. 

May 12, 2014

What's Making me Happy... (3)

So, last week was a bit of a mixed bag - what with my mom having to go to the doctor for some testing and my feet aching because I was out of practice wearing shoes! - but there were some things that got me through, like: 

1. First week of class and none of my groups pissed me off. This, believe it or not, is a rare occurrence, but I managed to be in and out of class in time and not get annoyed by anything. I felt so zen. 

2. My Dog's 10th birthday on May 9th. I love my dog and cherish every day he has spent with us. 

I've been looking forward to this series since I saw the movie pilot at the end of last year. It is manipulative, sentimental and a little too Goody-two shoes, but I find it very comforting. It reminds me of when I was a kid and I would watch Touched by an Angel with my Grandma - which aired forever here in my country - plus I find Eric Mabius to be super charming. 

It's a web comic that tells the adventures of the members of the Justice League if they were 8-year olds. You can see it here where someone is compiling it chronologically or you can check it out at the Author's page. I've been reading it non-stop and it completely awesome. It made my weekend, particularly this bit from Episode 128.

Img belongs to Yale Stewart, click to enlarge

May 11, 2014

Book Review: Something New (Confectionately Yours 4) by Lisa Papademtriou

At First Sight: Hayley's life is in transition again, her dear grandma just got engaged to Mr. Malik - who owns the flower shop next to Grandma's Tea Shop - her sister Chloe got their mom to agree to foster a puppy, and her best friend Meg wants her to run for class VP.

And, to top it all off, her dad wants her to send her to a fancy private school the following year. A school full of ritzy girls with fancy clothes who make Hayley feel out of place (even if they are nice to her).

Hayley struggles to make sense of all these changes, of why her Grandma isn't more excited about planning the wedding, of how Tesseract (the puppy Chloe is fostering at home) is not house trained and keeps wrecking havoc, mostly in Hayley's direction; of what to do about Meg, and about her long time friend Marco who seems to want a bit more than friendship of late. 

Second Glance: I love Hayley, she keeps growing on me and grows up through out the books, she's such a nice, decent little soul, yet she's so human at the same time - I loved how she reacted to all the mischief Tessie kept throwing her way because it showed a very human and imperfect reaction.

I also loved how you Hayley has become stronger with each book, how she doesn't let things get her down as much and rather keeps on going.

As she grows up her relationships become more complex - with her little sister Chloe, and her absent minded dad, and her friends (old and new) - and she's more sure of herself. 

Bottom Line: I always like visiting with Hayley and catching up with her life and looking at all the cupcakes she makes - she always shares de recipes - and just enjoying the sweetness of a book like this. 

May 8, 2014

Blog Tour: Guest Post by Cindy Arora (Heartbreak Cake)

Hello everyone!

Today I'm happy to welcome Cindy Arora to the blog, as part of the blog tour for Heartbreak Cake - which I will be reviewing soon - and without further ado, I leave you with Cindy.


Working for a Living
By Cindy Arora

I started working in restaurants when I was in college and quickly realized that I could make more money waiting tables than selling leggings at the mall.

For years, I worked as a waitress, a bartender, and a baker’s assistant, and eventually, had enough experience for the granddaddy of hospitality—bartender at a luxury hotel. Here I learned how to make napkins in the shape of Birds of Paradise and also made more money in two shifts than I did at my full-time job as a newspaper reporter.

My years in the hospitality industry came in handy while I wrote HEARTBREAK CAKE as I tried to capture the urgency of a “fast-paced-quick-on-your feet-and-even-quicker-on-your-zingers” hotel or restaurant environment. It was often during a busy dinner or in the middle of a 300 guest count wedding that I would be yelled at by a manager or manhandled by another server carrying a tray full of food who pushed me out of the way to get to the swinging door and the hungry guests.

When I created Cake Pan Bakery and the Crystal Cove Resort, the two competing spots in HEARTBREAK CAKE, I was inspired by my time as a waitress and as a food writer, two careers that have allowed me to get an insider’s look into the industry.

I was inspired by a few different bakeries in Los Angeles, some for their location, others for their beautiful pastry case, and a few for their pastry chefs who pushed the boundaries in pastry to create cakes, tarts, and muffins that were just so much more than your typical breakfast pastry.

Check out these great spots if you are ever in Los Angeles! And also check out my HEARTBREAK CAKE Pinterest page where I share photos of spots and bakeries that helped form the scenes for my debut novel.
1.   Huckleberry, Santa Monica: A well-loved LA hotspot that often has a line out the door as people clamor for this bakery’s seasonally-inspired baked goods.
2.   Sweet and Saucy Shop: This bakery is one of the more popular bakeries in Orange County and is known for tremendous wedding cakes. You can often find these cakes in all of the wedding blogs and magazines.
3.   The Larder, Brentwood:  A small bakery and gourmet market owned by a James Beard Award winning chef. Quaint and unbelievably delicious baked goods.
4.   Sapphire Pantry, Laguna Beach: The pastries here are delicious, but for this spot, it’s all about location. Take a seat on the patio and take in the scenic sights of a glittery ocean and everything that is beautiful about Laguna Beach.