reviews

The Endless Beach; Jenny Colgan (DNF)

The Endless Beach: Jenny Colgan
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Published: 2018
Pages: 384

Months after returning to Mure, Flora MacKenzie is taking the first steps into her romance with Joel. Despite some promising passion earlier on, some sometimes wonders if she’s going to get anywhere at all. More difficult still is keeping the seaside cafe alive and being asked to cater to Charlie’s wedding. Can she handle the demands of her own love life and others’ as well?

Out of all the books I never finished, The Endless Beach has to be one of the strangest.

For me, there were a few issues that kept me from following through. Something interesting to note: There is a forward that says readers need not be familiar with The Cafe by the Sea to read this, but I feel like it would be hugely beneficial, or even necessary. The book jumps right in, not allowing new readers a lot of time to get familiar with these characters.

The biggest issue, though, was that Colgan evidently wrote a sort of in-between book between Cafe by the Sea and this one. I believe it was some kind of short story. Anyway, there is a character that readers get to know in that short story called Saif. Saif is a refugee waiting to hear news of his family back home. But he’s barely in Cafe by the Sea. So when the book is marketed to give the impression that this is mostly Flora’s story, it’s really off-putting when half the book is focused on a new character that we never got to know in Cafe by the Sea. This is more of a challenge considering that not many people would have read the in-between novel, as it looks like it was some kind of short story for a special publication. At this point, I’m glad I read the foreword, because otherwise I’d be really confused. And that’s not all.

There’s also the issue of the social worker working with Saif’s case. Apparently some readers complained that this character in the short story was too harsh and was an insult to the profession. However, these people should keep in mind that one bad social worker character doesn’t represent the entire group–though readers should of course think the same. So Colgan went back and rewrote the character to make these naysayers happy. As a result of reading this particular piece of information, it’s kind of obvious that said character is written to please people.

This can probably be attributed to marketing–for some reason, the American marketing team really likes to change Colgan’s books to make them seem like a different story than you’re getting. I am not the only one who doesn’t like this, far from it actually, and don’t understand why they can’t remain the same. It doesn’t mention Saif at all. Where the issue lies is that Saif’s story takes a lot of time from Flora’s. Colgan would do better to publish the short story and have it sold more widely, or perhaps merge the two stories so readers aren’t met with surprise.

Besides that, the whole thing lacked direction. There were thirty plots in the first 60 pages. Was the story about Flora finding more romance with Joel–an interesting continuation, since I didn’t feel like their romance was 100% authentic in the first? Was it about Saif finding his family? How are they and Flora connected then? Or maybe it was Lorna’s story, but I didn’t know where that was going either.

So for now, I’m putting this book down. It’s not necessarily terrible, but I had a tough time getting into it. I may have to go back and read the in-between story first. But please, publishers: work harder to accurately tell me about the story!

reviews

The Cafe By the Sea: Jenny Colgan

The Cafe by the Sea: Jenny Colgan
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Pages: 384
Published: 2016
Hogwarts House Recommendation: Hufflepuff

After the death of her mother, Flora MacKenzie left her island and intended never to return. Mure was…fine, but the memories were too much and the people too nosy. Now she’s living in London where she can enjoy her own professional life and fantasies about being with the boss that she can’t have.

Then her boss lands a client that lives on Flora’s island and she is recruited to help him win a dispute over there. Despite misgivings about coming back, she is soon reunited with her father and brothers. During her time there, she also finds herself restoring a seaside building which she turns into a cafe. And then she finds herself wondering where she truly belongs…

Despite me sometimes having some issues with the flow of the writing, I am always eager to pick up another Jenny Colgan novel, especially in the summer. This is a novel that includes all her trademark tropes: two possible love interests (which most readers might not be able to guess, a refreshing take in these kinds of books), a woman restarting her life, a woman who likes to bake, a woman who starts her own business, etc. At first, I was worried to pick up another one. The Bookshop on the Corner did very little for me and was almost an exact replica of a previous novel of hers that I read. It went nowhere and there was almost no plot. But as long as these tropes are used in new ways, I’ll almost always enjoy a Colgan novel.

This time, it’s a little different. Flora is actually very happy in her life, or so she thinks. Then when she has to go back home for business, she finds that maybe her island home isn’t so bad. Contrary to the cover, it’s really not so much a book about restoring a cafe as it is about family and finding your way back home. In fact, the cafe isn’t really touched on very much and it’s set up and running in five pages. If anything, it’s a plot device used to bring the community together.

Flora has to contend with several issues. For one, there’s her family. After the death of her mother, she is wanting to repair her relationships with her brothers and father. She left and the island was not happy. I did find that the reasoning for the island’s reason for their anger at her disappearance was superficial to the point where I was wondering if I should like these inhabitants. That’s not to say that characters aren’t well-developed or stereotypes. From loudmouthed niece Agot (I did wish that Colgan could find another way than capital letters to express loudness) to crotchety dance teacher Mrs. Kennedy to Flora’s brother Fintan, nobody is a flat caricature. In fact, there wasn’t one character I didn’t find interesting; on the other hand, nobody was over the top. Charlie’s significant other, Jan, is a charitable person but isn’t a saint; rather, she is a bully to those she doesn’t like. And I have to give Colgan more props: the gay characters were actually people. Every other gay character I read about this year has been a caricature. Not so in Cafe by the Sea. And the character that was written like a stereotype? They were straight. Seriously, kudos to the author for actually making these people people. As for the mother, her presence is felt as well. Now normally I’m sick and tired of hearing about dead parents–and am! However, in this story’s case, the mother’s death gives Flora a reason to reconnect with former acquaintances. The grief is written well, too. It doesn’t take over the book but Flora does have her moments of sadness that come just when you might think they would. Flora also inspires others. Her brother Fintan must also find his life’s purpose when he begins to realize that maybe working on the family farm for the rest of his life isn’t for him. Overall, the novel is a journey of change as characters decide what exactly their futures are.

No Colgan novel would be complete without a love story. Flora enters the novel having a crush on her boss. When he comes back to the island, she may have another shot, but there is another man in the picture as well. She is willing to chance it with both, so readers will find themselves wondering who she will pick. Unlike other novels, it may not be obvious from the start. If I had one complaint, I did find that the inciting climactic event comes out of nowhere and seemed a bit manufactured. And as for the guy she does end up with? One might wonder whether it’s a solid relationship, or if it’s just lust. (There appears to be a sequel that serves to answer this question.) There’s an ethical side plot, too. Flora’s love interest has a client that lives on the island, bringing his business with him. However, the inhabitants’ ire is felt once again as they don’t care too much for the guy and some of the plans that he has. (Characterization shines again, as this guy isn’t the evil corporate owner I see a lot of.) Ultimately, in a book that has a sea of plots, Flora must decide who to side with and what she wants for herself.

The Cafe by the Sea, though maybe not an accurate title, is another great addition to Colgan’s library. It’s a lovely tale about finding your roots and maybe while the romance didn’t seem all there, the family stuff more than made up for it. It makes a great beach read, so if you’re yet to go on vacation, pick it up.

4 stars

reviews

You Know You Want This: Kristen Roupenian

You Know You Want This: Kristen Roupenian
Genre: Fiction (short story/chick lit/general)
Published: 2019
Pages: 225
Hogwarts House Recommendations: Gryffindor, Slytherin, perhaps a touch of Ravenclaw?



I’m going to abandon the usual format today and first just tell you about each story individually. The premise is that these twelve stories explore the power and desires between men and women, plus the effects these ideas can have on our lives.

Bad Boy: Two women (at least I took them to be women, I don’t know why I can’t remember suddenly) let their friend stay with them over a bad breakup but begin to dislike his interactions with his ex-girlfriend and punish him for it. This is a short powerful story with a shocking twist that will get you thinking about how woman can do bad things, too. A little explicit for me but an interesting dark tale. 4 stars

Look at Your Game, Girl A twelve-year-old girl bonds with an older guy over music in the park but questions his motives when he asks her to meet at midnight. Could it be the serial killer everyone is talking about? I liked this one, though the ending fell a bit flat as nothing really happens. The twelve-year-olds act eighteen most of the time as well, so that took away from the shock of the age gap somewhat. 4.5 stars

Sardines A ten-year-old wants one thing for her birthday party: to play Sardines with her friends. Then she makes a birthday wish that takes the game to more sinister levels, particularly for her mother who is dreading seeing her ex-husband’s girlfriend at the party. I wanted to like this idea; young kids can often do terrible things. Unfortunately, it got too bizarre too quickly and it made the story lose a lot of credibility. If a short story is this kind of magical realism it needs to establish that aspect just a little earlier. I was worried the ending would be predictable, but honestly, I would have preferred the one I had in mind. Finally, it seems to keep hinting at suspense that never seems to happen. Reading the last page again, I can kind of see the point, but….eh, it still doesn’t do it for me. 2 stars

The Night Runner A Peace Corps volunteer teaching at a school in Kenya struggles with a badly behaved class, but things escalate when a so-called night runner disturbs him all night and leaves fecal matter outside the doorstep. This story was…fine. Nothing great, not bad, and I thought this ending was definitely predictable. 3 stars

The Mirror, the Bucket, and the Old Thigh Bone A princess is being asked to choose a suitor to marry but can’t quite find what she’s looking for until a stranger appears in her bedchamber. But the stranger isn’t quite what they seem, and although the princess does marry a duke, will it be enough to satisfy her? This is a tale worthy of further reading and exploration, as well as a warning against vanity. One of its great strengths is the way it reads like a fairy tale, and I wonder if younger readers who don’t mind darker tones wouldn’t like this as well. You don’t see that often these days. I personally would have loved to dissect this one in my college fairy tale course. Alas, it wasn’t published yet. 5 stars

Cat Person Supposedly the story that launched Roupenian’s career, Cat Person is the story of a college girl getting with an older man. And, well, that’s pretty much it. It showcases the struggles of a young woman struggling with what she wants verses her expectations, and the guy’s thoughts take a turn as well. There’s not much to it, and it surprised me that this was the one that took off. (The book jacket suggests that content and timing played a role. Maybe a #MeToo type of thing?) It showcases the scenarios quite well, but not a standout for me personally. Maybe it needs to be read some more. 3 stars

The Good Guy If you’re confused about the “good guy” concept, this story might explain it to you. It follows a guy named Ted and shows us flashbacks of his romantic life…his pining for one girl while getting into relationship with another. To preserve his reputation, he neglects to break up with the girl he doesn’t like while yearning for the other. What follows is a string of heartbreak for everyone. This was pretty well done, and aside from some more explicit sex scenes which weren’t for me (but not altogether distasteful; at least they were important for the narrative) I recommend it. 4.5 stars

The Boy in the Pool At a young age, three girls fall in love with a young hunky movie star in a corny horror porn film (though nothing about this story is really that explicit). Years later at one of their bachelorette parties, another friend of theirs pulls out all the stops by inviting him there. Again, I liked the concept of women meeting a childhood crush, but the story falls flat in that it goes nowhere. It just ends. There is some potential in that the organizer and the bride-to-be have fallen out of touch while the third member has not, but this isn’t really explored either. This was a missed opportunity in my mind. 3 stars

Scarred One woman checks out a book of spells and conjures a man in her basement. She is hoping for her heart’s desire, and occasionally requires the man in her spell casting.This is one of the more disturbing tales, as even as she believes they will spend their lives together, she may have misunderstood what the spellbook was trying to get at. Ladies and gentlemen: beware of sketchy witchcraft. I certainly wouldn’t do it myself, but the story has a strong point that’s not to be missed. 5 stars

The Matchbox Sign David tries as best he can to support his wife Laura as she has an unexplainable itch that is taking over her life. With subtle commentary on believing women, this story has more of a message that the surface might indicate. This story doesn’t sound great, but the ending will ruin you. 4 stars

Death Wish A young man looking around on Tinder invites a new find to his hotel room, who asks him to punch her and then kick her for her fantasy. The narrator grapples what to do with it, which is an interesting thought process. Again, though, the story doesn’t really go anywhere. 3 stars

Biter Ellie fantasizes about biting her new coworker. She hasn’t bitten since preschool, but wonders if this time she can get away with it. I don’t know why I like this one, or why I think it’s funny, cute, and weird all at the same time. It also leaves open whether or not Ellie is the good person in this gender war or not, which was interesting. And a satisfying ending to boot. 5 stars

Side note: I claim to not like sexual stories, so as you can imagine I was kicking myself as soon as I started this book and wondered if I would DNF. Not that it was the book’s fault this time around; there are hints of it in the summary and reviews. It actually wasn’t as sexual as I’d imagined it to be; in fact, probably less so than the novels I read or tried to read earlier in 2019. The Good Guy definitely had most of it, and a bit in Cat Person, Death Wish, and of course in Bad Boy, but at least there was a purpose and it wasn’t always all-out, unnecessarily pornographic like in Obsession or The Kiss Quotient. I also assumed that there would be a considerable amount of feminist undertones, considering the title and nature of the stories. There are, but not to the extent I thought. Believing women and sexual assault are themes that appear briefly, though I wasn’t sure if I was imagining them at times.

Now as for the stories, there were some I loved and some, not so much. I only really was disappointed with Sardines, while others were more “meh.” The endings were super hit-or-miss, which was strange. Stories either went nowhere, took a nonsensical turn for shock value, or really hit me hard or were just plain satisfying, like the final story. And that helped some of them along. It’s really hard to rate for those reasons. I think this number makes sense, but take it with a grain of salt. You may also like some stories better than others for their meanings. Either way, I’m glad to see more short stories and would love to see more in mainstream production, either by this author or someone else. They are a great way to showcase life as it is, and as such they often do a good job.

3.5 stars

reviews

Zeta or Omega?; Kate Harmon

Zeta or Omega? by Kate Harmon
Genre: Young Adult/Chick Lit
Published: 2008
Hogwarts House Recommendation: Hufflepuff

Not eligible for 2019 Book Awards

It’s late summer and Florida and a new school year at Latimer University is just beginning. And three girls are about to have the time of their lives…maybe.

VERONICA: Wants to escape her snobby parents once and for all in Boston. She wants to discover who she really is without the designer labels or the fancy family name. She’s already disappointed her parents by not choosing Harvard, so what has she got to lose? Maybe a sorority will give her the family she truly needs.

LORA-LEIGH: Would much rather be beginning her fashion career at FIT, thank you very much…except for that her father is making her attend the local university first. She is dying to get out of there and is only going through sorority rush because her mom wants her to join Tri-Omega, her own sorority.

JENNA: At Latimer on a band scholarship, Jenna doesn’t really care about rushing either, but her roommate is excited about it, so she’ll join in. But even if she does get some wonderful sisters, will her diabetes get in the way? Or will everyone see her as “Sick Jenna” like they did in high school?

When the three girls meet during recruitment, they become close friends and ultimately enjoy going through the process. But what happens at the end of recruitment? Will they find themselves separated? Or will they even get into a sorority at all?

Arguably, this is not the book we’ve been waiting for. It’s been out for over ten years. So why do I ask this? Well, because other stories I’ve read about Greek life weren’t very, um, promising. One of them, The Alpha Bet, was a lot of rotten girl drama. Another, YOLO (an otherwise good book) featured hazing practices of the 70s and 80s in a modern environment and mostly trashy partying. This was a refreshing take on sorority life without the Hollywood cliches. Consider Zeta or Omega the YA version of Liane Moriarty…before Moriarty was even writing. You have the three girls whose lives intertwine with a dash of emotion and even a slight hint of suspense. It sounded fun, and when combined with that fabulous cover, I knew I had to pick it up. This was seven (!!!!!!!!!!!) years ago at my local library. Excuse me while I go consider that one for a moment….

Fair warning: this is an escapist book. If you don’t like those, this may not be for you. Translation: it’s lots of fluff. But is that a bad thing? No. In fact, it’s more accurate to the college experience that way. It shows the process of rushing a sorority and I almost wonder if this book was written purely because the author had good memories or because she wanted to show girls what it was really like.

The book itself is something totally new. It’s a YA book about college students, which we desperately need. There are no missing fathers (yahoo!), but there are some difficult parental relationships, particularly with Roni. There are no love triangles; in fact, there’s barely any serious romantic drama at all. Golfer Tiger and star football player DeShawn are the two most prominent male characters and yes, they are pretty much dream guys who are a little too perfect. (I liked how there was an interracial romance included without the author making a fuss about it. It just was.) Actually, I’m just now realizing that all 3 love interests were athletes so maybe a little more variety could have been present, but whatever.) But the main characters are not perfect. There are no chosen ones or “standard” MCs with one best friend and categorized as lower middle class. These things win points for me right away. It’s also very diverse, with the exception of the MCs. Most importantly, it doesn’t stick to movie cliches like hazing and partying. The sorority members seem to care deeply about one another and there is a sense of sisterhood simmering in the pages. I’ll admit: I got teared up at this one, especially during rituals and as everyone is accepted into their sorority of choice. I was not expecting to, thinking that the love would get a little corny. Okay, so maybe it does a little, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a feel-good feeling.

College life is also presented as an improvement. Harmon gives many examples of things like , “her friends acted like this in high school, but in college, everyone was much more accepting!” It can be a little preachy, but there’s an interesting reason for this: Zeta or Omega has a very easy reading level. Save for some inappropriate material, a fourth-grader could easy read this and the way the sentence structure is, it might have even appealed more to them. Because of that, middle schoolers will find themselves enjoying the books as well. Because of the material, though, I recommend eighth grade and up. There are the beginning of boy relationships, roommate spats and more, and all sorts of little things that will give high school readers a taste of college. It follows three girls’ lives but does it very well.

The character development is phenomenal, especially over the course of the series. (If you plan on reading Zeta or Omega be sure that you’re invested in the rest of the series and maybe even have Book 2 at the ready.) You’d never know that Roni started out somewhat reserved, or that Lora-Leigh once stayed in touch with her high school BFF if you’ve only read Book 3. It may seem like Harmon is forgetting about details that she drops throughout the novel by not coming back to them, but in reality, things change. You may not be able to find that cute guy on a college campus again right away, and you may drift away from high school friends. Side characters evolve, too. I’m thinking in particular of Jenna’s roommate. I also love the personalities of the three leading ladies. They’re not cardboard cutouts, but they’re all authentic in their own way. We watch as they break away from their parents (Roni), open their minds to new ideas (Lora-Leigh with sororities), and realize that they can trust their new friends and even some cute new boys (Jenna). I especially felt for Roni whose parents barely even seemed to love her; they were too busy showcasing her as part of their fancy family.

Now this is a fluffy novel, so is it a little predictable? Yes. You know what’s going to happen right off the bat, especially knowing there are two novels ahead. Does everything go a little too perfectly? Yes. Everyone meets and hits it off with a love interest immediately, for example. But is it an entertaining read? Very much so. It’s a nice break from the catfights and drama often found in YA. I did find that a sorority filled with rich girls was a bit of a stretch. Omega Omega Omega, Lora-Leigh’s mom’s sorority, is full of women who love money and even do credit checks on Roni’s parents. They are also said to “rule the campus.” I didn’t really feel the need for a cliched popular group of girls, especially in a college setting. Nor did I like that Roni fit the almost perfect, pretty, rich girl stereotype. But to the book’s credit, that’s pretty much the only stereotype present. Though of course, the Zeta Zeta Tau girls are all nice, unique, and different.

Finally, the ending, too, is somewhat sudden and it just stops. This book assumes that you are going to continue the series. I recommend doing so because, not only does book 2 pick off where the first one ends, but also because this first book only covers recruitment. Readers will definitely want to learn more about sorority life and will be wondering what’s next.

This should not be a five-star novel, but then again, books don’t have to be classic literature to be enjoyed. I don’t see why girly novels tend to get lower ratings just because they’re not deep; reading is supposed to be fun, right? I recommend Zeta or Omega to students who are considering rushing, or teens looking for an easy, fun, lighthearted beach read. It’s criminally underrated and if you’re looking for some fun and real characters, pick it up. Be sure to also pick up The New Sisters and The Formal. Of course, I was also the target audience…people who like deep, philosophical, non-chick lit (or who just are anti-Greek) will be better off elsewhere. But for what it is, I give Harmon a round of applause.

4 stars

RUNDOWNS OF THE FOLLOWING BOOKS

The New Sisters: Jenna, Lora-Leigh, and Roni have been accepted into ZZT and with that comes new member meetings and all of the activities. Jenna, a member of the marching band, suddenly worries that she can’t handle all the stress and activities. Lora-Leigh, on the other hand, is suddenly a big fan…but her mom is more than a little unhappy she didn’t choose Tri Omega. This book is even richer than the first. Loose plotlines from the first book are expanded upon and readers get a peek into true college life. 5/5 stars

The Formal:As the second semester gets under way, the girls are knee-deep in sorority life as regular members. Roni is put in charge of planning the formal, but not a lot seems to be going right. Meanwhile, Jenna and Lora-Leigh are experiencing relationship problems of their own as Jenna wonders whether to take the next step with Tiger and as DeShawn considers leaving Latimer. A rich, solid conclusion with one complaint…I wish the series went past freshman year. 5/5

reviews

Life on the Leash: Victoria Schade

Life on the Leash: Victoria Schade

Genre: Chick Lit/Romance

Published: 2018

Pages: 343

Cora Bellamy loves dogs. She loves them so much, in fact, that she’s started her own dog training business. Based on a philosophy of love and understanding, she wants to prove the harsh well-known trainers that they’re wrong. So when she gets the opportunity to audition for a dog training TV show, she jumps at the chance.

There’s still one thing standing in the way: her latest client. He’s charming, handsome, and seems to like Cora back. The problem is that he’s taken. What’s a girl to do? Luckily she has the acquaintance of another client to help her. Eli is a great assistant, and little does Cora know that she may be attracted to him as well. 

***There may be minor spoilers.***

I often enjoy a fun, chick-lit novel. I always enjoy dogs. And I also enjoy supporting local talent. So I knew this book had to be mine!

The story focuses on the life of dog trainer Cora Bellamy. She doesn’t have a ton of problems in her life, per se, as she’s gotten over her ex-fiance and is enjoying her dog training business. But excitement is about to manifest itself in the possibility of a new dog training show.

You have several chick lit tropes here for the most part and most are well-drawn.

The clumsy protagonist who leaves her corporate job to start a quirky business: Cora. Her story was interesting and different.

Her party-loving voice of reason best friend: Maggie.

The evil ex: Aaron. He really has no purpose here, and it’s often distracting. More on that in a bit.

The evil corporate-esque giant who is a bully but somehow has a following: Donald I mean Boris Ershovich

The gay best friend who loves clothes, acts feminine and uses words like “darling”: Darnell

We interrupt this post with breaking news…

HOW TO WRITE GAY CHARACTERS

BY FICTIONISTAS UNITED

1. Follow the exact same character-creating process you use for straight people. 

2. Make them attracted to people of the same gender.

3. Um, that’s it.

It really annoys me when writers try to be “diverse” and then write characters according to their cardboard cutout stereotype. Schade obviously tries to be diverse here, maybe to a fault (do we need to know the groomer friend’s lesbian backstory?) I did actually like Darnell. I’m just sick of seeing him show up in every book I read as the gay side character.

My main issue with the novel was that it seemed to focus too much on events that weren’t important to the narrative, while it didn’t often focus enough on the things that were important. The whole balance was a little off. The first half is almost entirely about dogs and there’s not a lot of romance there. (Which was fine, save for the fact that again, there’s not a lot of love development in the second half either so maybe there should have been more of a love story there.) Characters spend so much time complaining about a certain famous dog trainer that I was like, “Enough already! We get it.” Then in the second half, nobody mentions him anymore. Hardly.

This lack of focus creates a few problems. First: I didn’t always care. I really didn’t care about seeing drawn out scenes of Aaron’s reality TV show when I could have been seeing the chemistry grow between Cora and Eli and Charlie, something we desperately needed more of. Second: there is no time for any chemistry to develop. When a fight breaks out between the two, it comes out of nowhere and is clearly just there because “it’s chick lit, and a fight always happens at this point!” It had to be rushed, because, well, there was no time for development. They’re not even in a relationship! And then it was resolved way too quickly with no effort. Actually, I almost started laughing when I read it because of how far out of left field the “argument” came from.

Third: the book skipped from problem to problem so much that it’s easy to forget details. The main characters all go to a party at some point that Cora was apparently invited to. I couldn’t ever remember that happening because it was glossed over so fast. This brings me to the fourth and biggest problem: the book can’t find an issue to focus on. Was it about the dog training show? Was it about Cora finding love? It doesn’t stay on one problem long enough to answer that. This could have been helped if the author spent less time going in-depth about Cora’s roommate’s job issues, drawn-out shopping scenes, Aaron’s TV show, and scenes of partying at clubs (le snore). There are several issues presented that could make for great drama: an evil client possibly holding stake in Cora’s life, going head-to-head with a popular brutish dog trainer (also, I found it strange that Schade implied Cora was going to take him down when they weren’t going head-to-head or even meet); and so forth.

As for the romance itself? Exploring Cora’s moral dilemma with her taken love interest was also exciting, as you don’t see that very often. I know a lot of us who are interested in love have been tempted to date someone in a relationship at some point. It’s easy to guess who she’ll choose, but I wish there was more relationship development. There wasn’t enough here to get me completely invested in these relationships. I also felt that their climax was pretty weak, even for the genre. It tried to be quirky but didn’t make a lot of sense (remember the left field fight I mentioned?) Additionally, Cora doesn’t face a whole lot of obstacles so not much is at stake and it falls flat. It might have been better to spend more of the book showing Cora hosting the show instead of having her wait on the audition results. Waiting does not good drama make. Changing the focus to the show alone could have solved many of the book’s issues.

Okay, let’s talk about the good, because this really isn’t a bad book. I did like some of the subplots, despite how they were distracting. I was especially drawn to one about a woman called Beth Ann, a troubled woman with a poodle living in a tough situation. I was rooting for her. I loved the dogs and their personalities, and there were lots of dogs to love here. Ultimately, I also liked the characters. The dialogue was real, the setting was established, and from a basic perspective it all flowed fairly well. There’s not a lot to talk about, but the story itself was entertaining. 

This was a cute, fluffy book that wasn’t perfect. I did enjoy seeing what would happen next and looked forward to picking it up again to see the characters. Because there was no clear goal in mind, and the one that existed couldn’t be solved by anything but waiting, it fell somewhat flat. Honestly, I feel like it just needed a few more rounds of edits than anything, because in addition to questionable choices, there were definitely some errors I picked up on. It’s a fun piece of chick lit. If you like dogs, you should go for it because the dog stuff definitely overshadows the romance. Still, don’t expect it to win awards any time soon.

3 stars