Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"My Life Next Door" by Huntley Fitzpatrick

4.5 - 5 stars

"One thing my mother never knew and would disapprove of most of all was that I watched the Garretts. All the time. [...] The Garretts were my bedtime story, long before I ever thought I'd be part of the story."

Samantha doesn't have the easiest life. Her mother is in politics, as well as a bit of neat and control freak, she vacuums the floor every day - twice - she sets an eleven o'clock curview for summer holidays and organizes her daughters' summer scedules so they don't was too much time on trivial things. Apart from that there has been a weird tension between Sam and her best friend and she has no clue how to fix it.
Enter the Garretts, her next door neighbors. They are everything her familiy isn't - loud, happy, sometimes a bit out of control, but always affectionate with each other. Sam watches them from afar, imagining a life she has never known, but then, one night, Jase Garrett visits her on her balcony and changes her life in a way she hadn't even dreamed of.

"The Garretts were forbidden from the start. But that's not why they were important."

I'm not even sure why, but the beginning of the book, just those two sentences, made a huge impression on me. A wealth of meaning is burried in there and you know there are complicated, but beautiful things ahead of you. And boy, have I been right on the money with that prediction....

This was such a touching book about growing up, falling in love and making choices that will effect the rest of your life.
I found myself smiling happily so often wihle reading this book, which honestly suprised me. After reading the synopsis I kind of expected a drama and angst-filled story, but even though there is quite a bit of drama it's still a very positive book.

Samantha and Jase were a wonderful pair. I'm not sure where to start without ending up gushing and rambling, but let me just tell you a bit about those two.
The author really took her time with developing the relationship between Samantha and Jase - which I LOVED. But then I checked and realised that I had only finished a quarter of the book when they started getting serious - it had felt like so much more. But not in a why-isn't-there-some-interesting-development way, but simply because I was so completely engrossed in the story.
They were friends long before they became a pair and I wasn't in a hurry to see them together because I just knew that they would be great together and getting there was a rewarding journey on its own.

"Maybe he isn't attracted to me at all? Maybe he just wants to be friends? I'm not sure I can pull off being just friends with someone whose clothes I want to rip off."

It was just so entertaining to watch them, but particularly Samantha stumble along, unable to keep her thoughts in check. Especially since she was so shocked and suprised by herself. She was a nice girl - not the boring, timid version - just really nice. She was funny, a real smartass, loyal and had a solid moral code.

"But I like beeing Sam. I like being Jase's Sam. It sounds relaxed, easygoing, competent. I want to be that person."

Jase was such a sweetie (and a hottie!). He got this amazingly relaxed, but competent attitude - I guess that's the way to cope if you have seven silblings - and his straightforward and no-nonsense personality made me smile more than just once. He was extremely loyal to his family, responsible with his younger brothers and sisters, but at the same time he had an easiness to him that made it impossible for me to do anything but love him.

"Wow. I've never met a boy, at school or anywhere, who cut through the small talk so quickly."

To me it felt as if Jase and Sam just found each other, like two puzzle pieces finally fitting together - they were just that in sync.
I just adored how they were so obviously good for each other. Jase (and his delightful family) brought some much needed lightness and affection into Sam's life, while she kind of grounded him, like he was finally able to stop looking for something just out of his grasp.

But what I loved most about this book were the Garretts - the whole rowdy bunch of them. Joel, Alice, Jase, Harry, Duffy, Andy, George, Patsy the baby, as well as their loving parents. Just reading about their warming interactions within the family as well as with Samantha left me feeling extremely content, if still a bit envious.
But while there was so much love going around, I really appretiated that it wasn't all just roses and butterflies. The author also wrote about the problems with big families like that - money, ensuing chaos, little privacy and the lack of attention the individual sometimes gets within such a crowd.

"They are the best thing I've got, but they can be a little" - he pauses, as though searching for a definition - "overwhelming."

In stark contrast to that stood Sam's mother, Grace, senator and control freak.

"The longest conversations I have with her are by text, as she let's me know she's at a cookout, clam broil, ribbon cutting, fund raising harbor cruise, union meeting... whatever. She even falls behind on her vacuuming, leaving Post-it notes directing me to pick up the slack."

This describes her pretty well. All that's missing is the drama she loves to heap on her daughters. Like when she told them they couldn't miss a step and cause her stress or they would ruin her campaign and ruin her life.
She was responsible for the big blow-up in the final stages of the book and it was just so frustrating I wanted to shake all the parties involved (especially Samatha and her mother). There was no excuse for her mother, but then I started to think and realised that it was such a hard, almost impossible situation for Sam. She had to choose between her family and her first love. I was satisfied with the final conclusion, though. Not everything was clear-cut, there were some shades of grey, but Samatha stood up for what she really wanted and reading about it felt just great and uplifting.

A wonderful book that exceeded all my expectations - positive, wildly romantic and full of rewarding moments.

Monday, June 18, 2012

"North of Need" by Laura Kaye (Hearts of the Anemoi #1)

3.5 stars

It's been two years since Megan lost her husband in a car crash on Christmas Eve and she hasn't been the same ever since. But this year a Christmas miracle is waiting for her.
Owen, a god of snow and winter came to earth to bring her happiness, but only Megan's love and acceptance can make him human and keep him grounded to earth.
Owen needs the cold to keep his corporal form, but spring winds are coming their way, sent by the wrath of a fellow spring god and now time is running out for both of them.

"I know what this sounds like, Megan, but I was sent here. For you." He released a deep breath. "A Christmas gift, of sorts."

"North of Need" was an okay book for me. While I really liked the idea of a series about gods that represent and influence the seasons, I wasn't completely satisfied with the final outcome.
The biggest problem I had with this book was the ungodly amount of sappiness - and not always the good kind. While I can do (and even like) sappy in measured doses "North of Need" was just too much.

"When they were together, her attention and concern made him feel like the center of her universe. He might have been a god, but he'd never before felt so important."

I had the same problem with Owen, the book's hero. He was a truly good guy. Hot as sin, sexy, funny, considerate and with a good heart, but to me he was just a bit too perfect. There were no - ZERO - rough edges, it was almost as if he didn't even possess a temper. He was never angry or unreasonable. He didn't do fights or even discussions. Which was why, despite his hotness, he turned out to be a bit of a bland character.
Apart from the fact that he loved to play in the snow and eat ice cream - hello, snow god - I couldn't detect much of a personality. He was nice and extremely good-looking, but that's it.

"So, good with languages, shovels and igloos. Anything else?"
The smug look he tossed at her was so wicked it shivered right down her spine. Walked right into that one, hadn't she."

Megan, on the other hand, was a more believable and likable heroine. She was full of doubts and insecurities, which is no wonder considering what happened to her, but at the same time there was a strength to her that appealed to me. She was a worrier and the fact that she lost her husband left some big scares, but in the end it didn't stop her from going after what she wanted.

"I guess I'm a worrier." Suddenly she froze. "Oh, hell, I've turned into my mother."

To sum it up, if you are looking for edgier paranormal romances I would recommend you keep your hands off this book, but if you like your stories sappy, sweet and mostly drama-free - go for it.

I'll still go on with the series, though, since the hero of the next books seems to be a bit more hard edged - it's Zephyros, the spring god that caused all those troubles for Owen and Megan.