Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Blame It On The Mistletoe by Nicole Michaels Review

Blame It On The Mistletoe 
by Nicole Michaels 
Published by St. Martin's
Publish Date: October 14, 2014

149 Pages
Source: Publisher
Find It: Goodreads / Amazon / B&N 


’Tis the season for small-town Missouri boutique owner Brooke Abbott to get crafty. Much as she adores making art for art’s sake—decorating windows, designing ornaments, crafting the perfect present for under the tree—this Christmas she needs the gift of good customers. Lots of them. Sweet Opal Studios will go under if she can’t do some serious business before the New Year…and she has no time to lose. What Brooke needs is an honest-to-goodness miracle. Instead, she finds a burglar lurking in the back room of her shop. And here she thought the holidays couldn’t get any worse!

Or maybe things just got a lot better. Turns out the burglar is none other than Alex Coleman—local bad boy slash legendary heartthrob, childhood best friend to Brooke’s older brother, and…future landlord? That is the question. He’s come home for the holidays to see his grandmother, make peace with his distant mother, and settle his grandfather’s estate, an estate that includes the building that houses Sweet Opal. What he never expected was to bump into a grown-up Brooke, whose spirit, charm, and irresistible good looks give him pause. Should he go back to Oregon as planned, or give small-town life a chance? The only thing Alex knows for sure is that before he walks out that door, he’s going to get Brooke beneath the mistletoe, where anything can happen… (Goodreads)

Blame It On The Mistletoe by Nicole Michaels

My Thoughts:  I've been on a serious holiday-reading binge lately and I LOVE IT. I picked Blame It On The Mistletoe partly because it is a standalone by an author that is new to me and also because I fell in love with the cover. 


Here is a list of what I enjoyed about this book

  1. Brooke Abbott. Owner of Sweet Opal Studio at the 100 Main building in small-town Preston, Missouri. Brooke is single and not really looking to start a relationship - she is focused on her building her business. As the story begins, it is Thanksgiving Night and Brooke is working late at the store, making preparations for what she hopes will be a big sale weekend, when she hears noises in the apartment located over her store. Turns out the "intruder" is Alex Coleman - the guy of her high-school dreams! But why is he creeping around the building? 
  2. Alex Coleman. Alex is in town for a few days at the request of his grandmother. He planned on staying in the apartment over Brooke's store while he was in town, but he didn't realize that Brooke already lives there! Alex's grandmother owns the building, so he thought it would be better/easier/cheaper than trying to find a hotel room during the holiday season. OH WELL! Alex is awesome. He is ex-military, rugged, outdoorsy...but he thinks he is in town for a few days and then back home to his regular life. Alex never planned to be swept off of his feet by Brooke Abbott!
  3. Small-Town vs Downtown Big-City Charm. The main setting for this story is Preston, Missouri BUT there are pieces of the story that take place in nearby Kansas City. I loved the small-town storefront presence that flowed the story as Brooke and the other shopowners worked to promote business for one another. I also loved the way that the Downtown Area of Kansas City was so well-represented: There is a scene in which Alex takes Brooke on a dinner date to Kansas City - it reminds me of being from my own small town and traveling to nearby larger towns on date nights. 
  4. Crafting/Supporting Local Business. I do not craft. I am not a crafter. I am also not a business owner. However, I LOVE LOVE LOVE that Brooke is and that she is so in love with the career path that she chose. She is self-taught, self-made, and she works her butt off. She is working hard to create a life doing something that she enjoys: making pretty things. She teaches crafting classes in her shop so other people can hopefully find joy in it too. This story takes place at a time when Brooke's business really needs to start taking off so she can start to feel a little more solid in her decision to open her business. The author writes in several instances of 'supporting local business' and I think that is so awesome. 
  5. Repurposing. Brooke not only creates new art, she loves repurposing and making old things look pretty again. She creates displays in her store so people can learn how to do the same thing. One of the best parts of this is that repurposing makes no sense to Alex. He understands Brooke's love for creating, but he finds it harder to grasp that she sees beauty in what he considers junk. It's very cute and makes for a few smile-inducing conversations. 
  6. Family Relationships. I love great family relationships just like the next person but this book took a different approach to that: There are a couple of family relationships that are reconnected and rebuilt after being strained for many years. I LOVE THIS. Not only is there a budding and growing romantic relationship, but there are family relationships that are healed. WIN. 
Everything is great and fun and wonderful in a new relationship, but Alex is withholding this really big piece of information from Brooke: the fact that he just inherited the 100 Main building. But there is more to this part of the story and it is kind of a big deal - now that Brooke's business is finally taking off and now that their relationship is doing well SECRETS AREN'T WHAT ALEX NEEDS. 

Be careful, Alex! Brooke is a fiesty one - I wouldn't want her upset with me!

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Blame It On The Mistletoe by Nicole Michaels was a quick, fun read with a happy ending and the added bonus of the holiday season. Oh, how I love a fun, swoony holiday story! Brooke and Alex are funny and cute as a couple, and the author wrote this story with an easy flow that made it a great selection for my ever-growing holiday collection. It is not a very long story, actually, which makes it a great option for re-read in the years to come or even later this year as it is still early in the season. I recommend Blame It On The Mistletoe by Nicole Michaels to fans of holidays reads, particularly standalones. I see that author Nicole Michaels has another book coming out in Spring 2015 and I have already added it to my to-read list because I am a sucker for fun, swoony romance stories. 

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Blame It On The Mistletoe will appeal to fans of:

Holiday Stories
Romance: Slow-Burn. No Triangle. 
Great Setting
Standalone

Blame It On The Mistletoe by Nicole Michaels
is currently available for purchase.  

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Series Review: Flappers by Jillian Larkin [No Spoilers]

Vixen / Flappers #1 / December 14, 2010 / 432 Pages / Goodreads / Amazon / B&N 
Ingenue
Flappers #2 / August 9, 2011 / 351 Pages / Goodreads / Amazon / B&N
Diva / Flappers #3 / July 10, 2012 / 320 Pages / Goodreads / Amazon / B&N

I decided to read this series on a whim after browsing my library's digital shelves and noticing that there is an audiobook format available. Interestingly enough, I only made it part of the way through the first book in via audiobook and decided to finish the series in print alone. 

Things I liked about The Flappers Series

1. The time period. Flappers are fun, right? I remember when this series began, actually, and I remember seeing reviews about it - everyone was all "Flappers!" - YES, the historical fiction portion of this series is a load of fun. There are speakeasies and there is the infamous gangster activity that is associated with them. There are flappers and the glamorous lifestyles of these people is carried throughout the series very well. These books are easily visualized which is something that I always love in a story.

2.  Alternating POV. All three books in this series are told in multiple points-of-view, which is kind of neat because we are able to see the same events and people in three very different perspectives. After the first book, more POV's are added -- This did not bother me because after finishing Vixen, I knew these particular characters enough and had connected with them enough that I want to hear their perspectives too. 

Things that I didn't love about The Flappers Series

1. The language. Even with the vivid imagery of the time period and the knowledge of the language of the day, I think the little phrases throughout the series were just too much. This is the one thing that caused me to switch from audiobook to print, and that is sort of a big deal for me. These are memorable phrases, things like "posilutely" and "cat's pajamas" and "bee's knees" - and I feel like it almost took away from the story. I realize that people talked this way back then, but once I realized these words were in abundance, I felt like they were just everywhere. Then once I began reading in print, my enjoyment of the series unfortunately decreased. 

2. The behavior. I know that speakeasies and all things associated with this time period were about being rebellious and daring, but I had a hard time wrapping my head around exactly how much and how often all of these teenagers indulged in drinking, partying, sneaking around, and illegal stuff. I am not a prudish person, but the excess was as much a distraction at times as the language was. 

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Gloria, Lorraine, and Clara are three friends that tell this story - one is rich and wants the more-exciting flapper lifestyle so bad that she has been willing to lie to make people believe she already has it; one is rich but wants a life that is different from the flapper-like and rebellious lifestyle that has already given her a poor reputation; one is caught in the middle and wants to make a name for herself outside of her friend's popularity. These young girls have engagements, taboo love affairs, double lives, tons of drinking and partying, exciting jobs, and glitz and glamour. There is love, heartache, betrayal, jealousy, and murder. I think there is a little bit of everything in this series, to be honest. I believe that the first book does a pretty good job of developing the major characters and one or two of the secondaries. 

Vixen started out exciting and I was invested! I loved the differing personalities of these girls and how they were so sneaky with each other and everyone else, and I loved the visual image of this book in my head. I loved how the book ended, which made me check out the second book in the series right away from the library - in print, like I mentioned, because I really wasn't attracted to the excessive use of the "Aaannnnd how!" talk. In spite of switching up formats, and even though I had a few problems with it, I still hung with Ingenue. It took me a long time to get thru the second book. I think it may have been a little more in the way of action and excess and behavior. Such drama! By the time I got Diva, I was trudging through and considering putting the series to rest due to lack of excitement. 

Why, you ask? 

In Vixen, I was invested in each perspective and story line so even with my annoyances, it was an easy decision for me to continue with the series. It became apparent as I read Ingenue that I just was not as invested in all three of the leading ladies and some of the new plot threads - there was really only one main story that I was following, and this is how it remained through the rest of the series. It was Gloria's overall story (even though she was not my favorite character) that kept me the most invested and by the time I got to Diva, her plot line/romance was the only one I really cared about. 

Also, I'm not sure that the character development that occurred in the first book continued throughout the series to any degree, which is a little unfortunate. I know that development cannot continue at the same rate that it does when we initially meet each character, but I love it when a character is able to continue to find ways to improve on him/herself (that's how life is, hopefully). For many readers, this non-progression is totally okay, but I think I was really rooting for these young people to buckle down a bit. Or perhaps I had too many expectations of this series when I went into it. 

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IN SUMMARY: I love the covers for these books. They caught my eye, and the idea of a YA historical fiction series is what reeled me in. Ultimately, however, I lost excitement about the stories as I made my way through the series. It is clear that the author has a love for this time period because it is captured well and so easily imaginable, but the rebellion and the back-stabbing and the full-on party-hard-1920's-style attitude of these characters made it hard for me to connect after a certain point. I found myself failing to care about the story when I saw that there was very little character change for the better. I think that big, big fans of this period of time may enjoy this series but than again they may not. I did enjoy one of the three perspectives more than the others, which is ultimately why I stuck with this series until the end. 

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The Flappers Series will appeal to fans of:

YA Historical Fiction 
Romance:  Multiple romances in each book, across the series. Some are already established, some are not. 
Flappers
Completed Series

The Flappers Series by Jillian Larkin
is currently available for purchase. 

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Have you read this series or any of these books? 

Don't you love these covers? 


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