The Sun Is Also A Star (by Nicola Yoon)

28763485Young Adult / Contemporary Romance

In the last desperate hours before she and her family is deported, Natasha goes to the INS office in the hope her appeals have been heard and she can stay in the US. As her day progresses she touches the lives of many different people some in small ways and some in life-changing ways.

Daniel is supposed to be attending an interview to discuss his application to study at Yale, but when he sees Natasha, eyes closed and headphones on dancing to some unknown song and oblivious to the world around her, he is immediately captivated.

They spend their day, her last day together, and as the day progresses grow closer.


The Sun Is Also A Star is one of those very rare books that is perfect in every way.  It is achingly beautiful, poetic, heart breaking…and life affirming.  There isn’t a single bad thing I can say about this book, and it’s Young Adult, normally I would have lists. 5 Stars

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 10.26.54 PMYellow, Orange, Red. What it means.  YOR-Guide

Her Hopes and Dreams (by Terri Osburn)


Contemporary Romance

Carrie survived a relationship with a violent and abusive husband. She lives a simple life in a single-wide trailer on a small parcel of land she was able to buy. She has her job working for a local construction company, a few close friends and her daughter. She doesn’t need or want anything more.

Noah survived the violence of war. His wounds are in his mind. In his memories of war. He suffers from anxiety, panic attacks, struggles with crowds and sleep. He has moved into the ramshackle farmhouse next to Carrie’s single-wide wishing for nothing more than to live the life of a hermit.

But somehow, despite their issues, despite all the reasons a it’s a bad idea, they take the first tentative steps towards a relationship. But it’s a long way from a sure bet.


Terri Osburn writes some of the best contemporary romance around. Her stories are light and whimsical, not particularly challenging but entertaining from start to finish. Once you pick up one of her books it really is hard to put it down all the way to the very last page. And this book is no exception.

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Many thanks to Montlake Romance and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC

Grin & Beard It (by Penny Reid)

In the world of Contemporary Romance there is a lot of chaff. In musical terms 90% of it is bad 1980s karaoke. It’s your boss up there on stage belting out bad renditions of Air Supply and REO Speedwagon love songs.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the 1980s and yeah I’ll sing along even to the schmaltziest love song. I’ll admit it –– I know all the words to Moonlight Shadow by Mike Oldfield and I even sang the damned song to a girl I was keen on in Art Class. But It didn’t work! I didn’t get the girl! And rightly so because my voice is deplorable.

But that isn’t Penny Reid. In a genre dominated by hack renditions of Billy Joel and Chris de Burgh, Penny Reid is Lykke Li.

She’s Imelda May.

She’s the Avett Brothers.

5 Stars.

My One and Only (by Terri Osburn)

Contemporary Romance

As far as Dr. Haleigh Rae Mitchner is concerned, Cooper Ridgeway is more suited to a superhero cape than mechanic’s overalls. It’s just like Ardent Springs’s most upstanding resident to rescue a pregnant, homeless teenager and bring her to Haleigh’s delivery room. When they team up to help the new mother and baby, Haleigh is determined not to cross the line with Cooper. Not only is he her best friend’s brother, he’s a guy who deserves more than Haleigh’s checkered past could ever offer.

At first glance, Haleigh is no longer the girl Cooper pined for in school. The sleek, professional OB-GYN seems more out of reach than ever for this small-town mechanic. But the more time he spends with the complicated woman, the more he wants her. Who better than Cooper to prove to her that nothing is beyond fixing? Especially in Ardent Springs, a town that’s tailor-made for second chances.


Contemporary Romance is pretty damned conservative. The protagonists nearly always follow the rules, make the right decisions. They never cheat, they always decide to have the baby, they don’t fall off the wagon and they’re always supportive and protective of their lover. The rules of the genre are all but set in stone and a writer breaks them at her peril.

And that’s why Terri Osburn is one of a handful of CR authors I keep coming back to. Her books are proper contemporary romance but she isn’t afraid to break the rules. When I pick up one of her books I know there will be a surprise or two and I know I’m going to get a few moments that will make me smile for no other reason than their originality.

Terri Osburn has become the benchmark by which I measure all Contemporary Romance.

Position in Series: Book 3 (can be read as a stand-alone)

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 6.43.51 PM1 –– His First and Last
2 –– Our Now and Forever
3 –– My One and Only

 

 

 

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Many thanks to Montlake Romance and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC

Orange, Red, Yellow. What it means:  YOR-Guide

 

 

 

 

 

Worth the Trouble (by Jamie Beck)

Contemporary Romance

Two years earlier Cat chose another man over Hank, a man who turned out to be violent and abusive. Now she has kicked him to the kerb but fate once again throws her a curve-ball. In quick succession she learns that for a model 28 is over the hill, and adding to her problems she is diagnosed with early onset menopause and will not be able to have children.

Despite that she is determined to forge a new path, to land on her feet. When Hank delivers a hand-made end table to her best friend, Cat sees her chance. She sets out to convince him to partner with her in a business making exclusive hand-made furniture. But with an ailing mother and a younger sister he is putting through college, money is tight and he can’t afford to risk what he has to follow his dreams.

Hank never did get over Cat, he is perhaps the only man who can see past her façade and into the vulnerable woman desperate not be a failure. He knows she is attracted to him but every time they seem to be getting closer she pulls away and she won’t tell him why.

If they are to have any chance, Cat will need to open up to Hank and risk her heart. Something she has never done before.


 

 
Jamie Beck writes fairly typical contemporary romance. She follows the rules of the genre and honestly I can name a few books that share the same basic plot as Worth the Trouble. I would also say they don’t do it as well as Jamie Beck.

The big names in Contemporary Romance, names like Jill Shalvis and Susan Elizabeth Phillips need to watch their backs. There is a new generation of writers who are making the genre their own, and Jamie Beck is one of them.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 4.24.20 PMMany thanks to Montlake Romance and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC

Orange, Red, Yellow. What it means:  YOR-Guide

Summer Harvest (by Georgina Penney)

Women’s Fiction / Contemporary Romance

In the space of a few months, Beth’s sister dies of breast cancer, she herself is diagnosed, and after a double mastectomy her husband leaves her. She returns to live with her grandmother and withdraws into herself, only venturing out for her job as a dog trainer.

When her grandmother gives her a trip to Australia for her birthday she is reluctant to leave the austere life she has built for herself after the divorce. But despite her misgivings a week later she finds herself driving along a dry dusty road in the Margaret River wine making region of Western Australia, her destination a small cabin on a working farm.

As she settles in, she makes new friends, among them Clayton who runs a vineyard in the area. Their attraction is immediate but her scars run deeper than the surgeons knife, and for his part Clayton’s mother died of cancer and he is terrified of starting a relationship with Beth only to have her taken from him.


Summer Harvest is something of a hybrid. It combines the best elements of Contemporary Romance with what is essentially Women’s Fiction and it manages to effortlessly avoid the pitfalls of both. I wouldn’t call it a fun read, it’s serious and occasionally emotionally fraught but ultimately it’s emotionally satisfying and I loved it.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 4.24.20 PMMany thanks to Penguin Books Australia and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC

Orange, Red, Yellow. What it means:  YOR-Guide

Truth or Beard (by Penny Reid)

Contemporary Romance

After graduating from college, Jessica returns to her home town of Green Valley, TN to pay off her student loan and save some money before following her dreams and exploring the world.

Duane is anything but subtle. He’s honest to a fault, stand-offish and of the Winston brothers he’s the wall-flower. But he’s always loved Jessica and when she returns he sees his chance, plucks up the courage and makes his intentions known.

Unfortunately, settling down is not for her and it’s all there is for him. They grow to love each other, but with different life-goals, love just isn’t enough.


 
So…I was listening to an interview with the author and I think I’m going to contradict her here. One of the things I found most interesting about this book was that the typical archetypes of male and female characters were flipped. In this book Jessica was the one who couldn’t commit, the one who was going to leave while Duane was the one who wanted to settle down and have a family.

It isn’t surprising. In a genre that is dominated by books written for the lowest common denominator Penny Reid writes books that demand your attention and honestly make you feel a little smarter. She never plays by the rules and her books are better for it.

I don’t have a problem with those by the numbers romances. Honestly, I enjoy them –– they’re a bit like an apple pie bought from your local supermarket. They taste pretty damned good. But they can’t hold a candle to a homemade apple pie. There’s just no comparing the two.

 

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 4.24.20 PMOrange, Red, Yellow. What it means:  YOR-Guide

Our Now and Forever (by Terri Osburn)

Contemporary Romance

After a whirlwind romance, a Vegas wedding and two short months of marriage Snow comes to realise that marriage to Caleb is a package deal which includes his racist and malicious parents. Rather than living with people who think of her as white trash and unworthy of their son, she steals away in the night.

Eighteen months later, her life is anything but easy but she has a business in the small town of Ardent Springs, a group of friends and happiness. Then Caleb who has been searching for her ever since she ran away walks into her shop with the single purpose of taking his wife home.

She knows she can’t return to Baton Rouge and her frosty parents-in-law and she’s just as certain that he will grow bored of Ardent Springs very quickly. But Caleb is determined to win her back and is willing to do whatever it takes.


 
Contemporary Romance has been a bit of a wasteland for a couple of years. It’s been one rehashed plot after another and I’d all but given up on the genre. Then a friend told me about a new author who was writing great fiction –– this friend isn’t a particular fan of the genre and I thought, ‘if she’s impressed I definitely need to have a look’.

Oh boy.

Terri Osburn is a bright shining light in CR. She’s right on top of the mountain with intelligent well written stories and this one is another solid gold 5 star book. Favorite author. Favorite book. Honestly she could write a menu for her local Chinese Restaurant and I’d buy it. She’s that good.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 4.24.20 PMMany thanks to Montlake Romance and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC.

Orange, Red, Yellow. What it means:  YOR-Guide

Must Love Otters (by Eliza Gordon)

Contemporary Romance

Hollie Porter is stuck in a rut.

Her boyfriend is an EMT who thinks he’s some sort of cross between Patrick Dempsey and George Clooney. She hates her job as a 911 operator listening to the very worst of life. And she has no idea where she wants to be…but it isn’t where she is.

The thing she really loves….is otters.

So when her father gives her a gift certificate to a spa and resort in British Columbia her first thought is she can see otters.

But her boyfriend is anything but pleased with the thought of leaving his beloved Yorkshire Terriers behind.

She hates his Yorkshire Terriers.

After a bad day at work she comes home to find her boyfriend watching real-life medical procedures and finally she snaps. She kicks him to the kerb and after a night of drowning her sorrows decides to make some changes. Her first change is to head north on her own and hopefully see some otters.

The first person she meets on her journey north is Ryan. Concierge at the resort, seaplane pilot and former professional ice-hockey player. Carrying a scruffy beard and a many times broken nose he’s quite the mountain man but his gentle demeanour and friendliness immediately make her feel at home.

And then there’s Roger. A successful businessman who is staying at the resort.

With two very different men vying for her attention the holiday which was an escape from the rut she’s been stuck in has suddenly become very complicated.

I loved this book. I loved Hollie. I loved the otters. I loved the setting. It’s so much fun. At the 50% mark I started thinking I don’t want this to end, and I think I one-clicked book two not long after that. Shooting straight into my favourites.

Top Shelf! Third from the left.

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Note:  There is no real violence in this book but there are one or two quite gory descriptions which is why I’ve categorised it as amber rather than yellow.

The Comfort of Favorite Things (by Alison Kent)

Contemporary Romance

After escaping an abusive relationship, Thea returned to her childhood home of Hope Springs with a suitcase full of money and ragtag group of women, other survivors of domestic violence. She immediately bought a decrepit old house and a shop with plans on turning the house into a shelter for women on the run from their abusers and the shop as a place to get them working and earning a few dollars.

Then her boyfriend from high school walks in the door and she finds herself dealing with her past as well as her present.

The last time Dakota saw Thea was the night before he was dragged off to prison for beating up his sister’s rapist six ways to Sunday. After his release he hit the road and it’s only now with the birth of his niece and his sister getting married that he has returned to Hope Springs. But despite everyone wanting him to hang around, the road is calling him and once he finishes the renovation for Thea he plans on moving on.


Such a beautiful, sweet book. It’s about damaged women who are getting their lives back and I really found myself engaging with all of them. While it sits comfortably in Contemporary Romance there are definitely some elements which I would describe as Women’s Fiction. Truthfully the romance didn’t really start till the last 30% of the book and that’s fine. Everything about this book is great.

Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 8.51.33 pmMany thanks to Montlake Romance and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC

Orange, Red, Yellow. What it means: red-orange-yellow-guide