Tag Archives: Contemporary Romance

26 Kisses by Anna Michels

Cute, cute, cute!

Mark breaks up with Veda Bentley on his graduation day. They’ve been together for almost two years and she is devastated, although he’s off to college and she’s got another year left of high school. She quits her job at the movie theatre where she and Mark worked together and mopes around in her room for long enough to cause concern to her two best friends, Melinda and Seth. On the busy Fourth of July, Vee helps out Mel at her father’s boat rental shop on Lake Michigan. Their hometown, the Michigan Dunes, is a resort destination which becomes a busy tourist trap during the summer months. Suddenly Vee finds herself with a new job at Flaherty’s Float and Boat working alongside an agreeable coworker, Killian, who shares a common interest in the debate team, although he attends a nearby rival high school. Yet Vee isn’t ready for a new relationship, so she maintains her distance, especially since Mel has talked her into a Kissing Challenge, as a distraction from the Mark fiasco, which involves “collecting” kisses from individuals whose names start with each letter of the alphabet including a fellow student named Adam, a dog called Elmo, and Zane, an underclassman from the debate team. Vee suddenly finds herself appreciating the “singles” lifestyle even though Killian would plainly like to take their friendship to the next level. Of course, the road is not a smooth one, with friend and family issues as well as uncomfortable rumors which might affect Vee’s reputation, but all’s well that ends well with a lighthearted culmination to finish out the summer (as well as complete the alphabet) which is sure to satisfy the reader.

26 Kisses by Anna Michels is a fun and diverting story perfect for any age, from the preteen up to their grandmother, with no overt sex beyond a few kissing scenes, but just enough romance to cause an “ahhhhh” and satisfy the heart. My main complaint (as a parent) was that there was quite a bit of underage drinking. While this is definitely not “The Great American Novel”, it is a perfect YA summer read. Four stars and a thank you to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Remembrance by Michelle Madow (Transcend Time, #1)

Andrew (Drew) Carmichael, a rich kid from Manhatten, transfers to a private school, The Beech Tree School, in Pembrooke, New Hampshire. The moment he takes a seat next to Elizabeth (Lizzie) Davenport they both feel a bonding connection, but the appearance of Drew causes a rift in Lizzie’s life. She has a boyfriend, Jeremy, who she has been dating for three years, since eighth grade. Then there is her best friend, Chelsea, who instantly sets her sights on the handsome Drew and hooks up with him almost immediately. Despite their mutual attraction, Drew and Liz do their best to remain distant. Even so, they are thrown together often enough to maintain an unspoken link. Theirs is a push pull relationship, with Drew or Lizzie trying to connect, then pushing each other apart, like two positive polar magnets trying to join together. Drew is adamant that Lizzie is nothing to him, ignoring her most of the time, yet offering to tutor her in French or drive her home when she is caught in the rain. Lizzie is torn between her growing feelings towards Drew and her longstanding childhood friendship with Jeremy and Chelsea. The twist to the plot is that Drew and Elizabeth were in love before, back in 1815. Slowly the details of their reincarnated past are revealed. Little clues are given, such as Liz’s ability to draw distinct details of life from the Regency Era including a self portrait of herself in historical costume standing in the middle of a ballroom. Then there is her sudden ability to speak fluent French and play the piano – all talents from her past life. The author skillfully entwines past with present, leading to the anticipated conclusion (with a few snags along the way).

While the characters were relatable and the idea was interesting, Remembrance by Michelle Madow just didn’t have enough content to sustain a full novel. At times the plot meanders off and repeats itself. We don’t need to know every detail of Lizzie’s Junior year, nor what happened in each class. All right, she has trouble focusing when Drew is near, but after once or twice we get the drift of her feelings. Then when they finally do connect it gets kind of sappy. Drew turns from a strong individual to a love sick calf pleading with Elizabeth to return his love. This after he all but told her she disgusted him.

There are also some little details which nagged at me. Drew was attracted to Lizzie’s curly hair (as it appeared in the past), yet in the self portrait Elizabeth’s hair is long and flowing down her back. In the Regency era, women wore their hair up, never down, in public. Then there is the motorboat that they used to go out on the lake late at night. At night? It must have been pitch black on the water, not exactly a safe adventure. Plus, it’s a motorboat whose engine would be quite loud – loud enough to wake up those in the houses overlooking the lake. It just didn’t make sense.

Despite the discrepancies, I did enjoy this novel and the next book in the Transcend Time Saga, Vegeance, looks to be even more interesting. I am guessing that if these first two volumes were combined into one book instead of two, there would have been enough plot material to have a more complete work. Madow was inspired by Taylor Swift’s music video “Love Story” which previewed in 2008. She should have stuck to the one connection. Instead, the author tried too hard to emulate Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice as a parallel novel to her story. Since Austin’s work originally had three volumes, perhaps the author wished to mirror this endeavor. My advice, chuck the comparison and go your own way. Three stars.

Please note: I was given a free download of this title in exchange for an honest review.

Some Kind of Normal by Juliana Stone

Juliana Stone is an author who is familiar with the hearts and minds of teens. Her newest YA novel, Some Kind of Normal, deals with the after effects of a drunken driving incident chronicled in her previous book, Boys Like You. Here is Trevor Lewis, whose life has been turned upside down after a car accident in his Junior Year in High School. He’s missed some of his Senior Year due to the resulting coma and has to live with the after effects of a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) which includes difficulty with simple tasks, such as playing the guitar and getting the words out properly. Issues which he tries to keep secret from the world. To make matters worse, Trevor must pass his Government Class in order to graduate. His summer tutor, Everly Jenkins, has issues of her own. On the outside her life is in perfect harmony, smart and pretty with the perfect home and parents. As a preacher’s daughter her life seems flawless, yet she too has been carrying a secret for over a year. A secret which could tear her family apart if revealed. These two injured teens find comfort just in the fact of knowing there is someone else out there struggling with obstacles beyond their control to repair. Despite their instant attraction to one another, the author slowly builds up to the point where they are able to verbalize their feelings. The relationship is not a smooth one, as each feels unworthy due to their perceived inner flaws. It is halfway through the novel before they are able to find comfort in each other’s arms. Although Trevor has never had trouble finding a hook up, he realizes that Everly is someone special and is willing to wait until she is ready to take the relationship to the next level. Everly is unsure of her emotions, and is torn between her desires and whether she is ready to fully commit to Trevor. Both teens must work through their demons before they can become a couple. Parents, siblings, and friends play a major role in the story, sometimes making life easier and sometimes worse. When circumstances lead to devastation in both of their lives, their reactions have repercussions which threaten their friendship. In the end, Trevor and Everly must accept “some kind of normal” to replace their past expectations and accept the reality of the new norm. A tender love story of teens left to face some harsh issues at a young age.

This is a romantic story suitable for Middle and High School students, although older readers will enjoy the book as well. When Trevor and Everly finally kiss, you could audibly hear the “ahhh!”. Not only is it beautifully written, but the dialogue is witty and the author paints a visual picture that is easy for the mind to capture, plus the characters’ behaviors ring true. Trevor and Everly take turns advancing the plot by telling their version of events. No one is perfect and the answers to the various dilemmas are not readily available. While there are problems to deal with, the reader has not been invited to a pity party. Don’t expect a fairy tale, happily ever after ending, but a realistic look at people moving forward with their lives in spite of their individual issues. Four stars.

I would like to sincerely thank Netgalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.