Sunday, March 22, 2015

Review: Batter Up

When I first saw the title of Robyn Neeley's novel, I was intrigued. Batter Up...was it a baseball novel? It turns out it's not but what it is is a sweet, entertaining romance that has magic and, best of all, cake. What's not to love?

Here's the synopsis:
She mixes more than flour and sugar into her cake batter, and he’s about to find out if a little bit of magic is to his taste...
Bakeshop owner Emma Stevens has a secret — a delicious, slightly unorthodox secret. Each Monday, she mixes up a premonition to share with the bachelors of Buttermilk Falls, and sets one lucky man on the path to true love.
When reporter Jason Levine finds himself mixed up in a Las Vegas bachelorette party, he hears the strangest rumour: the marriage is happening thanks to magic cake batter. Seriously sceptical, and sick of frauds, Jason journeys to the backwater town of Buttermilk Falls to expose the baker and release the townspeople from her evil clutches.
But when Jason meets Emma, tempers flare and sparks fly. Will Jason cling to his logic at the expense of a future, or will he let himself fall under Emma’s spell?
I was telling someone about this book as I was reading it and as I was explaining it I realized it sounds completely hokey. Magic cake batter? But the beauty of this story is that it totally works. I liked that the magic added a fresh element to an otherwise simple (but in the best way) romance story. I also liked that the magic was a bit of a mystery, even to Emma.

I've said it before and I'll say it again...I love novels, romances especially, that take place in a small town. I like the quirky characters you get to meet and that everyone is in everyone else's business. How else would anyone get together if it weren't for meddlesome neighbours? They also seem to have the most fun events, like a bachelor auction for a good cause!

The romance is, as you may expect, quite predictable in that you know Emma and Jason are going to get together. That's the way of the genre! They have their ups and downs and miscommunications and sparks fly, and all get a happily ever after. But, to me, the formulaic romance doesn't matter because Neeley manages to keep things fresh and interesting. I didn't know exactly what was going to happen and she kept me rooting for the couple all the way through. In my mind, that makes a great romance novel.

If you like your romance with a dash of magic, Batter Up is definitely a book for you to read. It won't take you long, it's a novella, so it's an absolute perfect read for a rainy weekend afternoon. Or any time, really! I really enjoyed Robyn Neeley's book and can't wait to see what she writes next.

*A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Escape Publishing, via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Friday, March 13, 2015

Review: New Uses for Old Boyfriends

I love Beth Kendrick and I'm always so excited when she publishes a new book. It should be no surprise then that I jumped at the chance to read her latest novel, New Uses For Old Boyfriends. The book was good and I enjoyed reading it...but...I found it a little lacking.

Here's the synopsis:
After growing up in privilege and marrying into money, Lila Alders has gotten used to the good life. But when her happily-ever-after implodes, Lila must return to Black Dog Bay, the tiny seaside town where she grew up. She’s desperate for a safe haven, but everything has changed over the past ten years. Her family’s fortune is gone—and her mother is in total denial. It’s up to Lila to take care of everything...but she can barely take care of herself.
The former golden girl of Black Dog Bay struggles to reinvent herself by opening a vintage clothing boutique. But even as Lila finds new purpose for outdated dresses and tries to reunite with her ex, she realizes that sometimes it’s too late for old dreams. She’s lost everything she thought she needed but found something—someone—she desperately wants. A boy she hardly noticed has grown up into a man she can’t forget...and a second chance has never felt so much like first love.
I think one of my issues is that I found the characters to be somewhat two dimensional. Or maybe I just didn't get the connection I wanted with them. For example, Daphne, Lila's mom, drove me up the wall. I completely understand that she's been dealt a really hard hand in life but she wouldn't listen to her own daughter, who she seems quite close with. To be fair, this made Daphne's eventually transformation even more awesome. Not to give too much away, but she really shines once she finds her new path in life and gets her spark back.

This isn't the first time Kendrick has set a book in Black Dog Bay. A lot of the characters from Cure for the Common Breakup (my review is here) pop up in this story too. To carry on the previous character discussion, I felt like too many previous characters showed up and that took away from really getting to know Lila and Malcolm. Sure, I loved finding out what Summer and Ingrid were up to but, for example, Ingrid was such a secondary character and she shone far more than Malcolm, one of the love interests, did. 

All that being said...I did like the book. I liked that the romance wasn't totally obvious and I really enjoyed seeing how Lila and Daphne grew as women. They had a lot of really tough stuff to deal with and they did it with class - not everyone would be able to do that. It was also fun to get a bit of a crash course in couture fashion history. Kendrick did a good job of sharing information without overloading the reader with unnecessary facts. 

Maybe my expectations were too high for New Uses for Old Boyfriends. I do expect "ohmygod, I love this book to infinity and beyond" feelings when I dive into a new Beth Kendrick novel. Do I wish I had loved it more? Absolutely. Do I still think you should read it? Yep! This is a sweet novel, with depth!, that takes place in a small town everyone will want to visit. While it can stand on its own, I would recommend reading Cure for the Common Breakup first so you can get to know the characters and the town from the beginning.

*A copy of this book was provided by BookSparks via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*