Just Finished…’Burning Up’ and ‘The Note’

Ok, so I’ve read a few post-apocalypse and dystopian books recently, add to that Lost in Space and Fear the Walking Dead on my TV boxset watches, everything was getting pretty heavy. So, after finishing Station Eleven, which was an excellent, thought-provoking look at life after a major, world-wide epidemic takes out 99.8% of the world population in about 2 weeks, I needed something a bit lighter…

First up was The Note by Zoe Folbigg. Here’s the blurb:

The NoteThe note changed everything…

One very ordinary day, Maya Flowers sees a new commuter board her train to London, and suddenly the day isn’t ordinary at all. Maya knows immediately and irrevocably, that he is The One.

But the beautiful man on the train always has his head in a book and never seems to notice Maya sitting just down the carriage from him every day. Eventually, though, inspired by a very wise friend, Maya plucks up the courage to give the stranger a note asking him out for a drink. Afterall, what’s the worst that can happen?

And so begins a story of sliding doors, missed opportunities and finding happiness where you least expect it.

Based on the author’s true story, The Note is an uplifting, life-affirming reminder that taking a chance can change everything.

I got this as a free download from Amazon UK and it was the ‘sliding doors’ feel of the story and the promise of some lighter ‘life-affirming’ reading that appealed with this. I didn’t really get both. The story is told in third-person present tense, which has an odd ‘distancing’ quality to the whole presentation – you are so much inside main character Maya’s head, that it seems strange to me that it wasn’t done as first person, if it had been I think it would have helped you feel more engaged with the story and characters.

Maya works in fashion and whilst I get that some of the descriptions of her clothes and that of co-workers is to give context to what she does in work, I found it quite jarring to read the lengthy descriptions of blouses and dresses and skirts and shoes…and the materials they were made from…and the multitude of colours everyone is wearing… The same treatment was given to food that was eaten and most rooms Maya walked into – it wasn’t quite the manic descriptions of everything I found in American Psycho, but it certainly reminded me of it – and every time you had one of these descriptive interludes it really detracted from the core story I felt.

Anyway, the good bits are – Maya’s mild obsession and imagining a future from a random meeting on the train is quite relatable: ‘Ted Baker Man’ and ‘Red Coat Man’ would not be too far removed from ‘Train Guy’. She takes a l-o-n-g time to get anywhere with this though and as a character comes across as lacking self-awareness in many of her interactions with him. Overall, I think Maya’s best bits – and those of the story – are the characters she meets along the way and are not really what the blurb of the book promised: her Spanish class students, her best friend (who has a better romance story tbh) and sadly for Train Guy, seeing his existing relationship crumble. All those elements are stronger and feature much more heavily and realistically than their actual romance.

This gets 3* from me – the ideas and some of the characters are good; but the presentation of the story is distracting and distancing, which is unusual for what is pitched as a romance.

Burning UpNext up was Burning Up, which was a lot less cheesy than the cover and blurb would suggest… When they cut the chaps face off the cover to focus on his sweaty pecs I feel like it’s taking the potential reader a very specific way 🙂

Anyway, the blurb promises to ‘fan the flames of desire in Jennifer Blackwood’s smoking-hot series about firefighters and the women who want them…

Here’s what the book is about: Unemployed schoolteacher Erin Jenkins is back in Portland, the town she hasn’t called home for more than a decade. It’s not the way she wants to spend her last days of summer: in between jobs and avoiding her mother’s snooping by escaping to the ice-cream aisle. But when the opportunity arises for her to accompany her brother’s best friend—her lifetime crush—to a wedding, summer gets a whole lot more interesting.

Firefighter and single dad Jake Bennett has built a nice, safe wall around his heart—no romance, no getting burned. That doesn’t mean he’s ruling out a fling. Considering Erin’s visit is temporary, they’re the perfect fit for a scorching no-strings one-night stand. Or two. Or five. Until the worst thing happens: Erin and Jake are feeling more. Damn that four-letter word.

Now their hearts are on the line, and when their smoldering summer comes to a close, it’s going to be harder than ever to put out the fire.

Once you get away from the proliferation of puns for flaming romance and firemen in the blurb, the actual book is pretty good – and there’s no cheesy lines in sight, except for the odd one used in full sarcasm mode. Erin also doesn’t spend most of the book cataloguing the gorgeousness of Jake, but gets on with having a real life and change in circumstances around the budding relationship.

There are some heated scenes, so it’s not suitable for younger readers, but for me the book was primarily about fears of growing up and changing, how you balance the importance of a career against family life and potential relationships. It was also interesting reading from Jake’s perspective about balancing the idea of a new relationship alongside his responsibilities as a parent. There was a wider cast of characters in the book, who play important roles and influence Erin and how she deals with losing her job, as much as Jake does.

Overall, this was a better and more engaging read than The Note, with a romance and surrounding cast of characters that felt more in synch with the story and main character, as well as not featuring detailed descriptions of every inanimate object in the room every few pages. 4* rating for this one.

Now that I’ve had a mini-break reading-wise, it’s back to some grittier stuff: I’ve got Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses series to finish, Ubik on my kindle and Farenheiht 451 just dropped through the door… It’s going to be a mixed few weeks reading I guess…

 

 

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Book Boyfriends

A litte drink?
Book boyfriends Vs Real boys…?

Like many ladies, I’m not averse to a good slice of man totty livening up the pages of a book – although unfortunately, no matter how lovely Mr Darcy, Edward or any of them may seem, in reality, you’re more likely to meet one of these guys above, than one of our fictional lovelies.

But, as it’s Valentine’s Day, we can pretend can’t we? So, what kind of chap do we like to see in our books?

A lot of YA books still have the ‘Mr Darcy’ types in place: they are protective, a little aloof and can clash with their leading ladies…I’m thinking Four from Divergent, maybe Edward Cullen (although he has mildly stalker-ish tendencies), Lucas from Easy… Would you include Peeta in this group? He’s always putting Katniss first, even when she doesn’t realise it – shades of Elizabeth Bennett? 

Then again – your ‘bad boys’ are still popular too: Patch from Hush, Hush has plenty of fans, and Travis from Beautiful Disaster sits firmly on the wrong side of the street with his anger management issues and cage fighting antics.

Where would Mr Gray fit into things? I have to admit, I haven’t read the books, not really able to get through the opening pages in the kindle preview…but he’s certainly made an impact on many ladies out there, judging by the number of copies the Fifty Shades books sold!

So, how about you? Settling down with a book boyfriend this Friday – tell me who! 🙂

Happy Valentine’s Day!

http://cusick-jones.com//blog.php 2/14/2012 10:11:19 AM

Happy Valentine’s Day!

So…it’s that time of year again…Valentine’s Day. But do you love it or loathe it?

It is the one day a year that a cynic will tell you is aimed at charging people lots of money for poor quality food or near dead roses (they’re usually the same ones who tell you Christmas is too commercial) or gushy romantics will bore you to tears with cliche tales of true love.

Personally speaking I’m neither gushy nor cynical about Valentine’s Day, more mildly ambivalent really. Wow, with lukewarm sentiments like those you’d think I was completely heartless  but I think I must be a closet romantic. When you read a lot – especially YA books which tend to have some romantic element to them, often first love – you see the best parts of relationships. With a story about first love you see all the caution and fear and obsessing over every small detail – trust me, we all do it! And when they make that big jump and go for it? Well, we’re hooked aren’t we.

What’s the difference between love in ‘real life’ and what we read in our books? I believe that the core elements are exactly the same – magnetism, passion, friendship and trust – it’s just that in a novel it all comes in one big hit, whilst in real life it might begin that way but then other things happen to mellow it out so that you can actually consider living too!

So with that in mind – what’s a perfect Valentine’s Day? For me it goes one of two ways – if you’re with someone you care about, just do what you can to make it a special day and remind yourself why you love being with them – it doesn’t really need flowers and dinner, just each other. <- See I can do cheesy!

If not – why not grab a nice treat and settle down with one of your favourite couples and see them fall in love all over again? That sounds like a pretty good idea to me! If you’re stuck for ideas some of my favourites are Katniss and Peeta (in The Hunger Games or Mockingjay), Callum and Sephy (Noughts and Crosses) or Sookie and Eric (in Dead to the World). Of course I also love Cassie and Balik from Hope’s Daughter – but I would wouldn’t I?

(Original copy posted at asidefromwriting.wordpress.com on 14th February 2012)