Blog Tour Stop: Jennifer Honeybourn’s Wesley James Ruined My Life!

Welcome to the last stop on the Raincoast Books blog tour for Jennifer Honeybourn‘s contemporary YA debut, Wesley James Ruined My Life! Read on for my thoughts on the book as well as a short Q & A with Jennifer!

Wesley James Ruined My Life by Jennifer Honeybourn
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: July 18, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends
Book Description:

Sixteen-year-old Quinn Hardwick’s having a rough summer. Her beloved grandmother has been put into a nursing home, her dad’s gambling addiction has flared back up, and now her worst enemy is back in town: Wesley James, former childhood friend and life ruiner.

So when Wesley is hired to work with her at Tudor Tymes, a medieval England-themed restaurant, the last thing Quinn’s going to do is forgive and forget. She’s determined to remove him from her life and even the score for once and for all-by getting him fired.

But getting rid of Wesley isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. When Quinn finds herself falling for him, she has to decide what she wants more: to get even, or to get the boy.

Jennifer Honeybourn’s debut novel, Wesley James Ruined My Life, is a contemporary young adult title that blends teen romance and comedy with some more serious issues. From the first-person narrative of sixteen-year-old Quinn, readers are taken into her world, where her once-best-friend/crush and now mortal enemy, Wesley James, has returned to town.

Quinn, as we learn, already has enough on her plate: trying to save up money for a band trip to her dream city- London, England- Quinn is balancing work at a medieval England-themed restaurant, dealing with the aftermath of her parent’s separation, her father’s gambling addiction, and her beloved grandmother’s seriously declining health. Into all of this walks Quinn’s once-upon-a-time former best friend and perhaps crush, Wesley James. Back in town after a few years, and suddenly everywhere Quinn turns, Wesley James is infuriatingly inescapable- and charming, sweet, kind, and stirring up feelings that Quinn does not want to have. In an intriguing turn, readers learn that Quinn’s now years-long despisement of Wesley stems from her holding him responsible for the break-up of her parent’s marriage. As the book description hints, Quinn turns her focus to try and make Wesley pay – somehow- for the perceived damage he has caused her; but, as we can guess, things don’t quite work out or reveal themselves the way Quinn anticipates!

While on the whole a lighter, often frothy and fun (and very cute) read, Honeybourn fortifies and freshens the more traditional rom-com story in a few ways. Namely, with a genuinely likable and cognizant protagonist/narrator in Quinn (Wesley is also very likable); weightier storylines in terms of family matters; and a peculiar, funny, and memorable story point with the themed Tudor Tymes restaurant. Likely to appeal to readers who enjoy YA rom-coms, and those who like the writing of authors such as Leila Sales, Jessica Brody, Sarah Ockler, or Huntley Fitzpatrick, Wesley James Ruined My Life makes for fun, yet rooted YA reading. Overall, Jennifer Honeybourn has done a very good job with her debut YA, crafting an endearing and self-aware protagonist with a sweet romantic element and thoughtful story.

Question & Answer with Jennifer!

Q: One aspect of the novel I really appreciated- and think made the novel stronger!- was the combination of fun and romance with more serious issues. Was there ever a version of Wesley James that did not include more serious subject matter- i.e. Quinn’s father’s gambling addition or declining grandparents? Or did you always set out to write a rooted, real contemporary YA romance that delved into some harder issues?

A: The bones of WESLEY JAMES RUINED MY LIFE were always there, even from the first draft. I don’t think I set out to write about specific issues, they just sort of presented themselves along the way, as I was drafting and learning more about the characters. I wanted romance to play a large role, but not be the only focus of the story, because I felt like there was more to Quinn’s life, things she was grappling with, and that made her more real to me.

 

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this blog tour. All opinions and comments are my own. Q & A organized by Raincoast Books. Thank you!

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Must Read Monday (51): Adult fiction titles on my radar!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week is all about adult fiction. There have been numerous titles popping up on my radar (everything from contemporary to fantasy) due to recommendations from fellow readers, colleagues, review journals, etc., and I wanted to share out which titles have been added to my must-read!

The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner
Publication: July 12, 2016 by Random House

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Publication: August 9th 2016 by William Morrow Paperbacks

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab
Publication: February 24, 2015 by Tor Books

The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss
Publication: July 7, 2016 by Granta

All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker
Publication: July 12, 2016 by St. Martin’s Press

Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam
Publication: June 7, 2016 by Ecco

Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens
Publication: May 3, 2016 by Tin House Books

The Lauras by Sara Taylor
Publication: August 4, 2016 by William Heinemann

Review: Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons by Denise Grover Swank

twentyninehalfreasons24402504Review: Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons (Rose Gardner Mystery #2) by Denise Grover Swank
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Crooked Lane Books. Thank you!
Publication: September 15, 2015 by Crooked Lane Books
Verdict: Good/Very Good
Book Description:

When Rose Gardner reports for jury duty in Denise Grover Swank’s New York Times and USA Today bestselling series, she figures she’s lucky to get out of a morning working at the DMV. Then, in spite of a disastrous encounter with the new assistant district attorney, Mason Deveraux, she’s picked as a juror on a murder case. As the trial progresses and with the help of one of her visions, she realizes that there’s more to the story, but there’s not a cotton picking thing she can do about it. Or is there?

As if things weren’t bad enough, Rose’s older sister Violet is going through a mid-life crisis. Violet insists that Rose stop seeing her sexy new boyfriend, Arkansas state detective Joe Simmons, and date other men. Rose is done letting people boss her around, but she can’t commit to Joe either. Still, Rose isn’t about to let the best thing in her life slip away in the second in this charming series from bestseller Denise Grover Swank.

Returning to the world of Rose Gardner and her flatulent-inclined canine companion Muffy was a welcome reading respite. Just two books in and somehow I’m feeling as though the Rose Gardner books are one of my comfort reads..(even with the murder mystery element!).

As can often be the case with a second book in a series, character expansion (rather than high-octane hijinks) is a central feature and the rosy bloom of a just-started romance starts to fade a wee bit. In Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons, the undeniable spark between Rose and detective Joe Simmons is in full-swing, but there are just few issues shadowing their relationship. Namely, tensions regarding trust and fallout from meddling family members. Furthermore, a bit of a bombshell regarding Joe’s background and upbringing is also dropped- a development that I really hope Swank explores further in book three! Additionally, we meet a new character: competent and straitlaced District Attorney Mason Deveraux. Mason is introduced in way that would suggest competition for Rose’s affections and he is given a fair amount page-time with our protagonist. While I hope that the subsequent novels do not become rife with love triangle drama between Rose-Joe-Mason, part of me is very curious to see what actually becomes of Rose and Mason’s roller-coaster friendship.

There are just some minor qualms I had with this second novel that bear mentioning. This is a minor issue to be fair, but I had problems with the constant use of the phrase ‘crappy doodles’. In light doses it may be a cute catchphrase, but I found the the author inserted this phrase far too often for my reading palette- to the point where it became a bit of a distraction/ annoyance. My other quibble with the book is that the murder mystery element here was definitely not as thrilling or compelling as the case trajectory in book one. Granted, book one’s case revolved directly around Rose and her fighting for her own innocence, but I kept hoping that more high-risk developments and exploits would happen here- especially with regard to the murder case’s build-up and climactic scene!

Overall, even with a few small bumps in this second novel, I must say that I am thoroughly enjoying this series. Echoing my thoughts from my reading of the first Rose Gardner novel, Swank writes fun, sexy and entertaining mystery so well. With a winning combination of kooky and easy-to-like characters and nicely paced stories with a good balance of the romantic and the suspenseful, the Rose Gardner mysteries are pretty darn charming.

I received this book as a hardcopy from Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Review: Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes by Denise Grover Swank

twentyeighthalfwishes28.5_r1_c1Review: Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes (Rose Gardner Mystery #1) by Denise Grover Swank
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Crooked Lane Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: August 11, 2015 by Crooked Lane Books
Verdict: Good/Very Good

Book Description:

For Rose Gardner, working at the DMV is bad even before she has a vision of herself dead. She’s had plenty of visions, but this one is different. She’s never seen herself before. When her overbearing momma winds up murdered instead of Rose, there’s only one thing that’s certain: Rose is the prime suspect.

With prison looming, Rose realizes she’s wasted her life and makes a list on the back of a Wal-Mart receipt: twenty-eight things she wants to accomplish before everything falls apart. From drinking a glass of wine to doing “more” with a man, Rose is well on her way to committing a good number of the seven deadly sins, with the help of her hot and mysterious neighbor Joe. Joe is new to town, and it doesn’t take a vision for Rose to realize he’s got plenty of dangerous secrets of his own.

Say you’re watching a particularly saucy episode of The Good Wife. It’s a juicy one: full of intrigue, chemistry and friction between main characters, surprise twists, secret dalliances, and a legal hurdle that the lawyers miraculously meet. Picture that, but with the tenor of Hart of Dixie, and you may get something as compulsively readable, sweet and funny as Swank’s Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes.

Balancing multiple murder scenarios, ongoing criminal investigations, physic-like visions, family drama, a protagonist undergoing personal change and growth, and a mysterious and very handsome neighbor, Swank tackles a lot in this first of the Rose Gardner mysteries. But due to the novel’s easy to devour dialogue and story, and likable main characters, it all reads well. Even the romance between Rose and Joe, which is inevitable and anticipated, does not fail to charm. I think a major reason for my eschewing a number of contemporary titles featuring romance and a lot of YA over the last few years has been due to my tiring of foreseeable plot twists and all-too used tropes or character stereotypes. Now, this is not to say that Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes doesn’t have a few issues regarding predictability with respect to the Rose-Joe relationship, Rose’s ‘hidden’ beauty, or how (no spoilers), things work out in the end for Rose. But here’s the thing with Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes: Swank writes a good story. I was totally charmed and eager to keep reading. I was interested, liked the primary and secondary characters and wanted to see this story through to its end.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this title; I don’t know how else to express it, but it was just plain fun. Zippy dialogue, great chemistry between the main characters, smooth writing and a plot that kept up a quick pace- and did I mention an unusual dog riddled with flatulence? Yes indeed, combining murder, bloody crime scenes with a farting dog and steamy scenes can’t be easy, but kudos to Swank for pulling it off! I’m now keen to continue on with this series and see where the author pushes the story and the main characters.

I received this book as a hardcopy from Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.