Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Review: Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Rarely do I feel compelled to review a book. To the public, I mean. Believe me, the CP and I spend our fair share of time praising this book, griping over that one, swearing we never should've picked up this piece of *bleep*, wishing we would've read this work of art sooner. For both of us, Perfect Chemistry by best-selling YA novelist Simone Elkeles embodied that last sentiment to perfection this week.

Perfect Chemistry, Simone Elkeles, 2009, Walker & Co., 357 pages.

At Fairfield High School, on the outskirts of Chicago, everyone knows that south siders and north siders aren't exactly compatible elements. So when head cheerleader Brittany Ellis and gang member Alex Fuentes are forced to be lab partners in chemistry class, the results are bound to be explosive. But neither teen is prepared for the most surprising chemical reaction of all--love. Can they break through the stereotypes and misconceptions that threaten to keep them apart?

Written in first person, present tense, flip-flopping (with clear breaks, I am compelled to indicate) between the two main characters (hero & heroine), Perfect Chemistry breaks the mold of typical teen angst novel,  reaches beyond that overdone Romeo & Juliet-meets-West Side Story thingamajig, and lands somewhere between... oh, take your pick among the best romances, then mix thoroughly with the best YA, and, just for fun, throw in a dash of the that plot, mingled with those characters, which chased you around for weeks, maybe months.

Have I managed to confuse you? Sorry about that. Here's what I loved about this book: The hero is deep in more ways than just a poetry-writing, love-confessing (sorry Edward, but the constant sappiness gets on my nerves), head-over-heels-for-the-girl-to-the-point-I'd-rather-die-than-live-without-you nincompoop. He's real. Into some major stuff, too--all gang-related, which is a new thing for me as a reader. Ms. Elkeles definitely did her research with this one. Latino gang-banger tough guy Alejandro "Alex" Fuentes has no qualms with standing up for himself and his friends, even to the richer-than-rich popular kids at school. What's more, you believe in him--his conviction of self, the lengths to which he will go to protect and provide for his mama and two younger brothers.

Oh, and I hate to be a cougar, but this boy is totally, off-the-charts, slap-yo-mamma hot.

Ahem. Moving on...

Equally, our rich heroine beauty Brittany Ellis is more than meets the eye. Sure, she's gorgeous, perfect, a snow, drives a BMW, blah-di-blah-di-blah. But she's got her own demons. And, no, it's not that, "Oh, yeah? Demons? Really? Like, her parents are divorced? Or she can't figure out what to wear to the prom?"  I'm talking real stuff. Yes, the type she deals with at home, but, as I pointed out earlier, this is not your typical teenager, cry-me-a-river-already YA.

Cons to this book? I was all too sad to see it end. In fact, I can totally see myself reading it over in the very near future, just to soak up the characters and plot. This is the type of story that makes a writer want to write, and if you're a writer, you know exactly what I mean.

Perfect Chemistry is merely the first book in the Perfect Chemistry Series, the other stories of which feature Alex's brothers. You can read more about the series here: and more about the author here:

The Fuentes Boys holding their respective books.
From L to R: Alex, Carlos, & Luis

Have any of you read an exceptionally good story lately? One you were hard-pressed to put down?

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


Monday, January 23, 2012

Go Byron, It's Your Birthday!

OK, so, you probably wouldn't have heard that line during the notoriously snooty time in which our birthday boy lived.  Be that as it may, I felt it important to wish one of the greatest love poets of all time a very happy, belated (it was actually yesterday) 224th.  

George Gordon Noel, 6th Baron Byron
January 22, 1788 - April 19, 1824

Whew!  Lookin' good there, Buddy!  Here's 10 fun facts about our guest of honor:

1. Born to a captain and an heiress, both of whom came from nobility (one part Scottish, one part English).
2. Also born with a clubfoot (right side) and had a permanent limp, of which he was quite embarrassed and so referred to himself as "the limping devil."
3. Considered Napoleon Bonaparte his hero. (How unpatriotic!)
4. Published his first verses in 1806.
5. Had an incestuous relationship with his half-sister. (And possibly fathered one of her children.)
6. Expelled from England for sodomizing his wife.
7. Famous novelist Lady Caroline Lamb referred to him as, "mad, bad, and dangerous to know." (See #6)
8. Drank from a human skull he found on his monstrous estate.
9. Rumored to have suffered from bipolar disorder, as well as manic depression. (See #8)
10. Died at 36 of a high fever he contracted while in Greece.

I'm thinking he thought his right side was his best.

And for your reading pleasure, arguably his most famous poem, She Walks in Beauty.

She walks in beauty, like the night
   Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
   Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
   Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
   Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
   Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
   How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
   So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
   But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
   A heart whose love is innocent!

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Free for Tuesday!

Sharing a link to a FREE--that's right, totally free; no gimmicks, no bill-you-laters--eBook from Victorian historical mystery author Dara England. Today on, you can purchase the novella Accomplished in Murder, free of charge. So, treat your Kindle (and yourself!) with a little romance this fine Tuesday and, while you're at it, check out Dara's other sites. Au revoir!

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


Friday, January 13, 2012

When One Falls in Love with an Author...

Ever picked up a new author, or had a good friend hand over a book she read in, like, a night, saying, "Oh my gosh, you've gotta read this. You've just gotta," and, of course, you do? And, yes, you love it--the plot, the prose, dialogue, and wit. Everything. Delicious writing brilliance at its best. The kind of which, if you're a writer, stews instant and insane jealousy.

Right, I'm sure we all have.

Last year some time, or it could've been earlier--baby brain has a way of robbing memory, just so you know--my CP handed over a nicely worn paperback entitled All I Ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins.

"But I don't read contemporary," I protested, tucking my Regency historical closer to my breast.

"Yeah, I know,'ll like this one. I promise." Or something to that effect. "Just read it. Tell me what you think."

Two days later, as my husband was driving me to the airport--indeed, it was last year; March, to be exact--I finished the last chapter with an enthusiasm I can only compare to a kid thumbing through the Sears catalog at Christmas time.

And, yes, I'm well aware kids don't do that anymore, but you get the idea.

I love this woman. She's funny, witty. Master at first person and fast writer; you can dash through numerous chapters before you even know what hit ("Wow, I'm already on ten!"), because the eagerness to know what happens next has completely overtaken you. By the end, you're satisfied, smiling, reaching for a piece of chocolate or a savory cup of coffee, and you're thinking to yourself, "Why doesn't everyone read romance?" Because romance like this, folks, done and dolled up with all the smarts of an author passionate about her craft, tips the literary scale in my book.

New York Times and USA Today
Bestselling Author Kristan Higgins

Needless to say, I've just sent Ms. Higgins's complete book list to the old work email and plan on hitting the store at lunch.

Has there ever been an author with whom you fell in love so fast and so hard, you simply had to read everything they'd written? And if so, who? And while you're at it...why? What makes them so special to you?

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


Monday, January 9, 2012

Happy Birthday to the Duchess of Cambridge!

Kate at last night's premiere of War Horse

"Turning 30" 
by Gem

Turning thirty is a milestone

The one that inside we all dread
But what exactly does thirty mean
Could it mean something good instead?

Turning thirty is when you own
At least one classical music CD
Even if it's just one for display
It's there, an unofficial emcee

Turning thirty is going to the pub
A quiet place to have a drink
But only if there's a place to sit
And only if you can hear yourself think

Turning thirty is buying a wine rack
That actually holds bottles of wine
Bottles you don't need to drink all at once
You feel mature and oh so refined

Turning thirty is calling off the search
Of finding the perfect match
Who you'll spend the rest of your life with
Completely happily attached

Turning thirty isn't all that bad
After all, they say it's the new twenty
So you're actually safe for ten more years
Until you turn the dreaded forty!


Check out Gemma's poet's profile at

Kate, 6 yrs old


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas

Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas, 2004, Harper Collins Publishers (Avon), 391 pages

Lady Aline Marsden was brought up for one reason: to make an advantageous marriage to a member of her own class.  Instead, she willingly gave her innocence to John McKenna, a servant on her father's estate.  Their passionate transgression was unforgivable--John was sent away, and Aline was left to live in the exile from London society. 

Now McKenna has made his fortune, and he has returned--more boldly handsome and more mesmerizing than before.  His ruthless plan is to take revenge on the woman who shattered his dreams of love.  But the magic between them burns as bright as ever.  And now he must decide whether to let vengeance take its toll...or risk everything for his first, and only, love.

First and foremost, this is one of the very first books I read by Lisa Kleypas. An interesting, true romance writer, Ms. Kleypas keeps a reader on their toes, weaving exceptional plot devices with multi-dimensional characters. Again the Magic is no exception to the rule. 

Well-bred, aristocratic heroine Aline Marsden is sister to the Earl of Westbrook, and they live on a HUGE country estate, which Kleypas describes to perfection. Rolling hills, lakes, hunting grounds, lush gardens. And the house itself is out of this world amazing with its rich furnishings and neighboring hunter's cottage. Right off the bat, one can easily picture oneself sitting on the back lawn, sipping lemonade or tea with the Marsden family, wind tousling your hair, the scent of fresh lawn sifting through a Spring breeze...

As for the characters, Aline is genuinely likable. Though beautiful, she's not perfect; even harbors a dark secret which the hero later discovers. Speaking of which, former servant turned American businessman McKenna (everyone calls him by his last name, a commonplace practice during that time period) is a strong, good looking, typically piratical dark-type. Typical, I say, because that seems to be an ongoing trend with romance novels.  Not that I disagree, precisely, but sometimes I'd rather read about an average Joe, ya know? All right. Back to the subject at hand: He's changed a lot, our hero, from the boy Aline once knew. He's extremely ambitious, smart, and has a new American accent to boot.

But he wants revenge on Aline for breaking his heart. And that, gentle readers, is the core plot of the book. He feels rejected, even after all these years, but he's not a boy anymore. He's a man with a man's needs, and he's not afraid to own up to 'em. When he returns to the estate (he, his American sidekick Gideon, and Earl Westbrook are working on a business deal), he seeks out Aline. Then, proceeds to boldly inform her that unless she tells him to leave (again), he plans to bed her before his visit's up. Yes, that makes for some saucy sexual tension.

And while we're on that subject...the love scenes (yes, scenes, plural!) are very tasteful and well-written. Because the past between these two runs so far deep and wide, when they finally...ya's heart pounding, face-fanning, somebody-hand-me-a-glass-of-water delicious. Exceptional to the wam-bam-thank-you-ma'am, though by the second lovemaking scene, I kind of felt irritated toward McKenna for his lack of kind. By then, his revenge ordeal was really getting on my nerves.

Naturally, however, when deep feelings are involved, it's hard to hurt someone. Even when they've hurt you. Kind of the way love works, right? So, in true romance novel fashion, everything works out in the end, fences are mended, they kiss and make up, la, la, la... happily ever after...

All in all, I'd give this one a 4 out of 5, enough to earn its slot on my keeper shelf.

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year, New Challenge

Courtesy of

Last year in blogging was rather interesting. Granted, I didn't blog like I intended to/should have.  However, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting new people, reading all of your blogs, learning about writing, makeup, scrapbooking, Duchess Kate, etc., etc.  What I noticed is that a lot of my fellow bloggers--especially you wonderfully talented writers--participated in various challenges throughout the year.  Now, I only did one myself, and an easy, easy one at that, but as I was thumbing through new posts this morning, I came across...

What does it entail? Really quite simple:  The challenge focuses on the reign of Queen Victoria and her gorgeous, frilly Victorian age which lasted from approximately 1837-1901. If you're not a history connoisseur or, perhaps, need something a little more visual, think Sherlock Holmes, men in tailed coats, striped waistcoats, and tall top hats. Women in bustled dresses of velvet and lace and fashionable prints with plumed hats cocked to the side atop their heads and pleated feminine parasols (umbrellas). Children and adults alike read Charles Dickens, while women were partial to the endearingly sorrowful Bronte sisters.

Courtesy of

Yeah? Are you there yet? Good deal. Books shall be counted which were written by authors of this age, set during the era, pertain to an individual who lived during this time period (biographies/autobiographies), or those about a Victorian author, history, manners, architecture, Queen Victoria, etc. Short stories, audiobooks, and films shall also be accepted.

Basically, it's a celebration of all things Victorian. And since I love this wondrous time in history (along with the Regency, of course), I figured...why not? Discipline, right? I've decided to start with a reread of Lisa Kleypas's Again the Magic (love this book) and will seek thereafter to find other authors who wrote stories set in the Victorian Era. In addition, I'll most definitely watch movies, mini-series (North & South, hello!), as well as brush up on my Bronte and Dickens.

What challenges are you looking to do this year? Any rinse/repeats? Anything new? Spill! 

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,

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