Reality 36

Reality 36 by Guy Haley is a really cool mash-up of a sort that doesn’t happen often enough. It’s a science fiction mystery. And not just any kind of mystery, but an old school detective kind of mystery, except that neither of the detectives are from any type of school that Sam Spade would have recognized.

The detective firm in Reality 36 has the name “Richards & Klein” on its doors, which exist in both real and virtual space. The year is 2129, and the world has definitely moved on from 2011. That’s both good and bad.  Otherwise, there wouldn’t be a story.

The Mr. Klein, of Richards & Klein, is Otto Klein. He’s ex-military. It’s not even uncommon today for ex-military personnel to go into security work in some way, or at least not uncommon according to TV and the movies. But Otto Klein is an ex-military cyborg. That’s definitely more 2129 than 2011.

And Richards, well, Richards is an AI. Yes, that’s Artificial Intelligence. But in 2129, AIs beyond a certain level are citizens, as are other creatures that don’t currently exist. Richards is a Class 5 AI, one of the most powerfully intelligent AIs remaining that didn’t go insane. There are AIs running lots of things in 2129. There are 3 AI Uncle Sams running the fractured government of North America. They substitute bureaucracy for power. I’m still snickering over that one.

What is Reality 36 itself? Reality 36 is one of the game worlds that has been closed since the AIs that populate the game worlds were determined to be, you guessed it, self-aware and sentient.

How do Richards & Klein get involved? A simple murder that turns out to be not so simple. A man is killed. A human, not an AI. But a very important man to the AIs. The man who argued, lobbied and fought for AIs to be granted citizenship. Professor Zhang Qifang is found dead on a yacht. And in a London alleyway. And in his apartment in Los Angeles. And captured alive but with a faulty memory. When all the living and dead clones turn up (plus the one dead “real” Professor), it turns out that the situation is even messier than they thought.

And that whoever the villain is, he, she or it is targeting Richards & Klein specifically. And anyone who can help, will help them, or might be reasonably predicted to help them is in danger. And only an AI could make those kind of predictions. But which one has gone rogue? Who watches the watchers?

Verdict: Reality 36 is a kind of cybergeek technothriller with its roots back in noir fiction. If any of those types of stories appeal to you (they do to me) you will enjoy this book. Richards loves to adopt the personas of Sam Spade/Raymond Chandler-era detectives whenever possible (I’m certain he would have empathized with Captain Picard’s holodramas of Dixon Hill). Klein is the world-weary side of the equation, older, wanting to retire, but not ready to hang up his guns just yet, still making up for the bad things he witnessed.

Richards is also an anti-hero. He seems to be the only Level 5 who still has a sense of “play” for want of a better world. He definitely does do work, but only on his own terms, which makes him the only one with the power and the ability to stop the rogue. So he and his partner are the targets from the beginning. Watching them run through the “maze” is a fantastic introduction to the new universe that Haley has created.

But for a very new-fangled story (the AIs are even called neukind), this book has an extremely old-fashioned ending. It’s a total cliffhanger! Richards leaps into the virtual eye of the storm and the story continues in the next book, Omega Point. Dammit. I want to know what happens next.

Escape Rating B+: I couldn’t quite manage to stay up to finish it–but I finished over breakfast the next morning!

Lord of the Vampires

Lord of the Vampires by Gena Showalter is the first book in the Royal House of Shadows from Harlequin Nocturne. The series is about the children of a royal family in a world that exists parallel to our own. This is a world where magic exists, the king is a vampire, and the queen is a witch. Unfortunately for this particular ruling pair, their throne was coveted by an evil sorcerer, and they were murdered. But not before they each cast one final spell. The king’s spell imbued his four children with an unstoppable need for revenge. The queen used her last ounce of power to send each of her children far away from the sorcerer, from the kingdom, and unfortunately, from each other.

Lord of the Vampires is the story of the crown prince, the oldest son Nicolai. The spell flings him naked out of his own kingdom, Elden, and into the slave markets of Delfina, where he is quickly sold as a sex slave.  His memories are wiped away by magic, and he knows nothing except rage and his dreams of vengeance against a sorcerer whose name he cannot remember.

In our world, a woman named Jane Parker receives a leather-bound book, along with a note bearing four simple words, “I need you, Jane”. Jane is disbelieving. No one needs her. Her family was killed in a car crash, and she was the only survivor. She has just regained the use of her legs. She is totally alone. But touching the book brings back memories that she doesn’t think are hers, as well as dreams that she barely remembers. In dreams she has experienced what the book details, and she knows it. What she doesn’t know is how it is even possible. She worked in quantum physics before her accident, she has met creatures from the parallel world, but she is sure what she feels just isn’t logical.

But just the same, she can’t stop thinking about the book, her dreams, and her memories of those dreams. So when logic fails completely, she settles down to actually read the book itself. And when she falls asleep over the book, she crosses the barrier between the worlds, and meets her destiny. And Nicolai, who needs her.

Lord of the Vampires fell into the “just plain fun” category for me in spite of the dark themes throughout the book. The evil characters were all caricatures of evil, particularly the ones who have been “keeping” Nicolai for the last several years. The link between our world and Nicolai’s was just a bit too convenient. And although Nicolai summoned Jane to help him escape from his captivity, when she turns out to be his chosen mate, they are both surprisingly agreeable to being bound together for life. On the whole, Lord of the Vampires was mind candy, but it was pretty good mind candy. The next book in the series will be Lord of Rage by Jill Monroe, followed by Lord of the Wolfyn by Jessica Andersen and last by definitely not least Lord of the Abyss by Nalini Singh. It will be interesting to see how different authors manage to handle the different siblings while still retaining the continuity.

Escape Rating: C+: Definitely worth following the series, but the cliché count rose to high to keep me up all night reaching for the ending.

Motor City Wolf

Werewolves in Detroit. Who would ever have thought? Robots maybe, but not werewolves. However, in Cindy Spencer Pape’s third book of the Urban Arcana, the idea more than works, it downright kicks ass and takes names.

The werewolf in Motor City Wolf is Greg Novak. Greg owns a bar in Detroit and is assisted by his brother George. The wolves are not the only paranormals operating in the Detroit area. There are also fae of various kinds and human magic practitioners, otherwise known as witches.

There are also those less kindly disposed toward humans and human-like creatures. Everyone calls them demons.

The fae had their own internal struggles, a kind of racial purity movement. At first it seemed like an internal fae struggle between those who favored pure fae heritage and those who had interbred with humans. It turned out that the movement may have been fomented by outside agitators from the demons.

Fianna of the Meadows was supposed to be brainwashed by her family to believe in the purity movement. But when that movement started killing people, she turned herself in. She was still punished, but instead of a death sentence, her fae powers were suppressed and she was forced to live as one of the humans her family had so despised. The intent was for her to learn humility. She was given a job that definitely has its humble moments: she was sentenced to be a barmaid at Greg Novak’s werewolf bar in Detroit!

Fianna Meadows learned how to wait tables, pull drinks, make change, dodge rowdy drunks, and fend off the pinching hands and grabby paws of the bar patrons. She learned how to do real work instead of taking short cuts through magic. And she learned how to make her own decisions instead of relying on the men in her family to tell her what she was supposed to believe, because that was what got her into trouble in the first place.

But being human had some interesting side effects for Fianna. Human senses are less effective in a lot of ways than fae senses. On the other hand, human emotions are a whole lot more volatile than anything Fianna ever experienced as a fae. They’re embarrassing and confusing. Especially the feelings she has for the werewolf Greg Novak. And the ones he seems to have for her, but won’t act on.

Then the demon conspiracy against the Detroit paranormal community turns its attention to the werewolves, and Greg’s bar becomes one of its targets. When Greg’s need to protect Fianna as a member of his “pack” expands out of control, he realizes that she means more to him than he had ever planned on.

The Urban Arcana is an ongoing series, and Motor City Wolf is definitely part of that series. I read all three books, Motor City Fae, Motor City Witch and Motor City Wolf in one grand, glorious reading binge over the weekend, and I absolutely loved the series. I can see who I think the next book will be about, and I wish it were out now.

Considered as part of the ongoing story, this book was tremendous fun. Greg and Fianna are interesting people. They’ve both been damaged, and in the same way, so they understand each other. Greg is someone who has learned to be strong in the broken places, and knows that everyone needs a second chance. That is part of why he is willing to give Fianna a job as part of her punishment at the beginning of the story. And Greg is an alpha because it is necessary to the story, but manages to not be a jerk or worse about it. That’s an interesting combination and not easy to pull off. Fianna’s redemption was also well done. The person she was in Motor City Fae I wouldn’t have given the time of day to. She changes in a way that works.

The Urban Arcana definitely puts Detroit on the Urban Fantasy map. And the next book in the series will be Motor City Mage in March 2012. I hope it’s not the last.

Escape Rating: A+ Keeps you awake until the very last page–no matter how late (or early) it is!

Spoiled but not rotten

When I think of “spoilers” I hear the word spoken in River Song’s particular sing-song, usually accompanied by the endearment, “Sweetie”, and inevitably followed by the opening of her Tardis-blue diary.

The Doctor and River Song are living their relationship out of sync with time relative to each other. The first time the Doctor meets River, she has known him all of her life but he’s never met her before. Every time they meet after that, each of them remembers different pieces of their relationship, but on the whole, at least so far, what she remember is his future, and what he remembers is her future — and he knows that her future is going to end badly. His is going to contain an unbearable amount of pain. But then, so does his past. However, there’s the inevitable time paradox involved. His future is her past, so what has happened must happen. Even though River knows it will bring him agony, she must let it happen–she can’t spoil it. The actual fate of the universe is at stake. “No spoilers,” are allowed.

But we regular humans seem to like spoilers. Or we do according to an article that appeared earlier this month in Wired that immediately went viral. The research indicates that spoiling the ending of the book or the big surprise finale of a TV show helps most people enjoy the story.

This makes sense, doesn’t it? How many readers thumb to the end to find out what happens? Honestly? I know I do. Not at first, because the ending wouldn’t make sense. But after a third or maybe halfway, then I’m interested in seeing if I’ve figured things out. I’m curious if I’ve guessed “whodunnit”. Or if the evil villain I thought it was really is the actual “big bad”, because sometimes the “man behind the curtain” conceals yet another “man behind another curtain”. Of course, sometimes that “man” is a “woman” or a vampire, or a dragon. To each genre their own.

Even when I find out the ending, I still don’t know how the author gets there. The journey is always entertaining, even when I am certain of the destination. And when I have guessed wrong, then I really, really want to know how the author fooled me.

If we humans didn’t enjoy predictability in our fiction, we wouldn’t re-read the same books over and over, which we do. We also wouldn’t re-make the same story in different settings. West Side Story is still Romeo and Juliet. It was a good story both times, but it was the same story, dressed up in different clothes. Everyone knew how it ended.

The thing about thumbing to the end is something that is different with ebooks and digital media. I wonder what effect it will have?

Listening to an audiobook, it’s just difficult to zip to the end and then zip back to where you were. This is particularly true since people often listen to audio because their hands are otherwise occupied with something important, like driving. The medium just doesn’t lend itself to the idea of the casual flip to the back of the book and then flop back to where you were before.  Mysteries are particularly popular in audiobooks, and this maybe the reason. It’s just plain hard to find out if “the butler did it” until the end, even if you really, really want to.

With ebooks its a lot easier. I can bookmark the page I’m on, go to the end, and then go back to my bookmark. It’s possible. It’s even easy. I’m realizing that I just don’t do it, and I don’t know why. New medium, new method.

One person in eight

If one person in eight was known to be user of a particular service, would your library offer that service?

Let’s make some assumptions here, just to get the ball rolling. 1) The service is related to libraries’ core missions fairly closely, 2) That the figure of one person in eight applies nationwide, so there is a reason to believe it applies in your community, and 3) one person in eight is a rising tide, usage is measurably growing, and growing fast.

If the census showed that a particular demographic group had come to make up 12% or 13% of the population your library served, would you not immediately provide collections and services that targeted that group, if you  had not already done so?

Now, what if I said that one user in three expected service to be provided to them in a particular way, would you provide service in that way? If you were a business, you would. But libraries are not businesses. Should we still provide services in the ways that people want them, instead of the ways that we are used to providing them? Those are the questions.

When these questions generally come up, the services and the delivery usually get mentioned first. This time, I talked about the numbers first, because the numbers are more important. The numbers represent people, and people are our users. Our users are our supporters, or, we want them to be. In order to keep their “mind-share” we need to provide service to them the ways they want and expect it, not just the ways we’re used to and are comfortable with.

According to a recent (July 11, 2011) Pew International Report, 35% of all Americans have a smartphone. All Americans: not just teenagers and not just high-tech early adopters. According to studies done by Nielsen earlier this year, adoption rates for smartphones are high among all races and ethnic groups. 









As the Pew Report found, people use their smartphones to surf the web, not just make phone calls. Two-thirds used their phones to search the internet every day. That means they expect to search for the library on their phone, not just on a computer, or maybe not at all on their computer. Are we optimized for that?

And about that one person in eight number, that’s from an “Infographic” created by Masters in Education on “Traditional Books vs. Digital Readers.” Statistics show that 12% of men and 11% of women owned a digital reader of some kind. Those statistics did not include smartphones, which are also capable of and are used as digital readers. One person in eight is searching for digital books for their ereaders, and that number is growing.

We want them to come to think of their library first. But in order for them to do that, we need to be thinking of them first, and we need to do it now.


Knight’s Curse

At age 13, Chalice was ripped from the only home she had ever known by an evil sorcerer and bonded to a gargoyle. The monks who raised her in the Lebanese countryside were murdered before her eyes so that no witnesses would be left behind. Except Chalice.

What makes Chalice such a prize? She was born with incredible skills, extremely acute hearing, sight, and smell, that require her to wear special contact lenses and filters just to interact with the world. Those extraordinary senses allow her to see into the unseen, to sense not just technical alarm systems, but magical ones. The sorcerer, and those he represents, train her to be a thief. Chalice learns to steal magical, especially cursed, artifacts.

And she can never run. That bonding to the gargoyle…every three days, she must return to the gargoyle, and the bond must be renewed…or she will become a gargoyle herself. Chalice has tested the bond, and the potential transformation. She’s come much too close to want to test that boundary again.

But Chalice is more than just a thief with some boosted abilities. In Knight’s Curse, by Karen Duvall, Chalice discovers that she is the modern-day descendant of an order of female knights that have existed since the Middle Ages. And that she has a destiny–to gather all of her sister knights together to fight the order of sorcerers that has both cursed her and trained her. But first, she has to free herself.

I enjoyed reading this book. I kept wanting to see what happened next. On the other hand, there were a lot of things about Chalice’s story that bothered me. For someone who has been emotionally abused and isolated as much as Chalice has, she trusts much too easily. For one thing, she falls in love with the first man she meets, in spite of the fact that she discovers he is 1) a double agent for the bad guys, 2) 900 years old, and 3) in love with her great-great-great-grandmother.

There are a lot of very neat ideas in this book, including, but not limited to; an order of female knights from the Crusades existing into the 21st century, an order of evil sorcerers, previously mentioned, guardian angels, fallen angels, gargoyles, fae folk, hellhounds, angel speakers, and saints who are still alive in spite of having been drawn and quartered nearly 1,000 years previously.

This story read like the set-up for a series. Possibly in the vein of see how the kick-butt heroine becomes the kick-butt heroine. Because she isn’t there yet. And there are too many ideas in the soup right now. None of them are cooking terribly badly, but the recipe would probably be better with a few less ingredients and more attention paid to the parts that remain.

Dark Awakening

There’s a subgenere of urban fantasy that ought to be given a name. It goes something like this: once upon a time, meaning right now, there was a young woman. She has been alone and unloved her entire life. She was either orphaned in horrific circumstances or adopted under mysterious circumstances. Either way, she doesn’t know her real origins. She has some unknown power and no one she can ask about that power–see orphaning or adopting above. When her power is suddenly required, a hunter is sent after her, and life as she knew it goes to hell in the proverbial handcart.

The heroine’s journey is to discover her previously unknown power, and make it work for her in time to save herself from the evil that has been stalking her all her life. Sometimes all her previous lives as well. She usually discovers the secrets of her past, As an added bonus she may manage the redemption and love of her hunter.

So, if we’ve all read this story before, what makes it worth reading again?

Dark Awakening by Kendra Leigh Castle threw in some new elements to this old story. Lily Quinn, the heroine of this story, was no pushover. She never expected to be rescued. Lily was an active participant, an equal player in everything that happened once she understood what the stakes were. Speaking of stakes, both the good guys and the bad guys were vampires. A big part of the story had to do with vampire internal racism. Apparently these vampires think that vamps who can turn into animals are less vampy than those who turn into mist. Of course, to the humans, fangs are fangs. (Yes, I read this as commentary about humans. Your mileage may vary)

The vampire who comes to hunt Lily is one of those vamps on the supposedly lower end of the vamp social register. Ty is a member of the Cait Sith–he hunts as a cat. He also purrs when stroked, whether whichever form he happens to be in.

Escape Rating B: Humans love to write about vampires with convoluted political structures. In this case, the politics have become so twisted they have turned on themselves. And any vampire society where House Dracul (yes, that Dracul) turn out to be the good guys (again, for certain select definitions of good) has more than enough twists and turns to keep me looking for the next book. Expect to meet a representative of every vampire family you’ve seen from everywhere and everywhen, but used in ways you were not expecting.

Lily isn’t quite what anyone was expecting, either. And that’s a very good thing…for everyone.

The Battle Sylph

There are a lot of myths where a virgin sacrifice (always female) is necessary to tame some monster or other. Occasionally, the sacrifice is bait for the monster, so that the intrepid hero can slay the “dreadful beast”. If the sacrifice survives, she’s either a pariah or forced to wed the beast-slayer, whether she wants to or not. She’s his reward.

The Battle Sylph from L.J. McDonald turns the entire trope on its head, and in this story, throws the entire female-subjugating society that produces it for a loop as well.

Solie runs away from home. Her merchant father is going to marry her off to one of his friends, a fat old man three times her own age who has been leering at her ever since she grew breasts. Solie’s plan is to run to her aunt in the next village, five miles away. Instead, she is captured by the king’s men.

The kingdom of Eferem, and all the lands around it, use creatures called sylphs to perform all kinds of magic. Elemental sylphs control wind, water, fire and earth. Healer sylphs cure diseases and injuries that would otherwise be untreatable. These sylphs are lured from their world to Solie’s by priestly incantations that open a portal between the worlds, and presenting the sylph with something that they like, such as music for air sylphs, or a really interesting injury for a healer. Once the sylph crosses the portal, the they are summoned for gives them a name, and then they are bound to each other for the life of the summoner.

Battle sylphs are different. To summon a battler requires a human sacrifice: the aforementioned female virgin. Then they can be bound, but only by a strong warrior. And the battler will spend his time on this side of the portal projecting hate at everyone who is near him. But one battler is the equivalent of whole armies in combat.

Solie is supposed to be the sacrifice for the son of King Alcor. But the prince was a weakling, and Solie had a surprise up her sleeve. Or rather, in her hair. Her barrette contained a tiny knife, and with that knife she cut the ropes binding her. When the battle sylph was summoned, she stabbed the prince in the arm. She didn’t kill him, but she proved herself stronger, and the battler bonded himself to her. She named him “Heyou” because she stuttered “Hey You” when he faced her, but it was enough. Heyou killed everyone in the summoning chamber to protect her.

In their escape, Solie and Heyou gathered a motley group of followers. The first was Devon Chole, the master of an air sylph, who refused to watch as the king’s men attempted to cut Solie down in cold blood while Heyou fought another battler. Then Garrett, an older man who rescued the wounded Heyou after the fight. And finally an entire valley of desperately poor refugees just trying to carve out a life separate from any of the surrounding kingdoms.

Solie’s escape from her father challenged his authority. Her bonding to Heyou challenged the King’s authority. Even worse, Solie’s position as the master of a battler, for that matter, her position as the master of any sylph, challenges the entire male-dominated structure of her society. And every move that she and Heyou make, every ally they secure, continues to chip away at the authoritarian structures everyone around her believes are solid. But nothing is solid, because it is all built on the loyalty of the sylphs to their masters. Solie’s story represents change, and an awful lot of people don’t like change.

On the other hand, conflicts and change make for great storytelling. There were parts of this story that I liked a lot. Solie is a very interesting character, because she has to both grow up, and also grow as a result of the role she is thrust into. Her journey from merchant’s mostly ignored daughter to valley leader is well done. She’s someone I’d like to meet. The battlers are more difficult, because of their nature. They are strong warriors, but they have a built-in compulsion to obey their masters, even if they hate them. It makes for a lot of perfect warriors with Stockholm Syndrome. Also, Heyou doesn’t grow up, but that may be because his lifespan is longer than Solie’s. He looks like an adult, but he isn’t. The true villain of the piece is King Alcor, and he was a little too one-dimensional, as were his underlings.

But on the whole, this was a good read. More than good enough that I picked up the second (The Shattered Sylph) and third (Queen of the Sylphs) books in the series.

Yours to Keep

I originally reviewed Shannon Stacey’s Yours to Keep for Library Journal. Although an edited version of the review appeared in LJ’s Xpress Reviews, I also wanted to include my original review here, since it prompted me to read the first two books in Shannon Stacey’s series, and I’m grateful that it did.

Sean Kowalski served in the Army for 12 years. His current plans include moving into the apartment over his cousin’s bar and getting carpentry jobs while he figures out his future.  Emma Shaw plans to build up her landscaping business and buy the big house she grew up in from her grandmother. But to make her plan work, Emma has to convince her grandmother that she’s happy and isn’t living alone, so Emma has been pretending that she has a fiancé who has moved in with her. Since Sean’s cousin Lisa is a good friend of hers, Emma pretends Sean is her fiancé. Emma’s plan works just fine until Sean comes home from the Army, and her grandmother decides to come up from Florida for a month long visit.
Sean thinks Emma is crazy, but also hot. And since he doesn’t have anything better to do, he agrees to move in and be her fake fiancé for a month. But Emma’s grandmother knows they’re faking from the first second, but hopes it might become real if she plays along. Sean and Emma start out by pretending to be a couple, and end up by deceiving themselves that they’re not.

Verdict Third in the Kowalski Family series (Exclusively Yours, Undeniably Yours)  this story starts with one of the ultimate “meet cute” scenarios. The hero is already the fiancé, he’s just uninformed!  The characters are appealing, including all of the members of Sean’s extended family, who can’t resist teasing him about the situation he’s gotten himself into. There’s also a secondary storyline, that includes Emma’s grandmother doing a “walk of shame” and Sean and Emma’s reactions to it that is priceless. This is a fun, sexy story for an afternoon’s reading pleasure.


Undeniably Yours

Shannon Stacey’s Undeniably Yours is the second book in her series about the Kowalski Family. The first book was his big brother Joe’s story, the second book is Kevin’s story.

Kevin Kowalski used to be a cop in Boston. Now he owns a bar in Concord, NH. Owning a bar means that all the bar bunnies hit on him pretty regularly. Owning a bar in New England also means that Kevin scores when the New England Patriots win. But two years after his divorce, the whole bar bunny thing has gotten pretty stale. Kevin is starting to want a real family, just like the one he grew up in.

So instead of the bimbo trying to get his attention, one night Kevin is keeping both eyes on a brunette fending off her date, who just won’t take “no” for an answer. Not just because the woman was more than pretty, but because the guy she was with had slid down the scale from merely obnoxious to drunken scumbag very, very fast. As the owner of the bar, Kevin was legally obligated to cut the man off. That’s when things turned ugly. And, he found out  he was wrong: the scumbag wasn’t the brunette’s date, he was her boss. Ex-boss, since said scumbag fired the pretty brunette as he was being hauled out of the bar for resisting arrest. He turned out to be a seriously drunken, as well as totally stupid, scumbag.

Getting a lady fired is not a great way to introduce yourself. Having the subsequent conversation interrupted by one of the bar bunnies is even worse. Just as Kevin thought he might at least find out more than that the mystery woman’s first name was Beth, she disappeared on him. He was only polite to the bleached blonde bimbo because it was good for business. He was interested in Beth, and she was gone.

A couple of days later, Kevin was sweating in his tux, posing for the “best man” photos at his brother Joe’s wedding (Exclusively Yours) when he spotted Beth tending bar for the wedding. Kevin thought he’d been handed a second chance to make a first impression. In less than 24 hours, he blew that one, too. But fate, a one-night stand, and a defective condom gave him nine more months of chances. Kevin Kowalski needed them all.

I found this story frustrating to read. I read the last book (Yours to Keep) first, and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Not just the primary story, but the secondary characters also had an interesting romance, and the family was interesting, and funny. I wanted to see where the relationships started. Being kind of a completist, I got the first two books.  Exclusively Yours was great. The idea of the second chance at love was well done, and again, both for the primary and the secondary story. In Exclusively, I understood why their relationship didn’t work when they were teens, and why they could make it work this time. I thought the author did a good job of showing that they didn’t pick up where they left off–they picked up where they were now.

But Undeniably Yours, I did not get the female character’s reasons for any of what she did. She packed up and moved every six months to a year, holding down mostly low-end jobs and living in literally stinky apartments because she felt smothered by her parents, who lived in Florida. She wouldn’t let anyone help her with anything because they might take over her life. What happened to her to cause this? I didn’t get her. I couldn’t understand why she kept pushing Kevin away, but she wouldn’t let him go, either. Nor did her epiphany at the end seem to come from real growth, it was too fast, or her emotions weren’t explored enough.

This story would have worked better for me if the secondary characters had been primary. Trust-fund heiress runs away from smoking-hot business tycoon at the altar when she is literally halfway down the aisle. He finds her hostessing at a sports bar five years later and sweeps her off her feet, without making her change who she really is. Paulie and Sam were fantastic. Kevin was terrific. Beth, not so much.