This is What Happy Looks Like: A Review

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. SmithIt all started with a typo in an email address.

Graham Larkin thought he was emailing his pet pig’s walker, instead his email shoots across the country to Ellie O’Neill. Their conversations are always personal but they never reveal personal details. Ellie has no idea that Graham is a major celebrity. Graham knows very little about Ellie until she slips and reveals the name of her small town in Maine.

That’s all it takes for Graham to mark the town of Henley as the perfect location for his next film. And, of course, the perfect location to meet Ellie in real life.

But as Graham and Ellie get to know each other they are both hampered by “what ifs?” What if their relationship really is at its best in email form? What if a famous actor like Graham isn’t cut out for a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? What if Ellie is drawn into Graham’s spotlight has to reveal some closely guarded secrets of her own. Graham and Ellie have talked at length about happiness, but they still have to figure out if they can be happy together in This is What Happy Looks Like (2013) by Jennifer E. Smith.

Find it on Bookshop.

This story has a slow start as both Graham and readers are introduce to Ellie’s idyllic small town home. A charming cast of secondary characters and picturesque locations vividly situate each scene in this novel. Ellie and Graham’s correspondence is simultaneously authentic and endearing as emails and face-to-face interactions work together to give readers the full story of Graham and Ellie’s courtship. Snappy dialogue also helps to make this story shine.

Smith delves into the familiar territory of missed connections (The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight) and long-distance pining (The Geography of You and Me). While This is What Happy Looks Like has some of the same charm as Smith’s other novels, its characters never feel quite as well-realized or compelling.

This is What Happy Looks Like is a sweet and summery romance filled with small-town charm and memorable moments.

Possible Pairings: Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, The Truth Commission by Susan Juby, Undercover by Beth Kephart, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, In Real Life by Jessica Love, P. S. I Like You by Kasie West

Fracture: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“A lot can happen in eleven minutes. Decker can run two miles easily in eleven minutes. I once wrote an English essay in ten. No lie. And God knows Carson Levine can talk a girl out of her clothes in half that time.

“Eleven minutes might as well be eternity under water. It only takes three minutes without air for loss of consciousness. Permanent brain damage begins at four minutes. And then, when the oxygen runs out, full cardiac arrest occurs. Death is possible at five minutes. Probable at seven. Definite at ten.

“Decker pulled me out at eleven.”

Fracture by Megan MirandaDelaney Maxwell should have died the day she fell through the ice on Falcon Lake. At the very least she should be severely brain damaged.

But when she wakes up six days later, Delaney seems fine for reasons  no one quite understands.

As she tries to return to her normal life it becomes apparent that some things are not the same–especially Delaney. What draws her to the strange boy who met her after the accident? What makes her hands itch near certain people? Why does her best friend Decker keep telling Delaney how important she is only to hurt her?

It all started with a fracture in the ice. But that one crack led to many more in Delaney’s life and friendships. As her physical injuries heal, maybe the other less-obvious injuries can also be mended in Fracture (2012) by Megan Miranda.

Fracture is Miranda’s first novel.

Fracture is a haunting blend of paranormal, suspense and excellent writing. Miranda expertly navigates Delaney’s life after the accident as well as her more conventional problems relating with her friends and finding her own place in her small Maine town.

Immediately evocative, Fracture opens with a dramatic start that will keep readers on the edge of their seat until the very end. Delaney’s wry narration and her well-developed friends make Fracture a frank, refreshing book with a whole lot of appeal.

Miranda is definitely an author readers should keep their eyes on in 2012.

Possible Pairings: The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Girl Overboard by Justina Chen, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Where She Went by Gayle Forman,  The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban, But Then I Came Back by Estelle Laure, The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver, Falling Through Darkness by Carolyn MacCullough, Damaged by Amy Reed, Vicious by V. E. Schwab, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford

*This book was acquired from the publisher for review at BEA 2011

Don’t forget to check out my interview with the author.

Fury: A Review

Fury by Elizabeth MilesWinters in Ascension, Maine are supposed to be peaceful–surrounded by pristine snow banks and pretty Maine landscapes.

This winter break is different as soon as news spreads about Sasha Bowlder trying to kill herself.

No one else seems to notice, but Emily Winters and Chase Singer can feel it in the air.

Too bad Em was so busy obsessing over her best friend Gabby’s boyfriend and that whole week they’d have together when Gabby was away. Too bad Chase was too busy making sure the perfect, preppy mask he wears around his friends stayed in place.

If either of them had been paying attention, they might have noticed the three strange girls sooner. They might have wondered about the timing of their arrival. If Em or Chase had been paying attention, maybe they would have seen the signs before it was too late for anything but apologies.

Too bad they didn’t because someone needs to pay and, sometimes, sorry isn’t anywhere near enough in Fury (2011) by Elizabeth Miles.

Fury is Miles’ first novel. It is also the first book in a trilogy.

Fury is an interesting blend of suspense, fantasy, and almost a bit of a morality play in that much of the story is necessarily spent looking at what right and wrong. Miles also tackles the grey areas between the moral right and wrong in a clever and realistic way.

Although a bit slow to start as Miles introduces a wide cast of characters, the story picks up after the first quarter as the tension and suspense build. The story alternates between chapters following Em and Chase on their misadventures during winter break (and the latter consequences).

In a book about right and wrong and doling out justice, Miles takes a risk with not one but two characters who are not always sympathetic. Chase is a bit of a jerk and maybe even worse. Em is painfully misguided about a lot of things to the point of being clueless.

Being so flawed it does take a while to connect with the characters enough to care about their stories and the consequences of their actions. However, as the story gains momentum it really is easy to become invested in the characters and the strange events plaguing the town of Ascension.

Miles’ writing is haunting and eerie, making Fury an ideal book for fans of horror and suspense.

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, Truth or Dare by Jacqueline Green, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, Lost Voices by Sarah Porter, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff