Laugh by Mary Ann Rivers

Grade: B-
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary
Series: Burnsides #2
Published: 5/6/14
Reviewed by Anne
224 ebook pages

Sam Burnside is a doctor who works too much and worries about his siblings too much.  He’s driving his partner in a new health clinic crazy, so she sends him off on errand to volunteer with a local farmer and build some goodwill in their community.  Nina Paz is that farmer and the chemistry between the two of them is immediate and electric.  The thing is, they both have some pretty serious issues they’re dealing with.  Sam’s got some crazy ADHD and a way of pushing away the brother and sisters he loves so much.  Nina is ten years out from the death of her husband.  She’s distanced herself from her family and built a new one made of a tight knit group of friends, but she’s still dealing with her losses.

This was a hard read for me.  Not hard emotionally, but I had a hard time connecting to the characters.  Honestly, it seemed to require a lot of reading between the lines to understand what was going on and how the characters were feeling.  That’s something I’ve really enjoyed in the previous books I’ve read by Mary Ann Rivers, but I struggled with it in this book.  Additionally, both Sam and Nina have lives filled with really tough and sad situations.  I know they took hope from their relationship and each other, but it was pretty depressing to read.

On the other hand, it’s full of one liners that made me laugh – the dialog is hilarious!  The characters are believable.  Sam’s ADHD was very interesting to read about.  It wasn’t a mild childhood thing that passed with age, but something he continued to struggle with and cope with.  That read very real to me.  He’s impulsive and blurts things out, and this causes him problems in his relationships.  Watching Nina come to understand this was very sweet.

I’ll definitely read more Mary Ann Rivers, and I’m thinking the dark tone of the things Sam and Nina were dealing with was just too much for me in this story.

Flirting with Disaster by Ruthie Knox

Grade: B+
Hotness Level: Blaze
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary
Series: Camelot #3
Published: 6/10/13
Reviewed by Anne
298 ebook pages

Sean stuttered so badly in his childhood that he was essentially not speaking at all in high school.  This is why Katie, who went to high school with him, just always thought he was a quiet guy and never realized he stuttered.  This is why, when Sean comes back to town and ends up working with Katie that he chooses not to speak to her rather than reveal his stutter.  

Katie doesn’t really know what to make of Sean.  She hears him talk to other people, but he never speaks to her.  (His stutter is selective, and only shows up in certain situations or around certain people, such as his secret high school crush, Katie.)  She wonders if he’s just rude and mean, or if she has done something to offend him.  Then she tells herself not to worry about what HE thinks, because she’s done living her life for someone else.  Baggage from a failed marriage left Katie hurting, but she’s getting stronger each day and discovering what it’s like to live life for herself, not in service to someone else.

I loved these two and this story.  And the more I read, the more I liked them.  In fact, when I got toward the end and the confrontation between the two of them that had been building throughout the story… it blew me away!  I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy about how a situation played out.  I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say Katie and Sean both have issues and they work through them in this book.  The way they do this is so wonderful!  Neither can save the other;  they have to fix themselves!  And it just happens that they’re falling in love at the same time.  That really was a wonderful story to watch unfold!
The secondary story line in this book worked less well for me.  Judah is a rock star who has been receiving threats and Katie and Sean are helping figure this whole situation out.  I think I just never really liked Judah, but I felt like I was supposed to.  So for me, this story line just provided a reason for Katie and Sean to road trip together, and I didn’t care about it a whole lot more beyond that.
One thing I really appreciated about this story is that there was no magical mystical healing of Sean’s stutter.  I think whenever I read a book where a character his some sort of disability, I cringe and worry that the author will use the Voodoo of the Magical Vagina or the Power of the Healing Penis to “fix” that problem.  Not so with Ruthie Knox and I LOVE that.
I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to read this installment in the Camelot series.  The others have all been favorites of mine.  I’m looking forward to more writing and to finishing up my reading of Knox’s backlist.  This is the 3rd story in the Camelot series, but it stands alone well.  I recommend this book and this series!

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project

Grade: A
Hotness Level: Ember
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary, Nerdmance
Published: 10/1/13
Reviewed by Anne
292 pages
So, I saw this book had some good buzz last fall as a funny romance told from a Sheldon-like character’s POV.  I put it on my To Read List and finally got around to it over Christmas Break.  I devoured this book!  It gave me a serious case of Book Cranky as I had to fit it in around my kids and family obligations!
It’s told from the first person point of view of Don.  Don is someone I’d guess is on the autism spectrum.  He is certainly very literal minded and has a hard time understanding people.  He is very self aware, though, and his narration is unintentionally funny.  Actually, it’s unintentionally hysterical!  He knows he would like to have a wife, because he has observed in others a happiness level he associates with a long term partner.  After deciding that being set up with people and online dating are very unefficient ways to meet a potential mate, he begins The Wife Project.
He runs The Wife Project with the help of his married friends, Gene and Claudia.  Their relationship is a secondary story line.  In the course of The Wife Project, Don meets Rosie, who he immediately recognizes as unsuitable for wife material.  However, he’s intrigued at her current quest to find her biological father.  He finds this situation interesting enough to start The Rosie Project, his effort at helping Rosie in her quest.  
This story was touching and sad at points, but it’s so funny throughout that it didn’t bring me down.  Along with Don and Rosie’s quest, we hear about Don’s relationship with his elderly neighbor, Daphne, who helped inspire Don to undertake The Wife Project.  This story reminded, in emotional tone, to the beginning of the movie, Up.  Don and Daphne’s story is very simply told, but so much lays between the lines.  It’s an excellent way to get insight into Don’s character and it left me rooting for him!
I don’t really know if it’s an accurate portrayal of someone with Asperbergers or autism.  If it is not, a reader with familiarity to this issue might not enjoy the story.  That issue aside, I really enjoyed the book and I highly recommend it!
Note: I’m listing this one under Best of 2013 and Best of 2014, because I read it late in December, after I made my Best of 2013 list.