Saturday, April 14, 2012

Week-End's Minis X: Cheri on Top and I Want Candy by Susan Donovan

Last week, I didn't put a poll on the sidebar for the Week-End's Minis for two reasons: 1) I knew what I wanted to review and 2) I haven't been reading as fast lately, so didn't have enough options for a poll ^_^; I thought my reading had picked up last week-end, but I only managed to read one book this week! Ugh. At least, I'm blogging, so small blessing :)

So this week-end, I'm reviewing Cheri on Top and I Want Candy by Susan Donovan. I read I Want Candy last week and knew it'd be a mini-review... Although I might have rambled quite a bit and the review might not fit "mini-review" anymore LOL. Anyway, I wanted to take this opportunity to also review Cheri on Top since it's the first book in the series which I have read when it was released and had slipped  though the cracks.

Enjoy and have a nice  week-end!

Cheri on Top by Susan Donovan
published by St. Martin's Press in August 2011
Sun-drenched beaches, designer-label clothes, drop-dead-gorgeous boy-toys... all paid for with a series of high-risk real estate deals. That’s the lifestyle Cherise Newberry and her BFF Candy enjoy after leaving rural North Carolina for Tampa—until the market tanks and they lose everything. Cheri is surviving on Ramen Noodles and temp jobs when she gets a call from home to come back and run the family’s small-town newspaper. Just one catch: She’ll become the boss of her high school crush—and former brother-in-law—who might have the power to crush her all over again...

But Cheri is surprised to see how “bad boy” J.J. DeCourcy has grown into the hard-working and principled managing editor of The Bigler Bugle. Still, according to Cheri’s bitter sister, he’s not to be trusted. If Cheri’s going to co-exist at the with this sexier-than-ever man from her past, she needs to stay professional—and keep her distance —even though he sets her on fire. When they’re handed the biggest news story in the town’s history, Cheri must trust J.J., even it means putting her life in danger... and her heart on the line.
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Book #1

What do you need to know? I think the paragraph of the synopsis is pretty accurate. However, what's misleading is that J.J. was a lot more than Cheri's high school crush. They were in fact a couple back in high school. The two of them along with Candy and Turner - now the town's sheriff - were like the 4 musketeers. However, Cheri and Candy were determined to leave Bigler and spread their wings... And when J.J. went after Cheri, she was on top of the world. That is until her sister, Tanyalee, called J.J. informing him she was pregnant and he was the father. The next thing Cheri knew, J.J. was marrying Tanyalee. Cheri and her sister never had a good relationship and let just say this just made it worst.

Now, coming back to Bigler and the family business is a big blow to Cheri's pride... and living with her great-aunt Viv is a trial. It doesn't take long for Cheri to take refuge at the family lake's house, her childhood home. Another trial is working with J.J. who's a reporter for the Bugle and on the trails of a very hot story when a car and a corpse, both decades old, are dragged out of the lake. Murders, embezzlement and mayhem ensued.

Why this book? Now that I think about it, I have a weird relationship with Ms Donovan. Whenever Ms Donovan has a new release out, I'll be on the look-out for it... Yet, a lot of her books are hit and miss and I'm starting to wonder why she is an auto-buy author for me ^_^; Why am I not more selective about her books like I am for other readers? Reputation? Peer influence? Hmmmmm.

Anyway, I picked Cheri on Top because it sounded fun :)

My thoughts? Well, I thought that Cheri on Top was not the best book I've read, but not the worst either. I think one of the reasons I felt that way was the characters. At best, I could say my feelings towards them were neutral. I think one of difficulty is the situation both found themselves in. On one hand, you have Cheri who appears to be very materialistic, proud and to a certain extent, selfish. I understand that Cheri has attained such high and to drop so low, well you don't want everyone to know... and that's understandable. However, I got annoyed with the front she put, the whole "Oh, my grandfather begged me to come back" and so on. I also don't understand why she didn't confide in her grandfather - he's the kind who cares and is concerned for her well-being. Another thing that bugged me is the lack of family sense... Tanyalee and Cheri have a bad relationship and given the circumstances, that's okay. Her great-aunt Viv is not the easiest person to live with and that's fine too... But still, her great-aunt Viv and her grandfather are getting older... Isn't Cheri concerned for them? Then, on the other hand, you have J.J. Everyone makes mistake, but J.J.' s was big and a bit hard to overlook. Confessing your love to Cheri and being interrupted by a phone call from her sister announcing she's pregnant and you're the father? Ouch. The whole fact that 1) he slept with someone else and 2) Cheri's sister... Even if Tanyalee instigated it and all, still ouch. I do admit though that mistake aside, J.J. turned out to be a good guy. However, sometimes, first impressions are hard to overcome ^_^;

The romance between the two is as you'd expect. Basically, Cheri and J.J. still have feelings for each other and once in close proximity, despite their past, they have difficulty keeping each other at arm's length. Actually, they have difficulty keeping their hands off each other LOL. So there was plenty of sexual tension and the chemistry was there. I liked that they worked things out, especially concerning their past. That was the big obstacle to their relationship... although I kind if wished they'd also talk more about the present. What they wanted now.

I'd have to say, if it was for the characters and the romance only, this book wouldn't have scored high points with  me... but surprisingly, the mystery was pretty interesting :) Ms Donovan did a good job with it as well as integrating it to the romance. Plus, there was some very funny parts - pregnant squirrel comes to mind :) And that made me enjoy the book more.

My Grade? C+. In the end, I found Cheri on Top was a quirky read and had a good time.

I Want Candy by Susan Donovan
published by St. Martin's Press in February 2012
Candace Carmichael was just getting used to the lavish life when everything went sour. Now the down-on-her-luck real estate agent is back in Bigler, North Carolina, jobless and illegally rooming with her her mother in a swank retirement community. All this makes her wonder why she ever considered her BFF Cheri’s invitation to move back home. Life in this small mountain town may not be as glamorous as the one she had in Tampa, but she knows a girl can’t be too choosy in this market. Besides, everyone’s happy to welcome Candy back—especially one handsome widower named Turner...

Turner has grown up to be one fine-looking piece of man candy—and looks even tastier in his sheriff’s uniform. Maybe that’s why she couldn’t resist kissing him when he pulled her over for a traffic violation. Even if a relationship was part of Candy’s business plan, Turner would be off limits—he still wears his wedding ring, four years after his wife died. If falling in love too fast is a crime, Candy is soon guilty as charged and ready to be fingerprinted. But is she ready to lock away her dreams and hand Turner the keys to her heart?
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Book #2

What do you need to know? Well eventually, Candy followed Cheri home to Bigler, but she's still totally broke. Candy's plan is to find a job, make a bit of money and as soon as she can, she'll leave the town and start over. Eventually, she gets a cashier job at the diner... and while she's trying to scrape money together to rent an apartment, she is rooming with her mother at the retirement community - not something she ever expected, especially given their relationship. Then, the night clerk starts developing an unhealthy crush on her and Candy finds herself unknowingly tangled in a joint task force investigation for a drug bust.

Ever since their high school days, Turner had a crush on Candy... However, it was clear they had no future together since her father would never approve of Turner because of his skin color. But now, the planets seem to have aligned themselves: her father's death, Turner is a widower and Candy seems to have finally realized what a hunk Turner is...

Why this book? Same reason as to why I bought Cheri on Top,  although I have to say, I was curious about Candy's story :)

My thoughts? Hmmmmm, it's hard to describe how I feel about I Want Candy. On one hand, there was a lot going on at the same time with some inconsistencies and questions... but at the same time, I don't know, it works LOL. I found myself continuing reading and that's something given my current reading mood. So kudos to Ms Donovan LOL.

Overall, I liked both Candy and Turner's characters. Turner was just a good buy all around and while he was a widower, he wasn't too hung up on his dead wife. Yes, he wanted to find out the truth behind her death for closure and J.J. and his brother thought he was a bit obsessed with it, that he should resign himself. However, his behavior didn't come across as obsessive, mainly because he had healthy fantasies about Candy, LOL, but also because there was so much going on that Ms Donovan did not focus too much attention on that aspect ^_^; As for Candy, I like that knew she was materialistic. She has difficulty giving up her previous life, but she was still a pretty good girl... and she was brave to want to pick up the broken pieces and want to start over. What bothered me though with her character is that Candy kept saying she couldn't stay in Bigler. It was okay for Cheri, but for her, being Candace Carmichael, it was not an option to stay... and that part, I didn't really get. The way Candy talked, it was as if she really had a bad past or her family had a bad reputation in Bigler and everyone would be out throwing stones at her... But it really wasn't the case. Also, there were parts where it seemed Candy was traumatized in her past, but when it came to light, in the scheme of all things, it didn't feel that bad. I know this is subjective and it varies from person to person... but I guess reading so much fiction and listening to news, there are so many horror stories out there that it made me immune and insensitive...? I just found that there were characters I've read who had worst and seemed to cope better than Candy ^_^;

Once again, the romance between Candy and Turner was pretty hot and heavy. I like the chemistry between the two and I think it helps that they had an history. I liked that Turner didn't want to make Candy obliged to stay, that he wanted her to stay in Bigler not just because of him, but for herself as well. Once again though, I wished there was a bit more development... a push as to why the two of them would jump each other now besides attraction and lust. Also, Ms Donovan touched lightly on the racial aspect... I don't know how I feel about that. I'm sad that it is still a current problem in our society and good for Ms Donovan for addressing it. At the same time, I kind of have a problem with the way she did it... Because there was so much going on, Ms Donovan didn't dwell on it very long and as a result, it felt superficial and superfluous ^_^; It seems to me, if Ms Donovan really wanted to tackle this issue, she should have devoted more of the book to it. Otherwise, she should simply not have brought it up. As it is, the in-between does not do much.

Also, I thought the mystery in Cheri on Top was well done... but not so much in I Want Candy. I think it again comes back to too much going on. The whole drug investigation was a good idea as another storyline, but it was muggled with the whole night clerk's - who's a part of the drug lab organization - delusion that Candy was his girlfriend. The way this story thread was resolved was a bit unrealistic and anti-climatic.

One last inconsistency that bothered me was about Candy's mother, Jacinda. She did such a 180 degrees in behavior that it was hard to believe. I mean, in the beginning of the book, when Candy visits her mother to let her know what happened to the money she lent her, the reaction you get was that Jacinda didn't expect to see the money back because she knew Candy would fail... Then at the end, you find out everything that Jacinda has done for Candy. Don't mistake me, I'm glad that her mother turned out to be a better woman and Candy will probably have a better relationship with her... but it seems like a bit of bad characterization, because it's hard to believe ^_^;

So it seemed like I had a lot of issues with I Want Candy and I guess I did... but as I said earlier, there was just something about this book that was compelling and made me continue reading it and at the end, I had a good time :)

My Grade? C+ as well. Once again, not the best nor the worst book, but an enjoyable one :) I have no idea if Ms Donovan plans any other books in Bigler, but I wouldn't be against it :)