Book Review

Making Waves by Tawna Fenske

Title: Making Waves
Author: Tawna Fenske
Publication Info: Sourcebooks 2011
ISBN: 978-1402257216
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book CoverI received the following guest review submission from Betty Fokker while I was working on my own review for the book. So I’ve included both here for your reading pleasure. No, no, don’t thank me. It’s that Fokker’s fault.

Making Waves is about a surly, pissed off guy named Alex who is screwed over by the company he’s worked at for years. Those pensions-worth-nothing, sorry-you’re-broke, nothing to show for decades of labor stories? He’s one of those, along with his crew of former coworkers who (a) also got screwed over and (b) know, much like Alex, that the big boss who made off like a bandit is up to international levels of no good. They decide to become pirates and intercept a shipment of nefarious but very valuable goods in order to take back what was taken from them – their financial security as they all get older.

Enter Juli, who is trying to charter a boat and cast her uncle’s ashes into the ocean, as per his last request. Alex and Juli meet at a bar one night, and zippy, funny attraction sparks fly as they pretend to be newlyweds in order to try to win a few hundred dollars in a bar game. But that night, Juli stumbles onto the wrong boat after mixing alcohol and medication in an unfortunate manner, and ends up stowing away with Alex and his band of odd pirates.

First, Betty’s review:

I will admit, up front, that I bought this book because I am friends with Tawna Fenske. By friends, I mean I read her blog and we post on a blog in common and we totally “like” each other on Facebook. It’s the 21st century equivalent of sleepovers where we braid each others’ hair.

I will also admit, up front, that I expected not to like it. Not because Tawna isn’t a good writer; I enjoy her blog and she can rock a pithy phrase. No, I expected not to like it because the plot summery left me cold.

“When Alex Bradshaw’s unscrupulous boss kicks him to the curb after 20 faithful years as an executive with the world’s largest shipping company, he sets out to reclaim his dignity and his pension. Assembling a team of fellow corporate castoffs, he sails to the Caribbean to intercept an illegal diamond shipment. None of them counted on quirky blonde stowaway Juli Flynn, who has a perplexing array of talents, a few big secrets, and an intoxicating romantic chemistry with Alex…”

“Shit,” I thought to myself, “it’s got a freaking pirate/stowaway theme. Did she have is shipped in from 80’s cold storage?” I knew with a motif like that it was either going to be a romantic-thriller or a “comedy romp”. A glance at the bright and chirpy cover art informed me that there was no gore in this opus, so high-jinks were about to ensue. Pirate Farce. Joy.

So it was with a heavy heart that I bought the book and uploaded it upon my Kindle. I said a brief prayer that there would at least not be any “mistaken identities” or “twins” comedy of error slapstick in it, and began to read.

Y’all, I was totally hooked in the first 10 pages.

She managed to make it funny without making it ludicrous by trying too hard. The plot twists were implausible, but there was always enough details added to give them an air of possibility, and encouraged the easy suspension of disbelief. Moreover, she has grabbed the art of written banter and made it her personal bitch. Not once did I have to endure stilted dialog. No matter how contrived the original situation behind the dialog, the dialog itself made you ignore or forget the previous contrivance. Nor was I subjected to pedantic infodump. She managed to convey a ton of information in an easy, breezy lemon-squeezy kind of way.

Fenske occasionally bordered on the absurd, but only seldom crossed into ridiculous territory. Even then, the silliness was so well-written that the reader cheerfully tripped along, eager to find out what next befell Alex and Juli.

I genuinely liked the protagonists, and wanted them to get their Happily Ever After. Moreover, the supporting characters were so endearing that I cared about their success as well. The only person who wasn’t a well-developed character was the bad guy, so the reader was able to enjoy his downfall with nary a qualm.

This book was the equivalent of eating whipped cream … sure it was light and airy, but it is also surprisingly rich.

I give it an A-, and a strong recommendation.

My review is a bit different. I liked it enough to keep reading to find out what happened in the end, but not because I was attached to the characters or invested in their story enough that I was compelled to find out what happened to them. I wanted the resolution to the plot, and didn’t care so much what happened to Alex and Juli. And while I had a hard time remembering specifics of the plot in the weeks after I read the book, I have a positive inclination towards having read it. I liked it while I read it. It was funny in moments, silly in others, eye rolling in some, but on the whole it was fluffy, silly fun, which was the book’s intention, I think. My reaction is hard to articulate not because it was “meh” (It wasn’t). It’s hard for me to explain because it was a book I liked while I was reading it, that didn’t feel like a chore to finish, but once I did, I couldn’t remember much of it. The looney tune goofball plot is the driving force, not conflict between the characters – primary or secondary.

The characters were in service to the plot, not vice versa.  Interestingly (to me, anyway), my thoughts on the characters are almost the opposite of Betty’s: I wasn’t invested in the characters, but I was enjoying the madcap goofy plot and the outright silliness of it all enough to follow through to the end. Juli was a little too perfect for me, a little too manic pixie expert girl in some parts, and blissfully naive in others. Alex was the grumpy captain upset with his little pants captain’s interest in Juli, and I didn’t think he was all that and a bag of chips, either. He was a perfectly noble and serviceable hero in a crazy-fest plot.

I sometimes enjoyed and was sometimes irritated by the goofy, if sometimes stereotypically outlandish side characters—by which I mean they were more defined by their quirks than by their actual personalities. The giant, silent, former NFL gourmet chef, for example. I was more able to accept that it was possible to keep some of his ingredients fresh on the boat they were on than that he himself was plausible human being.

Betty is right that there was some great dialogue at work, and while there were moments of wooden oddity, it wasn’t found in what the characters said, but more in what they did. This is, to me, the essence of a beach read. You can pick it up and put it down in an afternoon or two at the beach, jump into the prose without too much trouble in remembering what had happened before. And if you can’t remember, it’s not a big deal, because the story will entertain anyway.

My grade: B-, with reservations, which for the purposes of this joint review I’m going to average to a straight B.

This book is available from Amazon | Kindle | BN & nook | Book Depository

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    Thanks for this review—this is exactly the sort of book I’m in the mood for as summer winds down. Then again, I’m always in the mood for stuff like that. I wish romantic comedy wasn’t subgenre non-grata these days. Going to order now…

  2. 2
    Asia M says:

    Interesting. Unlike Betty, I find the cover art and the summary rather appealing :) (then again, I don’t read 80’s romance) but from both your reviews I think I can see what kind of book it is… The kind of book that I might almost want to give an A as I close it, because I genuinely enjoyed it, but weeks later when I go back to my ratings list I’m like: “An A? What was so great about that book already?” and for the life of me I can’t remember… :P

    Author’s name tucked in a corner of my mind for future reference. ;)

  3. 3

    What a timely review as I just finsishd the book.  I share some of the same impressionss as both Betty and Sarah.  In the end, I gave it four stars because it was a easy read that kept me laughing.

    I also appreciated the “older” protagonists and their attempts to explore life after “retirement.”  That was some menu on board the pirate ship!

  4. 4
    Shea MacLeod says:

    It sounds like lemon meringue.  Light, fluffy, not particularly filling, but MAN does it go down easy. ;-)  Sounds like a fun read.  Definitely add it to the Wish List for when I need something light to read.  Sometimes you just want something fun and silly.

  5. 5
    Tawna Fenske says:

    Holy shit, did I really just get reviewed by Smart Bitches? Someone pinch me!

    Ow. Not there.

    Seriously, at the risk of sounding like a total drooling fangirl, I’ve always wanted to have a book reviewed here. To get Fokker’s review on top of all that is just the icing on a well-muscled pec.

    I appreciate that you both liked the entertainment value of the book. I wanted it to be a fun, fluffy beach read that would make people laugh and occasionally feel warm and tingly in places their health teachers told them about. Those are some of my favorite kinds of books to read, so I’m glad ya’ll enjoyed that aspect of Making Waves.

    Thanks so much for the lovely dual review. I feel extra special!


  6. 6

    I just finished the book a few minutes ago, and I really enjoyed it. Like Betty, I read it b/c I know Tawna. And I have actually met her in real life, though we did not braid each other’s hair. :(

    It was a fun read. I didn’t go in to it with any expectations. I was a little wary, b/c it is not what I normally read. But it totally entertained me.

    I’ll be writing a review on my own blog shortly, and am definiltey recommending it!

  7. 7
    Joanna V says:

    Okay, now this sounds like what I could use near the end of a long, hot summer with too many power outages.  Thanks for the joint review, it was great.

  8. 8
    Betty Fokker says:

    Tawna, you will always be my very first review on SBTB. You, in short, got my review virginity. I hope you enjoyed it as much as my first 3 fiancees did.

  9. 9
    Aurian says:

    What a great double review. Not sure I will ever pick up the book, as it sounds like the kind of movie I hate.
    But Betty, I really like your writing style in your review. I am going to search for your blog now.

  10. 10
    Becky says:

    I read Making Waves last week, and I really enjoyed it, too.  I don’t generally enjoy silly, but somehow Tawna managed to do it without annoying me (my usually problem with silly).

    I know Tawna too (in the same blog, facebook, hair braiding sense that Fokker does), so it came as no surprise to me that Making Waves was a sexy read.  But what did surprise me was how little intercourse there was, and how late it came in the story.  Lots of sexual tension, but not a sex-fest.

  11. 11

    @Sydney, re:  I wish romantic comedy wasn’t subgenre non-grata these days.
    A someone who writes the lemon meringue, me too!

    I’ve been looking forward to this one – gonna go grab my Kindle sample.  Oh, Kindle samples, I love you more than Alexander Skarsgard’s abs*.

    * Not really, but I love you a lot.

  12. 12
    Diva says:

    Truth: I was going to read it anyway, regardless of what the review said because I, too, braid hair with the Fokker and Tawna.

    Also, I love a romantic comedy with a caper-ish set up. Do not even ask how many times I have watched Romancing the don’t want to know.

    So imagine how delighted I am to find that it’s the equivalent of whipped cream, which i love, and is beachy and fun (two of my favorite things in a book). So, yay Tawna!

  13. 13
    Jocelyn Modo says:

    Fluffy and fun is exactly my mood. I’m off to buy it!

  14. 14

    Oooh, I loves me some Betty Fokker.  Based on her blessing, I will go for it.  Maybe I’ll just skip over all the pirate parts.


  15. 15
    Betty Fokker says:

    The pirate parts were surprisingly pleasant. Not to piratey at all.

  16. 16
    Tawna Fenske says:

    Pirate parts are often pleasant. Wait, what?

  17. 17
    Betty Fokker says:

    You heard me, Fenske.

  18. 18
    cbackson says:

    Strangely, this is sounding to me kind of like a romantic comedy riff on William Gibson’s Spook Country, if such a thing is possible.

    (I mean with regard to the cargo-intercepting, not to all the other weird sh!t that goes down in pretty much every Gibson novel ever.)

  19. 19

    Moreover, she has grabbed the art of written banter and made it her personal bitch

    Brilliant, I adore it.
    Speaking of making something your bitch – you have done the same with funny review repartee.

  20. 20
    Betty Fokker says:

    Stephanie, I blush.

  21. 21
    Jane A says:

    I too read this!  I picked it up because Jill recommended it in the GS vs STA post for Gry in Oslo.

    She compared it to Crusie, and I also see the resemblance—the early ones like Cinderella Deal or Charlie All Night, both for the banter and the endearing-even-though-stock-ish characters.  (I loved Cookie, and I think he and Malcolm should hook up.)  Also in the parts that made me say, “Really, plot?  You’re making the characters do THAT?”

    So I’m eager to see what Tawna does next, and three or four books down the road.  Because Bet Me is one of my favorite novels period, and you don’t get Bet Me until after Anyone But You and even (because I didn’t like that one) Trust Me on This.

  22. 22
    Betty Fokker says:

    I see some pre-Crusie in Tawna as well. That’s why I am sucking up to here now, while it’s still new.

  23. 23
    Randi says:

    If the banter in the book is anything like the banter goin on in this thread, I’m ALL OVER this book. Also, the suggestion of early Crusie (though I’m like Jane A and I like middle-Crusie best), intrigues me.

    Now, Bitches…more banter!!

  24. 24
    Tawna Fenske says:

    I don’t know whether I’m swooning harder about the Crusie comparisons or about my new favorite phrase, “bitch banter.”

    Either way, I said “harder.”


  25. 25
    Betty Fokker says:

    We’ll get you a tee-shirt that say, “Fenske—the new Crusie”.  I totally think you should wear it to her next book signing.  What could go wrong?

  26. 26
    Betty Fokker says:

    I’ll wear the tee shirt that says, “Will banter for cake”.

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