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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Book Review: Calendar Girl (January) (Book #1 in the Calendar Girl series) by Audrey Carlan


Right off the bat, I have to admit that I went into reading the first book/novella in the Calendar Girl series, January, with very low expectations for both this book/novella, and the series as a whole. After actually reading January, I have to say that January is definitely a book that utterly baffles me, because there are definitely a lot of things about Carlan’s writing for January that come across as being bad or problematic writing. Sometimes I would describe Carlan’s writing as being both bad and problematic at the same time; that being said, there are also times throughout January where Carlan does come across as being a decent writer. For that reason, I’m very hesitant to say that I think that Audrey Carlan is a truly bad writer.

One thing that really bothered me about this book is that it was very difficult for me to get good read on the protagonist of the series, Mia Sanders, in terms of her personality. When Mia is talking about the four guys that she had dated and thought that she had fallen in love with at the beginning of the book, she comes across as having a very bitter and jaded attitude towards men. She also comes across as really giving off a bit of a tough girl vibe at times throughout the book, and yet when she was talking about the first guy that she thought had found true love with, whose name was Taylor, she mentions that he had a small penis, but she referred to his penis as being a “winky the size of a circus peanut”. Mia saying that really made her come across as being immature, and if you ask me, Mia referring to a guy’s penis as a “winky” really contradicts the idea that she’s supposed to be a tough girl; which seems to be what Carlan was going for at times throughout the book. To be fair, it’s kind of understandable that Mia has a very bitter and jaded attitude towards men at the beginning of the book, given her history with the men she has dated prior to the events that take place in January; but it didn’t make her seem very likable in the first chapter.

Even though I didn’t think that Mia was a very likable character in the first chapter, and I thought that she was kind of annoying at times throughout the book, she never got to the point where I thought that she was an extremely unlikable and annoying character. While Mia can be annoying at times, she’s definitely not the most annoying and unlikable character that I’ve ever encountered in a book. (The award for the most annoying character that I’ve ever encountered in a book would definitely go to Ana Steele from E.L. James’ Fifty Shades trilogy.) However, as the plot of January progressed, I feel like Mia came across as being a fairly likable person for the most part, who enjoys giving people advice and helping them with their problems. I thought that was especially the case whenever she was talking to Jen, who was the wife of a guy that Wes works with.



That being said, I definitely have to question Mia’s advice to Jen, suggesting that she and her husband think about having a baby. After all, having a baby is a major life-altering decision, and she had just met Jen and her husband. Mia knows next nothing about Jen, her husband, or their marriage; so I don’t think that suggesting that Jen and her husband have a baby, at least partly because Jen has apparently been feeling bored spending so much time by herself, is very good advice for Mia to give Jen. That just seemed rather stupid of Mia to suggest that idea to Jen.

Another problem that I have with January is that aside from the information that we’re given at the beginning of the book about the four guys that Mia had thought that she had found true love with, her backstory remains fairly underdeveloped throughout the entire book. Sure, it’s established that the reason Mia is going to be working for her Aunt Millie’s, who goes by the name “Ms. Milan”, escort business is because her dad has a lot of gambling debt that he owes Mia’s ex-boyfriend, Blaine. Apparently, Blaine had some of his goons attack Mia’s dad, and her dad is currently in a coma. We’re told about Mia’s sister, Madison, A.K.A, Maddie, but she doesn’t actually appear in the book; and one of Mia’s friends, Ginelle, is briefly featured in the book. However, aside from it being briefly mentioned that Mia has been trying to pursue a career in acting, but she now has to put her acting career on hold in order to spend a year working as an escort; we aren’t given very much information about things like what her goals and ambitions in life are. Ultimately, Mia just didn’t come across as a truly fleshed out and clearly defined character, due to Carlan’s writing for her not being completely consistent. In my opinion, that’s a major problem considering the fact that Mia is the protagonist of the series.

On the more positive side of things, Wes, whose full name is Weston Charles Channing III, was pretty much instantly a much more clearly defined character compared to Mia, so I know that Carlan is capable of doing a decent job of establishing characterization for her characters. It just baffles me that she didn’t do a very good job of doing that with Mia. It was established at one point in the book that it was actually Wes’ mother who suggested that he hire Mia out of all the women who work for Aunt Millie/Ms. Milan’s escort service. Personally, I think it’s rather odd and kind of messed up that Wes’ mother was the one who apparently suggested that he hire an escort to act as a buffer and keep other women away from him while he works on his latest movie. That just seems like a rather messed up and odd mother/son relationship for a mother to pick out an escort for her son to hire; but at the same time, I kind of wish that Carlan had explored and developed Wes’ relationship with his parents a little bit more than she did.

I definitely enjoyed the progression of Mia and Wes’ relationship throughout the book, and I felt like they had great chemistry with each other. That being said, I feel like the whole emotional conflict between Mia and Wes about how Wes eventually didn’t want her to leave at the end of the month lacked the element of surprise, or a great deal of emotional weight. It was pretty obvious that Mia wasn’t going to stay with Wes once the month was over, because she needs to continue working as an escort in order to make enough money to pay off her dad’s debt. Plus, this is the first book in a series. If Carlan had simply resolved the issue of Mia needing to get the money to pay off her dad’s debt by having Wes give Mia the money that she needed, which he offered to do, then there would be no reason for this to be a series, and it would just be a standalone.

That being said, while I feel like January lacked the element of surprise regarding whether or not Mia would take Wes’ money to pay off her dad’s debt, I really like and respect Mia’s reasons for not taking his money. Wes solving Mia’s problems by simply giving her the money that she needed would probably hang over their relationship, and quite possibly drive them apart in the end. While I did like the explanation that Mia gave to Wes in the letter that she wrote to him as to why she couldn’t take his money; her letter also came across as a rather sloppy way of conveying to the reader what Mia had learned from the things that had happened throughout the book. I just feel like Carlan was breaking the “show, don’t tell” rule of writing when it came to expressing the character development that Mia had undergone throughout the book by having Mia tell Wes what she had learned from their time together in her letter.

All things considered, while January is far from being a masterpiece, I still enjoyed it, and I’m definitely planning to continue reading the series. The concept of the Calendar Girl series being a series of twelve books/novellas that are all fairly short; with each novella covering one of the months that Mia works as an escort for an entire year is pretty neat. The biggest problem that I have with January is that the writing and characterization for Mia is rather inconsistent and underdeveloped. I’m really baffled by that, because Wes immediately came across as a very clearly defined character right from his introduction in chapter two. The writing for Wes also remained pretty consistent throughout the entire book, so I know that Audrey Carlan is perfectly capable of writing clearly defined characters, and having the writing for a character remain consistent. It just confuses and surprises me that she didn’t do a very good job of that when it came to writing the character Mia; since she’s the protagonist of the series, and the book is written from her point of view.

Despite the flaws in the writing for Mia, she’s still a fairly likable character for the most part. However, there were a few times throughout the book where I thought that she was kind of annoying. I really enjoyed the progression of Mia and Wes’ relationship throughout the book, and I’m really glad that Carlan left the door open for Wes’ return in future books. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how Wes will come back into the picture as the series continues. I’ve been reading Bad Books, Good Times’ chapter by chapter recap/commentary of each book in the Calendar Girl series, and at this particular point in time that I’m posting this review, they’re about halfway done with recapping the seventh book in series (July). Because I’ve been reading a lot of their recaps of the series, I already know some of the things that are going to happen throughout the series. However, I’m still excited to see what each of the other guys that Mia is going to be spending a month with is going to be like, and what Carlan does to make each guy their own unique character.

Ultimately, January is definitely far from perfect, but it’s still a fun, guilty pleasure read.


That being said, my final score for January is 5 out of 10.

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