Format: Paperback

March 24, 2017

Review | Dream Lake by Lisa Kleypas

Review | Dream Lake by Lisa KleypasDream Lake by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Friday Harbor, #3
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin, August 2012
Pages: 374
Format: Paperback
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They say that opposites attract. But what happens when one of them has been devastated by betrayal and the other is so damaged and jaded that his heart is made of stone? In New York Times bestselling author Lisa Kleypas's Dream Lake, readers well enter the world of Friday Harbor, an enchanting town in the Pacific Northwest where things are not quite as they seem and where true love might just have a ghost of a chance. . . .
Alex Nolan is about as bitter and cynical as they come. One of three Nolan brothers who call Friday Harbor home, he's nothing like Sam or Mark. They actually believe in love; they think the risk of pain is worth the chance of happiness. But Alex battles his demons with the help of a whiskey bottle, and he lives in his own private hell. And then, a ghost shows up. Only Alex can see him. Has Alex finally crossed over the threshold to insanity?
Zoë Hoffman is as gentle and romantic as they come. When she meets the startlingly gorgeous Alex Nolan, all her instincts tell her to run. Even Alex tells her to run. But something in him calls to Zoë, and she forces him to take a look at his life with a clear eye and to open his mind to the possibility that love isn't for the foolish.
The ghost has been existing in the half-light of this world for decades. He doesn't know who he is, or why he is stuck in the Nolans' Victorian house. All he knows is that he loved a girl once. And Alex and Zoë hold the key to unlocking a mystery that keeps him trapped here.
Zoë and Alex are oil and water, fire and ice, sunshine and shadow. But sometimes it takes only a glimmer of light to chase away the dark, and sometimes love can reach beyond time, space, and reason to take hold of hearts that yearn for it. . . .

Dream Lake’s Alex Nolan is having a bad day.

Or rather, more like a bad couple months.

Okay, a bad year. His wife has left him and is kicking him out the house to put it up for sale. His construction business is floundering because rumors of his drinking are spreading. He can’t get his mind off the beautiful chef at the B&B and, oh yeah: he’s being haunted.

On the surface, Dream Lake‘s romantic plotline is fairly predictable. Broken man finds loving woman to heal his wounds. I’m okay with that. In fact, I’ve even a fan of the cookie cutter plot because it allows so much room for creativity. And Kleypas has plenty of creativity, namely the ghost.

The ghost is a unique plot twist. He has no idea who is he, why he seems to be tied to the house (then Alex), or if he can move on to the next life. In short, he’s the perfect foil for grumpy, defensive Alex, who would probably throw a hammer at your head if you looked at him funny.

Yet the ghost isn’t enough to make Dream Lake memorable. His story alone? Fabulous. Intertwined with the fairly mundane and – dare I say it? – predictable romance between Alex and Zoe (aforementioned loving woman)? It’s not enough.

The thing about Zoe and Alex is that they weren’t exciting. There wasn’t a new tweak to the stereotypical characters, aside from Alex being haunted. Alex is mean to Zoe, Alex kisses Zoe, Zoe cooks for Alex, and here we are.

From Kleypas’ past books, I expected more. More zing, more banter, deeper characters. With that, Dream Lake could have been great. As is, it’s okay.

3 Stars

Posted March 24, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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January 23, 2017

Review | Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

Review | Dragonfly in Amber by Diana GabaldonDragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander #2
Publisher: Bantam, August 2001
Pages: 743
Format: Paperback
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 With her now-classic novel Outlander, Diana Gabaldon introduced two unforgettable characters—Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser—delighting readers with a story of adventure and love that spanned two centuries. Now Gabaldon returns to that extraordinary time and place in this vivid, powerful follow-up to Outlander.  DRAGONFLY IN AMBER  For nearly twenty years Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to Scotland’s majestic mist-shrouded hills. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as stunning as the events that gave it birth: about the mystery of an ancient circle of standing stones... about a love that transcends the boundaries of time... and about Jamie Fraser, a Scottish warrior whose gallantry once drew a young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his.   Now a legacy of blood and desire will test her beautiful copper-haired daughter, Brianna, as Claire’s spellbinding journey of self-discovery continues in the intrigue-ridden Paris court of Charles Stuart... in a race to thwart a doomed Highlands uprising... and in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves.

Claire Randall Frasier has lived the past twenty years believing that Jamie was dead. And finally, she has gathered the courage to go back to Scotland for the first time in nearly two decades to discover what happened to him at the Battle of Culloden.

Dragonfly in Amber is, quite simply, an emotional roller coaster ride. Gabaldon’s narrative switches between 1968 Claire, a woman who is trying to make it work after she loses the love of her life and 1740s Claire, trying desperately to stop the fall of Scotland. While the same women, these two characters are vastly different. It’s hard to believe t

While the same women, these two characters are vastly different. It’s hard to believe that 1740s Claire could be considered naive, considering what happens to her in Outlander, but she embodied it again and again as they worked to stop Charles. Yet naive doesn’t mean stupid. I loved how she stood up for herself and others in a society where women weren’t often allowed or encouraged to do so.

On the other hand, 1968 Claire was charming, engaging, and initially allowed a little of her sorrow to show. All naivete was gone, erased by the loss of her husband, a scar she hid well. It’s this Claire, this dynamic, fascinating character, that was the star of Dragonfly.

She was cool and composed on the outside, an exterior that hid rioting emotions: guilt, wistfulness, joy, and sorrow. It was only once she, Brianna, and Roger started their hunt for Jamie that this calm composure began to crack.

It’s been a while since a book made me feel the way Dragonfly did. From the battle scenes of 1740s Scotland to the drafty graveyards of the 60s’, Gabaldon tugged – no, YANKED – at the heartstrings.

Yet the second Outlander installment did have its faults. There were pages of information, large sections filled with what felt like the most minute details of the French court, the Scottish towns, and everywhere in between, that could have been summarized or possibly skipped entirely. Maybe this is more of personal preference; I wanted the story to get on with it.

In retrospect, that was a minor detail. The beauty of Dragonfly in Amber isn’t in the particulars of the setting or the descriptions of dress. Instead, it lay in Claire, a woman torn between two marriages, two times, and two worlds.

4 Stars

Posted January 23, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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November 7, 2016

Review | Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes by Denise Grover Swank

Review | Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes by Denise Grover SwankTwenty-Eight and a Half Wishes by Denise Grover Swank
Series: Rose Gardner Mystery #1
Publisher: Createspace, July 2011
Pages: 374
Format: Paperback
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For Rose Gardner, working at the DMV on a Friday afternoon is bad even before she sees a vision of herself dead. She's had plenty of visions, usually boring ones like someone's toilet's overflowed, but she's never seen one of herself before. When her overbearing momma winds up murdered on her sofa instead, two things are certain: There isn't enough hydrogen peroxide in the state of Arkansas to get that stain out, and Rose is the prime suspect.
Rose realizes she's wasted twenty-four years of living and makes a list on the back of a Wal-Mart receipt: twenty-eight things she wants to accomplish before her vision comes true. She's well on her way with the help of her next door neighbor Joe, who has no trouble teaching Rose the rules of drinking, but won't help with number fifteen-- do more with a man. Joe's new to town, but it doesn't take a vision for Rose to realize he's got plenty secrets of his own.
Somebody thinks Rose has something they want and they'll do anything to get it. Her house is broken into, someone else she knows is murdered, and suddenly, dying a virgin in the Fenton County jail isn't her biggest worry after all.
Winner of The Beacon 2010 Unpublished Division, Mainstream Category

Rose Gardner doesn’t want to make a fuss. She would rather go completely unnoticed, thank you very much. After living her twenty-four years with her overbearing, bossy mother, Rose finally loses her patience. Storming out of the house, Rose makes a list of 28 wishes, 28 things she wants to do before she dies. And since she just had a vision of her death, it’s time for Rose to strike out on her own. Unfortunately, the very day Rose declares her independence, her controlling mother is found dead…and all fingers are pointing at Rose.

Rose is, without a doubt, one of the most naive characters I’ve come across, but it worked for her. She’s sweet, innocent, and the highlight of Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. Her character journey, from a young, innocent 24-year-old girl to a slightly-less-innocent but more independent woman is the star of the story. I loved her. Her gentleness and sweet nature creates her problems, but also gives her allies. It was a perfect balance, only going into overly sweet every once in a while.

I accidentally picked up Thirty-Five and a Half Conspiracies from the library a few weeks ago, not knowing it was part of a series, so I had a clue that the hunky next-door neighbor Joe McAllister wasn’t what he seemed. But, oh, I loved every damn scene that he was in. There was something so obviously off about him (his secrecy, his intimate knowledge of Rose’s murder case, and his middle-of-the-night activities) but his sweetness and obvious attraction to Rose made me rush to the end to make sure they had a happily-ever-after.

The romance of Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes is a winner in my book. Soft and sweet, but tense and hot, it quickly won me over, despite Joe’s secrecy. It brought me into Rose’s world, and I can’t wait to return in Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons.

4 Stars

Posted November 7, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 28, 2016

Review | The Duke is Mine by Eloisa James

Review | The Duke is Mine by Eloisa JamesThe Duke Is Mine by Eloisa James
Series: Fairy Tales, #3
Publisher: Avon, December 2011
Pages: 367
Format: Paperback
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Destiny will be decided between the sheets in this all-new tale of The Princess and the Pea.
For Olivia Lytton, betrothal to the Duke of Canterwick—hardly a Prince Charming—feels more like a curse than a happily-ever-after. At least his noble status will help her sister, Georgiana, secure an engagement with the brooding, handsome Tarquin, Duke of Sconce, a perfect match for her in every way . . . every way but one. Tarquin has fallen in love with Olivia. Quin never puts passion before reason. And reason says that Georgiana is his ideal bride. But the sensual, fiery, strong-willed Olivia ignites an unknown longing in him—a desire they are both powerless to resist. When a scandalous affair begins, they risk losing everything—Olivia's engagement, her sister's friendship, and their own fragile love. Only one thing can save them—and it awaits in the bedroom, where a magnificent mattress holds life-changing answers to the greatest romantic riddle of all.

I’m not sure how I feel about The Duke is Mine. After falling for James’ other installments in the series, I was ready to love Olivia and her duke’s story. That isn’t quite what happened.

The other novels in the Fairy Tale series started with a bang, but The Duke is Mine took a long time to start. A long time. After reading page after page of dialogue between Olivia and her twin sister, Georgiana, I felt my interest waning. Then at Quin’s lackluster introduction to the story, I checked GoodReads to see if this installment was a dud. Surprisingly, reviewers raved about it. So I kept reading.

Although I am glad I kept reading, I wished The Duke is Mine picked up the pace much earlier. Until Olivia and Georgiana arrive at Quin’s home for his mother’s marriage competition (what else to call it?), the story slogged. It’s at Quin’s family home that both he and Olivia come alive.

All this said I loved Olivia’s feisty nature. She is stubborn as a mule but luckily more charming. Standing up to Quin’s mother, especially when she made no qualm about her perception of Olivia and her fiancee, must have been difficult, but she did it without a second thought. Her ability to find the fun in life was a quality lacking in not only Quin but society as a whole at the time.

Quin, on the other hand, needed to come alive much earlier to make a lasting impact. He was stuffy, aloof, and a little cold. Thankfully, James switches the narration between the two of them, giving us a chance to remember why we’re cheering for him. As his story comes out, it’s easier to see his kind, protective nature, but it would have been nice to have some explanation for his attitude earlier on.

My other issue with The Duke is Mine is the cheating. Olivia is engaged to another man. Quin’s mother has all but announced his betrothal to Olivia’s sister. It made it hard to hope for their romance when they were potentially hurting so many other people. I liked how James handled part of the situation, but View Spoiler ».

The romance was there, creating tension and atmosphere throughout the book. There were moments I loved and others I didn’t. The Duke is Mine might not have been my favorite of the series, but I enjoyed the rest.

3 Stars

Posted October 28, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 13, 2016

Review | The Beast of Clan Kincaid by Lily Blackwood

Review | The Beast of Clan Kincaid by Lily BlackwoodThe Beast of Clan Kincaid by Lily Blackwood
Series: Highland Warrior #1
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks, May 2016
Pages: 291
Format: Paperback
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A Highland warrior battles to reclaim his birthright in the first of a new series filled with seduction, revenge, and soul-stirring passion…
They call him the Beast—a hardened mercenary whose heart seems as cold as his icy blue gaze. They do not know his true name: Niall Braewick, son of the Laird of Kincaid. It has been years since he escaped into the forest the night his father was murdered. Now he has returned, ablaze with a vengeful hunger. He will gain the MacClaren chief’s trust, gather his clan, and take back his lands. And take the MacClaren’s daughter as well…
Though he pulled her from the river, saving her life, Elspeth has been warned to keep her distance from her father’s hired warrior. He is a barbarian—a shame, as he is far more compelling than the lechers and fools competing for her dowry. Little does she know that, like the castle itself, she is a prize Niall intends to claim…but will he extract blood for blood and possess what is his, or will his enemy’s beautiful, innocent daughter tempt him to forsake his dream of conquest?

The Beast of Clan Kincaid is out for revenge. Torn from his home at a young age, Niall Braewick has returned to avenge his family’s death and reclaim his clan. A meticulous fighter, Niall has planned out his subterfuge (acting as a warrior for hire) to win back the castle and lands. The only thing standing in the way? His father’s murderer’s beautiful daughter. He can’t get Elspeth out of his mind, and the feeling is mutual. As he tries to refocus and get her out of his mind, she finds her way to his heart.

Admittedly, my first impression of The Beast of Clan Kincaid wasn’t too favorable. In the first scene with Elspeth, her sister’s puppy disappears downstream. Everyone’s reaction? Oh, well. For me, that was just crass, especially with Elspeth’s “she’ll learn to get over it” reaction. Although Niall goes to find/save the puppy and returns him to the girl (major brownie points for him), Elspeth’s “eh” response made it hard for me to identify with her.

I’m glad I kept reading. Blackwood does an excellent job of portraying the politics of a Scottish laird’s court, especially one who still harbors feelings about what happened to Niall’s family. His mixed emotions, colored by history and perception, was one of the underdog golden elements of The Beast of Clan Kincaid.

I loved the depth and description that went into Niall’s character. The conflict of his need for revenge, to secure his home, and to win Elspeth created a fascinating character. His narration was compelling, engaging, and a new take on the Scottish romance.

Unfortunately, I felt like Elspeth fell flat. She didn’t have the same consistency of character: one moment she was fiery, fighting back against the (completely unsuitable) suitors who paid her court; the next, she was the dutiful, doting daughter who did anything her father told her to. I didn’t see her as the vibrant, vivid character Blackwood tried to create. That character would have brought the story to a new level.

Despite Elspeth’s lack of character, The Beast of Clan Kincaid was a good read. The vivid descriptions and intense emotions from Niall more than made up for her.

3 Stars

Posted October 13, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 10, 2016

Review | Armageddeon Rules by J.C. Nelson

Review | Armageddeon Rules by J.C. NelsonArmageddon Rules by J.C. Nelson
Series: Grimm Agency, #2
Publisher: Ace, February 2015
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
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Marissa Locks, newly appointed partner of the Grimm Agency, has a reputation for making a mess of magical matters—although causing Armageddon is a new low, even for her…
Marissa is due for a little happily ever after. After all, she did kill the evil Fairy Godmother, end a war, and snag a sweet promotion within the Fairy Godfather's magical-problem-solving Agency. But between maintaining a relationship with someone whose amorous advances can cause third-degree burns, dealing with a killer-poodle infestation, and helping her best friend, Princess Ari, learn to wield spells more powerful than curing a hangover, she’s not getting as much peace and quiet as she hoped.
When an enemy from her past appears to exact a terrible revenge, Marissa’s life goes from hectic to hell on earth. With Grimm inexplicably gone and Ari trapped by a sleeping spell, Marissa decides to fight fire with hellfire—and accidentally begins a countdown to the apocalypse.
With the end of days extremely nigh, Marissa will have to master royal politics, demonic law, and biblical plagues in a hurry—because even the end of the world can’t keep the Agency from opening for business…

I was stunned to discover a light-hearted book about Armageddon, yet Nelson’s Armageddon Rules is exactly that. It’s light, silly, a little fluffy, and just fun.

In her mind, Marissa Locks has paid her due. She saved the day in Free Agent and is looking forward to a little relaxation – well, as much relaxation as a partner in Grimm’s agency can get. Loaded down with evil poodles, lost princesses, and lusty princes, Marissa has her hands full. Then the world erupts in chaos.

Grimm is unreachable, and soon, Marissa finds herself trapped into organizing the beginning of Armageddon.

Normally, I wouldn’t find Armageddon funny, but I loved the hilarity that Nelson brought to it. Everything, from the demons orchestrating it to Marissa’s take on the dreaded plagues, was just funny. It also brought out a deeper side of not only Marissa but Grimm, the all-knowing fairy godfather. I loved the depth that the lighthearted nature of the book brought to their relationship and how it intensified the characterizations. Instead of simply being the man in the mirror (hah), Grimm became a person of emotions and history.

I didn’t like how quickly Marissa’s relationship had progressed with Liam, her cursed boyfriend (no, the girl does nothing halfway). When we left them at the end of Free Agent, they were just starting a relationship. In Armageddeon Rules, their relationship has moved up multiple levels, leaving me feeling like I had to rush to catch up. I felt like I had missed out on crucial parts of their relationship, parts that I would have loved to read.

Armageddeon Rules is first and foremost a humorous urban fantasy. I love the world that Nelson has created: the magic hiding in plain sight only empowers the storyline. There’s one final book in the Grimm series, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

4 Stars

Posted October 10, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 2, 2016

Review | Tempt Me by Twilight by Lisa Kleypas

Review | Tempt Me by Twilight by Lisa KleypasTempt Me at Twilight by Lisa Kleypas
Series: The Hathaways, #3
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks, September 2009
Pages: 373
Format: Paperback
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He was everything she'd sworn to avoid.
Poppy Hathaway loves her unconventional family, though she longs for normalcy. Then fate leads to a meeting with Harry Rutledge, an enigmatic hotel owner and inventor with wealth, power, and a dangerous hidden life. When their flirtation compromises her own reputation, Poppy shocks everyone by accepting his proposal—only to find that her new husband offers his passion, but not his trust.
And she was everything he needed.
Harry was willing to do anything to win Poppy—except to open his heart. All his life, he has held the world at arm’s length…but the sharp, beguiling Poppy demands to be his wife in every way that matters. Still, as desire grows between them, an enemy lurks in the shadows. Now if Harry wants to keep Poppy by his side, he must forge a true union of body and soul, once and for all...

At first, I didn’t know how to feel about Tempt Me at Twilight‘s romantic hero, Harry Rutledge.

Scratch that.

For the first half of the novel, I didn’t know how to feel about Harry Rutledge.

He’s ruthless, especially when it comes to getting what he wants. A self-made man, Rutledge has created his success and is therefore fiercely defensive of it. He thrives on his business and vice versa. He has reached his wildest dreams: to make his mark among the rich and famous. So when he sees something he wants, he takes it.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Poppy Hathaway, it doesn’t work the way he planned.

I loved Rutledge at first. He was the hardened businessman, the one that never believed in love, especially not for himself. He was the reluctant underdog, the one fighting to win the chance at her hand. Then he made what I would consider some pretty bad decisions. I have to admit; I was close to putting this book down. But it was Poppy who saved both Rutledge and Tempt Me at Twilight.

Poppy is Rutledge’s foil in every sense of the word. Where he’s a tough-minded businessman, she’s a softer, family-focused woman. It’s this simple yin yang that adds life to both the narration and its hero. She makes him relatable, forgiving, even kind.

Like Poppy, I struggled with Rutledge, but also like her, I found the soft in him. It was the saving grace of Tempt Me at Twilight, the element that made me stay up half the night to finish it; that had me setting aside the book with a sigh when I finished. Their relationship creates this magic that brings the whole novel alive.

Despite the hiccups with Rutledge in the beginning, I fell madly in love with both him and Poppy. Tempt Me at Twilight brought all the charismatic, vibrant characters and the romantic storyline that made Kleypas a household name. And I loved it.

4 Stars

Posted October 2, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 30, 2016

Review | Not Quite Mine by Catherine Bybee

Review | Not Quite Mine by Catherine BybeeNot Quite Mine by Catherine Bybee
Series: Not Quite, #2
Publisher: Montlake Romance, May 2013
Pages: 302
Format: Paperback
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Gorgeous hotel heiress Katelyn “Katie” Morrison seems to have it all. But when she crosses paths with Dean Prescott—the only man she’s ever loved—at her brother’s wedding, Katie realizes there’s a gaping hole in her life. After the ceremony she gets an even bigger surprise: a baby girl left on her doorstep. Determined to keep the newborn until she learns who her mother is, Katie has her hands full and doesn’t need Dean snooping around…especially when his presence stirs feelings she thought were long gone.

Dean Prescott knows Katie is lying to him about the baby. He shouldn’t care what the woman who broke his heart is up to…and he most certainly shouldn’t still be aching for her. Yet Dean can’t ignore the need to protect Katie—or the desire to be near her every chance he gets. But when he and Katie solve the mystery surrounding the baby, their second chance for happiness could be shattered forever.

Hotel heiress Katie dreamed of a child, but when one finally arrives, it’s not the way she expects. Finding an abandoned infant on her doorstep, complete with a note giving her custody and a birth certificate naming her as the mother leaves her feeling elated and confused all at once. With her ex, Dean, hot on her trail, Katie heads to the west coast, baby in tow, to start her new life as an interior designer for the family’s hotel chain.

I wanted so badly to love this book. It has all the potential to be a cute romantic comedy, but it fails miserably.

I couldn’t get a handle on Katie. She was so many different characters – the reformed wild child, the annoying little sister, the wannabe mother, the ex that never grew up, the responsible woman – all at once that it was hard to understand what was going on. Her motives were all over the place, making me roll my eyes more than once at her antics. When she starts running around in a construction zone in high heels and a miniskirt, I was done.

Dean was just as irritating. Another reformed rich boy, he’s cranky, irritable, incredibly nosy, and still in love with Katie. While their relationship had potential, the magic wasn’t there. Instead of dreamy, Dean felt infatuated instead of love-struck.

Both characters were completely unrelatable. From Katie’s gobs of money (she never considers the cost of anything) to the View Spoiler », the Not Quite Mine thrives on the lives of the rich and famous, portraying them as far too materialistic. While I love the odd billionaire or two, Bybee didn’t give either character faults or flaws that made them relatable.

I didn’t give a hoot about Katie or Dean at the end of the book – I was thoroughly irritated with the both of them. The unnecessary drama from both of them was just too much. I was glad to turn Not Quite Mine back in.

2 Stars

Posted September 30, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 28, 2016

Review | N is for Noose by Sue Grafton

Review | N is for Noose by Sue GraftonN Is For Noose by Sue Grafton
Series: Kinsey Millhone, #14
Publisher: Fawcett, January 1970
Pages: 322
Format: Paperback
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Tom Newquist had been a detective in the Nota Lake sheriffs office --- a tough, honest cop respected by everyone. When he died suddenly, the town folk were sad but not surprised. Just shy of sixty-five. Newquist worked too hard, drank too much, and exercised too little.
Newquist's widow, Selma, didn't doubt the coroner's report. But still, she couldn't help wondering what had so bothered Tom in the last six weeks of his life. What was it that had made him prowl restlessly at night and brood constantly? Determined to help Selma find the answer, Kinsey Millhone sets up shop in Nota Lake, where she finds that looking for a needle in a haystack can draw blood --- very likely, her own ...

Slipping back into Kinsey’s world is like returning home. It’s comforting, despite the murders and violence that undoubtedly appear in each installment, and familiar. When she undertakes a case on the road as a favor for her friend (is he her friend? Not sure) Robert Dietz, Kinsey finds herself in arguably the biggest mess she’s dealt with.

Tom Newquist was an all-around popular guy in Nota Lake, so when he’s found dead in his truck on the side of the road, the town reels. Even though he was one of two police investigators in the area, no one seems to hold a grudge against him, yet Selma, Newquist’s bizarre widow, can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to the story. Enter Kinsey.

N is for Noose isn’t a cut-and-dried murder mystery, at least, not in the beginning. Instead, Kinsey faces the wild dynamics of a small, tight-knit town, an employer whom she’s pretty sure doesn’t tell the whole truth (only when it suits her), and a nagging feeling in her stomach that just won’t go away. There’s something definitely wrong in Nota Lake…but what it is?

While Tom’s murder was the initial hook for the mystery, I was drawn into the town vs. Kinsey dynamic that permeated the pages. Kinsey was an outsider, asking questions that wasn’t any her never mind. Small towns generally don’t take too kindly to that. The friction and tension in the atmosphere created this draw, this intense need to read the next page, to know what happened.

N is for Noose had even more surprises lying in wait. After reading 13 of Grafton’s other books, I thought I had her pattern down pretty well. I even thought I knew who the killer was and why.

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Won’t make that mistake twice. She blew me away. The killer, the motive, the method…that final scene was just simply amazing.

4 Stars

Posted September 28, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 25, 2016

Review | Lord Dashwood Missed Out by Tessa Dare

Review | Lord Dashwood Missed Out by Tessa DareLord Dashwood Missed Out by Tessa Dare
Series: Spindle Cove, #4.5
Publisher: Avon Impulse, December 2015
Pages: 144
Format: Paperback
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A snowstorm hath no fury like a spinster scorned!
Miss Elinora Browning grew up yearning for the handsome, intelligent lord-next-door…but he left England without a word of farewell. One night, inspired by a bit too much sherry, Nora poured out her heartbreak on paper. Lord Dashwood Missed Out was a love letter to every young lady who’d been overlooked by gentlemen—and an instant bestseller. Now she’s on her way to speak in Spindle Cove when snowy weather delays her coach. She’s forced to wait out the storm with the worst possible companion: Lord Dashwood himself.
And he finally seems to have noticed her.
George Travers, Lord Dashwood, has traveled the globe as a cartographer. He returned to England with the goal of marrying and creating an heir--only to find his reputation shredded by an audacious, vexingly attractive bluestocking and her poison pen. Lord Dashwood Missed Out, his arse. Since Nora Browning seems to believe he overlooked the passion of a lifetime, Dash challenges her to prove it.
She has one night.

Fueled by the rocketing emotions of a broken heart (and a few glasses of sherry), Miss Elinora Browning puts pen to paper to explain just why the dashing Lord Dashwood, childhood friend and longtime crush, missed out when he left her behind to explore the high seas. The last thing she expects, however, is to be face-to-face with him on her travels to Spindle Cove…or for the carriage to break down in the middle of their journey. Backed against a wall by Dashwood’s demands for clarification, her own heart, and the past, it’s up to Nora to show him just what he missed out on.

I’m not a huge fan of novellas. Normally there isn’t enough room to develop the characters, to create a believable story, a realistic world, to make me fall in love. Thankfully, Lord Dashwood Missed Out not only met but beat my expectations on each score.

Dare created their relationship so perfectly that I never questioned it. Dashwood and Nora’s conversations about their past, combined with their separate narrative flashbacks, built up their backstory and created the perfect environment for their story to continue.

While both Nora and Dashwood fit character stereotypes, there wasn’t much typical about them. While most of us have emotion-fueled letters to our exes in our diaries, most of us today don’t share them, let alone publish them. For a woman to take such a stand, especially against a member of the aristocracy, in that time period was something, and I adored Nora for it. Dashwood, in turn, was just as complex. I loved the surprising twists to his character, the romantic hidden behind the hard exterior.

Lord Dashwood Missed Out was clever, funny, and simply fun to read. I loved their story, and wished for it to be a full-length novel. I wanted more of the banter, the bickering, the romance, the friction that was constantly between Dashwood and Nora. By far, Lord Dashwood Missed Out is my favorite novella.

4 Stars

Posted September 25, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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