Publisher: Gallery Books

May 17, 2017

Wrap-Up | The Latest DNFs

Wrap-Up | The Latest DNFsFalse Pretenses by Catherine Coulter
Publisher: Signet Book, March 2000
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback

"New York Times" Bestselling author. Her first contemporary suspense-now repackaged! Beautifully repackaged for her ever-growing legion of fans, this is the explosive story of how one woman must survive the destruction of her perfect life-and the intentions of three mysterious men.

I hate marking books DNF. Even though I’m coming to terms with it, it’s still a struggle because I know this is an author’s baby, their pride and joy. But sometimes, an individual book and I just aren’t a match. That’s what happened with these three.

Hearing so much about Catherine Coulter, I couldn’t wait to start reading her work. Being the slightly-Monk-like OCD person I am, I wanted to start at the beginning, or as close as I could get to her work. Which is what lead me to False Pretenses.

I was hoping for a Theresa RussellBlack Widow type character, or at least some kind of character growth. But concert pianist Elizabeth Carleton is meek and stilted. As the main character and focus of the plot, she needed to come alive to create the kind of tension False Pretenses needs to be alive. Instead, she just remains words on a page.

Without the great protagonist, the story sorely needed, the rest of the characters and their motives only fell flat. It was hard to believe all those men fell in love with her, making their own characters suspect and unbelievable.

Is there another Catherine Coulter book I should try? What do you recommend?

Wrap-Up | The Latest DNFsBlush by Cherry Adair
Publisher: Gallery Books, April 2015
Pages: 387

In the same pulse-pounding style as Maya Banks and Kresley Cole, New York Times bestselling author Cherry Adair delivers a sizzling erotic romance about a sexy billionaire who’s on the run—and the hit-man-turned-handyman who’s supposed to kill her.

Sex with a stranger. Learn to drive. Learn to cook. Learn to pole dance. Sex under the stars. Buy a truck. These are just a few of the things on Amelia Wentworth’s bucket list, but as the CEO and face of a multi-billion-dollar cosmetic empire, she’s never quite found the time to do them.

Until, after a series of accidents, Amelia discovers that someone wants her dead. But who? And why? She has no time for questions as she changes her name to Mia, buys a secluded fixer-upper near the Louisiana bayou where no one will recognize her, and starts checking things off her bucket list like there’s no tomorrow—which there might not be.

Meanwhile, Cruz Barcelona is a hit man who’s promised himself this will be his last job. Then he’ll take the money and move to a warm, sunny place where he doesn’t have to hide anymore. But when Cruz goes undercover to Mia’s ramshackle house, he starts to realize there’s far more to this poor-little-rich-girl than he thought—and he starts to fall for her. Which is going to make his job a whole lot harder…

A cosmetics CEO on the run, determined to cross off her bucket list. A dark assassin hired to kill her. Irresistible chemistry…right?

That’s what I’d hoped for when I grabbed Cherry Adair’s Blush off the shelf. Sure, the cover is a little more suggestive than I typically like to go for, but hey, I’ll try it. But when the protagonists start doing the dirty in the first chapter of the book, something’s off.

If you’ve been with me for a while or looked around on the blog, you’ll know I have no problem with sex scenes. However, I think these should be used to empower the story/character relationships/plot points. Blush uses them as plot points.

It felt like every time I turned the page, they were going at it again. There was no character growth in the first fifty pages. Instead, Cruz has an interior monologue about how he should complete his assignment and move on. Then Amelia walks in the room, and all bets are off.

Maybe Blush got better as it went, but after fifty pages of sex scenes, I was ready to DNF.

Wrap-Up | The Latest DNFsFallen by Karin Slaughter
Series: Will Trent,
Publisher: Arrow, June 2012
Pages: 496

Special Agent Faith Mitchell returns home to a nightmare. Her baby daughter Emma has been locked outside, and there's a trail of blood to the front door.

Without waiting for back-up, Faith enters the house. Inside a man lies dead in a pool of blood. Most worrying of all, her mother is missing.

When the Atlanta police arrive, Faith has some difficult questions to answer. But she has some desperate questions of her own. What were the killers searching for? And where is her mother?

Suspended from duty, Faith turns to her work partner, Will Trent. Together he and Sara Linton must piece together the fragments of a brutal and complicated case, and catch a vicious murderer with only one thing on his mind.

To keep on killing until the truth is finally revealed.

Police procedurals are my guilty pleasure this year. The complex relationships between the characters, the horrible crimes, the question of whether to stick by the book…I’m all about it.

Yet Karin Slaughter’s Fallen didn’t have that same magic for me. Maybe it was coming in on the fifth book of the Will Trent series instead of the first, but I couldn’t get past the first fifty pages and this book ended up on the DNF pile. I wanted to like it (love it, actually), but the characters weren’t there to draw me in. Instead, I found myself reading the same passages over and reaching for different books on my nightstand over this one.


Posted May 17, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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August 5, 2016

Review | Honeymoon Hotel by Hester Browne

Review | Honeymoon Hotel by Hester BrowneHoneymoon Hotel by Hester Browne
Publisher: Gallery Books, September 2014
Pages: 464
Format: Paperback
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

A charming novel in the vein of The Wedding Planner featuring an ambitious and by-the-books event planner who finds herself at odds with her new assistant, who happens to be the son of her boss, on the eve of the biggest wedding of her career—from the New York Times bestselling author of The Runaway Princess and the Little Lady Agency series.
The Bonneville Hotel is the best-kept secret in London: its elegant rooms and discreet wood-paneled cocktail lounge were the home-away-from-home for royalty and movie stars alike during the golden age of glamour. Recent years haven’t been kind, but thanks to events manager Rosie, it’s reclaiming some of its old cachet as a wish list wedding venue. While Rosie’s weddings are the ultimate in romance, Rosie herself isn’t; her focus is fixed firmly on the details, not on the dramas. She lives with a professionally furious food critic and works tirelessly toward that coveted promotion. But when the hotel owner appoints his eccentric son Joe to help run Rosie’s department, she’s suddenly butting heads with the free spirit whose predilection for the unconventional threatens to unravel her picture-perfect plans for the most elaborate—not to mention high-profile—wedding the hotel has ever seen, a wedding that could make or break not only the hotel’s reputation, but also Rosie’s career.
From the author whose books are described as “deliciously addictive” (Cosmopolitan), Honeymoon Hotel will reaffirm your belief in happily ever after.

Rosie McDonald isn’t a wedding planner, thank you very much – she’s an events planner. As a longtime employee at the Bonneville Hotel in London, Rosie knows the wedding business from the inside out and she’s determined to make a splash, bringing the old boutique hotel back to the headlines. But when her boss assigns his all-too-realistic son to assist with Rosie’s romantic weddings, she’s in trouble…and not just her career.

I picked Hester Browne’s Honeymoon Hotel up on a whim. As a bride-to-be, anything with “wedding,” “bridal,” or “honeymoon” is guaranteed to make it’s way into my library bag. The blurb looked cute, but I expected to give Browne’s the novel the old college try, and turn it back in, and go on with my life.

Well, that’s not going to happen.

See, I fell in love with Hester’s Rosie. She’s a nose-to-the-grindstone sort of girl that is afraid of change, but won’t back down from a challenge. Combined with her slight anxious tendencies, I felt like I was reading a British version of myself. That’s the magic of Rosie – there’s an element in her that every reader will understand, whether it’s trying to make things work with her (horribly snotty) food critic boyfriend, ignoring her feelings towards Joe, the boss’s son, or sneaking out to the fire escape to sneak chocolate with her best friend.

I loved that Honeymoon Hotel was a story about Rosie, not about romance. Sure, the romance between Joe and Rosie is sweet and surprising, but the narrative doesn’t harp on it. Instead, it’s a story of Rosie growing into herself, of not being afraid of change, and of taking the bull by the horns. That’s the kind of story I can get behind.

Notting Hill meets Bridget Jones in Browne’s Honeymoon Hotel, and I loved it. It’s a sweet rom-com with a heroine you can’t wait to cheer for, and plenty of wedding insight for the brides and wedding fans (you know who you are).

4 Stars

Posted August 5, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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December 17, 2015

DNF | Twain’s End by Lynn Cullen

DNF | Twain’s End by Lynn CullenTwain's End by Lynn Cullen
Publisher: Gallery Books, October 2015
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
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From the bestselling and highly acclaimed author of Mrs. Poe comes a fictionalized imagining of the personal life of America’s most iconic writer: Mark Twain.
In March of 1909, Mark Twain cheerfully blessed the wedding of his private secretary, Isabel V. Lyon, and his business manager, Ralph Ashcroft. One month later, he fired both. He proceeded to write a ferocious 429-page rant about the pair, calling Isabel “a liar, a forger, a thief, a hypocrite, a drunkard, a sneak, a humbug, a traitor, a conspirator, a filthy-minded and salacious slut pining for seduction.” Twain and his daughter, Clara Clemens, then slandered Isabel in the newspapers, erasing her nearly seven years of devoted service to their family. How did Lyon go from being the beloved secretary who ran Twain’s life to a woman he was determined to destroy?
In Twain’s End, Lynn Cullen reimagines the tangled relationships between Twain, Lyon, and Ashcroft, as well as the little-known love triangle between Helen Keller, her teacher Anne Sullivan Macy, and Anne’s husband, John Macy, which comes to light during their visit to Twain’s Connecticut home in 1909. Add to the party a furious Clara Clemens, smarting from her own failed love affair, and carefully kept veneers shatter.
Based on Isabel Lyon’s extant diary, Twain’s writings and letters, and events in Twain’s boyhood that may have altered his ability to love, Twain’s End explores this real-life tale of doomed love.

I received this book for free from Library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

In Twain’s End, Lynn Cullen reimagines the tangled relationships between Twain, Lyon, and Ashcroft, as well as the little-known love triangle between Helen Keller, her teacher Anne Sullivan Macy, and Anne’s husband, John Macy, which comes to light during their visit to Twain’s Connecticut home in 1909. Add to the party a furious Clara Clemens, smarting from her own failed love affair, and carefully kept veneers shatter.

Based on Isabel Lyon’s extant diary, Twain’s writings and letters, and events in Twain’s boyhood that may have altered his ability to love, Twain’s End explores this real-life tale of doomed love.

I expected Cullen’s Twain’s End to be like her Mrs. Poe, to have the same draw and passion, to bring the characters to life with the same vivacity. 
She brought Twain to life, but unfortunately, in the worst way. Portrayed as a man deathly afraid of being alone, Sam Clemens was fighting a battle between the two different personalities inside him; so he chased after each skirt that flitted by. Whether this is accurate, it was upsetting. There was no sympathetic element about him, something to redeem this harsh portrayal. Instead he was…gruesome. 
I had no sympathy for Isabel. I tried. In the beginning, it was “well, maybe she’s young” or “may it’s first love” – that’s the intensity of her infatuation with man, even after he was openly demeaning to her. Isabel isn’t a girl, at least in the introductory chapters: she’s a full grown woman who’s put her life on hold for The King. She was irritating, whiny, and spineless. 
Cullen’s depiction of the women in Clemens’ life doesn’t stop there. She creates his daughter into a mean shrew, his wife another spineless but sick old woman in love with him, and Helen Keller as a giggly…fool. Even the maid is in love with him, for heaven’s sake. 
Again, whether this information is accurate, the lack of sympathy in Clemens’ made this just irritating. None of these characters had enough development to redeem or, at least, explain this strange infatuation. 
I had hoped Cullen’s narrative, which I found so fascinating in Mrs. Poe, would at least offer a redemption for Twain’s End. Instead, the book is loaded down with scenic information, overly detailed and stuffy. 
I wanted to love this book, but it’s heading back to the library tomorrow. 

Posted December 17, 2015 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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August 29, 2015

Review | Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Review | Still Alice by Lisa GenovaStill Alice by Lisa Genova
Publisher: Gallery Books, January 6th 2009
Pages: 308

Barnes & Noble Discover Great New WritersThis may be one of the most frightening novels you'll ever read. It's certainly one of the most unforgettable. Genova's debut revolves around Alice Howland - Harvard professor, gifted researcher and lecturer, wife,and mother of three grown children. One day, Alice sets out for a run and soon realizes she has no idea how to find her way home. It's a route she has taken for years, but nothing looks familiar. She is utterly lost. Is her forgetfulness the result of menopausal symptoms? A ministroke? A neurological cancer? After a few doctors' appointments and medical tests, Alice has her diagnosis, and it's a shocker -- she has early-onset Alzheimer's disease.
What follows is the story of Alice's slow but inevitable loss of memory and connection with reality, told from her perspective. She gradually loses the ability to follow a conversational thread, the story line of a book,or to recall information she heard just moments before. To Genova's great credit, readers learn of the progression of Alice's disease through the reactions of others, as Alice does, so they feel what she feels -- a slowly building terror.
In Still Alice, Genova, who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard, uniquely reveals the experience of living with Alzheimer's. Hers is an unusual book -- both a moving novel and an important read.(Spring 2009 Selection)


Still Alice isn’t an easy read.

The language isn’t hard, despite many technical/medical terms – Genova goes out of her way to make the narration flow as simply as possible. Still Alice is a hard read because of the vast amount of emotions, each one taking the reader on an entirely different roller coaster ride.

It took me a while to fall into her story. I picked the book up and down, trying to get past the first scene as John, Alice’s husband, searches for his perpetually missing keys. It was the moment she forgets her way home on her run that got to me: such an innocent, everyday moment that marks the beginning of a significant change in her life. From that moment, Alice and John became real figures in my life, people I wanted to hug and offer any help that I could.

Each character dealt with Alice’s diagnosis differently. John searched desperately for a miracle drug, disbelieving the original diagnosis; the two older children fell into a cycle of disbelief, thinking/hoping if they just told their mother to remember, all of the missing pieces would fall into place; the younger, Lydia, became the strong pillar in her mother’s life. What truly broke my heart was Alice’s colleagues’ reactions. I understood their detachment: there were still kids to teach, essays to grade, lectures to deliver, and she couldn’t meet those qualifications (painfully revealed later in the story). The vast amount of embarrassing moments, caused by either the disease or the colleagues’ reaction to it, made me feel for her and wish, like John, that a cure would appear.

The ending, however, was completely unexpected and utterly beautiful, sealing in Still Alice with the message that I think Genova was trying to teach us all along.

Posted August 29, 2015 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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