Tag: contemporary

April 27, 2017

Review | Broken Harbor by Tana French

Review | Broken Harbor by Tana FrenchBroken Harbor by Tana French
Series: Dublin Murder Squad, #4
Publisher: Viking, July 2012
Pages: 450
Format: Hardcover
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The mesmerizing fourth novel of the Dublin murder squad by New York Times bestselling author Tana French
Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy, the brash cop from Tana French’s bestselling Faithful Place, plays by the book and plays hard. That’s what’s made him the Murder squad’s top detective—and that’s what puts the biggest case of the year into his hands.

On one of the half-built, half-abandoned "luxury" developments that litter Ireland, Patrick Spain and his two young children are dead. His wife, Jenny, is in intensive care.

At first, Scorcher and his rookie partner, Richie, think it’s going to be an easy solve. But too many small things can’t be explained. The half dozen baby monitors, their cameras pointing at holes smashed in the Spains’ walls. The files erased from the Spains’ computer. The story Jenny told her sister about a shadowy intruder who was slipping past all the locks.

And Broken Harbor holds memories for Scorcher. Seeing the case on the news sends his sister Dina off the rails again, and she’s resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family one summer at Broken Harbor, back when they were children.

With her signature blend of police procedural and psychological thriller, French’s new novel goes full throttle with a heinous crime, creating her most complicated detective character and her best book yet.

A home invasion in a small seaside town in Britain leaves a family destroyed. For any other murder detective, this case might be too much to handle, but for murder detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy, it’s his job. But when the case starts to bring back painful personal memories, Mick wonders if it’s time to throw in the towel…or work harder than ever to catch the killer.

Heading to the wanna-be luxury complex of Broken Harbor to investigate a brutal murder isn’t easy for any detective, but for Scorcher, it’s especially painful. That’s what makes him a winner in French’s fourth Dublin Murder Squad installment: he’s a naturally complex character. By-the-book on the job, caught in a family conflict, and unsure of where his life is headed next, Scorcher isn’t just any old cop. It’s this complex perspective that makes Broken Harbor so compelling to read.

I loved the interactions between Scorcher, his rookie partner, the ME, and the rest of the crew. Each has such memorable personalities that complement Mick and the plot itself perfectly. French weaves each character interaction, step and motivation so deliberately that you don’t realize the masterfulness of her work until the back cover closes.

To say Broken Harbor kept me on my toes is an understatement. There was never a dull moment from the first moment Scorcher and Richie step into the blood-splattered house to the final page. It was the constant conflicts that come with everyday life –  problems with coworkers, family fights, broken hearts – combined with the powerful of mystery of just who did it that brought this police procedural to life like few books I’ve read before.

For me, Broken Harbor is a definitely a winner, and one I can’t wait to read again. Have you read any of French’s Dublin Murder Squad? Which one should I read next?

4 Stars

Posted April 27, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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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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March 23, 2017

Review | First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Review | First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth PhillipsFirst Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Series: Chicago Stars, #8
Publisher: William Morrow, August 2016
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
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Piper Dove is a woman with a dream—to become the best detective in the city of Chicago. First job? Trail former Chicago Stars quarterback, Cooper Graham. Problem? Graham’s spotted her, and he’s not happy.
Which is why a good detective needs to think on her feet. “The fact is...I’m your stalker. Not full-out barmy. Just...mildly unhinged.”

Piper soon finds herself working for Graham himself, although not as the bodyguard he refuses to admit he so desperately needs. Instead, he’s hired her to keep an eye on the employees at his exclusive new nightclub. But Coop’s life might be in danger, and Piper’s determined to protect him, whether he wants it or not. (Hint: Not!) If only she weren’t also dealing with a bevy of Middle Eastern princesses, a Pakistani servant girl yearning for freedom, a teenager who just wants to fit in, and an elderly neighbor demanding Piper find her very dead husband.

And then there’s Cooper Graham himself, a legendary sports hero who always gets what he wants—even if what he wants is a feisty detective hell bent on proving she’s as tough as he is.

From the bustling streets of Chicago to a windswept lighthouse on Lake Superior to the glistening waters of Biscayne Bay, two people who can’t stand to lose will test themselves and each other to discover what matters most.

Don’t judge this book by it’s cover…or rather, it’s title. I’ll be the first to admit that I was a little put off by the nursery rhyme title (even M raised his eyebrows at me when he saw the cover), but First Star is one of SEP’s best.

Why? Her characters.

Like each of her novels, First Star is entirely character-driven. I loved Piper Dove, struggling private investigator with a soft heart but stubborn nature. Cooper Graham, retired star quarterback who is trying to break into the nightclub business, appears to be her exact opposite, but they are essentially two peas in a pod: soft on the inside, hard on the outside. And believe me, that made for some intense tension.

Image result for fanning gif

But Phillips didn’t rely on that tension to carry the novel. It’s the wacky characters, from Piper to her elderly neighbor Berni, to Cooper and Jada, the teenage “assassain” who befriends Piper when she moves in. There’s an element of reality in the wackiness, one that both brings the characters and story alive.

I loved how both Piper and Coop go through separate heroic journeys, yet use each other as support. Piper’s initial friendship with Coop allows her to slowly let down her defenses she’s held up for so long, and Piper’s instinct to protect him lets Coop realize it’s okay to rely on someone else (well, someone who’s not in football pads).

The cameos from other characters in the Chicago Stars series cracked me up, especially Heath‘s role in Piper and Coop’s relationship. It created a kind of closure in the series, and since I think SEP originally intended this to be the final Chicago Stars novel, it fit.

Whether you are kinda into contemporary romance or a major fan (*raises hand*) First Star is simply a must read. From the hilariously relatable characters and original plotlines to the breathtaking romance, SEP’s latest is a must.

5 Stars

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

Start Your Engines | 2017 Reading Challenges

If we’re going to be honest, I failed MISERABLY during last year’s reading challenges. A combination of burnout, work, and plain, simple stress knocked me down. I tried to do too much on the blog and when I was trying to figure out everything in my personal life, my reading seriously suffered.

But this year, I’m taking it easy. This year, I’m going to fall back in love with reading. Join me?

POPSUGAR 2017 READING CHALLENGE

Created to help readers find more books outside their go-to genres, the PopSugar reading challenges have been on my mind for a long time, but I’ve never caught them at the beginning. Learn more about the 2017 challenge here and join the fun with #popsugarreadingchallenge!

Honestly, I was initially tempted to sign up for the whole kit ‘n’ caboodle, including the advanced section. Luckily, the rational side of my brain spoke up. I plan to read as much as I can of the first section of the list and then go from there.

I plan to pick the books for this challenge month-by-month to make it a little more fun. For January, I’m starting out with:

Carnival of SoulsThe Fate of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #3)

 

THE 2017 MODERN MRS. DARCY READING CHALLENGE

The 2017 Reading Challenge

 

The ultimate create-your-own reading challenge, the Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge has two different book lists to inspire your 2017 reading: reading for growth and reading for fun. Sign up here and follow along with #MMDreading.

Following my goal to find a little more fun both in books and life in 2017, I’m taking the reading for fun challenge. I’m hoping to read 12 books for this challenge, one a month.

The Modern Mrs Darcy 2017 Reading Challenge. Get more out of your reading life in 2017 with this choose-your-own-bookish-adventure challenge!

Wayfarer (Passenger, #2)Apprentice in Death (In Death, #43)Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two (Harry Potter, #8)This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity, #1)A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird, #1)The Hook Up (Game On, #1)Big Little LiesThe Time Traveler's WifeOn Writing: A Memoir of the CraftJust Imagine

 

THE 2017 DEBUT AUTHOR CHALLENGE

I fell in love with the Debut Author Challenge last year for one reason: I found so many new authors to love! The Debut Author Challenge introduces readers to new YA or new adult authors from around the globe. Sign up here and follow along with #2017DebAuthC!

 

I am challenging myself to read at least 10 of the 13 debuts I’ve picked out for 2017.

Shimmer and BurnSong of the CurrentToward a Secret SkyDaughter of the Pirate KingTo Catch a KillerWintersongCaraval (Caraval, #1)HeartstoneFrostblood (Frostblood Saga, #1)

No cover yet:

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE READING CHALLENGE 2017

crr2017icon

Another of my favorite reading challenges, the Contemporary Romance reading challenge is for contemporary romance only – historical, sci-fi, paranormal, and romantic suspense does not count for this challenge. Since this challenge was how I discovered some new favorite contemporary romance authors last year, I can’t wait for this year’s reading! Join the fun here and follow along with #ContRom2017

I challenge myself to read a majority of new-to-me authors in this year’s challenge. I think I will go for the 3rd base level – 11-15 books.

Runaway Groom (I Do, I Don't)Royally Screwed (Royally, #1)Strong Signal (Cyberlove, #1)A Better Man (Sunshine Creek Vineyard, #1)Paige in ProgressSeven Day Fiancé (Love and Games, #2)

 

*post layout inspired by the beautiful challenge post over BookMark Lit!

Posted January 7, 2017 by Ellen in the canon talks / 0 Comments
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October 17, 2016

Review | The Game Plan by Kristin Callihan

Review | The Game Plan by Kristin CallihanThe Game Plan by Kristen Callihan
Series: Game On
Publisher: NLA Digital LLC, November 2015
Pages: 331
Format: Ebook
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A beard-related dare and one hot-as-hell kiss changes everything.
NFL center Ethan Dexter’s focus has always been on playing football and little else. Except when it comes to one particular woman. The lovely Fiona Mackenzie might not care about his fame, but she’s also never looked at him as anything more than one of her brother-in-law’s best friend. That ends now.
Fi doesn’t know what to make of Dex. The bearded, tattooed, mountain of man-muscle looks more like a biker than a football player. Rumor has it he’s a virgin, but she finds that hard to believe. Because from the moment he decides to turn his quiet intensity on her she’s left weak at the knees and aching to see his famous control fully unleashed.
Dex is looking for a forever girl, but they live vastly different lives in separate cities. Fi ought to guard her heart and walk away. But Dex has upped his game and is using all his considerable charm to convince Fi he's her forever man.
Game On

I forget how much I love sports-centered romances until I get my hands on one. Ever since Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Lady Be Good, I’ve been hooked on them. There’s an intensity about professional athletes, a passion that fits in perfectly with the plots of today’s contemporary romances. Kristen Callihan’s The Game Plan is no exception.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to think about Dex, but the more time we spent in his head, the more I loved him. Despite the aggression required for his job, he has a quiet intensity about him that draws you. He’s a man of secrets, rare smiles, and an incredibly gentle heart. The contrast was borderline hypnotizing. I loved the quiet (and sometimes not-so-quiet) passion that ruled him, whether it was about Fiona or football. He was the fairy tale prince we all hope will arrive on our doorstep one day, but with enough flaws that he wasn’t unreachable.

In contrast to Dex’s romantic nature, Fiona is a pragmatist. She’s honest (except when it comes to her job) and doesn’t have a problem saying what’s on her mind (again…that job). I liked her realism and how her heart warred with it: despite knowing a long distance relationship with a famous football player might not work out, she never entirely gives up.

My only issue with Fiona was how she acted in – you guessed it – her job. See, Dex falls in love with her for her almost brutal honesty, but when it doesn’t transfer to her professional life, it felt off. How would a girl, so vocal about everything else, roll over in her particular situation?

The plot’s tension was tangible. I found myself running back to the office from my lunch break after getting hooked into the story. The Game Plan had this sweet yearning, born first of secret love, then a long-distance relationship. Even after it evolves from that (sorry, no spoilers), the yearning is still there, the search to find an authentic connection. That’s the magic of Callihan’s story: even when the characters should have everything finally go right, someone throws a monkey wrench, messing it up in the best way possible.

4 Stars

Posted October 17, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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August 31, 2016

Review | Remembrance by Meg Cabot

Review | Remembrance by Meg CabotRemembrance by Meg Cabot
Series: The Mediator, #7
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks, February 2016
Pages: 388
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THE HIGHLY ANTICIPATED RETURN OF MEG CABOT'S BESTSELLING MEDIATOR SERIES FEATURING FAN-FAVORITE GHOST WHISPERER SUSANNAH SIMON
You can take the boy out of the darkness.But you can’t take the darkness out of the boy.
All Susannah Simon wants is to make a good impression at her first job since graduating from college (and since becoming engaged to Dr. Jesse de Silva). But when she’s hired as a guidance counselor at her alma mater, she stumbles across a decade-old murder, and soon ancient history isn’t all that’s coming back to haunt her. Old ghosts as well as new ones are coming out of the woodwork, some to test her, some to vex her, and it isn’t only because she’s a mediator, gifted with second sight. 
What happens when old ghosts come back to haunt you?If you’re a mediator, you might have to kick a little ass.
From a sophomore haunted by the murderous specter of a child to ghosts of a very different kind—including Paul Slater, Suze’s ex, who shows up to make a bargain Suze is certain must have come from the Devil himself—Suze isn’t sure she’ll make it through the semester, let alone to her wedding night. Suze is used to striking first and asking questions later. But what happens when ghosts from her past—including one she found nearly impossible to resist—strike first?

Suze Simon’s life is just about perfect. She’s finally engaged to Jesse de Silva, her longtime (once ghostly) love, she’s working towards her dream career as a school counselor, and everything is finally at peace. Well, until a young girl with a bleeding arm and a ghost attached to her comes into the school office. As Suze tries to convince the ghost to let go and head into the next life, a ghost from her past shows up and her perfect life will be just a memory if she can’t save it.

I haven’t read all of the books in the Mediator series, and definitely not in order. Cabot’s easy introduction to the characters and where they are in the story made it easy to jump back in.

I had mixed feelings about Suze. I loved her character and stubborn, sarcastic streak. It gave a great vibrancy to the novel that I’ve come to expect from Cabot’s work. Yet her decision to hide creepy Paul’s advances from Jesse, her fiance, was simply stupid.

You see, Paul has something Suze loves: her old family home, coincidentally the place where Jesse died in his previous life and where they met (he haunted it). His company now holds the deed to the house, and he threatens to tear it down, possibly destroying Jesse’s chance at a second life, unless she goes out with him.

Now here’s where I lost the thread of Suze. Paul is all the bad words you can string together, and then some. He’s arrogant, misogynistic, sexist, despicable, rude, condescending and generally over the top. His blantant disregard for Suze and Jesse’s relationship (let’s ignore the engagement part of it) was so disgusting I had trouble believing this was a Cabot character. And he thought that this attitude…would work?

Instead of telling him to hit the road, Suze goes (grudgingly) along with it while she tries to figure out a backup move. I didn’t get this. I didn’t understand her logic. It was the one true element that completely threw me over, that left me befuddled. What the hell, Suze?

The rest of the story was stellar, but unfortunately was overshadowed by…whatever that was. While I loved the resolution and ending, the Paul storyline just felt…weird.

3 Stars

Posted August 31, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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August 24, 2016

Review | Best Laid Wedding Plans by Lynette Austin

Review | Best Laid Wedding Plans by Lynette AustinThe Best Laid Wedding Plans by Lynnette Austin
Series: Magnolia Brides, #1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca, November 2015
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
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Jenni Beth Beaumont thought she left her broken heart in Chance, Georgia, when she moved away. But when she suddenly inherits her family's beautiful, antebellum home, her dream of turning the residence into a wedding destination calls her back.
Cole Bryson, an architectural salvager and Jenni Beth's former flame, intends to purchase and deconstruct the Beaumont family's down-at-the-heels estate. To his surprise, Jenni Beth is more of a stubborn Southern girl than he thought. Cole will have to use all his sultry, steamy tricks to test more than the resolve of his sexy competition…

I wanted so desperately to love this story. A Southern girl after my own heart, returning home to start a boutique wedding planner service that will save her parents’ estate and hopefully their town. Yet despite his best intentions, Cole Bryson is hell bent on disrupting Jenni’s best laid wedding plans. It sounds almost picturesque, right?

From the first page, the relationship between Jenni Beth and Cole was convulted. Austin threw the reader in without any warning or backstory – it felt like pages were missing from the story, instead of a smooth opening to the characters and their story. The introduction to Jenni Beth, ending her last night as a wedding planner in Savannah, isn’t too bad…until Austin throws in Cole. Then it feels like the narrative is abandoned in favor of setting up a clunky sexual tension between the two.

The odd relationship continues as Jenni Beth heads home, and Cole…follows? He starts to intervene in her life, following her to the bank to “help” with her business loan, then to the quilt shop that’s going under… The lack of character development and the awkward, stilted relationship was the biggest reason I put down Best Laid Wedding Plans after 50 pages.

The other major reason this book is heading back to the library? The horribly awkward Southern cliches that threaded through the dialogue. Instead of feeling welcoming and friendly, they felt awkward, making me more aware than ever I was looking at typeface on a page instead of a story of love. I couldn’t stop seeing them. It was jolting and slightly uncomfortable.

Instead of finding a warm, small-town romance about a wedding planner and the one she let get away, Best Laid Wedding Plans fell flat. It needed a burst of humanity, of character, and a stronger narrative to create the story the title and blurb promised.

 Stars

Posted August 24, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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July 30, 2016

Review | The One You Want by Gena Showalter

Review | The One You Want by Gena ShowalterThe One You Want by Gena Showalter
Series: The Original Heartbreakers, #0.5
Publisher: Harlequin, March 2015
Pages: 109
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New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter introduces the Original Heartbreakers—about sexy bad boys each meeting their match—with a special prequel novella!
In small-town Oklahoma, reputation is everything, and Kenna Starr will do anything to overcome hers. The supposed bad girl is determined to walk the straight and narrow, a seemingly impossible task when Tall, Dark and Sexy shows up…
Rich and powerful, Dane Michaelson is every woman's dream. When he returns to Strawberry Valley after a sixteen-year absence, he is unprepared for the redheaded girl he's never been able to forget. She's all woman now—and he's never wanted anyone more. But to have her, he'll have to break through her defenses… and surrender his own.
* First published in the 2014 anthology, All For You.

As this is the first book I’ve marked DNF in a while, I feel it’s only fair to state that The One You Want is the first book in The Original Heartbreakers series I’ve read.

That being said, from the first page, it was borderline ridiculous. We meet Kenna Starr (I couldn’t stop thinking about how it sounded like a stripper name) as she walks into a society party. Her worries about how she’s wearing the same outfit as the wait staff (she normally works with them) wasn’t too bad, but her constant Twitter references in her head drove me insane. I couldn’t get to know her from all the chatter in her brain, a constant trait throughout the novella (well, as far as I got).

Her romantic hero, Dane Michaelson, is an asshole. He won’t let anyone touch him without his permission (yanks his arm back from his date when she tries to) and god forbid you touch his face. I didn’t stick around long enough to see what that was all about. He’s degrading, judgmental, and has few to little redeeming qualities (again, DNF). In the first scene, he displayed his disgust for his date by deciding he was dumping her because she tried to touch his face. Oh yeah. There’s a winner.

There were so many elements in Showalter’s novella that just didn’t make sense, but were thrown in for pop culture effect. I finally threw in the towel when she revealed (for the second time) that she was packing a giant, double-edged sword just in case of zombie attack. Seriously. Where did that come from? Are we Walking Dead addicts? Because there’s no previous reference – just a random conversation with her roommate about how the zombie apocalypse is coming.

Honestly, this was a waste of the $2.99 I spent to buy the ebook. I might try a full novel of Showalter’s but The One You Want was just a disaster.

 Stars

Posted July 30, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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July 14, 2016

Review | Brown-Eyed Girl by Lisa Kleypas

Review | Brown-Eyed Girl by Lisa KleypasBrown-Eyed Girl by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Travis Family, #4
Publisher: Piatkus, August 11th 2015
Pages: 291
Format: Hardcover
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Wedding planner Avery Crosslin may be a rising star in Houston society, but she doesn't believe in love--at least not for herself. When she meets wealthy bachelor Joe Travis and mistakes him for a wedding photographer, she has no intention of letting him sweep her off her feet. But Joe is a man who goes after what he wants, and Avery can't resist the temptation of a sexy southern charmer and a hot summer evening.
After a one night stand, however, Avery is determined to keep it from happening again. A man like Joe can only mean trouble for a woman like her, and she can't afford distractions. She's been hired to plan the wedding of the year--a make-or-break event.
But complications start piling up fast, putting the wedding in jeopardy, especially when shocking secrets of the bride come to light. And as Joe makes it clear that he's not going to give up easily, Avery is forced to confront the insecurities and beliefs that stem from a past she would do anything to forget.
The situation reaches a breaking point, and Avery faces the toughest choice of her life. Only by putting her career on the line and risking everything--including her well-guarded heart--will she find out what matters most.

Avery Crosslin would rather blend into the background, thank you very much. As co-owner of one of the primer wedding companies in Houston, she thrives in the background, ensuring negative best men are kept away from wayward grooms and creating the brides’ wildest dreams. But when she meets Joe Travis, a man who seems to see through her oversize, bland clothing and see her. And that leaves this brown-eyed girl a little bit nervous.

I really don’t know how Kleypas does it. Her ability to create such vivid characters consistently knocks me off my feet. I loved Avery right off the bat. Her self-consciousness is so endearing; it’s a characteristic that allows every girl, red hair/brown eyes or not, to identify with her. She’s a woman who shines out of the spotlight, who thrives on details. From that moment, we had an immediate kinship.

Joe was the perfect mix of domineering romantic hero and giant softy. Kleypas (wisely) offsets his alpha male tendencies with insight into mind through dialogue that makes it easier to connect with him and understand what’s going on.

The side plot of Avery’s sister and her quiet romance were fantastic…I wish there was a novel just for them. The push and pull of their relationship caught me in and I found myself wishing they had a happily-ever-after too.

The plot is what really won me over when it came to Brown-Eyed Girl. It was so realistic: a girl caught between a boy and a life choice. It’s a gamble, but also a learning opportunity to trust your heart – one of the hardest lessons in life. Avery’s character journey isn’t dramatic. It’s a life journey that could happen to any woman, decisions that could face any one of us. It was how their relationship evolved around it that made Brown-Eyed Girl an absolute winner.

4 Stars

Posted July 14, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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July 7, 2016

Review | D.C. Trip by Sara Benincasa

Review | D.C. Trip by Sara BenincasaD.C. Trip by Sara Benincasa
Publisher: Adaptive Books, November 2015
Pages: 280
Format: Hardcover
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Author and comedienne Sara Benincasa takes a bold, fearless and irreverent look at the classic high school trip to Washington DC.
Alicia Deats is a new teacher chaperoning her very first high school trip to Washington DC, and nothing could be more terrifying than a class full of horny, backstabbing, boundary-pushing teenagers under her watch. To make matters worse, she embarrassed herself with her co-chaperone Bryan Kenner with one too many margaritas and an ill-placed vomiting incident at last year’s teacher mixer and is hoping this trip can be a fresh start for them. Alicia believes in positive reinforcement and trust to keep her students out of trouble, but best friend high school sophomores Gertie, Sivan, and Rachel have a different idea: they plan to take full advantage of the un-parented freedom that a trip to DC offers. DC TRIP by novelist-comedian Sara Benincasa is an honest and irreverent journey of sexual confusion, bar shots, drag queens, and pot cookies in the Rose Garden.

When Alicia Deats volunteers to help Bryan Kenner chaperone the sophomore class trip to D.C., she hopes it will be the chance to connect with him after their disastrous first meeting. But when the drama escalates in their group, Alicia and Bryan have their hands full keeping track of their students, who are determined to have a good time in the capitol.

I had no idea what I was getting into with D.C. Trip. From the book flap, I expected a cute romance between the two high school teachers chaperoning the trip (check) and a alternating tale of three girls, determined to explore the city in their own way (check). What I didn’t expect was the amount of cussing.

Don’t get me wrong – I have no problem with cursing in dialogue. It makes it realistic and, if used well, a good point. But, here’s the thing with D.C. Trip – almost every other word that came out of the kids’ mouths would have had to be beeped out of the nightly news. It got to be irritating quickly. The usage overwhelmed the dialogue, and I found myself struggling to keep track of what they were talking about.

Each main character (5 in total – the two teachers and three students) had a small character journey, some more than others. Silvan’s was definitely the standout: a young lesbian struggling to find her place in the world who starts to stand up to the bullying she faces. Silvan was the most identifiable character by far. her friend Gertie took second with her longtime crush on a guy from her summer camp. The third of the group, Rachel, isn’t really memorable at all except for her hair flipping and her ability to find trouble.

While D.C. Trip is a pretty accurate description of high school drama, it’s entirely surface level. There’s little to no in-depth exploration of the characters or their situations. Without that level of detail, it just felt…flat.

3 Stars

Posted July 7, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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