Tag: one star

August 4, 2014

Review | Did Not Finish: The Shadow of Your Smile by Mary Higgins Clark

Title: The Shadow of Your Smile 
Author: Mary Higgins Clark
Publication Date: April 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

At age eighty-two and in failing health, Olivia Morrow knows she has little time left. The last of her line, she faces a momentous choice: expose a long-held family secret, or take it with her to her grave.
Olivia has in her possession letters from her deceased cousin Catherine, a nun, now being considered for beatification by the Catholic Church–the final step before sainthood. In her lifetime, Sister Catherine had founded seven hospitals for disabled children. Now the cure of a four-year-old boy dying of brain cancer is being attributed to her. After his case was pronounced medically hopeless, the boy’s desperate mother had organized a prayer crusade to Sister Catherine, leading to his miraculous recovery.

The letters Olivia holds are the evidence that Catherine gave birth at age seventeen to a child, a son, and gave him up for adoption. Olivia knows the identity of the young man who fathered Catherine’s child: Alex Gannon, who went on to become a world-famous doctor, scientist, and inventor holding medical patents.
Now, two generations later, thirty-one-year-old pediatrician Dr. Monica Farrell, Catherine’s granddaughter, stands as the rightful heir to what remains of the family fortune. But in telling Monica who she really is, Olivia would have to betray Catherine’s wishes and reveal the story behind Monica’s ancestry. The Gannon fortune is being squandered by Alex’s nephews Greg and Peter Gannon, and other board members of the Gannon Foundation, who camouflage their profligate lifestyles with philanthropy.

Now their carefully constructed image is cracking. Greg, a prominent financier, is under criminal investigation, and Peter, a Broadway producer, is a suspect in the murder of a young woman who has been extorting money from him.
The only people aware of Olivia’s impending choice are those exploiting the Gannon inheritance. To silence Olivia and prevent Monica from learning the secret, some of them will stop at nothing–even murder.

There is a huge following for Mary Higgins Clark, but this is the first time I picked up one of her novels at the library. Out of the massive selection (took up half of the case!), I grabbed The Shadow of Your Smile because, duh duh dum, I liked the cover. Sometimes this strategy works amazingly well for me; at other times, like this one, it failed. 

I’ve been on the hunt for another J.D. Robb/In Death mystery series to read as I’ve devoured the entire series and have to keep myself from rereading. My hope was that Clark would be my next favorite mystery writer, but the lack of plot really stood out in The Shadow of Your Smile. The ideas were there, but there was no connective thread to keep me interested. It was a struggle to pick this book up again to read it; I would actually find other things to do instead of reading this book (I got to season five of The Office!). The plot itself had too many moving parts that didn’t share the overall plot’s goal; to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what the point of this book was…

Out of all the characters, I enjoyed Monica the most, but she was the only highlight. There were so many other personalities jam-packed into this book that it was difficult to keep them straight. I didn’t understand half of the motivations, and the constant variation in narration (first Monica’s, then the assassin’s, followed by Olivia and her doctor) was just too much to keep track of. Eventually it became frustrating, irritating, and finally descended into the worst realm: I didn’t care

I read to page 160 and threw in the towel. The characters would have been interesting if there weren’t so many scrambling for the reader’s attention. The plot needed to be more defined; I can only go so far on the premise of a secret. The lack of foresight and thought that went into The Shadow of Your Smile made my first experience with Mary Higgins Clark a bust


– poorly constructed plot
– honestly, too many characters
– too many minor plots to keep track of
– I couldn’t get past the halfway point

Posted August 4, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
Tags: , , , , ,

August 15, 2013

Review: 1st to Die by James Patterson

Title: 1st to Die
Author: James Patterson
Publication Date: January 2001
Series: Women’s Murder Club
Source: Owned
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
My Rating: One Star

Imagine a killer who thinks, “What is the worst thing anyone has ever done?”–and then goes far beyond it. Now imagine four women –a police detective, an assistant DA, a reporter, and a medical examiner –who join forces as they sidestep their bosses to track down criminals. Known as the Women’s Murder Club, they are pursuing a murderer whose twisted imagination has stunned an entire city. Their chief suspect is a socially prominent writer, but the men in charge won’t touch him. On the trail of the most terrifying and unexpected killer ever, they discover a shocking surprise that turns everything about the case upside down.

James Patterson’s first installment of the Women’s Murder Club series opens with the brisk narration of Lindsey Boxer, an inspector with the San Francisco Police Department, as she stands atop her terrace railing, cursing the world. The narration flows into the hotel penthouse, where newlyweds David and Melanie have finally retired from their wedding celebrations. The killer stalks his prey with what seems to be an absolute joy, creating an intense tensions that holds throughout the first few scenes. Unfortunately, this was the highlight of the novel. 

Patterson’s key players in 1st to Die, the members of the Women’s Murder Club, were flat, one-dimensional, and cliché. The relationships among the four of them weren’t built – they simply appeared. As primary narrator, Lindsey holds the most interest simply because she tells the story; therefore we are readers are in her thoughts, see the reasons behind her motives. Every time the ME stepped on scene, I wished for a deeper character – all the materials were there, but Patterson left them lying instead of using them to create an intense character. Instead, each woman’s personality was flatter than the page. The ridiculous “you go, girl!” was irritating after the first scene.

Lindsey’s character did not need the addition of a blood disease. This side plot didn’t add anything to her main motive of discovering the killer, up the tension, or even add a new dimension to the character. Ideally, this disease would add a little extra oomph to Lindsey, but there was no clear connection, no impediment on her work as a researcher and investigator…it was just there. The same goes for Chris and Lindsey’s one-dimensional romance; it might have been interesting and engaging, had it had stronger connections to the plot.

The sole shining glory on this novel was the villain. Only here did I find any thought or deliberation whatsoever. The crimes themselves were chilling, and there seems to lie Patterson’s primary talent. The killer’s motives were original and somewhat engaging, although it still didn’t fully engage me as a reader; it felt like no one cared enough to make me want to read.

Final Thoughts: The flat, clichéd characters, stilted dialogue, and uninteresting side plots all dull the gleam of Patterson’s grade-C murder plot. 

I found this: 
James Patterson no longer writes all of the James Patterson books himself, but has enlisted a small team of co-writers to help him meet demand” here: (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/authorinterviews/7052581/James-Patterson-interview.html). For some reason, this disappoints me most of all.

Posted August 15, 2013 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 2 Comments
Tags: , , ,

August 5, 2013

Review: Of Poseidon by Anna Banks

Title: Of Poseidon
Author: Anna Banks 
Publication Date: May 2012 
Series: Of Triton {Book 1}
Source: Library
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
My Rating: One Star

Galen is the prince of the Syrena, sent to land to find a girl he’s heard can communicate with fish. Emma is on vacation at the beach. When she runs into Galen—literally, ouch!—both teens sense a connection. But it will take several encounters, including a deadly one with a shark, for Galen to be convinced of Emma’s gifts. Now, if he can only convince Emma that she holds the key to his kingdom…

Told from both Emma and Galen’s points of view, here is a fish-out-of-water story that sparkles with intrigue, humor, and waves of romance.

Mermaids are the new “it” creatures of the paranormal world, and some of my personal favorites! Maybe it’s because werewolves and vampires are a little overdone lately…who knows? Anyway, I was really excited to read Anna Banks’s Of Poseidon, and maybe for a bad reason: I loved the cover! This is my first crack at the paranormal romance genre focused on mermaids, and I have to say, I was really disappointed (I’m sorry – I hate saying that about an author’s debut work…). Maybe the cover got my hopes up…

In order to fully go into my review of this book, I am going to talk about plot points that might be considered spoilers. 

So, my one of my main issues with this book is the lack of strong plot. I felt like we could have actually gotten into the plot right away, instead of thinking about how dreamy Galen is and the weird death of a character (we’ll get into that one, don’t worry). Instead, we follow Galen and Emma’s strange courtship. I wish that the cliffhanger that Banks leaves at the end connected with the plot of this book more thoroughly. I understand the entire story arc for the series, but I felt that it would have made Of Poseidon much more interesting if we learned about it all much earlier. By the time we finally reached this grand plot, I was so irritated with the book, I didn’t care.

I found Emma extremely annoying. There was nothing endearing about this character, especially her constant references to her “porcelain” skin. She became upset at the stupidest things, threw unreasonable fits, and when she threw Rayna out of the glass, I was done. Actually, to be fair, I found all the characters annoying. What the hell kind of mother allows her (“emotionally distraught” – see below) daughter to spend the night with a boy she barely knows? Speaking of, the mother/daughter relationship was so strange that I couldn’t handle it. 

Teeny tiny spoiler! Skip the next paragraph.

It really bothered me that Chloe died so soon in the novel. She wasn’t ever properly set up (at first, it sounded like she lived with Emma, then all of a sudden, Chloe has parents?) and it made it hard to feel sorry for her. Emma becomes angry with people forgetting Chloe at school (understandable), but then it appears that Emma herself forgets Chloe…

“Ohmysweetgoodness,” I had issues with the narrative. It was childlike. Every time I read the phrase “ohmysweetgoodness,” I was yanked out of the narrative like it was my alarm ringing in the morning. “Triton’s trident!,” all of the made-up words drove me nuts. The narrative itself was rocky; there was no clear transition between Emma’s first person POV and Galen’s third. I wish each title had been marked with the narrator’s name; that would have made the transitions much simpler. It bothered me that there was no clear definition marking when Emma’s narrative ended and Galen’s began.

Final Thoughts: I wanted to love this book. I loved the idea of mermaids in a romance, but Of Poseidon didn’t deliver. I doubt I’ll read the second book in the series…

Posted August 5, 2013 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 2 Comments
Tags: , , , ,

May 16, 2013

Review: The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott

Title: The Dressmaker
Author: Kate Alcott
Publication Date: February 2012
Source: Library
Links: GoodReadsAmazon
My Rating: One Star

Just in time for the centennial anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic comes a vivid, romantic, and relentlessly compelling historical novel about a spirited young woman who survives the disaster only to find herself embroiled in the media frenzy left in the wake of the tragedy.

Tess, an aspiring seamstress, thinks she’s had an incredibly lucky break when she is hired by famous designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon to be a personal maid on the Titanic’s doomed voyage. Once on board, Tess catches the eye of two men, one a roughly-hewn but kind sailor and the other an enigmatic Chicago millionaire. But on the fourth night, disaster strikes.

Amidst the chaos and desperate urging of two very different suitors, Tess is one of the last people allowed on a lifeboat. Tess’s sailor also manages to survive unharmed, witness to Lady Duff Gordon’s questionable actions during the tragedy. Others—including the gallant Midwestern tycoon—are not so lucky.

On dry land, rumors about the survivors begin to circulate, and Lady Duff Gordon quickly becomes the subject of media scorn and later, the hearings on the Titanic. Set against a historical tragedy but told from a completely fresh angle, The Dressmaker is an atmospheric delight filled with all the period’s glitz and glamour, all the raw feelings of a national tragedy and all the contradictory emotions of young love.

I’m guessing we’ve all see James Cameron’s Titanic at least once. If you’re a nerd/geek like me, it’s more like twenty…anyway…

I was so excited for this book to finally arrive at the library. I saw it on one of those GoodReads banners, read the blurb and it was love. I love the Titanic story, I love dresses, I love books – what could go wrong?

I’ve never been so bored in my life.

We first meet Tess as she considers leaving her boring, insufferable job as a “seamstress” (really a maid) and try to find a new job aboard the magnificent Titanic. Among her reasons for leaving: she was hired as a seamstress, but does no sewing; she hates her room and her mistress; she wants adventure. Okay.

Tess takes off to the docks and stumbles across Lady Lucile Duff Gordon, a historical figure aboard the Titanic, one famous for her lavish and somewhat scandalous clothing designs. My first issue with the novel happened when Tess magically talks her way into the job; or more so, Lucile talks herself into hiring the girl on the dock. Although I realize Alcott needed a way to get Tess on that boat, it’s a little bit of a stretch for me. But okay.

This rash decision on Lucile’s part sets the tone for her entire character. Her personality flips on a coin, changing from charming to demanding to just plain cruel. I feel that Alcott is taking quite a bit of license with this character. Although Lady Duff Gordon is depicted as somewhat  shallow, I feel this is a harsh criticism. 

Tess was boring. Ahh, I’m so sorry to write that, but it’s true. She bored the daylights out of me. It really bothered me that she ended up as the maid again on the Titanic, but kept referencing her dream to be a seamstress. It aggravated me. You want it? Go get it!

The “love” aspect of this book was nonexistent for me. I can’t even recall chemistry…sparks…nothing.

My biggest problem lies with Alcott’s decision in describing the sinking of the Titanic. Although I realize that Alcott’s intention was to focus on the aftermath of the sinking, her writing of the tragedy left no impact on me and therefore I didn’t really care about the aftermath. The entire event takes place within less than twenty pages. Tess only views the first class’s reaction – there’s no transition to talk about the struggles of the lower two classes, the lack of boats, the staff, even the water-tight walls for heaven’s sake. Alcott seemed almost bored with the sinking. Tess is asleep, then oops, she’s in  boat.

Final thoughts: I wanted to love this book. It had all the makings of a wonderful story, but somehow it slipped though their fingers. 

Posted May 16, 2013 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
Tags: , , ,

December 27, 2012

Review: The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

Title: The Sherlockian
Author: Graham Moore
Publication Date: December 2010
Source: Library

Links: GoodReadsAmazon
My Rating: One Star

In December 1893, Sherlock Holmes-adoring Londoners eagerly opened their Strand magazines, anticipating the detective’s next adventure, only to find the unthinkable: his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, had killed their hero off. London spiraled into mourning — crowds sported black armbands in grief — and railed against Conan Doyle as his assassin. 

Then in 1901, just as abruptly as Conan Doyle had “murdered” Holmes in “The Final Problem,” he resurrected him. Though the writer kept detailed diaries of his days and work, Conan Doyle never explained this sudden change of heart. After his death, one of his journals from the interim period was discovered to be missing, and in the decades since, has never been found.

Or has it?

When literary researcher Harold White is inducted into the preeminent Sherlock Holmes enthusiast society, The Baker Street Irregulars, he never imagines he’s about to be thrust onto the hunt for the holy grail of Holmes-ophiles: the missing diary. But when the world’s leading Doylean scholar is found murdered in his hotel room, it is Harold – using wisdom and methods gleaned from countless detective stories – who takes up the search, both for the diary and for the killer.

Do you know that feeling when you’re in a really good book and time seems to stop? I’ll forget to watch the clock and end up being late to work. It feels like the book has become alive in my hands.

This book wasn’t it.

I wanted so much to like The Sherlockian. Sherlock Holmes is one of my favorite characters and the synopsis looked fascinating, so what could go wrong? First, the characters. Dry as dust. Harold has achieved his life’s dream of attaining membership with the Baker Street Irregulars, and suddenly he’s a detective. I can go with that, but where’s Harold’s motivation? I thought about it this morning while I made my coffee and I realized I have no idea what Harold looks like. This might seem a little trivial, but I have no feelings for this character…why would I want him to save the day if I don’t care about him?

In turn, Arthur Conan Doyle, the famed Sherlock Holmes creator, is portrayed as a old sourpuss (there really wasn’t a better word for it). He complains nonstop about Holmes, and his sidekick in the form of Bram Stoker is just awkward. 

To be honest, I know nothing about Arthur Conan Doyle’s biography. Whether or not these facts presented by Moore are accurate, I don’t know. From a fictional/reader view, this was like reading an encyclopedia. There was no imagination, no creation found within the book.

Last night, I sat up reading and my boyfriend came in. He said “You look miserable. Why are you still reading that?” He had a really good point. I’m sorry, Mr. Moore. I wanted to like The Sherlockian, but he needed a personality. 

Posted December 27, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
Tags: , , ,

July 2, 2012

Review: 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James

Oh, for Pete’s sake…

Synopsis (from goodreads.com)
When literature student Anastasia Steele is drafted to interview the successful young entrepreneur Christian Grey for her campus magazine, she finds him attractive, enigmatic and intimidating. Convinced their meeting went badly, she tries to put Grey out of her mind – until he happens to turn up at the out-of-town hardware store where she works part-time. 

The unworldly, innocent Ana is shocked to realize she wants this man, and when he warns her to keep her distance it only makes her more desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her – but on his own terms. 

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success – his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving adoptive family – Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a passionate, physical and daring affair, Ana learns more about her own dark desires, as well as the Christian Grey hidden away from public scrutiny.

Can their relationship transcend physical passion? Will Ana find it in herself to submit to the self-indulgent Master? And if she does, will she still love what she finds?

Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.

I am deathly afraid this will stay with me forever.

The book lives up to its very sad reputation. There is actually different versions of drinking games floating around the internet for this book (thanks to the GoodReads forums for bringing this to my attention). The hype is true. I can’t believe half of our society is reading crap like this.

Ana is the most ridiculous character. What 21 years old college graduate has never held hands/been attracted to a man/been kissed? (Missing one of those in your youth is whatever, but missing all three?) She is whiny and her inner monologues are annoying as hell. Her constant references to her “inner goddess” made me laugh. Her inner thoughts are a consistent part of the story, either. They disappear after her transformation from a nonsexual being to a sexpot. 

Christian is creepy. Seriously. Think about it. His outrageous jealous tendencies might be mildly hot in the book, but imagine it in real life. It would be so annoying. The “don’t touch me” thing is bizarre. Speaks of a man who needs some deep psychotherapy and counseling. I’m all for eccentric billionaires, at least until they show me their “playroom” and talk about suspending from the ceiling. 

Despite the characters, I was most disappointed in the fact the story has no plot beyond Ana sudden sexual prowess and Grey’s “demons”. I honestly have no interest in finding out why he has these demons. It probably has something to do with the constantly-referenced “Mrs. Robinson” and his real family. Ta-da. The story is sex scenes in varying degrees of intensity connected by the random emails between the two main characters and Ana’s constant whining about whether or not she should sign The Contract.

Save the money. Skip this one.

Posted July 2, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
Tags: , ,

June 21, 2012

Review: A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd

Synopsis (from goodreads.com)

The daughter of a distinguished soldier, Bess Crawford, follows in his footsteps and signs up to go overseas as a nurse during the Great War, helping to deal with the many wounded. There serving on a hospital ship, she makes a promise to a dying young lieutenant to take a message to his brother’ Jonathan Graham: “Tell Jonathan that I lied. I did it for Mother′s sake. But it has to be set right.” Later, when her ship is sunk by a mine and she′s sidelined by a broken arm, Bess returns home to England determined to fulfill her promise.
It′s not so easy, however. She travels to the village in Kent where the Grahams live and passes on to Jonathan his brother′s plea. Oddly, neither Jonathan, his mother, nor his younger brother admit to knowing what the message means. Then Bess learns that there′s another brother, incarcerated in a lunatic asylum since the age of 14 when he was accused of brutally murdering a housemaid.
Bess rightly guesses that the dying soldier′s last words had something to do with the fourth brother. Because the family seems unwilling to do anything, she decides that she will investigate. It′s her own duty to the dead.
I was really excited to get this book. New author (to me), new series, and an interesting premise! What could go wrong?
Unfortunately, this novel couldn’t deliver for me. I am actually stopping halfway through. The beginning with Bess on the Britannic was fascinating, and I expected the novel to keep the same pace throughout the story. The moment she enters the Graham house, however, it was all downhill.
Character interaction was nonexistent. Bess goes from a fascinating, vibrant character to simply words on a page. I had no interest in the brothers whatsoever. They didn’t appear as real people to me; they were one-dimensional snobby brats who apparently didn’t give a damn about anyone but themselves.
The message Bess promises to deliver from her dying lieutenant to his family was so interesting! Who was the girl? Is she his long lost love? But after that chapter, there were too many characters running in and out of scenes that apparently had nothing to do with the plot. Why introduce Bess on the Britannic is there is no followup?
A Duty to the Dead promises a lot, but for me, it didn’t deliver.

Posted June 21, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
Tags: , ,