Monthly Archives: May 2014

Review: Tease

tease 2

Tease: The Ivy Chronicles
by Sophie Jordan
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks
320 pages
Genre: New Adult, Romance
3 / 5

 

Good girls meet bad boys every day in literature. What makes them interesting is when the good girl isn’t all that good and the bad boy isn’t all that bad. That’s called character development.

In this tale, Emerson is our good/bad girl. She has developed a reputation as a tease who follows through, but there is more to her than that. She is an artist with a wounded soul. She meets Shaw – dark, mysterious, hot Shaw – when he rescues her from certain doom at a biker bar. They are attracted to each other, but Emerson keeps men at arm’s length. No getting hurt for her, thank you very much.

Of course there are Reasons for this, and of course her family is at the crux of it all.

Shaw and Emerson have a hot relationship, though, and before too long, they are playing kissy kissy. As much as Shaw wants more physically, he wants even more emotionally. Emerson, though, needs to get her act together before she loses this stud.

Yes, it’s predictable, NA fare. But it’s enjoyable and occasionally hot. Shaw all but writes the playbook for men; his pursuit of Emerson occurs at a steady, respectful pace. He demands that she respect herself enough to be honest with herself and him. He understands her struggles and wants to help her, not use her. His feelings are genuine and believable.

Emerson, too, is genuine in that she is confused and doesn’t know herself very well. Oh, she thinks she does, but she really has no idea. When Shaw sees through her, it puts her off. She can’t be with him until she accepts reality, and that will take her some time.

This is part of a series, but you don’t need to have read the first one. It’s fun, escapist fare and nothing more.

 

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Review: Cruise

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Cruise: A Thriller
by Suzanne Vermeer
Published by Open Road Integrated Media
238 pages
Genre: mystery, thriller
3.5 / 5

 

It’s all fun and games on a cruise ship until someone drowns.

Heleen and Frank, a Norwegian couple, are celebrating their anniversary with a European cruise. They’ve been together for seventeen years, most of them contented. Yes, there have been struggles, but they give each other the freedom they need. Frank works in travel and as such is away from home a lot, and Heleen is understanding. She has her own career, and she enjoys the autonomy their relationship provides.

In a twist of dramatic irony, we know – but Heleen does not – that Frank has been planning an escape. So when he mysteriously disappears, we sense that he will return one way or another.

Heleen is beside herself over her husband’s supposed death, and she returns home to grieve. But then strange things start happening. First, there is an insurance settlement in the name of a stranger living in France. Then there are other, odder questions.

Determined to understand what happened, Heleen heads to France to find out what Frank has been up to. Along the way, she becomes convinced that the Frank she loved and married is not the Frank she thought was true. The Frank who disappeared? That’s a whole other Frank.

There are twists and turns galore in this book. Just when you think it’s ending, it keeps going. And that is my one complaint: there is almost too much of the thriller and too little of the mystery. We never quite understand Frank’s motivations, nor do we ever quite understand why he and Heleen stayed together for as long as they did. You get the sense that they truly loved each other, which makes Frank’s decisions a bit of a head scratcher.

Still, Vermeer writes a book that will keep you hooked. Heleen is as admirable a character as you’ll find. She has spunk, if not a little innocence, and although her determination to suss out what happened to her husband leads her down one dangerous path after another, she never quits. The titular cruise becomes more about Heleen’s journey across unchartered waters as it does about the actual ship. As much as she learns about Frank, she learns even more about who she really is.

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Review: Thirteen Weddings

13 weddings

Thirteen Weddings
by Paige Toon
Published by Simon & Schuster U.K.
448 pages
Genre: romance, literature
3.5 / 5

Perhaps my biggest pet peeve as a reader is when I invest myself emotionally and in a book – when I give it all of my time and attention – only to experience the main character betray herself at the end. It feels disingenuous, like I’ve taken part in a lie.

Such is my problem with this book.

The first three quarters – the first four fifths, for goodness sake – is fantastic. Bronte comes to London for a hen night, meets the gorgeous and alluring Alex, and they rock the headboard. She goes back home to Australia, he heads back to his life, and all’s right. Each has recently broken up with a significant other, they provide succor and sex to one another, and they have given themselves some hot memories.

A year and a half later, Bronte is in London for a new job. Joining her, equally new to the company, is Alex. Neither can forget the passion and chemistry they shared, but now there is a teensy little problem: Alex is engaged to the girl from whom he was broken up when he and Bronte got together the first time.

The thing is, their attraction to each other is just as strong as it was when they met in the bar. Their attempts to fight it off only seem to strengthen it. Sure, Alex has a fianceé, and Bronte soon has a boyfriend of sorts in Lachie, a fellow Aussie who has come to England as a sort of budding wedding singer. Lachie is every bit as hot as Alex is, and he cares deeply for Bronte. But her heart belongs to Alex.

The thirteen weddings are those at which Bronte works as a photographer. If you’re interested in the nuances of wedding photography, this is the book for you. Each of those weddings – Each.One . – is detailed and discussed, sometimes to the detriment of the story’s pacing. You’ll be on a roll with Bronte and Alex, and then you’re at a wedding.

Bronte, Alex, and Lachie are an entertaining threesome. Bronte has a sweetness to her, but also a sharp edge. A childhood experience scarred and scared her away from religion and marriage, but she is willing to open her heart to Alex and Lachie. It’s in there – her hope in love and fidelity – but she has to trust herself before she’s willing to tear down the obstacles she faces.

Alex is presented as an honorable guy. He’s engaged to a woman he’s been with for ages, and he feels tremendous loyalty to her. Yet she has become an obligation and not a life partner, even if Alex clings to closely to duty to see it. Lachie, on the other hand, is a traveling troubadour of sorts. He’s fun, and he’s interested, and he’s the salve to Bronte’s torn heart and ego.

Does she use him? I think she does. She’s given her heart to someone else, and as much as Lachie gives to her, she takes, even when it appears she is giving in return.

The ending … well, I won’t say anything because you need to read the book. But the ending ANNOYED THE HELL OUT OF ME. It isn’t that I expect hearts, roses, and happy Hollywood endings. But I do expect that the ending will remain true to the characters I’ve enjoyed. And this ending seemed to smack that loyalty and disregard it completely.

Read it, come back, and hit me up in the comments. I’d love to know what you think. I’d also have loved to give this five stars, but the ending left me angry.

 

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Review: Spotlight

spotlight

Spotlight
by Krista Richmond
Published by The Writer’s Coffee Shop
324 pages
Genre: New Adult, Romance
2.5 / 5

Are you one of those people who reads People? No? But you might, on occasion, check out a lurid headline or two while in the checkout line? Perhaps when you paused when you heard George Clooney (GEORGE CLOONEY!) was getting married?

If so, you are not the reason why Lily became a journalist.

She has no interest in promulgating the culture of celebrity. If she’s going to write about you, it will be because she finds you interesting. She wants to get in your head, get to know you, understand you. So when she has the chance to ask heart throb Daniel Brighton a question at a press conference, no silly fluff ball from her. Instead, she asks something thought provoking and intriguing.

Daniel takes notice, as does his mysteriously hot PR guy, Nate.

And that’s where this book takes a detour from the expected. Daniel doesn’t suddenly see Lily and think he has to have her. Nate does. But as the public relations point person for a rising Hollywood star, Nate is cautious. Is Lily really what she appears to be? And can Lily trust that Nate will trust her?

Naturally, there are obstacles to their love story, most of them relating to Nate. Lily is almost too good to be true, sickeningly so, in fact.  I kept waiting for her to have a flaw of some sort, but if she does, it’s minor. It isn’t that he’s awful, either. In fact, most of the characters are just too … perfect. Daniel immediately senses that Lily is a journalist he can trust? Where does that come from? She’s a JOURNALIST, if nothing else. So she asks one good question in a press conference and he thinks, “Wow! I can tell her my most tightly held secrets”?

And therein lie my issues with this book. It’s entertaining and sweet, but too much of it just does not ring true. Even a fairy tale has believable tension, after all.

 

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Review: Four Weddings and a Break Up

4 weddings and a breakup

Four Weddings and a Break Up
by Elyssa Patrick
Published by Aspendown Books
308 pages
Genre: romance; chick lit
3.5 / 5

You know what they say about the best laid plans, right? Think about how many novels have been written using that device.

And yet Four Weddings and a Break Up offers an adorable, sweet, refreshing spin on the oft used twist.

Ginny is a teacher who survived a school shooting. She is tired of being the object of scorn, curiosity, and pity in her small seaside town. She dreams of being a “normal” person but fears that dream will never come true for her. The shooter’s family blames her for the shooting in which he killed himself, and their animus toward her seems to increase by the hour.

While not necessarily looking for love, Ginny wouldn’t mind having someone special. She isn’t sure she is cut out for marriage, largely because the horrors she survived have made her question everything. Heading into a summer packed with weddings, she knows she won’t have that “plus one” that would make things sooo much easier.

Enter Wes Dalton, a gorgeous – and I do stress GORGEOUS – hunk of man whose father lives in town. Wes is a contractor and real estate developer who long ago moved to Las Vegas with his father’s first wife. Whereas Ginny wonders what she lacks when it comes to relationships, Wes wonders about what he has. His father was a cheater, and Wes tells himself that infidelity runs in the gene pool.

These two meet cute. Or hot. Definitely hot. Ginny is looking for a sexual release and finds it in Wes. But of course, nothing in Ginny’s life goes according to plan, and rather than a simple, quick hookup, she’s forced to see Wes over and over again because he’s come to town for a visit.

It turns out, though, that they can help each other out. And by “help” I don’t just mean “you be my plus one and I’ll be yours,” I mean ROCKIN’ THE HEADBOARD type helping.

They have an interlude in the cab of his truck that is …. well, read the book and find out. But strap on your vibrator, because you will need it.

As for the rest of the story, it’s adorable and predictable. Ginny is nearly impossible not to like, and Wes is so hot that you can forgive him just about any transgression. Each of them has a way to go before their relationship can be what they want and need it to be, and given that Ginny has survived a shooting, you know the path will be fraught with Issues.

Still, it’s a fun, hot read, perfect for when your toes are curled up in the sand or dipped in the pool.

 

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Review: The Paris Lawyer

paris lawyer
The Paris Lawyer
by Sylvie Granotier
Published by Le French Book
280 pages
Genre: fiction; mystery 
4.5 / 5

 

Catherine is a newly minted lawyer looking to advance her career, both because she is ambitious and because she wants to catch the eye of her boss (she is attracted to older men … we’ll discuss her Daddy Issues in a bit). She receives the case of an African immigré who came to France to escape a horrific life in Africa (and to land a husband). Catherine is excited. Nervous, but excited.

The case sends her back to her hometown, which she left years earlier after being the sole witness to her mother’s murder. Catherine was a toddler at the time and remembers only flashes and senses, but then again, she was in a stroller with her back to her mother at the time of the murder. Her new case forces her to remember those dark days.

It also spurs her on toward an investigation of sorts into not just her mother’s death, but to her mother’s life. Catherine grew up a fairly happy girl, despite her earlier trauma. Her father is devoted to her, even if he never discusses or refers to her mother.

She also develops a relationship with Cedric, a man she defended in an assault case. They become romantic, although their relationship seems based more in sex than any true exchange of feelings.

It doesn’t take long for Catherine’s legal case, her investigation, and her relationship to converge.

What Sylvie Granotier does exceptionally well with this novel is develop her characters. We know Catherine. We understand her youth, her inexperience, her nervousness, her naïveté, her optimism, and her fears. She is desperate to impress her boss and her client, desperate to prove herself professionally. She is also desperate to understand her mother, a woman around whom her father has created an entire mythology. The question Catherine must confront is whether she needs the truth or the myth. Which one will cause her more pain?

This theme plays out across her life. Does she really want to know whether her client is innocent or not? Does she really want to know and understand Cedric? Does she really want to know and understand her mother? Or are the myths – the one her father created, the ones she creates – warmer comfort?

Some of the twists and turns are obvious and well broadcast. Others may surprise you. But even when you know what’s coming, Granotier keeps you riveted to her story. Catherine is a character who gets under your skin, and you will want to know what happens to her. Can she live with what she discovers?

Read it. You will enjoy The Paris Lawyer quite a bit.

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Review & Blog Tour: Return to the Beach House

Return to the Beach House

Return to the Beach House

by Georgia Bockhoven
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks
387 pages
Genre: women’s fiction
3.5 / 5

Summary

Over the course of one year, in a charming cottage by the sea, eight people will discover love and remembrance, reconciliation and reunion, beginnings and endings in this unforgettable sequel to Georgia Bockoven’s The Beach House and Another Summer.

Alison arrives at the beach house in June to spend a month with her restless grandson before he leaves for his freshman year in college. Over a decade before, Alison lost her beloved husband, and has faced life alone ever since. Now she discovers a new life, and possible new love.

August brings together four college friends facing a milestone. Across summer’s final days, they share laughter, tears, and love—revealing long-held secrets and creating new and even more powerful bonds.

World-class wildlife photographer, Matthew, and award-winning war photographer, Lindsey, arrive at the beach house in January, each harboring the very real fear that it will mark the end of their decade-long love affair. Alone in the house’s warm peace, they will be forced to truly look at who they are and what they want, discovering surprising truths that will change their lives forever.

Review

The beach, as my grandmother used to say, cures what ails you. That certainly is the case for the eight people who stay at Bockhoven’s beach house.

The strongest, least emotionally manipulative, story of the bunch is the first one, belonging to Allison and Christopher. She’s reeling from her husband and son’s deaths, even though it occurred over a dozen years earlier. When she realizes that her attempts to ensure that the memories of her husband and son stay strong in Christopher’s mind have in fact hurt him, it is a heartbreaking scene indeed. The used car salesman she meets (who, by the way, defies all stereotypes about used car salesmen) presents a perfect foil: he, too, lost a spouse, but his approach to widow(er)hood is different from Allison’s.

The dynamics in the first story are interesting and emotionally intense. Christopher is trying to find himself beyond the shadows of two dead men he never really knew, and Allison is trying to be the faithful spouse in the face of increasing loneliness.

We also meet Grace in this story, the teenage girl next door who helps “manage” the beach house for its owner. She’s also searching, but hers is based in fear of being left.

It’s a well written, engrossing story.

Then comes the second story, which, while entertaining, is way too pat. The four friends who reunite are each hiding something (of course they are), but the bonds of friendship help them regain their trust of one another. Each of the women has her own voice, and the struggles each face ring true. I enjoyed when there was friction because, let’s face it, you put four women together, and there will be friction. Bockhoven understands her characters and lets us get to know them.

What stops me from enjoying this one as much as the first story is its ending. The tension builds and builds, and then it just sort of falls flat.

The third story … oy vey.

Matt and Lindsey’s relationship will make you wonder why they’re together and what they see in each other. They are together so infrequently that their hold on each other must be intense, right? Yet they each keep HUGE information from the other. I just did not understand that at all. The ending almost seems discordant compared to the emotional toll their story casts over us.

This third story was not my favorite.

But the first one? I loved it. The second one, too, is enjoyable. I just didn’t care for the third.


About the AuthorGeorgia Bockoven

Georgia Bockoven is an award-winning author who began writing fiction after a successful career as a freelance journalist and photographer. Her books have sold more than three million copies worldwide. The mother of two, she resides in Northern California with her husband, John.

 

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