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Tag: "Romance"

Review: Starry Night by Debbie Macomber

[ 2 ] December 16, 2013

51xiAX+yN5LReviewed by A.D. Cole

Starry Night is a sweet, holiday romance from bestselling author Debbie Macomber. Carrie Slayton is the society columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. But she doesn’t want to be. Like most romance heroines in the print media industry, Carrie dreams of being a real journalist. She receives what she considers to be a legitimate chance at this when her boss offers to give her any position she wants if she can obtain an interview with the bestselling survivalist author, Finn Dalton.

It turns out she doesn’t actually have much of a chance at this, considering nobody even knows where he lives or if Finn Dalton is his real name. Carrie takes on the challenge, however, and manages to find him. She ends up stranded in a remote, Alaskan cabin with him for two days. When the two of them fall in love, Finn asks Carrie to choose between him and her career by requesting that she not write the article. Carrie does the only thing she can do. She goes back to the society column and tells everyone at work that she wasn’t able to get the interview.

What proceeds thereafter is the further development of the long-distance relationship between Finn and Carrie with a mish-mash of trust and communication issues thrown in. And the requisite happy ending. Don’t get me wrong, I like happy endings. I’m not averse to cliché plot lines. After all, how many different ways can you do boy-meets-girl? But I was disappointed in the lack of character development.

It felt more like I was told what to believe about Carrie: she’s a determined journalist who’ll stop at nothing to get the job of her dreams. And yet I didn’t really see any evidence of this. I’m told to believe of Finn that he’s deeply distrusting of women due to his parent’s divorce. And yet, he falls for and pursues Carrie, even stepping way outside of his comfort zone, with seemingly little internal conflict. Ultimately, I just didn’t find the characters convincing or really even very interesting.

I’m far from losing my faith in Ms. Macomber as a storyteller, but she has definitely written better books. For an extremely light, sweet read, this may still be the book for you. Just don’t expect too much depth from the story or characters.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

A.D. Cole is a homeschooling mother and aspiring romance novelist. She lives in the Ozark foothills and spends her free time reading, writing, baking and pondering life’s little mysteries.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Ballantine Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

[ 2 ] November 26, 2013

16248311 (1)Reviewed by Melanie Kline

Grace Munroe is in a marriage that is starting to fail and suspecting that her husband is cheating on her. She feels unfulfilled and is often annoyed at the impressions and standards her husband requires her to make for his continued appearance before the public eye. Grace is greatly confused when she receives and airmail from France complete with an aeroplane ticket to Paris. She believes that this has to be a huge mistake or mix-up of some kind.

The letter is from a law firm in Paris and expresses deepest sympathies for Grace’s recent loss of Madam Eva d’Orsey and explains that she is the sole beneficiary of her will. The letter requests her presence at her earliest convenience. Grace still feels this is a huge mistake, but as her suspicions of her husband’s unfaithfulness grow and soon prove to be true, she decides to go to Paris and investigate the mystery for herself, if only to get away from the problems at home.

In Paris, Grace is greeted by Monsieur Tissot from the law firm, who is there to assist Grace with anything she needs and aid her in the sale of Madam d’Orsey’s estate so that she may return home.

Alternating with this is Eva d’Orsey’s story. The reader learns of her lowly beginnings and how she got taken under Andre Valmot’s wing. Eva later became a perfumer but unfortunately spiraled into alcoholism, loneliness and isolation until her death.

Grace finds that the mystery intrigues her and wants to learn all about Eva and her story and refuses to sign any papers until she visits her home and investigates her life – only to find out that she is in fact related to the late Madam d’Orsey. Grace also finds answers to her past and her future with her husband while in Paris.

The Perfume Collector was a very intriguing read. It was quite informative about the making of perfume, without becoming dull and over explanatory, contained drama, love, loss, mystery, and was an all around engaging story.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Tulip Eaters by Antoinette van Heugten

[ 0 ] November 26, 2013

Manually ReleasedReviewed by Colleen Turner

When Nora de Jong comes home from work she is expecting to find her mother, Anneke, lovingly playing with Nora’s baby daughter, Rose. Instead she is horrified to find Anneke dead on the living room floor, a mystery man dead not far from her and Rose missing. When the red tape of the authorities proves to be too slow for a desperate mother, Nora takes it upon herself to find out why someone would want her mother dead and what happened to Rose. Searching for clues in her mother’s attic Nora finds secret information that will shake up everything she thought she knew about her parents. If Nora stands a chance of finding Rose she will have to follow the pieces of her family’s dark past back to Amsterdam. But when it becomes clear someone is out to keep Nora from the truth she will need to face her darkest fears and fight an enemy she never knew she had if she ever hopes to see her beloved daughter again.

From the very first page, The Tulip Eaters takes off like a shot of adrenaline and instantly draws the reader in with the anticipation of a twisting mystery that hints at deep historical secrets. Then by page fifty the reader is told everything: who killed Anneke and why, who the dead mystery man is, who took Rose….and just like that the climax is over with 300 more pages to go in the story. I was so disappointed that the great mystery was over so quickly and kept waiting for some new twist to excite me again. That great new twist, unfortunately, never came. Instead we, the reader, are witnessing Nora searching for the information we already know while also witnessing the people who took Rose do everything to keep Nora from finding her.

The remainder of the book seems to just repeat the same basic series of information: a desperate mother cannot rest until she finds her daughter; the people who took Rose will do anything to keep her; Nora’s mother and father were not who she thought they were and were hiding secrets regarding what they did during those dark days of World War II. The story just kept dragging along without any new information seeming to be given. Even the romance between Nora and her old love seemed predictable. I just kept waiting for more.

What was fascinating about The Tulip Eaters was the historical information given regarding the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during World War II, the Dutch Nazi party as well as the resistance fighters and the horrible treatment of the Jews during that time. Unfortunately this was only presented in small bits and pieces and left me wanting more real history and less of Nora running around. Even the title is barely referenced in the story.

Overall this story just fell flat for me. It has such a fascinating premise and taught me a bit about World War II that I had never heard of before. In the end, however, that just wasn’t enough to keep me entertained.

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harlequin MIRA. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Transparent by Natalie Whipple

[ 0 ] November 25, 2013

downloadReviewed by Jessa Larsen

At a time of her life when most teenagers feel misunderstood and, well, just plain invisible…Fiona McClean is literally invisible. Fiona lives in a world in which genes have been mutated and the general population is frequently born with a wide variety of unnatural talents. Fiona has been born with a genetic predisposition to invisibility. This isn’t as fun as it sounds being that her father is the head of the local syndicate and to him, invisibility is a priceless weapon. Fiona’s father has been forcing her family to do his dirty work for years. Anything from spying on the competition to stealing vehicles, to breaking into bank vaults. After sixteen very long years of doing her father’s bidding, Fiona and her mother have had enough. They flee to a small town and for the first time in her life, Fiona feels like she can live a normal life. Well, as normal as being invisible allows. That is, until her father makes it abundantly clear that he won’t give up his prized possessions that easily.

Transparent is set in a world where a drug meant to protect the population from radiation during the cold war was quickly used and abused. The population took enough of the drug to start mutating and soon enough it spread to being passed down from generation to generation. People were born with mutations in the form of a variety of strange talents. The FDA quickly pulled the drug, but that just forced the drug and its users underground which quickly spread to large scale syndicates running the big bad show. What started as a cure spiraled into more of a nightmare, especially for anyone born with a particularly useful mutation.

I highly enjoyed the creativity of Transparent and the variety of characters throughout the book. It was definitely how I would picture such a drug and its effects to progress. Realistically, if such a drug were to be created and the population got its hands on it, it would quickly move underground to more dangerous and illegal routes were the government to ban it. People would definitely want to use it recreationally if not hazardously. Big name bad guys would get their greedy paws on the drug and people will do anything to rise to power. I was quickly drawn into the world of Transparent and loved the unfolding of events. This is definitely a book you read late into the night when you know you really should be putting it down and going to sleep.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Jessa lives in Utah with her husband, 2 sons, 2 dogs and a cat called Number One Boots Kitten. She is a full time mom and enjoys writing short stories in her spare time. She also likes watching anime, reading books, and playing video games.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by HarperTeen. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Boyfriend App by Katie Sise

[ 1 ] November 23, 2013

16248159Reviewed by Lindsay Satmary

The Boyfriend App, by Katie Sise, is a lighthearted teen “chick flick” type of book that tells the story about how a young girl uses her advanced computer skills to create an app that could win her a very nice scholarship to the school of her dreams, but hopefully also reconstruct her tarnished social life. Complete with everything a high school drama has to offer from love interests to frienemies, new experiences and insecurities, family and memories, and much more, The Boyfriend App is a great weekend read.

I found it to be a bit slow in the beginning, but it started to pick up and quickly became more interesting. The story flowed well and I could easily see this book as a romantic comedy on the silver screen. I feel that the subject matter is relevant to the popular tech trends of today’s teens. While I’m not a teen myself, I do appreciate a good chick flick now and then and this book reminded me of exactly that. Without giving away any spoilers, Katie Sise takes us on a fun journey from one unexpected event to another. While some of it was predictable, other parts were surprising and some were hilarious.

I give the book 4 stars overall. I think it could have started out a bit more exciting, but the events that transpired towards the end made up for it. I recommend the book to anyone who likes chick-flick-type of books. I loved the book cover design! It was both eye-catching and creative. It definitely drew my attention.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Lindsay is a young, Christian entrepreneur, owner of Spectra Marketing Solutions and Co-Founder of ChairWear Fashion, creator of the Chirt (a patent-pending custom office chair cover). In her spare time, she works as a promotional model for various talent agencies and enjoys reading, blogging, home improvement, Pinterest, and especially enjoying life as a new mom with her amazing husband and business partner.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Balzer+Bray. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Parallel by Lauren Miller

[ 1 ] November 20, 2013

download (12)Reviewed by Cal Cleary

Perhaps the most difficult part about transitioning from childhood to adulthood is the powerful, slow-building realization that your actions are going to have long-ranging, life-defining consequences. Do one thing, you could meet your future spouse; do another, and you could end up pursuing a career on the other side of the country, never even meeting the person who would so define your life. Fittingly, Lauren Miller’s debut young adult novel Parallel deals with a young woman who, after an unpredictable cosmic event, finds herself mysteriously connected to a past she never lived, one in which each choice she never remembers making can change her current life drastically.

For a book with so heady a premise, Parallel never gets too weighed down in the details. This is no hard sci-fi; rather, Miller uses the cosmic collision to look at the life and choices of heroine Abby Barnes – how they affect not only Abby’s own life, but the lives of those around her. It’s a smart move, and far from the last one Miller will make throughout the novel. This is the most fun I’ve had with a young adult novel in ages.

Parallel’s biggest strength and biggest weakness are the same thing: its characters. Miller builds a believable cast of young adults, many of whom are a joy to spend time with (Tyler and Caitlin in particular liven up just about any scene they’re in), but Abby suffers the most from science fiction premise. Past Abby, whose brief actions are intended to have grave repercussions on the future, often comes across as shrill and manipulative in a way that Present Abby, who has to deal with those consequences, never does, which creates a disconnect between the two characters. Similarly, because so much of Present Abby is dedicated to uncertainty and confusion as the world (and her history) shifts around her, she spends much of the story passive, unable to do anything to save herself or change her situation until the book’s final moments.

Even if I didn’t love Parallel – and I don’t – I’d still recommend it quite highly as the rare young adult novel that feels truly thoughtful and inventive. Besides being a winning, genuinely engaging story that uses its science fiction trappings to literalize a common angst of growing older, it also manages the neat trick of ending where most romantic comedies begin: with a meet-cute blossoming into two people who feel like they have a lifetime of history. Parallel doesn’t always succeed in giving them a terribly interesting history, but it does manage to capture the feeling of meeting someone and instantly realizing: You. You’re the one.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Cal Cleary is a librarian and critic in rural Ohio. He’s been writing online for over 5 years now, and you can currently find more of his work at read/RANT and Comics Crux.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by HarperTeen. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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