Category Archives: romance

TLC Tour: Mystery Girl

21st August 2013

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*This book was sent to me by the publisher New Harvest, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in coordination with TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

I became an assistant detective, and solved my first murder, right after my wife left me, when I went a little mad. Never as crazy as the master detective himself, of course; he was completely nuts….And trust me, I know from crazy, being, as I admit right here at the outset, no poster child for emotional health myself.

Sam Kornberg starts his tale thus, in the great tradition of unreliable narrators before him. His wife Lala has left him; he’s unemployed, and his plotless novels are gathering dust. His only friends are MJ, his former employer who owned (and lost) a used bookstore and frequently went on poetry binges, and Milo, a former gay porn film projectionist who rents videos. Lala likes nice things, and novels without plots and failed bookstores certainly don’t provide for her. In an effort to impress her, Sam takes a job as an assistant to Solar Lonsky, a morbidly obese private eye who can’t leave his home.

Sam is tasked with following Ramona Doon, a beautiful young women with whom he becomes more and more intrigued. Yet he’s perplexed by his job. As he asks himself after observing Ramona one evening, “Was this what he sent me to learn? What mystery could it solve, what crime? Where was the victim, and who the criminal, besides me?”

Sam quickly finds the answer to that question, and as he is drawn deeper into Lonsky’s grip and Ramona’s spellbinding nature, Sam’s seemingly simple job becomes absurdly real, and Satanic rituals, porn, and doppelgangers confuse matters further.

Pulpy and raw, David Gordon’s writing is reminiscent of great noir while still retaining the shockingly real voice of a more modern fiction writer. Mystery Girl is an excellent exploration of a bumbling sad sack writer forced to transcend his own mediocrity.

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See This, Not That – Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing

2nd July 2013

Have you guys seen this preview yet?

Because all I have to say about that, is this:

I mean, really.
And if you haven’t seen the latter version, I urge you to spend your pennies and rent it because it’s just the best. I may or may not have spent a week my freshman year in high school watching this over and over again. It’s pretty amazing.
 

Review: Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

1st July 2013

pg1*This book was sent to me by the publisher Sourcebooks in exchange for an honest review.

The smell of a bakery is home to Issy Randall, who grew up in her grandfather’s bakery. Now that he’s ailing and in a nursing home, Issy asks him to transcribe her favorite recipes while he still can. Baking isn’t Issy’s job, but she fills her evenings experimenting with recipes, and her coworkers at an estate agent company reap the rewards.

When the company announces redundancies, especially hard as Issy has been in a relationship with her boss for nearly a year, Issy is despondent. The only thing that perks her up is the thought of her own bakery in the sweet little shop at Pear Tree Court. Plus, it diverts her attention from the fact that Graeme, the ex-boyfriend/former boss hasn’t called.

When Issy decides to try her hand at owning a business, she meets several influential people – Pearl, an out-of-work single mom who knows her way around a catering shop; Austin, a charming banker with a complex home life; and Caroline, whose raw food restaurant lost out to Issy’s cafe. With their help, Issy might just have a chance at making it; that is, if she can stand up for herself when Graeme shows back up with plans of his own.

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan is as full of charm as the cover suggests. Though Issy seems intentionally dense when it comes to her ex, I know many women who have fallen into that same trap, and Issy still manages to pull herself free when it matters most.

Her relationship with her grandfather and her fond memories of his shop are warm and endearing, as is her relationship with her roommate Helena. Though chance has much to do with Issy’s success (but doesn’t it so often happen that way?), it was fun to read about Issy setting up shop and carving out a successful life for herself.

A couple odd insertions near the end kept this from being as good as I would have liked, but I mostly loved this fun, lightweight novel and spy what looks like a sequel on the way.

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Review: The Look of Love by Bella Andre

18th June 2013

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 *I received this unsolicited from Harlequin Mira.

So by now, I think we all know about my hesitation when it comes to romance novels. But when the temps get warmer, and I’ve graded essays and had to email people about plagiarism, I typically want some light fare in terms of my reading.

This book came unsolicited in all its pink and lush scenic glory, and it was perfect timing. But as is typical, I had mixed reactions to this book. In the words of my best friend, “I think you think too hard when you read romance.” Guilty as charged.

What It’s About: Chloe Peterson has left a bad (and possibly abusive) relationship when she finds herself on the side of the road in a wrecked car. Chase Sullivan is a professional photographer with his pick of women, and he hasn’t yet tired of the selection. When he comes across Chloe on the side of the road, however, something tells him this one’s different.

What Irked Me: First of all, can we just talk about the name Chase Sullivan. It’s soooo romance novel-y. Or soap opera. Chase. Sloan. Slade. These names, I swear. But that’s superficial. So Chase is pretty sure that Chloe has been abused, and recently. Does this stop him from making a move pretty much as soon as they meet? No. Also, I’m not quite sure why Chase gets so aroused as Chloe tells him about her black eye, even as he’s boiling mad about it. It’s just…weird. On top of that, Chase’s brothers and sisters (because this is book one in the Sullivan series, and there are a LOT of Sullivans) are – I’m not making this up – a famous Hollywood actor, a professional baseball player, a race car driver, and a Napa winemaker. Of course, you also have the lowly choreographer, librarian, and firefighter. I kid. Those are some damn good genes, if you ask me.

What I Liked: This is one sexy book. When I could forget long enough about how absolutely horrifying it is that Chase wouldn’t even bother to hide his arousal from a woman he knows has been abused or that he enters the bathroom she’s in without even knocking, I figured out the reason Bella Andre is such a success story. Her writing is super steamy and full of the sexytimes.

Plus, even as boneheaded (forgive the pun) as Chase is in the beginning when he meets Chloe, he’s super sensitive and accommodating, giving her time to tell him what has happened and what she needs instead of forcing her to explain herself. And after finding out who has harmed Chloe, he doesn’t charge ahead without waiting to hear what she wants to do, and this is ultimately what saved this romance for me. I’d also say that if there had been a bit more awareness on Chase’s part as to his behavior, his actions in the beginning wouldn’t have bothered me so much.

Is the bff right? Maybe. Romance novels set themselves up to be criticized. Sexual politics are so complicated that any novel that has sex in it is bound to make missteps. Do I wish I could turn off that part of my brain? No. Does it inhibit my enjoyment of a romance novel? Maybe, but I still enjoyed The Look of Love. I’d even consider reading more about the genetically unbelievable Sullivans.

I guess ultimately, breaking down a book like this helps me justify why I like it but also may clue you in as to whether or not the aspects that caused me pause would make or break the book for you. What do you think?

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Review: The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway

25th April 2013

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*This book was sent to me by the publisher, Dutton, in exchange for an honest review.

Julia Percy sits beside her grandfather’s deathbed, grieving his coming death and anxious about what life without him means. As an orphan whose cruel cousin Eamon will come into the family estate and title, Julia is concerned. Plus, the magic of her life, her grandfather’s ability to manipulate time, will die with him, and it saddens her.

Meanwhile, Nick Davenant is 200 years in the future and an ocean away. Having jumped just as death was imminent on the battlefield, Lord Nicholas Falcott wakes up to the knowledge that he can never go back. The Guild, a secret network of time travelers, trains him to live in his new present and gives him a new name and an ungodly amount of money to adjust.

And he’s mostly fine with that, except the dark eyes of a young woman haunt his dreams. When an edict from The Guild arrives, Nick learns that everything he’s believed about time travel is false, that he can go back – and The Guild needs him to return to his own time because there are others like him but with different, more sinister aims. Nick is hesitant to return, but he’s thrilled to reunite with his mother and sisters and the dark-eyed girl, Julia, the granddaughter of an earl who lives in the neighboring estate.

Time travel in The River of No Return is no scientific experiment. Instead, time jumpers only move within the river of time through periods of intense emotion – and most jumpers only discover their abilities on the point of death. Learning to harness that energy is Nick’s task. Julia, on the other hand, is unaware of her abilities, thinking her grandfather was the manipulator of time. As her cousin attempts to find the talisman, something he believes will give him these abilities, Julia comes to realize her grandfather was not the manipulator…she is. Her abilities far exceed those of her grandfather or The Guild, and that puts the dark-eyed Julia, the woman Nick realizes he loves, in danger.

I don’t think there’s much you can say about a book that kept you up until 3:45 a.m., but I’ll try. The story of my relationship with this book began when I told the publicist I was intrigued by the premise of a different sort of time travel novel. The relationship heightened when I opened the package and discovered an absolutely beautiful book tucked inside. I actually gasped. I knew it was true love when I didn’t eat dinner, missed the gym, and only looked up at 3:45 a.m., the book finished and tucked by my side. Even after I set it down, I thought about this book, part time travel, part Regency romance, all adventure. Now that’s a good read.

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