Tag Archives: Sourcebooks

Review: Winter at Death’s Hotel by Kenneth Cameron

5th September 2013


*I received this book from the publisher Sourcebooks in exchange for an honest review.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle arrives on the island of Manhattan with his wife, Louisa. There for a book tour, the loving couple check into the Britannic Hotel, a building that boasts the thickest walls and an added bonus of soundproof rooms. As their room is prepared, Louisa glimpses a man and young woman arm in arm, noting their happiness.

The next day, the papers arrive, and a gory murder is splashed across the front pages. The victim? The same woman Louisa saw in the lobby of the Britannic the day before. She pens a note to the police, but the victim was the wife of a wealthy man. And the man she was with at the hotel was most certainly not him. In the corruptible Manhattan police force, the case goes away, but Louisa cannot stop thinking about it.

A sprained ankle keeps her from going on tour with Arthur, and she enlists the help of the hotel detective and a determined female reporter to track down the identity of the girl and her killer.

Promising, right? Even though not all that historically accurate, this is the type of book that can help me while away a summer’s day. Except that Cameron’s writing style was…odd. From the opening of the book, Louisa goes on at length about her and Arthur’s sex life. So much so that it stood out and began to be almost funny. But then, Cameron also used vivid sexual imagery in his narration as well:

The island of Manhattan looked in it like a thick penis about to penetrate the New Jersey Bay, which rather tickled Dunne; at the moment, however, he had the map placed vertically so that the penis seemed too flaccid to penetrate anything.

Immediately, at her eye level, somebody had written in indelible pencil, Fitch eats the hairy banana. She thought she knew what “banana” meant but didn’t understand the “hairy” party, although she’d seen only the one and maybe other men had hair on theirs.

These inclusions were…unsettling, but as the book progressed and more murders happen, I was absolutely horrified by Winter at Death’s Hotel. Gratuitous, heinous violence against women is disturbing, and the murders are described so vividly I had to set the book down and take deep breaths. A man is killed in the book (not a spoiler), but the violence is nowhere near as graphic in its depiction, and even more troublesome is the fact that the male character is described as a homosexual. The connection between sex, females and/or effeminate young men, and horrible violence is reinforced throughout the entire book. Most people I know don’t actually enjoy this. Yet we regularly consume books, TV, and movies that seem to glorify in just this type of gore. Disturbingly, these images haven’t lessened even as we are more aware of the “torture porn” industry and its perpetuation.

I did finish the book, though I wanted to pull a Joey from Friends and stick it in the freezer. After I finished reading it, I wanted it as far from me as possible even though the cover art isn’t suggestive of what lies beneath it. Perhaps if Winter at Death’s Hotel had spoken to larger problems of the correlation between women and sexuality and violence or had examined the killer and his tendencies I may have felt more willing to read and at least understand the inclusion of the violence. However, that never seemed to happen, and the closing scenes did nothing to change my opinion. In fact, I wish it had come with a warning, as I do not actively choose to read books like this. So I say, with hesitation, that you may…

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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: A Royal Pain by Megan Mulry

13th November 2012

*I received this book from the publisher Sourcebooks in return for an honest review.

Bronte Talbott is hardworking. She’s a top ad exec, trying to prove her worth to her dead father, whose intellect and self importance always drove her crazy and left them without any relationship. But she’s ready for a relationship, at the same time terrified she’ll lose herself…which is exactly what she does with Mr. Texas. Full of brawn and money, Mr. Texas sweeps Bron off her feet, but when she decides to move from New York to Chicago, he cools his heels quickly, and the relationship ends almost before it begins. Determined not to let the same thing happen again, Bronte is hesitant with Max, the handsome Brit she runs into in a bookstore. Telling him up front that all she wants is something casual, Bronte keeps Max at a distance. But Max, confident and persuasive, wants more, which could be difficult as he’s not just a Brit…he’s also a duke who must uphold the family title.

My responses during this book:

  • I love Bronte!
  • I hate Bronte!
  • I love Bronte!
  • I LOVE Max.

I wish I could turn  my brain off sometimes because I love women’s fiction. I do. I love a good romance in a book like this. But here’s my biggest pet peeve: when the heroine just can’t be with the hero because of something (ridiculous) in her past. I understand that “the barrier” is an important part of a typical romance. But I want that barrier to have some value, some realistic application to life. And having a father who was distant and with whom you parted ways because he demanded you go to Princeton? I feel so bad for you. *rolls eyes*

Had that been the only hiccup for me, no big deal, but here’s the other thing: Bronte gets annoying fast. At first, I liked her character. I thought she was ridiculous to give up her fantastic job and move for a guy, but hey! We’ve all done stupid things. But then she talks business with the foulest mouth, and I’m no prude. But she says “fuck” easily 10 times in a few pages…to a new client. And demeans her twice, talking about how “immature” she is. Even if the client knows she’s joking, I hated it. When Bronte was with Max, though, the book is so good. She isn’t so brash and unlikeable, and though I know relationships change people, the change was pretty drastic.

Overall, I must admit this was a fun read, especially for a woman who dreams of meeting a handsome man in a bookstore…

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