Genre: Contemporary Romance

Waiting on Wednesday – Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

Posted August 28, 2013 by Bonnie in Waiting on Wednesday / 9 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – Lost Lake by Sarah Addison AllenLost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 11th 2014
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Magical Realism
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: Lost Lake, Garden Spells, First Frost

From the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells comes a novel about heartbroken people finding hope at a magical place in Georgia called Lost Lake.

Suley, Georgia, is home to Lost Lake Cottages and not much else. Which is why it's the perfect place for newly-widowed Kate and her eccentric eight-year-old daughter Devin to heal. Kate spent one memorable childhood summer at Lost Lake, had her first almost-kiss at Lost Lake, and met a boy named Wes at Lost Lake. It was a place for dreaming. But Kate doesn't believe in dreams anymore, and her Aunt Eby, Lost Lake's owner, wants to sell the place and move on. Lost Lake's magic is gone. As Kate discovers that time has a way of standing still at Lost Lake can she bring the cottages—and her heart—back to life? Because sometimes the things you love have a funny way of turning up again. And sometimes you never even know they were lost . . . until they are found.

As soon as I discovered how wonderful Sarah Addison Allen’s books are I quickly blew through everything she had written. Waiting for new material has been daunting but I’m so excited for this one… even though we still have months to go. I’m in love with this new cover. There was a previous version released for those that saw it with the alligator? Or was it a crocodile? lol

I prefer the new one much more and I adore the Chinese lanterns! What do you think of it?Are you looking forward to Lost Lake? Are you a fan of her work?

What are you waiting on this Wednesday??

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Early Review – Just One Year (Just One Day #2) by Gayle Forman

Posted August 22, 2013 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2013, YA / 4 Comments

I received this book free from First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – Just One Year (Just One Day #2) by Gayle FormanJust One Year by Gayle Forman
Series: Just One Day #2
Published by Dutton Children's on October 10th 2013
Pages: 336
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Travel
Format: eARC
Source: First to Read Program
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: Just One Day, Just One Night

three-stars

The heartrending conclusion—from Willem’s POV—to the romantic duet of novels that began with Allyson’s story in Just One Day

After spending an amazing day and night together in Paris, Just One Year is Willem’s story, picking up where Just One Day ended. His story of their year of quiet longing and near misses is a perfect counterpoint to Allyson’s own as Willem undergoes a transformative journey, questioning his path, finding love, and ultimately, redefining himself.

 

Just One Day series
Just One Day (Just One Day, #1)

‘It was like she gave me her whole self, and somehow as a result, I gave her more of myself than I ever realized there was to give. But then she was gone. And only after I’d been filled up by her, by that day, did I understand how empty I really was.’

Finally. We have Willem’s story. Just One Day left readers contemplating what possibly could have gone wrong, why he never came back to Allyson and if they were ever going to be able to find each other again. Just One Year possesses the same melancholy feel as its predecessor with Willem stumbling around in an apparent daze, unable to trust the stability of his feelings for Allyson because after all… they only knew each other for a single day.

‘…it’s Lulu I miss, and I know it must be displaced, my loneliness a heat-seeking missile, her the heat. Only I can’t seem to find a new source of heat.’

This is a tough one for me to figure out how I feel about. Willem was a tough nut to crack and I went through the majority of the book not feeling any sort of compassion towards him, no pity for his plight, when I think that would have been the regular response. He gave up his search for her very early on and considering we already know what Allyson went through physically and emotionally makes me sad for her. Willem was convinced to start looking for her again by friends and as much as he kept saying he was still looking for her that whole time, it wasn’t an active search. It felt like he was simply sitting back and waiting for something to happen, for her to find him.

‘The truth and its opposite are flip sides of the same coin.’

Willem’s story became less about their romance and more about him discovering things about himself and becoming a better person because he met her. This is actually what I had originally hoped for her in Just One Day; for Allyson to recognize the incredibly transformed person she had become (and she did) but that even though it resulted from her meeting Willem that she didn’t need him to continue to be as such. Willem found the independence and strength their meeting imbued and used it in a positive manner and while I’m glad at least one of them did this, I never quite liked Willem enough in order to root for him. I never saw what appealed to Allyson and I never understood quite why they transformed each others lives in the first place.

While I’m glad to have the closure of Willem’s side of the story, I still can’t help but feel the ending would have benefited from… more. I needed to see Willem and Allyson’s transformations being applied since we as readers were only afforded a quick glance before reaching the final page.

Just One Year is a tale of transformation, of finding happiness, of finding love and finding yourself.

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Early Review – Forever, Interrupted: A Novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Posted June 20, 2013 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2013 / 0 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley, the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – Forever, Interrupted: A Novel by Taylor Jenkins ReidForever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Published by Washington Square Press on July 9th 2013
Pages: 352
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Source: Netgalley, the Publisher
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: Daisy Jones & The Six

two-stars

"Have you ever heard of supernovas? They shine brighter than anything else in the sky and then fade out really quickly, a short burst of extraordinary energy. I like to think you and Ben were like that . . . in that short time, you had more passion than some people have in a lifetime."

Elsie Porter is an average twentysomething and yet what happens to her is anything but ordinary. On a rainy New Year’s Day, she heads out to pick up a pizza for one. She isn’t expecting to see anyone else in the shop, much less the adorable and charming Ben Ross. Their chemistry is instant and electric. Ben cannot even wait twenty-four hours before asking to see her again. Within weeks, the two are head over heels in love. By May, they’ve eloped.

Only nine days later, Ben is out riding his bike when he is hit by a truck and killed on impact. Elsie hears the sirens outside her apartment, but by the time she gets downstairs, he has already been whisked off to the emergency room. At the hospital, she must face Susan, the mother-in-law she has never met—and who doesn’t even know Elsie exists.

Interweaving Elsie and Ben’s charmed romance with Elsie and Susan’s healing process, Forever, Interrupted will remind you that there’s more than one way to find a happy ending.

‘When you love someone so much that you’ve stuck around through all the interesting things that have happened to them and you have nothing left to say, when you know the course of their day before they even tell you, when you lie next to them and hold their hand even though they haven’t said one interesting thing in days, that’s a love I want. It’s the love I was on target for.’

Elsie and Ben: madly in love and only recently married. Forever, Interrupted opens with a short view of their life together and how apparent their love is before that picture perfect view is shattered completely leaving Elsie all alone. Dealing with the aftermath proves even more difficult than normal as Elsie is stuck explaining herself to a family that never knew of her existence.

The story switches between the present situation and mixes in the story of when Elsie and Ben first met. We’re already aware that there is an end in sight to their relationship, but getting a look back at when they met and how they fell in love was heartbreaking yet necessary.

Obviously I need to explain the reasoning for the fact that I’m (currently) the ONLY one to have rated this book any less than 3 stars. So here it is.

Ben and Elsie’s courtship was quick and extremely spontaneous. I suppose that even though I personally have never had a perfect first date I shouldn’t assume that they don’t exist. But their first date was EXTREMELY perfect. And a quite a bit insta-love-ish. I ended up being a bit forgiving of that when they were able to think logically, take a step back, and realize things might be moving too fast.

“I think you and I are just…Yes, we are moving quickly but we’re moving at a pace that feels natural for both of us.”

They were logical about it and both had intense feelings for one another so it managed to work somewhat for me. It was obvious that they truly loved each other eventually but the way it began (and the thoughts of ‘I-love-yous’ after like TWO DAYS) was severely unrealistic for me (as was Ben because he acted like no man that I’ve ever met.)

I also had a huge issue with the whole reasoning behind why Ben never told his mother about Elsie. View Spoiler »

And lastly: View Spoiler »

While I admit I’m a total Grinch and it takes a lot to get me to cry (I didn’t cry, for the record) I still found this to be quite a grievous story. What really struck me hardest was Elsie’s parents reaction (and several other people she encountered). They were immediately dismissive of his death since she knew him for only a few months and was married to him even shorter than that. They understood she’s going through some pain of course, but they dismissed the fact that she could even consider herself a ‘widow’. People can be so terribly dismissive and judgmental of others feelings and yet have no idea what you could possibly be going through. Even her best friend was like that:

“…at some point someone needs to remind you that you lost something you only had for six months. Six months. And I’m not saying this isn’t hard, but it’s not like you’re ninety and you lost your life partner here.”

It was heartbreaking to witness people’s unwillingness to simply be there for someone without judgment.

Forever, Interrupted is a story about grief and about learning to overcome it and reassemble the pieces of your shattered life. While I wasn’t the hugest fan of this novel, the ending was partially redeeming and managed to paint a very accurate portrait of grief and its indelible effects on you.

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Early Review – Collateral by Ellen Hopkins

Posted October 2, 2012 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2012 / 2 Comments

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – Collateral by Ellen HopkinsCollateral by Ellen Hopkins
Published by Atria Books on November 6th 2012
Pages: 512
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Verse
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: Triangles, Crank, Burned

four-stars

The gripping story of a woman torn between love for her boyfriend, a dedicated Marine deployed to Afghanistan, and the resentment she has for the war that is tearing their lives apart.

Written in Hopkins’s stunning poetic verse style, Collateral centers on Ashley, an MFA student at San Diego State University. She grew up reading books and never dreamed she would become a military wife. One night she meets a handsome soldier named Cole. He doesn’t match the stereotype of the aggressive military man. He’s passionate and romantic. He even writes poetry. Their relationship evolves into a sexually charged love affair that goes on for five years and survives four deployments. Cole wants Ashley to marry him, but when she meets another man, a professor with similar pursuits and values, she begins to see what life might be like outside the shadow of war.

Collateral captures the hearts of the soldiers on the battlefield and the minds of the friends, family, and lovers they leave behind. Those who remain at home may be far away from the relentless, sand-choked skies of the Middle East and the crosshairs of a sniper rifle, but just the same, all of them will sacrifice a part of themselves for their country and all will eventually ask themselves if the collateral damage caused by war is worth the fight.

‘Each returning soldier is an in-the-flesh memoir of war. Their chapters might vary, but similar imagery fills the pages, and the theme of every book is the same – profound change. The big question became, could I live with that kind of change?’

Alternating between the past and present, Collateral tells the story of Ashley and a marine named Cole. How they met. How they fell in love. How Ashley was transformed by Cole’s deployment and how she struggled to make it through by using pills and alcohol to quiet her constant fears. Collateral was a deeply moving story that tells the tale of the one left behind in time of war, and how life can be when you love a soldier.

Collateral is a realistic story in every sense because the war depicted within the pages is the exact war we’re all living with today. Just as dark, gritty, and emotional as her other works with just enough hint at reality to make you wonder just how fictional it really is. Collateral does showcase the ‘worst-case scenario’ of loving a soldier, but that certainly makes it no less tangible. My heart ached for Ashley, her pain being so evident. I loved the snippets of Cole’s poetry, being able to see his outlook on his life in contrast with Ashley’s. Ellen Hopkins is truly an amazing writer and I’m so thankful for her stories. She uses no different words than any normal person but the way she uses them ends up turning them into something truly profound.

‘Alone in this untamed
empty place, I free
a relentless volley
of words. They
rage
against the pages, a torrent
of what was, what is,
what yet may come.
And when at last the spirits
recede,
I find echoed
in their retreat, stories
I dare not give voice to –
nightmares set adrift
in my paper harbor.’

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Book Review – Lucky Stiff (Lucky O’Toole #2) by Deborah Coonts

Posted March 28, 2012 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2012 / 0 Comments

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – Lucky Stiff (Lucky O’Toole #2) by Deborah CoontsLucky Stiff by Deborah Coonts
Series: Lucky O'Toole #2
Published by Forge Books on November 29th 2011
Pages: 464
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Funny-ha-ha, Mystery
Format: Paperback
Source: the Publisher
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: Wanna Get Lucky?, Lucky Bastard

four-stars

Lucky O’Toole—Head of Customer Relations at The Babylon, premier mega-resort on the Vegas Strip—thinks it’s just another night in Las Vegas. A tractor-trailer has spilled its load of a million honeybees, blocking not only the Strip but the entrance to her hotel...the District Attorney for Clark County—apparently the odd man out of a threesome on the twelfth floor—is hiding in the buff in one of the hotel’s laundry rooms...and Numbers Neidermeyer—one of Vegas’ less-than-savory oddsmakers—is arguing with Las Vegas’ ace private investigator, the Beautiful Jeremy Whitlock.

The next day, Lucky discovers Ms. Neidermeyer was tossed into the shark tank at the Mandalay Bay Resort as a snack for the Tiger Shark. When the police show up at the Babylon with a hastily prepared search warrant, applied for by the District Attorney himself, and Jeremy lands in the hot seat, Lucky realizes her previous night was far from routine.

Amid the chaos of fight weekend, the hiring of an eccentric new French chef, and her madam mother's intentions to auction off a young woman’s virginity, Lucky is drawn into a deadly game where no one is what they seem, a game that will end only when she discovers who made fish-food out of Numbers Neidermeyer.

Lucky O’Toole and Fabulous Las Vegas—life doesn’t get any better.

Lucky O’Toole is back in book 2 to handle more problems as the head of Customer Relations at the Babylon in Las Vegas. The action starts from page one with Lucky attempting to handle an overturned semi-truck that has not only blocked the entrance to the Babylon but has managed to dump its cargo: a load of bees. The following day, the body of Numbers Neidermeyer, an infamous bookie, is found floating in a shark tank and Lucky’s friend Jeremy Whitlock is the primary suspect. To top off her ‘trending towards fabulous’ week is news that her mother Mona, local brothel owner, will be auctioning off a young woman’s virginity.

One of things I loved in ‘Wanna Get Lucky’ was that the mystery was fun and exciting and Deborah Coonts failed to disappoint in ‘Lucky Stiff’. I was surprised at the final outcome; I certainly failed to see it coming. Lucky was still an enjoyable character that kept me entertained with her snarky sense of humor. The one thing I missed was her strong independence…When Teddie left to jump-start his music career she was constantly fretting about him leaving her, him finding someone new, etc. I found that she balanced her relationship with the rest of her hectic life much better in book one.

These are good as a stand-alone or as a series. The ‘refresher’ that the author gives in each book is enough to bring you sufficiently up to speed. The ending of ‘Lucky Stiff’ didn’t leave off with a cliffhanger but managed to leave me with enough to look forward to the next Lucky O’Toole story.

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Book Review – All I Want Is You by Sherrill Bodine

Posted February 9, 2012 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2012 / 0 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – All I Want Is You by Sherrill BodineAll I Want Is You by Sherrill Bodine
Published by Forever on January 1, 2012
Pages: 344
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads


two-half-stars

SHE'S STEALING HIS HEART . . .

Vintage boutique owner Venus Smith is stunned to realize her newest acquisition comes with a larcenous legend. Stolen years ago, the antique mermaid brooch belongs to the Clayworth family. The right thing to do would be to return it, but that means facing Connor Clayworth O'Flynn, the sexy department store heir Venus has had an unrequited crush on since childhood-and the man who helped ruin her father.

ONE KISS AT A TIME

Connor knows that Venus has never forgiven him for what happened between their families. But business isn't personal, even though Venus's father's betrayal still cuts him like a knife. So when Venus proposes a deal-she'll return his family's brooch if he helps clear her father's name-he reluctantly agrees. As action-packed days turn into flirtatious fall nights, it isn't long before old memories resurface . . . and new desires ignite. Can two young lovers leave the past behind? Or must they first admit that all they've ever really wanted . . . is each other?

The Storyline
Her father was forced out as treasurer of John Clayworth and Company and since then things have been more than a bit terse between their families even though her sister Diana still works for the Company and her other sister Athena is marrying into the Clayworth family. When her father refuses to disclose the reason for his termination, Venus decides to take matters into her own hands and find out what happened, even if that means befriending Connor Clayworth O’Flynn, who she’s had a crush on since childhood. The two end up teaming up together anyways when Venus ends up in possession of a mysterious brooch that was stolen years ago from the Clayworth family.

Overall Thoughts
I was in the mood for a contemporary romance and decided to pick this one up. It was a bit more focused on this big mystery and the romance actually took the back burner in the story overall. I didn’t feel that the ‘romance’ was really up to par either as Connor and Venus went from hating each other to doing a complete flip and are suddenly madly in love with one another. Suffice it to say the ‘romance’ just wasn’t there in my opinion and I would’ve loved to see it take a more central role and also maybe more of a buildup so that it would have been a bit more realistic.

I had a slight issue with the writing style with the points of view. The POV was written from Venus/Connor’s perspective but it would often switch up without even a paragraph break to signify the change which I found didn’t work well in the least.

The mystery ended up being a bit predictable but it was still nonetheless enjoyable. The romance was steamy and entertaining despite it being a bit cliché. This was an entertaining read for when you’re in the mood for something light and fluffy. All in all, I think I fell victim to a pretty cover.

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Book Review – Wanna Get Lucky? (Lucky O’Toole #1) by Deborah Coonts

Posted January 27, 2012 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2012 / 2 Comments

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – Wanna Get Lucky? (Lucky O’Toole #1) by Deborah CoontsWanna Get Lucky? by Deborah Coonts
Series: Lucky O'Toole #1
Published by Forge Books on February 1st 2011
Pages: 464
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Mystery-Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Source: the Publisher
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: Lucky Stiff, Lucky Bastard

four-half-stars

A young woman plunges from a Las Vegas sightseeing helicopter, landing in the Pirate’s lagoon in front of the Treasure Island Hotel in the middle of the 8:30 Pirate Show. Almost everyone writes her off as another Vegas victim.

But Lucky O’Toole smells a rat. She’s head of Customer Relations at The Babylon, the newest, most opulent mega-casino and resort on the Strip, so she’s got a lot on her plate: the Adult Film industry’s annual awards banquet, a spouse-swapping convention, sex toy purveyors preying on the pocket-protector crowd attending ElectroniCon…. Still, Lucky can’t resist turning over a few stones.

When a former flame is one of the snakes she uncovers, Lucky’s certain she’s no longer dealing with an anonymous Sin City suicide. To top it all off, Lucky’s best friend Teddie—Las Vegas’ finest female impersonator—presses to take their relationship to the next level. Leave it to Lucky to attract a man who looks better in a dress than she does.

Lucky must manage the Babylon’s onslaught of outrageous festivities, solve a murder, and struggle to keep her life and libido from spinning out of control… not to mention keep her balance in six inch heels.

Lucky O’Toole is head of Customer Relations at the Babylon; Las Vegas’ newest and largest ‘mega-casino’. Her job title may be simple but her job is far from it as she’s responsible for any problems and for making sure that all casino operations runs smoothly. When a woman falls to her death from a Babylon helicopter and it doesn’t look like a suicide, it’s Lucky’s job to get a handle on the situation so that the situation doesn’t tarnish the Babylon name.

This book sat on my shelf for a shamefully long time… I finally decided to pick it up when I was in the mood for some simple good fun. I sure got that with ‘Wanna Get Lucky?’ but I got so much more on top of that. I went into this mentally comparing it to a Janet Evanovich novel but I ended up being blown away by how much better it was and how much I enjoyed it. A fun mystery, an authentic romance, and strong likeable characters… this book had it all for me.

I love a good mystery, and this one entertaining and exciting. I loved how there were so many facets to the mystery and how each smaller story eventually tied in to the ‘bigger picture’. The end result may have been slightly inevitable but I give the author major points for still managing to make it exciting with each step of the way.

I think it’s a requirement that there be a secondary character that’s hilarious and cusses a lot. In this series, that would be her pet parrot, Newton. He wasn’t a major part of the story but the few scenes he was in were memorable enough.

The elevator deposited me in the middle of my living room.
“Where you been, bitch?”
God, I’d forgotten about the bird. My one foray into pet ownership and it had to be a belligerent macaw with a foul mouth.

Lucky was a wonderful character that I loved from the start. Charming, witty, and independent (and no that didn’t change with the introduction of a love interest!) she was my kind of girl. She was just a normal badass; she didn’t have super powers or even an awesome weapon, she managed to still be able to hold her own and take care of business. I look forward to reading more in this series… it has huge potential and I’m really excited to see where the author takes it!

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Book Review – The Very Picture of You by Isabel Wolff

Posted December 12, 2011 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2011 / 1 Comment

I received this book free from a Giveaway, Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – The Very Picture of You by Isabel WolffThe Very Picture of You by Isabel Wolff
Published by Bantam on October 4th 2011
Pages: 336
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Format: Hardcover
Source: a Giveaway, Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: A Vintage Affair, Shadows Over Paradise

four-stars

Where the eye sees the brushstroke, the heart sees the truth.

From Isabel Wolff, the internationally bestselling author of A Vintage Affair, comes a beguiling novel about artistic inspirations, family secrets, and the courage to turn one’s life into a masterpiece.

At thirty-five, Gabriella Graham—“Ella” to her family and friends—has already made a name for herself as a successful portrait artist in London. She can capture the essential truth in each of her subjects’ faces—a tilt of the chin, a glint in the eye—and immortalize it on canvas. This gift has earned Ella commissions from royals and regular folks alike.

But closer to home, Ella finds the truth more elusive. Her father abandoned the family when she was five, and her mother has remained silent on the subject ever since. Ella’s sister, Chloe, is engaged to Nate, an American working in London, but Ella suspects that he may not be so committed. Then, at Chloe’s behest, Ella agrees to paint Nate’s portrait.

From session to session, Ella begins to see Nate in a different light, which gives rise to conflicted feelings. In fact, through the various people she paints—an elderly client reflecting on her life, another woman dreading the prospect of turning forty, a young cyclist (from a photograph) who met a tragic end—Ella realizes that there is so much more to a person’s life than what is seen on the surface, a notion made even clearer when an unexpected email arrives from the other side of the world. And as her portraits of Nate and the others progress, they begin to reveal less about their subjects than the artist herself.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and in Isabel Wolff’s vibrant and textured story, these words are brilliantly crafted to convey the humor, mystery, and beauty that exists within each of us.

‘I felt like Tantalus, neck-deep in water that he could never drink, grasping at fruit that was always just out of reach.’

Ella is an extremely successful portrait artist who has just been asked by her sister Chloe to do a portrait of her future brother-in-law, Nate, whom she despises. Early on in Nate and Chloe’s relationship, Ella overheard Nate speaking to someone and it appeared that he was not having an honest relationship with Chloe and that forever changed her opinion of him. After only their first sitting where she begins Nate’s portrait, her feelings have drastically changed towards him and Ella doesn’t know how to stop them, even if she wanted to.

Ella is also dealing with recent revelations regarding the father who left her and her mother when Ella was only five years old. Her mother always told her how he abandoned them after she caught him with another woman and that he made the decision to leave his family in order to be with her. Ella never had a reason to doubt her mother but when she discovers that may not be an accurate accounting of what actually happened she is more confused than ever.

This was a very interesting read and I enjoyed it immensely. Once the story began to unfold I had an idea of how it would all unveil; however, Isabel Wolff wrapped up all of the loose ends fabulously. I feared that it would be your ‘typical’ type of ending but I was left completely satisfied. I loved the details of Ella’s painting sessions: the particulars of the colors she uses, how she mixes them and the steps she takes to create the portrait of the person she’s painting.

‘Then came the moment when I put in the very last thing I ever add to a portrait – the light in the eyes. That’s when I feel like Pygmalion, having life breathed into his statue; because it’s that little flick of white in each pupil that finally – ping! – brings a portrait alive.’

I also enjoyed the closeness she develops with the people she paints and the stories she learns about them and how it’s woven into the story. It reminded me quite a lot of Isabel Wolff’s other novel that I’ve read, A Vintage Affair, and how the main character becomes immersed in one of her customer’s lives. (Also a fabulous read)

There were parts of this novel that I had a hard time liking at first, primarily the feelings that Ella develops for her sister’s fiancée. Strangely unfitting and not exactly understandable… her infatuation with him occurred a bit too quickly for it to be plausible in my opinion. Fortunately though, it was well written and by the end I was mollified with the outcome.

I also had difficulty liking her mother who was a major character in the story. Despite her tale of what had happened between her and Ella’s father, the fact that she withheld so much information for so long and even after she told it there still seemed to be something missing and I believed her to still be lying throughout the entire story. It’s hard to really care for a character if you feel that they are being deceitful. I loved the side-story of Grace and Mike that was the part of the story that touched me the most.

This is now the second book I’ve read by Isabel Wolff and it certainly won’t be the last.

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Book Review – Flat-Out Love (Flat-Out Love #1) by Jessica Park

Posted September 28, 2011 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, New Adult, Read in 2011 / 0 Comments

Book Review – Flat-Out Love (Flat-Out Love #1) by Jessica ParkFlat-Out Love by Jessica Park
Published by Self-Published on May 18th 2011
Pages: 400
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads


five-stars

Flat-Out Love is a warm and witty novel of family love and dysfunction, deep heartache and raw vulnerability, with a bit of mystery and one whopping, knock-you-to-your-knees romance.

Something is seriously off in the Watkins home. And Julie Seagle, college freshman, small-town Ohio transplant, and the newest resident of this Boston house, is determined to get to the bottom of it.

When Julie's off-campus housing falls through, her mother's old college roommate, Erin Watkins, invites her to move in. The parents, Erin and Roger, are welcoming, but emotionally distant and academically driven to eccentric extremes. The middle child, Matt, is an MIT tech geek with a sweet side ... and the social skills of a spool of USB cable. The youngest, Celeste, is a frighteningly bright but freakishly fastidious 13-year-old who hauls around a life-sized cardboard cutout of her oldest brother almost everywhere she goes.

And there's that oldest brother, Finn: funny, gorgeous, smart, sensitive, almost emotionally available. Geographically? Definitely unavailable. That's because Finn is traveling the world and surfacing only for random Facebook chats, e-mails, and status updates. Before long, through late-night exchanges of disembodied text, he begins to stir something tender and silly and maybe even a little bit sexy in Julie's suddenly lonesome soul.

To Julie, the emotionally scrambled members of the Watkins family add up to something that ... well ... doesn't quite add up. Not until she forces a buried secret to the surface, eliciting a dramatic confrontation that threatens to tear the fragile Watkins family apart, does she get her answer.

Flat-Out Love comes complete with emails, Facebook status updates, and instant messages.

Oh my, I ended up loving this book far more than I thought I would. I don’t know about you, but when I think of ‘self-published’ I cringe and I generally tend to avoid reading them as my experience has led to the expectation of them generally being a waste of time (as the writing tends to resemble my youngest child’s book reports). After hearing such lovely, positive, statements regarding ‘Flat Out Love’ I figured it was worth a try to see what all the fuss was about.

So I’ve typed out my typical ‘Storyline’ paragraph quite a few times and every time I write it out I make the book sound ridiculously corny. For those of you who have read it, I’m sure you understand. For those of you who have read it, let me just put it to you this way. This book is one of a kind with a wonderfully original storyline to boot. This was an extremely well-written novel; no choppy 8 year old sentences here.

The characters literally came into existence right before your eyes and were so full of life that I often had to take a short break to absorb and really try and understand what I had read. I’m not saying this was a complex novel that required a lot of thought; however, there is so much feeling behind every word that it can leave you more than a little moved.

As much as the idea of crushing on a penpal or someone you’ve never met before sounds ridiculously silly … well Jessica Park makes this possible. I think I even fell in love with Finn to be honest here. All of the relationships that the characters develop with each other (Julie and Matt, Julie and Finn, Julie and Celeste) made me practically envious.

There was so much about this book that I absolutely loved: the uniqueness of it all, the simplistic yet complex storyline, the so very real characters, the many laughs and smiles that I got, and the Christmas decoration scene? It made my heart melt.

But that’s what love does to you. Gut-wrenching, overpowering, crushing, fulfilling, complex, bring-you-to-your-knees love. Highly recommended for those looking for a sweet, heartwarming book.

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Short Story Review – Second-Guessing Fate by Claire Robyns

Posted August 20, 2011 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2011, Short Stories / 0 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Short Story Review – Second-Guessing Fate by Claire RobynsSecond-Guessing Fate by Claire Robyns
Published by Carina Press on September 26, 2011
Pages: 167
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads


two-half-stars

Can She Outwit Fate?

Gemma is on a collision course with heartbreak. At least, according to the fortune-teller her best friend drags her to see. Gemma doesn't believe a word of it, but when other predictions start to come true, she begins to suspect that gorgeous, gray-eyed Nick is the man foretold to break her heart before she can find her soul mate. Too bad she's never met a man she's wanted more, because now she has to get him to dump her before she falls too hard.

Nick has plans of his own. He's ready to settle down with Ms. Right, and everything points to the beautiful Gemma. He's determined to prove to her that he's the perfect boyfriend—even if she does seem to be trying her best to scare him off…

Second Guessing Fate is the story of Gemma. Gemma visits a fortune teller, Madam Hooch, and she tells Gemma “Eez a bad, bad time. Eet is – how you say – big achy heart.” At which point in time I wanted to bust out singing Billy Ray Cyrus – Achy Breaky Heart

But Madam Hooch continues spouting her magical knowledge. “Eez a big love and the man, ah, he eez dark and so handsome, but eez no good for you. He break your heart. First the big breaky heart and then you find soul mate. How you say – tears before happy, no? Time eez up. Goodbye.

That woman is quite obviously full of brilliance and I can totally understand why Gemma took every single word she said to heart. Madam Hooch is described as being ancient with snow white hair… kinda like this!

Not saying she was giving out poison apples or anything… but then again, who knows.

So Gemma starts dating Nick after they’re both involved in a car accident. Which I guess Madam Hooch predicted… I don’t know, I think I missed that part. Nick asks Gemma out and they go to dinner. After Date #1 she starts to have a ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ moment because he took 2 days to call her after their first date, because he asks her to dates on Monday rather than the weekend, and oh noes! He keeps making out with her but has yet to sleep with her by date 5; however, she continues accepting his requests for another date… because Madam Hooch told her to. Because the next guy she dated was supposed to break her heart and she has to let that happen in order to meet her soul mate! Gemma wants to dump him but her friend Helen convinces her not to:

“You can’t be the one to say cheers. He has to dump you—otherwise you may corrupt the fate-line. Changing the order of events could split your destiny path and even block the branch to your soul mate.”

Yes. The FATE-LINE. Dun-dun-dun.

I could’ve done without the fortune teller stuff or it could’ve at least been done differently. I actually really liked Nick; he was my favorite character because he seemed the most real and down to earth. Here’s this guy that’s trying really hard to get back into a relationship but he’s continually scared he’s going to screw it all up… again. I really felt for the guy.

And what was up with Gemma constantly wondering when he’s going to take her to bed? I don’t know it was just off for me… Gemma didn’t even seem to like him and that made me feel bad for him. It totally made me think of ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 days.’ Here’s Gemma who’s already expecting to get dumped by this guy (because Madam Hooch told her) and she’s basically trying to speed up the process so she can get on to meeting her soul mate (because Madam Hooch told her). But she’s also trying frantically to get him to sleep with her. So Gemma was kind of an oxy-moron to me.

All in all, this story just fell flat for me. I was bummed because it sounded like this super cute romance novel that I was completely in the mood for but it ended up missing the mark for me.

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