Nicole Reads A Lot

so many books, so little time

The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins

Title:
The Perfect Match
Author:Kristan Higgins
PublisherHarlequin
Publication Date:October 29, 2013
Publisher's DescriptionWhat if the perfect match is a perfect surprise?

Honor Holland has just been unceremoniously rejected by her lifelong crush. And now—a mere three weeks later—Mr. Perfect is engaged to her best friend. But resilient, reliable Honor is going to pick herself up, dust herself off and get back out there…or she would if dating in Manningsport, New York, population 715, wasn't easier said than done.

Charming, handsome British professor Tom Barlow just wants to do right by his unofficial stepson, Charlie, but his visa is about to expire. Now Tom must either get a green card or leave the States—and leave Charlie behind.

In a moment of impulsiveness, Honor agrees to help Tom with a marriage of convenience—and make her ex jealous in the process. But juggling a fiancé, hiding out from her former best friend and managing her job at the family vineyard isn't easy. And as sparks start to fly between Honor and Tom, they might discover that their pretend relationship is far too perfect to be anything but true love…
My Rating***

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I really enjoyed some of Ms. Higgins’ earlier works, although some of her more recent books haven’t worked for me. I’m not sure what I was expecting from The Perfect Match, but the immediate desire to cringe wasn’t it. I found the first part of this book so excruciating to read that it actually made me a little angry. How could Honor be so dense when it came to Brogan? I had trouble believing that a woman this smart and capable could so wildly misjudge a relationship. I had to put this book down for a while, until my sympathetic embarrassment faded. I was near my mother when I read the dinner scene, and my litany of, “Oh my god, no. Oh, no no no no no. Oh, Honor!” made her ask me what was happening in the book. Nothing pleasant, I can assure you.

Once I got over feeling like my face would never again cool down, I continued to read this book and was genuinely drawn to most of the characters. Goggy and Pop’s relationship kept me in stitches. Honor’s other relatives were strange but obviously loved her a lot. Brogan was mostly lacking in personality, and I felt that his character needed to be better defined. What was this man’s appeal? Hotness is great, but we weren’t given much evidence of his other awesome qualities, and certainly nothing that would explain a love that spanned half of Honor’s life. Tom, on the other hand, was a multifaceted delight, and his relationship with Charlie was one of the book’s highlights for me.

Although this is not my favorite of Ms. Higgins’ books (that would be either The Next Best Thing or Too Good to Be True, depending on my mood that day), I certainly enjoyed it more than I did The Best Man.

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One Night with the Laird by Nicola Cornick

Title:
One Night with the Laird
Author:Nicola Cornick
PublisherHarlequin
Publication Date:October 29, 2013
Publisher's DescriptionCan true love be born from scandal?

She is young and beautiful and fashionable, Edinburgh's most flirtatious hostess. But within the merry widow beats a grieving heart. Lady Mairi mourns the husband she lost two years before—and no matter how accomplished a lover Jack Rutherford may be, their wanton night together was an encounter of the body only, and Lady Mairi would prefer to forget it.

But when Mairi is threatened by a blackmailer, Jack is the only man who can protect her. As they work together to uncover where the danger lies, their passion reignites. Little by little, the masks they wear burn away, and their most private secrets come to light…
My rating:****

Although the title 9780373777907_p0_v1_s260x420of this book is completely misleading (Jack is NOT a laird), I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The book grabbed my attention from the beginning. Mairi’s desperate self-loathing was interesting to me, because that type of emotion seems to be the exclusive province of men in romance novels. In fact, Jack’s early and initially unrequited desire for an emotional attachment to Mairi seemed to be what one would normally see from a female character. I loved how these personality traits were just presented, without Ms. Cornick feeling the need to justify or excuse who Jack and Mairi were.

The entire trajectory of their relationship was unexpected, and I loved how they were both a bit prickly and shy of each other in the oddest of ways. Watching Jack come to terms with his love for Mairi was a treat, and witnessing her journey toward reconciling her past and moving forward was similarly entertaining. I know that I’ve read other of Ms. Cornick’s books in the past, but I can’t remember having enjoyed them this much.  I’m going to go through her backlist and see if I like her other novels as much as I did One Night with the Laird.

I’m a big fan of books where falling in love is not the be-all and end-all of the characters’ lives. Mairi in particular had some very serious obstacles to overcome in her own life (emotional and literal) before she could truly accept Jack. The Scottish backdrop figures into this story in only a minor way; this historical novel could easily have been set in England without Ms. Cornick having to rework much of the story. I highly recommend this book to fans of historical romances, especially those with a soft spot for characters who must heal themselves before they can embrace love.

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Mountain Echoes by C. E. Murphy

Title:
Mountain Echoes
Author:C. E. Murphy
PublisherHarlequin
Publication Date:April 2, 2013
Publisher's DescriptionYOU CAN NEVER GO HOME AGAIN

Joanne Walker has survived an encounter with the Master at great personal cost, but now her father is missing—stolen from the timeline. She must finally return to North Carolina to find him—and to meet Aidan, the son she left behind long ago.

That would be enough for any shaman to face, but Joanne’s beloved Appalachians are being torn apart by an evil reaching forward from the distant past. Anything that gets in its way becomes tainted—or worse.

And Aidan has gotten in the way.

Only by calling on every aspect of her shamanic powers can Joanne pull the past apart and weave a better future. It will take everything she has—and more.

Unless she can turn back time...but time is never on Joanne’s side.
My rating:****

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I love Joanne Walker. She’s a great character, and I’ve enjoyed watching her grow more comfortable with her abilities over the course of the Walker Papers series. I also really love that Mountain Echoes is the penultimate novel in this series. I’m not at all sick of Joanne, but each new entry in a series bring with it the possibility of stagnancy; Joanne and Morrison (dear baby Jesus, please bring me a Morrison for Festivus) remain one of my favorite fictional pairings, and while each visit with them is undoubtedly a treat, I almost want to give them a little privacy.

I never said I wasn’t weird.
It was great to see Joanne interact with people from her past. Watching a relatively more mellow Jo surprise people who remembered how she used to be was pretty entertaining. As always, Jo’s delight in her abilities was pretty delightful to witness. I really felt her turmoil when it came to her feelings about her father and her upbringing, and watching her integrate new information into old memories was a pretty rewarding experience.
I think that maybe I can’t be objective about this series, because I love it that much, but I just don’t see how anybody who is interested in the initial premise and reads the novels is going to be disappointed.
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Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg

Title:
Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality
Author:Elizabeth Eulberg
PublisherScholastic Inc.
Publication Date:March 1, 2013
Publisher's DescriptionA hilarious new novel from Elizabeth Eulberg about taking the wall out of the wallflower so she can bloom.

Don't mess with a girl with a Great Personality.

Everybody loves Lexi. She's popular, smart, funny...but she's never been one of those girls, the pretty ones who get all the attention from guys. And on top of that, her seven-year-old sister, Mackenzie, is a terror in a tiara, and part of a pageant scene where she gets praised for her beauty (with the help of fake hair and tons of makeup).

Lexi's sick of it. She's sick of being the girl who hears about kisses instead of getting them. She's sick of being ignored by her longtime crush, Logan. She's sick of being taken for granted by her pageant-obsessed mom. And she's sick of having all her family's money wasted on a phony pursuit of perfection.

The time has come for Lexi to step out from the sidelines. Girls without great personalities aren't going to know what hit them. Because Lexi's going to play the beauty game - and she's in it to win it.
My rating:****

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I was intrigued by the publisher’s description of this title, and excited when I was granted access to read it. That excitement did not wane while I was reading this book. Despite being a quick read, Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality is chock full of fairly intense issues. Lexi was a great protagonist: realistic, believable, and sympathetic even when displaying teenage cluelessness. With the exception of Brooke, who was a completely awful human being and lacked anything resembling a redeeming quality, every character in this book displayed the type of depth that makes for compelling reading.

Benny and Cam were  great friends; they were supportive, but not mindlessly so, and it made me happy that Lexi had them in her life. Lexi’s interactions with her parents were painfully realistic, and the rollercoaster nature of her relationship with Mac a great depiction of how siblings get along (or not).

Over the course of this novel Lexi went through a lot. She took some sometimes dodgy advice, followed her heart, left her comfort zone, and learned a lot of painful and valuable lessons. I wanted to stand up and cheer when I got to the end of the book. Nobody saved Lexi, or fixed her, or rearranged her world. No boy kissed her worries away.  Lexi was her own hero, and demonstrated why so many people in this book relied upon the good head on her shoulders (fairly or not)! In addition to being entertaining, I think that this book has a lot of good, non-preachy things to say about figuring out how to balance capability and self-reliance with enriching friendships. I’m recommending this title for inclusion in our young adult collection.

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Turning Point by Tiffany Snow

Title:
Turning Point
Author:Tiffany Snow
PublisherAmazon Publishing
Publication Date:February 19, 2013
Publisher's DescriptionAfter her promotion from law firm Runner to Investigator, Kathleen Turner is learning the ropes of her new job from none other than assassin-for-hire Kade Dennon, a situation her boyfriend Blane Kirk is none too happy about. But the lessons with Kathleen take a back seat when Kade becomes a target. Previously untouchable, his enemies now know of the chink in his armor – his brother’s girlfriend.
And Kade’s not the only thing coming between Kathleen and Blane. From Blane's inexplicable defense of a man guilty of a horrible crime, to a mysterious stranger from Kathleen's past, to Kathleen' risky investigation into human traffickers, the obstacles mount against a relationship that's just begun to find trust again.

While Blane considers a job offer that would take him back to the front lines in the war on terror, Kathleen is determined to pursue her new career, with or without his approval. Unfortunately, her current case is far more dangerous than anyone knows. Someone close to Blane will go to extreme lengths to split them up, lengths that may prove worse than death for Kathleen.

Kathleen, Blane and Kade must atone for the sins of the past and the present. The fallout will force Kathleen to a turning point...in her career, and her life.
My rating:***.5

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I really enjoy this series.  I didn’t think much of Kathleen’s survival skills her first couple of times out, but I have to say that she acquitted herself better the third time around. I think that Kathleen is growing into a believable, relatable character, and Kade and Blane (oh my god, those names) are becoming less like stock characters and more like individuals.

It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly why I like this book better, but I think it’s because Kathleen spent more time with Kade. I appreciate the way he treats her. He looks out for her, but not in a semi-creepy paternalistic way like Blane. Kade wants Kathleen to have the tools that she needs to take care of herself, and thinks well of her brain. Maybe she is smarter than I’ve given her credit for, and being around Blane just doesn’t give her the opportunity to express that intelligence.

I think that the class issues in the Kade-Kathleen-Blane triangle make it fresher than this type of story might otherwise be. Blane’s privilege is such that he honestly doesn’t get why Kathleen worries about their relationship. Of course, he doesn’t know what his evil Democrat uncle is up to (mwa ha ha), and Kathleen does, so she does have an advantage there. On Ms. Snow’s web site, she has pictured Kade as looking like my boyfriend Ian Somerhalder and Blane as looking like Val Kilmer. VAL KILMER??? Clearly, Kathleen will end up with Kade because really. If Ms. Snow were serious about Blane, he’d obviously look like my other boyfriend Matt Davis (just to keep it in the Vampire Diaries family).

I think that anybody who has stuck with this series through the first two books will be pleased with this entry. I found the second half of this book especially compelling, and I can’t wait to see what happens in book 4!

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