Nicole Reads A Lot

so many books, so little time

Secret Sister by Emelle Gamble

Title:
Secret Sister
Author:Emelle Gamble
PublisherSoulMate Publishing
Publication Date:July 2013
Publisher's Description"If you're looking for a typical women's fiction/romance, don't look here... this story has a twist of the paranormal that will have you willingly stretching your belief in order to enjoy the plot. Emelle Gamble has created a story that will tear your heart out." LONG AND SHORT REVIEWS, AUGUST, 2013

What if everything about you changed in an instant...
Nick & Cathy and Roxanne. Two best friends. One husband. An extraordinary twist of fate.

How much do you really know about your husband? Your best friend? Yourself? Cathy Chance knows she loves her husband, Nick, with the same passion she had when she married him seven years ago, and he adores her. She also knows that she and her best friend, Roxanne, are closer than most sisters. But on a sunny summer day, these three are hurled into an astounding new reality which forces each to reconsider everything they thought was true about themselves, and one another.
My rating:***.5

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Secret Sister is an enjoyable novel about a woman who is killed in an automobile accident, then wakes in the hospital in the body of her friend, who’d been driving the car. Although she initially has no memory of who she was before the accident, she knows that she’s different than all of her visitors expect her to be. She also knows that she’s grieving for someone, despite the fact that she can’t remember anybody. When the accident survivor, who everybody addresses as Roxie, realizes that she’s actually Cathy, she has to figure out how to get her old life back. How does she convince her husband who she is? How does she deal with Roxie’s life?

I liked Cathy. She’s smart and has good instincts, although she doesn’t know that she can trust them until she’s made a few missteps. She doggedly pursues the truth, even when she’s not sure what she’ll learn. Roxie, from the little of her that we see and from what we learn after the accident, is a lost soul who clings to Cathy, even while resenting her doting husband. Nick is a bit of a dark horse; one can’t say for certain where his head is at any given time. I’d give more than a penny to know his thoughts at the end of the book.

The rest of the characters were more hit or miss for me; although I remembered enough about them to spot the red herring (there are some mysteries surrounding both Nick and Cathy’s marriage and also the last year of Roxie’s romantic life), the people in Cathy and Roxie’s school orbit don’t make much of an impact on the story. The secondary characterizations seemed a bit spotty to me; Michael and Zoe were more stereotypical and less interesting than they ought to have been, considering their roles in Roxie and Cathy’s lives. Bradley’s main purpose seemed to be to reveal facts or spout dialogue that the author couldn’t figure out how to introduce in any other way; he’s a bright spot in his scenes, but he functions more like a plot device than a character. Roxie’s mother is great; it seems that every scene she’s in has a much greater emotional impact than the scenes of any other tertiary character.

The ending of this book is interesting and I appreciate that Ms. Gamble felt comfortable with having at least one of her characters living in uncertainty.

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The King of Threadneedle Street by Moriah Densley

Title:
The King of Threadneedle Street
Author:Moriah Densley
PublisheresKape Press
Publication Date:December 2013
Publisher's DescriptionHe owns three shipping companies, a diamond mine, and his own castle.
He knows Portuguese, Hindi, Mandarin and Morse code.
His assets net thirteen million.

Everyone thinks Andrew Tilmore, Lord Preston, the financial prodigy dubbed “The King of Threadneedle Street,” has it all, but he wants the one prize money can’t buy: his childhood sweetheart.

Alysia Villier can’t say if it’s worse having Andrew’s father in control of her inheritance or Andrew in control of her heart. He’s ruined her for any other man, but she simply can’t give in to him. She knows he’s destined for great things — marrying a courtesan’s daughter would jeopardize everything he stands for.

Keeping Alysia out of trouble and away from eager suitors becomes a cross-continental quest for Andrew, and he won’t be stopped by his old-fashioned family or the disapproval of the ton. After all, he’s a man with the power to play newspapers and investors like pawns, tumble world markets and incite riots… but can he win the biggest gamble of his life?
My rating:**.5

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This book is as dramatic as a SoapNet (RIP SoapNet) marathon, and contains about as much logic. I didn’t mind it while I was reading it, but when I thought about it afterwards, I realized that a solid 85% of it was unbelievably illogical. Why would a man raise his mistress’s child alongside his own children? Having done this, why would he then object to his teenage son falling in love with the mistress’s beautiful daughter? Having seen this happen, why would he try to use the concepts of familial obedience and honor to dissuade his son from marrying his love? Wouldn’t having one’s mistress openly reside WITH ONE’S FAMILY already tarnished the family’s name for at least a generation? And what is up with Andrew’s mother? How can a woman who at the beginning of this novel is portrayed as being incapable of performing the most routine hostessing duties manage to so capably vex his supposedly brilliant son with her marriage-minded scheming? And why would a paragon of tonnish virtue would repeatedly try to sic a fortune-hunting ho-bag on her own son? And what kind of stock exchange/black wizardry is responsible for the money-related goings-on in this novel? He’s rich? He’s poor! He’s richer!!!! Or something.

The bottom line here is that nothing that takes place within this novel makes any sense if thought about for more than two seconds. Characters change on a dime, as is needed to further whatever scene is currently taking place. This book is utterly ridiculous, but as it only cost $.99, I’m not too bothered by this. Here’s what would have happened if this book made sense:

Andrew: I love you. You love me. Our three-year age difference becomes increasingly less creepy the closer you get to twenty. Let’s get married.

Alysia: Your parents won’t approve. I’m the illegitimate daughter of your father’s mistress.

Andrew: I don’t care my parents. Frankly, they’re irredeemably awful. Let’s go to Gretna Green, get married, come back to England, live our lives, and dare them to shun us in front of society. I’m like Donald Trump with better hair and and a soul and you’re like Frieda Kahlo with less self-confidence and no unibrow.

Alysia: I don’t get any of those references, but since you often speak in code, I’m not going to worry too much about it. Yes, I’ll marry you.

Boom goes the dynamite! The end.

Of course, this would have changed this story from a novel into the treatment for an entirely different novel, but hey, I’d read that book, too.

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The Dream Unfolds by Barbara Delinsky

Title:
The Dream Unfolds
Author:Author - Barbara Delinsky
Narrator - Erin Yuen
PublisherDreamscape Audio
Publication Date:Audio - November 2013
Print - 1990
Publisher's DescriptionBuilder Gideon Lowe and interior designer Christine Gillette share a dream--to develop the Rice estate into the most elegant comdominium community on the Atlantic seaboard. But that dream is all they share--they mix like oil and water. He calls her a spoiled prima donna and she pegs him for an arrogant chauvinist. But good old-fashioned lust can circumvent misconceptions like nothing else.
My rating:***

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I enjoyed this book. Although it was written in 1990, which really doesn’t feel that long ago to me, it avoided so many of the things that make me cringe about older books. Christine and Gideon’s conversation about why neither of them felt the need to get “car phones” (they didn’t want to be accessible at all times) was hilarious to me, but that and their frequent use of landlines were what dated this book; otherwise, this novel could be situated in 2013 and have turned out pretty much exactly the same.

Something that I appreciated was that when Gideon was a bit of a macho Neanderthal, Christine called him out on it, instead of accepting it as normal. Likewise, when  I felt that, regardless of the things that I didn’t like below, there was more story to tell here and the author ended things a bit abruptly for my tastes. Erin Yuen’s serviceable narration neither added to nor detracted from the flow of this audiobook.

What I didn’t like (click on blurred area to reveal hidden text):
Christine’s daughter, Jill, is not mentioned until more than halfway through the book. It made Christine’s internal dialog from before the revelation feel false, since all of her subsequent thoughts relate to her daughter. Jill is such a huge part of the book once her existence is revealed that hiding it felt needlessly gimmicky to me.

Gideon fell in love with Christine so quickly that it was unbelievable. It seemed to me that he goes from finding her obnoxious to wanting to date her to loving her in the course of two or three chapters. Seriously? I appreciated her more cautious approach, because it seemed to me that, as soon as he decides not to hate her or treat her like some iteration of that woman who annoys him, he’s like 85% on the way to loving her. Nice, but possibly a little overwhelming/creepy if thought about for too long.

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Faster Longer by Colleen Masters

Title:
Faster, Longer (Take Me... 3)
Author:Colleen Masters
PublisherHearts Collective
Publication Date:December 2013
Publisher's DescriptionTwo star crossed lovers racing together at breakneck speeds, barreling along at 200 miles per hour willing to destroy everything and everyone in their path.

Siena can't escape.

She's trapped now.

How did she fall so helplessly, recklessly in love with the one man who could single handedly turn her life upside down?

Harrison has her wrapped up in his strong, muscular, tattooed arms. Right where he wants her. Right where she wants to be.

Even as the championship is decided and fate comes crashing down around them—betrayal, blackmail, death...all seem like nothing compared to Siena's ultimate secret.
My rating:***/***.5

18809594I’m glad that I came to this series late enough that book 3 was available immediately after I’d finished books one and two. I hate having to wait a long time between books in a series, and I’m always reading so many things that it tends to be a struggle to remember pertinent details of previous outings if any significant amount of time passes between when the books are published. Since I read book three in the same week that I read books one and two, I actually remembered lots of details. Details, for example, that the author did not. In the third book, Siena is said to have been born in the United States, even though she definitely states in the first book that she was born in Italy. I can barely remember what I email my staff from one week to the next, though, so I have very little room to talk.

While things that worked for me really worked for me, the things that didn’t really really didn’t.

The good:

  • Harrison and Siena continue to have smoking chemistry and make for some dynamic scenes.
  • I loved how supportive Harrison is of Siena. He believes that she is good at her job and tells her so.
  • I am always a fan of heroes who want the world to know of their love for the heroine, but who are willing to allow her to set their pace.
  • The scenes at Siena’s family home (excluding Enzo) worked for me. I liked seeing the Lazio family interact, and it was nice to see Harrison integrated further into Siena’s life.

The bad:

  • How fast do Charlie and Bex move? I mean, really. I would have liked to see a bit more of them as a couple, so that their trajectory in book three made more sense to me. Aside from sneaking out of hotel rooms and then having Bex ditch Charlie on a couple of occasions when Siena needs her, I didn’t get much sense of their relationship.
  • The scenes where Bex and Siena reconnect after a seemingly long time of barely talking felt repetitive and seemed like they barely worked within the book’s timeline.
  • What crawls up Enzo’s culo? It was annoying in the extreme that he is completely okay with being a hypocritical juicebox to his sister, seeing as how he is dating a member of Team McClain (who’s a total cow to his sister). Ugh. This kind of behavior is bad enough in Harlequin Presents novels, but I didn’t expect to see it here. [I believe that this is a legitimate character choice, do it’s you bad writing, I just dislike Enzo.]
  • Some members of the press’ lines of questioning at the press conferences in these books have seemed unbelievably unprofessional to me, but the one at the Lazio home seems particularly egregious. I don’t believe that other journalists would find some of the questions asked to be okay. It seems to me that such a vindictive/gossipy reporter would be more likely to stir up interest in himself, than in the answers that he receives.
  • The “mystery” in this book is not well done at all. I suspected the eventual culprit from book one, but definitely knew who it was by the second book. It disappointed me not that none of the characters suspect this person even briefly, especially considering his or her behavior in book two. The scene where it finally all adds up for Siena is only missing a neon downward arrow that says, “Bad Guy Here.” The title of this third book should have been A Bunch of Red Flags. Look, Ma! I stuck with the racing theme.

This video sums up how I felt about people in this book not recognizing the culprit.

(Click blurred text to reveal hidden text.)

Why in the world doesn’t anybody give Marques a second thought after he frames Siena with that doctored video? Even if they are ultimately swayed by the fact that his car has been “tampered with,” they still should discuss, then dismissed him as a possibility. The fact that none of these supposedly intelligent people pick up on what a ruthless creep Morales is made me think less of them as characters, and this book as a form of entertainment.

I guess what I’m saying is that I found this book to be a bit of a mess, aside from Harrison and Siena. I’m going to regard this more as a table-setting book, since the way that Faster Longer ends means that book 4 should be awesome and insane. If you’ve stuck with this series for this long, I recommend this book and that you give book 4 a chance, but I didn’t love this novel as I’d hoped that I would. I keep going back and forth on the rating, but I would say that it’s more of a 3.5 star book than 3.

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Bias Cut by Morgan Richter

Title:
Bias Cut
Author:Morgan Richter
PublisherLuft Books
Publication Date:September 2012
Publisher's DescriptionBurned out and bitter after a string of disappointments, Nicola Strozyk takes a short-term gig assisting Laurie Sparks, the design world’s reigning enfant terrible. Barely in his twenties, Laurie has built himself an empire that encompasses a chic Manhattan boutique and a role on an obnoxious reality series. Part worldly sophisticate and part cheerful scatterbrain, Laurie is beautiful and extravagant; at nearly twice his age, Nicola is jaded and resolutely unglamorous. As Laurie’s burgeoning fame threatens to overwhelm him, Nicola finds herself struggling to keep him on solid ground.

When Laurie becomes obsessed with tracking down the designer of a mysterious coat, he drags Nicola along on a champagne-fueled quest that takes them from the New York catwalks to glittery Hollywood parties and swanky suites in Paris hotels. What begins as a lark takes an ominous turn when they uncover a decades-old mystery involving the murders of two young models. Along the way, the odd-couple camaraderie between Nicola and Laurie evolves into a fierce bond, which is put to the test when she must protect him from a pair of deadly threats: a mercurial fellow designer hell-bent on burying a dark secret, and an obsessive killer who has fixed his sights on Laurie.
My rating:****

bcI got this book when it was free on Amazon, but after the first twenty pages, I knew that I would have enjoyed it even if I’d purchased it (this is my highest praise). I really liked the relationship between Laurie and Nicola, and rooted for both of them. They each gave the other something that he or she was lacking, but not in an overly sappy way. Laurie helped Nicola feel present in her life and vital in his, while she provided him with the sort of non-maternal grounding that he desperately needed. I was drawn into the mystery in much the same way as Nicola; it wasn’t initially clear to me why Laurie cared so much about who’d designed the clothes, but seeing how things escalated upped my interest, quickly. The characters, more than the mystery, were what drew me to this story. If you’re looking for a hard hitting, multi-faceted mystery, this probably isn’t it. This book is more character-driven, and all the better for it. I would definitely read another book set in this world featuring Nicola and Laurie, and hope that we haven’t seen the last of this duo.

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