Nicole Reads A Lot

so many books, so little time

Mimi by Lucy Ellmann

Author:Lucy Ellmann
Publication Date:2/26/2012
Publisher's DescriptionIt's Christmas Eve in Manhattan. An eminent plastic surgeon slips on the ice, lands on his butt, and sprains his ankle. So far, so good. A woman such as he's never known yanks him to his feet and conjures the miracle of a taxi. Harrison recuperates with Franz Schubert, Bette Davis, and a foundling cat. Then it's back to rhinoplasties, liposuction, and the peccadilloes of his obnoxious colleagues. It is only when he collides again with that strangely helpful woman that things take a wild and revolutionary turn. Sparkling, polemical, irreverent, slippery, and sexy, Mimi is a love story, a call to arms, and Lucy Ellmann's most tender and dazzling book. It's also the feminist novel of the century. (So far.)
My rating:**.5


I was intrigued when I read the description of this book, and excited when Bloomsbury USA allowed me access to it via Netgalley, but I’m sad to say that Mimi never lived up to my hopes. I can’t say expectations, because I’d never before read anything by Ms. Ellmann, so I didn’t know what I’d get in this book. I thought this was an interesting little story about two strange people, but to call this the feminist novel of the century so far? I think not.

It took me a while to get into the book, because Harrison Hanafan was too manic a character for me to get a handle on initially. I had trouble reconciling this person who bounced from subject to subject and thought to thought with little apparent purpose with the steadiness of mind and hand required to be a top plastic surgeon in New York City. Mimi, too, was so unbearably precious that she never seemed like a realistic character to me. The conversation during their meet cute grated on me and felt fake. Likewise, everything about Gertrude, including her name, struck me as to awful to be believed. If such a woman was real, I find it hard to believe that anybody would put up with her for as long as Harrison did.

I feel that it took Mimi about 20 or 30 pages to settle into what I’d consider a readable rhythm. I’ve given up on books sooner than this, but I wanted to stick it out, and I’m glad I did. Over the course of the book, Mimi and Harrison came to feel less like caricatures and more like representations of actual, functioning people. I don’t think that Mimi was a bad book; in fact, at some points it was laugh-out-loud funny. I just found it ever so twee. I’m fairly certain that if an infinite number of hipster monkeys from Brooklyn sat typing on their restored vintage typewriters for an infinite amount of time, one of them would eventually produce Mimi.

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All About Seduction by Katy Madison

Title:All About Seduction
Author:Katy Madison
Publication Date:November 1, 2011
Publisher's DescriptionCaroline Broadhurst is about to take a lover -- at her husband's command. For fifteen years, Caroline has done everything her much older husband has desired -- except provide an heir. Now he has given her an ultimatum: seduce a suitable gentleman and bear a son. Caroline would never think of bowing to such a shameful order, but then she meets Jack Applegate.

Jack has longed for the beautiful, untouchable Caroline for years, but the chasm between them was too wide to ever dream of crossing. Now, fate and passion have thrown them together, but the potential scandal threatens to smother their love. And when a violent secret comes to light, only a terrible sacrifice will prevent the flame of their affection from being snuffed out forever. . .
My rating:**.5

The premise of this book was pretty interesting to me. It is set in a time where birthright was everything and obtaining heirs was one of the primary motivations for marriage. It’s almost unimaginable that any wealthy man in this society would intentionally scheme to have his wife become pregnant by another man (although I’ve since read another book that takes place in this time period and has much the same motivation behind the meeting of the protagonists – review forthcoming). As in many romance novels that begin with a married heroine or hero (although it’s usually the heroine), Caroline’s first husband was not good to her. He didn’t treat her well, and belittled all that she’d done to help him in his business.

Enter Jack, the factory worker/engineer who’d noticed Caroline from afar and had been content limit their contact to longing looks, until fate (and an accident) threw them together. Jack was almost too good to be true. His home life had reached Dickensian levels of awfulness, but he persevered out of love for his hundreds of siblings. Good old Jack. At the novel’s opening, Jack had decided that he’d sacrificed enough for his family and was ready to start doing things in service of his own ambition when TRAGEDY! STRUCK! I have so say that Jack and Caroline’s unrelenting goodness began to grate on me early in the book, and that their affair was so innocuous when compared to all the evils perpetrated in this book that it barely made a blip on my Sinometer.

This book was interesting enough when I read it, but even a couple of weeks later, I’m having trouble grasping at details that should be obvious. There’s just not a lot to hold on to when it comes to this book. You know that Caroline’s husband is going to die, just not how, and that Jack will persevere, just now how. Honestly, the journey wasn’t captivating enough for the details to remain with me.

If you’re looking for a quick historical that will pluck your class-warfare-loving heartstrings, this will do until you find something better, but I wouldn’t expect too much from this book.

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Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson

Title:Before I Go to Sleep
Author:S. J. Watson
Publication Date:June 2011
Publisher's Description'As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I'm still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me ...' Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love - all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine's life.
My rating:**.5

Warning, totally spoilerific review.

I suppose I should have known that I wouldn’t love this book, because I’m not a fan of “Trust me, you have amnesia” kinds of stories (50 First Dates, I’m looking at you). Still, I thought that I might like it. In a way, I did, although I think that wanting readers to believe in the amount of coincidences and instances of negligence that had to converge before this novel’s circumstances could exist is asking too much. I believe in the goodness of people, but I possess a healthy amount of skepticism, and everything about the setting of this novel set off my creepometer.

The main thing I wondered about was how could NOBODY think to verify the identity of the man to whom they released an amnesiac? Really? Jokes about the British NHS aside, that’s just unforgivably negligent.

I did like how this book combined both an unreliable narrator and intrigue. Christine’s unreliable narration was due to her amnesia, not dishonesty, which made the effect even more chilling: she simply didn’t remember enough to know whether she was telling the truth or not. The main thing that puzzled me was why her memory suddenly started to come back at this point in her life. Could it only be the help of her new doctor, who hadn’t given her any drugs or special treatments AT ALL, or was being exposed to awful Mike what truly made her remember who she was? This book left me with more questions than answers, and not in a good way. The one clear thought I had was that poor Christine possessed truly awful relatives and friends, and my hope is that reclaiming her memory was just the first step in becoming free of the lot of them.

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Any Man of Mine by Rachel Gibson

Title:,Any Man of Mine,&nbsp,#colspan#
Author:,Rachel Gibson,&nbsp,#colspan#
Publication Date:,"April 26, 2011",&nbsp,#colspan#
Star Rating,2.5 Stars,&nbsp,#colspan#

I have enjoyed Rachel Gibson’s work in the past (including previous books set in the Chinooks organization), but this novel didn’t do much for me. Autumn and Sam start out interestingly enough, and going into this book I was interested to see how they could get past the awful way their relationship began.

Obviously, Autum has an excellent reason for not trusting Sam. Marrying somebody on a whim, getting her pregnant, divorcing her during said pregnancy, and then not seeing your child until a DNA test has been done are all pretty hurtful things. Add being a somewhat slack parent over the ensuing five years, and you have a man who any woman would be wise to avoid. Especially that same woman who he hurt. When you do something awful to a person, she is totally within her rights to examine your motives for suddenly changing. Especially when a child is involved. Trust has to be earned, and Sam’s hurt feelings over Autumn trying to figure out whether to trust him isn’t a tragedy. It isn’t unfair. It’s the natural result of his previous behavior.

Of course Autumn is uncertain of how to behave with Sam! It’s great that he’s suddenly discovered how to behave more or less like a mature adult after nearly six of being in each others’ lives, but it may take her a little bit of time to, you know, believe it. Sam’s attitude is especially galling because his change doesn’t initially begin because of any conscious decision on his part; it is Autumn’s determination not to be angry with him anymore that facilitates his change in behavior.

Sam could have started to behave more like a responsible person at any point in the past, apologized for not being a better father, and made an effort with Conner. Instead he waits until Autumn begins to work through her anger to chage. Yay?  Sam’s transformation happens over a relatively short time, further complicating matters. I understand that romance books are not supposed to mirror reality, but I would have a hard time respecting any person who would so quickly welcome back into hers and her son’s life the man who so callously stomped on her heart.

It was nice that the characters from previous novels popped up from time to time, although Gibson not resolving some of those plot lines after mentioning them (did the breast reduction happen???) annoyed me. I also noticed the odd factual error (American Thanksgiving is the fourth, not the third, Thursday in November) that jumped out at me. Issues aside, this was an okay, quick read. Any Man of Mine is not a bad book at all, but the odd relationship dynamics in this novel kept me from enjoying it the way I did the previous books in the series. I didn’t love this contemporary as much as I wanted to, but even when not at her best, Rachel Gibson is still an entertaining writer.

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