Saturday, November 10, 2018

Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

Title: Winter in Paradise 
Series: Paradise #1
Author: Elin Hilderbrand
Publisher:  October 9, 2018 
Release date: Little, Brown and Company

A husband's secret life, a wife's new beginning: escape to the Caribbean with New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand. Irene Steele shares her idyllic life in a beautiful Iowa City Victorian house with a husband who loves her to sky-writing, sentimental extremes. But as she rings in the new year one cold and snowy night, everything she thought she knew falls to pieces with a shocking phone call: her beloved husband, away on business, has been killed in a plane crash. Before Irene can even process the news, she must first confront the perplexing details of her husband's death on the distant Caribbean island of St. John. After Irene and her sons arrive at this faraway paradise, they make yet another shocking discovery: her husband had been living a secret life. As Irene untangles a web of intrigue and deceit, and as she and her sons find themselves drawn into the vibrant island culture, they have to face the truth about their family, and about their own futures. Rich with the lush beauty of the tropics and the drama, romance, and intrigue only Elin Hilderbrand can deliver, Winter in Paradise is a truly transporting novel, and the exciting start to a new series. 

*My review will contain spoilers*

I want to know why Elin went with this particular ending. To say that I was disappointed it's an understatement.

Winter in Paradise tells the story of Irene Steel. A woman in her fifties, married to Russ and who has two grown children, Cash and Baker. 

She recently received a promotion at her job but she understands it really leads to an early retirement. She is very unhappy about this news when she receives a phone call after New Year's telling her that her husband has been in an accident and he has perished in a helicopter crash in the Caribbean. Irene doesn't understand what her husband was doing in St. John. Worse, when he died, he wasn't alone, a West Indian woman was with him. She calls her sons to inform them about the accident and they all fly together to learn more about his death.

Cash and Baker both had bad news before this particular phone call. Cash has lost his two business stores (which Russ gave him the money for) and Baker's wife, Anna a cardiothoracic surgeon, has told him she has fallen in love with another woman. 

Soon after arriving at the USVI, the brothers learn that her father was not as good as they thought. He had a mistress and probably was working in something illegal. Russ owns a secluded villa with nine bedrooms which had to cost millions. 

I'm going to stop here with the plot and I'm going to tell you what I dislike about it.

*Spoilers ahead*

*All the family members had very poor communication. They all kept secrets from each other. A complete disconnect in a family that should be mourning together.

*There is insta-love (which I hate) between both brothers and one island girl, Ayers. Although, it's more like a square since she also has a cheating ex-boyfriend (one that by the end of the book she chooses to go back to because it's the one she knows the best. Really?? Her choice as a woman is to go to the cheating guy because she can't do any better (she doesn't even consider staying alone) or because every man cheats????

*The two brothers were always acting like brats, fighting over the same girl. Neither was good enough. One was a pot head and the other one wanted to live like a bum. Neither had any type of aspiration. Cash lost his two stores and the only thing he was looking forward was to go back to skiing. He didn't seem worried about his future and no money. I thought Cash was so immature. He calls Ayers to tell on his brother. He spent his time trying to undermine Baker. The worst part was that Irene had a favorite son and she was blinded to his incompetence.

*Then there is a particular scene between one of the brothers and Ayers having sex on the beach. No protection needed (or mentioned) and when they get interrupted, life goes on without much fanfare. 

I believe Irene, Huck, and Maia saved this book. They were so much more interesting to me. Huck was grieving the loss of his step-daughter while trying to be a good grandparent to Maia. He was nice to Irene when he didn't need to be. He also supported Ayers emotionally.

Maia was a sweet kid who lost her mother Rosie (Russ's mistress) and yet she was dealing with it in a positive way. She behaves much more like an adult than Baker or Cash ever did. They should learn from her!

I had no idea this was a trilogy and when it ended in a cliffhanger, it took me by surprise. One last thing, I'm still mad at Irene for having favorites. 

Cliffhanger: Yes

2/5 Fangs

Secrets by Aleatha Romig

Title: Secrets
Author: Aleatha Romig 
Series: Secrets: Web of Sin #1
Publisher: Romig Works LLC 
Release date: October 30, 2018

The twisted and intriguing storytelling that you loved in Consequences and Infidelity is coming back at you with an all-new alpha anti-hero in the dark romance series Web of Sin, by New York Times bestselling author Aleatha Romig. 

I’m Sterling Sparrow. You’ve no doubt heard my name or read it on the top of tall buildings. There’s more to my business—my realm—than what is seen above ground. 

Within the underbelly of one of America’s largest cities lives a world where a man’s word is either his most valuable tool or his most respected weapon. When my father ruled that world and that city, he promised me someone who would one day make my reign complete. 

Since that day, long ago, Araneae McCrie has been mine.

She just didn’t know.

My father is now gone. 

The city and the underbelly are now mine.

The time has come for me to collect who was promised to me, to shred her life of secrets and make her who she’s always been—mine.

Have you been Aleatha’d?

*Secrets is book one of the Web of Sin trilogy.

Aleatha has a way with words. She's always able to grab my attention from the very first chapter. 

Secrets is the first book in the Web of Sin series. The dark setting intrigued me and the suspense made me turn the pages constantly.

The book begins with Renee being sent away by her adoptive mother. Their lives are in danger and she must run. Her mother hands her new a new identity and tells her she must move to Colorado. She will cease to be Renee and she will become Kennedy Hawkins. However, before she leaves, her mother reveals her true identity. Her real name is Araneae McCrie.

"The devil has been searching for you. And my greatest fear has always been that he find you."
Ten years later, due to her successful company Sinful Threads, she must return to the place she promised her adoptive mother she would never go back to, the city of Chicago. She will come to regret her decision. Or maybe not, after all, she will land in the arms of Sterling Sparrow. 

"Sparrow, Allister Sparrow. He's currently in charge, but one day it will be his son, Sterling."

Sterling is a very powerful and rich man. Someone who has waited to take Araneae as his wife. He's determined to do so without a second thought. Araneae knows he has the information about her past she is desperate to learn. He holds all the cards. She must do as he says or the people closest to her will get hurt. 

"Sparrow, Allister Sparrow. He's currently in charge, but one day it will be his son, Sterling."

I can't believe the book ends in a cliffhanger. There were so many lies and secrets! Everyone was hiding something. Araneae didn't know who to trust. I feel like there is much more for us to learn about Araneae's childhood and her real parents. I know Sterling has to be the good guy (although he's the anti-hero) and since her life is in danger, he has the means to protect her too. 

I liked Araneae. She had a backbone. Even when she had no choice, she still made her dislike of the situation known. She didn't roll over and that was a plus.

Sterling is a smart man. He served his country, cultivated true friendships along the way and now he's the CEO of Sparrow Enterprises. We know he hated his father Allister Sparrow and that he was promised Araneae when he was too young to know better. He does have an obsession with her and I'm sure he has been following her progress through the years. It will be interesting to know how much he was involved in her life without her knowing. 

I'm excited about the next book and I'm so glad Aleatha is not making me wait long. 

Cliffhanger: Yes

4/5 Fangs

Monday, November 5, 2018

Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks

Title: Every Breath 
Author: Nicholas Sparks
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release date: October 16, 2018

Get swept up in an epic romance from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Notebook, a heartbreaking love story spanning decades and continents--from North Carolina to Zimbabwe.

Hope Anderson is at a crossroads. At thirty-six, she's been dating her boyfriend, an orthopedic surgeon, for six years. With no wedding plans in sight, and her father recently diagnosed with ALS, she decides to use a week at her family's cottage in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, to ready the house for sale and mull over some difficult decisions about her future.

Tru Walls has never visited North Carolina but is summoned to Sunset Beach by a letter from a man claiming to be his father. A safari guide, born and raised in Zimbabwe, Tru hopes to unravel some of the mysteries surrounding his mother's early life and recapture memories lost with her death. When the two strangers cross paths, their connection is as electric as it is unfathomable . . . but in the immersive days that follow, their feelings for each other will give way to choices that pit family duty against personal happiness in devastating ways.

Illuminating life's heartbreaking regrets and enduring hope, EVERY BREATH explores the many facets of love that lay claim to our deepest loyalties--while asking the question, How long can a dream survive?

Every Breath is a tear jerker. You have been warned!

For the longest time, I resisted reading Nicholas Sparks novels. I had seen the movies like A Walk to Remember, Message in a Bottle, Dear John and The Notebook. So I knew his main characters either didn't stay together or one of them died. As a true romantic, this really hurt my heart. Then, I read The Longest Ride, See Me, and Two by Two and I became a fan of his storytelling.

Every Breath took me on a journey full of destiny, hope, heartbreak and true love.

Tru Walls is going to America for the first time. His biological father has sent him a letter and in it, he has asked Tru to meet him. The meeting will take place in North Carolina, in Sunset Beach. In Africa, Tru is a guide in Zimbabwe. Since early in his life, he has spent time in the bush. He was once married but currently divorced. He has one son he adores and he gets along with his ex-wife Kim. 

Hope Anderson has many things to think about. Her boyfriend of six years, an orthopedic surgeon is currently in Las Vegas. Over the years, he had a problem with faithfulness and they are currently on a break. Hope decides to go to his family beach home in Sunset Beach for the last time. The beach house is going on sale to save money to pay for his father's care who has recently being diagnosed with ALS. Hope will stay there and will attend the wedding of her best friend over the weekend. She's concerned and has no idea how to explain her boyfriend's absence. 

A  chance encounter due to Hope's dog will begin a true love affair between these two souls. Hope will show Tru the magic of a place called the Kindred Spirit, and it will connect them forever. 

After reading, Every Breath, I'm dying to go to Sunset Beach and Kindred Spirit. Whoever decided to start it, had a great idea in the making. 

I can't end my review without thanking Grand Central Publishing, NetGalley and Nicholas Sparks for my copy of Every Breath. The cover alone is gorgeous. 

4/5 Fangs

With over 100 million copies of his books sold, Nicholas Sparks is one of the world's most beloved storytellers. His novels include fourteen #1 New York Timesbestsellers, and all of his books, including Three Weeks with My Brother, the memoir he wrote with his brother, Micah, have been New York Times and international bestsellers, and were translated into more than fifty languages. Eleven of Nicholas Sparks's novels -- The Choice, The Longest Ride, The Best of Me, Safe Haven, The Lucky One, The Last Song, Dear John, Nights in Rodanthe, The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, and Message in a Bottle--have been adapted into major motion pictures. 

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The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

Title: The Perfect Couple 
Series: MacAvoys, Kapenashes, Drakes, and Wheelers
Author: Elin Hilderbrand 
Publisher:   Little, Brown and Company
Release date: June 19, 2018 

From New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand, comes a novel about the many ways family can fill our lives with love...if they don't kill us first. 

*New York Times bestseller*

It's Nantucket wedding season, also known as summer-the sight of a bride racing down Main Street is as common as the sun setting at Madaket Beach. The Otis-Winbury wedding promises to be an event to remember: the groom's wealthy parents have spared no expense to host a lavish ceremony at their oceanfront estate.

But it's going to be memorable for all the wrong reasons after tragedy strikes: a body is discovered in Nantucket Harbor just hours before the ceremony-and everyone in the wedding party is suddenly a suspect. As Chief of Police Ed Kapenash interviews the bride, the groom, the groom's famous mystery-novelist mother, and even a member of his own family, he discovers that every wedding is a minefield-and no couple is perfect. Featuring beloved characters from The CastawaysBeautiful Day, and A Summer AffairThe Perfect Couple proves once again that Elin Hilderbrand is the queen of the summer beach read. 

The Perfect Couple had so many components that I enjoyed. I loved that there was a mystery surrounding the death of the maid of honor. The Who Done It, kept me on my toes. There were so many possibilities although I excluded a bunch of suspects from the first couple of chapters. I had a pretty good idea of who was at fault but in the end, I still enjoyed the delivery. 

So let me tell you what the book is about: 

Celeste Otis is marrying Benji Winbury. This is going to be the wedding of the year. The wedding is going to take place in Nantucket were Benji's parents Tag and Greer Winbury reside. 

Celeste is a young woman who works at the zoo. She met Benji when he brought his girlfriend and her son to a snake exhibition. Afterward, Benji broke up with his girlfriend and starting dating Celeste. 

Benji's parents come from money. His mother, Greer is a famous mystery writer. His father is a successful businessman. Celeste's parents, Karen and Bruce Otis, are not wealthy. Karen is also dealing with terminal cancer and she hopes to see her only daughter get married before the disease take her away from her family.

On the day of the wedding, the body of Celeste's best friend and maid of honor, Merritt Monaco is found and since every family member has secrets, it will be up to Chief Ed Kapenash and Nick Diamantopoulos from the Nantucket Police Department to figure out if it was an accident or someone did this to Merritt.

Elin Hilderbrand takes you through the events happening months before the wedding by using multiple characters POVs. The web of lies, deceit, seduction, and death is one you won't want to miss.

My one objection with the story is that I felt Merritt's death was an injustice. I would have like to see a more steep punishment to the culprit and a more thorough police investigation. In some ways, I felt like they dropped the ball at the end.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

Title: The Proposal
Author: Jasmine Guillory
Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: October 30, 2018

The author of The Wedding Date serves up a novel about what happens when a public proposal doesn't turn into a happy ending, thanks to a woman who knows exactly how to make one on her own...

When someone asks you to spend your life with him, it shouldn't come as a surprise--or happen in front of 45,000 people.

When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Saying no isn't the hard part--they've only been dating for five months, and he can't even spell her name correctly. The hard part is having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans...

At the game with his sister, Carlos Ibarra comes to Nik's rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. He's even there for her when the video goes viral and Nik's social media blows up--in a bad way. Nik knows that in the wilds of LA, a handsome doctor like Carlos can't be looking for anything serious, so she embarks on an epic rebound with him, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them has to be smart enough to put on the brakes...

Let me start by saying, I didn't read The Wedding Date (but I wanted too). The Proposal should be counted as a novel written within the same world. I will call it book #2. The couple from the first story is mentioned or appeared quite a few times through it.

The Proposal begins with an embarrassing situation.  Nikole Paterson is at the Dodgers game when her boyfriend, a guy whom she has only dated five months, proposes to her using the scoreboard. To her dismay, everyone is watching her as she tells him no in the most subtle way. He storms out, leaving her behind. 

Carlos Ibarra and her sister are a few rows behind watching the events unfold. They decide to help Nikole by taking her away from the stadium and dropping her to meet her friends. When asked to join them, they agree. Carlos and Nikole share a spark and they will start communicating through texts and phone calls in the days to come. 

Nikole thinks that Carlos will be a nice rebound hookup since she doesn't want anything serious. Carlos feels the same way. Yet, the more time they are around each other, the more difficult this arrangement becomes. 

The Proposal is a fast and easy story. I liked that the author was inclusive of different races and body types but I had a hard time relating to Nikole. She said she was hurt before and that's why she didn't want to be in a relationship but we never get to experience her past. It's only mentioned. I would've liked to see more of what the other boyfriend did to make her skittish of relationships.

Carlos was very likable and so was his family. He was devoted to them. He was a good friend too. The only time I didn't approve of him was when he felt rejected. He was quite mean then. Otherwise, he was a good guy. 

Cliffhanger: No

3/5 Fangs

Thank you Berkley Romance and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary copy of The Proposal in exchange for an honest review. 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand

Title: The Matchmaker
Author: Elin Hilderbrand 
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Release date: June 24, 2014

A touching new novel from bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand in which a woman sets out to find love for those closest to her - before it's too late.

48-year-old Nantucketer Dabney Kimball Beech has always had a gift for matchmaking. Some call her ability mystical, while others - like her husband, celebrated economist John Boxmiller Beech, and her daughter, Agnes, who is clearly engaged to the wrong man - call it meddlesome, but there's no arguing with her results: With 42 happy couples to her credit and all of them still together, Dabney has never been wrong about romance.

Never, that is, except in the case of herself and Clendenin Hughes, the green-eyed boy who took her heart with him long ago when he left the island to pursue his dream of becoming a journalist. Now, after spending 27 years on the other side of the world, Clen is back on Nantucket, and Dabney has never felt so confused, or so alive.

But when tragedy threatens her own second chance, Dabney must face the choices she's made and share painful secrets with her family. Determined to make use of her gift before it's too late, she sets out to find perfect matches for those she loves most. The Matchmaker is a heartbreaking story about losing and finding love, even as you're running out of time.

This will teach me to read the synopsis before starting a book. Elin Hilderbrand clearly hints about the outcome of this book but sadly, I  didn't read it and I just thought: "What a cute name for a book". I will say it was a very deceiving title and it left me completely unprepared for my feelings as I started approaching the end of The Matchmaker. It was, to say the least, a bittersweet story.

As with her prior books, Elin Hilderbrand takes you back to the Island of Nantucket with its charming people, beautiful sceneries and the unraveling of a specific family or character's life.

Dabney Kimball Beech has always loved only one man, Clendenin Hughes. When he left the island twenty-seven years ago in the pursuit of his dream as a journalist, he took her heart with him. She did marry a man that she has come to care for, John Boxmiller Beech. 

Box is a famous economist whom even the President of the United States likes to consult from time to time. When Clendenin left he didn't know Dabney was pregnant with their daughter, Agnes. Box took the role of a father as Agnes starting growing up. Now as a young woman, Agnes is dating an older man. Someone Dabney doesn't approve of. 

To make her life even more interesting, Dabney receives an email from Clendenin. In it, he tells her that he's coming back to Nantucket and he wants to reconnect with her. This piece of news will mark the beginning of a new chapter in Dabney's life.

Dabney was a very nice woman. She was a huge believer in love and she tried to help everyone around her. For this reason, everyone liked her. She was friendly, sweet and she had a stellar reputation as a matchmaker. A total of Forty-two couples were together because of Dabney. The only one she never got right was her own love story. She was in love with Clendenin from the first moment he joined her school. His return to the island brings chaos into her life. Too many things are happening too fast for Dabney. She will need to learn to deal with all of her new emotions and decide if it's too late for her and Clendenin or if she continues living comfortably with Box.

I thought the last third of the book was a tear jerker. It was unexpected but it gave the story a tone of truthfulness.

The Matchmaker proves to me once again that Elin Hilderbrand can bring a phenomenal gamma of emotions to her stories.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand

Title: Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand
Author: Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Release date: July 2, 2007

Visiting Nantucket for the summer, three women seek peace and comfort as they cope with the challenges in their lives--from marriage, infidelity, and the mayhem of motherhood to scandal, tragedy, and illness. 

Three women--burdened with small children, unwieldy straw hats, and some obvious emotional issues--tumble onto the Nantucket airport tarmac one hot June day. Vicki is trying to sort through the news that she has a serious illness. Her sister, Brenda, has just left her job after being caught in an affair with a student. And their friend Melanie, after seven failed in-vitro attempts, is pregnant at last--but only after learning that her husband is having an affair. They have come to escape, enjoy the sun, and relax in Nantucket's calming air. But into the house, into their world, steps twenty-two-year-old Josh Flynn.

Barefoot weaves these four lives together in a story with enthralling sweep and scope--a novel that is as fun and memorable and bittersweet as that one perfect day of summer.

*My review will contain some spoilers*

I could say that Barefoot is my least favorite book by Elin so far. Even the epilogue didn't answer all my questions about the characters' future. Yet, I still enjoyed the story about these three women spending their summer in Nantucket. 

The first woman is Victoria Lyndon Stowe. Vicki has been recently diagnosed with lung cancer despite never smoking. She decides to leave her life in Connecticut and take her two young kids, Blaine and Porter, to spend the summer in Nantucket. She plans to get her chemotherapy there. Chemo is never easy and Vicki will have to deal with her feelings about her own mortality. 

The second woman is Brenda Lyndon. She's Vicki's younger sister. She had the perfect job in Academia until she met her new Australian student, John Walsh. He's one year older than her but a relationship with him will cost Brenda her beloved job and plenty of legal issues.

The third woman is Melanie Patchen, Vicki's best friend who's escaping with them in order to avoid her own problems. Melanie has tried seven rounds of in-vitro treatments in hopes of getting pregnant without any success. Then, she discovers she's pregnant but she also learns that her husband, Peter, is cheating with a woman at work. 

Last but not least, we meet Joshua "Josh" Flynn. A twenty-two-year-old man who crosses paths with them as they get off the plane. By serendipity, they meet a few more times and Josh ends up becoming their nanny for the summer. 

As you can see there's enough material for plenty of drama in the making. 

So why didn't I love it? Well, a few reasons. 

It was hard to like Melanie. She behaved childishly and never really helped Vicki throughout the summer. I also thought she took advantage of Josh's feelings and young age.  Worse, her decision at the end made me lose all respect for her. I hated Peter. He had it too easy and I didn't believe his apology. He will cheat again.

In the beginning, I wasn't crazy about Brenda. She could be selfish but she did help her sister. She was there for her. I wished there had been more info about Walsh. Where was he during all those weeks? Why didn't he call her more times? Why didn't he show up to look for her?

Vicki's storyline was the saddest. I felt sorry for her. She was dealing with the unthinkable. Cancer is a scary word and she wasn't sure if she would be there for her two small kids. She had many bad days ahead of her. I love her two kids.

I thought Josh had a rotten deal. He was indispensable to them while they needed him but I thought they didn't tell him how much he meant to them and when it was time to let him go, neither women batted their eyelashes. No offer to stay connected either.

Cliffhanger: No

3/5 Fangs