Friday, November 30, 2018

Winter Storms by Elin Hilderbrand

Title: Winter Storms
Series: Winter #3
Author: Elin Hilderbrand
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Release date: October 4, 2016

Gather under the mistletoe for one last round of caroling with the Quinn family in this heartwarming conclusion to Elin Hilderbrand's bestselling Winter Street Trilogy. 

Some of the stormy weather of the past few seasons seems to have finally lifted for the Quinns. After a year apart, and an ill-fated affair with the Winter Street Inn's old Santa Claus, Mitzi has returned to rule the roost; Patrick is about to be released from prison; Kevin has a successful new business and is finally ready to tie the knot with Isabelle; and best of all, there's hopeful news about Bart, who has been captured by enemy forces in Afghanistan. 

That doesn't mean there aren't a few dark clouds on the horizon. Kelley has recently survived a health scare; Jennifer can't quite shake her addiction to the drugs she used as a crutch while Patrick was in jail; and Ava still can't decide between the two lovers that she's been juggling with limited success. However, if there's one holiday that brings the Quinn family together to give thanks for the good times, it's Christmas. And this year promises to be a celebration unlike any other as the Quinns prepare to host Kevin and Isabelle's wedding at the inn. But as the special day approaches, a historic once-in-a-century blizzard bears down on Nantucket, threatening to keep the Quinns away from the place--and the people--they love most. Before the snow clears, the Quinns will have to survive enough upheavals to send anyone running for the spiked eggnog, in this touching novel that proves that when the holidays roll around, you can always go home again. 

The Quinns are back!!

This time the book begins way before Christmas. 

Jennifer is steel dealing with her pill addiction. 
Ava is dating both Nathaniel and Scott (hard to have a favorite. Neither is worth it). 
Kevin is getting prepared for his wedding to Isabelle (The plan is to get married during the Christmas Holiday). 
Margaret might be walking down the aisle herself. 
Kelley has a health issue (I was not prepared for this one. Plenty of tears were shed). 
Mitzi is back with Kelley. 
Patrick is getting out of prison after doing his time for inside trading. 
Lastly, Bart might be alive and coming home for good.

So many sad and wonderful things are happing to the Quinns and I didn't want to miss any of it.  There's plenty of drama to go around for this family. There were so many lingering questions from the prior two books and it was nice to get some closure (Although, one more book is out there).

I'm thankful for these books and for Mrs. Hilderbrand sharing these characters with us.  I love the Winter series. Their drama, their hope, their happiness only made the season even more wonderful for me. 

Cliffhanger: No

5/5 Fangs

Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand

Title: Winter Stroll 
Series: Winter #2
Author: Elin Hilderbrand
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company 
Release date: October 13, 2015

"Happy Holidays 2015! It has been a rough year for the Quinns, but I would like to start by saying thank you for all of the well wishes and positive missives sent our way." 

Another Christmas on Nantucket finds Winter Street Inn owner Kelley Quinn reflecting on the past year as he writes a holiday letter to friends and family. Though the year has had its share of misfortune and worry, the Quinns have much to celebrate. Kelley, now single, at least is on better terms with his first wife Margaret, who is using her celebrity to lure customers to the inn in record numbers. Their son Kevin has a beautiful new baby, Genevieve, with the Inn's French housekeeper, Isabelle; and their daughter, Ava, is finally dating a nice guy--her devoted colleague, Scott. 

Now the Quinns are looking forward to celebrating Genevieve's baptism, welcoming Isabelle to the family, and enjoying the cheer of Nantucket's traditional Christmas Stroll. But just when a peaceful family gathering seems within reach, Kelley's estranged second wife, Mitzi, shows up on the island after souring on her relationship with the inn's former Santa Claus. Soon Kelley isn't the only Quinn entertaining a surprise guest from Christmases past as lovers old and new gather beneath the mistletoe. With jealousy, passion, and eggnog consumption at an all-time high, it's going to take a whole lot more than a Christmas miracle to get the Quinns--and the inn--through the holidays intact. 

It has been a year in the life of the Quinn family. Another December in Nantucket is here.

So what's new with the characters?

Kelley's missing Mitzi. He has not divorced her and when she calls to beg to attend the baptism of Kevin's new daughter, Genevieve, he can't say no to her. It seems things between Mitzi and George, the yearly Santa Claus, are not going well. George might even start dating someone else!

Margaret is still dating the pediatric surgeon, Drake. She's very happy with him. She's also quite involved with the Inn and with her children lives too. 

Kevin and Isabelle are preparing for the baptism when Kevin's ex-wife Nora makes her presence known. She's back to create trouble for the Quinn's family.

Ava is dating Scott and she couldn't be happier. Then, Scott invites another teacher to the Winter Stroll and when she gets hurt, Scott feels responsible and takes care of her, leaving Ava behind. This leaves room for Nathaniel to make a pass at her. Nathaniel is back on the island with the sole purpose of recovering Ava as his girlfriend.

Bart is still missing in Afghanistan but all his family is thinking of him.

Jennifer, Patrick's wife has become addicted to pain meds and Ativan. She's trying to figure out a way to get more pills for herself. She thinks she will stop using when Patrick is out of prison.

A lot has happened in the last year and many more things happened in this novel. All exciting and interesting to me since now I'm invested with these broken characters. The audio was fantastic and I would love to do a Winter Stroll myself during December in Nantucket.

One of the things I love the most is how they were thinking about Bart and how the light in his room was always on. 

I'm surprised I have come around to liking Mitzi. I was so happy with the way she felt at the end of The Winter Inn but after finishing Winter Stroll, I understand her better and I'm rooting for Kelley and her to fix things between them.

Ava's love life is a mess. I'm leaning towards Scott but who knows. 

Kevin had a moronic moment but thanks to George, not everything was lost to him. 

Cliffhanger: Yes

4/5 Fangs

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand

Title: Winter Street 
Author: Elin Hilderbrand
Series: Winter #1
Publisher: October 14th 2014 by Little, Brown and Company
Release date: October 14, 2014

In bestseller Elin Hilderbrand's first Christmas novel, a family gathers on Nantucket for a holiday filled with surprises.

Kelley Quinn is the owner of Nantucket's Winter Street Inn and the proud father of four, all of them grown and living in varying states of disarray. Patrick, the eldest, is a hedge fund manager with a guilty conscience. Kevin, a bartender, is secretly sleeping with a French housekeeper named Isabelle. Ava, a school teacher, is finally dating the perfect guy but can't get him to commit. And Bart, the youngest and only child of Kelley's second marriage to Mitzi, has recently shocked everyone by joining the Marines.

As Christmas approaches, Kelley is looking forward to getting the family together for some quality time at the inn. But when he walks in on Mitzi kissing Santa Claus (or the guy who's playing Santa at the inn's annual party), utter chaos descends. With the three older children each reeling in their own dramas and Bart unreachable in Afghanistan, it might be up to Kelley's ex-wife, nightly news anchor Margaret Quinn, to save Christmas at the Winter Street Inn.

Before the mulled cider is gone, the delightfully dysfunctional Quinn family will survive a love triangle, an unplanned pregnancy, a federal crime, a small house fire, many shots of whiskey, and endless rounds of Christmas caroling, in this heart-warming novel about coming home for the holidays.

Winter Street sets the bait for the Winter series. I enjoyed the audio and as soon as I was done with it, I  was purchasing the next book, Winter Stroll. I'm so happy all the books are out so I don't have to wait anytime in between discovering what will be the future of these characters.

Winter Street centers around The Quinn family. Kelley Quinn is the father. He owns a B&B with his current wife Mitzi. He's worried about the financial future of the Winter Street Inn but this concern takes second stage when he finds his wife in a room with George, the Santa Claus who performs during the yearly Christmas party at the Inn. Before she leaves, Mitzi confesses that her affair with George has been ongoing for twelve years every single Christmas holiday. 

Margaret Quinn is Kelley's ex-wife but she's also the most famous women on TV. She's part of America as she delivers the daily news. She's currently seeing a pediatric surgeon and is spending Christmas with him in Hawaii instead of Nantucket until she learns something that pulls her back to her ex-husband's home.

Patrick is the eldest son and Kelley and Margaret's favorite too. He's a broker and supposedly a great businessman except he let his greed take hold of him and now he's being investigated for inside trading. Patrick is married to Jennifer and they have three children.

Ava is the only daughter. She's a music teacher whose love life is a mess. She's in love with Nathaniel but he's not as serious with their relationship as Ava wishes it to be. She wants more from him. Ava does have Scott in her life. She knows he's in love with her but she doesn't think about him that way but maybe she should.

Kevin is living at the Inn. He's ex-wife Nora did a number on him. He lost trust in women but secretly he has been dating Isabelle, a French woman who works at the Inn too. He's going to be a father and he better get with the program before he loses his chance at happiness.

Last but not least is Bart. The youngest son of Kelley and the only kid by Mitzi. He was a loose cannon until he joined the Marines and now he has been deployed to Afghanistan. No one knows where he is at but they all hope he's safe.

Winter Street is full of drama. There are so many things happening all at once to this family that it should be impossible to believe it. Yet, I found myself being entertained by their angst, sorrow,  persistence, and happiness. 

I liked all the family members especially Margaret. She changed her plans to help her kids and ex-husband.

Winter Street ends up in a cliffhanger. I'm happy I didn't have to suffer through it for too long.

Cliffhanger: Yes

4/5 Fangs

Friday, November 23, 2018

Here's to Us by Elin Hilderbrand

Title: Here's to Us 
Author: Elin Hilderbrand 
Publisher:   Little, Brown and Company
Release date:  June 14, 2016

An emotional, heartwarming story from New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand about a grieving family that finds solace where they least expect it.

Celebrity chef Deacon Thorpe has always been a force of nature with an insatiable appetite for life. But after that appetite contributes to Deacon's shocking death in his favorite place on earth, a ramshackle Nantucket summer cottage, his (messy, complicated) family is reeling. Now Deacon's three wives, his children, and his best friend gather on the island he loved to say farewell. The three very different women have long been bitter rivals, each wanting to claim the primary place in Deacon's life and his heart. But as they slowly let go of the resentments they've held onto for years and remember the good times, secrets are revealed, confidences are shared, and improbable bonds are formed as this unlikely family says goodbye to the man who brought them all together, for better or worse--and the women he loved find new ways to love again. 

"A teaspoon of crack cocaine."

Everyone cheats seem to be the moral of this story. Although, we also have grief, anger, pettiness, forgiveness, and closure. 

Here's to Us is the story of three women who have all loved one manDeacon Thorpe has died at the age of 53. He was a famous chef celebrity who was a great father but a terrible husband. 

Let's talk about his three wives and their children:

Wife #1: Laurel. Laurel was his first wife. She meet Deacon when they were in high school. She fell for him and his loneliness. She thought she could make him happy and for a while they were happy. They have one son together, Hayes. Hayes is currently hooked on heroin but no one knows it.

Wife #2: Belinda Rowe. Belinda is a famous Hollywood actress. One look at Deacon and she wants him. She's a lonely person too and she can recognize it in him as well. After getting married, Belinda tried to get pregnant to no avail. They share one adopted daughter, Angie. Angie's currently dating a married man. She was also the child who spent more time with Deacon since she's also a chef and she worked at Deacon's restaurant.

Wife #3: Scarlett Oliver. Scarlett was a fresh debutante from the south when she met Deacon. Scarlett was Angie's nanny (yes, a horrible cliche) and she wanted Deacon while he was married to Belinda. They shared a daughter, Ellery Thorpe who's still a kid.

Now that Deacon is dead, his best friend, Buck will meet all the wives at the home that at some point they all shared with Deacon, American Paradise on Hoicks Hollow Road in Nantucket Island. As you can imagine, the wives don't get along and all three under the same roof can mean nothing but trouble. To make matters worse, Deacon was in trouble financially and in a few days, they will lose the house that meant so much to him - and surprisingly to them too.

The death of Deacon forces the women to spend time together. They will try to stay civil with each other. However, old resentments are brought back to life and secrets always find a way to surface in the worst possible way. 

My favorite character was Laurel. She was the nicest wife. She had always loved Deacon. She had been there when he needed someone by his side. Belinda had a lot of issues. She was an unhappy woman but she cared for her adoptive daughter Angie although she had a terrible way of showing it. I couldn't warm up to Scarlett. She was self-centered, deceitful and superfluous. 

Now to the things that bothered me.

I thought Laurel had more sense than to settle for Buck. Just because she was getting older, didn't mean that she needed to be with Buck. What Buck let Belinda do was not a small thing. I for one didn't agree with Laurel letting him get away with it, no matter that he could wear a pink shirt with whales on his shorts.

Like father like daughter. Angie spent her time complaining about her mother, Belinda, and her shortcomings but she wasn't any better. She was currently sleeping with Joel, a married man.

Don't get me started on Hayes. He loved his heroine and spent all his time high as a kite. He was present in body only. 

Here's to Us is an emotional story that made an impact. Despite having issues with some of the characters as a whole, I really enjoyed this story. I love how Elin finished this book. I thought it was a great way to end it.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

Stone Cold by David Baldacci

Title: Stone Cold 
Series: Camel Club #3
Author: David Baldacci 
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

The #1 bestselling author of The Collectors and Simple Genius returns with STONE unforgetable novel of revenge, conspiracy, and murder that brings a band of unlikely heroes face-to-face with their greatest threat.

Oliver Stone, the leader of the mysterious group that calls itself the Camel Club, is both feared and respected by those who've crossed his path. Keeping a vigilant watch over our leaders in Washington D.C., the Camel Club has won over some allies, but it has also earned formidable enemies-including those in power who will do anything to prevent Stone and his friends from uncovering the hidden, secret work of the government.

Annabelle Conroy, an honorary member of the Camel Club, is also the greatest con artist of her generation. She has swindled forty million dollars from casino king Jerry Bagger, the man who murdered her mother. Now he's hot on her trail with only one goal in mind: Annabelle's death. But as Stone and the Camel Club circle the wagons to protect Annabelle, a new opponent, who makes Bagger's menace pale by comparison, suddenly arises.

One by one, men from Stone's shadowy past are turning up dead. Behind this slaughter stands one man: Harry Finn. To almost all who know him, Finn is a doting father and loving husband who uses his skills behind the scenes to keep our nation safe. But the other face of Harry Finn is that of an unstoppable killer who inevitably sets his lethal bull's-eye on Oliver Stone. And with Finn, Stone may well have met his match.

As Annabelle and the Camel Club fight for their lives, the twists and turns whipsaw, leading to a finale that is as explosive as it is shattering. And when buried secrets are at last violently resurrected, the members of the Camel Club left standing will be changed forever.

With unrelenting pacing, stunning reversals, and two of the most compelling characters in modern fiction, STONE COLD is David Baldacci writing at his breathtaking best.

Stone Cold kept me on my toes. I had no idea what was going to happen next!

As with The Collectors two parallel storylines are being described. 

The first one involves Annabelle Conroy. Annabelle is the con artist who robbed Jerry Bagger of forty million dollars from his casino as a revenge for killing her mother decades ago (book 2). She hates Jerry and she wishes she had done more damage to him but she also wants to stay alive. 

Not long after, Annabelle learns that her cover has been blown and Jerry is coming for her. It's up to the Camel Club to help Annabelle survive. Annabelle will also get help from two other people, one her estranged father, Patty Conroy who she has not seen in years. The second person is Alex Ford, the secret service agent who was part of the first book.  

The second storyline involves Oliver Stone who is really an ex-military killing machine. His real name is John Carr. He's ex-CIA and he has proven to be able to outsmart Carter Gray before. Having done this is the reason why his life is in danger now. Carter Gray and Roger Simpson would like nothing better than to have John Carr dead - for real this time. 

Harry Finn is an ex-SEAL. He's a doting husband and father but he's also someone who's helping his mother seek revenge for the death of his father. One by one, the CIA agents who were involved in his murder must pay with their lives. Oliver Stone was one of them. 

A multitude of things happened in Stone Cold. I felt sad for Oliver, he has lost everything except for his friends from the Camel Club. Gray was a great adversary. An evil man with his own personal agenda. 

I also felt sorry for Harry. He had no choice but to follow his mother's commands. He was raised by her with only one purpose in life. Yet, he was worried about his family and he was hoping to keep his two lives separate.

I like the connection I saw between Annabelle and Alex Ford. They make a great couple.

With the way Stone Cold ended, I had no choice but to listen to the first two chapters of the next book, Divine Justice.

Cliffhanger: Yes

4/5 Fangs

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