Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand

I was happy to read the second installment of the Winter Street series. This is one crazy family. This review does contain spoilers because it is hard to review it without them. First the book description:

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.

Do not read on if you do not want spoilers!

Overall the story seemed mostly like a game of switching partners. This was my biggest criticism of the book. It’s like Elin just decided to disassemble the new couples that formed in Winter Street and put them all back together again.

The exception is Ava who is going back and forth between  Nathaniel and Scott. She basically cheats on Scott because she’s jealous of him helping out another woman who was injured. This was beyond ridiculous and immature. Ava seems to be so insecure as a woman that it’s sickening.

The main reason I read this series is to find out if soldier Bart will be found and returned home. Of course he will but Elin is torturing us until the end. This book does give more information about what happened. I like the story of Bart being held as POW but it makes the book series rather depressing to read at Christmastime.

I also want to know if Jennifer will sober up or if her pill addiction will escalate. Again, I liked this storyline but it’s not something that I want to read in a Christmas book.

I hate having to wait a whole year to find out how this series ends. The last book won’t come out until later this year. This series is truly a soap opera but this second installment was more tightly written then the first. I was leaning towards four stars but settled on three because of the tired musical romantic relationships.

See Me by Nicholas Sparks

I heard that Nicholas Sparks’s new novel was a thriller. So when I saw this in the 7-day express section of my library I snatched it up. It kept me hooked until the end.

First the book description:

Colin Hancock is giving his second chance his best shot. With a history of violence and bad decisions behind him and the threat of prison dogging his every step, he’s determined to walk a straight line. To Colin, that means applying himself single-mindedly toward his teaching degree and avoiding everything that proved destructive in his earlier life. Reminding himself daily of his hard-earned lessons, the last thing he is looking for is a serious relationship.

Maria Sanchez, the hardworking daughter of Mexican immigrants, is the picture of conventional success. With a degree from Duke Law School and a job at a prestigious firm in Wilmington, she is a dark-haired beauty with a seemingly flawless professional track record. And yet Maria has a traumatic history of her own, one that compelled her to return to her hometown and left her questioning so much of what she once believed.

A chance encounter on a rain-swept road will alter the course of both Colin and Maria’s lives, challenging deeply held assumptions about each other and ultimately, themselves. As love unexpectedly takes hold between them, they dare to envision what a future together could possibly look like . . . until menacing reminders of events in Maria’s past begin to surface.

As a series of threatening incidents wreaks chaos in Maria’s life, Maria and Colin will be tested in increasingly terrifying ways. Will demons from their past destroy the tenuous relationship they’ve begun to build, or will their love protect them, even in the darkest hour?

Rich in emotion and fueled with suspense, SEE ME reminds us that love is sometimes forged in the crises that threaten to shatter us . . . and that those who see us for who we truly are may not always be the ones easiest to recognize. 

Geez, I don’t think that description was long enough.

I always worry a bit when an established author tries a new genre but Sparks did a great job here. Some of his fans aren’t too happy. If you are one who hates thrillers or crime dramas I can understand why you didn’t like this book. (Although it does seem he touched on the thriller genre in The Guardian as well where a stalker also kills a dog. Yes a dog gets killed in this book too.)

While it was a solid effort at a thriller it wasn’t perfect. The first 200 pages reads like a contemporary romance then suddenly switches to a thriller. Sparks doesn’t mesh the two styles together well.

Also there wasn’t enough build up of suspense. The scene where Maria’s home is trashed would have been better before the stalker confronts her not after. The story would have been better if Sparks had put small but subtle tension in the first 200 pages. Like Maria feeling she’s being watched or noticing her stuff moved around.

It was hard for me to believe Maria was in her thirties much less a lawyer. She seemed so immature to me in her speech and mannerisms. It kind of irritated me that she was so passive. Both Colin and her best friend seemed to always have to fight her battles for her. It was impossible for me to imagine her being tough enough to be an assistant DA.

However, I really liked Colin despite his horrible habit of saying okay to everything. I love underdog stories and a bad boy, bodybuilding, tattooed fighter is exactly my type. I especially liked how he turned his faults into strengths and it’s what helps him be the hero. Although I think he should change his major from teacher to criminal law because he showed he’d be an excellent detective.

The twist at the end of the book really pulled the whole story together. The mystery of who was stalking Maria kept me reading to the very end. My rating is .