Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Monthly Reads: January 2011

First monthly reads post of the year!! Woohoo! February kind of crept up on me. I mean, I was expecting it.... but it still took me by surprise. I'm so behind in my reviews, mainly because I took too much time wrapping up my posts for 2010 ^_^; As a result, there are many books in this post that I was planning to write full reviews, but had to take the executive decision not to. Luckily, for most of them, there are plenty of reviews in blogland :P Hopefully, that way, I'll catch up a little and won't run in the same problem next month :)


1) Wedding of the Season by Laura Lee Guhrke: B
 Upcoming Review.


2) How to Marry a Duke by Vicky Dreiling: D

Tristan, the Duke of Shelbourne, is looking for a wife and after meeting Miss Tessa Mansfield who is known as a matchmaker, decides to hire her service. Tessa is a bit miffed about the way Tristan wants to select a wife and therefore, puts together an elaborate plan in which Tristan will be courting 24 young ladies...

From the reviews, How to Marry a Duke sounded like a historical version of The Bachelor. Thinking back, I don't know why I was so interested since I've never been a fan of the tv series. Probably thought it sounded fun ^_^;... and it could have been, but instead How to Marry a Duke turned out to be an okay book. The biggest problem with this book was that Tristan hired Tessa to find himself a wife, while being attracted to her. Imagine the tv series where in the end, The Bachelor chooses the hostess ^_^; Awkward. The hero falling with the matchmaker probably would have worked better if Tessa hadn't lined up 24 young ladies and kept pushing them at Tristan. That really hindered the romance :( Then, there was also the whole plot about why Tessa didn't want to marry ever. I think that the book could have used a comedic or fluffy element. As it was, I just wasn't engaged and simply wished to be done with the book. The fact that I don't remember much of the book also speaks of my enjoyment of it :(


3) Marry Me by Jo Goodman: B+

Dr Cole Monroe finds himself practicing medicine in Reidsville, a small town in Colorado, thanks to his 16 years old sister, Whitley's meddlings. During one of his medical visits on the outskirt of Reidsville, Cole and Will Beatty stumbled over Rhyne Abbott who is clearly sick. Fearing for Rhyne's safety and recovery, Cole welcomes her into his home... and falls under her charms. However, will he be able to convince Rhyne to marry him as their pasts and upbringings don't matter?

I've read a few books by Ms Goodman; however, didn't enjoy them very much because I was blind-sided by the dark direction some of the story threads took. As a result, I hesitated a long time before picking up this book, but then, caved under the good reviews LOL. Yeah, I'm weak, I know. However, this time, I was ready for it and ended up really enjoying this book :) What stood out the most for me were the characters and I think Ms Goodman did a great job with them :) I loved Rhyne because she was so unusual, so different. Her strength and will were admirable and her upbringing definitively made her unique. I thought the confusion at times and how she's slipped into her Runt persona were realistic. I also liked Cole a lot - kind of a beta hero who show his alpha sides from time to time :) His patience and dedication, his love for Whitley... this is a doctor I would like to have. The romance was perfectly, exactly the way it should have happened :)

Secondary characters were interesting and the setting, nice. It's a small town that is building up, with all the colorful characters and dynamics needed. This is the kind of Western I like to read when I pick one up :) I'm definitively going to go back and read Never Love a Lawman and pick up any other book of this series - really hoping that Whitley will have her own :) Also, one of my favorite part of the book was Cole and his research. I thought it was very interesting and LOL, reached me :P It was also interesting to see Cole treating patients and practicing medicine; how it was done in those times with the limited equipment and knowledge.

By the way, I'd like to add how I'm amazed that the "darker" side of the storyline hasn't been spoiled in blogland. I was really surprised, but at the same time, I really enjoyed the twist :)


4) Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel CohnDavid Levithan: D+

Nick is recovering from a broken heart when he sees his ex coming towards him from across the club. Panicked, he asks the girl next to him if she'd agree to be his girlfriend for 5 minutes. What Nick doesn't know is that Norah and Tris, the ex, are frenemies, and that Norah already "knows" Nick. What ensues is a night out in New York full of confusion, realization and joy.

I read and really enjoyed Dash & Lily's Book of Dares back in December and wanted to read more books by these two authors. It's then that I found out that they were the authors of Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist... So I went on a quest: got the DVD, watched the movie and then read the book :) So perhaps my enjoyment of the book was marred a little bit by the movie ^_^;

Overall, I thought Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist - the book - was okay, hence the grade. What I liked about the book is that we got to know Nick and Norah much better as their characters were better developed and fleshed out. There is much more layers and depths to the book while the movie is more a comedy, something to pass time. I also liked the fact that Tris, the ex-girlfriend, was more complex - her friendship with Norah, the reasons why she broke up with Nick, etc. She was more real and escaped the bad ex-girlfriend stereotype and that was good.

What brings down the whole book for me is that it left me confused. It's hard to follow the thought process of a young adult, let alone two!!! It also bothered me greatly that the two would just not communicate in full sentences, that they'd guess - and guess wrong - what the other was feeling or thinking. That really frustrated me... Finally, I just thought this book would be funnier and instead, it was quite serious and almost dark in tone ^_^;


5) Time After Time by Kay Hooper: C+

Noah Thorne is a photographer who just both himself a building as a second income. He plans to rent out the renovated lofts/condos while taking care and managing the building. His first renter is Alex Bennet, a pixie, vibrant woman who is also the decorator Noah hired. Don't let appearance tricks you however as Alex has a colorful past having been a lion tamer in a circus. Noah and Alex are inexorably attracted to each other, but Alex has a big secret and is thus reluctant to start a relationship... and it doesn't help that both are haunted by the same dreams...

This is an old category romance by Ms Hooper which was recently re-printed. Ms Hooper has a definite style that you enjoy or not. In order to enjoy, I think you have to like the mystic, but also be reading to suspend disbelief a little. As with most Ms Hooper's books, I liked this one. I enjoyed the relationship between Noah and Alex, how it started and progressed and the clear affection between them. What's more, I loved the fact that Noah supported Alex with her secret. Speaking of the secret, at first, I thought it was stretching it a bit too much ^_^; Then, I remembered Christian the Lion and I realized that it was indeed possible :P

As for the mystical element, in Time After Time, Ms Hooper tackles reincarnation. I like the twist she put in, but I think it could have been a bigger part of the book. Overall, I enjoyed this book for the characters, relationship and animals (so cute!), but I think that it was a bit draggy in the middle and everything could have come together better. Still, I liked it :)


6) Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg: B
Upcoming review.


7) In Serena's Web by Kay Hooper: C+
Upcoming review.


8) How to Woo a Reluctant Lady by Sabrina Jeffries: C+

As a ploy to extract herself from her grandmother's ultimatum (all siblings have to marry or they'll all be disinherited) Lady Minerva Sharpe has put an announcement in a ladies magazine convoking all eligible men for interviews. Unfortunately for Minerva, Giles Masters has no intention to let her interview any other man than himself. Years ago, Giles broke Minerva's heart... but he knows that Minerva still cares for him; otherwise, why else would he be the villain in her gothic novels. Having re-kindled their attraction, Giles wants to marry Minerva. On the other hand, Minerva is not about to lose her heart to Giles again, but agrees to a fake engagement, believing that her grandmother and brothers will never approve of him and thus, tweak her grandmother's plan. Who will have the upper hand?

I had high hopes for this book and was really looking forward to it because I liked the blurb, although I was a bit wary about the whole "agent" thing. In the end, I liked How to Woo a Reluctant Lady, but not as much as I hoped. The pitfall of Ms Jeffries' newest is that there were too many things going on, in my opinion. It was clear that Ms Jeffries was laying the ground for the last two books of the series, giving readers insight of who will be the love interests and the obstacles in the romance. However, put that aside and even between Minerva and Giles, there was too much. I didn't like that Giles used the excuses that he wanted Minerva to stop writing about him in fear that she would reveal his secrets to pursue Minerva. It was annoying and I thought he hid himself behind that facade for too long. I also thought that the whole story about a figure in Giles' past threatening his career and prospect was superfluous, especially given the way it was resolved. I guess I wished that the book focused more on Minerva and Giles and I thought the rest, detracted from them. I just want to get into the romance and I never really had the chance to. However, I did like the twist concerning the murder of the Sharpes' parents, it made it more suspenseful and I'm looking forward to see how it is resolved and who is the real culprit.

Overall, How to Woo a Reluctant Lady was an enjoyable book, but could have been better. It is especially disappointing as I liked the characters. Minerva was a smart, independent woman. She knew what she wanted and was going for it. I felt for Giles who was so misunderstood - of course, part of it was due to his job. Still, it's hard to have people judging you who really doesn't know you :(  As a result, I especially liked the scene where we got to see Giles at work. Despite everything, I'm still going to pick up the next book :P I'm really curious about Gabriel now... so the baiting did indeed work LOL.


9) You Belong to Me by Karen Rose: A-
Upcoming Review.


10) Wild Man Creek by Robyn Carr: B++


11) Scandal of the Year by Laura Lee Guhrke: B+
Upcoming Review.


12) The Perfect Mistress by Victoria Alexander: C-


13) Animal Magnetism by Jill Shalvis: C

Brady Miller, ex-military, is a successful pilot-for-hire who spent the past couple of years flying in hot zones. Shuffled in the foster system when he was a kid, Brady doesn't stay in one place for long. His only ties are to his two foster brothers, Dell and Adam, who have finally convinced him to come back to Sunshine, Idaho. There, he meets Lilah Young, the co-owner of the town's only kennel. Juggling animals and studies, Lilah is feeling lonely and is looking for a short-term relationship. Knowing that Brady will not settle, he seems to be the perfect solution for a no-string attached fling...

This book had everything to be a successful contemporary romance and yet... it wasn't for me. What was my problem? The same as Jaclyn from Dear Author, the heroine. Lilah felt too "young" in my opinion. I don't think her age was ever mentioned in the book, but from what I gathered, I'd put her at around 23 to 25 years old... There's nothing wrong with a young heroine, but in this case, I don't think it fit the storyline or at least the hero. I think I know what Ms Shalvis was going for with the heroine, but she missed the mark. With her responsibilities and what she's been through in the past, I think Lilah should have attained a certain level of maturity... Instead, it just seemed like she was over-stretched - running the kennel and studying at night, often falling asleep in her books, perpetually running to catch up with things. The vibes that she gave off screamed "young" and I just didn't see what Brady found so attractive (except the physical), that made him want more and change his whole way. If at least, there's been some growth in Lilah's character, perhaps it would have been better, leveled things out a little, but there wasn't. At the end, Lilah is still the same person, the one who gets too attached and who's scared to try and live her life again. It also didn't help that I saw a lot of similarities between the characters of Animal Magnetism and Wild Man Creek by Robyn Carr: heroes are pilots and not staying long - check and heroines grew up poor and raised by their (great-)grandmother who took all sorts of work to make ends meet - check. However, I must preferred the characters and romance of Wild Man Creek.

Ultimately, Lilah's character failed to engage me... but also it felt like both the H/H were going through the motion of the romance. There was no extra feelings for me :( As, Brady's character... he was hard to figure out. He was a little too stoic and reserved in his feelings, words and thoughts. Also, I would have liked to see a bit more camaraderie between Brady, Dell and Adam. Oh, Dell tried and to a certain extent, Adam as well... but I don't feel like Brady did at all. They are the link in this series... and it's a weak link ^_^;

Still, the book had its moments. For me, I think the best were between Brady and Twinkles, LOL. I loved seeing Brady growing attached to that dog, it was just so sweet and cute. I'm also intrigued by the set-up for the next books: Dell and Jade, Adam and Holly. I'm starting to wonder if I'm trying too hard to love Ms Shalvis?


Books bought: +21
Books read: -13
TBR pile: +8

So 13 books read this month... I'll take it :) Given how chaotic life has been lately and the fact that I don't have that much time to read, I'm happy :) I hope though February will be better and that my TBR pile will show a negative number. Crossing my fingers LOL.

This is so sad... I so want this post to go up tonight that some books that I was planning to write full reviews and then changed my mind to write a mini-review have been switched back to full reviews LOL. Seriously, I need to learn how to keep it short!

13 comments:

  1. Great month, Nath!

    That's too bad you didn't enjoy the Shalvis more. Are you still going to keep reading her?

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  2. I really love the cover for How to Marry a Duke, but I don't think I'm going to be in any hurry to read it. I saw an episode of The Bachelor for the first time ever this week, and it was a very WTF experience. I don't think reading it in book form would make it any better. Thanks for the review of it!

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  3. Ames - Thanks Ames! :)

    Hmmm, I think I'm going to continue, because there aren't many contemporary romances out there... but I may just buy them in ebooks! Yeah! I should start a list of authors that I can buy in ebooks!

    D.L. - It is a great cover :) Glad the review could help. LOL, I don't think it is exactly like The Bachelor, but the concept is... where you have one guy with many women and there are gradually getting eliminated.

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  4. Looking forward to your review of the Rose book. By the time it's released in the US, I should be caught up. *fingers crossed*

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  5. I am so glad someone else out there didn't like How to Marry a Duke, I only got through the first chapter and decided it wasn't for me.

    But no how can you not love Nick and Norah it's one of my all time fav books, I think I've read it about 5 times now.

    Sally.

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  6. Leslie - I hope so, Leslie!! Did you read Count to Ten yet? When you do, you have to let me know!!

    Sally - You're good, being able to put down a book so fast! I ended up skimming through it ^_^;

    As for Nick & Norah, I don't know if it's because I saw the movie before and it affected me...

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  7. I'm in the middle of the new Rose book. Loving it. So glad you did, too!

    But I'm sad that you still aren't loving the Shalvis books. And I'm also sad about the latest Jeffries. Both those are on my list, but all book related things got dropped the second the Rose book arrived.

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  8. Bummer about Nick & Norah I LOVED it! I still can't wait to read Dash & Lily. I'm listening to Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan and I'm not sure how I feel about it. some of the things you said about N&N are the same issues I"m having with WG,WG!

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  9. I was 'Meh' about Nick & Norah when I read it a while ago, too. Loved Dash & Lily, though. I've got Naomi & Ely in the wings.. LOL!

    Mollie, I'll have to keep my eye out for your thoughts on WG, WG. I'm doing an unofficial, informal glomming of David Levithan this year.

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  10. Woot, the Rose got an A-. Glad you enjoyed it and of course I can't wait to hear your thoughts on it!

    I started the Shalvis but stopped to read the Carr book. Lol. I might get back to it but...have to bring myself to do so. lol

    You bought lots of books but you also read a good number. And I see more B's this time. And yay the Rose is the only A grading. :D

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  11. Lori - I'm so glad you're enjoying it :) I thought it was a great book :)

    You're less picky than me, Lori, so I'm sure you're going to enjoy them more :P I really don't know why I'm not enjoying Jill Shalvis more and it really bothers me :(

    Mollie - I know you loved it and I really wanted it to... but it didn't happen. Don't know if it's the movie which ruined it for me ^_^; Looking forward to your thoughts on WG, WG.

    Christine - Phew, I'm not the only one!! You know what? I think a reason why Dash & Lily's worked so well is because for most of the book, they are separated. Naomi & Ely might work better because they know each other... but throw two strangers together for one night only and you get something effy a bit ^_^;

    Tabitha - Wooohooo, I'm so glad you enjoyed Wild Man Creek, Tabs!! I'm really glad :)

    I'm curious to see what you'll think of the Shalvis :P

    Review for You Belong to Me should be coming soon :)

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  12. I DID miss your review of Marry Me! Yay, you really liked it! I loved the characters in this book and the way Goodman developed the story. I enjoyed this book a bit more than Never Love a Lawman in some ways, and less in others, but I think both of them were good reads. I'm so glad you liked this western, Nath. :)

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  13. Hilcia - LOL, seems like it :) It was a really good book I think :) See, even if the heroine wasn't social, she didn't begrudge the hero. They had good chemistry together. That's what I feel was missing between Wyatt and Rachel.

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