Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Monthly Reads: February 2011

As always, it's a mad rush to get this post up :) LOL, pressure is especially on after seeing so many month recaps :) But I did it, yay!! Then again, I'm still playing catch up with my reviews and as a result, only managed to review one book read in February ^_^; Hopefully, my reviewing muse will not take a vacation and I can do better in March :)

I'm actually toying with the idea of doing Weekly Recaps... That way, it would lift a big weight off at the end of the month and I wouldn't be throwing so much at you in one post. However, I'm not sure I'd be able to stick to the schedule ^_^; What do you think? What would you prefer?

1) Absolutely, Positively by Heather Webber: B+

2) Archangel's Consort by Nalini Singh: B
  Upcoming Buddy Review with Tabitha.

3) Blood Stains by Sharon Sala: C+
 Upcoming Review.

4) Secondhand Spirits by Juliet Blackwell: D+

Lily Ivory is a witch of considerable power who has just settled down in San Francisco, opening a vintage clothes boutique in the Haight area. She spent the last few years roaming the world, but got tired of it and wanted some roots. During a visit to the elderly Mrs Potts to acquire vintage clothing, a little girl is snatched away by a demon called La Llorna. Lily has always been careful not to get involved in other people's business, keeping her gifts to herself... but for the first time, Lily feels like involving herself, especially if she can rescue that little girl. However, Lily's life is about to get very busy while she deals with the neighborhood male witch in charge, her new familiar - a gargoyle who can transform into a guinea pig, and a reporter who is out to bust out all things paranormal...

I've been wanting to read a little bit more mystery - never hurt to add some new series on your radar - and chose this book because it featured a witch. I like witches and sorcerers in books, perhaps because they are very similar to humans? However, I was a little bit disappointed with Secondhand Spirits. As the first book of the series, I was expecting more world building, more introduction to the main character... and I didn't get that. Instead, I had so many questions at the end - what is the extent of Lily's power, how does her powers work, how come there is such a big community of witches in San Francisco, etc. I feel Ms Blackwell didn't lay the ground work properly and that's quite unfortunate as the mystery was quite interesting. Since I didn't have a feel for lily, I wasn't invested in the storyline and that's why Secondhand Spirits was only okay for me.

5) The Countess by Lynsay Sands: B

Christiana Madison married Richard Fairgrave aka Dicky, the Earl of Radnor, in order to access her dowry and pay off her father's gambling debts. She thought herself in love with Dicky; however, as soon as their vows were pronounced, the considerate man turned into an horrible and abusive husband. She has had very limited contact with her family and friends, until her two younger sisters show up at her doorstep. Their father has once again gambled a fortune and it's Suzette's turn to try and save the family. Suzette has concocted a plan - marry a poor man who will let her keep half her dowry; however, she needs Christiana's help for her entree to the balls and soirees. Unfortunately, before Christiana can argue her case to Dicky, he dies... which wouldn't be such a bad thing; only, for Suzette's plan to work, the ladies cannot go into mourning! And thus, they have to conceal Dicky's death.

Things get even more complicated when hours later, Dicky shows up at the ball! What the ladies are about to discover is that Dicky was not the Earl... instead, he was the Earl's twin and orchestrated for his brother to be murdered... After months spent in America, the real Richard has finally made his way home and can't wait to confront his brother. To his greatest surprise however, his brother is dead and he is now saddled with a wife... What is a man to do in such situation?

I got The Countess because it got some good reviews in blogland and I'm happy I did. As a whole, Christiana was an okay heroine. I think she was a bit too hesitant, a bit too subdued... especially in comparison to her sisters. I feel Christiana was totally overshadowed by Suzette, because as soon as I met Suzette, I wanted to read her book. Richard was also an okay hero... He has all the good characteristics for being a great hero, but I think the problem is that the story is moving so fast, that readers hardly get to know the characters. The romance? Same thing. I'm not sure I can believe that Christiana and Richard fell in love so fast... I can understand the practicality of staying together, being attracted to each other, but love? Still all the flaws of this book are forgotten because of the absurd situation and the cast of characters :) I had a few LOL moments, especially when they tried to move the body LOL. Also, I think the storyline ties everything well together. Overall, this book was just pure pleasure :) It's actually the kind of story I could see being adapted into a movie... Try to imagine different parties trying to get rid of a dead body and keep being interrupted! Absurd, but fun :)

6) Unveiled by Courtney Milan: B-

A few months ago, Lady Anna Margaret Dalrymple had it all: beauty, breeding and fortune. However, all was lost when it was revealed that her father, the Duke of Parford, had an early marriage that was never annulled. His second marriage to Lady Margaret's mother was considered as bigamy and thus voided,  making Margaret and her two brothers were declared illegitimate. While her older brother Richard is campaigning to reclaim their positions in society, Margaret is nursing her ailing father and has also been tasked to spy on the new heir, Ash Turner.

Ash is a distant cousin of the Duke of Parford and has waited years to seek revenge over the Dalrymple family. He will never forget the duke for turning him around when he was in need of money, leading to his sister's death. He will never forgive how the Dalrymple brothers have bullied his two younger brothers when they were in school. A rich man, Ash wants to prove to the world that he'll make a better duke and has come to Parford Manor to learn about his future inheritance.

As soon as he arrives, Ash is attracted to the duke's nurse. What will happen though when he'll find out that she is not just a nurse, but the duke's daughter?

What I liked about this book was the premise. I thought it was very interesting and different, not the hero seeking revenge, but the duke's marriage being voided and his children suddenly becoming bastards. In those time, I think if there was something worst than poverty it was illegitimacy ^_^; However, it is also because of the premise that the romance didn't work that well for me. In short, I'm not sure it's believable that Margaret could have overcome her grudges and fall in love with Ash. Think about all the ramifications of suddenly becoming a bastard - losing her dowry, losing her status, losing her fiance, etc. Oh, Ms Milan did a great job at developing Ash's character so Margaret could get to know him better, see him in another light, understanding why he did what he did. She also did well penning Margaret's conflict to the reader... Still, I'm wasn't convinced by their love. I think another part of the problem was that from the beginning, Ash was attracted to Margaret, kind of like a soulmate bond - he saw her and immediately warned his brother off. I usually have no problem with love at first sight, but with this... I feel like the woman Ash got to know was not the true Margaret. Also, the big secret about Ash was superfluous in my opinion, like an olive branch for Margaret to admire and love him even more.

Aside from the romance, the rest of the book was excellent. I liked Ash's love, devotion and pride for his younger brothers - that was very touching :) I like Mark, Ash's younger brother who is writing a thesis on chastity! LOL. Oh and when he taught Margaret and the maids move to protect themselves. Even the antagonism between Richard, Margaret's brother, and the Turner's brothers was interesting. You really get why Ash did what he did... and personally, I was happy that Ash was able to seek his revenge without dirtying his hands. I mean, he did nothing wrong at all. If someone is to blame, it is the Duke of Parford who never got his first marriage annulled... not that he cared about anyone. All Ash did was expose the truth. Finally, I really how the whole thing was resolved :) It was very clever and in the end, right :)

7) Harvest Moon by Robyn Carr: C
 Upcoming Review.

8) Everyone Loves a Hero by Marie Force: D+

After safely landing a plane in a blizzard after his captain's heart attack, Cole Langston made the news and was proclaimed a hero. Being a hero had its pros and cons - having women flung at him, but also keeping him grounded for PR instead of flying, his passion. Then on the day he is cleared to fly again, Cole gets punched in the face when trying to save Olivia from a violent customers. Olivia. Olivia is a gifted artist who is studying business and working part-time at the airport to pay her tuition. She is drawn to Cole and cannot believe it when he reciprocates her feelings... and that's how their long-distance relationship starts...

This is my first sampling of  Ms Force's writing, although I do have her first two books in my TBR pile. I was looking for a contemporary romance and hoped that this would hit the mark. Unfortunately, it was just a so-so read. I like the general idea of Everyone Loves a Hero as in two people meeting at the airport and then, starting a long-distance relationship. However, it's the details and characters that lessened my enjoyment. Once again, I wasn't convinced that Cole was so smitten by Olivia. I didn't get what it was in Olivia that captured Cole's heart and made him abandoned his playboy ways. We're talking about a hero who has a woman in practically every city he flies to ^_^; Her beauty? Her femininity? Sure, there is something chaste in Olivia, but would that be it? Personally, I didn't think Olivia stood out much. It's not just that she was timid, but she lacked self-confidence and direction. Even as a reader, I found her a bit bland and therefore, cannot understand Cole's reaction.

I had a few more issues with the story overall. The most baffling thing was about Olivia's studies... She's studying business because she wants to make money, which I totally understand based on Olivia's background and her mother's way. However, one word from Cole and she suddenly believes in her talent and switch major from business to arts? Just like that? I didn't buy it. I also didn't like Olivia's behavior towards her mother. Granted, it was kind of deserved, but as a daughter to speak that way to your mother... The problem is that I think something should have been done much sooner about Olivia's mother and her problems. I did her father though, he really cared about his daughter. However, I don't understand why he didn't switch job earlier though or at least, interview ^_^; And oh, there was also the pregnancy scare and the desire to try for a kid. I don't know, in their romance, I thought it was premature. I guess that as a whole, I thought there was a lot going on in Everyone Loves a Hero and some of the stuff was superfluous - such as the secondary romance (if you can call it that). The writing style didn't help either ^_^; Don't get me wrong, I think Ms Force writes well, but her style seems to be a bit on the passive side, suiting slow-paced story. In Everyone Loves a Hero though, I think the book could have used a bit more dynamism, be a bit more fast-paced to keep the readers engaged.

I really wanted to enjoy this book, but unfortunately, too many elements didn't work out for me and that's why it was a so-so book :(

9) Queen of Shadows by Dianne Sylvan: C

Miranda Grey is losing it. A few months ago, she was on the fast-track to stardom, using her music and emotions to reach out to the people... Now, her abilities seem to have taken the better of her and now, she has no control over them. She cannot even look into people's eyes without being overwhelmed by their own feelings. While she still performs, Miranda is only a shell of what she used to be and has taken up to alcohol to numb herself. She knows it's just a matter of time before she breaks; however, she doesn't know what to do... and when tragedy strikes, Miranda is not sure it matters anymore.

Luckily for Miranda, she is taken in by David Solomon, a vampire... She is taken back to the Haven where David helps her heal physically as well as mentally, in addition to teaching her how to shield her mind and control her abilities. However, David is not any vampire, but the Prime of the South. He came into power about 15 years ago after killing the previous Prime and instituted a no human kill law. Whoever breaks the law is punishable by death and will be hunted by the Elite.Many vampires were unhappy about this law and  bid their time to stage a coup... and it seems the time has come. Despite his budding feelings for Miranda, David must send her away for her own safety. Will they survive to meet again?

I heard a lot of good things about this book around blogland and decided to give it a try after I made sure there were no fairies :P Overall, I liked Queen of Shadows, but it didn't blow me away. I think it's mainly due to the slow beginning. It really took a while before the exciting stuff started, which is for me, the whole conspiracy against David. I thought that part would be more prominent in the storyline. Instead, the beginning focused a lot of Miranda and what happened to her, which is not bad per se, but didn't engage me very much. Especially given what happened to Miranda :(

Once Miranda was more self-assured, I started enjoying her interactions with David a bit more, especially when the two got together. As a heroine, Miranda was okay. She went through some tough times, but came out on top which shows her strength. Still, I didn't get the feeling that we knew her well, so it'll be interesting to find out more about her. As for David, I really like the aura he gave off in and can totally imagine him in his black trench coat :) I love the fact that he loves ice cream - so cute and adds a touch of normalcy. I really enjoyed David's interactions with his entourage - Faith, his first in command and Deven, David's mentor. It's good to see that there are characters keeping David grounded. All in all, I think Ms Sylvan did a good job with the world building and the characters introduction, giving us just enough details for us to be satisfied and not have questions :) Everyone in this book seems to have an interesting past/background that will be interesting to explore and discover.

One thing that bothered me however is the fact that David has sex with other women during the book which comes with the feeding. I know this is not a romance, so I should overlook it, especially when he was not with Miranda yet, but still it grated the romance reader in me. Sorry, can't help it ^_^;

So yes, slow start, but once the story picked up, i.e. the second part of the book, then my enjoyment of Queen of Shadows increased :) I really enjoyed the conspiracy against David, those are my types of stories. There were some nice twists in the storyline, especially regarding Miranda at the end. I also did enjoy the relationship between David and Miranda. As a result, I will most probably pick up the next book, Shadowflame. Might not rush out to buy it, but will continue reading :)

10) The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen: B+
 Upcoming Review.

11) The Perfect Scandal by Delilah Marvelle: C-

The Countess Zosia Urszula Kwiatkowska finds herself in Britain to find a husband or else, she'll be sent to a convent in France. An advocate for the Kingdom of Poland who's being overtaken by Russia, Zosia has chosen Tristan Adam Hargrove, the 4th Marquis of Moreland. The Marquis has the necessary funds, influences and titles to help her cause... all she needs is an introduction. Unfortunately for her, Tristan is a stickler for propriety which means his life very structured, predictable... and boring. A Roman Catholic would never fit in his life and let not forget his agoraphobic, but controlling grandmother would never accept. Still, he can't help feeling attracted to her. In addition, Tristan is much more than what can be seen on the surface. His routine life, normalcy and propriety are all just a front, hiding a wounded soul... Can Zosia accept him? And then, there's also the issues of Zosia's real identity... an identity that even she isn't aware of and why she's been sent to England in the first place.

This is my first novel by Ms Marvelle. I've been meaning to try her books out after meeting her at RT. Not only is she an awesome lady, but her historical romances all have interesting, unusual premises. In The Perfect Scandal, what is unusual is that our hero is a cutter. While he has not cut himself in a number of years, he cannot go anywhere without his razor case. I thought it made Tristan very unusual and then add in the Countess Zosia Urszula Kwiatkowska from Poland and you get something very unique :)

Unfortunately, the setting was not enough to make me love this book and I had a couple of issues with The Perfect Scandal. There was a lot of psychology in this book, especially when it came to Tristan... I think it was a bit too much and I didn't grasp everything ^_^; Then, there was the romance. I liked Tristan and Zosia's first encounter, I thought it was cute... However, after that, I don't know, I never felt a real connection between the two. They met, Zosia tells Tristan to calls on her. He doesn't and tries his best to avoid her, but then finally caves. After a few encounters, Tristan was ready to give up everything and run away to America to live happily ever after with Zosia? I find that quite hard to believe. I felt the romance was rushed and so, hard to buy it :( Then you add in the period of separation between Tristan and Zosia and yeah, the romance just didn't work for me.

This was going to be an okay book till Zosia's identity was revealed. That was quite the surprise and very interesting. Once again, it's the kind of stuff that I enjoy reading, conspiracy, secrets, etc. It was even better by the fact that Zosia was absolutely not aware of it :) I do think Tristan took the right decision, letting her know... even if it changed her whole life and view on life. This really saved the book for me :)

In the end, I feel there was a lack of balance in The Perfect Scandal between the characters development, the romance and the storyline. As a result, the book felt quite chunky, as if it was made of many parts. The storyline was quite interesting and I enjoyed the way everything was tied up together. Unfortunately, the romance and characters did not live up to the storyline and premises and failed to engage me :( By the way, I did find it cute that for once, it was the hero who was writing a book about propriety :) That was very cute, but unfortunately, superfluous ^_^;

12) Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder: B
 Upcoming Review.

13) How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper: C-
Upcoming Review.

14) Treachery in Death by J.D. Robb: C/C+
 Upcoming Buddy Review with Leslie

15) What I Did for a Duke by Julie Anne Long: C+

A widower approaching 40 years old, Alexander Moncrieffe, Duke of Falconbridge, decides to take a bribe and chose Lady Abigail. Moncrieffe is attracted to her and believes that with time, he'll come to love her... that is till he finds Ian Eversea naked in her bed. Unfortunately for Eversea, Moncrieffe has no intention to let this affront go and has devised the perfect revenge: seduce Ian's sister, Genevieve, who is the only Eversea whom scandal has not touched, and abandoned her. However, Moncrieffe never imagined Genevieve to be clever enough to figure him out... Unfortunately for him, Genevieve is just not interested to play games with him, as she just had her heart broken... But perhaps, Moncrieffe could mend it?

I got What I did for a Duke because it got quite a few good reviews. After reading it, I can understand why so many bloggers enjoyed it, but unfortunately, it didn't work as well for me ^_^; What I did for a Duke opens up with Moncrieffe catching Ian in his fiancée's bed, quite the start. Especially when Moncrieffe says that they'll share LOL. It's unfortunate the story didn't continue on such a high note. I felt that the first half of the book when Moncrieffe embarked on his scheme to seduce Genevieve, the story was really draggy and nothing much happened. There were some exchanges between Moncrieffe and Genevieve, both measuring each other and testing each other, but it was not enough to keep me interesting. One of the biggest problem for me with this book was how Genevieve pined for Harry. Harry is the man whom Genevieve is in love with and wants to marry, her dearest friend... except he tells her that he wants to marry their other best friend, Lady Millicent. Obviously, Genevieve's heart is broken and she has not interested being courted by Moncrieffe while the light seems to have disappeared from her life. I don't know, it just felt a bit melodramatic. I sympathize with Genevieve getting her heart broken, but seeing her pining for Harry... I don't know, it just didn't sit well with me. I wanted her to spring into action, go after him, do something, be more pro-active about the situation. Genevieve is a clever and strong woman and the inaction just didn't seem to fit with her character :( Worst is that she clung to her love to Harry for such a long time, even while having sex with Moncrieffe...

Another thing that bothered me was Ian Eversea. Moncrieffe lets him know that he intends to seduce and abandon Genevieve, that this would be his revenge... As an older brother, knowing that there is someone out there who's planning to ruin your sister, I would expect Ian to be attached to Genevieve's hip!! To stay around her, even if it means taking a beating or death, to keep an eye on her and protect her. Is that what happens? No!! Ian's little efforts in protecting Genevieve really bothered me. What kind of man is he? Seriously, perhaps Moncrieffe should have just shot him.

The highlight of this book to me was Moncrieffe and Genevieve getting to know each other, figuring that there was much more to each other than what could be seen. I love that Genevieve was observant and clever, that she figured it all out - Ian's offense and Moncrieffe's plan. Loved that she didn't turn her back and run LOL. As for Moncrieffe, I think he enjoyed discovering Genevieve, getting to know the real her. I also liked that once Genevieve figured out the plan, he decided to let it go... only he was too attracted to Genevieve by that point. He was a hard man, but Genevieve really seemed to be able to reach him...

So there were parts that I enjoyed, but I guess I was expecting more. I know that it really took me a while to read this book, it just seemed to drag on and on and on in the first half and only picked up when Genevieve figured out the plan. I do wonder if I would have enjoyed What I Did for a Duke more if I would have read in one or two sittings... but I guess we'll never know.

16) A Lot Like Love by Julie James: B++
Upcoming Review.

Books bought: +13
Books read: -16
TBR pile: - 3

Woohoo, negative number!!! I have to say, I'm quite pleased with myself this month :) Might have been the shortest month of the year, but I was on quite a roll :) I even skimmed through Outside In by Maria V. Snyder and The Heiress by Lynsay Sands! However, I'm not counting them... We'll see if I can do a proper reading :)

Quality-wise, well it seems I got even tougher with the grades ^_^; But hey, blame it on Goodreads. Okay, okay, blame it on me too ^_^; Still, I'm trying to try different things out there :) At least, there were a few good books in the mix though and I can't wait to review them!! So this is it for February, hopefully, March will be as good :)


  1. Looks like a decent reading month. Too bad you didn't overly enjoy the newest In Death book...

  2. OMGosh. I think for the first time ever, I haven't read a single book in your list. Although many are on my TBR.

  3. I can't wait to see the review on Julie James.

  4. Wow you read a lot of books this month! I'm jealous!

    I can't wait to read Unveiled I LOVE Courtney Milan!

    Looking forward to your review of The Truth About Forever it's one of my favorite Dessen books!!! :)

    I'm interested in Delilah Marvelle's series, is that the first book in the series? I really enjoy out of the norm historicals. I definitely want to give this one at try. too bad it didn't quite work for you!

  5. I have to admit, I'm surprised by some of your grades. The Courtney Milan, Molly Harper & Julie Ann Long books have been getting a lot of praise. But I wonder how much of that is due to hype. Twitter is good at the hype. LOL

    Yeah for the negative number & the James - looking forward to reading it. :)

  6. Wow nath! Great month! Too bad some of those new authors you were trying didn't work out. And all the books that got good praise that you didn't like? I think it's the buzz that kills them for you. You're so contrary that way, I love it. :P As long as the books I like you enjoy, it's all good. Hahaha (Like Sarah Dessen, I'm glad you liked that one.)

  7. Kailana - A pretty good month indeed :) I guess we're so used about to a high standard for the In Death books that solid doesn't cut it anymore...

    Lori - Really? Well at least, you have them in your TBR pile. Is it because you're keeping them for your trip?

    Isabel - I think I'm going to review it this week :) Seems like many are looking forward to it :)

    Leslie - I know. I was really looking forward to these books because of the buzz and I don't know if it was simply me and my contrary mind ^_^; I guess I was just expecting something really wow, you know.

    Ames - Thanks Ames :) I think you're right, it's the buzz that killed them for me. At the same time, it's the buzz that made me picked them up, so you know... I guess good for the books, not good for me :P

    And I totally agree, as long as we still enjoy the same books so we can feed each other recs, it's fine :)