Monday, April 04, 2011

Monthly Reads: March 2011

Yay! I'm done with my Monthly Reads post and we're just a few days into April :P Go me! LOL, I think it helped I only read 12 books this month. It really felt like a so-so month for me, I didn't have any momentum/rhythm at all. I think I was half-way through the month and had only read 5 books... so it seems that I managed to "save" the month, but still. It was just so busy, first with the presentation and then, the BPPV. Sigh. Lots of good books are coming out in the next few weeks, so I hope that helps my reading mojo :)

Review-wise, I'm still not completely satisfied with the numbers of reviews; however, I am getting my groove back :) I've managed to review most of the books I read in February that I planned to review, so I'm pretty happy. Now, onto books for March!! I think that by the end of this month, there won't be such a delay between the reads and the reviews :P

Now, what did I read this month? Let's find out!

1)Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins: D+
published by Hyperion in March 2010

The heroine of Hex Hall is Sophie Mercer, a 15 years old witch who inherited her powers from her absentee father - her mother left him when she discovered he was a warlock. After yet another incident that reveals her powers to humans, Sophie is sent to Hecate Hall - a school for supernatural "delinquents" which Sophie will attend till her 18th birthday. Being the new kid at school is hard enough, but this is also the first time that Sophie spends time with her peers - shifters, fairies, witches... and the deck is stacked against her. First, Sophie's roommate is the school's sole vampire who's been suspected of killing another student, then she keeps getting pestered by the other three witches to join their coven... and oh, she discovers that her father is head of the Council and he's the one responsible for exiling all students and teachers to the school. Yeah, let say that doesn't make her the most popular kid...

I really had high expectations for Hex Hall based on the blurb and the good reviews. Unfortunately for me, the  book didn't measure up to them. My main issue with Hex Hall is that as a heroine, I don't feel like Sophie had anything that made her stand out or that she was very likable. Oh, she wasn't disagreeable or anything, just not someone I warmed up to. There were also some facts regarding her situations that really bothered me such as Sophie never having met her father or knowing that he was the head of the Council. It wasn't her fault, it was her mom's, but I think it was really stupid on her part. Yes, she did her best to help Sophie by studying anything paranormal, but there's nothing better than experience and exposure and I think that Sophie would have been so much prepared if she's been able to meet her father.

Otherwise, the world building wasn't that engrossing and the kids at Hex Hall - ugh, just spoiled and stupid!! It really bothered me when they whined that they didn't deserve to be at Hex Hall - all she did was fly to catch the bus! It's hard to like characters that are so immature and don't take responsibility for their action. The only character that was okay was Jenna, Sophie's roommate, and Cal, the ground keeper and healer.

Finally, I don't think there was much to the book story-wise. The first half was Sophie learning about herself and the other beings, adapting to school and her little run-ins with the three other witches. Then there was her crush on Archer, which really didn't do much for me. Probably the only redemption in the end was the mystery which led to quite a big revelation about Sophie... All in all, Hex Hall really didn't impress me and I won't be picking up the sequel.

2) Blackout by Rob Thurman: A-
Upcoming Buddy Review with Leslie.

3) River Marked by Patricia Briggs: B+
Upcoming Review.

4) Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John: B/B+
Upcoming Buddy Review with Li.

5) Beau Crusoe by Carla Kelly: C
Upcoming Buddy Review with Ames.

6) Eighth Grade Bites by Heather Brewer: C
published by Penguin Young Reader in March 2008

Vladimir Todd is a vampire, born from a vampire father and human mother. Three years ago, his parents died mysteriously in a fire and now, Vlad is living with his mother's best friend, Nelly, who is a nurse and brings him back blood from the blood bank. At 13 years old, Vlad has to deal with being a teenager at school, but also with his awakening powers. Things get complicated when one of Vlad's favorite teacher disappears and is replaced by someone that seems to know way too much about supernatural beings... and when another vampire shows up in town looking specifically for Vlad.

I've been quite curious about The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series because the books have been prominently displayed in my bookstores in the past year, but I've never really come across it on blogland. So when the YA books were on sale, I decided to give it a chance. I also liked the idea of a male being the protagonist. Overall, I thought that Eighth Grade Bites was pretty okay. Hmmm, it introduces Vladimir, a young vampire that is still getting over his parents' deaths, whose powers seem to be getting stronger and who has to deal with everyday's life as a teenager. Vlad was a nice protagonist and I didn't mind reading from his POV. I really enjoyed his relationship with Nelly and his best friend, Henry. I think that really made the book for me, because it felt so real. I mean, despite being a vampire, Vlad was also an everyday boy who enjoyed hanging out with his best friend and eating junk food :)  I also liked Mr Otis, Vlad's new teacher.

Unfortunately, the book wasn't perfect. First, I thought it was a big too short, probably because of the young audience Eighth Grade Bites aims for. It made for a really awkward pacing in my opinion, because 3/4 of the book was used to set up Vladimir's world and life, the ground work for the rest of the series... and then, in the last 1/4 of the book, Ms Brewer dealt with the book's storyline, the action and mystery. Blink and you're going to miss it ^_^; So that aspect was weak... and I also thought Ms Brewer was trying too hard at misleading the readers, trying to infuse mystery into the book. It felt a bit forced or perhaps again, it's because the book is aimed at younger readers.

So not a bad book, but not one that made me rush to devour the next installment.

7) Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles: B
Upcoming Review.

8) Texas Glory by Lorraine Heath: B
Upcoming Review.

9) Almost Home by Mariah Stewart: C
published by Bantam Books in March 2011

Steffie Wyler has known at an early age what she wanted in life: 1) make ice cream, 2) Wade MacGregor and 3) live happy ever after. She's achieved her first goal, being the proud and successful owner of One Scoop or Two and is working on the other two. Few months ago, she almost went to bed with Wade, but he had to leave abruptly. Now, he's back in town, stopping on his way to his new job, with a baby in tow and Steffie doesn't know what to think. It seems like she should be moving on; only problem is that Wade has always been the one.

Few months ago, Wade had it all - he was in business with his best friend, Robin Kennedy, brewing beer - a work that he enjoyed immensely. Then, Robin's boyfriend embezzled the business, Robin died from cancer and left him with her precious little boy. Instead of selling KenneMac to someone else, Wade preferred to close down shop and found a job in another brewery. Before heading for the new job, Wade decided to stop in St. Dennis to spend time with his family and introducing his son. As usual, sparks between him and Steffie fly, but Wade knows that Steffie's life belongs in St. Dennis...

Sorry for the synopsis, not the best... but at the same time, I'm not sure how else I could describe this book. I actually thought Almost Home was a romantic suspense, given that's what the previous books I read by Ms Stewart were... but instead, it was more contemporary/small town romance, so it took me a little by surprise.

Almost Home was quite a quick read, mostly because not much is happening. Actually, a lot of little things are happening, but in the grand scheme, in the general sense of a storyline - yep, not much is happening. The book pretty much focuses on Steffie and Wade's romance and what made Wade closed down his business. I feel like there was a lot of superfluous aspects in this book such as the Ouija thing and the witch magic to fill up the pages ^_^; I think Almost Home would have been more interesting if the romance has been more intense. It just took a while for Steffie and Wade to decide what they wanted and to go after each other. I mean, in the beginning, Steffie was angry at Wade because he shows up with the baby and that means he might have been married or with someone else when he and her almost got together... and that's really understandable. Then, you had Wade that thought he should avoid having a relationship with Steffie, but just couldn't keep away from her. When she finally comes around, well it's his turn to brush her off, because her life belongs in St. Dennis and so it's best not to start anything... and yada, yada, yada. The worst is that in the end, everything - everything - was resolved so easily, even the "intrigue" aspect of the book... so it really felt like a lot of elements were just unnecessary, there just to make this book longer, sigh.

It's quite unfortunate, because Steffie and Wade were likable characters. They're nice, they're loyal, they're decent and every day persons who have to make a living. They have great families and friends surrounding them and healthy relationships with others. I also liked that Steffie and Wade valued each other, that Wade told Steffie the truth about his son. I liked when Steffie told Wade that she was big enough to decide on her own and it wasn't his choice to make. I think they were quite compatible and mature... However, their romance was missing some excitement, some flirting, some witty banter. It's the way they interact with each other, as if they didn't have chemistry :( Instead of focusing on the relationship and interactions between the H/H, it feels like Ms Stewart was trying too hard to infuse drama and conflicts and it just felt forced.

Almost Home was not a bad book, but it did miss the mark for me where the romance is concerned :( I did enjoy some aspect of it, but I doubt I'm going to re-read it and I don't think I'll be picking up the first two books ^_^;

10) Texas Splendor by Lorraine Heath: B
Upcoming Review.

11) Juggling Briefcase & Baby by Jessica Hart: C+
published by Harlequin in October 2010

Lex Gibson is a very driven man, having spent most of his life trying to please his father. Now as CEO of the family business, Lex is about to close a deal with a Scottish grocery chain - something his father has tried all his life and never succeeded. To say this deal is crucial is an understatement and Lex will let nothing ruin this deal - surely not the re-appearance of Romy and her baby girl... baby?!?

Lex and Romy have known each other since they were kids, their mothers being each other's godmother. When Romy was 18 years old, she spent a passionate week in Paris with Lex who proposed to her. However, being too young and afraid of commitment, Romy refused and has spent the last few years in tropical locations for various jobs. Now a single mother, Romy has returned to London for stability and has a part-time job in Lex company to build up her CV. Lex has been scrupulously avoiding her, but when an emergency comes up and Romy is the only one who can accompany Lex and secure the deal, he has no choice to spend time with her...

I bought this book because Wendy, our Super Librarian, really enjoyed it :) Howmever, I'm starting to think that my reading tastes quite differ from hers, which is actually not such a big surprise LOL. In all Ms Hart's books, I've really enjoyed the British settings and the writing. I think it's the romance and the characters that just don't do it for me ^_^;

In Juggling Baby & Briefcase, I really didn't mind the secret baby plot, because it was executed quite differently. Basically, Romy had a brief affair, wounded up pregnant and returned to London. She never told the father, because he got back with his ex-girlfriend, now fiancée; however, as Freya is growing, Romy figures her daughter should get to know her father. So basically, the secret baby plot had nothing to do with Lex and that's what I found interesting. I also applauded Ms Hart for taking this direction with the storyline, as it is pretty unusual in my opinion. Instead, the part I found cliché is Lex and Romy having to fake a relationship in order to close the deal... although it did force Lex to spend time with Romy.

I thought Lex was quite an interesting character. I would like to say that I liked him, but it's not really possible, because he was not very likable ^_^; He was too hard-edged and uncompromising in my opinion. I did like the way that Ms Hart developed him, I understood what shaped him and what pushed him to be the man he is. It's quite unfair that he had to spend his whole life trying to prove himself to his father, gain acceptance, while it was so easy for his brother... Being first-born is really a hard job in certain circumstances and really unfair :( Likewise, I think that Ms Hart also did a good job developing Romy's character. Unfortunately, I found her harder to like, which is quite a surprise because I usually love free-spirit characters and from the blurb, that's what Romy seemed to be. My biggest issue was Romy wanting Lex to do the first step - acknowledged her in the company or at Lex' brother's wedding - for them to re-connect, when she's the one who turned him down. She wanted to know that he still cared, that she still meant something to him... and I thought it was quite selfish of her. It was also selfish of her not to want Freya to develop any attachment to father figures. I mean, yes, Romy was hurt when her father left her mother for another woman... and I understand that Romy was trying to protect Freya... and I shouldn't say anything because I've never been in that position, but really...

I enjoyed Lex scenes with Freya and actually wished for more. I think Ms Hart did a great job at portraying the child and how babies behave. As for Lex and Romy, I actually want a little more development. It just felt flat for me, these two who supposedly never got over each other. They just didn't seem to be able to trust each other and I think that's sad in a relationship :(

Overall, I liked the book, but was far from loving it. I guess because there was a baby, I was expecting something a bit cuter. Instead, Juggling Baby & Briefcase was more a fast and brisk read.

12) Sugar Creek by Toni Blake: C
Upcoming Review.

Books bought: +23
Books read: -12
TBR pile: +9

12 books read, not too bad :) There were a few books that stood out, but overall, it was not really an exceptional month. What I'm most proud of is how eclectic the month was, I think I really mixed it up well, and two books came from my TBR pile!! Can you imagine? LOL. However, a lot of new books made it to the TBR pile ^_^; Ah well, can't win it all, right? :)

So far, April has had a good start and I hope it continues on that trend! :)


  1. *grins*
    Nice books
    I've only read a couple of them - Hex Hall and Texas Glory - but loved them. I look forward to your reviews of the other ones :D

  2. I'm lazy and not going back to check previous recaps - but I'm assuming you've read the third book in the Texas trilogy - Texas Destiny? And B grades?!? You're killing me over here Nathie :)

    Something about Jessica Hart's writing just sucks me in. I was less enamored with the secret baby stuff in that book - but do agree with you that the author did take that popular trope and spin it in an interesting way. And I love "we have to fake a relationship because of whatever" that probably explains quite a bit right there.

  3. Hi nath!
    I hope you're feeling better with the BPPV. *hugs* ^_^

    That's too bad about Hex Hall.
    But I'm glad to see River marked got a B+ from you! I'm on the holds list at the library. Hopefully I'm up soon.

    I have Five Flavors of Dumb on my radar... can't wait to read that buddy review!

    I'll take the B on the Simone Elkeles! Haven't read it yet, but we have it on our YA shelf here at home.

    NINE books off the TBR! Woot!
    Hope April is a good reading month for you! xo

  4. Alex - I hope to get to the reviews soon :) Lots of ppl loved Hex Hall... I don't know, it just didn't do it for me :(

    Texas Glory's review should be up this week :)

    Wendy - LOL, actually no ^_^; I bought Texas Glory at a charity book sale and just went ahead to read it... then, I enjoyed it so much I wanted to read Texas Splendor... but to tell you the truth, I don't feel like reading Texas Destiny ^_^;

    And hey, B grade is really good considering it's me and it's western! LOL. When I write the reviews, it might go up to B+ :P

    Nod nod, I know what you mean about an author's writing sucking you in. Unfortunately, I'm not one of them, sigh. I usually really like the "faking relationship" trope, but this time, just didn't do it for me either :(

    Christine - Thanks Christine! Hopefully you get River Marked soon!! I'm pretty sure you're going to like it :)

    Buddy review for Five Flavors of Dumb should go up in a couple of weeks LOL ^_^;

    Did your daughter read Rules of Attraction yet?

    and LOL, christine... I'm adding 9 books to the TBR pile, not off ^_^;

  5. PLUS nine to the TBR. Oops!! LOL

    See what happens when you try to speed read your feeds in a vain attempt to catch up with your blogging buddies?

    So far both my daughter and I have only read Perfect Chemistry, but we have the others. She's hasn't been doing any recreational reading during the school year. She played a sport both in the fall and winter and spends a lot of her free time with photography these days. And her boyfriend... :/

  6. Oh, ouch. A D+. But lots of Bs. So it seems like a pretty good month.

    I'm glad it seems like you are feeling better and have the BPPV.

  7. Two westerns in one month! We've got you now Nath. Roped you in, now all we have to do is get a cowboy hat on you. LOL

    Awe, didn't care for Sugar Creek? I don't remember if you liked the first book, One Reckless Summer? The 3rd book is my favorite so far.

    Considering all you had going on, I think 12's a respectable number. :)

  8. You didn't do badly at all for a month that began slow for you, Nath. Lots of B's and C's in there.. :) I look forward to your reviews. AND, +9 in your TBR? O_o

  9. Christine - LOL, yes I see :)

    Ah, a high schooler life. LOL, she doesn't need to read contemp YA, she's living it! :)

    Lori - Yeah :( It really just didn't do it for me, so I'm wondering what the buzz is all about, sigh.

    Yep, BPPV is getting better each day, so I'm glad. Sometimes though, when it starts spinning, I'm afraid of a relapse, sigh.

    Leslie - LOL, I'll take the cowboy hat, just not the boots LOL.

    Nah, didn't care much for Sugar Creek. What bothered me was the family letting Edna take care of the orchard :( ah well. I haven't read book #1, but I have it in my TBR pile. Same problem, just can't bring myself to read it ^_^;

    Yeah, 12 was pretty good. I was surprised at the end :)

    Hilcia - Yeah, +9. However, since I'm going to hold off for some books in the next few months, it should be okay :)

    Yeah, lots of B and Cs. I'm happy, I feel like I'm being more objective this year :)

  10. bummer you didn't like Hex Hall I've heard such great things about it!!!

    Looking forward to your review of Rules of Attraction. I was pretty disappointed in that one overall.

    Looks like you had a good month!

  11. Christine - LOL.

    Mollie - Yeah, I know about Hex Hall! I really try hard :( Perhaps too hard :(

    Hmmmm, I was more attracted to the storyline of Rules of Attraction than Perfect Chemistry. So I do think I enjoyed it more than you.

    Overall, yeah, it was a good-ish month :)