Monday, May 23, 2011

Monthly Reads: April 2011

Ahhh, it's almost the end of the month and I'm only now posting my monthly reads ^_^; I guess the old adage, better late than ever is right though :) One of the reasons I've been procrastinating about this post is that I did read a lot in April (yay!), but that also means a lot of reviews/mini-reviews to write up ^_^; I guess, I should really switch to weekly reads posts :P A plus though about procrastinating is that it gave me time to get some reviews written :)

By the way, for those who are curious, no new books for me this week. Haven't I been a good girl? However, I have to say, I'm bored out of my mind ^_^; I think publishers should review their releasing schedules...

Now, here are the books I've read in April :)


1) An Invitation to Seduction by Lorraine Heath: C+

I was in a Lorraine Heath binge in March and April. While looking for Texas Glory, I came across An Invitation to Seduction. It sounded like something I would enjoy, so I picked it up.

The heroine of An Invitation to Seduction is Kitty Robertson. Kitty was born of wedlock in Texas and then, adopted by a rich British couple, Madeline and David Robertson. Her whole life, Kitty has tried to forget her origins and emulate her adoptive mother, being a proper English lady with exquisite manners and bury her passionate nature. It is why she chose to marry the kind and fun-loving Marquess of Farthingham, while she likes Nicky, he doesn't ignite her passions and is therefore safe. Everything is going well, until she spies Richard Stanbury, the Duke of Weddington, swimming in the ocean naked. She knows that a sensible English lady would turn around and flee, but she is curious and can't help but admire his body.

After they share a passionate kiss, Kitty's life is turned upside down. Richard is determined to woo Kitty away from Nicky, despite the fact that they are best friends... because Richard knows that Nicky cannot make Kitty happy. As a result, Kitty finds herself torn between two men... one that is safe and another that makes her heart beat wildly...

I actually quite enjoyed An Invitation to Seduction. I thought the storyline was quite interesting and how the story progressed actually surprised me. I liked Richard's character... Ms Heath tried to make his character ambiguous given the fact he's trying to seduce his best friend's fiancée away, but through his actions and attitude, you can see he is in fact quite honorable. I also liked the secondary characters, especially Nicky. It was nice not to have a bad villain in the story and sometimes, things happen that are out of your control and nature and you can't change them.

All in all, An Invitation to Seduction should have been a really good book, unfortunately, I had two issues with it. First, I thought Kitty was a bit hard to love ^_^; I understand her reasoning, given the era and the way she was raised... At the same time, she drove me crazy by always denying Richard :( It was just so frustrating... and in many instances, I found her immature. The worst is when they make love the first time. Obviously, Richard didn't force her, she consented to it... but she blamed him and made him shoulder all the responsibilities and that really made me angry :( The other issue I had concerned the whole bit about how Richard's father died and how it affected the second half of the storyline. I didn't like that part too much, I thought it was a bit too much.

Overall, I liked the book, but there were definitively some issues.


2) Deadly Lies by Cynthia Eden: B-

I read Deadly Fear and while I enjoyed the writing, I wasn't too sure about the storylines of the two next books based on their blurb. Tabitha really enjoyed Deadly Lies and so I decided to give it a try.

Samantha Kennedy is a computer genius who was recruited by the FBI after she finished her PhD at MIT at the age of 21 to join the elite team SSD: Serial Services Division, a task force dedicated to catching the worst of the worst. In Deadly Fear, Samantha was abducted by a serial killer and almost lost her life through her biggest fear - drowning. To say it affected her is an understatement. However, Samantha is ready to forget the past and just work, unfortunately, she feels like everyone is waiting for her to break down... and despite her brave words, she is scared. The only moment where she feels safe and confident is in the arms of sexy and successful contractor, Max Ridgeway. What originally started out as a one-time deal has suddenly become more... and that's how Samantha finds herself smack in the middle of their current cases.

SSD is currently investigating a serial kidnapping case - very rich college students are disappearing from bars and then ransomed, if no money is delivered then they die...a painful death. The latest victim is Max' stepbrother, Quinlan. To say that the family is dysfunctional is an understatement; however, Max promised his mother that he would take care of Quinlan on her deathbed and it's a promise Max intends to keep... no matter what.

I was hesitant to pick up Deadly Lies because of the ordeal Samantha went through and thus, the repercussions on her life - the nightmares, the anxiety attacks, etc. All those make sense given what Sam went through, it's simply not my favorite thing to read and lately, I find it's a trope that's been a bit over-used in RS series. However, I was kind of curious about Max and Samantha's affair from reading the blurb, so when Tabs said she enjoyed it, that was enough for me :)

Overall, I thought the suspense in Deadly Lies was very well done. The case is complex, intense and with a lot of twists and turns. As a result, that part was a definite winner with me. What didn't work so well was the characters. Of course, this one is on me... See, when I read the blurb, I made a mental image of Max - what kind of guy he was. I was expecting someone charming and compassionate, but at the same time, tough, able to help Sam deals with her feelings. Max was definitively tough, but let's forget about the rest LOL. And I guess that's what Sam needed it... but to me, he was a bit too rough, too tough. Then again, I liked the way the author developed him and the fact that he was what he was. She didn't try to soften him around the edges and all. As for Sam, what she went through definitively defined who she is now and Ms Eden handled that part well... but it doesn't mean I liked it ^_^; As for the romance, very hot and intense as the two main characters definitively have chemistry :)

All in all, quite a good book and the grade would have been higher if I've liked the characters better :)


3) Resistance by L.M. Turner: B

Ryan is an artist who supports himself by being a bouncer at a strip club. He's also gay and is the king of one-night stand. Due to his past, Ryan doesn't do relationship... ever. Until that is, he meets Jayden. Somehow, Jayden has found the way to insinuate himself into Ryan's life, bed... and heart. However, Ryan is afraid and keeps pushing Jayden away... And when Jayden finally gets the message, Ryan realizes what a mistake it was.

Picked this book up because Ames gave it an A grade :) I thought Resistance was a very enjoyable novel - no villain in here, just a book about two guys that meet, fall in love and dance around their relationship. From the first, Jayden knows that Ryan is the one... but Ryan is just not the commit kind of guy. I really like this kind of story, I loved seeing how Jayden got under Ryan's skin :) It was great also that Jayden didn't let Ryan call all the shots, that he had limits and walk away. It was great to see the table turns and Ryan being the one who had to go after Jayden :)

Resistance also has some great secondary characters. I loved Ryan's roommate and their interactions, friendship. How they embraced Jayden into their folds. Also, it was very real as well, like her distancing herself of Ryan once she found a boyfriend. However, they never steal the show... this is Ryan and Jayden's story and that's where the focus it :) I ended up really enjoying Resistance, even though I didn't love it as much as Ames did :)


4) Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins: B
Upcoming review.


5) As An Earl Desires by Lorraine Heath: C-

I bought this book at a bookfair a few years ago and since I was binging on Ms Heath's books, I thought this was the perfect time to read As An Earl Desires.

Archibald Warner was a teacher in the country who recently gained the title of 7th Earl of Sachse. Helping him to adapt to his new world is his predecessor's widow, the Countess of Sachse. While Camilla helps Archibald navigate the ton, she also has a secret agenda - find herself a duke to marry. Camilla grew up in an orphanage and later became the previous Countess of Sachse's companion. When she died, the 6th Earl of Sachse married Camilla to beget an heir. Let just say the experience was not a fond memory; however, it taught Camilla a lot. Rank is power and with power, you can do a lot and change a lot.. and thus, the reason why she wants a duke. Poor Archibald ends up falling in love with Camilla... Can he change her mind?

As An Earl Desires turned out to be an okay book. The story was okay, the characters as well and so it made for a somewhat bland book, but in no way, bad. The hardest for me was to warm up to Camilla. At first, she comes across as very calculative, everything was about getting her duke to achieve more power :( Once we got to know her character better, her reasoning and her actions all made sense, unfortunately the damage was already done and I really had difficulty to like her. I didn't dislike her as much, but it's simply hard to warm up to such a character... First impressions are deadly!

I did really like Archibald though :) It's always interesting to see someone inheriting a title that he wasn't expecting and his adaptation to it. I really liked the fact that Archibald was still very down-to-earth, given his new situation. What I didn't understand however is why didn't he move his family in with him? Or at least, his younger brother and mother? Not that they really needed it... but it didn't really make sense to me.

As An Earl Desires really focused on the characters, especially Camilla. Thus, I find that there isn't much of a storyline to the book. What I mean is not a lot of things happened and I still can't decide if it's a good thing or not. I did like the progresses of the romance and Camilla coming to realize what was really important... Still, As An Earl Desires is really not Ms Heath's best book ^_^;


6) Blood Ties by Sharon Sala: C
Upcoming review.


7) The Last Goodbye by Sarah Mayberry: C

Ally Bishop is a journalist with a "Dear ..." column and a house-sitter. Thus, it gives her the freedom to move around Australia whenever she feels like it and that's how she likes it. Falling in love with Tyler Adamson threatens it all, because he is the settling type and has roots to a place - his business where he builds high-end furniture. However, Ally has only herself to blame as she is the one who brought Tyler into her life.

Tyler and his father have been estranged ever since Tyler was old enough to leave home and they have not seen each other since his mother passed away. However, when Ally who is his father's current neighbor hunts him down to let him know that his father is dying, Tyler cannot leave him alone... and this mean moving back home to take care of his father.

Ms Mayberry's popularity has really grown in the past few years in my opinion. She's proved herself a very talented category romance author and her books are well-loved by blogland. That is why I keep picking her books up :)

On a objective standpoint, Ms Mayberry has a very good book with The Last Goodbye. I really admire Ms Mayberry for not turning this story into a fairy tail, with a miracle reconciliation between Tyler and his father. I thought the whole storyline was very realistic and more poignant as a result. Tyler's father was quite complex... Through Tyler's memories, you can see that there were some good memories in the past, that his father was not always bad... but the reality is that he beat Tyler and his older brother and he was a tough man. At the same time, that was how he was raised and that's all he knew about raising kids. It's not excusing his actions, but it makes Tyler and the readers understand where he comes from. Also, Tyler's father has stomach cancer... there's no miraculous recovery for it and we all know how that's going to end... All in all, it was very sad :(  And I really applaud Ms Mayberry for the way she handled the storyline.

I also really liked the characters, Allie and Tyler. They were likable, mature and normal :P They were also well developed and fleshed and we really got a sense of who they were. Especially Tyler since the story focused mainly on him. Love, love their love for ice creams! LOL. If I ever go to Australia, I'm going to have to hunt down those places!! Once again, the Australia setting is a winner :P

The Last Goodbye sounds like a great book, so why a C grade? Well objectively, it is... However, it was missing the most important in my opinion - feelings. Ms Mayberry had such a poignant storyline, but she wasn't able to capture my feelings. Really, I thought I'd be crying buckets when Tyler's father died, but I didn't. Also, while you have two likable characters, I felt the chemistry between them was lacking. The romance didn't live up to the characters, perhaps because it was a bit too rushed. All in all, The Last Goodbye just didn't grab me, didn't engage me and I thought that was very unfortunate given all the good elements in it.


8) Torn Apart by Sharon Sala: C
Upcoming Review.


9) The Texan's Wager by Jodi Thomas: B

Bailee Moore and her two friends, Lacey and Sarah, were left behind by the train because people feared Lacey was a witch and Sarah's sickness was contagious. While trying to survive and find a town, they come across Zeb, a villain that intended to rob and rape them... However, Bailee and her two friends got the better of him. Unfortunately, that also means they've killed a man and were arrested by Cedar Point sheriff. As Zeb was not a good guy and given the lack of female in Cedar Point, the sheriff comes up with a scheme - he won't hang the three women if they agree to enter a "wife lottery." Bailee's lucky winner is Carter McKoy, a very, very quiet man... some even believes that he is dumb. However, as  Bailee comes to know him, she realizes how lucky she's been.

After reading Ms Heath's Texas trilogy, I thought why not read more western? And so I picked up The Texan's Wager since it's been in my TBR pile for a few years as well :P Another plus is that I really like Ms Thomas' writing.

The Texan's Wager was a very unbalanced read for me. What really made the book for me was Carter's character. When Carter was still a kid, he witnessed his parents' murders by raiders... that and the fact that his mother was actually deaf and communicated through sign language is the reason Carter himself is so quiet and rarely utters a word. His past was very touching, but it's to see how he survived that was really poignant. He was a great man and he deserved happiness. It was great seeing Bailee and Carter getting to know each other and fall in love. That part of the story was very sweet :)

What didn't work as well for me was the overall storyline. Oh, I had no problem with the whole "wife lottery" ploy - after all, it's not so different than mail-order-brides :) But it's the rest, whether Zeb was alive or not and to a certain extent, when Carter was called to the next town to help them out with a little deaf girl who was the sole survivor of a train raid. I actually loved the part where Carter and Bailee helped out the little girl, but I couldn't believe that the raiders would go to such an extent to eliminate a witness. That I found was a bit over the top.

Still, the good by far overweights the bad and I quite enjoyed the book. I'm actually trying to get my hands on Lacey's book. Think that one will be interesting :)


10) Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts: B


11) Dark Descendant by Jenna Black: B+


12) Tangled Threads by Jennifer Estep: B


13) Knock Me Off My Feet by Susan Donovan: D+

After her mother's death, Autumn Adams inherited her mother's job as being Homey Helen - Chicago's version of Martha Stewart. Problem? Audie is the complete opposite of her mother - she's a bit messy, a klutz and cannot cook at all. Still, Audie is giving it a try because she promised her mother who died in a home robbery. Another problem? She seems to have acquired a stalker and the messages are getting more and more threatening. Enters Detective Stacey Quinn who along with his partner has been mandated to protect Audie and solve the case. When Quinn meets Audie, he thinks he has it all figured out: she's sending herself the threats so she can quit the job... However, as it is not the case, everyone has become a suspect - from her estranged brother to all her ex-boyfriends, among whom is Quinn's nemesis.

Another book from my TBR pile! What can I say, that's what happens when I limit my book-buying... which I guess is not a bad thing at all :) I was in the mood for a contemporary romance and so picked this one up. Everything from Knock Me Off My Feet was okay, from the characters to the romance to the actual storyline. Nothing really engaged me and I didn't have the urge of finishing this book. I actually put it down to read Chasing Fire, Dark Descendant and Tangled Threads. I guess it does mean something that I've picked it up again to finish it... I felt the book was trying too hard too be funny, cutesy. The whole felt like a jumble of confusion ^_^;

The romance between Audie and Quinn was the best part of the book in my opinion. However, it was a bit too rushed for me and also, the lack of trust, that really frustrated me. There was also a lot of misconceptions and the characters were quick to assume things and again, really frustrating. The whole part with Quinn's nemesis felt really superfluous and really disliked the guy. Another good thing about the book was the villain and the motivations. I really didn't expect that and it was a nice twist.


14) The Summer of You by Kate Noble: B

Lady Jane Cummings is the daughter of the Duke of Rayne. She missed the past season because she was in mourning for her mother and had to take care of her father. Her father is suffering from what we now know as Alzheimer and it has worsened after her mother's death. While she had to shoulder all the responsibilities, her brother was off on his Continent tour... so as soon as Jane could return to London, she did, if only to forget a little bit. Unfortunately, Jason has returned and once he found out about how severe their father's illness truly is, he decided it'd be better to spirit the proud man and Jane to Merrymere Lake where they used to spent their summer... However, he didn't expect Jane would blackmail him to join them.

Merrymere Lake has been the target of many robberies and the inhabitants believe the highwayman is the newcomer, Byrne Worth, who's been an hermit, rude and disagreeable. Jane met Byrne in London and his brother has recently married her best friend. She knows that Byrne is not responsible for the robbery as he's a war hero and an elusive spy who went to Merrymere Lake to recover from his injuries...

There's something about Ms Noble's writing that I cannot pinpoint, but that makes her stand out as an historical writer. As a result, I really enjoy her books and The Summer of You was no exception.  I really liked that the book took place away from the Season and the ton and showed us Jane in a different light. I think that having to care for her father has really turned Jane into a mature woman. Oh, she wants the fun and frivolities of the Season and the ton, she's after all a young woman, but she has lost the naivety that sometimes makes heroines annoying. She has a much better sense of reality and life in my opinion. I also liked to see her shoulder the responsibilities of being the woman in the house, I thought that was very interesting and not as easy as it seems. I also really enjoyed the siblings relationship between Jane and Jason. They're close and Jane cannot help but feel like Jason abandoned her. As for Jason, he isn't as mature as Jane, but it doesn't mean he's irresponsible or doesn't care for his father and sister. I thought he was quite a complex character and I wonder how he'll turn out in his own book, Follow my Lead :)

As for Byrne, he was okay. The problem with his character is that it's not very original. Wounded war hero... sounds a bell? Still, Ms Noble was able to make him unique and address some serious issues with him. I enjoyed seeing him getting out of his shell and getting to know Jane better. I thought the romance was very realistic and that only added to the book.

What didn't work as well for me is the whole highwayman business. The book was very focused on the characters' development, growth and dynamics. As a result, the mystery aspect was superfluous and wasn't tightly woven enough to really have an impact. Still, I enjoyed The Summer of You a lot and I thought the whole aspect with Jane and Jason's father was really touching.


15) A Growing Passion by Emma Wildes: C+

Victoria Manwell has had an unusual education for a lady. She shares her father's love for botany and was able to accompany him on his travels. This time around though, she has elected to stay home... and plans to seduce her childhood friend, Stephen Forsythe.

Very short novella about two childhood friends who finally make the step of becoming lovers. While it was well-written, A Growing Passion reads a bit more like a tame erotica historical short story. Enjoyable, but not much depth.


16) The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong: C+


17) Warcry by Elizabeth Vaughan: A-


Books bought: +11
Books read: -17
TBR pile: -6

Woohoo!! Negative number :) Okay, so I guess holding off to RWA does pay off :)

April was a really good reading month for me.  Not only I got to read a lot of books, but there were some really good ones in there and a lot of books that I was looking forward to :) The only downside is that I was such on a roll that I fell off the blog-hopping bandwagon and my recording in my spreadsheet. Good thing there's Goodreads!

Now, will I be able to get the May monthly reads post on time?

9 comments:

  1. Some great reads in there for April!

    I have Summer of You by Noble in my TBR - almost picked it up last week but chose something on my ereader instead. :)

    Resistance sounds really good - I'll have to look that one up.

    I've found that Mayberry is a hit or miss for me. I have a couple by her in my TBR - we'll see how that goes.

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  2. Seems like it was a bit So-So this time around :P
    But still, you got a dent on the TBR pile!

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  3. Only a few standouts last month but hey, a negative number is always good.

    Of course the tbr pile will grow in leaps and bounds after RWA. :)

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  4. A good month!

    It's interesting that Noble's voice works so well for you - it's the one thing that doesn't work so well for me. Huh, go figure.

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  5. Oh, you're just in time posting this as JUNE is right around the corner! :P LOL!

    No new books this week for you?!? And you're bored??! Uh oh. Maybe it's fate's way of making you hold off to the literacy signing at RWA next month?

    Hmm.. it looks to me like you read some "just okay" books in April? Not terrible, but nothing worthy of a "wow" either.

    I HAVE got to read Kate Noble. I always say I'm going to and then I don't. ARGh!

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  6. Tracy - Yes, some great reads :) But also few bummers. Ah well, can't have it all, right? :P

    Did you read Kate Noble before?

    I think you'll enjoy Resistance, Tracy :)

    Same for me about Mayberry. I enjoy her books enough to keep buying them, but not as wowed like the others :(

    Alex - Yes!! And I think I've made an even bigger dent this month :) Well one can wish at least LOL.

    Leslie - Well there were quite a few Bs :) I don't know if I've gotten more severe and grimmer this year ^_^;

    As for the TBR pile, well yes, it will. But I know I'll be able to go through a lot of them :P Also, I don't really count them when it's from a trip LOL. But at least, I'll have some amazing haul pictures!!

    Lori - Hmmm. I like her voice because it's different than most Avon's authors... It's not as warm and there's a detachment I think... Maybe that's why you don't like it as much?

    Christine - Shhhh. Otherwise, I won't be nice the next time you post your monthly recap late!!

    Nah. The boredom and lack of book-buying stem from RWA. I'm really trying to control myself so I won't have too much duplicate!! It's really bad though ^_^; Also, June is like a dead month!!! I mean, that's good for me cos less temptation... but really.

    Well I really liked Warcry and most of the books I've really enjoyed, I've reviewed.

    LOL, do you have a book by her?

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  7. There was just something about the angst in Resistance that hit me. I loved that story.

    Good month Nath. :P

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  8. I have at least A Summer of You...

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  9. Ames - Nod nod, I remember you mentioned it in your mini-review :)

    Yeah, I'm happy with April :) Crossing my fingers for May!

    Christine - You should give it a go, Christine :)

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