Sunday, August 14, 2011

Monthly Reads: July 2011

While last week-end was a lot of fun, I'm glad that this week-end is more relaxed :) Nothing much going on for me. I'm trying to pull myself out of my reading slump and I think I might just succeed. Crossing my fingers :)

This month, the new releases are either coming out at the beginning or at the end of the month. This past week being the second week of the month means that I have nothing waiting for me at the bookstore. Boooo. Case in point, I have not even stepped in a bookstore! Although it is not surprising with my RWA haul and TBR pile ^_^;

As I have no new books for my Hauling Sunday post, I thought it'd be a good time to work on Monthly Reads post :) I had a great, great, great month of July and I can't wait to share it with you all! Here we go!

1) Summer at Seaside Cove by Jacquie D'Alessandro: B+

2) First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones: B+
Upcoming Review

3) Waking Up with the Duke by Lorraine Heath: B-

4) Black Ties and Lullabies by Jane Graves: C+

Bernadette Hogan is playboy and self-made millionaire Jeremy Bridge's bodyguard. While she is sometimes exasperated with his attitude and cannot resist letting him know, the pay is good and Bernie desperately needs the money for the future. However, when Jeremy does not heed her advice one night and lends in trouble, it is the last straw for Bernie. She loses her mind, have sex with Jeremy and then, resigns.

At first, Jeremy doesn't take Bernie's resignation seriously. He thinks that he only has to offer her more money and she'll resume her job. However, after multiple offers and several attempts, Jeremy is still stuck with his new and taciturn bodyguard... and he doesn't like it one bit. When Bernie suddenly asks to meet him, Jeremy is ready to gloat... Only Bernie does not want her job back, she just wants his signature... on papers declaring that he is renouncing his rights as a father to Bernie's baby! Bernie believes that Jeremy would be a terrible father and would not be interested anyway. However, Jeremy is not so sure... He has never thought of children, but now that he is about to become a father... it changes everything. And so Bernie decides to test him and challenges him to be there for every step of the pregnancy.

I've read and enjoyed Ms Graves books in the past and I was really happy to know she had a new book coming out. I did enjoy her writing in Black Ties and Lullabies... What did not work so well for me in this book was mostly the characters. I didn't connect with Bernie. I actually like tomboy characters, but Bernie... I think I'm having a big problem with assumptions lately. Characters who believe they know who other people are and what they think. So that bothered me. Another thing is I don't think that Bernie's character was that well develop, especially in comparison to Jeremy. I mean, we were given a little bit of background about Bernie, but it was not really a part of the story... and we saw very little growth in her character.

I did like Jeremy's character though. I liked the fact that he didn't renounce to his rights as a father. That he really paused and questioned himself about fatherhood. He had a shitty childhood and wants better for his children... and I think that he'll be a good father. So with Jeremy, we saw some growth and we understood a bit why he was the way he was. I also liked the fact that Jeremy kept surprising Bernie... but then again, she didn't really have a high opinion of him ^_^;

Something else that did not work for me was the romance. I don't think there was that much chemistry between Jeremy and Bernie and the romance was quite flat. Sure they enjoyed themselves sexually, and Bernie got to see different sides of Jeremy that she didn't expect. Still, I don't think they really understood each other and I was quite disappointed when Jeremy came up with the idea of marriage... because it seemed it was all for the wrong reasons.

So not Ms Graves best book... but she has another release coming out in October and hopefully that one will be a winner :)

5) One Whisper Away by Emma Wildes: B

6) Body Double by Tess Gerritsen: B
Upcoming post.

7) Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase: A-
Upcoming Review.

8) The Mephisto Club by Tess Gerritsen: B-
Upcoming post.

9) The Keepsafe by Tess Gerritsen: B
Upcoming post.

10) Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen: B
Upcoming post.

11) Guarding a Notorious Lady by Olivia Parker: C

Lady Rosalind Devine's brother is going away on his 3 months long honeymoon with his new bride and has therefore asked his good friend, Nicholas Kincaid, Marquess of Winterbourne, to keep an eye on her. Nicholas cannot refuse his best friend's request even knowing that the best for all of them would be for him to stay away from Rosalind.

Rosalind is furious to find out that his brother has appointed a "guardian" and is quite determined to find out who it is... even with Nicholas' distracting presence in town.

After reading Tracy's review for Guarding a Notorious Lady, I had quite high expectations for this book... and it didn't quite meet them ^_^; I actually quite liked the characters. Rosalind was smart, likable and very generous. She likes to meddle and matchmake people... and her matchmaking ploys are actually successful, so why stop her? Nicholas was hard to decipher and I didn't really get a feel for him... but overall, I didn't really have complaints about him... except perhaps the fact that he did judge Rosalind quite harshly in the beginning - such as spoiled and picky and so on since she is not yet married. I did like that both characters already had a crush on each other from the start :) I thought that was endearing.

So the problem wasn't so much the characters, but the storyline or actually some details. I have to say, there's a few things that I didn't get in this book. I understand that Rosalind comes from a very good family and has a huge dowry and so, fortune-hunters will come after her. However, I thought the lengths her brothers, especially Gabriel, the Duke, went to protect her was ridiculous. If I remember correctly, Rosalind is 23 years old and Gabriel still treats her as if it's her first season. He chases away all of her suitors. All of them. How is the girl supposed to get married if he chases everyone?!? I understand he's trying to protect her, but I thought he really took it too far for it to make sense. Rosalind is smart. A word telling that this suitor is not suitable should be enough. So asking Nicholas to keep an eye on her wasn't bad either... but that part where Nicholas spent the night outside her room, keeping an eye on her window... Are you kidding me?!? So Gabriel is going to be away for three months. You're telling me that Nicholas will be spending each night outside?!? That didn't make sense. Being a marquess with some money, I would at least think Nicholas would hire someone. Also, I don't get how Nicholas got to be a marquess and nobody knew he was the heir to the title. So just a lot of little things that bothered me a little.

One thing that I did like is that Rosalind found out pretty early on that Nicholas was her guardian. So at least, the book wasn't all about deception and misunderstanding. I did think that Rosalind and Nicholas had chemistry together... Unfortunately, it's the storyline that lets it down a little bit. There wasn't much going on except for Rosalind and Nicholas' relationship. And so at the end, I thought the romance was a little bit draggy. I love books that are focused on relationships, but you have to add a little bit of something to it. A bit of conflicts or something... and here, there wasn't really any. Sure, Nicholas being Gabriel's best friend could have been one... but once he decided that he wanted Rosalind, there wasn't any anymore ^_^;

12) A Lady's Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran: C+

After the death of her mother, Nell Whitby finds out that she is the daughter of Lord Rushden. She decides to seek revenge for her mother by sneaking into Lord Rushden's house with a gun... only to find a very naked, very handsome and much younger Lord Rushden - Simon St. Maur - in bed. It turns out that the previous Lord Rushden has passed away and Simon has inherited the title... Unfortunately, that's pretty much the only thing he inherited as all the money has been left for the previous lord's two daughters, Katherine and Cornelia, even though Cornelia has been missing for years. Simon has tried to appeal to court to have Cornelia declared dead; however, was denied... and he's about to go bankrupted in a few days... Till Nell appears. Simon is sure that Nell is the missing twin and he plans to marry her, bring her out in Society and inherit the money. While it is a good plan for Simon, there are some people that do not want Cornelia to re-appear... ever.

I was quite looking forward to A Lady's Lesson in Scandal. I've read and tried to read Ms Duran's books in the past, but the storylines never really worked for me ^_^; However, A Lady's Lesson in Scandal's storyline sounded like something I would really enjoy... so I was excited to give it a go.

I really liked the premises of the storylines. It's my kind of storylines :) My problem though was Nell's character. I understand she's had a very hard life and growing up where she did, her being wary is not surprising. However, I didn't find her likable ^_^; And as a result, I didn't love this book... which is unfortunate because Simon was an awesome hero. I loved his declaration, I loved that he was the one to take the first step. I loved that he got Nell, understood her and call her out at the end.

I think that realistically, A Lady's Lesson in Scandal is really a B-range book. It's well-written, has great characters and a good storyline. I know that a lot of readers out there are going to love Nell. However, when you review a book, the reading experience has to be taken in consideration... and really, Nell just bothered me  and so, the grade stands ^_^; It's pretty much me and not the book.

13) The Heir by Grace Burrowes: C+

Gayle Windham, Earl of Westhaven and heir to a dukedom, has elected to spend the summer in London in order to avoid his family. Not that he doesn't love his family; however, he is getting quite exasperated with his father's meddling and quest for a succession. When he comes to the aid of one of his maidservants and gets bashed on the head, that's when he takes notice of his new housekeeper, Mrs. Anna Seaton. Quickly, Westhaven realizes that there is something unusual about Anna. Oh, she takes care of his house admirably, taking in consideration his likes and dislikes. However, she is much better educated and sophisticated to be a simple housekeeper. Indeed, Anna is no ordinary housekeeper. She and her sister Morgan are on the run, in hiding... and the last thing she needs is to fall in love with Westhaven.

I got this book at RWA and was quite intrigued. I like the idea of a housekeeper heroine... Of course, for the story to work, the housekeeper cannot be a simple housekeeper. So that aspect of the storyline didn't really other me as I expected. Anyway, what did I think of this book? Well I liked the writing as Ms Burrowes has a pleasant style. I do admit that from time to time, her use of some words, especially "cock" would break the flow, the mood. It just doesn't seem to match the rest of her writing... I also enjoyed the characters, especially Anna. They were simply likable characters :) And the family? They were hilarious I thought :)

One of my issues though was I felt like I missed a book prior to The Heir. For example, Westhaven was not supposed to be the heir to the dukedom... I think he had two older brothers who passed away and one of them was married and all. I felt very confused because I think the information and background weren't well integrated in The Heir's storyline. Another issue I had was that the book was quite lengthily and I thought some parts were unnecessary. Especially towards the end... It just felt like the story dragged on and on ^_^; I just wanted Westhaven and Anna to get together and be done.

The Heir is definitively a good effort on Ms Burrowes part. I'd definitively pick up more books in this series as I enjoyed the family and the writing.

14) Carnal Innocence by Nora Roberts: B-

After a nervous break-down, world-famous concert violinist Caroline Waverly has come to Innocence to claim her inheritance: her grandparents'house, and to gather herself. Unfortunately for her, her timing is not the greatest given a serial killer is on the loose. There's already been two bodies found and the latest victim is one of Tucker Longstreet's exes. The Longstreet family pretty much owns the whole town of Innocence and Tucker is under the scrutiny of the FBI. This doesn't stop a romance between Caroline and Tucker blooming.

This was a re-read for me. It's been just so long since I've read it and after Unfinished Business where the heroine was a professional piano player, I felt like re-reading Carnal Innocence. Straight up, you know Carnal Innocence has good writing - hello,  Nora Roberts! LOL. I also really liked the characters. Caroline and Tucker were a case of opposite attraction :) Caroline is uptight while Tucker is so relaxed. Yet, both are very generous :)  I just thought they complemented each other well. As for the romance, well it's a nice fling between two consenting adults that grows into something more :) Nice and well-done :)

The mystery aspect of the book was quite interesting and I think it was pretty unexpected. What didn't work too well with me was the small-mindness of the town - racism and religion. I'm not too keen whenever there's a religious fanatic character in my book. Perhaps because I don't really care about religion ^_^; but a lot of time, I just can't help but dislike these characters. As for the racism, I know this book was written in 1991, but it was quite jarring to see that such attitude still existed. What the town's people did at the end of the book to that family?! Totally unacceptable! And while it wasn't the focus, I'm quite shocked that it wasn't pursued. Like after such an event, for that family to just go on as if nothing happened? I'd have packed my bags.

Overall though, it was a good re-read. Not Ms Roberts' best, but quite satisfying.

15) Perfect Play by Jaci Burton: B+
Upcoming Review.

16) Kindling the Moon by Jenn Bennett: C+
Upcoming Review.

17) Never Resist Temptation by Miranda Neville: C-

Jacobin de Chastelux is the daughter of a French aristocrat and English noblewoman. Orphaned, she grew up in England in her uncle and guardian's household, Lord Candover. For unknown reasons, Lord Candover hates her and never paid attention to her... and so Jacobin has been able to pursue her passion: patisserie. Then one day, Jacobin is summoned and learns that is to pay off her uncle's gaming debts by becoming the Earl of Storrington's mistress. Shocked, Jacobin runs away with her mentor and together, they find her a position in the royal kitchen, disguised as a man. Except all goes wrong after a dinner party during which her uncle is poisoned with one of her creations! On the run again, Jacobin has no other choice than seeking refuge at Storrington's.

Anthony, Earl of Storrington, has a score to settle with Lord Candover. He wants to ruin the man and if it means taking his niece as a prize, he'll do it! Luckily for him though, she ran away with the cook... Unlucky for him is that Candover has come up with the money. Now, he needs to find another way to entice Candover... Knowing the man has a sweet tooth, Anthony tries to hire a new patissier whose sweets he knows Candover won't be able to resist. Except, Anthony is really attracted to his new chef...

Let see. I thought the beginning of Never Resist Temptation was great and very, very promising. I also loved the culinary aspect of the book. I thought it was very refreshing that Jacobin was interested in patisserie.  It's not a theme that you see often in historicals and it worked for me. I also really liked Jacobin. She's independent, smart, flexible. Sure, she's a bit stubborn when it comes to her art, but she has character, that's for sure :) It's just unfortunate that the hero and storyline didn't live up to its good start.

First, the revenge plot was meh. A bit too convoluted although it was a great foil for Anthony and his sister's relationship. Still, I'm not sure what was the extent of Candover's involvement. Yes, the man is horrible... but the explanation why Candover hated his brother-in-law? Nah, didn't do it for me. Then, there was Anthony. He was okay-ish, till he found out his new chef was really Jacobin. The guy is attracted to Jacobin, but she's part of his household and a young woman... so he doesn't dare make a move. But once he finds out that she is Jacobin, because rumors have it that she has ran off with her uncle's chef, then suddenly,"She wasn't a respectable unmarried lady" and becomes fair game. Seriously?!? I really couldn't believe it!! Even if she has really run off with the chef, I can't accept his behavior :( It really turned me off the book. And that's why it gets the grade above.

18) The Secret Mistress by Mary Balogh: B-/B
Upcoming Review.

19) The Wild Marquis by Miranda Neville: B-

The Marquis of Chase, Cain, was kicked out by his father at the age of 16 years old for unknown reasons. With only 100 pounds, he made his way to London where he was promptly robbed and injured... If he hadn't been taken in by two prostitutes, he would have died in the street. Spending most of his adult life in brothels and with the demi-monde, Cain has acquired a wretched reputation and is barely accepted in polite Society.

One day, Cain comes across a catalogue advertising the auction of Tarleton's impressive books collection, among which is the Burgundy Books of Hours. Cain is intrigued because his family owns the Burgundy Books of Hours and being a prized item, he cannot see under which circumstances his father, the Saintly Marquis, would have parted with the book. However, he vaguely remembers Tarleton's visit to Markley Chase Abbey not long before his exile and wonder if perhaps, it is actually not related to his exile. In any case, Cain is determined to get his hands back on what belongs to him... However, knowing nothing about books or auctions, Cain needs help and is directed to Juliana Merton, owner of J.C. Merton. Juliana lost her husband about a year ago... and if things continue this way, she will also lose her business as many books collectors look down on her. If she could acquire the Burgundy Books of Hours on Cain's behalf, it would be a coup! Also, the commission could also help her acquiring some books that belonged to her mother...

Once again, the beginning of The Wild Marquis was very good. I was engaged by the story and the characters as soon as I started reading the book. I also really like the book theme of The Wild Marquis. It was refreshing and very interesting. The whole auction atmosphere, Cain and Juliana looking at books, the reasons why some people would collect some books - binding, authors, first edition, etc. I also really liked both characters, they were likable and had quite a lot of depth. Especially Cain. Being kicked out of the house at such a young age, not knowing why... and then, having such a bad reputation, which is none of his fault really. Seeing how society can be so superficial... I really, really liked it. Unfortunately, the second half of The Wild Marquis really didn't live up to the first. Halfway through the book, there was a lot of going on including the romance... and it felt to me Ms Neville lost the focus of the book. Suddenly, the book wasn't about the Burgundy Books of Hours and the auction anymore, but on Cain's past, Juliana's past, Cain's little sister and possible other job for Juliana. There was just too much. I have to say that Juliana's past and the intrigue concerning her was actually quite interesting... However, when you add in everything else? It's such a shame given how good the beginning was. I'm not saying The Wild Marquis wasn't a good book... Simply, it wasn't as good as what it could have been.

20) The Sinner by Tess Gerritsen: B
Upcoming Post.

21) Vanish by Tess Gerritsen: B+
Upcoming Post.

Books bought: + 7
Books read: -21
TBR pile: - 14

Sorry, wasn't able to keep the mini-reviews short ^_^; It's really something I need to work on. LOL, I have to say that I was really tempted starting individual reviews for each of them!! But then, I have so other books that I want to properly review ^_^; Perhaps I should do point-form mini-reviews... Hmmmm. In any case, told ya, I really had a great month of July! :)  21 books read and 11 of them were from my RWA/NYC haul!! It was awesome LOL. Just too bad I'm not doing as good this month. As you can see, I was also in a historical kick... which is probably what started my reading slump ^_^; Oups. However, most historical books I read were really good and I was really happy.

Sigh, July is going to be very hard to beat :)


  1. Holy cow - you went on a Tess Gerritsen reading spree! And sweet, sweet validation - look at all those B grades!

    Um, let's see - of the ones you read this past month, I gotta say The Mephisto Club is my least fave in the series to date. I lurved The Sinner and Body Double (LOVED!). Ice Cold was also pretty fantastic though.

    I remember being lukewarm on Vanish - but one thing that sticks out from that book is Gabriel. We finally see how/why Mr. Gray Flannel Suit would fall in love with someone like Jane :)

  2. Awesome month Nath! Lots of historicals. Maybe you need a contemporary to get you out of that slump. :)

  3. Wendy - LOL, yeah Wendy :) Lucky for me, the library had the books! :) And yes, sweet validation LOL. The books are well-written, thrilling with good characters :) No wonder you buy them in HC!!

    Actually, I loved Body Double and Vanish. I really liked Vanish because of the relationships aspect. Jane is a really lucky woman LOL.

    I agree with you on The Mephisto Club being so-so. Although we get introduced to a pretty important character.

    Leslie - Yeah Les! :) I was a reading machine in July, just one week after another! :)

    I'm trying to mix it up a little genre-wise. We'll see. I'm not doing horribly... just I don't know, don't know what I want to read. Everything I'm picking up feels meh till I start reading it. Then after enjoying the book, I still get the meh feeling ^_^;

  4. Wow, you had a good reading month. I did not - mostly re-read old books and a little YA, I've been on a Jennifer Echols binge.
    I did read Black Ties and Lullabies but sadly DNF'd it right at the point where it appeared that Bernie was going to have a big revelation along the lines of 'Hey girly stuff is good and fun and my mom was right and I've really only been avoiding stuff like this out of fear and I'm all better now, ready to be real woman!'

    I mean, that plot line is ok to a point, can be interesting as a psychological exploration of gender role stereotyping and the like, but seriously? I would like for once, just once, to have a non-traditionally-gender-performing heroine do the makeover thing and be like, 'This is as crummy as I thought it would be, so not doing this again,' instead of 'a whole new world has opened up for me!'

    If you can confirm that that plot thread doesn't go how I'd feared, maybe I'll finish it - I've been in a contemporaries reading funk since.

  5. First off: WOW!! You read a lot!!!
    and Second: bummer than Black ties and Lullabies; and Notorious Lady were Cs, :P I sort of hopped for more.

    *le sigh*

    Anyway, it looks like you had a great month! :D

  6. Awesome reading month, Nath!

    You went in a Tess Garritsen gloam. I have 2 of her books in my TBR that I need to read. I think the last time I read one of her books was back in 2008!

    I see you read some books that are on my list of books to read, and some I read too... hmm... we had the same reaction to a couple of them too. ;P

  7. Sorry for the late reply everyone!!

    FD - Awww, sorry to hear your month was so-so. I like Ms Echols books :) I have not read all of them though...

    The Jane Graves was okay :) She didn't go to the extend of "this is crummy," but at the same time, she didn't totally fall all over the make-over and embrace it. Then again, she's pregnant so... I think you should try to read a bit more just to see :)

    Alex - Thanks! :) I was hoping for more as well. I'm not giving up on Jane Graves though. Surprisingly, she has another release in October and I'll be giving that one a try :)

    Hilcia - Thanks ;) And LOL, yes I did :) She's a very good author, solid :)

    LOL, we also had opposite reaction to a few of them :) Funny how it is! LOL

  8. Excellent reading month Nath!!

    Which reminds me, I still need to do my post too. And it's almost the end of August! LOL