Monday, November 14, 2011

Monthly Reads: September 2011

Ugh, it's just just after midnight ^_^; Ah well, I can't do much about it. As I did not buy any books this week - yes, you've read that right and no, I'm not sick... simply, did you see my last two hauls?!? LOL. My plan for this week-end was to have my September reads post up to make up for no Hauling Sunday post - it's really becoming an habit. Plus, I'm already one month late... But as usual, my plans got derailed and instead of spending the week-end writing and refining this post, I ended up reading manga ^_^; I'm glad because it's been a while since I've read manga and I've discovered two new series :) However, on the down side, I didn't do anything... not blogging, not reading, and definitively not cleaning. Ah well, I guess I'll have to fit the cleaning some other time.

As a result, a word of warning, I have a feeling the mini-reviews are quite rough. I tried putting my thoughts together, but I feel they might not convey well what I mean to say about the books... plus, they might not be really coherent. Especially the last one... Anyway, you should get the gist though and there's always the grades you can trust :)

1) Demon Marked by Meljean Brook: B+

2) A Tale of Two Lovers by Maya Rodale: B-

This is Ms Rodale's second book in The Writing Girls Romance series. Lady Julianna Somerset is one of the four writing girls of The London's Weekly. She is secretly the author of the Society's column and while it started out as necessity, she has grown proud of her work. Julianna's identity as the author cannot be revealed as she wouldn't be invited to events anymore and Julianna needs this job as her deceased husband didn't leave much behind and she is too proud to ask help from her family as they disapproved her marriage - with good reasons. Julianna is always on the look-out for Lord Simon Roxbury as his love of women and good times always make good stories. Especially when she catches him in a torrid embrace with a woman dressed as a man! Of course, Julianna knows it's a woman... but it's never wrong to... imply.

To say Lord Simon is furious at the news, especially when his friends start giving him looks and ladies close their bedroom doors, is an understatement. Then, his father gives him an ultimatum to get married! Really, how is he going to achieve that when ladies are no longer receiving him? And Simon definitively knows who is to blame! And then, Lord Simon and Lady Julianna are caught in a compromising situation and have to get married... Can this marriage of convenience really turn into a love match?

I liked Ms Rodale's writing in A Groom of One's Own; however, the storyline wasn't to my taste. Therefore I was looking forward to A Tale of Two Lovers to see if Ms Rodale would make it on my list of authors to buy and I'm glad to report this book was more enjoyable than the previous one :) I think the storyline just worked better. It was very ironic that Julianna suggested in her column that Lord Simon had a penchant for men and that she ended up married to him LOL. Of course, she knew that it wasn't the case... Unfortunately, Simon kept finding himself in ambiguous situations LOL. So yes, that part was funny :)

I think A Tale of Two Lovers was a nice read, but I don't think it's a memorable one. Julianna and Simon were okay characters, but they don't capture your attention. What makes the book is the storyline. Personally though, I think I could have done without the marriage of convenience. There was enough material for Ms Rodale to work with: Julianna reporting on Lord Simon's tendency, Julianna wanting to discover the identity of her rival over at the other newspapers and Julianna's issues with marriage. I think the romance would have been more entertaining if they haven't been married. As it is, I think they fell in love a bit too fast. Just a thought.

So really, the jury is still out on Ms Rodale :) I'm most probably going to read more of her books; however, I'll be choosing the ones that attract me.

3) Archangel's Blade by Nalini Singh: C+

4) Revenge at Bella Terra by Christina Dodd: C-

Eli Di Luca's vineyard is in financial trouble and Eli is too proud to tell his family about it. Eli is becoming quite desperate when he is approached by this Italian man who proposes to save Eli's vineyard in exchange for Eli marrying his daughter. Eli thinks it's crazy... but he can't think of any other way out and accepts to woo Chloe Robinson, a best-seller author who needs a quiet place to overcome a severe case of second book syndrome. Chloe is aware of her father's matchmaking, but all that matters is her book and the deadline.

Revenge at Bella Terra just didn't work for me. It started out well enough for me with the introduction of the characters and the setting... Unfortunately, it didn't last ^_^; I liked the characters, but I think they didn't match each other well. First, there was the age difference between Eli and Chloe. Age is just a number and most of the time, if it's about 10 years give or take, I don't really care. The problem is that in this case, you felt the difference. Heck, it was obvious that Chloe made Eli feel old ^_^; and that's not good. Basically, Eli is a tough and hard man with quite a past, but he escaped and is now following his path making wines. Chloe is a young author, quite independent, who's really just starting her career. The two of them have nothing in common and quite frankly, there was no connection, no chemistry between the two. I also didn't like the idea that Eli precipitated Chloe into marriage to save his vineyard. I know at that point, he had feelings for Chloe, but the least he could have done was let her know what was going. It was obvious that the whole plan would exploded in his face and Chloe would be angry about it all. I just think it wasn't well done at all from Eli's part and it left a sour taste in my mouth.

Aside from the romance, the suspense was well done. There was a lot going on and I have to say, I liked the case concerning the still and the disappearance of the man. Unfortunately, I think the pacing didn't work that well and it probably has a lot to do with the balance of the book. As I said, there was a lot going on. Quite frankly, at the end of Revenge at Bella Terra, I wasn't involved in the book anymore and started skimming some parts, mainly because I wasn't engaged in the romance.

So I'm giving it a C- because there were some good elements in the book... Unfortunately, it just never came together for me.

5) Sean Grisworld's Head by Lindsey Leavitt: B
Upcoming Review.

6) The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June by Robin Benway: C+

April, May and June are going through a lot. Their parents have recently divorced, the girls had to move and are starting at a new school. As if it's not enough, they suddenly wake up with powers! April gets flashes of the future, May can become invisible and June can read people's thoughts! Of course, for June who wants to be popular, being able to know what others think come in quite handy. For May who's taken the divorce the hardest, becoming invisible is just reflecting her mood... although she's not sure she likes it quite that literal... And April who is the studious and responsible type, well now she's really a know-it-all!

This book came to my attention after I read a review for it on Alex' blog. I like psychic powers and I thought this would fit the bill. It also turned out that I was pretty burn-out in September, so to change things up, I started reading more YA. Good stuff for me :) The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June is more about the girls handling their new lives after the divorce and the new school and who just happens to have powers than them, dealing with their powers. I mean, sure they have to get familiar with their powers because May becoming invisible in public - not a good thing - and they use their powers and they were handy. However, what I mean is that these powers are not the focus of the story, the sisters don't look for the source of their powers or decide to play superheroes. In fact, I find that they adapt quite rapidly to their powers and it just becomes a part of their lives.

I'd say out of the three girls, I liked April's storyline the most and June's, the least. I'm sorry, but I can't help but dislike girls that want to be part of the popular group no matter what. Most of the time, these characters are just so superficial and I think that was the case with June. April, well I think it's because she kind of had a romance. May's storyline though was the most realistic I think. Being angry is normal at her age, but add everything that's going on and yeah, it's not easy to be a teenager. One thing that Ms Benway captured well in this book was the sisterhood, i.e. the bickering LOL. Okay, seriously, there was no doubts that these three girls were sisters... and the bonds between them were solid. Overall, The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June was really the story of three sisters going through a tough period in their lives and them having powers was just a bonus. It was a nice read, but not one that stood out.

7) Cheri on Top by Susan Donovan: B-
Upcoming Review.

8) New York to Dallas by J.D. Robb: C
Upcoming Review.

9) Second Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones: A-

10) The Duff (The Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger: C

Bianca Piper is not impressed by Wesley Rush whom she considers a man-slut, especially after he calls her the DUFF: the Designated Ugly Fat Friend. Unfortunately for her, she gets stuck with him on an assignment for English and therefore, can't ignore him.

Then, she learns that her mother, who's been going away more and more in the past years, has asked for a divorce and her father has started drinking again. Things are definitively not going well at home and Bianca needs to escape, needs to be distracted... and finds refuge in Wesley's arms. At first, it's just sex... but soon, Bianca realizes that Wesley is more than a man-slut. However, she's not sure she can see him under a new light and have a relationship with him. It gets even more complicated when her long-time crush becomes single...

There was a lot of buzz about this book on blogland last year and I wanted to check it out. I have to say though, straight contemporary YA novels are not my favorite... mostly because I don't really care about high school drama. On that front, The Duff wasn't bad at all. In fact, I think it had a lot of depth to it. Bianca is going through a tough time at home and wants to escape and she does it by having sex with Wesley and withdrawing from her friends. I thought what Bianca was going through and her way of coping was very realistic. And the more time she spent with him, the more she learned about the true Wesley. I can also understand why Bianca had difficulty to trust Wesley... Him calling her the Duff, well it didn't endear him to her and obviously, it brought into question whether or not he found her attractive and really wanted her. I did think Ms Keplinger started laying it a bit thick with Wesley's story though. Although there are more and more negligent parents and it made sense... it's just overall, The Duff was quite serious in tone and I think I need a bit of happiness, of glimmer somewhere.

Basically, I can understand why this book was so popular and such a success. It has depth and is quite realistic and I think it reaches a lot of the readers. Unfortunately, I'm not among those readers ^_^; I thought the book was a bit on the boring side with not a lot happening. There was just too much internal monologues and passages that it never really gripped me.

11) At Hidden Falls by Barbara Freethy: D

Isabella Silviera is on her way to Angel's Bay to visit her older brother when her car is hit and she almost goes over the cliff. Luckily for her, Nick Hartley was passing by and saved her. Instantly, there's an attraction between the two of them... However, Nick is in no position to get involved in a relationship. He's trying to mend his relationship with his teenage daughter who has recently moved in with him after she's spent the last 10 years with her mother in England and she is definitively his priority. Unfortunately for him, Angel's Bay is small and he keeps running into Isabella, especially when she decides to volunteer at the Hartley family theater. As for Isabella, while she understands Nick's position, she is not about to give up on the man... as he's been haunting her dreams for quite some time now.

At Hidden Falls was a meh book. Perhaps it's because I haven't read the first three books or it might have been my mood... but basically, I never got into this book. The whole storyline simply didn't appeal to me. I did like Isabella and Nick, but there was just too much going on and in the way. It bothers me when one minute, a character says s/he can't be in a relationship or can't do this or that and the next minute, s/he's doing exactly that. And this was the case with Nick. I don't think it makes you a bad parent if you start a new relationship... it's really simply the way you handle it. Nick was too wishy-washy and it ruined the romance for me. Despite Nick haunting Isabella's dreams, I never felt much chemistry between the two. Isabella is quite confident in herself, but she never went after Nick. Finally, they just didn't spend enough time together for me to really buy the romance ^_^;

Also, there was just too much about the subplot which was about a young, single mother disappearing. Her baby is left with the town's doctor who is still feeling the lost of her own baby as a teenager and who must choose between two beaux. And oh, the baby's father is married and actually, among one of four couples who wants to adopt the baby. Yeah, complicated, much, right? This part of the storyline was just too prominent and not really interesting as it didn't connect to the real main characters. I guess it does serve to set-up the doctor's book, but I never took the bait. Simply wasn't interested ^_^; Then, you add in my burn-out for small-town romances and all in all, this book didn't have much going on to interest me :(

12) Spider's Revenge by Jennifer Estep: B

13) Flawless by Carrie Lofty: B
Upcoming Review.

Books bought: + 15
Books read: -13
TBR pile: +2

September really felt like a slow month for me. The biggest problem I had that month is I started feeling burn-out on many genres. I just didn't feel like reading historical or contemporary romances which are two genres that I read a lot. Urban fantasy also held little appeal ^_^; That's when I started turning to YA and lucky me, it worked! I ended up with 13 reads, so overall I'm happy because it's in the double digits. I'm also happy that I managed to review quite a few of them already... Hopefully, I'll be able to review all I want.

All right, need to go to sleep now! Night night!


  1. I agree with you on The Extraordinary Secrets, I liked June's storyline the least too. I think I enjoyed it a bit more than you though, :) (Thanks for the shout out btw).

    I'm not sure about the Bella Terra books, I keep meaning to read them but somehow I never get around to, they just don't sound like they'll stand out much.

    Tale of Two Lovers sounds good though, I might give that a try.

  2. You didn't buy any books? Huh?! LOL! I'm glad you're not sick. :D

    Hey! You did quite well in September. And you know what? A Tale of Two Lovers by Rodale caught my attention. It sounds fun and I need some light stuff to read at the moment. Thanks for that great mini. :)

    I still have Cherri on Top in my TBR! I don't know what I'm waiting for. Looking forward to your review. :)

  3. I wasn't surprised to find that I had most of these in my TBR mountain :-)

    I've started and stopped DUFF too many times to count. On one hand, I really want to read it; but then when I do, it just doesn't stick with me. Since you gave it a C, I think I'll just keep it on the backburner for the time being.

  4. Barbara Freethy is one of those authors that I can’t figure out. I have read three or four of her books and they all have been meh… But there are so many great reviews about them, and everyone seems to love her, so I just don’t know what's going on, to me all the books were boring and the characters bland. And then there was the one with the comatose kid and the angel, which was just plain ridiculous ;-)

    And can I just say, I think The DUFF is the meanest title ever… And I’m worse because I kind of want to read it!

  5. Alex - No problem for the shout out ;) You're really the one who brought this to my attention. Otherwise, I'd never have pick it up! :)

    So far, the Bella Terra... Hmmm, well you have to be a fan of RS. However, I don't think they're Ms Dodd's best.

    I hope you enjoy A Tale of Two Lovers :)

    Hilcia - LOL, it happens. Rare, but it happens. Actually, I cheated ^_^; I did get the new Meljean Brook by mail, but I really wanted to have this post up. So the MB will go in this week's Hauling Sunday.

    Yeah, September wasn't bad... but I don't know, I felt like it was a hard month to go through.

    A Tale of Two Lovers might be perfect for you then! :)

    I hope I can review Cheri on Top soon! I'm so behind. Sigh. I was debating between a mini and a full and in the end, I just didn't feel like doing a mini ^_^;

    Dev - LOL Dev! Yeah, us and our TBR mountains!

    I'm glad then it's not just me for DUFF. I mean, it's gotten such good reviews and buzz...

    Brie - No offense, but I'm wondering, when did you start reading romance, Brie? I start about 10 years ago and back then, Ms Freethy was doing RS. I thought her RS were pretty good. I know that even before that, she wrote romance, but those books never appealed to me. I think perhaps what works for Ms Freethy is loyalty. Just a guess. I mean, her writing's not bad... However, I agree with you, her latest books have felt bland - although At Hidden Falls is the only one I've read in her new series. I think small-town just doesn't suit her...

    Well I don't think it's the title, but more just what DUFF stands for that's awful. But you know what, I'm not surprised if it's teenagers really think that.. By the way, Bianca wasn't ugly or anything... Just in comparison, she wasn't the prettiest. I personally don't know whether you'd enjoy this or not. It was interesting though...

  6. Let me see… I’ve been reading romance for about seven years, but at first I only read historicals, so I discovered Freethy’s books last year. I think it’s a matter of personal taste, I have met people who hate Nora Roberts *gasp*, so regardless of popularity you never can tell until you actually read it. I can see the appeal, though.

    I’m not surprised at all that teenagers think like that! I’m sooo glad I’m no longer one! ( I went to an all-girls Catholic school, so you can imagine the amount of mean girls I’ve met in my life)

  7. Unlike last month - I think it was last month - we only share one book in common, From New York to Dallas. My grade is higher than yours though I did miss the supporting cast this time round. I missed my 'friends' like Peabody and McNab.

  8. Brie - Of course, personal taste plays a big role, but still you have to wonder when an author is almost universally loved, why you don't. I know your feeling, Brie! I've been there many times ;) Although I do think that Ms Freethy's writing has changed in the past few years... Just a thought.

    Oh yeah, I can imagine the meanness!! Poor you!

    Kristie - Yeah, it was last month. Well it was my books in August that I put up last month :)

    I'm going to review New York to Dallas soon. Hopefully :) While it was an okay book in my opinion, what I'm really looking for is Celebrity in Death! That one sounds good ;)

  9. I recently became aware of Maya Rodale's books and am considering trying one. I think I saw a promo offer for one at $2.99 in ebook format. I may try there. Lower cost risk. ;)

  10. Christine - Oh that's a good price! I think you're going to like her, Christine.