Sunday, January 22, 2012

Monthly Reads: November 2011

Okay, two weeks in a row that I don't have any Hauling Sunday post. What can I say? No releases, no new books to buy! However, this week-end, I've been good and have worked on my Monthly Reads post for November! And guess what? I did it! Here it is!! So take a look at what I read, how much I enjoyed them and let me know what you think! :)

1) Playboy Boss, Live-In Mistress by Kelly Hunter: C+

This book has a very misleading title. Basically, Playboy Boss, Live-In Mistress has a friends to lovers plot and is the story of Alexander Wentworth, a millionaire businessman, training his childhood friend Sienna Raleigh to be the perfect personal assistant so she can make a decent living and keep her family home.

Based on the title, I was expecting something along the line of a very playboy boss entering a relationship with his personal assistant and changing his way. However, we didn't see much of Lex' playboy manners. Still, I liked his character, perhaps because he was so straightforward. In comparison, Sienna really got on my nerves, because she was so wishy-washy. Her doubts and worries were somewhat understandable based on her background, but I think she should really have considered the fact that Lex was nothing like her father and their situation was very different from her parents'. I think my real problem is that there was a lack of depth throughout the book which meant I wasn't really involved in the story and as a result, the story seemed to drag a little.

2) The Villa by Nora Roberts: B

I felt like re-reading this book, because I don't think I've ever read it in English :) The Villa was a standard NR stand-alone book which means a bland of romance, complex family interactions, a theme to the book which in this case was wine-making and a mystery :) In The Villa, the matriarch of Giambelli family, the Signora Tereza Giambelli, is looking to pass the reins to her granddaughter, Sophia Giambelli, and her husband's grandson, Tyler MacMillan. However, before she does so, she intends for her successors to have a better understanding of the firm. As a result, Tyler, who is dedicated to his vines, and Sophia, the marketing wizard, have to collaborate to learn each other's area of expertise... And obviously, not everyone is happy with the situation.

I liked The Villa a lot. I think it was a really strong read :) Tyler and Sophia were interesting, well-developed characters and it was a case of opposite attract :) It's kind of interesting to see the two of them get together because they've known each other for a long time after all, but they've never been close... but they're willing to do anything to succeed, even put up with each other LOL. I also really enjoyed the family interactions in this book as they are quite complex. The mystery was also interesting and there was a nice twist at the end. All in all, a very good and well-round book. Still, it wasn't perfect for me and ultimately, I think it's because there were just too many POVs and it detracted from the story a little. While The Villa was not a short book by any  means, because there were so many POVs, it seems some parts were not fully developed and I wanted a bit more.

3) Beauty Dates the Beast by Jessica Sims: E

I picked up Beauty Dates the Beast when a review brought this book onto my radar. I was quite unaware of its release... and personally would have preferred it stayed that way ^_^; Bathsheba works at Midnight Liaisons, a dating agency for paranormal beings. While she's human, she's aware of the paranormal because her half-sister is a werewolf and was changed against her will. Beau is the Alpha of his pack and also leader of the Alliance. One of the females in his Pack is in heat and therefore Beau needs a woman to keep him company. When Beau's match renegades on the date, Bathsheba decides to go in her place in order to keep her job.

Now, I admit the grade might be a bit harsh and two factors influenced it: 1) I'm PNR'd out and 2) I was expecting something funny based on the blurb and review. Still at the end of the day, I never got in this book and it was a real struggle to finish it. Basically, nothing worked for me. First, the world building was quasi-nonexistent which is always bad when it comes to PNR, UF and fantasy books. This really bothered me because for PNR, having characters that can turn into animals or suck blood is not enough! Ms Sims throws in some elements such as the Alliance, but she never develops it, never gives us the information so we can understand how this world works. It's just frustrating.

Another major strike was that I didn't care for the characters. Beau was okay I guess... except the fact that he needed a willing female to rut with. It's just been overdone and a really bad opening to a relationship it seems. As for Bathsheba, I didn't like her at all. I thought she was too wishy-washy and let people walk all over her. I hated how she let herself be blackmailed by her boss. I understand that she's trying to protect her sister, but that's not how you do it... and proof, it turned into a fiasco at the end. Also, the fact that she was a virgin and suddenly, all the big, bad shapeshifters in the neighborhood wanted her? Bleh, so passé. Finally, the romance felt really rushed to me and I simply didn't buy it. Oh and the book wasn't very funny either.

All in all, Beauty Dates the Beast fails across the board for me, hence the grade :(

4) The Next Always by Nora Roberts: B

5) The Comforts of Home by Jodi Thomas: A-

6) Baby It's Cold Outside by Addison Fox: C+

Sloan McKinley is 30 years old and after finally transforming from the ugly duckling into a swan, her socialite mother despairs at Sloan still being single... and therefore is trying to set her up with young men of their status, but who are all jerks. To avoid such matchmaking, Sloan escapes to Alaska where her best friend, who went there to settle her father's estate, is having a really bad time. There, Sloan meets Walker Montgomery, a lawyer who has no interest in love and yet can't deny the sparks with Sloan. She's also just in time for the town's annual winter competition whose goal is to attract the bachelorettes from all across the country.

Baby It's Cold Outside was a cute read, but it didn't have me engaged all the way. I think its biggest flaw was it suffered of the first book complex where it sets up everything and as a result, the focus was taken away from Sloan and Walker. I mean, their romance is pretty typical where Sloan and Walker meet, dance around each other for the longest time and then, conflict is introduced as Walker not believing in love and relationship based on what happened to his parents' marriage and at the end, everything is resolved. The fact that it's typical is not a problem; instead, it's the way it was written. Their scenes didn't make up a continuous thread in the book, it felt disjointed and ultimately, it affected the chemistry between these two characters. It's unfortunate because Sloan and Walker were likable characters, they made a nice couple and I liked that they worked out their problems.

I think where Ms Fox went wrong is she spent too much time introducing the town and the competition, developing the conflict for the two other couples, Grier and Mick, Avery and Roman. It does pay off because I hope they will get their respective books and I'll most probably pick them up, but it comes at a cost and Sloan and Walker are the one paying.  And also what frustrates me is that it leaves a lot of unresolved elements in Baby It's Cold Outside.

7) The Man She Love to Hate by Kelley Hunter: A-
Upcoming Review.

8) Always the Bridesmaid by Nina Harrington: C

Always the Bridesmaid is an enjoyable book when you read it, but not really memorable ^_^; Like all I remember at the moment is the heroine is a baker who works really hard. She is supposed to make the cake for her friend's wedding, when the wedding planner elopes with one of her client. As a result, heroine's friend's wedding is jeopardized... It's up to the heroine and her friend's brother to step up and deliver the perfect wedding.

I remember liking the heroine and her job as well as the hero. However, the romance was so-so. It seems to me, nothing was really happening throughout the book. The pacing was a bit slow and it took awhile for the heroine and hero to get together. Also, the title doesn't make much sense to me...

9) Forgotten by Cat Patrick: B
Upcoming Review.

10) The Spy Who Left Me by Gina Robinson: C

Trefle is in Hawaii with her cousin whose wedding was aborted at the last minute and who decided to bring her whole bridal party on her honeymoon instead of letting it go to waste. There, Trefle runs into her soon-to-become-ex husband who's a CIA agent and working undercover. She's still in love with him, but they have gone their separate ways because of his job... and she is determined to have Ty sign the divorce papers so she can move on. Meanwhile, Ty decides this would be the perfect occasion to win back his wife... if only his cover wouldn't be blown.

I was really looking forward to The Spy Who Left Me. Once again, I was expecting something funny... but I think my sense of humor went on vacation. This is the type of novel where some scenes are really exaggerated and you have to take it with a grain of salt. I have to say, I really liked the premise and the story had potential. I liked that Trefle and Ty were still in love with each other and that Ty was aware that his job was not easy on their marriage. Still, when everything is said and done, it bogs down to communication. I really felt for Trefle and what she went through, but I thought her asking for a divorce was jumping the gun. If she had explained the whole situation, I'm pretty sure Ty's reaction would be different and so when she would have asked him to quit his job, he would have handled it better.

All in all, I liked Trefle and Ty as a couple and I'm glad that they worked out their relationship. What didn't work so well for me was the case Ty was working on, that the book was all over the place, the action was a bit difficult to follow. Also, the switch in position between Trefle and Ty at the end was really annoying to me. After all this though, I'm not sure if I'll be picking up the next book in the series.

11) His Mistress by Christmas by Victoria Alexander: C

His Mistress by Christmas was better than The Perfect Mistress but by a very small margin. Basically, Lady Veronica Smithson has been a widow for three years and is ready to embark into an affair. Because she wants to keep her independence, she'd rather become a mistress than enter a marriage.. and she has chosen Sir Sebastian Hadley-Attwater as her potential lover. Meanwhile, Sebastian who's an explorer is ready to settle down. He's attract to Lady Veronica and wants marriage.

I liked the characters better in His Mistress by Christmas; however, I thought the romance was a bit dull between Veronica and Sebastian. They didn't really have much chemistry between them and as a result, it was hard to believe they had fallen in love at first sight. I just didn't get why they were both in love with each other so quickly, as they really didn't know each other well. Also, the Christmas theme in this book is very light...

I did like that Veronica loved her first husband genuinely, even though he was quite older than her. I liked both characters' families and their relationships with them. And my favorite scenes were the ones in which there was banter between either Sebastian and Veronica or Sebastian with his family. Personally, I think this series of Ms Alexander is really not standing out and it's a good move to her to switch direction and instead of writing Portia's book, to focus on Sebastian's family members. As it is, I'm looking forward to My Wicked Little Lies :)

12) Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally: B

13) Cold Touch by Leslie Parrish: B-

I was looking for a romantic suspense and decided to pick up Cold Touch. I have read Ms Parrish in the past and didn't fall in love with her writing, but didn't hate it either. Plus, I had read good reviews for this book :) The story is about Olivia Wainwright, a psychic, who upon touching a dead body is able to relive the deceased's final moments. She developed this curse when she was kidnapped from her bedroom at the age of 15 and her kidnapper almost drowned her. She was lucky to have escaped thanks to a little boy and has never forgotten him. Years later, Olivia recognizes the boy in a sketch that the police has obtained from the skeleton found in-between the walls of a bar... Olivia knows the boy lost his life because of her and is determined to find out his murderer.

I quite enjoyed the suspense in Cold Touch, but thought the romance between Olivia and the detective in charge of the case, Gabe Cooper, was a bit too rushed. I just felt they didn't really have time to get to know each other and developed such feelings. I also felt the psychic powers made things too easy for them. Then again, I'm very critical of psychic powers and suspense, because I'm a huge fan of the FBI SCU series by Kay Hooper, so yeah, I'm biased ^_^; All in all, the case was well done, I liked the investigation and there was a few interesting surprises in there :)

14) A Talent for Sin by Lavinia Kent: D

A Talent for Sin was not really a winner for me and I can sum up my feeling for it with one word: meh. I'm not usually a fan of younger hero and older heroine, but in this case, I thought it was interesting premise and it had a lot of potential. I especially liked the fact that our hero wanted to marry the heroine. Unfortunately, A Talent for Sin became too melodramatic for my taste with the heroine sacrificing herself for her sister. Also, I was disappointed that the hero didn't fight more for the heroine that he supposedly loved. I mean, given the heroine's past three marriages, she really had good reasons not to want to embark in another one... so it'd have been really good if the hero had tried to win her. Instead, I found immature that he just walked away. I also really didn't like the heroine's younger sister as I found her too calculative.

15) Her Best Friend's Wedding by Abby Gaines: D+

Her Best Friend's Wedding has one of my least favorite trope where the heroine is in love with someone engaged and is hoping that the wedding will not take place. Luckily for me, the hero wasn't the groom-to-be, but the bride-to-be's brother. So yeah, Sadie Beecham is in love with her colleague, Daniel, and think they're about to start a relationship... But that all changes when she introduces Daniel to her best friend, Meg Kincaid, and he has only eyes for her. Then they get engaged only after a few weeks and they all return home to start organizing the wedding. Meg's brother Trey realizes that Sadie has feelings for Daniel and wants to make sure that she won't interfere in the relationship.

I thought Her Best Friend's Wedding had really solid writing and solid characterization. That being said, I really didn't like any of the characters ^_^;  I thought Sadie, Daniel and Meg were all very immature, I didn't like how Sadie pined for Daniel and was waiting for the relationship to run its course and fail. I also didn't have a very high opinion of Daniel. I can understand love at first sight, but he was two seconds away from starting something with Sadie and I would have liked him better if he made a clean cut with her before starting to woo her best friend and roommate. As for Meg, she was not only extremely immature but so selfish.

As for Sadie and Trey, first of all, their romance was not really developed at all. One minute, Trey was keeping an eye on Sadie because he was afraid she'd ruin Daniel and Meg's relationship and the next minute, Sadie was in love with him. Have I been in his position, I would have had doubts as well. It just seemed so sudden and not well transitioned :(

16) A View to a Kiss by Caroline Linden: D

A View to a Kiss is a historical romance featuring a spy agent, Harry Sinclair. He and his colleagues are charged to protect 3 important political men from rebels. One of the men is an earl and the father of the belle of the season, Lady Mariah. While being the belle of the season is all well and good, Mariah finds none of her suitors interesting... in fact, they're all boring. The only man to catch her attention is the one who accosted her in the dark...

All in all, this book was so-so only. I never really got into it and didn't care much about the H/H. The romance was flat in my opinion and not very believable. Sure Harry was mysterious and intriguing, but she really didn't know anything about him... so to fall in love with him? The only interesting part of the book in my opinion was the end where we learn something about Harry's identity. That surprised me.

17) To Wed a Wild Lord by Sabrina Jeffries: B
Upcoming Review.

18) Tis the Season to be Sinful by Adrienne Basso: B

I read Tis the Season to be Sinful because Hilcia quite enjoyed it and I was in the mood for a Christmas-themed book. This book is about a marriage of convenience between Richard Harper, a rich American industrialist, and Juliet Wentworth, a widow with three children and an estate to care for. To show his status, Richard wants to buy a country estate and has chosen Juliet's. Except hers is to rent only to pay for maintenance and she wants to keep it as it is her son's inheritance. After witnessing Juliet being bullied by her brother-in-law, Richard decides to strike a bargain with her. He'll not only buy the mansion, but will also marry her as he needs a society wife to be a hostess. Juliet agrees as this will ensure her children's future... However, she wants more than a marriage of convenience.

Okay, bad synopsis, sorry... but at this point, my muse is really tired LOL. Tis the Season to be Sinful was a very nice romance and perfect for the holidays.The characters were all very likable from Richard to Juliet to the three children. I also thought their emotions and conflicts were interesting and realistic. I enjoyed the relationship between Richard and Juliet quite a lot. Even from the start, it was more than a marriage of convenience and they both knew it, but they didn't know each other very well... The learning was nice and well done :)  One thing that really sets Tis the Season to be Sinful from other historical romances or Christmas-themed books was the details Ms Basso added. She really included a lot of Christmas traditions and many I wasn't aware of and that was definitively a nice touch :)

The only reason this is getting a higher grade is that I didn't care much about the secondary romance and I thought they got rid of the brother-in-law a bit too easily.

Books bought: + 9
Books read: -16
TBR pile: -7

So looking back, November was a so-so month. There were a few books I really enjoyed, but at the end of the day, there were a lot of Cs and Ds... Much more than usual. I do think it's the books, but I can't deny that my mood had something to do with it as well. I just felt so restless in November, not knowing what to read :(

I'd like to point out also that I've read 4 books from my RWA TBR pile :) I'm happy about that number... cos I haven't been reading that many of it, since I'm always too busy running after the new releases. I'll definitively have to continue this year :)

And so that was it, November 2011 :) Now, only December to go!! LOL.