Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Monthly Reads: January 2012

LOL, it seems to me I'll never be getting these posts "on time" anymore. So to remedy that problem? Easy, change the date! Instead of the first of the next month, you can expect my Monthly Reads posts from now on to go up during the third week of the month :) That way, it gives me time to focus on reviews of books I've just read instead of juggling both months together :)

This month, I'm really happy at the number of reviews I've written :) Plus, even though there's only been two editions, the Week-End's Minis feature is working! I got some nice mini-reviews out of it and this means I'll have less to review in this post :) I also think that instead of writing mini-reviews in this post, I'll just stick to my thoughts of the books? I'll just go with the flow and see :)

So let's take a look at what I read in January :)

1) The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander: C-

I've been wanting to read Paradise by Ms Alexander for a long time because Ames really enjoyed that book. However, I haven't had the opportunity to, but stumbled across The Sweetheart of Prosper County and decided to give it a go after reading Alex's review. I really hope that Paradise is better ^_^; The story of The Sweetheart of Prosper County goes along the lines of: every year, Prosper County has a parade and Austin Gray thinks that if she can be the parade's sweetheart, the bane of her existence will stop harassing her and making jokes. So for Christmas, she asks for a rooster and intends to enter it at the fair contest.

Basically, I have mixed feelings about this book. I enjoyed the writing, the style and how time went by flawlessly. I liked how Austin got a rooster LOL. So unusual. Unfortunately, I wish there had been more development... for just about everything ^_^; I didn't really care for Austin very much. I thought she was immature and cared too much about what other people said, especially Dean - the bully. I also think that given how small the community is, some parents should have stepped up and deal with Dean's behavior. It is pretty classic of today's society, letting your kid do anything they want without real consequences and to have the parents buy their way out. There was potential in the relationships, Austin making new friends and her crush, but there just wasn't enough of it. It wasn't developed enough for me to really care :(

2) My One and Only by Kristan Higgins: C+

3) Twice Fallen by Emma Wildes: B
Upcoming Buddy Review.

4) Bride by Mistake by Anne Gracie: B+

5) It Takes a Witch by Heather Blake: B

6) Hidden by Kelley Armstrong: A-

7) Whispers in the Dark by Maya Banks: E

8) Island Heat by Sarah Mayberry: C

9) No One Left to Tell by Karen Rose: A

10) Destiny by Carly Phillips: C

11) The Shy Duchess by Amanda McCabe: C-

Did you see the cover? I simply fell in love with it and after checking out the blurb, decided to give The Shy Duchess a go :) The story is about Lady Emily Carroll, the daughter of a viscount or an earl who desperately wishes for his daughter to make a good match. Lady Emily Carroll could be the belle of the ton, if only she wasn't so shy. In addition, her shyness is also mistaken for haughtiness, earning her the nickname of "Ice Princess." Nicholas, the Duke of Manning, knows his duty is to marry and have heirs and is therefore looking for a wife. While Lady Emily is beautiful, she is not the one, as she wouldn't fit in his boisterous and scandal-ridden family. However, circumstances throw them together and when they are caught in a compromising situation, both Nicholas and Emily have no choice. Especially since scandal is the last thing Nicholas wants... but sometimes, scandal is inevitable.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I really liked the characters and the romance. Emily and Nicholas were both likable characters that you could cheer for :) The romance was sweet and I liked how it progressed, the fact that they spent time together, got to know each other and fell in love. It was a very natural process. Even though Emily was not Nicholas' choice of bride, he went into the marriage open-minded and gave Emily and their marriage a chance. He found out that Emily was a lovely woman on the shy side who was very eager to please and make him happy, that she wasn't at all haughty or snobbish. As for Emily, she found out that Nicholas was a good man who took his responsibilities seriously and loved his family.

What didn't work for me was the direction the book took. From the blurb, I expected the author to focus on Emily's shyness and the ways she would overcome it. I thought Nicholas would draw her out. Instead, once Emily and Nicholas were married, her shyness was barely mentioned and instead, the focus shifted to some external conflicts that appeared a bit out of nowhere and which I thought were superfluous and a little far-fetched :( In addition, when it came time for me to write this post, I could barely remember what were those conflicts about ^_^; In the end, I really liked Nicholas and Emily... Unfortunately, they weren't enough to keep me totally engaged and in the end, The Shy Duchess turned out to not be a memorable read :(

12) Mad about the Earl by Christina Brooke: B-
Upcoming Review.

13) Midnight Caller by Leslie Tenter: C-

After reading No One Left to Tell, I was really in the mood for romantic suspense and therefore picked up Midnight Caller. The main appeal, aside from being RS, was that the hero was from the FBI and I was hoping for a story focused on the investigation.

FBI Special Agent Trevor Rivette of the Violent Crimes Unit has been pursuing a serial killer, who's been exsanguinating his victims, for over a year when he ends up in New Orleans. Trevor can't help but wonder if the end game taking place in New Orleans is a coincidence or a taunt from the killer given Trevor's past. By pure luck, Trevor figures out that Dr. Rain Sommers - psychologist, host of a late-night radio show and daughter of a deceased emerging rock star - might be a target... Or at least, the caller named Dante is a person of interest. In order to catch this killer, Trevor intends to ask for Rain's help to introduce him into the gothic circles... and potentially act as bait.

I thought Midnight Caller started out really well and was quite intriguing. Also, the storyline had some nice twists and surprises :) I also really liked Trevor's character and his background story. His reluctance to come back to New Orleans was totally understandable and I was glad to see him reconnect with his family and that the three siblings are moving forward. However, I didn't like the direction in which the storyline veered. The whole goth scene and vampiric feel of the case just didn't appeal to me. If anything, it turned me off ^_^; The romance also didn't work for me because of the lack of chemistry between the H/H, the fact that I didn't connect with Rain and therefore didn't care for her character and also, the timing and pacing of the romance. Finally, I was quite disappointed with the investigation aspect of Midnight Caller. There was just too much going on and therefore, we didn't have much of a feel of the investigation going on. And while I do believe in gut instinct, the way Trevor figured out that Dante was a person of interest in this case, by just happening to be listening to Rain's radio show? It just seemed a bit too coincidental and far-fetched to me.

That being said, Ms Tentler showed me enough potential in her debut novel that I will most probably give her another try :)

14) Joy by Jayne Ann Krentz: D

A couple of years back, I went on a Jayne Ann Krentz' binge and ever since, I've been collecting her backlist. Joy seemed like one I would enjoy based on the storyline. A.C. Reyson is celebrating his break-up with Daisy Middlebrook as he realized they didn't suit each other and both escaped from the marriage her parents were hoping for. Then Reyson meets Daisy's older sister, Virginia, and sparks fly. However, both have had bad marriages previously and have decided to take things slowly. Then, Reyson decides to take their relationship to the next level and whisk Virginia away on a Caribbean trip.  During this trip, Reyson wins an emerald bracelet during a high stake poker game. He never expected this bracelet to put them in danger...

As you can see by the grade, I didn't enjoy Joy as much as I hoped :( It's unfortunate, because Joy had all the signs of a classic JAK, but it simply didn't deliver. Once again, I thought the beginning of this book was very promising. I liked how Virginia and Reyson were taking things slow, getting to know each other. However, once they went on the trip, the book went downhill. My main issue with Joy was with Reyson. At first, I thought he was very considerate taking things slow... the problem is that it didn't last. He started pressuring Viginia - to have sex, to move in together, etc. It wasn't done meanly or abusively, but I didn't like it nonetheless. He was short-tempered when he didn't get his way and he didn't seem to hear what Virginia was telling him... and that pretty much ruined the book for me. The other thing that didn't work for me was the suspense. I thought it was pretty obvious, not well integrated into the romance and the pacing was bad.

One thing I found interesting though is that Joy was first published in 1988. In the novel, the heroine had a really bad first marriage. Basically, her husband belittled her, made her lose all her confidence, even made her believe she was frigid and everything was her fault, etc. I found it interesting that even 20 years later, we still have heroines like Virginia in our contemporary romances. With all the advancements in technology we've made in 20 years, it seems that women/men relationships have not changed all that much...

If you're a fan of JAK and have not yet read Joy, my advice is just skip it ^_^;

15) A Lady Never Surrenders by Sabrina Jeffries: C+
Upcoming Review.

16) She Tempts the Duke by Lorraine Heath: B+

17) My Wicked Little Lies by Victoria Alexander: B+
Upcoming Buddy Review.

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

Woohooo! Double digits negative number in the TBR pile! This was definitively a great start to the year 2012!   Obviously, there were some duds, but it was nicely balanced by some great reads :) Overall I'm really happy with how much I've read, how much I bought - although truth be told, I wished this number would be higher... Withdrawal people! LOL - and I'm happy to have gotten back in a good reviewing rhythm. Hopefully, February will be as good :)

P.S. - Last day to vote for this week's WEM! Check out the poll on the sidebar to see what are the choices :)


  1. Whoo hoo! You did a lot better than me on book buying in January! And congrats on reading so many things from your TBR pile!

    "Basically, her husband belittled her, made her lose all her confidence, even made her believe she was frigid and everything was her fault, etc. I found it interesting that even 20 years later, we still have heroines like Virginia in our contemporary romances."

    What's even more disturbing is that it feels like there's recently been an up-rising in romance heroes who belittle and blame heroines being called extremely romantic. Its what disturbed me so much when reading Lothaire. Seriously, that relationship was just twisted and so many people are gushing over it. And then there's the ultimate example, Twilight. I just don't understand this trend.

  2. Sounds like you had a really mixed bag of peanuts this time around!
    I'm sad you didn't like the Sweetheart more, I liked it but yeah, I can see that more development would have been nice.

    I guess I just really liked the other people around.

  3. Samantha - Okay, tell me Samantha! What time do you wake up and visit my blog? LOL. Seems very early for me :)

    Well seriously, you have a couple of years to catch up reading-wise, so I'm not surprised you bought so many! If I was in your place, I would too! Seriously, I'm in withdrawal. As soon as there are some new releases in store, I'll be rushing to it! :)

    In the case of Joy, it was the ex-husband, not the hero that belittled her... and usually, heroes have to deal with the aftermath.

    You know the reasons why they are gushing about it in Lothaire? it's because he was so "tortured"... seems that a lot of readers will overlook things as long as the hero is tortured. But it is not romantic :(

    Alex - Yeah, mixed bag of peanuts, but you know, as long as there were some good books, I'm happy :) if it had been only duds, that would have been different...

    Yeah, I guess I was hoping more out of Sweetheart. But what really annoyed me was her thinking being in the parade would change things. Dean was a jerk and nothing would have changed that. She was his target and whatever she would have done, he would have found a way to annoy her :( Sad, but true.

  4. Haven’t read Joy, even though I also went on a JAK binge years ago, literally read everything by her including everything by Jayne Castle and Amanda Quick. I think her older books are better, though. Have you read Amaryllis, Zinnia and……………… can’t remember the name of the third one? Those are my favorite (they are Jayne Castle books).

    Just read your review of My One and Only and I’m still undecided, it doesn’t sound like I’m going to like it and I’m not a fan of road trip stories, and that’s the book’s highlight, right? I think I’ll pass. Have you read her new book, the one that comes out in May, I think? That one was surprisingly good. She keeps stepping further and further away from chick-lit, this book was a straight contemporary romance, she keeps the third person multiple POV which I usually prefer but I think I’m used to her first person POVs. The hero is awesome, LOVED him, such a sweetheart and a total beta male LOL. The heroine was harder to like but she grew on me.

  5. Sounds like you and Wendy boyh had your share of C reads, though you had more higher grades scattered in there. Of all the books you read though, the only one we both read I think is the Sarah Mayberry book. I may have read Joy, but if I did, it was years and years ago. So I can't really agree or disagree with you on any of the other ones *g*

  6. ELEVEN books off the TBR pile in January? Impressive, nath! :D

    Have you ever given a Karen Rose book anything less than an A? I'm definitely reading that series at some point... perhaps I'll invent a 2013 reading challenge! How many books are in the series now?

    Sorry you didn't like the Higgins book more. You know I adore her stories.. I guess I'll go read your review.. lol

  7. Brie - I mainly read her books as JAK, because I was in the mood for contemporary romance :) I like having businessmen as heroes. They're like an endangered species nowadays LOL.

    But I haven't really read her newer stuff with the paranormal elements. I'll need to check her out as Jayne Castle though. I've heard a lot of good stuff as well :)

    For My One and Only, the roadtrip is a big part of the story, but it wasn't as big as I thought it was going to be. Plus, you didn't get much of a sense to where they stop and sight-see... so I don't think that'll be a big issue for you.

    I haven't read her newest release yet. I don't want to read it too early, cos otherwise, what am I going to read in April/May? LOL. but I'm glad to know that it's great. And you know, I think she has a knack to write heroes ;)

    Kristie - I know, but I was luckier than Wendy. I read more and therefore got books that were really great :) Phew! What did you think of the Sarah Mayberry?

    Christine - Yep! I'm doing good :)

    LOL, yes, I did. Some are B+ LOL. But no, seriously, I think there's one or two that are B-/C+ reads. Right now, the series is about 11 books. Not too many :)