Monday, April 30, 2012

Discussion: Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong's covers

Okay, so this isn't going to be a real discussion, but I have a dilemma and I need your opinions. I was browsing the Chapters/Indigo website, figuring out my next orders. I've taken the habits of pre-ordering the hardcovers and trade paperbacks that I want, just because the prices are so much better online and also comparing it to Book Depository to get the best deals... and I came across Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong. Now, I've seen the US and UK covers, but I think the Canadian cover is really recent and this was my first time seeing it. Below are the covers: US, UK and Canadian respectively...


What do you think of the Canadian cover? Honestly, I don't really get it and it turns me off a little ^_^; Guess I won't be getting that copy ^_^;


Now's the real question though... Which one should I get then? The US or the UK one? My problem is that the last three books of the Women of the Otherworld series: Waking the Witch, Spellbound and Thirteen are a trilogy. I wished my covers would fit together... I actually had the same dilemma when Waking the Witch came out. The Canadian cover wasn't great, so I went with the US one - although that one changed. Then, when Spellbound was released, I went with the Canadian cover... Sigh, I wished I was psychic and knew what the subsequent covers would look like.

US:



UK:


CDN:

Also, is it me of none of the editions has a continuous thread for the three covers... I mean, the first two covers match, but the one for Thirteen seems to be coming out of nowhere!

So now, I have the following:


What do you think?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Week-End's Minis XII: Flirting with Intent by Kelly Hunter

Sorry, this week's feature is late! ^_^; I went to Disney's Beauty and the Beast: The Broadway Musical yesterday afternoon and was meeting friends for lunch prior to it. Then, my sister wanted to go grocery shopping... So I did not manage to finish the post before I left! Yep, I wake up every Saturday, sit at my computer and type the mini-reviews... I try to write them in advance, but it never works. Anyway, it works out well since there's no Hauling Sunday post this week :)

Once again, there was a tie in the poll's result. Flirting with Intent and Eon: Dragoneye Reborn both came in first. Usually, I would have reviewed both of them... but I did a lot of blogging this week and thought I'd cut everyone a break (you and me!) LOL. So I'm reviewing Flirting with Intent this week and Eon, next week. Hey, maybe this time, I'll be able to write the post early...

Enjoy!


Flirting with Intent by Kelly Hunter
published by Mills & Boon in April 2012
Ruby’s Relationship Rules... Ruby Maguire’s done with being messed around by men. Now she just needs to know three things about a potential bedmate: his name, where he’ll be in a week’s time, and what it is he wants from her. Damon West knows plenty about subterfuge and secrets, and nothing about being truthful with women. But Ruby demands honesty between them so Damon gives her as much as he can: I’m Damon West. I’ll be leaving Singapore in a week. And I want you to touch me. At least, that was the intent... but something’s telling normally bullet-proof Damon that one week with Ruby might not be so easy to recover from...
Genre: Category romance, contemporary romance
Series: The Wests, Book #1

What do you need to know? Okay, that blurb doesn't say much ^_^; First, the story doesn't take place in Singapore, but in Hong Kong ^_^; Ruby Maguire is a sharp and confident woman who used to be a corporate lawyer. Yes, used to, before her famous banker father was accused of skimming 872M$ and instead of going to jail, escaped without a trace, and a word, to parts unknown. Now, the only job Ruby managed to secure was offered by her father's long-time friend, Russell West: social secretary - which she knows was a position created only for her. Still, she's determined to do a good job - after all, she is over-qualified and knows the intricacies of the social circle in HK. Her latest task is to organize Russell's family Christmas party as his 4 grown children will come to celebrate.

Enters Damon West, Russell's youngest child. He's handsome, smart, charismatic and a complete enigma to Ruby. All Ruby knows is that Russell likes and is proud of Damon, so the guy must be doing something good.  The two are attracted to each other, but ever since her father deserted her, Ruby has issues. She thought she knew her father... but turns out she didn't. So now, she demands honesty from men... and honesty is something Damon cannot offer.

Why this book? Li read and enjoyed this book and since I like Ms Hunter's books, I decided to give it a go :)

What I liked? I loved the characters in this one, particularly Ruby. I loved how confident and self-assured she was, loved that she was smart and sharp and loved that she knew what she wanted. I really enjoyed the opening scene when she met Damon and they went shopping for Christmas gifts together. How quickly she pegged him and his sisters. I think Ms Hunter's writing made that scene, the fast pace and the wit. Throw two smart characters together who can verbally dueled each other and how can they not be attracted to each other? :) I also thought that Ruby was very strong and brave, after everything happened with her father. To stay in Hong Kong is proof of that. The fact that later in the book, she gave her resignation letter to Russell and was planning to start practicing another kind of law is another proof of how resilient Ruby was. Obviously, the fact that she still had a great deal amount of her own money helped, but even without, I know Ruby would have been fine... And I hurt for the woman who missed her father, who hoped to hear from him...

As for Damon, I thought he was charming and very likable :) I also liked the secondary characters, i.e. the Wests. They were all nice characters, but I have to say, what got to me was their dynamics and their closeness. Oh and as usual, I loved the setting of the book :)

Any Issues? I kind of have two issues with this book. The first and more important was the romance. I definitively think Ruby and Damon made a great couple; however, I thought the timing was a bit rushed. Especially when both of them believed it would go nowhere. And then, the fact that Damon couldn't seem to let go - that was cute, but it wasn't the kind of romance I wanted to see for the two of them. Damon's reaction when Ruby found out about his job annoyed me as well. It was clear that he didn't trust her... so to have them developed a relationship under such circumstances. Also, once their relationship got more serious, I felt Flirting with Intent lost a bit of steam. It felt like the book changed focus and we didn't have any sharp and witty exchanges anymore which was what I liked the most in the first half of the book.

My second issue is about Ruby's father. I'm glad that Ruby got closure about her father... but the way it turned out was a bit annoying. I mean, it's just a bit too coincidental that Ruby's father turned out to be in the same line of work as Damon. And poor Ruby, it really showed there was a whole side of her father that she didn't know.  Although her beliefs that there was more in the whole story and her father was a good man weren't wrong, so that should bring a bit of comfort. All this also links to the romance because Damon found out about Ruby's father and didn't tell her... and when she learns about it, she is understandably upset. I mean, she asked him to be honest with her upfront. I don't understand how this could be turned turned upside down and somehow, Ruby was in the wrong. At least, she made it up to Damon. However, the whole thing niggled at me :(

My Grade? B-. All in all, despite the few issues I had, I still enjoyed Flirting with Intent and I thought the first half of the book was excellent. I can't help but wish this book was longer - I know, I know, it's a category romance, what was I expecting? Still, I think if it was longer, Ms Hunter would have been able to develop some aspects of the book better.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Review: Doubletake by Rob Thurman

It's Friday again! Yay! This week has been kind of blur. There's a lot happening in Quebec province right now. I don't want to go into too much details, because it's a social and political debate and I've learned to avoid those on the blog. Needless to say though, it's very frustrating. Then, there weather has simply been crappy this week... Rainy and cold. We even had some snow flakes this morning!! 

The good news of the week is that I went to an ENT specialist yesterday about the vertigo. Turns out I don't have BPPV, but Meniere's disease. It's not much different than BPPV though, since there's no cure really. But at least, now, I'm reassured and so are my parents :)

On the blogging-front, I've been very busy as you can see :) I'm glad I was able to accomplish everything I wanted! Still can't accumulate a stash of posts to be scheduled, but at least, I had a plan and I got it done :)

So today, I bring you another review, actually a buddy review over at Breezing Through :) Hilcia and Leslie have joined me to discuss Doubletake by Rob Thurman. I really like this, because so far, all the books by Ms Thurman that I've read, either Hils or Leslie or both have reviewed them with me. It's like a tradition! You can click here to find out what we thought of Cal, Niko and Robin's latest adventure!

Doubletake by Rob Thurman
published by ROC (New American Library) in March 2012
Half-human/half-monster Cal Leandros knows that family is a pain. But now that pain belongs to his half-brother, Niko. Niko's shady father is in town, and he needs a big favor. Even worse is the reunion being held by the devious Puck race-including the Leandros' friend, Robin- featuring a lottery that no Puck wants to win.

As Cal tries to keep both Niko and Robin from paying the ultimate price for their kin, a horrific reminder from Cal's own past arrives to remind him that blood is thicker than water-and that's why it's so much more fun to spill.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Cal Leandros series, Book #7

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Monthly Reads: March 2012

Okay, so I keep telling myself that I have time, that there's a few more days left to April. But the truth is, May is creeping up on me!! But I'm done, so it really doesn't matter how much longer April will last or how close May is! Phew LOL.

I have to say, ever since I started the Week-End's Minis feature, my Monthly Reads posts are so much easier to write!! I think the WEM is my best idea ever LOL. And guess what? I'm really close to be reviewing everything I read. Wow!

So without further ado, here is what I read in March:


1) Driving Mr. Dead by Molly Harper: C

This is a novella taking pace in the same world as the Jane Jameson series, actually not only same world, but same town! Its purpose is to introduce the spin-off series featuring Iris Scanlon and her business, Beeline - Half-Moon Hollow's premiere vampire concierge service, to the readers. However, Driving Mr. Dead is not about Iris, but about her employee, Miranda Puckett. Miranda comes from a family where everyone is organized and knows what they want in life. But it is not the case for Miranda and as a result, she is considered a flake and her parents are still looking out for her, hoping that one day she'd come back to her sense and work in the family's law firm. Miranda's newest job is the position of driver for Beeline and her assignment is to drive to Washington state, pick up Collin Sutherland - a vampire, and drive him back to Kentucky before the deadline so he can deliver the mysterious black case to Council official Ophelia Lambert. Needless to say, with Collin's paranoia and OCD quirks and Miranda's emotional turmoil due to her fiance's affair, the drive is anything but straightforward. Especially when Miranda is prone to run in the most unimaginable situations :)

Overall, I thought Driving Mr. Dead was a fun read and a nice set-up for Ms Harper's new series. I liked both Miranda and Collin. Collin's OCD quirks were hilarious, especially that 16 pages document about the conditions for the travel LOL. However, at the end of the day, I felt like the changes in Collin were too quick and sudden and it was hard for me to believe the two have fallen in love, especially since it seemed they didn't have anything in common ^_^; It was just a bit too unrealistic to me, although I definitively wouldn't mind reading more about them :) Another little niggle... I don't know if it was due to the length of the novella, but the vibe I got from Miranda was very similar to Jane. I know that personality-wise, the two women are very different. However, the fact that they both find themselves in ridiculous situations... I think it was even mentioned in the novella how Miranda reminded someone of Jane ^_^; Then when you pair Miranda up with a stuff shirt like Collin, you can see the similarities. I understand part of the similarities is due to Ms Harper's writing style, but I really don't want interchangeable characters. I really hope Ms Harper will be able to give a distinct feel to Iris in The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires which comes out in August.


2) Fair Game by Patricia Briggs: B+


3) Nice Girls Don't Bite their Neighbors by Molly Harper: B


4) By a Thread by Jennifer Estep: B


5) The Temporary Wife by Mary Balogh: B-

For a more comprehensive review, please check out Hilcia's :) Otherwise, keep on reading!

In the past year, I've been going through Ms Balogh's extensive back list. She's quite popular as an historical romance author and while not all of her books have worked for me, they are solid and consistent reads :) Why did I pick up The Temporary Wife in particular? Well I like marriage of convenience plots.

Lord Anthony Earheart is the heir to a dukedom and to say he is on bad terms with his father is an understatement. When Anthony finally decides to respond to his father's summons, he's determined to thumb his nose at his father. After all, he's made a name and a fortune for himself in the past 8 years without the duke's support... and the last thing Anthony wants is to marry the bride chosen for him. As a result, Anthony places an ad for a governess... but what he's looking for in reality is a bride - one who is mousy and beneath his station. And he chooses Miss Charity Duncan. Unfortunately for Anthony, first impressions are often misleading as Charity turns out to be a lovely young woman. Her father's death left her family in a dire financial situation. Charity wanted to help her brother shoulder the burden and therefore has been working as a governess; however, she lost a few positions due to her outspoken and direct personality and her look. When she responded to Anthony's ad, she tried very hard to downplay her person... She never expected that Lord Eearheart would propose! And the money that he offers would be salvation to her family. All she has to do is keep the charade up.

The Temporary Wife has everything I usually like to read: marriage of convenience, opposite attract and it's almost a "happy-go-lucky heroine thawing a stuffy hero" story... So theoretically, I should have loved this book. However, I felt that The Temporary Wife was very similar to another of Ms Balogh's book, The Ideal Wife... and it turns out I enjoyed The Ideal Wife better - hence the grade. However, this book remains very enjoyable :) Indeed, it had good characters - I very much liked Anthony and Charity. I liked how brave and perspicacious she was, but also clever. As soon as Anthony explained to her his ploy, she knew what part he wanted her to play, what to expect, etc. I also loved that she didn't care what other people thought and did what she thought was right. My kind of heroine :) As for Anthony, he was a good hero as well. I think he felt like he had to prove something... and there were so many misunderstandings between him and his father and brothers. So much time lost. I also thought the dynamics of the family were very interesting and totally did not expect what was the source of so much misery on both sides. That was very well-done by Ms Balogh.

A few reasons why I didn't like The Temporary Wife as much as The Ideal Wife were the lack of background development for Charity. She has all those qualities, but we know next to nothing about her. For example, her father is supposedly a gentleman... Was he a good or bad guy? What happened for him to leave so many debts? When did her mother pass away? Where do all the kids come from? I also felt the H/H fell in love a bit too fast and would have appreciated seeing their romance developed a bit more. There was a lot of aspects to this book and while it wasn't overwhelming (like too much), it wasn't well-balanced in my opinion.


6) Doubletake by Rob Thurman: A-
Upcoming buddy review to come over at Breezing Through


7) Oracle's Moon by Thea Harrison: B


8) The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook: C


9) Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea by Sophia Nash: C+


10) Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas: B-


11) Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas: B


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


Genre

Historical Romance – 2
Contemporary Romance – 2
Paranormal Romance – 3
Urban Fantasy – 3
Steampunk Romance - 1

***

All in all, I think March was a good month. I admit being a bit disappointed by the number of books I've read in total. 11 is my smallest number so far this year... However, it's not so much that I've read only 11 books... It's that the month started out so well, with so many books I wanted to read! It was like the UF/PNR festival with so many good releases in the genre coming out at the end of February and beginning of March! :) Fair Game, By a Thread, Nice Girls Don't Bite their Neighbors, Angel's Flight, etc. With such good authors, it's no surprise that half my reads were UF and PNR :P So basically, I was in heaven at the beginning of March, but I ended the month feeling blah, not knowing what to read anymore and taking forever to read one book! I felt like I lost my reading mojo which is really not a fun feeling :( I wonder if it's not the Rob Thurman effect ^_^; For some reasons, I tend to read her books really slowly and it seemed I just continued that pace the rest of the month. Or maybe I just burned out reading too much UF/PNR? Hmmm.

Also, March was the first month I had a positive balance in my TBR pile in a while. LOL, I blame the "Buy 3, get the 4th free" promo at the bookstore. I mean, how can you not take advantage of that? :) I also don't mind very much because I've been doing really well in the past month.

So there you, my month of March! How was yours?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What do I read?




Well if you're a regular here at my blog, you have a pretty good idea of what I read... but for a complete answer, head over to Shannon's blog, What Women Read, where I'm guest blogging today! :)

You can click here for the post :) Please feel free to let us know what you read!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review: Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins

Ouf, I finally managed to write this review! :) Somebody to Love was a book I definitively wanted to review, but it turned out to be more complex and complicated to put my thoughts together than I expected :) It's interesting how the reviewing process really makes you think and question stuff... And how sometimes, you feel a certain way before the review and another, once it's completed. In any case, I hope you enjoy this review!


Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins
published by HQN Books (Harlequin) in April 2012
After her father loses the family fortune in an insider-trading scheme, single mom Parker Welles is faced with some hard decisions. First order of business: go to Gideon's Cove, Maine, to sell the only thing she now owns—a decrepit house in need of some serious flipping. When her father's wingman, James Cahill, asks to go with her, she's not thrilled -- …even if he is fairly gorgeous and knows his way around a toolbox. Having to fend for herself financially for the first time in her life, Parker signs on as a florist's assistant and starts to find out who she really is. Maybe James isn't the glib lawyer she always thought he was. And maybe the house isn't the only thing that needs a little TLC….
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Connected to Catch of the Day and The Next Best Thing

The Story: Okay, I haven't been very inspired lately to write synopsis ^_^; So bear with me.

Parker Welles is a single mother and the author of the Holly Rollers, a band of wanna-be angels on skates that started off as a sarcastic comment and became a popular series with children. As she grew up in a wealthy family with a sizable trust fund for herself and her 5 years old son Nicky, Parker has donated all the proceeds to Save the Children. When she finds out that her father has used her and her son's trust fund to cover the losses in an insider-trading scheme, that he's going to jail and that she's basically broke, it becomes imperative for Parker to come up with a new idea for a new series. In the meantime, she plans to go to Gideon's Cove where she inherited a summer house 5 years ago, flip it around and sell it. Except, the summer house is not exactly what she expected and the condition... Luckily for her, her father's attorney - James Cahill aka Thing One - shows up to give her a hand, because he feels responsible for her situation. The two of them have 3 weeks till Nicky's arrival to make the house livable.

James has always had a thing for Parker... and before leaving for Gideon's Cove, Lucy's advice for Parker was a summer fling. Living in such close proximity, perhaps the time is finally right for them to get to know each other better.

My Opinion: My first book by Ms Higgins was her debut novel, Fools Rush In. I ended up being pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed it. Ever since then, I have not looked back, faithfully picking up each new release :) Even when I felt her books were a bit too chick-litty... I like Ms Higgins books because they are fun and breezy to read and she usually has interesting characters :) Not that all of her books worked for me, but I've enjoyed the majority of them and that's what you want from an author right? The fact that she switched to 3rd POV with her last book, Until There Was You, was simply a bonus. So when Somebody to Love showed up in store, there was no doubt I'd be picking it up :)

My first impression of Somebody to Love was that it was an enjoyable read :) There was something about the story and the characters that compelled me to breeze through the book and as a whole, I liked it. However, once I was done and reflected on what I've just read, a few questions and issues popped up.

I'm going to start with the positive aspects of this book :) First, I enjoyed the setting - Gideon's Cove - it was very tranquil and serene. I think it was really the perfect place for Parker to recoup, reassess her life and future. I also liked the secondary characters from Gideon's Cove. They added some colors to the landscape and are good for Parker. For some reason, now that I think about it, it seems like Parker is lonely. Except for Ethan and Lucy, she didn't seem to have friends or someone close enough to confide in. So I think it was good for Parker to meet new people, people that she didn't know when she was rich, so no expectations. Also, I have to say, I liked that we got to re-visit some characters - without them taking over the storyline of course. It's funny because both Catch of the Day and The Next Best Thing weren't my favorite books at all, but to see Maggie, Malone, Ethan and Lucy again, well it was nice.

What really made the book for me though was the hero, James Cahill :) He was just a great guy, a great hero. Oh he wasn't without fault; I mean the way he dealt with the girl he's been occasionally hooking up, as an afterthought, wasn't exemplary ^_^; But it wasn't bad enough to condemn him either... and in the grand scheme of things, it showed us that James was just a guy ^_^; However, as we got to know James better and his background story, my heart just hurt for him and I couldn't help but tear up. I can't imagine going through what James did and live with the burden he has on his shoulders. To never be able to forget and be forgiven... it definitively shaped him, influenced him in his career path. To live with such guilt, you have to be very strong and as a result, I really admire James. I admire him because he did not shy away from the responsibilities. Instead, he endorsed them and did his best... And what really made me sad was the fact that people didn't seem to understand that he suffered. It's not because he came out of the tragedy physically unscathed that he wasn't affected, that he didn't suffer. In that sense, I felt that his family definitively has let him down... Therefore, I hope whoever James would fall in love with would be there to give him the support that he never got... Unfortunately, I don't think Parker is that person ^_^; And that's the crux of my issues with Somebody to Love.

Sigh, when it comes to Parker, I don't know exactly how I feel ^_^; I thought she was a great mother and I really admire her for not marrying Ethan because she was pregnant while knowing he loved someone else. I liked that she didn't settle for less than she deserved when it came to love. That was very brave of her. I also liked that she wasn't bitter about the whole situation with Ethan and Lucy - before and after they got together - and they all had good relationships together, being best friends and all. And while Parker grew up with money and never had to worry about it, she didn't have a spoiled attitude at all. LOL, so sometimes, her reality was a bit skewed and the rich side showed, but most of the time, I felt she was down-to-earth with the right priorities :) My problem with Parker though stems from her behavior/attitude. I can't exactly say she was wrong though. For example her relationship with her father. Parker caught her father cheating with the babysitter and when she told her mother, her father tried to say that Parker didn't see what she saw, that she misunderstood. Ever since, there's been a rift between father and daughter. However, Parker wants a relationship with her father, the father of her childhood... and therefore she is jealous of James and kind of take it out on him. The problem is that Parker's father has no idea what Parker is thinking... He thinks she hates his guts that everything she does is to show him up ^_^; Obviously, Parker's father was at fault... but there's two persons in a relationship. Parker can't just wait forever for him to make the first steps, especially if she wants their relationship to get better... but she kept waiting, blaming him instead of handing him an olive branch. Same thing when Parker and James first hooked up a couple of years before Somebody to Love. She didn't trust James, thought he slept with her to kiss up to her father... When he came after her afterwards, she turned him flat down - and really not kindly ^_^; ... and Parker figured if James really wanted her, he would try again. Lady, they cannot read your mind!! Overall, I felt that Parker waited and expected, but she never gave in these relationships :( It didn't made her a bad heroine, but it didn't make her very likable either. Especially when you consider her attitude towards James who was such a great hero. It simply rubbed me the wrong way, sigh.

I also have a question concerning the romance... Why did James like Parker so much? Why did he want her so much? I get that he was infatuated with her, but physical attraction aside, what was that made her "the one"? I don't think it was ever really addressed during Somebody to Love and in that respect, I felt the romance wasn't developed enough. Quite frankly, I think James deserved better. It was annoying to see that James was there for Parker when she needed someone, but instead of appreciating it, she kept trying to find excuses to sabotage their romance. Yes, she's a mother... but she's also a woman. Using Nicky as a shield... well it was cowardly. I wanted her to have the confidence to really acknowledge her feelings for James and I feel it never really happened. That's why I wished Parker was the one who did the "grand gesture" at the end, the one to go after James. Unfortunately, that didn't happen either. I'll concede that she took the first step, but I'm not satisfied with that. I think James really deserved to be swept off his feet, to be shown how important he is in someone's life.

What else? Well I felt the storyline about Parker being penniless and trying to get back on her feet was a bit  thin. I know that Ms Higgins' focus is usually on the romance and the characters and normally, that's the way I want it. But in this case, well, I felt the romance didn't have enough depth... so I wished there's been a bit more to the storyline. I find that not much happened and I guess it's because a lot of the book was about building the characters. By the way, it's good that Parker is such a generous person... but after what she went through, to donate all the money she makes on the books again, isn't that a bit imprudent? Oh and a word of warning, there is a 5 years old boy in this book and he acts like a 5 years old :P So he's sweet at times, but can be very annoying as well ^_^;

I know reading this review, it sounds like I had a lot of issues with Somebody to Love... and I did. However, it doesn't mean I didn't like this book. As I said, there was something compelling about Somebody to Love and I was really engaged. Perhaps it's because I'm familiar with Ms Higgins writing style... or simply because I was invested in the characters. Anyway, at the end of the day, Somebody to Love was still a very nice read and James was still a great hero :)

My Grade: My first instinct was to give Somebody to Love a B-. As I said, I did enjoy the read... But the more I thought about it and after writing this review, I have to go with a C+. I'm still going to pick up Ms Higgins' next release and I hope I won't have to wait too long for it :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Review: The Witness by Nora Roberts

I can't hardly believe we're at the end of April already! Actually, if I think about it, my birthday is next week! Wow, how did that happen? LOL. Where did time disappear on me? Although when I look out the window, it's more like early March weather. We've really had wacky weather this spring. It was so nice and warm at one time, almost like summer... and today? It's 2°C, extremely windy and rainy. Actually, I had to scrape wet snow off my car yesterday and there are parts of the province that are getting 5 to 10cm of snow!! Crazy! And of course, this morning, traffic was horrible. Sigh.

Anyway, let's get on with the program! If everything goes according to my plans, this week is going to be very busy on the blog :) Hopefully, I'll be able to deliver! First, I want to start with a review for The Witness by Nora Roberts. Find out how much I enjoyed Ms Roberts' 200th release!


The Witness by Nora Roberts
published by Putnam in April 2012
Elizabeth Fitch's short-lived teenage rebellion began with L'Oreal Pure Black, a pair of scissors, and a fake ID. It ended in blood...

Daughter of a cold, controlling mother and an anonymous donor, studious, obedient Elizabeth finally let loose one night, drinking too much at a nightclub and allowing a strange man's seductive Russian accent to lure her to a house on Lake Shore Drive. The events that followed changed her life forever.

Twelve years later, the woman now known as Abigail Lowery lives alone on the outskirts of a small town in the Ozarks. A freelance programmer, she works at home designing sophisticated security systems. Her own security is supplemented by a fierce dog and an assortment of firearms. She keeps to herself, saying little, revealing nothing.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the quickest way to get attention in a tiny southern town.

The mystery of Abigail Lowery intrigues local police chief Brooks Gleason, on both a personal and professional level. Her sharp, logical mind, her secretive nature, her unromantic viewpoints leave him fascinated but frustrated. He suspects that Abigail needs protection from something, even if he doesn't know what - and that her elaborate defenses hide a story that must be revealed.

Accustomed to two-bit troublemakers, Gleason is about to walk into the sights of very powerful and dangerous men. And Abigail Lowery, who has built a life based on security and self-control, is at risk of losing both.
Genre: Contemporary romance, Romantic suspense
Series: Stand-alone

The Story: I'm not going to attempt a recap, because I don't think I could do it without giving too much away ^_^; Also, I think the blurb is pretty good to give readers a sense. If you want more details, you can always check out Ames' review or May's review, both excellent by the way :)

My Opinion: People will say what they want about Nora Roberts, it doesn't change the fact that she's one of the most consistent and solid authors out there, and not just in romance. You have to be in order to publish 200 books! Of course, not all of her books are wowzers, but they are almost all enjoyable. Truth be told, I've yet heard people say unanimously "Stay away from X book, it was a real dud." And if we continue being honest, her 'duds' are often better than a lot of books out there. That's why I keep looking forward to Ms Roberts new releases. She's become an auto-buy author, but also a comfort author. Yes, I know what to expect, but at the same time, Ms Roberts delivers :) And I'm glad to say that Ms Roberts indeed delivered with her 200th book, because The Witness was a winner for me :)

What made The Witness was a winner for me? Well the fact that I stayed up till 3am to read as much as I could. I was hoping to finish it, but alas... it's quite a big book. I don't know if it's age or what, but I don't stay up late anymore to read. Sleep has become more important... *gasp* I know! So I really have to be into the book to stay up late... and 3am?!? I was really, really into it LOL. If it had been during the week-end, I would probably have stayed up till I finished it :) The second reason this book was a winner for me is simple: I liked everything about it :) The characters, the story and the setting - liked and enjoyed it all.

I have to say, I especially liked Abigail and Brooks. I thought they were just so likable and had such great chemistry together. Ms Roberts has written socially awkward characters, but never to Abigail's level. Think of a cross between Temperance Brennan from Bones and Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory :) The thing though is I don't think Ms Roberts was trying to be caricatural or build on the success of such characters. If you look at Abigail's past, given her upbringing and the years of hiding, her personality fits, makes sense and that's what I liked about her character. She was genuine. Had Abigail's childhood been different, I had no doubt she would be sociable and comfortable :)  And seriously, her personality paired with Brooks' gave rise to some really funny moments, loved how her mind was so literal at times :) Speaking of Brooks, I always say that Ms Roberts excels at writing grumpy hero like Simon Doyle in The Search, but The Witness reminded me that she can do charming heroes as well :) The type that get under your skin before you realize it :) Really, for someone who is not used to socializing or interacting with people, it's no wonder Abigail was confused and baffled by Brooks LOL. It's no secret that I love the "happy-go-lucky heroine thawing the stuffy hero" trope, but before The Witness, I thought the opposite wasn't as good. However, that's exactly what you get with Abigail and Brooks. A laid-back hero who draws out a socially awkward heroine and I realized that what I liked to read was characters out of their depth :)  It was endearing  to see Abigail trying to find her balance, coming to grasp with the relationship and Brooks being there for every step. I loved his endless patience with Abigail and the fact that he never pushed, he waited for her to be ready. I also admire his integrity when it came to his work, but also his flexibility, the fact that he acknowledged there were shades of grey in the world. Seriously, Abigail lucked out with Brooks because he was a great man.

I enjoyed the story; I thought it was well-balanced between giving us a glimpse of Brooks and of Abigail's lives. I have to say, I was really surprised by the direction the suspense took. Throughout the book, I kept expecting a particular event (highlight to find out: for the mafia to find Abigail)  to happen and I could definitively see the building up for it. I was at the edge of my seat, dreading the moment... I kept thinking how improbable it'd be and why now? However, as I said, Ms Roberts totally surprised me. It was unexpected, but more importantly, it fit with the characters' behaviors, especially Abigail, and made The Witness really interesting. So kudos to Ms Roberts :)

I think everyone will enjoy The Witness :) Especially since Ms Roberts laid back on the research with this one. It's a great feeling when you feel like the author is listening to you. I enjoyed the secondary characters, they fleshed out the background a bit more. I actually liked that they did not steal the spotlight and that for once, there was no secondary romance.  As usual, Ms Roberts did a great job with the characters interactions. I liked seeing Brooks with his family, how they welcomed Abigail... and once again, Ms Roberts did not overdo it. I feel like she held back a little, restrained herself, but not in a bad way. Instead, it was so the focus remained on Abigail and Brooks, which was definitively a good thing :)

While I loved Abigail, Brooks and their interactions, I did have a little issue with their romance. A tiny, wee issue really and that was the timeline of their romance. I felt things happened rather quickly between our H/H. From the moment Abigail and Brooks met to the moment the plan is put into action is 3 months I think. Three months is actually not bad, but when I read it, it felt much shorter than that. I know part of it was that Brooks got under Abigail's skin, but it was hard for me to believe she would open herself and trust him so quickly... However, when you take The Witness all together, it is a very small issue and not enough to ruin the book for me, that's for sure :)

My Grade: A-. The Witness was a great book, one that I really enjoyed. It was a definite winner for me and I can't think of a better way for Ms Roberts to celebrate her 200th book :)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hauling Sunday LXXVII

Guess what? I just came back from the bookstore :) I have to say, I'm pretty proud of myself since the beginning of 2012 because I have stopped running after new releases so much. Oh I still want new releases... but I no longer hit the bookstore several times a week. Now, I can wait till the end of the week LOL. It's nice LOL.

So what did I get this morning? This one...


Deadly Descendant by Jenna Black - I read and really enjoyed the first book in the series, Dark Descendant. I'm hoping this one will be as good because I really wouldn't mind a new UF series :) If you're wondering a bit about the style, the best way to describe it right now is Percy Jackson for grown-up :)

***

Ah, but it's not because I only went to the bookstore once and bought one book that my post is over. Nope, that's the beauty of modern time :) No need to go to the bookstores to get books! Here is what I got in the mail...


The Witness by Nora Roberts - Need I say more?!? LOL, it's Nora Roberts!! I had no idea this was her 200th book. Unbelievable right? Anyway, I already finished reading this one and it was a winner! :) Review to come, hopefully tomorrow ;)

The Calling by Kelley Armstrong - I love Kelley Armstrong. However, I admit that these past couple of years, I haven't been on top as I'm usually is. Still, the world she has created is amazing and I'm not about to give her up either :) Hopefully, The Calling will be a winner :)

***

As I said, I've dropped behind on Ms Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series. One of the reasons is because Ms Armstrong stretches herself a lot. I mean, some of her installments are published by Subterranean Press which are not the easiest to get your hands on. At least, not in print. E-books though? That's another story right? Especially when you consider the pricing! So that's what I did, I caught up on the series by buying these two books...


Angelic by Kelley Armstrong - This novella features Eve. She's not my favorite character which is why I didn't rush out to buy this book... Still, it's nice now to have the complete collection.

Counterfeit Magic by Kelley Armstrong - See, I'm actually a fan of Paige. I know, very rare LOL. But for some reasons, the blurb of this one didn't draw me in. So that's why I'm only getting it now...

***

So that's my haul for this week :) Not bad right?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Week-End's Minis XI: Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea by Sophia Nash

It's the week-end again! Yay! Any plans? I went to see a stand-up comedian yesterday evening, Sugar Sammy. He's like a local version of Russell Peters and it was really entertaining :) His ability to improvise is really good! Actually, my favorite part of the show is when he made fun of a guy who came late to the show LOL. As for the rest of the week-end, I plan to relax and blog :) The past week was a bit quiet on my blog, but I have a lot of reviews and posts planned for this week! So stay tuned!

One of posts I'm planning to put up is my Monthly Reads post for March 2012. Almost all of the books have been reviewed! Still, to make it the post shorter, I figured it wouldn't hurt to feature one of the books I still haven't reviewed in this week's WEM :) So here you go, Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea by Sophia Nash. Enjoy!

Oh, I'm putting a poll up this week, so don't forget to vote for next week's mini-review! :) And I've also made a few changes to this week's mini-review format. Let me know what you think :)


Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea by Sophia Nash
published by Avon (Harpercollins Publisher) in February 2012
Six Regency heroes—One royal hangover

An infamous night has been lost to memory. The scandalous Dukes of the Royal Entourage must make amends. The first step is a heroic rescue.

One of England’s most disreputable peers, Alexander Barclay, Duke of Kress, has stumbled upon a perfect opportunity for redemption. Having been exiled to Cornwall by the Prince Regent himself, Barclay discovers lovely Roxanne Vanderhaven clinging to the edge of a cliff, stranded there by her murderous blackguard of a husband... just waiting to be rescued.

Back on solid ground, Roxanne is desperate for a new life— once she’s retaliated for her husband’s despicable actions. Surprisingly, she finds herself drawn to her unlikely champion, certainly the last man in England she could count on. Yet, the infamous Duke of Kress isn’t quite the scoundrel he seems...
Genre: Historical romance
Series: Royal Entourage series, Book #1

What do you need to know? Alexander Barclay, Duke of Kress, is half-English, half-French which is not a great thing when there was a war between the two countries. Indeed, when his familial home in France was besieged, he escaped with his younger brother and an elderly aunt to England... only to be turned down by his English family because nobody wanted to associate with Frenches... Therefore, to insure their survival, Alexander might have committed some treasonous acts... and now that he is a duke, but has lost the Prince Regent's favor, he cannot put a foot wrong. So after a night of extreme debauchery that has all of the dukes' reputations in tatters and the general public dissatisfied with them, when the Prince Regent tells Alexander to go to the country in Cornwall to take a look and put back together his family estate, organize a country party and choose a young and rich bride, Alexander really has no choice. The last thing he expected was to find a woman clinging to the edge of the cliff...

Roxanne Vanderhaven was left stranded, clinging to the edge of the cliff, by her husband, the Earl of Paxton. After an hour, when he did not return for her, Roxanne knew he left her to die.. and she is outraged as the past eight years, she has done everything to be an exemplary wife and made his life easy. The daughter of a businessman, Roxanne now understands that her husband married her for the dowry... but never would she imagine he'd want her dead! Now, she want to know why and she wants revenge. However, when her husband is found dead and Roxanne, very much alive, the situation becomes very complicated.

Why this book? I bought this book because Leslie enjoyed it so much and I was looking for something fun to read :)

What I liked? While the plot was a bit ridiculous, I thought the concept of the series and the idea of the book were fun and entertaining. I am very, very curious to see what is going to happen to the other Dukes LOL. And I wonder what really happened that night and if we'll ever have a complete pictures. Ultimately though, I would the strength of Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea was the characters and their interactions. I especially loved Meme - Alexander's elderly aunt - and Isabelle, the only Duchess in the Prince Regent's entourage. Their comments were sharp and witty and provided a lot of chuckles :) I also liked Roxanne's character quite a bit. First, it was admirable that she kept such a strong front after finding out that her husband wanted her dead. Second, I liked that she reflected on her marriage and the reality of it. That her husband didn't love her, that he married her for her dowry and everything he did to keep her from being herself. All in all, she was a very strong and confident heroine and I liked that. However, I have to say I was disappointed that she was made to believe she was frigid. Sigh, this is really becoming too common ^_^;

Any issues? The biggest issue I had and the reason for the grade is the lack of development. For example, I would have liked to know more about Alexander's background. For the first half of the book, I actually thought that Alexander's younger brother was dead!! But turns out he's happily married somewhere. That struck me as weird as well... Given their pasts, I would think the two brothers would be very close. I also would have liked for Roxanne's husband's motives to be explored in more details. Why did he really want her dead and why now? Was it simply because he was interested in another woman? That's what it seems to me, but what about the money? Seems dangerous to get rid of your wife is you don't know where the money is. All this made Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea a weaker read to me. Finally, I have to say the romance didn't totally work for me. I just found it tiresome that Alexander was looking at other "candidates" while developing feelings for Roxanne. I felt that with an different concept like this one, the romance should have more sparks.

Also, there was my pet peeve: the French. I actually was impressed that Ms Nash got most of it right :) However, when the sentences started getting longer, she ran into some trouble. There was especially a passage between Alexander and Meme. She asks him when did he get permission to address her so casually, "tutoyer," the problem is there was a mistake in the French in the text and therefore, he was still addressing her formally - "vouvoyer" ^_^; I keep saying it, but it's true: French is a hard language, so please, look for someone who can check it over. Still, this was a minor issue and with the amount of French there was in this book, it could have been worst, but it wasn't. So Ms Nash still gets some points for it :)

My Grade? C+. Overall, it was a fun book.. but unfortunately it didn't wow me like it did Leslie :( Like I said, I thought the concept of the series and the book itself was good and refreshing... I just wished the romance Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea had been as original and refreshing instead of falling into known tropes as it did.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Review: We'll Always Have Paris by Jessica Hart

In case you weren't aware, I have a buddy review up over at Breezing Through! Wendy mentioned We'll Always Have Paris last week on her blog and I thought it'd be a book I'd enjoy. Well turns out I wasn't the only one thinking that, Brie from Romance Around the Corner as well! Go and find out what we thought of the book here!


We'll Always Have Paris by Jessica Hart
published by Harlequin Romance in April 2012
I've done it! Thanks to my awesome powers of persuasion, elusive-but-dreamy TV star Simon Valentine is starring in our new romance documentary!

It wasn't easy, though—Simon thinks his status as prime-time financial guru turned celebrity is ridiculous! He says he now steers well clear of affairs of the heart, but surely he must have one romantic bone left in his body?

Much as I'd like to find out firsthand, I've sworn off men after a disastrous ending with my last boyfriend. Must remain professional—though it won't be easy…we're filming in the most romantic city of all...
Genre: Category romance, contemporary romance
Series: None

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

TBR Challenge 2012: I'd Tell You I Love You, but then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter


Ahhhh, I was hoping to have this post up earlier!! I had a symposium in the afternoon, but figured I'd have time in the morning to write the review... but I did not have time to finish ^_^; Luckily, the day is not over, phew!

So, guess what? Today's the TBR challenge day and I made it for a 4th consecutive month! Not only that, but I stuck to the theme! Yes! I know the themes are not mandatory, but it's fun to make it. Gives you a feeling of accomplishment, especially for someone like me who doesn't do well reading under pressure :)

Anyway, I'm happy that I made it because my reading has been kind of slow lately. Except for the new releases I was really looking forward, I have been picking up books and putting them back down, reading only a few pages :( So I was pleasantly surprised when I zipped through this book for the TBR challenge :)

Here we go!


I'd Tell You I Love You, but then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter
published by Hyperion in April 2006
The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women is a fairly typical all-girls school, that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE, the latest in chemical warfare in science; and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes computer class. So in truth, Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses, but its really a school for spies. Cammie Morgan is a second generation Gallagher Girl, and by her sophomore year she's already fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways (three of which involve a piece of uncooked spaghetti.) But the one thing the Gallagher Academy hasn't prepared her for is what to do when she falls for an ordinary boy who thinks she's an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, and track him through a mall without his ever being the wiser, but can she have a regular relationship with a regular boy who can never know the truth about her? Cammie may be an elite spy in training, but in her sophomore year, shes beginning her most dangerous mission; she's falling in love.
Genre: YA, contemporary
Series: Gallagher Girls, Book #1

The Story: Cameron Morgan, aka Cammie aka Chameleon, is the daughter of two spies. When her father went on mission and didn't come back, everyone knew what it meant. That's when Cammie's mother decided to switch gear and come home... to Gallagher Academy as the headmistress. On the outside, Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women is a boarding school for rich, spoiled girls... but in truth, it recruits girls to train them to become spies and secret agents.

Cammie has been at Gallagher Academy for a couple of years and expect to enjoy her sophomore year with her two best friends and roommates, Bex and Liz. However, the routine is disrupted by the arrival of two new persons. One is Macey McHenry, the new student who happens to be Cammie's new roommate and also the rich, spoiled daughter of Senator McHenry. The other is Joe Solomon, the new teacher for CoveOps whose made his goal to show his students what field work is really and that not everyone is suited for it.

However, CoveOps takes an entirely new meaning when during an assignment in town, a boy notices Cammie who is used to be unremarkable. Later on, she runs into him again and he asks her out on a date... Is he for a real or a honeypot? Can Cammie really have a relationship with a normal guy... based on lies?

My Opinion: A few years ago, I attended a Young Adult Authors Chat panel during the RT convention in Columbus and Ms Carter was one of the featured authors. I remembered really enjoying her talk and thought that if her books were anything like her, they'd be a lot of fun. Also, at that time, she had just started a new series, Heist Society, featuring the cat burgler business which I love! So I was really interested in her books. At the convention, I bought Heist Society, but when I came back to home, I decided to also get I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You, the first book in her Gallagher Girls series which made Ms Carter so popular. As you can guess though, it's been sitting in my TBR pile ever since ^_^; Once I saw this month's theme for the challenge, I thought this would be the perfect occasion to pick it up... Mission accomplished :)

Being the first book of the series, I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You is definitively a set-up book. Readers are introduced to the school and its history, get acquainted with the characters and the world these girls live in. While the concept is not new, it was well executed and I like the ideas that Ms Carter came up with and also how the girls apply what they learn :) I thought the atmosphere was fun and exciting and I could totally visualize it. I think Ms Carter really did a good job thinking it through and it resulted in being one of the strong aspects of the book.

Throughout the book, the story unfolds through Cammie's POV and I think she was a good character, a good narrator. While she is training to become a spy and her life is so abnormal, deep down, Cammie is just a regular girl... especially when she meets a cute boy LOL. I thought that part was pretty fun. The fact that they are so savvy and have a lot more specialized knowledge, but at the end of the day, they are still teenagers. In that sense, I think it was great to have Macey to show the contrast... Macey has lived in the "normal" world, has a life experience that these girls don't. I think the perfect operative would be someone that has the right balance in between. Anyway, back to Cammie. She was a nice girl in love for the first time. She's sweet, she's loyal to her friends, eager to live... She could have been annoying because of all the spy-knowledge, but Ms Carter did a good job at balancing the spy and the teenage girl personality :) Also, I thought the dilemma - being an operative or not - Cammie faced was quite interesting and I liked the direction she took at the end. At her age, I thought it made the most sense. Bex and Liz were also nice friends, but a bit stereotypical in the sense that Bex likes action and Liz is the brain. One other thing is that I like the teaching staff from Cammie's mother to the new teacher, Mr. Solomon and the funnier and stereotypical teachers :)

While I really liked the concept and the characters, I felt the story was lacking a little bit. I actually liked the part about Cammie meeting a guy and falling in love with him, developing a relationship. I liked how they spied on him, putting in practice what they learned. I thought that was fun :) However, the rest of the book seemed a bit disjointed. I felt there was no flow between the different storylines - life at Gallagher Academy, Cammie's romance and their mission - nothing connecting them and making it "whole." Part of it is due to the fact that Ms Carter spent a little bit too much time setting up the world. To her credit, Ms Carter does try, but the thread is so thin that it doesn't really work... And I think it really hurt the final impression of I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You.

Overall, I thought that I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You was a fun book. It's the kind of books that you want to read when you wish to escape reality, because what happens in here is so out there, so foreign LOL. And obviously, you have to be able to suspend disbelief to truly enjoy it. If you're able to do that, then you're in for a good time. Also, it says on the back cover that I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You has been optioned for film by Walt Disney Pictures. I can totally picture it as a movie in my head. The way Ms Carter has written this book, it'd really be easy to adapt it on the big screen... and I hope we'll have the chance to see it :)

My Grade: B-. A fun and quick read, but lacking a little bit in depth. I'd say I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You is a bit like a Walt Disney movie, eg. the Spy Kids movies (not the spy aspect). It's a fun way to spend time and you're happy if you do read/watch it, but it is not ground-breaking and no real loss if you don't.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hauling Sunday LXXVI

I thought this week was going to be real quiet, but I managed to find some books to buy :) So let's take a look, shall we?

E-books:

Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger - My blog is not the first place this week you've seen Last Days of Summer being mentioned? Well two very good reasons... First, it's a great book LOL. Second, it's on sale at 1.99$ at most e-book retailer!! Seriously, it's a great deal for such a great book! If you're looking for something different, give it a try! This book will make you laugh, smile and cry :)

We'll Always Have Paris by Jessica Hart - Earlier this week, Wendy had a post about Comforting vs. Tired tropes and authors and she mentioned We'll Always have Paris. I decided to give it a go because it had one of my favorite trope: the happy-go-lucky heroine thawing the stuffy hero :) Speaking of this trope, anyone has recs? I'm looking for more! :)


Last but not least:

Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins - Through all my years of chasing after new releases and buying books, I've gathered some good information. One of them is that Harlequin books tend to make their way early at the bookstore... and not have strict release date. This means they're usually early on the bookshelves too :) I decided to take a look at the online indicator and yay, Somebody to Love was in stock! Bonus, I didn't even have to bother a clerk to find a copy :) I've heard this one is good, so I'm looking forward to reading it :)

And there you go. All in all, a pretty good week :)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Week-End's Minis X: Cheri on Top and I Want Candy by Susan Donovan

Last week, I didn't put a poll on the sidebar for the Week-End's Minis for two reasons: 1) I knew what I wanted to review and 2) I haven't been reading as fast lately, so didn't have enough options for a poll ^_^; I thought my reading had picked up last week-end, but I only managed to read one book this week! Ugh. At least, I'm blogging, so small blessing :)

So this week-end, I'm reviewing Cheri on Top and I Want Candy by Susan Donovan. I read I Want Candy last week and knew it'd be a mini-review... Although I might have rambled quite a bit and the review might not fit "mini-review" anymore LOL. Anyway, I wanted to take this opportunity to also review Cheri on Top since it's the first book in the series which I have read when it was released and had slipped  though the cracks.

Enjoy and have a nice  week-end!


Cheri on Top by Susan Donovan
published by St. Martin's Press in August 2011
Sun-drenched beaches, designer-label clothes, drop-dead-gorgeous boy-toys... all paid for with a series of high-risk real estate deals. That’s the lifestyle Cherise Newberry and her BFF Candy enjoy after leaving rural North Carolina for Tampa—until the market tanks and they lose everything. Cheri is surviving on Ramen Noodles and temp jobs when she gets a call from home to come back and run the family’s small-town newspaper. Just one catch: She’ll become the boss of her high school crush—and former brother-in-law—who might have the power to crush her all over again...

But Cheri is surprised to see how “bad boy” J.J. DeCourcy has grown into the hard-working and principled managing editor of The Bigler Bugle. Still, according to Cheri’s bitter sister, he’s not to be trusted. If Cheri’s going to co-exist at the with this sexier-than-ever man from her past, she needs to stay professional—and keep her distance —even though he sets her on fire. When they’re handed the biggest news story in the town’s history, Cheri must trust J.J., even it means putting her life in danger... and her heart on the line.
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Book #1

What do you need to know? I think the paragraph of the synopsis is pretty accurate. However, what's misleading is that J.J. was a lot more than Cheri's high school crush. They were in fact a couple back in high school. The two of them along with Candy and Turner - now the town's sheriff - were like the 4 musketeers. However, Cheri and Candy were determined to leave Bigler and spread their wings... And when J.J. went after Cheri, she was on top of the world. That is until her sister, Tanyalee, called J.J. informing him she was pregnant and he was the father. The next thing Cheri knew, J.J. was marrying Tanyalee. Cheri and her sister never had a good relationship and let just say this just made it worst.

Now, coming back to Bigler and the family business is a big blow to Cheri's pride... and living with her great-aunt Viv is a trial. It doesn't take long for Cheri to take refuge at the family lake's house, her childhood home. Another trial is working with J.J. who's a reporter for the Bugle and on the trails of a very hot story when a car and a corpse, both decades old, are dragged out of the lake. Murders, embezzlement and mayhem ensued.

Why this book? Now that I think about it, I have a weird relationship with Ms Donovan. Whenever Ms Donovan has a new release out, I'll be on the look-out for it... Yet, a lot of her books are hit and miss and I'm starting to wonder why she is an auto-buy author for me ^_^; Why am I not more selective about her books like I am for other readers? Reputation? Peer influence? Hmmmmm.

Anyway, I picked Cheri on Top because it sounded fun :)

My thoughts? Well, I thought that Cheri on Top was not the best book I've read, but not the worst either. I think one of the reasons I felt that way was the characters. At best, I could say my feelings towards them were neutral. I think one of difficulty is the situation both found themselves in. On one hand, you have Cheri who appears to be very materialistic, proud and to a certain extent, selfish. I understand that Cheri has attained such high and to drop so low, well you don't want everyone to know... and that's understandable. However, I got annoyed with the front she put, the whole "Oh, my grandfather begged me to come back" and so on. I also don't understand why she didn't confide in her grandfather - he's the kind who cares and is concerned for her well-being. Another thing that bugged me is the lack of family sense... Tanyalee and Cheri have a bad relationship and given the circumstances, that's okay. Her great-aunt Viv is not the easiest person to live with and that's fine too... But still, her great-aunt Viv and her grandfather are getting older... Isn't Cheri concerned for them? Then, on the other hand, you have J.J. Everyone makes mistake, but J.J.' s was big and a bit hard to overlook. Confessing your love to Cheri and being interrupted by a phone call from her sister announcing she's pregnant and you're the father? Ouch. The whole fact that 1) he slept with someone else and 2) Cheri's sister... Even if Tanyalee instigated it and all, still ouch. I do admit though that mistake aside, J.J. turned out to be a good guy. However, sometimes, first impressions are hard to overcome ^_^;

The romance between the two is as you'd expect. Basically, Cheri and J.J. still have feelings for each other and once in close proximity, despite their past, they have difficulty keeping each other at arm's length. Actually, they have difficulty keeping their hands off each other LOL. So there was plenty of sexual tension and the chemistry was there. I liked that they worked things out, especially concerning their past. That was the big obstacle to their relationship... although I kind if wished they'd also talk more about the present. What they wanted now.

I'd have to say, if it was for the characters and the romance only, this book wouldn't have scored high points with  me... but surprisingly, the mystery was pretty interesting :) Ms Donovan did a good job with it as well as integrating it to the romance. Plus, there was some very funny parts - pregnant squirrel comes to mind :) And that made me enjoy the book more.

My Grade? C+. In the end, I found Cheri on Top was a quirky read and had a good time.


I Want Candy by Susan Donovan
published by St. Martin's Press in February 2012
Candace Carmichael was just getting used to the lavish life when everything went sour. Now the down-on-her-luck real estate agent is back in Bigler, North Carolina, jobless and illegally rooming with her her mother in a swank retirement community. All this makes her wonder why she ever considered her BFF Cheri’s invitation to move back home. Life in this small mountain town may not be as glamorous as the one she had in Tampa, but she knows a girl can’t be too choosy in this market. Besides, everyone’s happy to welcome Candy back—especially one handsome widower named Turner...

Turner has grown up to be one fine-looking piece of man candy—and looks even tastier in his sheriff’s uniform. Maybe that’s why she couldn’t resist kissing him when he pulled her over for a traffic violation. Even if a relationship was part of Candy’s business plan, Turner would be off limits—he still wears his wedding ring, four years after his wife died. If falling in love too fast is a crime, Candy is soon guilty as charged and ready to be fingerprinted. But is she ready to lock away her dreams and hand Turner the keys to her heart?
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Book #2

What do you need to know? Well eventually, Candy followed Cheri home to Bigler, but she's still totally broke. Candy's plan is to find a job, make a bit of money and as soon as she can, she'll leave the town and start over. Eventually, she gets a cashier job at the diner... and while she's trying to scrape money together to rent an apartment, she is rooming with her mother at the retirement community - not something she ever expected, especially given their relationship. Then, the night clerk starts developing an unhealthy crush on her and Candy finds herself unknowingly tangled in a joint task force investigation for a drug bust.

Ever since their high school days, Turner had a crush on Candy... However, it was clear they had no future together since her father would never approve of Turner because of his skin color. But now, the planets seem to have aligned themselves: her father's death, Turner is a widower and Candy seems to have finally realized what a hunk Turner is...

Why this book? Same reason as to why I bought Cheri on Top,  although I have to say, I was curious about Candy's story :)

My thoughts? Hmmmmm, it's hard to describe how I feel about I Want Candy. On one hand, there was a lot going on at the same time with some inconsistencies and questions... but at the same time, I don't know, it works LOL. I found myself continuing reading and that's something given my current reading mood. So kudos to Ms Donovan LOL.

Overall, I liked both Candy and Turner's characters. Turner was just a good buy all around and while he was a widower, he wasn't too hung up on his dead wife. Yes, he wanted to find out the truth behind her death for closure and J.J. and his brother thought he was a bit obsessed with it, that he should resign himself. However, his behavior didn't come across as obsessive, mainly because he had healthy fantasies about Candy, LOL, but also because there was so much going on that Ms Donovan did not focus too much attention on that aspect ^_^; As for Candy, I like that knew she was materialistic. She has difficulty giving up her previous life, but she was still a pretty good girl... and she was brave to want to pick up the broken pieces and want to start over. What bothered me though with her character is that Candy kept saying she couldn't stay in Bigler. It was okay for Cheri, but for her, being Candace Carmichael, it was not an option to stay... and that part, I didn't really get. The way Candy talked, it was as if she really had a bad past or her family had a bad reputation in Bigler and everyone would be out throwing stones at her... But it really wasn't the case. Also, there were parts where it seemed Candy was traumatized in her past, but when it came to light, in the scheme of all things, it didn't feel that bad. I know this is subjective and it varies from person to person... but I guess reading so much fiction and listening to news, there are so many horror stories out there that it made me immune and insensitive...? I just found that there were characters I've read who had worst and seemed to cope better than Candy ^_^;

Once again, the romance between Candy and Turner was pretty hot and heavy. I like the chemistry between the two and I think it helps that they had an history. I liked that Turner didn't want to make Candy obliged to stay, that he wanted her to stay in Bigler not just because of him, but for herself as well. Once again though, I wished there was a bit more development... a push as to why the two of them would jump each other now besides attraction and lust. Also, Ms Donovan touched lightly on the racial aspect... I don't know how I feel about that. I'm sad that it is still a current problem in our society and good for Ms Donovan for addressing it. At the same time, I kind of have a problem with the way she did it... Because there was so much going on, Ms Donovan didn't dwell on it very long and as a result, it felt superficial and superfluous ^_^; It seems to me, if Ms Donovan really wanted to tackle this issue, she should have devoted more of the book to it. Otherwise, she should simply not have brought it up. As it is, the in-between does not do much.

Also, I thought the mystery in Cheri on Top was well done... but not so much in I Want Candy. I think it again comes back to too much going on. The whole drug investigation was a good idea as another storyline, but it was muggled with the whole night clerk's - who's a part of the drug lab organization - delusion that Candy was his girlfriend. The way this story thread was resolved was a bit unrealistic and anti-climatic.

One last inconsistency that bothered me was about Candy's mother, Jacinda. She did such a 180 degrees in behavior that it was hard to believe. I mean, in the beginning of the book, when Candy visits her mother to let her know what happened to the money she lent her, the reaction you get was that Jacinda didn't expect to see the money back because she knew Candy would fail... Then at the end, you find out everything that Jacinda has done for Candy. Don't mistake me, I'm glad that her mother turned out to be a better woman and Candy will probably have a better relationship with her... but it seems like a bit of bad characterization, because it's hard to believe ^_^;

So it seemed like I had a lot of issues with I Want Candy and I guess I did... but as I said earlier, there was just something about this book that was compelling and made me continue reading it and at the end, I had a good time :)

My Grade? C+ as well. Once again, not the best nor the worst book, but an enjoyable one :) I have no idea if Ms Donovan plans any other books in Bigler, but I wouldn't be against it :)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Review: Just Down the Road by Jodi Thomas

Another day, another review :) I'm really glad I was able to write this review in a timely fashion. I love this series and I want everyone to know about it!


***Warning: This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk***

Just Down the Road by Jodi Thomas
published by Berkley in April 2012
Harmony, Texas, is a place where dreams are born. As the townspeople face unexpected endings and new beginnings, they also come face to face with themselves—and what’s most important in life...

When Tinch Turner lost his wife, he gave up on living. Now he spends his nights brooding, boozing, and brawling. When one of his escapades lands him in the ER, he finds himself staring up at the beautiful new doctor in town. For the first time in years, he feels a spark, but Addison Spencer wants nothing to do with the unruly rancher—or any man for that matter. She’s only in Harmony four months, long enough for the trouble she left behind to be over. But then a vulnerable little boy barrels into both their lives, forcing them out of the past—and into a future where love is just down the road...

In the meantime, as Reagan Truman grieves for her beloved uncle, she finds comfort in the makeshift family she’s made in Harmony—and in a new baby, the first born in the Wright Funeral Home in 45 years, proving to everyone that life does go on...
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Harmony series, Book #4

The Story: It is customary for a Harmony novel to have several story threads - some beginning and others continuing - and Just Down the Road is no exception. The main story is about Tinch Turner, a rancher who lost his wife to cancer. Ever since her death, Tinch has lost his purpose in life and often spends his nights getting drunk at the bar and getting into brawls, with the odds not being in his favor. That is how he meets Dr Addison Spencer who also happens to be his neighbor. Tinch quickly figures out that Addison has come to Harmony to hide, but from what? As the two have nothing in common, Tinch and Addison figure they'll each go their own way... That is until Tinch finds out he is the guardian of a 4 years old boy, Jaime, who is his nephew on his wife's side. Jaime's mother was a drug addicted who came to Harmony to look for her sister. When her death is ruled as murder, everyone fears for Jaime's safety... and Tinch and Addison start bonding over the little boy as he considers Addison his guardian angel.

The other storylines involve familiar faces. First, there is Tyler, the funeral home director. His Kate has finally agreed to marry him, but she has one more mission to complete before and it is not without danger. Tyler can't help but worry and in the meantime, there is also his young housekeeper, Autumn, who is about to pop. Then, there's Reagan who finds herself alone for the first time since she came to Harmony after her uncle Jeremiah passes away. She really needs Noah by her side, but he is not there... When he finally returns, Reagan questions their relationship as it is clear Noah is not ready to settle down. Finally, there is Beau Yates who is 18 years old and the son of a minister. He aspires to be a musician, but stutters every time he talks to a woman... and he is slowly making the transition from boy to man.

My Opinion: After reading The Comforts of Home, I did something I rarely do... I read the excerpt for Just Down the Road. See, there's a reason I usually don't!! Because it makes me want to have the book right away! Luckily for me, I only had 6 months to wait instead of a full year! As soon as I got the book, I started reading it... and as usual, Ms Thomas does not disappoint :)

Before I start gushing about the book and the series, I'd like to give out an advice and that is to read this series in order, LOL. As I said in my synopsis, every book has several storylines going on and Ms Thomas doesn't tie them all up neatly at the end of each book. So if you really want the whole experience, I strongly encourage newcomers to start at the beginning with Welcome to Harmony :) And since I'm talking about the series, I might as well start my gushing from here :) After vampires and werewolves, small town romance is the new "in" and as a result, there's been a boom in small town contemporary romance series in the past couple of years. To me though, the Harmony series is one that really stands out. I mainly attribute it to Ms Thomas writing. As I've said many times in past reviews, there is something special about Ms Thomas' style. It's just so gentle, so serene that it lulls you into the stories and it really fits the atmosphere she has created for Harmony. After reading Just Down the Road, I think I've figured out another reasons why this series is so enjoyable: equal opportunity/diversity. By equal opportunity, I mean that with Ms Thomas' talent and touch, everyone can become a protagonist. Most contemporary romances feature H/H in their mid-20s to mid-30s, people that somehow made their way to the small town and meet its inhabitants. Some are looking for a place to rest before returning to their lives, others are looking for fresh starts... That's what readers enjoy and there's nothing wrong with that. But did you ever think you'd enjoy reading about a 45 years old, chubby funeral home director? Or a socially awkward 27 years old mailwoman? Or an 18 years old boy who stutters when he talks to women? Well when it's by Ms Thomas, you do :) Her characters are so diverse, both in age and background and that makes it interesting and keeps the series refreshing. Something else that I really like about the Harmony series is the lack of sequel baiting. In most series, when some interesting characters are introduced, you expect them to get their own book when the time is right. In this series, many of them will likely never get the spotlight. Instead, their stories are told as the series continues and I really like it because that's how life is :)

Now, what about Just Down the Road? Well I really enjoyed it :) I really liked the main story with Tinch and Addison. Tinch was the strong, silent hero type. My heart really ached for him because when he lost his wife, he lost his best friend, his family and his lover T_T Is it a wonder that after her death, he lost himself? However, as soon as Jaime came into the picture, Tinch put himself back together and was there for the boy. He found a purpose in life again and with that, he started living again. Awwwww. It does help that I love this type of story, LOL. Plus, Jaime was a pistol :) I also liked the romance between Tinch and Addison. It was sweet and it was fun to see the two of them dancing around each other. I have to admit, I did not really care about Addison's back-story. Basically, Addison has tried her whole life to be the perfect daughter, but her father always found fault. She tried rebelling once in her life and it resulted in a failed marriage and her parents bailing her out of it. Now, her father has decided she should marry an older man who happens to be a brilliant researcher... However, there's really no passion between the two of them. To delay the decision, Addison has "ran away," taking the position in Harmony for a year... but her contract is coming to an end. From the way Addison behaved at the beginning of the book, I thought her past was really dark and painful... And while I know everyone reacts differently, I've really read worst pasts. I kind of felt Addison's current behavior was a bit over the top considering her past, but oh well. Apart from this, I liked Addison character. As for the suspense, I thought it was interesting even though you had to suspend disbelief at times.

To my surprise, Tyler - the funeral home director - has become one of my favorite characters in Harmony :) Seriously, he just grows on you and you can't help but like such a nice guy. I found it cute how excited he was to have a baby in the house... and his reaction at the end when he realized that a newborn mainly slept, ate and cried was so male LOL. I also like how much pride he takes in doing his job. You don't often think about it, but he is kind of the glue of the town... It's also funny how Tyler always ends up being at the right place at the right time :)  However, I have to say that the whole worrying about "my Kate" got old fast ^_^; Also, while it never got to that point, I'm kind of disappointed in Tyler that he would give Kate an ultimatum - him or her job.  In the end though, I'm just happy that he's finally found happiness :)

And as usual, there's Reagan's story thread.  While Tyler is kind of the glue of the town, Reagan's story is the glue of the series. I loved that we've seen Reagan grow throughout the series. However, when I heard that her storyline was about her relationship with Noah, I couldn't help but think "Not again" ^_^; I mean, it's obvious that Reagan and Noah belong together, although I do agree that they are a bit young to settle down. I just wished the story was about something else than "are we together or not." The worst is that there's never a real break-up ^_^; I think Ms Thomas is doing a great job at showing the friendship, but also the love between the two characters and how much they mean for each other... However, I'm ready to take a small break. Plus now that Big is out of the picture, it should help :) One thing though, it was really sad that uncle Jeremiah died T_T I knew it was coming and yet, I didn't want to believe it would happen...

Finally, I enjoyed reading the bits about Beau Yates. I'm looking forward to reading more about him. I wonder how he'll turn out, if he'll make it big :) Another storyline I'm hoping Ms Thomas will pick up again soon is Ronny and Marty! It was also fun seeing so many familiar faces throughout the book. Sometimes it was just a mention, but that was enough :) I especially like the part where Tinch needed someone to watch Jaime for a couple of hours and ended up with Gabe (hero of Somewhere Along the Way) and Denver, two guys who served in the Special Force... and when they learned that Jaime would be asleep, their response was "Great." LOL. Wonder how they'll do when Gabe's twin girls can walk and talk LOL.

My Grade: B+. Just Down the Road has its flaws, but it still ended up being a very good read :) As usual, I'm looking forward to the next book! Can't wait to be back in Harmony already LOL. By the way, I really like the cover :) The more I look at it, the more I love it... It just fits so well :)