Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Monthly Reads - December 2012

Hi everyone! How are you doing? Me, I'm tired ^_^; Ugh, this whole saving daytime light is simply not working for me! Of course, going out till 3am in the morning last Friday night on the week-end we "spring forward" was not my most brilliant idea ^_^; Something that I'll have to remember for next year LOL. Aside from that, life is pretty quiet. I'm still "practicing" at work which gives me some free time which is good because there are a lot of new books I want to read! :)

Speaking of books, here is my Monthly Reads post for December ^_^; As you can see, I'm still behind... and that's why I've decided to change the format a little. Nothing major, but something that will definitively save me time and make me stop dreading these posts. So what is the change? I'm still going to continue to review some books in these Monthly Reads posts, but I won't be summarizing them anymore. As a result, what you'll get is truly mini-reviews, just my opinion :) I think it's a good decision given that I'm so far behind in my reviews ^_^; Let me know what you think!

Now, here is what I read in December:

1) Cold Days by Jim Butcher: A

2) The Weird Girls by Cecy Robson: C-

The Weird Girls is a little novella whose purpose is to launch this new urban fantasy series, The Weird Girls series, that has caught my interest. The premise is four sisters who each has unique powers thanks to a curse: Celia can change into a golden tigress and that ability is accompanied with preternatural speed and strength; Taran releases her power in the form of lightning and fire; Emma is a telekinetic and can heal; and Shayna is a blademaster with the ability to manipulate metals. They have recently move to the supernatural community found in Lake Tahoe and hope to keep a low profile due to their unusual abilities. Of course, things don't go as planned and in The Weird Girls, our four sisters get into a dispute with the local witch coven...

So I thought I'd give The Weird Girls a try and get a feel for the writing and the characters before the first book, Sealed with a Curse. However, after reading the novella, I can't tell whether it was a good idea or not, because frankly, based on what I read, I'm not sure I would have picked up Sealed with a Curse ^_^; Except lucky for the author, I had already pre-ordered the book so eventually, I'll give it a try. Overall, I can't exactly pinpoint what didn't work for me with The Weird Girls except to say that the story just didn't hook me. I actually quite liked the premise of the series - the four sisters being cursed, which is why I decided to give the series a go... but the series was underwhelming. There was a lot of set up for the world and the characters and perhaps along with the fight with the coven, it was too much. It'd have been better for Ms Robson to decide what she wanted to accomplish with this novella - introduce the series or tell a story. Also, I just didn't connect with Celia who was the narrator. I think it was the whole "everyone is attracted to my sisters because they are hot, but not me because I'm scary." She's also very protective of her sisters and self-sacrificing and in the end, sounded a bit too martyr-ish to my tastes.

The novella wasn't all that bad; however, I didn't feel the need to rush for the next book and that speaks volume right?

3) The First Prophet by Kay Hooper: C

4) Cracking the Dating Code by Kelly Hunter: C+

In the past couple of years, I've started building up a list of auto-buy authors for category romance and Ms Hunter is one of them :) I enjoyed the first book in this series, Flirting with Intent, and it was just a matter of time for me to pick up Cracking the Dating Code. The heroine of this book is Poppy West, a genius at cracking code. Good thing to because that's exactly what she needs to do in order to find out whether her eldest brother is still alive or not and what he's been up to. Since what she's about to do is ultra secret, she needs an ultra secret place to do it and her co-worker offers her the use of his island... whose currently only occupant is his brother, Sebastian Reyne. Attraction sparks between them, but Poppy is shy and socially awkward... and therefore decides to ask Sebastian to teach her how to flirt. As for Sebastian, he thought the last thing he needed at the moment was a woman, but perhaps he was wrong?

All in all, I did enjoy Cracking the Dating Code, but I thought something was missing to the story such as some intensity and some development. I felt the first half of the story that took place on the island was quite slow. Not much happened as both our H/H were absorbed by their own worries and therefore spent little time together. And when Sebastian finally admitted he was attracted to Poppy, there was the whole worry about whether his brother was also attracted to her as well. Finally, when Poppy and Sebastian got off the island, the story picked up, but it was already too late. I feel Poppy and Sebastian were given obstacles - and serious ones at that, but the way it was addressed in Cracking the Dating Code made them superficial and easily rectifiable. Otherwise, I enjoyed Poppy and Sebastian's pairing :) I find Poppy's flirting lessons were the best moments of the story because the characters were witty and spontaneous :)

5) The Navy Seal's Bride by Soraya Lane: D

I've heard a lot of good about Ms Lane's writing and I've been meaning to give it a try, but I think I chose the wrong book ^_^; In The Navy Seal's Bride, the hero, Tom Cartwright, is an ex-Navy SEAL due to an injury that has robbed part of his hearing and not surprisingly, is struggling to adjust to his new civilian life. While his brother and sister-in-law have are on their second honeymoon, Tom is baby-sitting his niece Gabby and that's how he meets Caitlin Rose, Gabby's teacher. Caitlin is attracted to Tom, but wary of his military background because she's had bad experiences in the past... and Tom's occasional spurts of anger due to this injury do nothing to reassure her.

I thought the beginning of The Navy Seal's Bride was very promising. I loved the relationship between Tom and his niece, Gabby. It was so heart-warming and cute LOL. I also admired the tight bond Tom had with his brother and sister-in-law. They had each other's back and given their line of work, that was very reassuring for each of them... But that's about all I enjoyed about the book ^_^; The romance simply didn't work for me in The Navy Seal's Bride. Tom and Caitlin didn't seem to have any chemistry together, especially since she was so wary of him. Every time he'd get angry, she'd start to reassess him and their relationship. That made it hard for me to believe the HEA ending at the end. It would have been more realistic if it's been more gradual. Something else that didn't work for me was Tom's frustration at his injury. I know it's hard for him that his career ended in that way, that he's lost a lot... but it's been done so many times that it just bored and annoyed me. Also the fact that Caitlin had a past and that it was Tom's waking call to stop being so down because of his injury just seemed too convenient. And once again, the changes in Tom's attitude were just too rapid to be believable.

All in all, the story and romance just did not work for me. I'll have to try another book to find out what's all the buzz about Ms Lane.

6) The Other Side of Us by Sarah Mayberry: C
Upcoming Review

7) The Importance of Being Wicked by Victoria Alexander: B

8) My Bluegrass Baby by Molly Harper: C

My Bluegrass Baby is a novella by Ms Harper and since I enjoyed her writing a lot, there was no doubt I'd be picking this up. Sadie Hutchins works for the Kentucky Tourism Commission and loves her job, loves advertising the quirky tourist spots in Kentucky. She's expecting to become the new director of the marketing department. That is until there's a new candidate for the position, Josh Vaughn. His plan is to promote a sophisticated, high-end image of Kentucky which is totally opposite to Sadie's vision... which is good as each will have to create a new publicity campaign to see who will become the new director.

My Bluegrass Baby was a nice, light-hearted novella. There wasn't as many LOL moments than in most of Ms Harper's book, but it was still funny and enjoyable. I thought both the story and the characters were interesting... to a certain point. I liked the setting - the Kentucky Tourism Commission - and the idea that both Sadie and Josh had to show what they are made of to earn the job, especially since the two really have contrasting styles and visions. The problem with the novella was that the whole story was a little bit passive. We were told more than we were shown and as a result, it felt a little bit draggy in the second half. I think the novella would have been better if it had been written at the 3rd person and if readers had had Josh's POV. We would have had a better sense of what was going. Not only would it have benefited the story, but also the romance. As it is, it felt like Sadie and Josh did a 180 degree on their feelings for each other. They started out despising each other, mostly because they had opposing visions of how to promote Kentucky tourism and are competing for the same position. Yes, there was a little bit of attraction, after all, they are both good-looking, and I know they got to know each other better by working together, but I'd have liked to see those interactions more instead of the office wars.

So an enjoyable novella with a different subject matter, but not the best I've read from this author.

9) Deck the Halls with Love by Lorraine Heath: C+

Readers got to meet the hero of this novella, the Marquess of Chetwyn, in Lord of Temptation, the second book of The Lost Lords of Pembrook trilogy. I really liked what I read of Chetwyn's character in Lord of Temptation - it's rare to see the jilted party so open-minded, gracious and kind - and was really hoping he'd get his own story. Well my wish came true with Deck the Halls with Love. We find out that before Chetwyn proposed to Lady Anne, his dead brother's fiancée, out of misplaced duty to his brother's memory, he was actually courting Lady Meredith Hargreaves to whom he was attracted to and the feelings were reciprocated. Now, Lady Meredith is engaged to another man because she was caught in a compromising situation - a kiss ^_^; However, Chetwyn doesn't intend to lose her twice... even if it means stealing her from another man.

To be honest, I was expecting more out of this novella. I mean, the story was cute and sweet and the characters, nice. Also, the beginning and ending were fun and clever... But all in all, I feel there was the potential for so much more in this novella and it wasn't reached because of the length. Seriously, I would have had no trouble reading a full-length novel with Chetwyn and Lady Meredith and it would have given Ms Heath the chance to flesh out the storyline a lot more. First, Chetwyn needed to grovel a bit more. Only logical after he broke Lady Meredith's heart by proposing to another woman, no? Second, I liked the direction where Ms Heath was going with Meredith's engagement. She was obliged to accept the proposal of a man she wasn't sure to love because they were caught in a kiss. Should she really risk her happiness because of a kiss? Of course, perhaps she shouldn't have allowed the kiss in the first place, but still. And then, what if the kiss and being caught had been orchestrated? I would have liked to see that part more fleshed out, but of course, it was impossible due to the length. Since what I've been wishing was impossible, I would have settled for simply more interactions between Chetwyn and Meredith, because most of it, most of their falling in love had happened prior to the story and therefore off-pages ^_^;

All in all, a cute novella, but I think Ms Heath missed a good opportunity for a great novel as she had a good story and very nice characters. Also, this is not aimed specifically at Ms Heath, but I'm really tired of heroes who propose to women they don't love because they think that taking care of someone = marriage!! Seriously, how dense can they be?

10) Amityville Horrible by Kelley Armstrong: B

11) Forbidden by Kelley Armstrong: B


Books bought: +5
Books read: -11
TBR pile: -6

Category Romance - 3
      --> (Contemporary - 3)
Contemporary Romance - 1
Historical Romance - 2
      --> (Regency - 2)
Mystery/Thriller - 1
Urban Fantasy - 4


All right, so it seems I'm not very good at writing reviews without summarizing the plots ^_^; But at least, I put less pressure on myself to do so and it seems to work :P Let see how the next Monthly Reads post goes, because I'm really dreading that one...

Anyway, looking back on December, it was an okay month. It started out with a bang with  Cold Days which was my best read in 2012 and it ended on a high note with two books from one of my favorite authors :) Middle of the month though was so-so... However, I kind of expected it. December is always a tough reading month for me, because there's almost no new releases! You'd think it'd be the perfect time for me to catch up on books I hadn't have the chance to read during the year... but it's not the case! Instead, I go into a funk because there's no new releases to buy and read, then I start worrying about my final number of books read during the year - which is why there are so many novellas. And of course, holidays season starts and I get busy with this and that and end up having not as much time to read as I expected. Oh well, maybe I'll learn something and have a better plan for this year's December LOL.

So how was your month of December? Do you even remember it? LOL.