Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Monthly Reads - February 2014

Sigh, I'm really having a hard time finding my blogging groove. It's weird because one week, I'll manage to write three posts and the next, nada ^_^; Anyway, I'm really happy I managed to write this post! I really wanted to have it posted in March - no fun to always play catch up. I barely made it, but I made it :)

Here is what I read in February:


1) Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare: B-

Lately, I haven't been in the mood for historical romance. It seems to be another genre I am burning out on (noooo!!!) ^_^; However, after seeing all the good reviews about Romancing the Duke, I decided to give it a try... especially since the hero was blind!

Romancing the Duke is the first in Ms Dare's new series in which each heroine inherits a castle. Isolde Ophelia Goodnight, better known as Izzy Goodnight, is the daughter of England's most acclaimed author, Sir Henry Goodnight. Because her father failed to provide for her in his will, Izzy finds herself in a financial bind. When she learns that her godfather has left her a bequest in his will, it seems to be a godsend. However, she never expected to be inheriting a castle... and one that is not empty at that. Ransom William Dacre Vane is the eleventh Duke of Rothbury and previous owner of Gostley Castle. After his bride ran away with another man and being injured in a duel, Ransom lost his eyesight and retreated from the ton, taking refuge in Gostley Castle. He's been in seclusion for seven months when Izzy shows up on his doorstep with the ludicrous claim of ownership over his home. Obviously, there's been a mistake somewhere and Rothbury intends to keep Izzy close till he finds out what happened. As for Izzy, all she wants is a roof over her head.

Romancing the Duke was a cute book and I enjoyed it... just not as much as everyone else seems to ^_^; This happens to me regularly with Ms Dare's books. I don't know what it is, because I do think her writing is solid... It's just that for me, that little extra that makes a good story into a great one is missing. In this case, I feel I didn't connect with the characters even though they were likable and well developed. I wished Ms Dare had played up Rothbury's blindness a bit more... Still, there were some good elements to Romancing the Duke. I liked that the book was focused on Izzy, Rothbury and their romance, that there was no villain/evilness and the humorous tone.


2) Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil: C-

Life in Outer Space is about Sam Kinnison who is a geek and is resigned with is place in the high school pecking order. He has a good group of friends, knows what he wants to do in the future and is just waiting for high school to be over to realize his dreams. Then Camilla, the new girl at school, comes into his life. Sam doesn't know what to do with Camilla because she doesn't fit the mold he knows and very quickly, everything in his life seems to be changing...

I picked this book up based on Alex's review. She loved Life in Outer Space and I was hoping it would work as well for me... Unfortunately, it didn't :( First, I was expecting this book to be funnier since Sam is a nerd. I guess that's what you get for watching so much Big Bang Theory LOL. In truth though, Sam wasn't that nerdy; he simply was passionate about movies, especially horror ones. Think Dawson Creek instead of Sheldon or Leonard and so it was hard for me to really believe he was being bullied. I feel that he should have stood his ground a bit more firmly... As for the story itself, I don't know ^_^; The friendship between Camilla and Sam was well-written and his confusion was interesting, but at the end of the day, I felt Sam was really dense. I mean, it was obvious this was heading for something more and his acting all scared rabbit - not very attractive. Then, Ms Keil added all this issues in the story, but I don't feel like anything was really resolved... and I never really understood what was Sam's parents' situation. Overall, Life in Outer Space simply didn't grab me.


3) Jaded by Anne Calhoun: C-

Lucas Ridgeway is jaded. He used to be a cop in Denver, but after burning out, he came back to Walkers Ford, South Dakota, to serve as their chief of police. He simply doesn't want to feel, doesn't want to care anymore because he's been burned too many times. He is not looking for a relationship, but an affair with his sexy tenant who's leaving soon, that he can manage. Alanna Wentworth comes from an affluent political family. After turning down a very public proposal, she needed space and time away from her family and escaped to Walkers Ford to be their town librarian. She always knew it would be temporary as she is needed by her family foundation and her mother and sister have started being very insistent for her come back. Before going home though, Alanna wants to do something different... such as seducing her sexy landlord.

I really wanted to like this book, but in the end, it just didn't work for me. Part of it is on me because I'm burning out on contemporary romance and Jaded didn't really offer anything different. However, it was also the book. I felt there was a lack of of chemistry between Alanna and Lucas, no real connection between them except for sex. There was also a lack of development to the story. Ms Calhoun really stacked up the book with back stories and secondary characters, but she didn't really do much with it which is unfortunate. I really would have liked to see the characters work out their problems, but all the resolutions were so sudden! It's like all the characters started at point A with their issues and ended at point B with their happy endings and none of the progress was shown. I read the book and yet, wasn't a witness to their journey from A to B :(  One thing that made me really uncomfortable is that Alanna's family ran a charity foundation which is very noble. However, that foundation mostly helped people in third world countries. But what about what's right in front of you? There's this teen that Alanna took under her wing, Cody, whom I really liked and obviously came from a poor family. I kept expecting for her to do more for him, to realize that she could change his life... and it took so much prodding for it to happened :(

I think that Ms Calhoun had some good ideas with Jaded, but failed to execute them :(


4) Split Second by Kasie West: B+


5) On the Fence by Kasie West: B+
Upcoming Review (closer to release date)


6) Concealed in Death by J.D. Robb: C+


7) Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg:
Upcoming Review.


8) At the River's Edge by Mariah Stewart: C-

I've been reading the Chesapeake Diaries series on and off and decided to pick up At the River's Edge based on the blurb. After finding her boyfriend cheating, Sophie Enright decides she needs a break and heads back home to St. Dennis, Maryland. While there, she finds an old shut-down restaurant and decides to buy it, because working in a diner as a cook was one of her best experiences. Jason Bowers came to St. Dennis to be close to his nephew - his only remaining family. He was hoping to buy the land on which the shut-down restaurant is located to expand his landscape business, but got it snatched under his nose by Sophie to whom he is attracted to.

The blurb made it sounded like there was a huge conflict between Sophie and Jason because of the land, but there wasn't ^_^; And that's the problem with At the River's Edge. It's not that I wanted the land deal to come in between Sophie and Jason, but I was hoping for something, anything to happen! There's a difference between a low-conflict story and a book where nothing happened and I feel Ms Stewart missed the mark here.  Also, the whole story was about Sophie quitting her lawyer career to open a diner/restaurant... and I simply didn't buy it ^_^; There's a big gap between loving working in a diner during college and quitting your successful career to open a restaurant. Sophie had no experience whatsoever and while she did ask for advice, it was still hard to believe she'd be successful. I've watched a lot of Masterchef shows, I've seen people who are passionate about food and dream of becoming chefs and opening their own restaurant and I didn't see that passion in Sophie.It's too bad about At the River's Edge because I thought the set up was promising although a bit clich√©, but everything turned out to be quite bland: the characters, the romance and the story :(


9) Night Broken by Patricia Briggs: B-


10) Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler: C-


11) Long Hard Ride by Lorelei James: C

There's not much for me to say about Long Hard Ride. This was an erotica romance that's been on my e-reader for a while. I picked this up because I needed something different. It's basically about a heroine who is trying to find herself after letting her parents run her life. She hooked up with a cowboy, but found out he was married and almost got stranded... if it wasn't for the hero. Hero offers her an opportunity she can't pass, be his groupie and do everything he demands until they reach their destination.

While I liked Channing and Colby - the heroine and hero - and thought they were hot together.  If you take out the sex part, well Long Hard Ride becomes your usual romance where the H/H started a fling which quickly developed into something more. It's interesting though that Colby's family didn't approve of Channing and I wished there'd been more on that. Otherwise, the most interesting part of the book was Colby's partners, Trevor and Edgard, and their relationship.


12) Third Degree by Julie Cross: B
Upcoming Review.


13) Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop: B

***

Genres

Contemporary Romance - 2
Erotica Romance - 1
Historical Romance - 1
New Adult - 1
Romantic Suspense/Mystery - 1
Urban Fantasy - 2
Young Adult - 5

***

In the end, the tally is not so bad :) I really did a good job at reviewing the January books, so I thought I really dropped the ball for February... and I did. However, it seems I was also able to catch it back LOL. Reading-wise, I'm happy with the number of books read, especially since February was a shorter month, even if many of them were a bit blah ^_^; Although in the books defense, I think I was feeling blah as well.

I've also been switching gears a bit in February, picking up more Young Adult and New Adult books. I've been complaining for a while that I'm burning out on contemporary and historical romance ^_^; It's hard to put into words. On one hand, I feel I want stories that are more classic... but at the same time, I want something refreshing! I feel authors are playing it too safe lately :( To make up for those genres, I've been trying to look for new urban fantasy series, but they're hard to find... If you have any suggestions, please feel free to share! Luckily, I've been in the mood for YA and NA and that's not lacking in today's market!

What about you? How was February? What have you been in the mood to read?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Review: Night Broken by Patricia Briggs

Night Broken by Patricia Briggs
published by Berkley (Ace) in March 2014
An unexpected phone call heralds a new challenge for Mercy. Her mate Adam’s ex-wife is in trouble, on the run from her new boyfriend. Adam isn’t the kind of man to turn away a person in need—and Mercy knows it. But with Christy holed up in Adam’s house, Mercy can’t shake the feeling that something about the situation isn’t right.

Soon, her suspicions are confirmed when she learns that Christy has the farthest thing from good intentions. She wants Adam back and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen, including turning Adam’s pack against Mercy.

Mercy isn’t about to step down without a fight, but there’s a more dangerous threat circling. Christy’s ex is more than a bad man—in fact, he may not be human at all. As the bodies start piling up, Mercy must put her personal troubles aside to face a creature with the power to tear her whole world apart.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Mercy Thompson, Book #8

The Story: After the epic ending of Fair Game, all the fae have supposedly retreat to the reservations. As such, Alistair Beauclair is the last person Mercy expected to find on her doorstep in the middle of the night. Immediately, Mercy knows that the presence of the Gray Lord who has declared the fae independent from the US can't be good news. Her fears are confirmed when he demands that Mercy returns his father's artifact, the walking stick, to him. The only problem is that Mercy is no longer in possession of the walking stick, having given it to Coyote for safe-keeping. Now, Mercy has one week to retrieve and return it or else... With the clock ticking, Mercy needs to find a way to contact Coyote, and fast.

As if Mercy doesn't have enough on her plate, she also has to put up with Christy, Adam's ex-wife. Christy is in trouble, on the run from her last boyfriend, and with nowhere to go, has sought refuge in Mercy and Adam's house. Dealing with Christy is trying Mercy's patience, especially since Christy is well-liked by the Pack members and the obvious history she has with Adam, the Pack and the house. And things get dangerous when Christy's ex-boyfriend turns out to be a lot more than just a human stalker...

My Opinion: For the past few years, I've always looked forward to the month of February/March because it usually meant a new book by Ms Briggs... and this year was no exception :) It's funny because I held off on the Mercy Thompson series as long as I could, but in the end, Ms Briggs's writing and world building won me over :P Unfortunately, those weren't enough this time around and as happy as I was to get my annual fix, Night Broken was a bit of a mixed bag for me ^_^;

The biggest problem I had with Night Broken is that it felt too much like a transitional book. There were some good elements such as the walking stick storyline and Gary Laughingdog, but Ms Briggs was so busy setting up for the next book (which I'm pretty sure will be about the fae) that Night Broken lacked complexity. Everything about this book was quite straightforward from identifying the villain to defeating him; contacting Coyote and getting the walking stick back. As a result, there was no real suspense... Yes, there was a feeling of urgency because of Mercy's deadline to get back the walking stick, but that's not the same as the "edge of your seat" feeling. In addition, the two main plots really read as two separate stories. They did intersect a little, but it didn't feel as smooth as usual, especially when you factor in the random set-up scenes: the new werewolf, the revelation about Stefan, Tad, etc. Oh and the ending was really abrupt and so the story felt unfinished. I mean, I checked several times to make sure it was the last page and there wasn't more ^_^;

One thing that I wasn't fond of when I picked up Night Broken was Christy's introduction. After reading the blurb, I really dreaded that part. Who likes to read about the ex-wife coming back in the picture, especially when you know she's likely to be a bitch? Not me... but I have to say Ms Briggs handled that part quite well. So Christy is not very likable, but she's not evil either... just very flawed and that came across really clearly. Also, I thought Ms Briggs captured Mercy's feelings very well. However, seeing Christy's interactions with the Pack, it made me realized I'm tired of the way some of them treat Mercy. It baffles me that a lot of the Pack members still think of Mercy as a liability. Seriously?! She's saved Adam and the Pack at least twice, got rid of a river devil monster, survived a fairy queen and vampires... Not to mention that she has the favor of the Marrock and Samuel, was actually raised in their Pack, and so probably understands Pack politics even better than werewolves themselves. And she's a liability?! What does she has to do to open their eyes? I usually really enjoy Pack dynamics and the Mercy Thompson series has one of the best portrayals of them, but frankly, this issue is getting old. Then, when you factor in that the Pack seems to be more accepting of Christy who is a human as mate/wife than Mercy who is a paranormal creature, it simply doesn't make sense :(

It sounds like I had a lot of complaints, but in truth, I still enjoyed Night Broken a lot. I was happy to see Coyote making a reappearance and I really liked Gary Laughingdog. I hope that his character sticks around and develops a relationship with Mercy :) We also got to know some other Pack werewolves a bit better which is always nice. And as I mentioned above, I really liked the walking stick storyline :P

My Grade: Based on all the set-up Ms Briggs did in Night Broken, I have a feeling that the next book in the series is going to be epic and I can't wait to read it! For now though, Night Broken has to pay the price for being a transitional book and that's why it gets a B-.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

TBR Challenge 2014: Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler

And three months in a row! Woohoo! LOL, I'm amazed at myself, especially given how much I've been blogging lately ^_^; Anyway, it seems I've finally found the winning strategy for staying on top of the challenge: read the TBR book ASAP!

For this month's entry, I chose Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler. This book has been in my TBR pile ever since Ames read and enjoyed it. I was in the mood for YA and it fit the month's theme, "New-to-Me Author," so it was really the perfect book to pick up :)


Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler
published by Llewellyn Worldwide in March 2011
Star basketball player Chelsea "Nitro" Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college—and everyone's admiration in her hometown. But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family.

As a graduation present, Chelsea's dad springs for a three-week summer "boot camp" program at a northern Minnesota lake resort. There, she's immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who's haunted by his own traumatic past. As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home. Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain—or finally heal their heartbreak?
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Series: none

The Story: For once, the blurb is actually spot on. Chelsea Keyes was the star player of her high school basketball team and had a bright future ahead of her. However, it all came to an end when she had a horrible fall during a game. Without basketball, Chelsea doesn't really know who she is... It doesn't help that this injury has put a strain on her relationship with her father who used to be her biggest supporter. Luckily, she had her boyfriend Gabe standing by her side.

Chelsea and her family head to a northern Minnesota lake resort for a last family vacation together before she goes away to college. Wanting to motivate Chelsea, her father signs her up for the "boot camp" program which Clint has just put together. Clint used to be a hockey player, but stopped playing after a tragedy changed his life... And it seems to his entourage that he is still looking for himself.

My Opinion: Okay, so Playing Hurt wasn't really what I expected ^_^; For some reasons, I always thought the story was about Chelsea heading to a physical rehab camp... so I was quite surprised when it turned out to be a family vacation. Then again, even if it had been what I expected, I'm not sure Playing Hurt would have worked better for me :(

As you can guess, I didn't really enjoy Playing Hurt. There were many reasons to it, but in the end, it boils down to a story and characters that failed to engage me. Throughout the book, I thought Ms Schindler did a great job at writing realistic characters and emotions, but I simply couldn't connect with Chelsea and Clint. I felt that both characters ran hot and cold, happy and angry. They both had a tendency to lash at each other, trying to hurt each other when they hurt. It wasn't in an abusive manner, but more like immaturity... a bit like a defense mechanism when they didn't know how to cope with their own feelings. They had so much baggage that it was weird to see them come together romantically, especially so fast. It seems to me their romance was more about physical attraction than emotional connection... kind of lust at first sight and so, they could stay away from each other. It was also hard to swallow given the fact that Chelsea cheated on Gabe... Obviously, nobody likes cheating, but to me, it's not an automatic deal-breaker in a story. However, in Playing Hurt, it was hard to accept given the fact that Chelsea was so conscious of her action. She had the opportunity to break with her boyfriend before carrying on with Clint, she had her brother reminding her of how thin a line she was skating... and yet, she consciously cheated. The worst is that when she came back from her vacation, she still didn't break it off with Gabe or come clean to him. I don't know if she was deluding herself or what, but after all this, it was really hard to me to like Chelsea.

As for the story, well there wasn't really one. Playing Hurt was really about Chelsea and Clint's feelings and baggage... and at the end, I feel it wasn't really resolve. Actually, it was since Chelsea headed to college with a major in mind and Clint picked up a pair of skate... but it feels to me that I missed the journey that led them to their resolution. Perhaps it was just time and they saw the light? ^_^; It also seems like I completely miss the message of the book...

It's quite unfortunate that Playing Hurt didn't work for me because there were elements that I liked about it. Funnily enough, aside from Chelsea and Clint, I actually liked all the other characters and I wished they had been of more use than just background. I liked Chelsea's family, especially her younger brother, and Clint's best friends. I looove sports and also wished it's been more at the foreground. Finally, as I mentioned earlier, Ms Schindler really did a great job making this book realistic and with the right story, she'd have a wowzer.

My Grade: C-.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Review: Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop

Okay, so I've been wanting to review this week for almost two weeks now, but words having been forthcoming... and they still aren't ^_^; So please bear with me as I try my hardest to make sense! LOL.


Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
published by New American Library (ROC) in March 2014
After winning the trust of the terra indigene residing in the Lakeside Courtyard, Meg Corbyn has had trouble figuring out what it means to live among them. As a human, Meg should be barely tolerated prey, but her abilities as a cassandra sangue make her something more.

The appearance of two addictive drugs has sparked violence between the humans and the Others, resulting in the murder of both species in nearby cities. So when Meg has a dream about blood and black feathers in the snow, Simon Wolfgard — Lakeside’s shape-shifting leader — wonders if their blood prophet dreamed of a past attack or a future threat.

As the urge to speak prophecies strikes Meg more frequently, trouble finds its way inside the Courtyard. Now, the Others and the handful of humans residing there must work together to stop the man bent on reclaiming their blood prophet—and stop the danger that threatens to destroy them all.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Others, Book #2

The Story: I find the blurb of Murder of Crows to be a bit too focused on Meg while so much is happening, so I'm going to attempt a better summary. Not sure how successful I'll be, but in any case, I know Hilcia was pretty spot on, so if you are curious, you can check out her review :)

Murder of Crows pretty much picks up where Written in Red has left off. Meg has recovered and is back in the Lakeside Courtyard. She is still figuring out life outside of the compound as well as the full full extent of her ability. In addition, there's her deepening friendship with Simon Wolfgard, the leader of the Lakeside Courtyard, which seems to leave the two of them confused.

Meanwhile, in the rest of Thaisia, relations between humans and terra indigene are escalating while tension is mounting. Repercussions are being felt even in the Lakeside Courtyard. Across the continent, all blood prophets are seeing the same prophecy to all their requests: fire, destruction, floods, deaths... The terra indigene are growing impatient with the humans, especially after violent outbreaks aimed at them and the Humans First and Last (HFL) organization spreading their propaganda. When it is discovered that the violent outbreaks were spurred by two new drugs - "gone over wolf" and "feel good" - the terra indigene are willing to destroy its source... but it turns out to be Namid's wondrous and terrible creation, the cassandra sangue... What will they do?

My Opinion: As you probably all know by now, I loooved Written in Red :) It was my favorite read of 2013 and needless to say, I was really looking forward to Murder of Crows. Lucky for me, it showed up on my doorstep early... and you can imagine what happened next :P

My first impression of Murder of Crows is that it wasn't as good as Written in Red :( Mainly because I felt the book lacked a focal point. There were many POVs, many subplots and basically, some of them were unnecessary. Others felt incomplete because they were set-up elements for the next book. In other words, there were just a bit too much going on and pulling in different directions. This is Ms Bishop's writing style and it usually works well because her main storyline is solid and the rest is just complementing that storyline. For example, in Written in Red, the book was about Meg escaping and settling in the Lakeside Courtyard. However, in Murder of Crows, I don't know what was the main storyline...  was it Meg or what was happening between the terra indigene and the humans? I wish I could say it was Meg, but it didn't feel that way because Meg didn't feel like the main character to me. Yes, she was central to the story... but not really for the character itself, but more for the prophecies which got the rest of the book moving along. In truth, I felt like there was almost no development to her character, no growth :( And I guess that's why I didn't enjoy Murder of Crows as much. It also feels like Ms Bishop is missing an over-arching... or if she has one, it's a bit too subtle and has gone straight over my head.

The rest of the book was pretty good and well-written. As Ms Bishop demonstrated with the Black Jewels series, she is quite the master at writing about the interactions of two battling populations vying for power and the darkness and the blood it generates... and she does it again in Murder of Crows. It's quite frightening how dark the storyline is getting without you realizing it, because in your head, these are just words, are fictional events... but in reality, they could or have happened ^_^; I'm looking forward to see how this part will be resolved... if it can be.

One of the best elements of Murder of Crows was Meg and Simon's relationship. Ms Bishop did a great job at developing it as it had just the right pace and the right feelings on both characters' parts. We're definitively heading towards a romance and it's interesting to watch Meg and Simon muddled through it :) Once again, I enjoyed the different characters and interactions introduced and the humor Ms Bishop has injected into the story to counterbalance the darkness :)

My Grade: B. Overall, Murder of Crows was a very solid book. I just feel it would have been better if it focused a bit more on Meg ^_^; In any case, I'm still looking forward to the next book, Vision in Silver :)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Discussion: Annual re-reads

Hi everyone!

How are you doing? I had a nice and quiet week-end and everything should be perfect... except that it was "spring forward" and as a result, I'm tired. Crazy what an hour difference will do! And of course, I was late to work because of it. Yes, it's that kind of day.

My initial plan was to write a review, but since my mind is fogged up, I thought I'd do a discussion topic. It's been a while and it requires less brain power LOL.


Once again, I'm in one of mini reading slumps. Ugh. I thought of looking through my TBR pile, but in the end, I decided to do some re-reads. Since I've just reviewed Split Second, I went with Pivot Point. After that, I picked up The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner and of course, it let me to The King of Attolia. I've realized that I actually re-read The King of Attolia almost every year... and it made me think of what other books I re-read.

So here's my question... Do you have annual re-reads? Books that you will re-read every year? Why?

 


These are four books that I know I re-read almost every year.

The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner - I loooove this book for its cleverness, the characters and the court intrigues. Love how Eugenides fools everyone around him and how Costis' opinion of his King slowly changes :)

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger - Definitively my feel good book :) This will provide the laughs and the smiles I need.

Count to Ten by Karen Rose - Ms Rose is my favorite RS author and Count to Ten is the book that sealed it for me :) Loved Mia and Reed.

Hunting Fear by Kay Hooper - I love Ms Hooper's FBI SCU series and to me, Hunting Fear is the best of the series. It's just chilling and exciting :)


Oh, I do re-read more books than those... but for the rest, it all depends on moods and it'll actually be authors or series that will dictate my choices instead of the book itself. So what about you? Any annual re-read books?

Friday, March 07, 2014

Review: Split Second by Kasie West

Split Second by Kasie West
published by Harpercollins Publisher (HarperTeen) in February 2014
Life can change in a split second.

Addie hardly recognizes her life since her parents divorced. Her boyfriend used her. Her best friend betrayed her. She can’t believe this is the future she chose. On top of that, her ability is acting up. She’s always been able to Search the future when presented with a choice. Now she can manipulate and slow down time, too... but not without a price.

When Addie’s dad invites her to spend her winter break with him, she jumps at the chance to escape into the Norm world of Dallas, Texas. There she meets the handsome and achingly familiar Trevor. He’s a virtual stranger to her, so why does her heart do a funny flip every time she sees him? But after witnessing secrets that were supposed to stay hidden, Trevor quickly seems more suspicious of Addie than interested in her. And she has an inexplicable desire to change that.

Meanwhile, her best friend, Laila, has a secret of her own: she can restore Addie’s memories... once she learns how. But there are powerful people who don’t want to see this happen. Desperate, Laila tries to manipulate Connor, a brooding bad boy from school—but he seems to be the only boy in the Compound immune to her charms. And the only one who can help her.

As Addie and Laila frantically attempt to retrieve the lost memories, Addie must piece together a world she thought she knew before she loses the love she nearly forgot... and a future that could change everything.
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Series: Pivot Point, Book #2

The Story: Addison Coleman lives in a top secret, paranormal compound where people have advanced mental abilities. Addie's ability is called 'divergence,' a kind of unique clairvoyance specific to herself. When faced with a choice, Addie can do a 'search' and see the two possible outcomes. In Pivot Point, after her parents' divorce announcement, Addie did a search to decide whether to live with her mother and stay at the compound or follow her father and live in the Norm world. In the end, she chose the former and asked her best friend Laila, who is a Memory Eraser, to erase her memories of the search.

When Split Second starts, the events that Addie had seen during her search has unfolded. Addie can hardly believe this was the future she chose. Her boyfriend Duke turned out to be a jerk, dating her only so he could make use of her ability to find out which path he should choose to further his football career. Her best friend betrayed her by making out with the jerk boyfriend. The worst though was that Duke was actually a mood controller and altered both Addie and Laila's feelings to make them fall for him. Oh and they almost all died at the hand of one of their classmates, Bobby, who turned out to be a psychopath.

After everything that has happened, Addie is happy to leave the compound behind and visit her father in the Norm world for the holidays. She needs a break from all the drama... and some distance between her and Laila won't hurt at this moment because even though Laila's betrayal wasn't entirely her fault, it doesn't mean it hurts less. However, this vacation isn't shaping up to be what Addie was expecting. First, Addie is  developing a new ability - to slow time - and has been getting horrible headaches whenever she's using her divergence... She's afraid that her encounter with Bobby has changed something within her. Then, it seems her father, whom she always could count on, has been keeping secrets from her. And of course, there is a boy, Trevor. Addie keeps bumping into him and is attracted to him. However, he's her new friend's ex and it doesn't seem like her new friend is over him... and what would happen if he learned about the compound?

Meanwhile, Laila is back at the compound and anxious at the distance between her and Addie. She's afraid she's losing her best friend. To make up for her betrayal, Laila decides to make one of Addie's wishes a reality: to restore Addie's memories about the search. In order to do this, Laila needs to advance her ability and that means rubbing elbows with some unsavory people. Luckily, one of her classmates, Connor Bradshaw, seems to have elected himself as her protector... but are his motives really pure?

My Opinion: Last year, I read and looooved Pivot Point, so much it was my favorite YA read of 2013. You know how some books just hit the right spots for you, well that was Pivot Point for me :) I was sooo happy to find out there was going to be a sequel! Although frankly, I did not really know what to expect from Split Second at all. How was Addie going to reconnect with Trevor? Would she?! As soon as I got my copy of Split Second, I devoured it to find out... and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised with the direction Ms West took :)

First and foremost, what was so great about Split Second was that it wasn't a repeat of Pivot Point. As much as I loved the concept of Pivot Point, to have a second book all about Addie making a search, seeing two futures unfold and make a choice would simply have been a retread/rehash. Kind of like Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins where you have the feeling of reading the same thing again. Also, there wouldn't have been a storyline to the series ^_^; Instead, Split Second was a real continuation of Pivot Point where Addie had to deal with the consequences of the choice she made even if she was unaware for most of the book. That is in large part what made Split Second so interesting and engaging :) And really, I have to give credit to Ms West for this gutsy move because it's not easy to mess with something you know works! What's more, she turned it into a successful move with her writing, her characters and the story :)

The best change Ms West made to Split Second was adding Laila's POV to the story in my opinion. As Addie's best friend, Laila was an important character in Pivot Point... After all, she's the reason Addie chose the future she did and so, it was nice to get to know Laila better. It was also interesting because really, in almost every aspect, Addie and Laila are complete opposites - different family situation, different personalities, different views on their abilities, etc. As a result, we got contrasting opinions and insights :) I have to say, I wasn't a huge fan of Laila in Pivot Point as I found her too brash... However, getting her POV really changed my opinion of her. I loved her devotion to Addie, how much their friendship meant and mattered to her. Knowing her family background also made me understand her better and I couldn't help but feel for her. I also really enjoyed Laila's romance with Connor. Once again, it was a big contrast with Addie's romance with Trevor. To a certain point, it was a more mature relationship in my opinion because both Laila and Connor had more baggage and they had to deal with it, grow... but it made for a solid relationship and I'm glad that Laila has someone supporting her.

Not surprisingly, I still very much enjoyed Addie and Trevor's characters. In some way, with everything happening, I feel Addie and Trevor got the short end of the stick. I guess because their romance was pretty much the focal point in Pivot Point, it wasn't as developed in Split Second which was unfortunate :( I definitively could have used more scenes of them together... they were just so sweet in Pivot Point! Still, Ms West was able to re-capture their personalities in this book. I felt Addie and Trevor in Split Second were the same characters that I got to know and love in Pivot Point, so I can imagine a lot of sweetness for them in the future :P

What was interesting in Split Second was seeing other characters in a different light such as Stephanie and Duke. It seems that Ms West's message is that a lot depends on what perspective you see them. I have to say, I'm glad that Duke wasn't portrayed has an evil villain. Instead, he was a young man who made poor choices... Hard to like, but not unforgivable. While it was nice to revisit characters, I did also enjoy the new ones Ms West introduced. I mentioned Connor whom I really liked for his maturity and his heart-breaking baggage... I'm also giving two thumbs up to Laila's younger brother, Eli, who was a nice addition the cast in an upbeat fashion :)

While there was a lot to enjoy in Split Second, the book was not perfect. One of my issues was one of the plot lines... the one which created a drift between Addison and her father. I don't want to go too much into details, but I thought that plot line was a bit over the top. I understand the need for it because it added some excitement to the book and it moved the storyline forward at a brisk pace. I even understand the characters' motivation behind it, but I felt that these people pushed it a bit too far. Also, at times, it made the story quite confusing and difficult to follow. Also, I'm not totally sure it was necessary to the book... and if it was, there might have been different alternatives. However, what it showed was that the compound even with its advanced mental abilities wasn't a perfect world which is something important to me. I really liked that Ms West showed that the two worlds were flawed, that none was really better than the other... it made it realistic to me.

According to Ms West's website, this series ends with Split Second :( Unfortunately, I feel there were quite a few loose ends and questions unanswered. It feels like Ms West has written a HEA ending "for now" instead of a permanent one. It's not necessarily a bad thing, because it means Ms West could easily write more books in this series if she chooses to in the future, perhaps with different protagonists... but for a reader like me, I like my books to be wrapped up a bit more neatly. I wish there'd at least been an epilogue...

My Grade: B+. To me, Pivot Point was unique and will probably always hold a special place in my heart :) As a result, I'm not surprised that Split Second didn't measure up because Ms West had set the bar oh-so very high. Still, on its own, Split Second was a very good and enjoyable book with only some minor flaws. I feel had the intrigue been tighter, those flaws would have easily been overlooked. In any case, I really hope Ms West will choose the revisit this series in the future because I sure wouldn't mind reading more about the world and characters she has created :)

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Review: Concealed in Death by J.D. Robb

Hi everyone! How are you doing? Sorry for the lack of posts! :( I didn't mean to neglect the blog, but you know how it is... Curling has kept me extremely busy in February and I'm still trying to recover from it. Doesn't help that I have a cold at the moment, sigh. But I'm trying!

To start up things again, I decided to go with a review of Concealed in Death. Enjoy!


Concealed in Death by J.D. Robb
published by Putnam in February 2014
In a decrepit, long-empty New York building, Lieutenant Eve Dallas’s husband begins the demolition process by swinging a sledgehammer into a wall. When the dust clears, there are two skeletons wrapped in plastic behind it. He summons his wife immediately—and by the time she’s done with the crime scene, there are twelve murders to be solved.

The place once housed a makeshift shelter for troubled teenagers, back in the mid-2040s, and Eve tracks down the people who ran it. Between their recollections and the work of the force’s new forensic anthropologist, Eve begins to put names and faces to the remains. They are all young girls. A tattooed tough girl who dealt in illegal drugs. The runaway daughter of a pair of well-to-do doctors. They all had their stories. And they all lost their chance for a better life.

Then Eve discovers a connection between the victims and someone she knows. And she grows even more determined to reveal the secrets of the place that was called The Sanctuary—and the evil concealed in one human heart.
Genre: Romantic suspense, Mystery/Thriller
Series: In Death, Book #38

The Story: It's pretty much as the blurb described. Roarke has acquired a new building that he plans to turn into a refuge for the troubled and lost. As the owner, he gets to swing the sledgehammer first... only to discover a fake wall and two skeletal remains. Of course, he immediately calls his cop to the scene.  Once the crime scene is processed, Eve and Peabody find themselves in charge of an investigation involving a total of 12 remains - all of girls between 10 and 15 according to their new forensic anthropologist's initial report.

During the investigation, Eve and Peabody learn that Roarke's building used to be a shelter for kids called The Sanctuary. The organization, ran by two siblings, was helped by a generous benefactor and moved to a new location 15 years ago... Which would be the time around which the murders took place. Furthermore, many of the victims had connections with The Sanctuary whether as short-term or long-term residents.

Eve and Roarke both feel a connection with these girls as both had bad childhood. However, it hits even closer to home when it turns out that Mavis knew some of the victims...

My Opinion: It's hard to believe the In Death series is already 38 books long and still going strong. That being said, every series has ups and downs and the In Death series is no exception. I feel that lately, we've been in one of the downs... and while Concealed in Death didn't pull us out, it's a step in the right direction :)

For me, Concealed in Death started out strong. What made it stand out was the case, very different from what Eve and Peabody usually deal with because the time at which the murders were committed. In truth, even though the bodies have only been just discovered, this investigation was more a cold case than an active one and that meant different dynamics. I liked that this investigation only involved a handful of people with Eve and Peabody at the front. In some ways, it also set the tone to the book limiting the appearances of the secondary characters. Oh don't get me wrong, I love Eve and Roarke's entourage... but having all the cast show up in every book makes it feel forced and very predictable at times. So it was nice to get a break in Concealed in Death, almost like going back to the basis.

However, having a cold case as the focus of the book wasn't all good. As much as I liked the different dynamics it engendered, I have to admit that there was a definite lack of action and that towards the end, the investigation felt draggy and boring ^_^; There wasn't that "edge of your seat" feeling or the need to resolve the case as soon as possible because of the nature of the case and that's not a good thing in a romantic suspense :( I think Ms Robb should have added another smaller investigation or use the opportunity to explore something such as a conflict between Eve and Roarke or something... For the case, it didn't help that once again, Eve was able to zoom in almost immediately on the culprit or that little tiny detail that would point her in the right direction. This is a complaint I've had for several books now. It has come to a point that I almost wish Eve would be wrong ^_^; I know she has good instinct, but it kind of ruins the mystery a bit. Luckily, Ms Robb is a good author and is able to plant the clues and build the case around Eve's gut feeling... but it'd be nice if someone else like Peabody had the feeling or if it wasn't too obvious.

Aside from the case, there wasn't much going on on the personal front. Ms Robb tried to connect Eve and Roarke to the case because of their rotten childhoods. I understood where Ms Robb was going, but I didn't really feel it. It's not really anything we haven't read before ^_^; I know that the past is what shaped Eve and Roarke into who they are today, but I feel it'd be nice if they could focus on something different... Also, Eve's dreams used to make sense to me, but not anymore. Always dreaming about her cases can't be a good thing and quite frankly, I find those passage to be boring. In addition, it'd be nice if she could stop finding clues in her dreams ^_^; The one thing that worked for me was connecting the case to Mavis. That's something I actually didn't expect, although looking back, it was quite obvious. It was also nice to learn more about Mavis, made us understand her more... and after 38 books, I think it was time :) I'm also curious to see if Quilla will become a recurring character or not. I liked that spunky teen :P

My Grade: C+. Concealed in Death wasn't my favorite In Death book and looking back, I had a lot of issues with it. However, it some important ways, it different than the previous books and that's giving me hope for the future of the series.