Sunday, January 31, 2010

Re-Read: The Cinderella Deal by Jennifer Crusie

Sigh, such an unproductive day. My plan for today was to clean and blog... but I guess the cleaning is not going to happen ^_^; At least, I still have time to blog... and I read. Actually, this week-end was filled with sports, watching tennis and curling :) Unfortunately, Justine Henin lost in the finale of the Australian Open... Of course, considering that it's only her 2nd tournament since her retirement, not bad... The only problem though is that I thought the match was not very exciting. Ah well.

End of the month already! I re-read Turn Coat by Jim Butcher earlier this month for the challenge... but instead, I'm going to review The Cinderella Deal by Jennifer Crusie which has just been re-issued this month. I'd do a two-fer, but Turn Coat is too complex to re-review LOL.

The Cinderella Deal by Jennifer Crusie
published by Bantam Books in September 1996 (re-issued in January 2010)

Daisy Flattery is an incorrigible free spirit with a soft spot for strays and a weakness for a good story and a bit of adventure. Why else would she agree to the outrageous deal offered by her button-down, workaholic neighbor Linc Blaise? The history professor is desperately in need of a fiancée to capture a dream job at a local college—and Daisy is up for the challenge. But something funny happens on their way to the altar that breaks all the rules and changes the game. Falling in love was never part of the bargain. Their little charade has taken in everyone—including themselves. Now with the proverbial midnight hour approaching will the fairytale finally be over or will opposites not just attract but live happily ever after?
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: none

You can read my original review here.

The Story: Linc Blaise is in a pinch. A history teacher, writing his second book, Linc is trying to get a new teaching position in a quieter environment which would allow him to focus on his writing. However, during the interview, Linc invents himself a fiancée and now has to bring her to his speech. So he turns to his neighbor, Daisy Flattery, a free spirit who is used to telling stories... His initial idea was to have Daisy help him get the job and then, he would come up with another lie about their engagement failing... However, once he gets the job, he realizes that he won't make full professor unless he gets married...

Daisy is the complete opposite of Linc. Four years ago, she walked away from her teaching position to focus on her painting. However, she's now having doubts about her decision... She's gone through her savings and is tired of worrying about money and scrambling for it, which in turns takes her away from her art. As a result, Linc's proposition sounds perfect... except she's not sure about him...

My Opinion: I'm really glad Bantam Books finally decided to reprint The Cinderella Deal because it's the only book by Jennifer Crusie I was missing for my collection. I had the chance a few years ago to read an electronic copy of it for Book Binge and thus my review. However, there's something special about owning every book by an author :P So I'm very happy...

Technically, this is a book I should love. It has the "happy-go-lucky heroine thawing the stuffy hero" plot that I enjoy so much, it's also a marriage of convenience plot and it's by Jennifer Crusie... but something was missing and it might have been chemistry between the H/H.

While re-reading The Cinderella Deal, I still felt like this was a re-visit of Strange Bedpersons, but not as good. I actually always thought that The Cinderella Deal was the precursor to Strange Bedpersons until I checked the release dates of both books for this review and found out that Strange Bedpersons was written before. The storyline is more complete and more interesting, considering that Daisy and Linc actually get married... but like I say, something was a little off: why did Linc choose Daisy to pose as his fiancée? I mean, he doesn't really know her, she's not his type... so why her? Why not a friend? Someone he knows better? So I felt this was a bit awkward and it does impact the book (the chemistry).

Don't get me wrong, The Cinderella Deal is an enjoyable book with a nice storyline and likable characters. However, I think the first time I read this book, I was simply just too happy to be able to read it that I overlooked some stuff. My main problem with this book was Linc's attitude towards Daisy. He chose her to pose as his fiancée... Yet, every time, he's afraid she's going to embarrass him and he's a bit ashamed of her at times. That really made me uncomfortable. I thought he was a bit selfish, always thinking of himself first and the consequences to him instead of considering Daisy and her feelings... especially since he gets to know Daisy and understand her pretty well at the end. Luckily, he does redeem himself, especially at the end in the scene where he throws out her dress because it wasn't "her."

In addition, I don't think this book is as funny as Ms Crusie's other works. There are some LOL moments, but not as much as you'd expected considering the author. Also, did anyone notice that Ms Crusie has interesting secondary characters, but she doesn't do much with them? She leaves it pretty open as if there's a possibility they'd have their story, but they never do.

Overall, I still enjoyed it because it is a cute story and I like the plot lines. However, this re-read kind of opened my eyes to some of its flaws. Basically, my opinion remains the same as before: between Strange Bedpersons and The Cinderella Deal, I'd choose Strange Bedpersons without hesitation. The good news though is for those who didn't enjoy Strange Bedpersons as much because they thought Tess was unreasonable should really like this one.

My Grade
: I originally gave this book a grade of 3.75/5 which would be a B+... but now, it's more of a B read for me.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Review: Blood Ties by Kay Hooper

Blood Ties was one of my most anticipated books this month and I'm so happy I got it early! However, I was quite busy last week and so decided to wait a little before reading it... Just so I'd have more time to savor it... and it was so worth it! :D

Blood Ties by Kay Hooper
published by Bantam Books in January 2010 (HC)
The elite Special Crimes Unit, the FBI's most controversial and effective team, is a group of mavericks and misfits trained to use their unique psychic abilities to hunt the worst monsters imaginable - human ones. Led by the enigmatic Noah Bishop, the SCU team has earned a reputation for pitting their skills and cunning against killers that other cops fear. But this time Bishop and his agents face an enemy who has them in his sights, a trained sniper with a deadly plan - and more than one ace up his sleeve.

It starts with an unspeakable series of grisly murders across three states, a trail of blood leading, finally, to the small Tennessee town of Serenade. There, two more brutal murders lure the SCU into what may be the ultimate trap.

One of the first investigators on the scene, Special Agent Hollis Templeton is willing to push herself as hard and as far as necessary. Risking more than her life to help and protect her fellow SCU members, Hollis is coping with psychic abilities that are evolving in unprecedented ways, an attraction to the most complex man she's ever known, and a serial murder investigation that has just turned very, very personal.

In her time with the SCU, Hollis has shown an uncanny ability to survive even the most deadly attacks. But what she doesn't count on is that this killer intends to destroy the team from within.

The clock is ticking. The body count is rising. And as Bishop and his agents race to uncover the identity of their true enemy, not even their special senses can warn them just how bloody, and how terrifyingly close, the truth will be.
Genre: Mystery/thriller
Series: Blood trilogy, Book #3 (FBI SCU series, Book #12)

The Story: Wow... where to start? While the back blurb is quite a good summary, the story is so complex that it cannot cover it all... So I'm going to add my two cents.

The FBI Special Crimes Unit is the result of Noah Bishop's hard work, efforts and beliefs. It is an unit composed of psychics who have some sort of control over their gifts which makes them functional. As their gifts provide them a certain edge (not always good), they are the ones sent to chase the worst serial killers... which is what they are doing in Blood Ties.

Chasing after a serial killer who has dumped his horribly tortured victims in three different states, Miranda and 4 other agents - Quentin, Reese, Hollis and Diana, arrive to Serenade, a very little town out of nowhere, where a body matching the M.O. is found. Then, when a second body - one that wasn't supposed to be found, the case is becoming puzzling. Could it really be possible that such a small town would be the home of two deranged killers? However, when a sniper starts taking shots at them and after they dig deeper in the past of all the victims and find out they are all somehow connected to past cases, the agents quickly put two and two together and realize they've walked into a trap and the enemies are literally gunning after them.

Unfortunately, there's no backing out of it. The team has a case to solve and some of them have problems to sort out with their psychic abilities... while Bishop is busy trying to save the future of the SCU.

My Opinion: Okay, so here's the deal with my favorite authors. I don't have a problem being objective about the books in the review, but I tend to be more generous with the grades at the end ^_^; So a "meh" book becomes an "okay" book, an "okay" book becomes a good book and so on... It's just hard to be tough with favorite authors sometimes ^_^; However, I'm working on it. The reason why I'm bringing this up is because I have been a bit too generous with the last few books in the FBI SCU series. Quite frankly, I have been disappointed with them. Some of the stories were confusing, the characters a bit under-developed... It didn't dim my love for this series and at no time did I consider not getting this book; however, in my mind, I did write off Blood Ties and I was ready to move onto the next trilogy, hoping it'd be better.

Well I was a bit too quick in my judgment... because Ms Hooper definitively came back very strong with Blood Ties. Very strong. In my opinion, I'd say Blood Ties has been the best book since Chill of Fear or even Hunting Fear :D So this was a great surprise and made me very happy :D

I think what made this book so good was the fact there was no new H/H. Instead, all the characters that were playing important roles were ones that we have met in past books: Noah and Miranda Bishop, Quentin Hayes and Diana Brisco, Hollis Templeton, Reese DeMarco and etc. This was a good idea because it allowed the readers to catch up with the characters, but also allowed Ms Hooper to focus on the storyline. Blood Ties is definitively a complex story - it's not only about a case to be solved, but also the story arc spanning the whole Blood trilogy and wrapping up some loose ends from previous books as well. I believe if Ms Hooper had
introduced new characters, their development would have been disatisfying and the storyline would have suffered.

Seriously, it was great to re-visit some characters. Finding out what they've been up to, at which stage of life they are. I really enjoyed the camaraderie in the SCU. I think the SCU is really the place where they are the most comfortable, at home. It helps them so much being surrounded by people who don't doubt their gifts and understand it. LOL, the SCU is like a very big family with papa Noah and mama Miranda :P Once again, Hollis has a pretty big role in Blood Ties and her character is really getting interesting. It's also great to see her finally getting a love story :) and I'm sure Ms Hooper has more in store for her. The other character that gets a lot of "screen time" is Diana, who was introduced in Chill of Fear. I really enjoyed catching up with her... While her past has not been as tragic as some of the characters (Hollis), it was still hard and I was wondering how she was coping. To read about her in Blood Ties made it more realistic. Having spent half of her life medicated, in daze, she now has to find out who she really is... that was an interesting part of the story :D

As for the story itself, it was really interesting. I thought it was quite complex and multi-layered. Ms Hooper really did a good job at peeling one layer at the time and revealing all the villains and their motives. There were a lot of "ohhh" and "ahhh" moments, especially concerning the overall story arc. Quite frankly, I didn't think much of the overall story arc, but Ms Hooper really did a good job linking everything... One of my "Ohhh" moment :) I also found the amount of romance in this book satisfying. Of course, it's not as much as in romantic suspense, but compared to the past couple of books, I'm happy. I mean, at the beginning of the series, the first two or three trilogies could have passed for romantic suspense... but not Blood Dreams and Blood Sins. The romance was very minimal, quasi non-existent. While nobody is going to mistake Blood Ties with a romantic suspense, they are some relationships that are going forward :) Again, I think this is due with the fact that most characters were recurring ones.

So yes, I enjoyed the characters and the story and was very satisfied with Blood Ties. I do believe now that I would have enjoyed Blood Dreams and Blood Sins more if I've had read the whole trilogy in a smaller period frame instead of one book a year. There are just so many details that you forget in one year ^_^;

There was also a small section at the end of the books for additional information: mini-bios for the recurring characters as well as the definitions of the psychic abilities. It's pretty much the same information that you can find on Ms Hooper's website. I think it was a good idea to add that section, especially since the SCU and Haven are growing so much and it's a great way to refresh our memory. However, I could have done without the footnotes found throughout Blood Ties, I thought they were distracting ^_^; And personally, I don't think anyone should read Blood Ties without having read a few key books in the series... Then again, I have a pretty good memory, but I know not everyone feels the same.

Finally, a little warning about Ms Hooper's books. The books in the FBI SCU series have a very peculiar style. First, the settings are all very similar - Special Agents of the SCU called to isolated town to investigate on possible serial killer. Then, there are all the psychics abilities and etc. I do think there's very little foreshadowing to the identity of the serial killers at the end and so, I'm not sure everyone is going to find the mystery satisfying. However, all this is part of Ms Hooper's style. In order to enjoy Blood Ties, I believe you need to know her style and enjoy it. Also, I wouldn't pick Blood Ties to star the series. So what I'm trying to say is, if you've read Kay Hooper's FBI SCU series books in the past and enjoyed them, you're going to like Blood Ties. If you haven't liked them, then this is not for you... and if you want to give this series a try, start at the beginning :)

My Grade: B++/A-. This time, I'm not being too generous LOL... and sorry about the long review ^_^;

Saturday, January 23, 2010

How often do you visit authors' websites?

Work has been really busy lately and so, I haven't had as much time to blog or blog-hop :( At the same time, my review muse seems to be taking very, very long walks and is not returning often ^_^; The good news though is that I'm reading :) Not a reading machine like Kristie :) but very steadily, so I'm happy :D

Last week, I posted a discussion about excerpts and it was well received :D I was actually surprised at the comments though. I thought more people would read excerpts online, but seems like it is not the case... and that got me thinking of another question :) So here I am with another topic :) Feel free to share your opinions!

This time, the question is not as simple... How often do you visit authors' websites and why? The reason I'm asking this question is I wonder if people don't read online excerpts as much because they are not interested or simply because they don't visit authors' websites?

In my case, I visit author's websites only once in a while, to see if there's any news updates - most of the time, for new information on their next book (such as a blurb or H/H) or release schedule. For new authors, I visit their websites more frequently at first to find information about their books and series... The only exception I make is Kelley Armstrong, because I know she updates every month unless warned otherwise.

There are also very few authors whose websites I visit and you can see their names on my sidebar. In addition, I don't read authors blogs. I don't really know the reason ^_^;

What about you?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

TBR Day: Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin

Woohoo, first TBR Challenge of the year!! And guess what? I made it :D Barely, but still :) I had difficulty choosing what book to read - not just for the challenge, but in general... Finally, I settled for Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin.

Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin
published by Ace Books (Berkley) in May 2009

A girl with attitude. An all-powerful amulet. This could only mean trouble.

My name is Raine Benares. I'm a seeker. The people who hire me are usually happy when I find things. But some things are better left unfound...
Raine is a sorceress of moderate powers, from an extended family of smugglers and thieves. With a mix of street smarts and magic spells, she can usually take care of herself. But when her friend Quentin, a not-quite-reformed thief, steals an amulet from the home of a powerful necromancer, Raine finds herself wrapped up in more trouble than she cares for. She likes attention as much as the next girl, but having an army of militant goblins hunting her down is not her idea of a good time. The amulet they're after holds limitless power, derived from an ancient, soul-stealing stone. And when Raine takes possession of the item, it takes possession of her.

Now her moderate powers are increasing beyond anything she could imagine—but is the resumé enhancement worth her soul?
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Raine Benares, book #1

The Story: The heroine of Magic Lost, Trouble Found is Raine Benares, an orphaned, elven sorceress with limited power and was raised by her extended family of smugglers. Wanting to help out a friend, Raine finds herself in possession of an amulet and suddenly becomes a very popular girl... but why? Suddenly, Raine finds herself on the run from the goblins' new king, his adviser - a horrible goblin shaman, the exiled goblin prince and the Guardians of the Conclave. Giving them the amulet wouldn't be a bad idea, if only she could take it off without suffocating. Things get even more complicated when her friends are kidnapped, her powers suddenly increase and the amulet is somehow connected to her father, one that she never knew. Who can she trust?

My Opinion: I believe I first found out about these books from Li and bought the first two books last year or the year before. It sounded interesting and it is.

What I found most interesting in this book were the characters. As a heroine, Raine is okay. She's a little bit a female version of Harry Dresden. She's confident, but her confidence doesn't stem from arrogance, but experience. She's not too tough and she goes with the flow a lot :) She's also surrounded by a very good cast of characters. There's her godfather - a retired, powerful mage, Piaras - her godfather's apprentice and powerful spellsinger, Phaelan - her smuggler cousin, Mychael Eiliesor - a powerful spellsinger and also the Captain of the Conclave Guardians and Tamnais Nathrach - a prominant goblin. So yes, an interesting cast of characters, all with different personalities and purposes. So far, I like Piaras the best... He's sort of a younger brother with so much potential. The love triangle is also set up between Raine, Tamnais and Mychael... It's not too prominent in Magic Lost, Trouble Found, but I bet that's going to change in the future books. I admit, I'm not too thrilled at the love triangle (not a fan), but I've decided to root for Mychael :D

The story was okay. It actually started off really well and had a lot of potential. It was intriguing and interesting, but then, became a bit too complex and it started to drag a little at 3/4 of the book. It just didn't sustain my attention and I found myself skimming a few pages here and there. Part of it, in my opinion, was due to the world building. The world building in Magic Lost, Trouble Found is definitively different. It comprises different kind of magic, goblins, elves and humans. There's politic, king and prince and a fragile peace. Again, I think it's interesting... but it wasn't detailed enough. It is not explained or described and as a result, a bit hard to imagine and process everything.

Another thing that made the reading of this book a bit difficult was the voice. I believe the writing is good, but it's simply not fluid enough. I think Ms Shearin has difficulty describing "magical action"... so I stumbled here and there.

My Grade: C+. Interesting characters, story with potential, world building to explore. Not the best fantasy out there, but still enjoyable. I'm going to give book #2, Armed and Magic, very soon :D

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My new precious...

As you know, earlier this month, I finally gave my list of anticipated new releases to the staff of Coles so that when they received the books, they put it aside for me automatically. My main purpose for doing this is due to the size of the bookstore. Being smaller, Coles always receives limited quantities of each title, so this gives me priority on the books :D

Of course, this does not mean there won't be any books adventures anymore. First, they won't be calling me every time they put a book aside for me (phew, cos that could be a lot of calls!)... so that means, I still have to stalk the online indicator to know when they receive the books :) and second, I'm not obliged to buy the books they've set aside for me. This was one of my concern - supposed the book arrived earlier in another bookstore, did I have to pass over that opportunity because I had it reserved already at this bookstore? But the staff told me I didn't have to buy those books... in which case, it's good with me :D

So this is what happened on Monday. When I checked the online indicator, I saw that Indigo and Chapters had received Blood Ties by Kay Hooper!! This is THE book I'm looking forward to this month. I simply love Ms Hooper FBI SCU series, although the Blood trilogy is my least favorite trilogy so far. So the good news was that two bookstores had the book! However, I didn't want to call in-store, because I know the clerks would have given me "the book is not on sale yet, it's only coming out on January 26, blablabla" speech if they haven't been able to find it. Better go myself... The whole day, I kept checking the online indicator in case Coles received their copies... Alas no. However, I did note that Indigo seemed to have sold one copy!! In the morning, when I checked, it said 24 copies... later in the afternoon, 23 copies! That surprised me because Indigo has been the worst of the three bookstores to put out their books on time in the past few months. (Of course, I don't know when they received the books... Could have been last week...)

Where did I go first? Chapters, because I thought I'd have more chances to find Blood Ties on the bookshelves... but after a quick tour, I was wrong. Didn't see it anywhere. Waited for my sister to join me, left her schoolbag in the trunk of my car, and then, quick trip to Indigo. I really LOVE the fact that Indigo and Chapters are only 3 blocks apart... and Coles is about 2 blocks away from Indigo. Three bookstores in such proximity, heaven :D

In Indigo, I looked at the new releases... Didn't see it... and then, it was there, on the shelves!! 2 copies!! After I found the book, my sister pointed at the side of the shelving unit and there were 6 more copies! Yay! I took my time to choose the best condition book :) Then, I headed to the fantasy section and looked for The Trouble with Demons by Lisa Shearin. It took me a few seconds to find it, because it was hidden behind a Sharon Shinn book (the Lisa Shearin books were shelved sideways, and in front of the spine, someone put a book, front cover facing... so it hid the other books)... And finally, I picked Night's Cold Kiss by Tracey O'Hara, because Kris enjoyed it :D

Best thing though was the $ I saved. Blood Ties was expensive because it's a hardcover... but I had a 15% off coupon (Out of stock item... You get those coupons when the online indicator says there is stock in-store, but nobody can find it), plus my 10% off I-reward member and I had a 5$ off on any purchase of 35$ and more :) So in the end, I paid about 0.50$ more for Blood Ties in store than if I'd have ordered it online :D I say, I got a good deal...

And so you have it, my new precious...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Do you read excerpts?

TGIF!! I can't wait for the week-end. My week wasn't bad, but I'm not going to complain about the week-end being around the corner :D

I don't have much to say today... I've spent the whole week reading the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. I have a few pages left from The Last Olympian which is the last book of the series. If my muse helps me, I'll spend the week-end writing one or many posts about the books :D

In the meantime, I don't want to neglect my blog... So I thought I'd start a discussion :D

The question is simple: Do you read excerpts or not? And why or when?
(I'm talking about both online excerpts and the ones you can find at the end of books.)

Surprisingly, I'm not usually an excerpt reader. Strange no, for a girl who can't help herself from reading the ending of a book? :P My main reason for not reading excerpt is because reading a few pages of a book that is going to come in 6 months or a year... that's pure torture!! LOL. I know that once I'll read the excerpt, I'll want to know more... and more... and it'll be eating at me :P Also, reading excerpts can sometime hike up the expectations that I have with a book... and too high expectations, that's never good - you're only setting yourself up for even bigger disappointments.

With the internet, I know that a lot of authors and publishers are posting many chapters excerpts. For example, starting from this month I believe, Ms Kelley Armstrong is posting one chapter/month of The Reckoning, the last book in her YA Darkest Powers trilogy, till the release date. That means 4 or 5 chapters will be circulating on the internet. For some reasons though, I'm not tempted. Having so much of the book out already, I guess I'm afraid that it will ruin my experience when I'll get the actual book.

I know that many read excerpts before making a decision when they decide to try a new author. They want to find out about the writing style before embarking... and that's really wise. However, it doesn't work that way for me. Enjoying the back blurb, recommendations from blogland or even the cover are enough criteria for me :)

Of course, I'll cave from time to time and will read an excerpt. When that happens, it's usually the excerpt at the end of the book that will give an insight about the author's future work. The latest excerpt I've read was Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews at the end of Magic Strikes. Although, if my memory is correct, I've read the excerpt on my re-read of the book LOL. Do I regret it? No. The excerpt was great... but it's made waiting for the book really difficult... I mean, I was already looking forward for it, but now even more ^_^; It made me want to look for spoilers and any tidbits I could find about it... And it's especially hard since Magic Bleeds will only come out end of May/beginning of June and usually, this series has a release date of March ^_^;;

Also, I found out that excerpts at the end of books are not set in stone... For example, I remember reading the excerpt for Broken by Kelley Armstrong and the story was actually changed! :D

As for online excerpt. It's funny, because I do visit authors' websites to find out more about blurbs, next releases and all the possible information... but I'll rarely click on excerpt. Weird no?

All right, your turn now :) Are you an excerpt reader?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Review: Trick of the Light by Rob Thurman

Hello everyone :D

How are you doing? Nothing really special with me. I had a relaxing week-end, but it was way, way too short. The problem at work has been resolved, so this week should be much better. I'm currently reading the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. Thank you Isabel and Hilcia!! As a result, there's a very big chance that I'm heading to the bookstore tonight :P

The month reading-wise has been good so far. My only concern is that I haven't read much romance in the past two weeks... I look at my TBR pile and nothing really appeals to me - and that is scary... so I end up reading fantasy, urban fantasy and YA. Hopefully though the new releases at the end of the month will help :) Another block point I can't seem to overcome is writing my Best and Worst of 2009 post. I'm planning to write two - one with numbers for this blogs and another one with titles and comments for BT. Yeah, might not be happening ^_^; Ah well. We'll see how it goes at the end of the week :)

Trick of the Light by Rob Thurman
published by ROC (New American Library) in September 2009
Now you see it....Now you don't....Now you're history.

There are demons in the world. Monsters. Creatures that would steal your soul. You might hide under your covers at night and pretend all's right with the world, but you know. Even if you don't want to admit it...

Las Vegas bar owner Trixa Iktomi deals in information. And in a city where unholy creatures roam the neon night, information can mean life or death. Not that she has anything personal against demons. They can be sexy as hell, and they're great for getting the latest gossip. But they also steal human souls and thrive on chaos. So occasionally Trixa and her friends have to teach them some manners.

When Trixa learns of a powerful artifact known as the Light of Life, she knows she's hit the jackpot. Both sides-angel and demon-would give anything for it. But first she had to find it. And as Heaven and Hell ready for an apocalyptic throwdown, Trixa must decide where her true loyalty lies-and what she's ready to fight for. Because in her world, if you line up on the wrong side, you pay with more than your life...
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Trixa Iktomi, Book #1

The Story: The blurb is a bit misleading... Trixa does have something personal against demons. Basically, Trixa has been in Las Vegas for the past 10 years for one reason: kill the demon who took her brother's life. In the meantime, she has to make a living so she owns a bar as a facade and deals in information. Aside from her thrusty bartender, Leo, she has befriends two young men, Griffin and Zeke - one's an empath, the other a telepath - who works for the House of Eden... demon slayers under the supervision of angels.

Trixa is close to achieving her goal when she is shown how to find the Light of Life, an artifact she's been looking for years which can completely shield a place from harm. With this bargaining chip, she can find out which demon has killed her brother... However, not only are demons interested in the Light of Life... angels are to and so Trixa will have to tread lightly...

My Opinion: Last year, I read Ms Thurman's Cal Leandros series and really enjoyed it. So when this book came out, I immediately bought it... and then, it joined my TBR pile. I'd say the strength and flaws of the Cal Leandros series are the strengths and flaws of Trick of the Light.

The major difference between the Cal Leandros series and Trick of the Light is that the protagonist is a woman instead of a juvenile male :P As a romance reader, I am more used and I prefer women as the main characters, but I was wondering if Ms Thurman could handle it... and she did. I was glad to find out that Trixa was not a female version of Cal. There's no question that she's tough and that she could rank very high on the kick-ass scale, but it's not the first thing you notice about her. She's also not as sarcastic and cynical as Cal :P Trixa is an interesting character with many, many layers... I don't think we've peeled out all the layers in Trick of the Light and it'll be interesting to see how her character behaves in the next book. The only thing that was obvious from the beginning of the book is that she is much more than what she appears to be. Although interesting, I thought her character was hard to connect to and not that likable. From the storyline, you know that Trixa is a very independent character, but also... hmmm, alone - isolated and that's the way she lives her life.... and this come across very clearly to the readers... and I think the writing style did not help. Leo, her bartender is still quite a mystery and I'm still not sure how to describe their relationship... There's a connection between the two... but is it only friendship or more?

The characters I liked the most were Griffin and Zeke. I thought they were just so cute LOL. Griffin is the one who takes care of things, the one that needs to be needed... while Zeke - he sees the world in black and white, no shades of grey. As a result, he's dangerous. Ms Thurman wrote them in a way they would complement each other... so you can't help but like them :)

The story was okay. A lot was going on and I think it was a bit too complex and confusing. I found it hard to follow at points and I wasn't that engaged. I really didn't care much about all the angels and demons. What I was happy to find out though is that Trick of the Light takes place in the same world as the Cal Leandros series... we're just adding demons and angels to all the paranormal creatures. I liked the references to Robin Goodfellow and I'm hoping for a cross-over of the two series in the future :D

My biggest problem with Trick of the Light was the writing. While I enjoy Ms Thurman's books, the writing always causes me a problem... It's not that the writing is bad, only her books are tedious to read ^_^; and as a result, take a long time. I know that "enjoy" and "tedious" are two words you don't often go together to describe something... but really. The same happened when I read the Cal Leandros series. Hilcia thinks that it's do to long internal monologues and she is definitively unto something... Well the internal monologues in Trick of the Light are even longer ^_^;

However, I'm really happy that I persisted because the ending was definitively worth it :) The twist at the end saved the story for me. Sure, there was some foreshadowing throughout the book, but it was still a surprise for me :D

Grade: C. Trick of the Light was an interesting book, but so far, it cannot compare to the Cal Leandros series. Still, I'm going to look for the second book when it'll be released :)

*You can go here to find my reviews for the Cal Leandros series.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Review: Forbidden Falls by Robyn Carr

Wooohoooo!! It's Friday! Gosh, it was hard to come back to work after the holidays ^_^; and worst, I've been having a shitty at work. This made the whole week stressful and verrrry looooong. You can't imagine how glad I am that the week-end is around the corner... and judging from the quietness on blogland this week, I bet I'm not the only one feeling this way :)

Still, the week wasn't entirely bad. First, I was able to find a way to get my own copy of Almost Like Being in Love and bonus, I found Changing Pitches as well, both by Steve Kluger. Huge thank to Hilcia :D I finally typed up my TBB list of new releases for January to March and gave it to James at Coles. He seemed overly happy... I think he was getting tired of my calls :P A close friend was also celebrating her 27th birthday, so it was fun to get together :) And I finally bought my plane tickets yesterday to Columbus in April!! Yay! I got a pretty good deal as well, so double yay! LOL. To me, it never sinks in that I'm going on a trip till I start buying the plane tickets and planning things out :)

All right, enough about me :) More about what I read...

Forbidden Falls by Robyn Carr
published by Mira in December 2009

Virgin River is abuzz with the news that a stranger bought the town's abandoned church on eBay. The buyer, a young widowed reverend, is a little like the building itself: in need of some loving care.

Noah Kincaid arrives ready to roll up his sleeves and revitalize his new purchase, but he's going to need some help. An ad in the local paper brings an improbable candidate his way.

"Pastor's assistant" is not a phrase that springs to mind when Noah meets brassy, beautiful Ellie Baldwin. With her colorful clothes and even more colorful past, Ellie needs a respectable job so she can regain custody of her children. Noah can't help but admire her spunk and determination, and she may just be the breath of fresh air he needs.

This unlikely duo may come from two different worlds, but they have more in common than anyone would have expected. And in Virgin River lasting happiness is never out of the question.
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Virgin River, Book #9 (counting novellas)

The Story: Hmmm, I started writing the synopsis for Forbidden Falls and it seemed only another variation of the back blurb. So I won't go over it again... The only thing that the back blurb does not cover and I want to add is the secondary storyline, involving Paul and Vannie. Paul and Vannie have decided for a second baby... however, their world is shaken upside down and things get a little shaky between the couple when Paul discovers that his ex-girlfriend has named him guardian of her little baby girl... The same baby she tried to pass as Paul's own...

My Opinion: Overall, I enjoyed Forbidden Falls. It didn't wow me like Virgin River did, but I did think it was better than Second Chances or Paradise Valley. Also, looking back at my reviews of the Virgin River books, I do think I've been a bit generous with the grades for the second trilogy ^_^; Ah well.

I thought the storyline in Forbidden Falls was interesting, although a bit predictable. I liked re-discovering Virgin River through the eyes of new characters. I also liked Noah and Ellie's characters. Noah's character is the good buddy guy. He's friendly and nice and likes to help others. In a way, he's perfect for the job of minister. As for Ellie, she was definitively the interesting character. She comes from a humble background and made some poor decisions concerning men, but she's definitively a devoted mother. What I liked best about her character is that she was comfortable with who she was. She's not apologetic about her background, there's no shame or self-pity. Life is what it is and she takes it in stride. There's also an earthy quality to her, plus a inner core of steel that makes her mentally strong. I don't want to use this word, but what comes to mind is that Ellie is an "unsophisticated" heroine. How many books did you read about heroines from poor backgrounds doing whatever to leave that background behind and aim for a better life? Well Ellie hasn't been able to surpass her background and I don't think she minds or cares. Money is tight and she does what she can for her and her kids. She does want better conditions of life, but not so much for herself but more for her kids. Yep, I definitively thought her character was interesting and so different than most heroines out there.

As for the side storyline involving Paul and Vannie, I thought it was interesting... I felt sorry for Paul and Vannie to have their lives turn upside down. However, the story didn't reach me and mostly, because I think it's wasn't too realistic. Seriously, who names someone legal guardian of their kids without asking permission? It doesn't really matter that you think it'll never happen! You just don't do that in my opinion. I have to say though, Ms Carr has a way with writing... because the babies sounded so cute!! I'd have loved to see Matt and Hannah play together! Awww.

Aside from the storylines and characters, what made Forbidden Falls more enjoyable for me is that Ms Carr focused on two stories: Noah & Ellie and Paul & Vannie. In the second trilogy, there were too much going on in one book - too many POVs, too many storylines. The stories seem incomplete... however, the balance is much better in Forbidden Falls and so I hope the trilogy will continue in this trend. We still get to see our favorite characters: Jack, Mel, Preacher, etc. but they are more in the background this time and play a less active role, which is good with me.

While I enjoyed the storyline and characters, I thought the romance plot wasn't strong enough. I didn't particularly feel the chemistry between Noah and Ellie. I think their relationship was too predictable... However, my biggest issue was my impressions of Noah and Ellie. Noah is 35 years old, a widower, someone used to hard work... However, by his dismeanor and description, I kept imagining someone much younger. Think more of a young man, happy-go-lucky. As a result, whenever he thought of his wife, it sounded off. As for Ellie, well she was described as being quite tall... but I don't know, I kept imagining her petite. I guess that didn't help me connecting with the characters, having a mental image that is so off with what's written.

My Grade: B. An encouraging start to the trilogy.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Review: Almost Like Being in Love and My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

I think 2010 is starting great so far :D It seems that my reviewing muse has come back and my blogging mojo as well and I've already have 2 books under my belt :) Not bad right?

Next, I'll have start working on a recap of 2009 and get back to Breezing Through... In the meantime though, I want to review two books that I've read and thoroughly enjoyed: Almost Like Being In Love and My Most Excellent Year, both by Steve Kluger.

Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger
published by HarperCollins in April 2004

A high school jock and nerd fall in love senior year, only to part after an amazing summer of discovery to attend their respective colleges. They keep in touch at first, but then slowly drift apart.

Flash forward twenty years.

Travis and Craig both have great lives, careers, and loves. But something is missing... Travis is the first to figure it out. He's still in love with Craig, and come what may, he's going after the boy who captured his heart, even if it means forsaking his job, making a fool of himself, and entering the great unknown. Told in narrative, letters, checklists, and more, this is the must-read novel for anyone who's wondered what ever happened to that first great love.
Genre: Fiction (GLTB), contemporary
Series: none

The Story: I cannot summarize it better than the synopsis of the book. So I'm not going to try :)

My Opinion: This book first came to my attention a few months ago when Tracy reviewed it. I told myself I should get it and give a try, especially since my library had it (surprise!). Then, I was reminded to do so when Hilcia put up her own review. Two of my favorite bloggers loving this book... Seriously, what was I waiting for, right?

I do admit that the format of the book - narrative letters, checklists, e-mails, notes, etc. did put me off a little. This is definitively not my favorite style of books, but I'm soooo happy I decided to sit down and read it... because this is a gem!! This is a wonderful book: it's clever, funny and heart-warming.

Where to begin? First, I love Travis and Craig. These two are definitively great, unique characters. Credit goes to the author for not over-stereotyping them. Best example would be Craig... He is a jock, he does love sports, but he's not the tough, macho man. He's sensible and funny and it makes him more real. Of course, Travis and Craig are more sensible and close to their emotions than heterosexual men, but that's normal and not exactly a stereotype... I love how both were comfortable with their sexuality and never tried to deny it. Travis and Craig were at ease with who they were and I believe that made a difference in this book :) I love how unique Travis and Craig's voices were while I was reading the book... and oh, Travis' OCD behavior? Soooo cute LOL. It provided so much laughs :D

Surprisingly, Almost Like Being In Love was not exclusively Travis and Craig's story. Actually, I think these two only spent about 1/3 of the book together and that was mostly at the beginning, when they were in high school. It took a very long while before Travis and Craig reunited and that was a surprise, but in a good way. It made the book more powerful in my opinion... especially given that Craig was in a long-term relationship - 12 years!! And you can't help but like Craig's significant other, Clayton. He loves Craig deeply as well and is definitively committed to this relationship. He's a sweetheart, he's a great guy... and I was prepared to hate him. Seriously, whoever gets in between the H/H happy ending gets no love from Nath... but I just couldn't. He totally won me over... As a result, as a reader, I didn't know for what ending to root... Craig and Travis? Craig and Clay? I think I would have been happy for either ending and sad for the one who didn't end up with Craig. It was great from M. Kluger not to take the easy way out and make Clayton into a jerk. As a whole, this whole situation definitively makes the book better and the ending, more powerful. Almost Like Being in Love is really about love - first love, other love, love between friends... but still what marks me most is that Craig and Travis' first love wasn't just love, but there was a sense of belonging...

But I digress. I meant to say that Almost Like Being in Love has a great cast of secondary characters... from Clayton to Gordon, Travis' best friend. They are all lovable and a total riot LOL. There's a lot going on, interactions between Gordon and Travis, Travis and people he meets on his journey, Craig with his colleagues, Craig with his clients... and everything put together make them who they are.

And the best thing about this book is that it's fun. I LOLed so many times, I enjoy re-reading passages because they make me smile or chuckle. Today at lunch, I was talking about this book to my co-workers... and when S heard it was about two men, he made a face... and I tried to convince him that no, he should read this and give it a try... and I read passages to him and he changed his mind, he'd like to try it because it sounded fun. You cannot not fall for Travis' charm :)

My Grade: A-. Two reasons why I'm not giving this an A. 1) While it was fun to follow everything and everyone, there was a tiny bit too much going on and combined with 2) the epistolary format (yes, it did make the book stands out, but...), Almost Like Being in Love was at time a bit confusing. However, it's still a book that I strongly recommend :)

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger
published by Penguin Young Reader Group in March 2008
There are only three great loves in T.C. Keller's life: the Red Sox, his father, and his best friend and unofficial "brother," Augie. But ninth grade is the year when he falls head-over -cleats in love with Alé Perez. She's pretty, sassy, smart, and a great dancer. Alé is so busy playing hard to get that she doesn't realize that she just might be falling head-over-tap shoes for T.C.'s Boston accent, too. Meanwhile, T.C.'s best friend, Augie, is falling in love as well, but with a boy? It ma not be so clear to him; but to the rest of his family and friends, it's totally obvious that Augie, who loves musicals and old school screen sirens such as Judy Garland, is head-over-hells in love with Andy Wexler.
Genre: Young Adult
Series: none

Story: Again, not going to try :P Read it to find everything out!

My Opinion: I loved Almost Like Being in Love so much that I had to find M. Kluger's backlist. This is his most recent release, My Most Excellent Year. At first, I was a bit disappointed that My Most Excellent Year was a YA novel. I have nothing against YA, I've read and enjoy some. However, I find that sometimes they don't emotionally satisfy me as much as much as romance books because it's hard to believe in a HEA ending when the characters are only 16 y.o... I should never had doubted M. Kluger, because My Most Excellent Year turned out to be, for me, an even better read than Almost Like Being in Love!

Again, I totally fell in love with the characters. T.C. and Augie are two very charming boys... T.C. is the regular cool kid, the popular one... but he's more vulnerable and sensitive and he's not afraid to show it. Part of it is because he lost his mother at a young age, another part would be due to Augie. Augie is just your diva teenager LOL, but in a good way. It's not that he is high maintenance as in wanting the latest cool clothes or wanting everyone's attention, it's just that he demands so much of himself and how he views his entourage. It also comes from his passion for musicals, it just makes him more sensible and prone to drama LOL.

For example:
"Mom? Dad? I'm gay." Oh, please. That is like SO pedestrian. What happened to my sense of style?! Maybe I'll throw a coming-out party. With a grand entrance down a staircase. "Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night." No. Engraved coming-out announcements.
Know what I mean now? LOL.

These two boys have such good chemistry... they know each other so well. I wish there would have been more scenes of them together. Then you throw in a girl, who's smart and sassy... and you have the perfect three musketeers :D Alé was another great character. I thought she balanced out T.C. and Augie so well; she was the in-between, a real mix of T.C. and Augie :)

The story was simply so cute. Augie falling in love and discovering he was gay. T.C. trying to get the girl LOL. The side-story was T.C. discovering a little, deaf, 6 y.o. boy reminding him of Augie and who waited for Mary Poppins to come live with him. That story was very touching and it was nice to see teenagers care about something more than themselves.

Again, this book is about love, friendship, discovering yourself. I do think that sometimes, T.C., Augie, Alé and their friends act too mature or perhaps the way they talked and acted didn't totally fit teenagers. They were all a bit too accepting... like nobody bat an eye at Augie being gay - not his parents, not his grandparents (who are all Asians). Nobody at school made fun, everyone was soo supportive. This is how ideally life should be, but real life is not. So I thought it was bit too Cinderella-ish at times... still it didn't deem my enjoyment at all.

M. Kluger clearly has a passion for musicals and baseball (especially Red Sox) and a lot of topics are important to him and he doesn't hesitate to include them in his novels - Almost Like Being in Love, My Most Excellent Year and Last Days of Summer... It's quite incredible that he manages for his books to be so distinctive. I mean the subjects in Almost Like Being in Love and My Most Excellent Year are very similar, but I would never mistake one for the other. Of course, I would know they were written by the same author :) He has quite a distinctive style :) What I meant to say is that being passionate is a good thing, but at the same time, adding so much of it can be a bit overwhelming. I mean, my knowledge of musicals - zero. It's basically like Jennifer Crusie quoting movies in her books. It'd be great if he could take it to a lesser degree in his future books.

Still I love My Most Excellent Year... and I said it was better than Almost Like Being in Love because he takes all the strengths and positives of Almost Like Being in Love and scale it down. The story revolved around T.C., Augie and Alé; there are still some side-stories, but they don't detract as much as they did in Almost Like Being in Love. My Most Excellent Year is still written in an
epistolary format, but there is a lot more narration from T.C., Augie and Alé, as we follow their diary entries. As a result, My Most Excellent Year flows better and is easier to read. Again, the book is fun, clever and heart-warming. You can't stop smiling while reading it... and because the story focuses more on Augie and T.C., you really feel the friendship between the two which takes it a step further.

My Grade: A. I simply love it... and I'll be reading everything by Steve Kluger I can put my hand on :) I hope he writes another book soon!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Re-Read Challenge: December Winner :)

LOL, I don't feel like blabbing too much for this month.

I'm quite happy with the turn out this month, 7 reviews :) The books were varied as well: contemporary, historical, romantic suspense and young adult... That's good :) I know there were some bloggers who did manage to re-read their book, but not write a review. As long as you've done your re-read, that's good no? You go back to rediscover loved books... the review is just the cherry on top of the sundae :)

It's been a very fun year hosting the Re-Read Challenge... and that's why I'll continue in 2010. I hope old participants will continue and new participants will join :)

So the last winner of the Re-Read Challenge 2009 is...


Out of the 7 entries I got, excluding me, Taja was the only one who didn't win previously. I think it's only fair that she is the one getting the 10$ gift certificate!! Please contact me Taja for your prize... and I don't care that you live in Europe, so I don't want to hear any arguments :)

Congrats Taja and thank you to all the bloggers who participated!!

Re-Read Challenge 2010

Year 2009 is over, onto year 2010!

Originally, I didn't plan to continue hosting the Re-Read Challenge this year. Partly because many ended up not making it. I mean, the number of entries doesn't matter, but you know... Then, I remembered that people are enjoying this challenge - participants and non-participants. It makes us rediscover favorites and make other, discover new books that they've missed. So I changed my mind and decided to host it another year :)

This year though, the rules are going to be a different... as in, there are going to be less rules :)

There will be no sign-up. Whoever wants to participate can do it and bloggers can join whenever they want. Unfortunately, there will be no monthly prizes. Instead, I will do a bigger prize at the end of the year. I still haven't decided what it will be and what will be the conditions. I will let everyone know about the prize later :)

Basically, the goal of the Re-Read Challenge remains the same: re-read a book and review it at the end of the month. There is no condition for the book itself, as long as you've read it at least once before, it qualifies. As usual, I will put up a post where participants can leave the link to their review :) I'm aiming for the last day of the month for the review, but I'll extend the review period if the last day turns out to be a week-end.

And that's it :D

Since it's a new year, I've made some icons for the Re-Read Challenge 2010. I can't choose which one I like best, so I'll let everyone make their own choice :) I know, they all look pretty much alike :P If you could post it on your sidebar and link back to this post it'd be great. Putting it in the review post each month is good, but not necessary :)

*I'd like to thank the Bookstores in Spokane blog for letting me use the image for the icon!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Monthly Reads - December 2009

I can't believe 2009 is already over :) It really went by fast, especially the month of December. Personally, I'm quite happy that 2009 is over. I mean, it wasn't a bad year and actually, there were some really good moments... however, it wasn't a particularly good year either.

Back to books :) Reading-wise, December was okay. Again, I didn't read as much as I wanted, but December has been really busy. First, there was work and then, all the parties and get-togethers. So I'm quite happy with 12.

1) The Summoner by Gail Z. Martin: B

2) The Blood King by Gail Z. Martin: B

These two books are Book #1 and #2 in the Chronicles of the Necromancer. The story is about Tris, who is the prince of the Kingdom of Margolan. During Halloween, his evil half-brother kills their father to usurp the throne... Tris and his companions have no other choice than to flee. They are determined to come back to Margolan and chase away the evil king. During his journey, in addition to making valuable allies, Tris discovers that he is a necromancer... adding even more responsibilities on his shoulders. At the end of The Blood King, Tris successfully regains his throne... however, not everything is settled and dangers still await.

These are fantasy novels and while enjoyable, they're not very original - except perhaps the part where Tris is a necromancer. The story and the writing are good, the characters are likable but the wow factor is not present and as a result, they fail to distinguish themselves from other fantasy novels with similar plot. It's basically the typical story about a prince trying to get his throne back.

However, I'm more hopeful for the second story arc, since it follows the story of Tris once he is on the throne. This should be interesting and different. I already have book #3, Dark Haven, but waiting to get my hand on the conclusion, book #4 Dark Lady's Chosen, so there won't be any cliffhanger.

3) She's Got it Bad by Sarah Mayberry: C+

My first Sarah Mayberry. I think at this point, many know the plot already. I enjoyed the setting and the hero, but the heroine... meh. I understand from where she comes from, but it didn't maker her likable to me. I had difficulty connecting with her... Ah well, not a totally bad book, but not a wowzer I was expecting. Still, I'll be looking forward by more books written by Ms Mayberry.

4) Courting Miss Hattie by Pamela Morsi: B

I picked up this book at the library because Ames and Leslie have recently reviewed it. The story is about Hattie... for lack of a better term, an old maid. She's not very attractive, but she's hard-working, independent and own her farm. She's actually waiting for Reed, the man who's been helping on the farm ever since he was a young boy, to gather enough money so she can sell it to him. Reed has a dream to turn this cotton farm into a rice field... unfortunately, this mean asking his fiancée to wait. Everything changes the day a widower with 8 kids, Ancil Drayton, decides to court Miss Hattie. For some reasons, Reed is not taking it well...

I thought Courting Miss Hattie was a cute story. I liked both main characters, Hattie and Reed. I was happy that Reed stood up for Hattie, even against his young fiancée. Unfortunately, Reed is really a man and doesn't understand women's worries. It was funny when he wondered why Hattie would accept Ancil's suit. Hattie was a good heroine, strong and independent, but still vulnerable. The two of them made a good pair. The story was cute and I even enjoyed the secondary romance... my only problem really was the time period - not one of my favorite.

5) Indiscreet by Carolyn Jewel: B-/B

Hmmm, I planned to review this book, but never got around to. I read this book, mainly because I've been wanting to try this author's historical romance and because Rosie keeps singing her praise and gave me a copy of this book :) I could have read Scandal; however, Indiscreet's plot suited me better in my opinion.

So I did enjoy Indiscreet. Again, I liked the characters and the plot was interesting. Seriously, rumors can cause so much harm and Edward's friend was really despicable. I liked that Edward was different in the sense that he was not considered handsome and he wasn't afraid of marriage in the beginning. Just too bad his bride wasn't worth it. I liked Sabine because she was smart. I liked the fact that the whole scandal wasn't swept under a rug, that we could see the repercussion of what happened even after they traveled so far away from London. The first half of the book was quite good... this is where Edward and Sabine get to know each other and interact... I wish this part would have been longer. For some reasons, I still didn't totally believe the love between Edward and Sabine. The second half of the story is where I started losing interest. Some would have found it exciting, but me, I thought it was a bit too much ^_^; It is believable that someone would go to such length to possess a woman, but meh. The ending was okay...

6) Where Dreams Begin by Lisa Kleypas: C

7) Red by Jordan Summers: B-

Red got quite a buzz on blogland when it was released, but it took Lea during my trip to Ontario to convince me to buy it. Red is the story of Gina Santiago, nicknamed Red because of the amount of blood whenever she's involved in a mission, who decides to investigate a crime scene that looks like it was done by animals... but Red feels otherwise. The story takes place in a futuristic kind of world - not apocalyptic, but almost, where vampires, werewolves and psychics are the results of government experiments to yield better soldiers.

So Red arrives in Nuria and knows there is something more than the little town facade. She meets Morgan, the sheriff and alpha, and the two are instantly attracted to each other... What Red doesn't know yet is that this investigation will reveal some secrets that involve her as well.

Overall, the story wasn't bad. Red is the first book in the trilogy which include Scarlet and Crimson. I like the link between the three titles, I thought it was original. The writing was also quite good, so I can't really pinpoint the reason why I felt a bit meh while reading this book. Don't know if it was my mood or the book itself. I guess I had difficulty connecting with the characters and getting into the storyline. There is one thing that bothered me and that was the crudeness in this book. The worst is that it wasn't even that bad when you compare to erotica romance... but for some reason, it bothered me. I think it was mainly because I wasn't really expecting it ^_^; Makes me sound like a prude here LOL. Ah well. I do have Scarlet in my TBR pile... will get to it eventually.

8) Three Days to the Dead by Kelly Meding: C

I've really been in the mood for urban fantasy lately and when I came across Mandi's review for this book, I thought it fit the bill.

So Evangeline Stone is part of an organization that get rids of unwanted creatures such as goblins, demons and etc. The way the organization works is that members work in teams of three - triads - with a handler in charge. Evangeline's triad is ambushed and her two partners are killed. She's accused of their murders and try to escape to prove her innocence, but instead, gets a neutral clan of were-birds annihilated. Discouraged, Evie is ready to turn herself in till her handler, Wyatt, convince her not to. In the end though, she ends up dead and waking in a body that doesn't belong to her, with no memories of the critical last few days.

I guess I'm going to start sounding like a broken record, but once again, story was okay. The whole idea of Evie's team being murdered, Evie being wrongly accused and this all being part of a bigger conspiracy was good... however, I think that too much was happening. The author tried to conciliate the story with a complicated world building and just didn't focus enough on the background. She introduces a lot of different supernatural living creatures, gives a bit of background, but not enough for readers to link everything together. Who are the allies, who are the bad guys? What are halfies? Also back-tracking the last few days of Evie, there was a lot of action... and perhaps I think too much. Also, are regular people not supposed to be aware of these creatures when you have chimeras running wild around?!?

A definite bummer for me was also the "romance." Reading urban fantasy, I don't expect romance, but if you include it... Having the heroine tell her "love" interest that she only wanted sex to make her feel alive... yeah, not very romantic.

The saving grace of Three Days to the Dead though is the writing and the characters. As a result, this wasn't the greatest debut novel, but it wasn't the worst either.

9) The Care and Taming of a Rogue by Suzanne Enoch: C+

This is the story of Captain Bennett Wolfe who comes back to London 5 months after he was declared dead. Bennett is a very popular explorer who has written books about his journey to Egypt and other countries. In his last expedition to Congo, he was supposed to bring back maps, logs, specimen, etc. for London's Africa Association... but instead, he was left for dead by a colleague, Captain Langley, who stole Bennett's journals and published them as his own and at the same time, ruining Bennett's reputation by inversing their roles. Now, Bennett has to prove that the journals were actually his own, but first, he has to salvage his reputation... and the only way he can do so, is to mingle with the ton and the young ladies... but the only one he finds tolerable is Lady Phillipa Eddison.

The first half of the book was quite good and entertaining; however, I can't say the same about the second half. The main problem of this book was the characterization of Bennett Wolfe. At first, he sounded sane and rational... however, as the story goes, his character seems to lose it and he becomes "savage" and ignorant. Yes, this man spent his aldulthood being an explorer, vising countries and natives and I can believe that he prefers the freedom he finds during his journeys, but I cannot believe he doesn't know how to court a lady and what is considered proper behavior in England. I mean, he did stay in England between his expeditions, right? and he was raised in England... so to have him not knowing how to court a woman or how to behave in company of a lady, that was ridiculous to me.

One other problem I had was why would Langley kidnap Phillipa to Gretna Green?!? I understand him being interested in Phillipa to thwart Bennett, but to the point of marrying her?!? That didn't make sense to me. After all that, the fact that Phillipa was a homebody, someone that doesn't really enjoy traveling was superfluous as a conflict.

What saved the book was Phillipa's character, the writing and the unconventional resolution to Bennett's innocence issue.

10) Deadline by Metsy Hingle: C+

I've read and enjoyed Ms Hingle book and so, I was quite glad to find Deadline, the only one missing in my collection, when I was visiting Kristie.

When Tessa Abbott was 4 years old, her mother - the daughter of a senator - was murdered and her father accused of the crime, convicted based on Tessa's testimony and thrown in jail. Twenty-five years later, about to be released, her father commits suicide. The case should be closed... till Tessa receives a phone call telling her her father's suicide wasn't one and he wasn't her mother's murderer. Wanting to finally find the truth, Tessa decides to carry her own investigation.

Overall, the best way to describe Deadline is "okay." The story was interesting, but a bit unbelievable. Tessa is a reporter and as a whole, her character was okay. She didn't annoy me - and she could have, given her job :P All her actions in this investigation were steps that I would have taken and that was quite interesting. What I found stupid though is that all the witnesses are starting to disappear or die and Tessa is not worried. Hello!! At the end, when the hero, Spencer, finally got the message across, it was too late to convey the right emotions. Speaking of the hero, I really did like him. He was solid, even with his hidden agenda - I don't feel like he used Tessa. The romance between the H/H was a bit lukewarm, so that was a bit disappointing. The truth though was quite interesting, so points to the author there.

11) Forbidden Falls by Robyn Carr: B

Review to come.

12) Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger: A-

Review to come.

Oups, I've been quite chatty today. Some of those mini-reviews could almost be reviews on their own! LOL. Ah well :) I felt that most of my reads this month were okay. Except for Almost Like Being in Love, none really blown me away :( I personally don't know if it was my mood or if I've become more harsh with grades and jaded ^_^;

Except for Forbidden Falls and Almost Like Being in Love and some buddy reviews I have yet put together (sorry Christine, Jill, Li and Leslie!!), I'll consider my year 2009 over :) LOL, I need to focus on reviewing my new reads instead of looking back :P Seriously, I bow to all of you bloggers that review all the books you read. I don't know how you do!

Now all that is left to wrap up the year is my Best and Worst of 2009 post :) Need to start working on that :P

Re-Read Challenge: December!

Woohoo, last re-read challenge of the year!! :) Wowzer, right? How did a year go by already?!?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I will continue hosting the Re-Read challenge for 2010. I will post up the details with a new icon in the next few days :D

So last day of the year... I know everyone will be busy. So you have from today till Sunday, January 3rd, midnight (Eastern time) to post your re-read review and be eligible for the draw :)

In the meantime, I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Happy New Year and an awesome 2010 to come! :D

Kris: Moving Target and Running Scared by Elizabeth Lowell
Taja: Tiger's Eye by Karen Robards
Tracy: Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie
Leslie: Forever by Judy Blume
Nath: Deep Waters by Jayne Ann Krentz and Hunter X Hunter by Togashi Yoshihiro
Ames: Tears of the Moon by Nora Roberts
Lori: Tapestry by Karen Ranney