Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hauling Sunday XXI

Sorry for the past very quiet week. I'm having the blues ^_^; The shopping blues, the watching TV blues, the listening music blues, etc. Aside from reading, everything else feels a bit blah. I tried writing a review for Somewhere Along the Way, but I figured that blogland has been quiet in the past few weeks and it'd be even more this week because of Thanksgiving... so I thought it'd be the perfect time to take a little break and hopefully, it will work :)

Without any further delay, here are the books I bought this week:

A Christmas Promise by Mary Balogh - I've had this book on my radar for a while and was waiting for a good opportunity (read need a certain minimum amount purchase to use coupon) to buy it. However, I broke down after reading Hils' review ^_^; I've been on a historical binge and this one sounds like it'll fit perfectly with the others... Plus, I want to read something Christmas-y :P

His Captive Lady and To Catch a Bride by Anne Gracie - I just finished reading The Accidental Wedding last week and really enjoyed it :) Enough that I wanted to read the other books in the series.

Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman by Lorraine Heath - LOL, you all know how I enjoyed Passions of a Wicked Earl and if you don't, click on the link for the review! :P There was no doubt in my mind that I would get the second book in the series. Look out for a review, very soon! :P

First Lord's Fury by Jim Butcher - I read the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher a couple of weeks (months?) ago. First Lord's Fury was a library book and now, it just came out in paperback format, so I bought it :)

So these are the books for me this week :) What about you?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hauling Sunday XX

There were no new releases awaiting for me at the bookstore this week... actually, I almost skipped this week's post, since I haven't bought anything at the bookstore. However, I suddenly remembered that I did indeed purchase books this week! E-books! LOL, probably the first time I actually bought some ^_^;

So without any further delay, here are my new e-books... Tada!

Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey - This is an ebook I've been wanting to read for a while, because it has received a lot of good reviews. However, I just haven't gotten around to buy it. Then, Tabitha brought to my attention its current price over at Carina Press... 0.99$!!! So I didn't waste any time :P

Silver and Spice by Jennifer Greene - I thought it was silly to only charge 0.99$ to my credit card, so I bought another e-book ^_^; And Silver and Spice fits my mood: a) contemporary romance and b) author that I've read before :P

Oh, and I almost forgot the two books I got by mail:

I won both of these on the RT blog during a 6-books YA giveaway. When I signed up for the giveaway, I didn't realize that I needed an US address. Thus, I had them sent to Monroe. Monroe got to keep Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare and got to read some others. Ames was there last week and got to pick up those she wanted to read and sent me these :P Firelight by Sophie Jordan is the reason I signed up for the giveaway. The premises sound very good and I love dragons! 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Review: Passions of a Wicked Earl by Lorraine Heath

Skipping the TBR challenge this month, because well, none of the books really qualify ^_^; Most of my reads have been 2010 releases and if not, they are recently acquired books. I'm hoping that I'll read a bit more from my TBR pile in December, since there will be very few new releases :P

Got a really good news at work yesterday!! The scientific paper that my lab has been working on has been accepted!! Woohoo!! and I'm first author on it :P My first real publication!! Really happy about it and I hope my boss won't forget to take us out for celebration once he comes back from his vacation :P The news must be such a relief for him, because he still hasn't replied to my email LOL. The few times I emailed him, he said he was hard at work and had sleepless nights! I have received some of his emails when it was 4.30am and 5.30am in China!! Definitively does not sound like a vacation to me ^_^; Hopefully, when I finally get to take time off, I'll be able to relax LOL.

So that was the good news :P Now, onto the review. There are other books I should review before this, but this one keeps calling to me :)

*Warning: The are spoilers in this review. Read at your own risk!*

Passions of a Wicked Earl by Lorraine Heath
published by Avon in October 2010
Known throughout for his prowess in the bedroom, Morgan Lyons, the eighth Earl of Westcliffe, cannot forgive an unpardonable affront to his honor. Discovering his young bride in the arms of his brother was a staggering blow - so he banished the beautiful deceiver to the country and devoted himself to thepursuit of carnal pleasure.

Claire Lyons was an innocent, frightened girl on her wedding day, seeking chaste comfort from a childhood friend. Now, years later, she has blossomed magnificently and has returned to London with one goal in mind: the seduction of her notorious husband. Unskilled in the sensual arts, she burns nonetheless for the kisses too long denied her. And she has but one Season to win back the heart of the rogue she betrayed.

They are masters of seduction, London's greatest lovers. Living for pleasure,they will give their hearts to no one... until love takes them by surprise.
Genre: historical romance
Series: London's Greatest Lovers, Book #1

The Story: Morgan Lyons is the eighth Earl of Westcliffe and finds himself in a very unique situation. Usually, as the oldest of three boys, he should be the only one titled... However, his mother remarried after his father died and gave birth to Ransom Seymour, heir to the dukedom of Ainsley. Morgan's father having left a lot of debts behind, Morgan has grown up being dependent on his younger brother's generosity. Luckily for Morgan, his and Earl of Cresmont's families have made a marriage contract betrothing him to Earl of Cresmont's eldest daughter, Claire, who has a substantial dowry. And Morgan is looking forward to restoring his family estate and starting his own family with Claire... that is, until he finds her in his brother Stephen's arms on his wedding night.

At seventeen, Claire is scared on her wedding night. The 8 years difference between her and her husband has always seemed like an insurmountable gap between them and as a result, she doesn't know him. Add to it the rumors of his prowess in the bedroom and Claire feels inadequate. All she hopes is to postpone her wedding night till she can get to know him better. She shares her fears and hopes with Stephen, her childhood friend, who comes up with a foolish plan. The plan works a bit too well and the Earl and Countess of Westcliffe end up living separate lives for the next three years - Claire being exiled to the country and Morgan, in London, parading his conquests to cover his wounded pride.

After three years of separation, Westcliffe seems to have found someone with whom he could share his life and is toying with the idea of demanding a divorce. It is at that moment that Claire shows up to his residence, demanding him to sponsor her younger sister's Season. Feeling that he owns her that much, Westcliffe accepts. Meanwhile, Claire is getting ready to become Westcliffe's wife in every way...

My Opinion: First, I have to say thank you, thank you, thank you Leslie for her review of Passions of a Wicked Earl. I've read some of Ms Heath's books in the past and enjoyed some of them, but not her most recent ones. Also, I've been disappointed in Avon's historical lately. Combine the fact together and I was going to skip this release, but Leslie's review changed my mind and I'm sooooo glad for it because I ended up absolutely LOOOOVIIIIING it!!

What  made Passions of a Wicked Earl so great was the characterization of Westcliffe and Claire. They were extremely well-written characters and each had so much depth... Ms Heath did a very good job with their backgrounds and settings, so much that you really can't help but feel for them. I love the fact that Claire didn't shy away from her responsibilities for the debacle that took place during her wedding night. The fact that she wanted to postpone her wedding night in order to get to know her husband better is totally understandable, especially from a woman's viewpoint. Still, the plan was stupid and she can't blame Westcliffe for reacting the way he did. What she doesn't know - and this was very unfortunate at the time-  is that Westcliffe probably reacted more violently than he would have because the other man was Stephen, his younger brother whom his mother obviously favored. Sigh. In any case, I really like Claire's maturity, level-headiness and really, her courage. Facing Westcliffe, standing up to him, facing the rest of the ton knowing that everyone is aware of her husband's affairs, fighting for her husband's affection... none of those situations could have been easy and yet, she did... and she did so being herself and not giving up. Seriously, Claire won my respect and my love and at the end, I was simply happy for her to get her HEA ending :)

Surprisingly, I found myself loving Westcliffe's character as much as I did Claire. OMG, he was such a complex hero! Not tortured as we usually like in heroes, but gosh did the man suffer emotionally. Here you have a man who is an earl and if he was anyone else, that would probably be perfect - case closed. However, in Westcliffe's instance, it practically means nothing. He is the oldest son but without real authority (the bossiness of the oldest) because he depends on in his younger brother - the duke- generosity. His mother obviously prefers and favors Stephen over her two titled sons... and they've been raised in Ainsley's household, abandoning his own household. Plus, because of the dynamics, the three brothers do not share a close brotherhood. He's been watching Claire from afar and I think he had real affection for her. It might not have been love, but he did care for her and he was looking forward to marriage not only for the money which he could use to restore Lyons Place, but to start a family - his own family. Then, finding her in Stephen's arms, well it just crushed everything. I think that beneath his serious and severe front, Westcliffe really had some inferiority complex issues... and this is something you really wouldn't expect in a man of Westcliffe's position.

I mean, Westcliffe wasn't without fault. He definitively should have made more efforts to have a relationship with Claire before the wedding. However, being male, he figured they could do that throughout their marriage. Stupid, really :P Still you know what? I don't blame Westcliffe for that failure. I blame the mother, Tessa Seymour. If she had paid more attention to her son and taken an interest in his life instead of disliking him for his father's sins, she probably could have given him some advices, show him in the right direction... especially since she went through more or less the same situation! She must have known what Claire felt and so she could have helped the two connect.

Anyway, I liked Westcliffe's character not only because he was complex, but also because he realized his faults and his mistakes. It was very clever of the author to have Claire's younger sister in the story, providing contrast between the two women. It really made Westcliffe realize how young Claire was a their wedding, on what she missed and her insecurities. Also, he became uncomfortable once he realized Claire's difficult position because of his affairs... Westcliffe was definitively a sensible hero and very thoughtful at times... I guess that Claire wasn't the only one who was too young.

I ended up also really enjoying the relationship between Claire and Westcliffe, the romance. It took time for them to get to know each other, to trust, to forgive... but it only made it all sweeter. In my opinion, it was really heart-breaking to know that all along before, Westcliffe wanted a family with Claire... and for this to happen. They are both good people that made mistakes... everyone makes mistakes and so, you really root for them :P And the best is that throughout it all, they are getting to know each other...

I usually dislike the big misunderstanding device in the plot for the ending... however, I thought that in Passions of a Wicked Earl, it work. It was a set up for more and I liked it. I was very surprised at the tragedy that occurred. I thought it was bold from Ms Heath, but really an excellent move because it brought more than just the H/H together. I really liked how everything unfolded...

As for those who dislikes hero cheating in their romance and are worried about it in Passions of a Wicked Earl, all I can say is that I thought given the situation, it really worked. I mean, I was wary of it at first as well, but it's really an integral part of the book and seriously, I wouldn't change it.

My Grade: A. Phew, this was a very long review ^_^; There are actually things I'd like to mention like the secondary characters and Westcliffe's mistress, but I think I focused on what was important. Passions of a Wicked Earl was really about Claire and Westcliffe and so should my review :) I just hope that I was able to convey my love of this book :P I think that Passions of a Wicked Earl is going to be my favorite historical romance book for 2010 - that's how much I enjoyed it :) And I'm definitively picking up the next books in this series! No thinking required... Especially Ainsley :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Review: Play of Passion by Nalini Singh

I'm playing catch up again :P I've been doing very good blogging-wise at the beginning of the weeks and letting the ball drop at the end ^_^; I blame work, of course LOL. The past few weeks, I've been going to another hospital to recruit patients for the study we're doing  on Friday morning (very early in the morning) and thus, it's screwing my whole scheduling. So I'm trying something different this week and posting something up on Tuesday. LOL, I know, shocking. Plus, I've read so many good books since the end of October and I'm dying to review some of them :P So look out for my next few reviews... I'm going to start with Play of Passion by Nalini Singh :P

Play of Passion by Nalini Singh
published by Berkley in November 2010

As a conflict with Pure Psy looms on the horizon, two powerful wolves fight a far more intimate war of their own...

In his position as tracker for the SnowDancer pack, it’s up to Drew Kincaid to rein in rogue changelings who have lost control of their animal halves—even if it means killing those who have gone too far. But nothing in his life has prepared him for the battle he must now wage to win the heart of a woman who makes his body ignite…and who threatens to enslave his wolf.

Lieutenant Indigo Riviere doesn’t easily allow skin privileges, especially of the sensual kind—and the last person she expects to find herself craving is the most wickedly playful male in the den. Everything she knows tells her to pull back before the flames burn them both to ash…but she hasn’t counted on Drew’s will.

Now, two of SnowDancer’s most stubborn wolves find themselves playing a hot, sexy game even as lethal danger stalks the very place they call home...
Genre: paranormal romance
Series: Psy/Changelings series, Book #12 (counting novellas)

The Story: Andrew Kincaid has been attracted to Indigo Riviere for what seems to be forever. However, it's not easy to woo a dominant female, especially when you're younger and outside of pack hierarchy and thus, the dominance ladder. Still, Drew is one determined wolf :P

Indigo has never regarded Drew that way. As a good friend - yes, as someone she enjoys spending time together - yes... but as a potential lover? He's Riley's little brother for God's sake! Also, Indigo has seen first hand what happens when a dominant female mates with a less dominant male and she's determined not to walk down that path. Factor in the recent events and the Pure Psy moves and Indigo is in no mood for romance...

My Opinion: LOL, like so many of you, I always look forward to Ms Singh's new release and Play of Passion was no exception :) Especially after I found out that the heroine would be Indigo - I've been wishing for her book since Caressed by Ice - and she'd be paired up with Drew!! Woohoo!! So I got my hand on Play of Passion as soon as I could and just proceeded to devour it :P

My first impression of Play of Passion was that it was a nice change of pace in the Psy/Changelings series. In the last few books, there's been a lot of progress in the overall story-arc, the tension has been building up and as a result, the focus was placed on the plot. There's nothing wrong with that, especially if the romance is satisfying and it was... but at the same time, I thought romances featuring a female Psy were starting to get a wee bit redundant and so, I was really happy Play of Passion was about two changelings.

Play of Passion was all about Indigo, Drew and their courting and I loved it :)  As one of the lieutenants in the SnowDancer pack, you know that Indigo is a strong and tough woman. However, seeing her interact with the younger members of the pack, you know there's a softer side to her. Indigo is definitively all woman and perhaps the most balanced character we've seen in the series so far :) I liked how she was able to deal with everyone and any situations... and that includes Hawke :P As for Drew. Ah Drew! LOL. I didn't expect to like him so much :) We've caught glimpses of his personality in the previous books, but it was pretty much restricted to the protectiveness and love of an older brother. As it turns out, Drew is so much more :) I think what I liked the most about his character was his attentiveness - he paid attention to his surroundings, to the people around him and considered, never dismissing a detail. I think that particular quality bridged his more playful attitude with the more serious side of his personality. I liked how he reached out to everyone, especially Sienna and his charming side... Seriously, who could resist? :P

The romance between Indigo and Drew was very well written and developed and more importantly, the obstacles to the relationship were real and not simply there just to be there. I thought it was a bit frustrating that everyone seems to look down on Drew because he was outside of the hierarchy. I thought being the Hunter would give him more cloud, mean more and instead, it was the opposite with his pack mates not being sure of his position and status and sometimes, how to treat him. I mean, it's pretty obvious that he is dominant... I guess the question was how much "more" dominant he was. Also, it seems much more difficult for dominant females to find a mate and so, made Indigo's fears and worries more realistic. Although, seriously, she didn't stand a chance with Drew's tactics! :P Now, there's a guy who knows how to win a woman's heart :P I thought it was nice that the relationship developed smoothly, two friends becoming lovers, and that each had to make some adjustment.

While Play of Passion was more focused on the romance, there were still some action and progress in the story. I actually like the fact that we got a better view and understanding of the SnowDancer pack. We know the DarkRiver pack very well, but our knowledge of the SnowDancers has been limited to what we've glanced in Caressed by Ice and I enjoyed seeing their dynamics. The interactions between Hawke, Indigo and Drew were very interesting in my opinion, how they know their Alpha and how he can assess the situation in a glance. Also, I enjoyed the camaraderie between Drew and Judd. It proves that Judd has really been accepted :P I also liked the secret meetings between Nikita, Anthony (Faith's father), the DarkRiver pack and the SnowDancer pack... and it finally shed lights about why everything is taking place in San Francisco. Also, I think it was a good move on Ms Singh's part to slow things down a little. Usually, it's the opposite and authors are building up for the big book... however, that usually leads to very high expectations and sometimes, to disappointment. We all know the next book is going to be Hawke and Sienna's and there's already enough anticipation I think due to the pairing... so really, Ms Singh doesn't need to add more oil to the fuel :P

My Grade: B++. Play of Passion was a great and fast read which I really enjoyed. I liked the characters and the romance. Perhaps I wished there'd be a bit more balance between the romance and the plot, but if I have to choose between the two, romance wins for sure :P I'm definitively looking forward to Hawke and Sienna's book, can't wait to see how that will turn out :)

By the way, I heard that Hawke's book will complete this story-arc and that Ms Singh will take the series to another city afterward and start a new story-arc. Can anyone confirm this and whether there's been changes in the plans or not? With the way things are going right now, it seems unlikely to me, although it would be very interesting :P  Also, I really hope that Lara and Walker will get their own book :P

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hauling Sunday XIX

Sigh, a very lazy week-end again this week :P My boss is away, but for some reasons, I don't feel relaxed :( I think part of it is because I've been having a really hard time choosing what to read next :( I mean, my reading mojo is going strong at the moment, but picking up the next book to read is hard.

Also, by the way, where is everyone? :P Just wondering... I know I haven't been blog-hopping as much as I used to... but there's also fewer posts to catch up.

Okay, so here is my haul this week. Keep in mind, there was a 25% off this week-end at Chapters, Indigo and Coles :P

The Accidental Wedding by Anne Gracie - This one caught my attention. I think it was an excerpt posted up over at Book Binge and Tracy's review.

When Harry Met Molly by Kieran Kramer - I noticed this book when browsing for new releases. Back blurb sounds really fun, so I thought I'd give Ms Kramer's debut novel a chance :) Ames has already reviewed it here.

The Best Laid Plans by Sarah Mayberry - I hesitated getting the book. I'm not sure I'm going to like it, given the H/H are older and apparently, it's very baby-focused. However, since it was 25% off... :P

The Homecoming by JoAnn Ross - I've been hearing a lot of good things about this book (here), plus Ames has just gotten it :)

Water Bound by Christine Feehan - Not a fan of Ms Feehan, but again, this book has been getting good reviews (here and here), so I'll give it a try :)

Waiting for Nick/Considering Kate by Nora Roberts - I've read a lot of historicals lately and am in the mood for contemporary romances... However, those are hard to get by!! Seriously. I was at the bookstore, looking for it... and then, decided why not pick this. Nora Roberts is a sure value and Ames and Monroe just read Waiting for Nick and both loved it :P

Indulgence in Death by J.D. Robb - LOL, you all know why I got this :P I finally found a copy at discounted price at Walmart :) Although Indigo and Chapters just received their stock on Friday... Ah well, too bad :P What can I say, I don't like to wait :P The good thing though is I was talking to James and seems I'm not the only one LOL.

And there it is, my haul for this week. Bought 6 books during the 25% off promotion. I'm proud of myself. I bought books, but at the same time, didn't go overboard :) What do you think?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Review: All I Ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins

Nothing much going on with me. Days are getting colder and darker much earlier - thanks to daylight saving hours. I'm not really happy that it's dark when I get out of work, but I have to admit, waking up is not as difficult :P Boss is gone and so work is a bit more relaxed. I mean, it's busy, but at least, I do things on my own time.

Still haven't gotten my hands on Indulgence in Death by J.D. Robb. It's annoying :( I'm debating whether to buy it in e-format or not... and in the end, I voted against it because I have the whole collection in print already. However, I'm thinking of buying new author Kieran Kramer's debut novel, When Harry Met Molly, in e-format... I don't have any of her books in print yet and well, I should start buying more ebooks no? Anyway, I should take a decision soon because  I have a bad case of "I don't know what to read" syndrome and I feel like reading those books. Seriously, I have a room full of books, but it's the books that I don't have that calls to me ^_^; By the way, any good books you've read recently? Chapters/Indigo is having a 25% off promotion this week-end... but I have nothing on my TBB list ^_^;

Now, the review. I'm trying to catch up on my reviews, but the list just keeps getting longer and longer. I don't know how some of you can review everything you read. Seriously, amazing. Today's review is All I Ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins :)

All I Ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins
published by HQN Books in July 2010
One Happily-Ever-After Rocking Chair...

and no sign of any forthcoming babies to rock in ol' Georgebury, Vermont. For Callie Grey, turning thirty means coming to grips with the fact that her boss (and five-week fling) is way overdue in his marriage proposal. And way off track because Mark has suddenly announced his engagement to the company's new Miss Perfect. If that isn't bad enough, her mom decides to throw her a three-oh birthday bash in the family funeral home.

Bad goes to worse when she stirs up a crazy relationship with the town's not so warm and fuzzy veterinarian, Ian McFarland, in order to flag Mark's attention. So Ian is more comfortable with animals... So he's formal, orderly and just a bit tense. The ever-friendly, fun-loving and spontaneous Callie decides it's time for Ian to get a personality makeover. But dang, if he doesn't shock the heck out of her, she might actually fall for Vermont's unlikeliest eligible bachelor...
Genre: contemporary romance/chick-lit
Series: none

The Story: I thought the back blurb was a bit misleading, as in Callie's boss, Mark, did not cheat on her which is a good thing :P

Callie Grey has been in love with her boss, Mark Rousseau, ever since she was a teen. She's come back to Georgebury after college and was ecstatic to find a position in his company. For the past few years, she's been waiting for him to notice her and when during a business trip, Mark and Callie become an item, Callie is over the moon, figuring her dreams are about to come true. Unfortunately, after 5 weeks, Mark tells her he needs some space, that he's not ready to commit yet.... and so Callie waits for Mark to be ready. But it all comes to a stop when Mark announces his engagement to the daughter of one of their most important client and that his new fiancée will now be working with them.

Suddenly brought back to reality, Callie takes a good look at her life and her dysfunctional family. She's determined not to end up like her parents (her father cheated on his mother while she was pregnant with her younger brother and her mother still makes him pay, despite the divorce) or her older sister (so scarred by their parents divorce that she's never commit to a man and has decided to be a single mother - adopted two beautiful daughters - and helps women get pregnant without the need of men; she's a fertility doctor) and so decides to take matter into her own hands. However, meeting sensible, eligible bachelors in Georgebury is not easy and how is it that Ian McFarland, the new and very disagreeable veterinarian, is always there to witness her humiliations?

My Opinion: All right, so let's get the biggest issue out of the way first, shall we? I've read all of Ms Higgins' books and reviewed most of them. For the most part, I've enjoyed her books a lot. I like her heroines because they're fun and her heroes because they're yummy :P I do think that her books read more like chick-lit than contemporary romance, but that seems to be Ms Higgins' style and it's something that  you get used to. Sure, I'd wish her books would be more contemporary romance, but it's the way Ms Higgins writes and it seems to work for her... and so, All I Ever Wanted follows the same trend. The problem though is that after 5 books, they are all starting to blend into one another. Ms Higgins has a very distinctive narrative voice that sets her apart from other authors, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, it's the same voice for all of her heroines - which is less good ^_^; Also, all of her books are about women wanting to start a family and thus, finding the significant other. Setting changes, background changes, profession changes... but the basic story doesn't... Setting, background and profession are really important, but ultimately, they don't make the book in my opinion... usually, it's the H/H that does and when they all seem to be the same... it bodes badly for the future. I do feel like Ms Higgins has been trying to mix things up, but the impact wasn't big enough to shake off the similarities to the previous books. It'd be good if Ms Higgins would go big for her next book... Okay, so that's the ongoing complaints I have with Ms Higgins books. Don't get me wrong, I like her books and enjoy them... I'm just not sure how long my enjoyment will continue :(

Hmmm, it seems I started my review with what should be my closing paragraph LOL. Anyway, back to All I Ever Wanted :) I enjoyed the book and personally, I liked it better than The Next Best Thing. I think the main reason was because Callie and the story were just more cheerful. I really enjoyed Callie's joie de vivre and her honesty when it came to her feelings. At first, I was a little put-off by the fact that she was still expecting Mark to come back to her after their five weeks fling. I felt like she was deluding herself and making up nice stories in her mind. There's nothing wrong with dreaming, but you can't treat those dreams as reality. Luckily, Callie didn't clung to those disillusions... and it was more about the crush of a young girl coming true. I like that Callie didn't crumble and she set out to meet the right guy.

Our hero, Ian, was the complete opposite of Callie. He's reserved, not very effusive with his feelings and at times, actually has difficulty to communicate them. As a hero, I thought he was okay. I like the silent type, but he wasn't as likable as Ms Roberts' grumpy heroes. While not as likable, I can't help but think he's a good guy, an admirable one. He knows when he needs help and when to ask for it and what he did for his ex. I have the feeling that he is very loyal to people who he comes to know. The romance between Callie and Ian was okay. It wasn't exactly the "happy-go-lucky heroine thawing out stuff hero" theme that I usually enjoy so much. More something to do with proximity. I think the relationship developed naturally, but I felt it wasn't romantic enough. I liked the fact that the grand gesture at the end came from Callie instead :P

What I did enjoy a lot in this book was Callie's interactions with her family and what a family she has :P LOL and the family business was just a nice touch - a funeral home. I really like the relationship between Callie and her grandfather - I like grumpy old man. I felt so bad for Callie's father... yes, he did a mistake, but to keep paying for it for years and years... I'm not trying to excuse his cheating. There should never be excuses for cheating, seriously... However, it can be forgiven. Perhaps if he had explained what has pushed him earlier... I'm glad that in the end, he exploded and let it all out. Callie's mother and sister, I liked less... but it was nice to see them all interact with each other.

My Grade: B. Not my favorite book by Ms Higgins, but one that I found enjoyable and fun just like its cover :)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Book News: You Belong to Me by Karen Rose!

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Karen Rose and am always looking forward to her new releases :) I thought that I'd have to wait till June 2011, but turns out I am going to be able to get my hand on her new book much sooner than I expect :P

First, I'd like to thank Tabitha for sharing the news with me :) Since I haven't read about it on any other blogs so far, I figure a lot of people are in the dark as well and this might cheer everyone up :)

It turns out that Ms Rose's next release, You Belong to Me, is going to be released in hardcover in the UK in January 2011!!! Woohoo!!! The US will completely bypass the hardcover release and so, You Belong to Me will be available only in June 2011 in paperback format. The news has been confirmed by Ms Rose here.

When I saw Ms Rose at RT last April, I asked her about Silent Scream being released in paperback, since her last three releases prior (Scream for Me, Kill for Me and I Can See You) have been in hardcover... and she told me that due to the economy crisis, her hardcover books haven't sold as well and thus she was back in paperback. Well I have to say that I am really happy she's big enough in the UK to warrant the hardcover release :) I have to admit, I'm a bit surprised at the decision - it's usually the opposite you know (HC in US, but paperback in the UK), but whatever!! LOL. I'm just happy it means I can read her next book earlier than I thought :) And yes, suddenly, I really, really love Book Depository :P

Plus, I think the UK cover is pretty nice :)
(No US cover yet)

From and Fantastic Fiction:
When forensic pathologist Lucy Trask stumbles across a mutilated body by the chess tables in her local Baltimore park, its face so badly damaged it is unrecognisable, her sole concern is that it might be her old school teacher Mr Pugh. When the corpse is identified, Lucy is shocked to discover that the victim is actually another man from her past. Who killed him and why his skin is burnt with the number '1' is unclear but it's evident that someone is demanding Lucy's attention. The discovery of a second branded body raises worrying questions: how many more lives may be at risk before the killer's final message is revealed? And can Lucy solve the killer's gruesome puzzle before their thirst for revenge is complete?

From Ms Rose:
Years ago, a young girl was beaten and raped while onlookers did nothing. Now those witnesses are becoming victims themselves…

Baltimore city Homicide Detective JD Fitzpatrick has seen a lot of horrific violence, both as a cop and during his deployment in Afghanistan, but nothing like the trail of tortured bodies that are turning up throughout the city. He’s up against a brutal killer with a very personal vendetta. And now JD is beginning to suspect that his medical examiner may be shielding some crucial evidence linked to the case.

Medical Examiner Dr. Lucy Trask is intrigued by JD’s compassion, but she isn’t about to mix work with pleasure. Not while there’s a ruthless killer on the loose. And definitely not while she’s keeping a dark secret that could connect her to these vicious killings—and put her next on the killer’s hit list…

Woohoo, I just can't wait... and January is really not a long wait at all!! :P

Review: Call Me Mrs. Miracle by Debbie Macomber

Disclaimer: I've received Call Me Mrs. Miracle as an eARC from NetGalley

Call Me Mrs. Miracle by Debbie Macomber
published by Mira in September 2010

This Christmas, Emily Merkle (call her Mrs. Miracle!) is working in the toy department at Finley's, the last family-owned department store in New York City. And her boss is none other than… Jake Finley, the owner's son.

For Jake, holiday memories of brightly wrapped gifts, decorated trees and family were destroyed in a Christmas Eve tragedy years before. Now Christmas means just one thing to him—and to his father. Profit. Because they need a Christmas miracle to keep the business afloat.

Holly Larson needs a miracle, too. She wants to give her eight-year-old nephew, Gabe, the holiday he deserves. Holly's widowed brother is in the army and won't be home for Christmas, but at least she can get Gabe that toy robot from Finley's, the one gift he desperately wants. If she can figure out how to afford it…

Fortunately, it's Mrs. Miracle to the rescue. Next to making children happy, she likes nothing better than helping others—and that includes doing a bit of matchmaking!

This Christmas will be different. For all of them.
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: none

The Story: Holly Larson is a single woman working as a personal assistant to a fashion designer. While her widowed brother is in the army and her parents abroad for charity work, Holly has to take care of her 8 years old nephew and is determined to give him a memorable Christmas. All Gabe wants for Christmas is a toy robot; unfortunate, Holly is on a tight budget, but she'll try.

Jake Finley is working up the ladder in his family department store. This holiday season, he's in charge of the toy department and has over-ordered this new toy robot, sure that it'd be the new hit. However, sales are slow and now, Jake has doubts over his decision. Luckily for him, his elderly employee, Mrs. Miracle is doing a great job.

As for Mrs. Miracle, she has plans of her own... bringing two nice people who deserve the best in life together on the best holiday...

My Opinion: Ms Macomber is a very prolific author, a bit a la Nora, with many new releases and re-prints coming out each year, multiple series going on and single titles here and there. However, where Nora Roberts is all about romance, I find that Ms Macomber style is more women fiction - her books usually contain the point of views of many women of all ages, dealing with different situations. There's nothing wrong with that style, but from experience, I've found out that I enjoy it more in small dose and as a result, I'm a bit more picky when it comes to those books... which is why I was hesitant to pick up Call Me Mrs. Miracle. And LOL, my worries were for naught as it turns out that Call Me Mrs. Miracle is more of a contemporary romance :P

Call Me Mrs. Miracle is the story of Holly and Jake. Holly is her nephew's guardian and is trying to give him a great Christmas, despite the fact that his father is away and he is stuck with her. She introduces him to the small joys of Christmas such as cookie baking, decorating, etc. I liked Holly and I thought she was very dedicated to her family, taking in her nephew... and she really did try to do her best by him - adjusting her life for him. It's very commendable.

Jake is a good guy and once he meets Holly, he's smitten with her. Years ago, his mother and sister died during the holiday season and as a result, his father and him have not celebrated Christmas since. Instead, they go to a warm place for a vacation... but meeting Holly has made Jake rediscover the magic of Christmas.

All in all, Call Me Mrs. Miracle is a Christmas book and as such, it is a sweet tale. The relationship between Holly and Gabe, the romance between Holly and Jake, Jake re-connecting with his father... add to it the magical element introduced via Mrs. Miracle, and you have a cute book. The goal is really to make you feel good... and I did. At the same time though, I thought that the book was a bit bland. The characters are not very memorable and the whole book felt a bit, hmmm, dated. I cannot pinpoint it exactly, whether it is the storyline, the characters or the writing style, but while it does mention some current events... I can't shake the feeling that it seems like a book from the 90s...

My Grade: C+. Call Me Mrs. Miracle is a cute book for the holiday season, but it's missing some omphf to make it memorable.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Hauling Sunday XVIII

The past week was very quiet for me, not really a surprise considering my past haul LOL.

I was actually expecting two books, but one is still not in :( As a result, there's only one book to my haul this week,but it's one that I've been anticipating, so all is good :)

Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts - Last book in the Brides Quartet series, I've been looking forward this one, because well, I've enjoyed the series so far :) Now, I'm wondering what Ms Roberts will write next...

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Monthly Reads: October 2010

I'm trying to get back into a blogging rhythm... hence, trying to get my monthly reads post on time... or almost LOL. It's hard though, because I'm still having troubles with my computer and basically, I don't feel like coming home and battling it out. As a result, I haven't been using it as much as I used to and so am spending less time online after work. On the good side though, I'm reading more :P

Enough though! I feel like lately, I've been whining and complaining a lot and I'm tired of it ^_^; So let's talk books :) October was a busy month for me. Lots of things happening and coming up unexpectedly. It wasn't all bad - got to go to NJ and meet Hilcia and Christine! - but it definitively was time-consuming. Quite frankly, I've almost thrown in the towel for October... I mean, half-way in the month, I've only read 4 books ^_^; Luckily for me, my reading mojo definitively picked up and I ended up with a decent month after all :)

Here it is, my reads for October:

1) A Hellion in Her Bed by Sabrina Jeffries: B
Upcoming review.

2) Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch: A-
Upcoming buddy review with Ames at Breezing Through.

3) Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis: B

There are a lot of reviews floating around blogland (Holly and Leslie) for Simply Irresistible and since I don't really have anything new to add, I'll put my thoughts here.

Maddie Moore is at a cross-road in her life. With no job and no boyfriend, she makes her way to Lucky Harbor, a little coastal town in which her mother has left to her and her two half-sisters an inn. While her two sisters, perfect Tara and wild-child Chloe, want to sell the inn, Maddie sees it as a new beginning. Before taking any final decisions, Maddie is able to convince her sisters to make some renovations and thus turns to Jax Cullen, master carpenter and mayor...

My opinion of Simply Irresistible very much mirror Holly's, but I think I liked it a little bit less. Jax was a great hero in my opinion and he definitively made the book for me. He was everything a woman could wish for: nice, gentle, thoughtful, successful, etc. The list goes on and on. However, it doesn't mean he doesn't have issues. He does, but he deals with them as best as he can. All I can say is I wish I could meet a mean like him LOL. In comparison, I think that Maddie pales a little bit and ends up being only okay. I liked her trying to be more affirmative and stand for herself, she needs it. However, at times, I thought she didn't try hard enough. Also, there were scenes where I felt it was too much "me, me, me." I guess I felt the relationship was uneven. Jax did a lot of giving and understanding and it was reciprocated on the same level. It bothered me a little, because you have this great guy who gets you and is giving you time before making a move, because he wants a relationship with you... and every time she discovered something about him, she'd always react but too defensively, too much on the attack or blaming him.

Still, overall, I think the book was cute and enjoyable. The dynamic between the sisters was interesting. I'm not saying I enjoyed it all, because there are definitively issues between the three of them and they're not very close... especially Maddie. It seems she has spent less time with her mother and sisters than Tara or Chloe. I do admit I'm a bit tired of the siblings coming together under some circumstances theme (and this one strongly reminds me of Montana Sky by Nora Roberts and the Sisters trilogy by Leanne Banks) and so far, I haven't warmed up much to Tara and Chloe yet. Still, I'm going to keep an eye open for the next two books... especially since Ford and Sawyer seem to be swooning-worthy hero material :P

4) The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan: B/B+
Upcoming buddy review with Isabel at Breezing Through.

5) Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie: B
Upcoming review

6) Mad About This Duke by Elizabeth Boyle: B

While Mad About This Duke is part of the Bachelors Chronicles series, it's also the 2nd book in the sub-trilogy, Marchionesses Standon (or something like that LOL). Mad About This Duke picks up right after How I Met my Countess, where Lady Elinor Standon hires the service of James Tremont, the Duke of Parkerton, whom she mistakes as a solicitor (due to his ill-fitted jacket). In order to protect her younger sister from a lecherous marriage who will only benefit their stepfather, Elinor has to marry well and she's decided the only way to go is to marry a duke. Thus, she charges James to find out as much as possible from the list of candidates which she has narrowed down to two names.

The Tremont family has been plagued with madness, but so far, James seems to have escaped the ill-fate. He is everything a duke should be - haughty and respectable. Initially, James wants to come clean to Elinor and reveal his identity and thus, not being able to undertake the job she has given him... However, he is outraged to find out that she has not retained him as a candidate and so the deception continues.

Another cute book. I enjoyed Mad About This Duke better than How I Met my Countess and I think it's one of Ms Boyle's best effort in recent releases. I think it's because the book was fun - the deceptions, some situations... and the interactions between the Tremont brothers. James' younger brother, Mad Jack - the hero in This Rake of Mine - is the one who was usually involved in crazy situations and it's nice to see the reversal of role :P James wondering if that's what Jack felt... and everyone worrying that James has finally gone mad LOL.

Character-wise, I'm not sure I got to know the real Elinor. I felt it was quite superficial... I mean, she hopes for a husband that will be a better man than her previous one. What she's looking for is safety, not necessarily love and it all makes sense given her situation. However, is that all there is to Elinor? The whole revelation to the deception was okay, but I felt the ending was very rushed. I wished there's been a bit more closing between Elinor and James. I have to admit though, what really surprised me in this book was the ages of the H/H. Elinor is in her early thirties and James, forties. These are not ages that I'm used to for characters and it did bother me a little - especially since James has a daughter old enough to get married. It's simply an age-category I don't tend to read. Obviously, in our times, it's not old... but in books and in romances, it sometimes feels like it.

Still, like I said, it was cute and fun... but I think it had the potential to be more.

7) Healer's Choice by Jory Strong: C-

I picked this up after reading Tori's review over at Smexy Books. I was intrigued by the storyline and I found that I have a weakness for shapeshifters books :P

Rebekka is a healer and she's made a choice of helping the shapeshifters who work in the Red Zone with her gift. Aryck is a jaguar shifter (IIRC) and his clan's enforcer. He's been sent to retrieve Rebekka in order to save the lives of 5 little cubs. As soon as Aryck meets Rebekka, he realizes that she is his mate; however, the human side of him balked at the associate, etc, etc, etc.

Sorry for the poor synopsis. Perhaps the one from the back of the book would be better... it's just hard for me to explain the complex part of the story. It has a lot to do with power struggles and Rebekka's gift evolving and her identity.  I didn't catch everything and it's mainly my fault at jumping into the middle of the series. Healer's Choice is the third book in the Ghostland series and it is definitively a series. It seems that the book picks up right after the events of the previous book and those events definitively impact the story of this book. Also, another thing that didn't help is that Healer's Choice is a bit of a departure of my usual reading style. Ms Strong's style is a lot more raw and crude than what I'm used to (yes, yes, I'm quite the vanilla romance reader LOL)... This is not a bad thing, but it doesn't suit me. So quite frankly, it was a poor pick by me ^_^;

All in all, there were parts that I did enjoy. I liked Rebekka's strength and the friendship she had with some of the characters and the loyalty she inspired. The plot was actually quite complex and there are some elements I didn't understand, but that's my fault for picking up a book in the middle of the series. I have to say I found the romance a bit lacking. Basically, Aryck meets Rebekka and he's immediately attracted to her. He tries to fight it, because she's not a shapeshifter. I thought the mate destiny was a too easy way to bring the H/H together. I wished they had more connection, chemistry with each other aside from lust.

Really, the book isn't bad or badly written... it simply didn't suit me. And huh, I though that Jory Strong was another pen name for Colleen Gleason which is one of the main reason I've picked up this book,  but I just realized while writing this mini-review that I'm completely wrong ^_^; Oups!!

8) Fatal Shadows by Josh Lanyon: B
9) A Dangerous Thing by Josh Lanyon: B
10) The Hell You Say by Josh Lanyon: B
11) Death of a Pirate King by Josh Lanyon: B-

Okay, no recap or mini-review for each book. I mean, you can find plenty of reviews in blogland for Mr Lanyon's books and they'll probably be better than what I'm going to write. Instead, here are my impressions of the four books together. I know I still haven't read the last book and so I'm not saying series...

Personally, I think Josh Lanyon and Adrien English series hype got to me. I've seen so many good reviews and good comments for the author and his books - and from some of my best blogger pals (Ames, Hils and Li)  that I really, really, really wanted to love Mr Lanyon's writing and the Adrien English series... and it just didn't happen.

Adrien was an interesting protagonist and I like reading from his POV. He was quite an honest character and it seems to me, comfortable with who he was... and that is important. What I like the most about this series is the realistic feel to Adrien's relationships - his lovers, but also his family and entourage. I like that Adrien's relationships with his lovers are not "romanticized." As a romance reader, I'm not really happy that Adrien hooked up with other guys than Jake or that he can accept that Jake is seeing other people. However, this is probably closer to reality and less idealized and I appreciate that. Adrien and Jake relationship is definitively not an easy one, but they are navigating it. I definitively saw things from a different perspective because of the way Mr Lanyon presented it. Because I craved reading about Adrien's relationships, I didn't pay much attention to the mystery part and the sleuthing and as a result, felt the books were dragging at times. Knowing some of the spoilers definitively did not help in this case either.

It's really unfortunate that I did not love this series as much as everyone else seems to do; however, I'm really glad I finally read some of Mr Lanyon's books :) And I'm definitively not giving up on him :)

12) Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt: B

Hmmm, this is a book I hesitated picking up. I've read some of Ms Hoyt's books and they just don't seem to work for me ^_^; I finally did pick up Wicked Intentions as it got great reviews (Leslie and Holly), but once again...

Temperance Dews is a widow who helps her younger brother running the orphanage their father has founded in St. Giles, not the best part of London. However, their previous patron has recently died and thus, the orphanage is in dire need of a new patronage if they want to maintain it.

Lord Caire - Lazarus Huntington - is obsessed with the murder of his mistress two months ago and is hunting for her murderer. However, he is unfamiliar and not welcomed in St. Giles and thus needs a guide. For some reasons, he reaches out to Temperance who strikes a bargain with him: she will serve as a guide if he'll introduce her to potential new patrons for the orphanage.

Okay, so let's put it out there right away: I don't think I was really in the mood to read this book when I picked it up and as a result, I probably didn't enjoy as much as I would have. Now, the book itself. Everything about Wicked Intentions was fine: the plot, the characters, the writing. I can see why so many readers enjoyed this book and I applaud Ms Hoyt for writing these characters, especially Temperance. It makes them flawed, but deep and real. However, I just didn't connect with them; I didn't feel it. Sometimes, you just don't click with an author and that's what happening with Ms Hoyt and me.

13) Trust Me on This by Jennifer Crusie: B-

14) Play of Passion by Nalini Singh: B+
Upcoming review.

15) Somewhere Along the Way by Jodi Thomas: A-
Upcoming review.

Books bought: +32
Books read: -15
TBR pile: +17

Phew, okay, I'm done!! LOL, you can see as the post gets longer, the mini-reviews get shorter ^_^; It's just getting late, but I think I shared my thoughts well in this post. I have a lot of reviews planned and I hope I'll be able to get to them, because my list is getting quite long ^_^; I'm really happy with the number of books read, because as I said earlier, it was really bleak in the beginning of the month. I'm also happy with the quality of the books. I was pleasantly surprised by a book or two while others met my expectations :P As for the number of books bought, well what can I say? I'm a lost cause LOL. That number does not reflect the books I got from Hils, so the number going towards my TBR pile is actually even bigger... but in my defense, if I haven't gone to NJ, I wouldn't have bought as many books either :P I guess it balances out, right? Or at least, it does in my twisted mind :)

So that's it for October! Woohoo :)