Sunday, January 30, 2011

New template...

Hey people :)

As you can see, I changed my template :) I really liked the previous one, but long story short, I had to change it mainly because of the background, but I also think it was time :)

So what do you think? I really like the background, but the font and accent colors were hard to choose  ^_^; I also changed a bit the layout of things - as in, changed codes. I hope everything is fine! Do you think the font colors are okay?

Please let me know what you think :) and if there's any modifications I should make or if there is something that is not working! Thank you!!

Hauling Sunday XXIX

Don't you think that week-ends are too short? I know it's only Sunday today, but I'm not ready for it to be the last day of the week-end. I haven't recovered from my week yet or started cleaning up ^_^; Also, I'm dreading going back to work, because it seemed we're having a problem. Sigh.

Okay, let's think happier thoughts! :) And there's nothing happier than books :) Another pretty good week for me :) And I assure you, I did show some restraint... not much, but some :P

Unveiled by Courtney Milan - I've read Ms Milan's debut novel and liked it enough. I've been planning to read more of her, Trial by Desire sitting in my TBR pile. I was going to wait till I finished that one to get Unveiled, bu it's been getting really good review and I had a 5$ off coupon on a purchase of 35$ and more... So why not?

Archangel's Consort by Nalini Singh - This was the release of the week, that I really wanted :) No need to say more, right?

The Countess by Lynsay Sands - Another book that has been getting good reviews :) And with Avon books being 11$/each, I've been buying them all with coupons. (Only exception is Scandal of the Year, but I got that one with a gift card :P)

Here to Stay by Catherine Anderson - Hmmm, I've read and enjoyed some of Ms Anderson's books in the past, so I picked this one up in order to be able to use my coupon. Yes, everything revolves around coupons :P

Absolutely, Positively by Heather Webber - I really enjoyed this series so far and can't wait for this installment!! :)

Animal Magnetism by Jill Shalvis - I'm giving another go at Ms Shalvis' books. Hopefully, this one will be the one :)

And there you go, my haul for this week. At the beginning of the month, I thought I was doing so well... Now? There's no way I'm going to have a negative balance in my monthly reads post LOL.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Review: The Perfect Mistress by Victoria Alexander

Oookay. I was only planning to jot down a few notes about The Perfect Mistress by Ms Alexander, but it flowed so well it has already turned into a review... I'll take it, LOL!

Before getting to the review though, I want to ask... Anyone think this blurb sounds familiar?!? I have a nagging feeling that perhaps this book was meant to be published by Avon a few years back, but they decided not to? Ah well, it could just be me :)

One last thing... Wow, looking at this book, I swear it looks like a book published by Avon. The texture of the cover (mat instead of glossy), the inside flap with the couple embracing on a couch... I wonder if it's Kensington's new strategy to attract more readership to their historicals?

Okay, the review now :)

The Perfect Mistress by Victoria Alexander
published by Kensington Zebra in January 2011
A dazzling new romance in which one otherwise proper lady discovers the passion that is her legacy...

Widowed Julia, Lady Winterset, has inherited a book—a very shocking book—that every gentleman in London seems to want. For a charismatic businessman, it’s a chance to build an empire. For a dashing novelist, it could guarantee fame. But to a proud, domineering earl, it means everything...

Harrison Landingham, Earl of Mountdale, can’t let the obstinate Julia release the shameless memoir that could ruin his family’s name. But the only way to stop her may be equally sordid—if far more pleasurable. For his rivals are intent on seducing the captivating woman to acquire the book. And Harrison isn’t the sort to back away from a competition with the stakes this high. Now the winner will claim both the scandalous memoirs and the heart of their lovely owner...
Genre: Historical romance
Series: TBA

The Story: I think the blurb is being overly dramatic ^_^; Julia, Lady Winterset, has been widowed for three years and has financial troubles. She has recently inherited "The Perfect Mistress," her great-grandmother's memoirs. Indeed, Lady Hermione was quite scandalous back in her lifetime, becoming a widow at a young age and deciding to live her life as she wanted. These memoirs seem to be Julia's solution to her problems, as it is a well known fact that scandal sells.

However, Harrison Landingham, Earl of Mountdale, is not enthusiastic at the idea since his father is a chapter in the memoirs. Harrison has worked hard to keep his family scandal-free and he intends to keep it that way, which means acquiring the memoirs and destroying it. Not unsurprisingly, Harrison's offer is refused after he was an ill-mannered boor and thus, he has to come up with a different plan...

My Opinion: Let's jump right into the review :) The biggest problem with this book was the H/H and their romance. To put it plainly: the characters were boring ^_^; Harrison was too pompous and stuffy. In this kind of storyline, you expect the hero to change, that his dynamics with the heroine will bring out the more boyish or relaxed side of him... Open his eyes to his life and what it could be and usually, this is all done through fun stuff. However, it wasn't the case in The Perfect Mistress. There were many mentions about how Harrison changed, how his behaviors were surprising... but I don't think it was change in his personality, it wasn't Harrison being less pompous and stuffy ^_^ If it was, he wouldn't have blundered every time he opened his mouth. Yes, he was acting out of the ordinary for him, most probably because he was attracted to Julia, but that doesn't mean it was a permanent change in his personality. As for Julia, I just didn't connect with her and thought she was boring. Yes, she was smart and striving to be more independent - no real choice given her situation, but it didn't make her interesting. Actually, it is exactly as one of the character said:
"Lady Winterset (Julia) is perhaps as intelligent as Lady Smithson although I don't think she completely trusts that intelligence. She has been taken care of, you see, proper marriage and all that. I think she is still realizing she can indeed take care of herself although I'm not sure she wants to."
This passage describes Julia to a T. I think what makes Julia uninteresting is her indecisiveness - not really knowing what she wants (except solving her financial trouble) and where she's going. Have she known or at least been a bit more confident, she would have been a better heroine.

As for the romance, my biggest problem is that the characters "fell in love" too quickly. See, I'm not convinced it was love. Yes, there was something between them from the beginning - they annoyed each other. Sure, they rubbed each other wrong and that could be due to attraction... but after a few meetings, to say that it was love? Not buying it, because they really didn't know each other well enough for it. Also, I didn't feel the chemistry. It's fun sometimes to see characters argue, best each other with words... but in this case, it was mostly Harrison saying the wrong thing... and may I say, stupid thing ^_^; So yeah, the romance didn't work for me... and that's a big problem when reading romance ^_^;

The rest of the book though was great. The writing was actually excellent ^_^; and I enjoyed the secondary characters a lot. I wouldn't mind if Ms Alexander was planning books for Portia and Veronica, I'm actually hoping for it, because Julia's two friends had something about them. A vivacity that Julia was lacking. The storyline was interesting and could have been better with different H/H. My favorite parts of the book though were definitively the interactions between Harrison and his father. It's rare in historical romances that the hero's father is still alive (because otherwise, how would he have a title?) and most of the time, the relationship is not good. In this case, even though Harrison and Lord Kingsbury are complete opposite, they respect and love each other. It was great to read about a sane father/son relationship :) It was also fun to hear Lord Kingsbury's input about Harrison's life :)

My Grade: C-. It was hard choosing my grade for The Perfect Mistress, because my first reaction was that this book was okay only, therefore a D. However, I think that if I had the chance to read it in one sitting instead of a few pages here and there, I do think I would have enjoyed this book more. Also, despite the fact that the characterization and romance, two major components, were weak, the writing was great and I love all the rest :P Plus, I'm still looking forward to Ms Alexander next book :) So I think C- is a good grade :)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review: Wild Man Creek by Robyn Carr

Ouf. I've been meaning to write some reviews and real life just gets into the way. Sigh. It's just been so hectic and I'm trying to settle in a routine... however, not easy when stuff keeps happening to disturb my life ^_^; The worst was probably waking up on Monday and rushing to work only to realize that my car wouldn't start after a freezing week-end! Turns out it was the battery... tried to boost my car, but didn't work. Luckily, I have a very nice neighbor who helped once he got home... 10pm ^_^; Car seems okay now, so I will keep knocking on wood :P

Hopefully, things will settle down in the next few days. That's what I've been trying to tell myself for the past two weeks, LOL. Factor in that next week is Chinese New Year and the house needs to be sparking clean... Well you know the constant state of my room is, right? Yeah, big endeavor this week-end ^_^;

For now though, the focus is writing this review and then blog-hop :) And while this is not what I was planning to review, it is the book that's been calling me out the loudliest :)

Wild Man Creek by Robyn Carr
published by Mira (Harlequin) in January 2011

Sometimes love takes root in unexpected places - if you'll only let it grow

Colin Riordan came to Virgin River to recuperate from a horrific helicopter crash, the scars of which he bears inside and out. His family is wonderfully supportive, but it’s his art than truly soothes his troubled soul.

Stung personally and professionally by an ill-advised affair, PR guru Jillian Matlock arrived in town via golden parachute. She’s bought an old Victorian with a promising garden and is looking forward to cultivating something other than a corporate brand.

When Jillian finds Colin at his easel in her yard, there’s an instant connection. But both are holding romance at arm’s length— looking to simplify, not complicate, their lives. And Jill may yet be lured back to Silicon Valley...

No one arrives in Virgin River without a story, and no one leaves—if they ever do—unchanged.
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Virgin River series, Book #12

The Story: Jillian Matlock has dedicated the past decade of her life to her work, helping build a software company from the ground up as its PR. Unfortunately, everything comes to a stop when her boyfriend who is also her colleague files a harassment complaint against her. Shocked and betrayed, Jillian takes a leave of absence and for the first time in years, is at loose ends. She finally heads to Virgin River where she has spent her last vacation... When she stumbles across the old Victorian house, with its acres of field, Jillian feels a wave of nostalgia, remembering her great-grandmother's garden and decides to give it a go for the next couple of months. Invigorated, Jillian pours all her energy into growing these rare vegetables from her childhood... and then, she stumbles across Colin painting...

In Promise Canyon, Colin was the victim of a helicopter crash. As he started recuperating, he found himself addicted to the pain medication and was caught buying drugs from a doctor who was dealing. After he rid himself from the addiction, Colin got depressed... and so for the past 6 months, Colin has found himself in some sort of rehab or treatment of one sort. It is during that time that he has rekindled with art - a talent of his, but not his passion which is flying. Colin feels like his life has been taken away, but he is not ready to give it up yet. While he can no longer fly for the army, there is still the possibility to find civilian/mercenary work in other parts of the world. As such, Colin plans to head to Africa where he'll be able to look for a flying job as well as paint wildlife... but in the meantime, he'll be spending the next few months in Virgin River, recuperating and painting.

Colin and Jillian seem to be complete opposites and yet, there is a connection between them... At a time where both are figuring out what the future holds for them, the two find solace in each other's arms... but what happens when a love affair has an expiration date?

My Opinion: It's funny how two books by the same author can elicit different feelings upon picking them up.  That's what happening to me with Promise Canyon and Wild Man Creek by Ms Carr. I got Promise Canyon back in December and after reading the blurb and the first chapter, I just didn't feel like reading it ^_^; As a result, it's still sitting in my TBR pile. In contrast, after reading the first few pages of Wild Man Creek, I was hooked and simply devoured it :)

To me, what makes Wild Man Creek stands out is the heroine, Jillian Matlock... which is funny because when I first read the blurb of the book, I was worried Jillian would be a copy of Erin from Moonlight Road. Someone who's burn-out and trying to find a new purpose in life, a workaholic who doesn't know how to relax... and while both heroines do share similarities, they are completely different. I loved Jillian and it was a thrill reading this book because the woman radiates energy. She was like a bulldozer (in a good way :P) - getting her idea and doing everything to realize it: researching, buying seeds, hiring Denny, sending samples of her soil, etc.  Her joy and excitement were simply contagious and I had this huge smile on my face throughout the entire book. A real force to be reckoned with :)

Of course, an awesome heroine is not enough to carry a whole book, we need a good hero as well and Colin wasn't shabby. Colin has some heavy baggages, given that in the past 6 months he's been in a helicopter crash from which he barely got out alive, then was addicted to pain killers and succumbed to depression afterwards.  I think the fact that Colin recovers from all of this and in such a short period of time is a strong statement. Oh for sure, there is strength, but more importantly I think is the will, determination and stubbornness. Colin used to live a fast-paced life, he considered himself wild, but in control... and he didn't want to give that up and that's only natural, right? Yes, some injuries did slow him down a little, but the crash hadn't crippled him, so it made sense that he didn't want to let go. There was also a hint of arrogance in Colin's personality, but instead of being unpleasant, it just made him more male :P

I also enjoyed the romance between Jillian and Colin, mostly because it was about the two of them :) It was casual, relaxed and sweet. I liked that the relationship developed at its own pace. It started off based on attraction and then deepened into something more. When both Jillian and Colin trusted each other and felt comfortable enough, they shared their pasts and their baggages. Everything was handled with maturity and it fit with these two independent persons. I also liked how it was handled at the end, with Colin's departure, and how everything was resolved. I think it happened as it should :)

One of my pet peeves in the last couple of books is that the storyline hasn't focused enough on the H/H. There was too much catching up with the previous characters as well as a lot of side stories overshadowing the main romance. However, what bothered me most were those natural disasters and accidents happening and pulling the whole community together. Once is okay, but two or three times and it's too unbelievable as well as too obvious that it's being used as a plot device. However, I felt that Ms Carr did a better job in Wild Man Creek. Most of the book focused on Jillian and Colin and while there was a side story, I thought it blended well with the main storyline, that it was linked. Many characters made an appearance, but they didn't steal the spotlight. I also enjoyed the siblings interactions between the Riordan brothers and the Matlock sisters. They helped fleshing the characters in my opinion.

My only real complaint would be that the book lost a bit of its momentum at the end of the book and it made the ending seemed rushed. As if Ms Carr didn't know what else to write, so better wrap it up ^_^; At the same time though, it felt incomplete as well. An epilogue would have helped in my opinion; however, Ms Carr rarely write those.

My Grade: B++. Overall, I really enjoyed Wild Man Creek. I thought the H/H were fleshed out and memorable, the romance was good and the little town atmosphere well balanced. In fact, I would liken this book to Jake and Mel's book, Virgin River, and it reminds me why I fell in love with this series :)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hauling Sunday XVIII

Last week, there was no Hauling Sunday, so seems like this week, I made up for it LOL. I thought that I'd take it easier this year, not run after new releases as much, limit my trip to the bookstores to perhaps once a week... but who am I kidding? LOL. I thought I'd switch to ebooks a little more as well... but  can I just say: I really, really like my bookstores :) That makes it really difficult.

You Belong to Me by Karen Rose - I pre-ordered this book from back in December and have been checking my mailbox ever since it shipped :) I mean, a Karen Rose book coming out in the rest of the world, there was no way I was going to wait 6 months for it to release in North America. Yes, that is how much I love Ms Rose :)

How to Woo a Reluctant Lady by Sabrina Jeffries - Third book in The Hellions of Halstead series. I was really looking forward to it for the storyline since it has the friends to lovers theme as well as fake engagement.

Secondhand Spirits by Juliet Blackwell - Like I mentioned in my number post, I want to read a little bit more cozy mysteries this year. This seems to suit me well as I've read Ms Blackwell previously and the heroine is a witch. You know how I have a weakness for witches :)

Confessions of a Demon by S.L. Wright - I've been wanting to start a new UF series. Why? No idea LOL, just a feeling :) So this is the book I stumbled over :)

Queen of Shadows by Dianne Sylvan - I needed another book in order to use my coupon and this is what I chose. Once again, because it was UF and it got a pretty good buzz on blogland :)

Blood Stains by Sharon Sala - I'm a huge fan of Ms Sala. Her latest trilogy hasn't work for me too well (only read the first book ^_^;;;), but I'm not giving up on her, that's for sure. I'm really looking for this new trilogy and so far, the feedback I've heard has been good :)

Wild Man Creek by Robyn Carr - Yep, book #12! Her couple last books have been a bit of a miss, but I have a feeling about this one... and I love those Riordan brothers :)

The Perfect Mistress by Victoria Alexander - It's Victoria Alexander! My comfort historical romance author :) Hey, can someone confirm though... did she really move from Avon to Kensington?

Once Upon a Scandal by Delilah Marvelle - I've been meaning to read Ms Marvelle ever since I've met her at RT convention last year :) I skipped on the first book, Prelude to a Scandal, because it dealt with a sex addict; however, reviews have been favorable and I think I need to get back to it :)

Kiss at Your Own Risk by Stephanie Rowe - I've enjoyed Ms Rowe's book in the past and have been wanting to read more of her :)

Scandal of the Year by Laura Lee Guhrke - Ms Guhrke has a little je-ne-sais-quoi in her writing and as a result, she's one of my favorite. I've really enjoyed Wedding of the Season and was looking forward to Scandal of the Year :P It seems to be a happy-go-lucky heroine thawing out a stuffy hero theme - one of my favorites :) I just couldn't wait to get my hands on it :)

What do you think? I made it up for last week, right? :) LOL, tell the truth, it's more books than I realized ^_^; So, any books in this post that you're planning to get or have read? :P

Friday, January 21, 2011

RWA 2011

Woohoo, I just sent in my registration form this morning!! It's just so exciting :)

However, I was soooo annoyed at myself. I checked, re-checked, triple-checked, quadruple-checked the credit card number I put on... and then, when I got the confirmation, I realized I put the wrong door number!! Seriously, how stupid is that? ^_^;

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Best and Worst of 2010

Hi there!

Jeez, time really flies ^_^; I was so excited on the week-end to finally have 2010 wrapped up on my blog LOL. I thought finally, I can start writing full reviews!! Instead, my reading mojo revved up. So between a busy week and some good reads, I haven't time to review... but in case you weren't aware, I've been over at Breezing Through :) Ames, Monroe and I have been discussing our Best and Worst of 2010 :) So feel free to stop by and discuss our picks with us! :)

Best and Worst of 2010

Part I : Historical & Contemporary romance
Part II: Category romance & Romantic Suspense
Part III: Paranormal romance & Fantasy/Urban Fantasy/Sci-Fi
Part IV: Young Adult, Fiction & Erotica 
Part V: Miscellaneous 

Stay tuned for the rest :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

2010 in numbers...

As Christine said with her post, better late than never :) Although I have to point out that we're still in January, so it's really not that late... especially for someone who wasn't planning to write a 2010 wrap-up post! Initially, I thought I'd continue being a rebel - I did not write a recap post for 2009, mostly because I did a poor job tracking my books; I abandoned Shelfari halfway through the year ^_^; However, I don't have the same excuse for  2010 and after seeing everyone's posts, I have to admit I was itching to write a recap post :P So here it is :)

Number of books read

Now, this number is actually not accurate ^_^; I know, I know, it doesn't start the post very well... This is the number of books I've recorded in my Google spreadsheet. However, If you add up the number of books read in my monthly posts, it'll be approximately 183. That's because I did not count re-reads in the monthly reads posts, but I did in my Google spreadsheet ^_^;  Yep, it's the eternal debate (at least for me) as to whether re-reads count or not... Also, I'm pretty sure I've slipped a few times throughout the year and didn't record all the books read and I did not include the mangas... So the real number is probably a few books higher. In any case, I'm very pleased with 190. My unofficial goal was 200 and I'm close to it and quite surprised because I thought I didn't read very consistently in 2010. I'd read a lot for a week or two, then slump for 2 weeks and start reading again for a few days ^_^;

For 2011, my goal remains 200 books read. I also hope to do a better job keeping track of my books :P

Number of books bought

Are you surprised at the number? LOL, well disclaimer, the number is not accurate either ^_^; 193 does not include books I've bought at the UBS or book fair, nor the books bought on my trip or received for free from friends, bloggers, contests and of course, not the mangas either ^_^; So why even put it up there? Well just because I feel like it LOL. In truth, the number of books I've gotten in 2010 is somewhat closer to 232, which comes from crunching the books bought in the monthly reads post. However, what's interesting is that according to my Google spreadsheet, I saved at least 517.57$!!! That's not a bad number! Of course, how much did I spend in order to save that much? LOL, not saying.

In 2011, I hope to do a better job recording every book I bought :P I'm also aiming to increase the number of books I buy in e-format.

What did I read?

Historical romance = 45
Contemporary romance = 42
Young Adult = 22
Urban Fantasy = 17
Paranormal romance = 17
Fantasy = 14
Romantic suspense = 13
Category romance = 9
M/M = 5
Sci-Fi = 3
Mystery/thriller = 2
Steampunk = 1
Fiction = 1

I think I read a great selection of books - definitively a lot of romance :) Does it reflect my tastes? Not exactly; however, it does reflect what's being published currently :)  What I'm most surprised of is the number of YA books. I didn't realize I've read that many!! I'm also surprised that Urban Fantasy and Paranormal romance came neck to neck. I feel like I've read more Urban Fantasy :P

I see no reason to change my reading habits when it comes to genres, as I read what I enjoy :) However, I have a feeling that I'll be picking up more mysteries in 2011... Anyone has recommendations for mystery series, but with strong romance elements?

Who published them?

Penguin Group (Berkley, Putnam, Daw, NAL) = 65
Harlequin (Harlequin, Mira, HQN, Carina Press) = 31
Harpercollins Publishers (Avon) = 22
Simon & Schuster (Pocket) = 21
Grand Central Publishing = 10
Macmillian (St. Martin's Press, Tor) = 9
Random House (Bantam Books) =6
Kensington (Zebra) = 3
Dorchester = 2
Sourcebook = 1
Others (Orbit, Doubleday Canada, Hyperion, Scholastic, etc.) = 20

It's kind of fun to find out who belongs to who when it comes to publishing house. Fun and confusing at the same time. LOL.

When were they published?

2010 = 120
2009 = 27
2008 = 10
2007 = 10
2006 = 3
2000 to 2005 = 10
1990 to 1999 = 6
Before 1990 = 4

120 books released in 2010, that means 63.2% of the books I read. That makes sense given how much I run after new releases LOL. And see, see! I don't run for nothing, I do read most of them right away!! Actually, what would be interesting is to see how much did I read from the books I bought and from my TBR pile. Hmmm, maybe something for next year :)

Well, I did say my reading reflected what is being published at the moment and it's no real surprised that the bulk of my reading is from books published after 2005. There was hardly any Urban Fantasy, Young Adult and Paranormal romance before... Also, I really started reading romance in 2000 and I've been looking forward most of my reading years. The only reason why I'd buy books published before 2000 is that I was glomming on an author with a very old backlist. My guess is that the books published before 2000 are primarily from Jayne Ann Krentz and Nora Roberts :P

How did I enjoy the books I read?
A = 15
B = 115
C = 43
D = 8
E = 1
DNF = 2

I did not grade everything I read, sometimes because I had no idea what to grade them and other time, because they were re-reads. Looking at the grade distribution, I've enjoyed the majority of the books I've read and loved quite a few as well :) However, I know that if I go back and take another look at the books and reviews, many would be down-graded. It'll be interesting to see what my grade distribution in 2011 will be as I aim to be more consistent and objective...

Did I share my thoughts with you?

Number of reviews = 77
Mini-reviews (from monthly reads posts) = 76
Books I still want to review = 28

I'm not the type of blogger who can review everything she read. I just can't. So how do I choose which books to review? Well it's simple, the book has to call to me :P Still, I try to justify my grades when I share it with everyone by including mini-reviews in my monthly reads posts :)

Overall, I think I did pretty good this year when it comes to sharing my thoughts on books with everyone else :) Combining the reviews with the mini-reviews, I've covered 80% of the books I've read! Of course, there are still those 28 books that have fallen through the cracks and quite frankly, I don't know if I'll ever get back to them... but we never know, right? :) Hopefully, I'll be better at it this year :) (although it's not starting out too well ^_^;;;)

Random numbers

New Authors = 40

I think that I'm quite adventurous in my reading. Perhaps not in genres, but I have no qualms at trying new authors and picking up new series, especially if they come recommended. Plus, I'm very impulsive in my buying... and also very easy LOL. I don't know how many of those 40 I'm going to keep looking out for though...

Books read part of a series = 139

Series are definitively the way to go nowadays in the publishing world and I'm not afraid of them :) I can't really tell those 139 books come from how many series, but I know myself. If I enjoy a series and many books are out, I'm going to binge on them :) I think that's really the way to go with series - to not wait too long, if not you fall behind and it's hard to get back into it.


And there you have it, my numbers for 2010 :) LOL, this was really last minute crunching ^_^; Anyway, one thing that is obvious for 2011 is I need to do a better job at tracking books that I read and buy. Of course, it's one thing knowing and another doing it, but I'm hoping. Also, I think it will help if I am more consistent in my blogging. Seems like 2010 was all about ups and downs in all aspect of my life.

By the way, while there are a lot of numbers in this post, there are no titles or author names... well that's because I decided it'd be more fun to do a Best and Worst of 2010 post with someone else than just on my own. So head over Breezing Through to find out what Ames, Monroe and I thought were the Best and Worst of 2010! This will last the whole week, so I hope you enjoy :)

And with this, I have finally wrap up my posts for 2010!! Woohoo!! Now, onto 2011! LOL.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Re-Read Challenge 2010: December!!

Bet you thought I'd never put this post up, right? I thought of just letting it go, but it seemed just wrong... especially since there were entries ^_^; I'm going to take the opportunity to recap the Re-Read challenge as well :)

I started the Re-Read Challenge in 2009, because I thought I was too focused on reading new releases and not enough on enjoying my favorites :) I'd say I keep 85% of the books I buy and when people ask me if I re-read them, I always answer yes... because I do, but not as much since I started having a TBR pile. So I thought a challenge would make me re-visit some of my favorites :) Overall, I thought that the Re-Read Challenge was a success and people seemed to enjoy it, so I decided to continue it in 2010. However, I knew it'd be taking it easier this year and so, there'd be no sign-up, no reminders and no prizes. And easier I did take it, often putting up the Re-Read posts and my own entries late. Actually, this post being a perfect example.

It's obvious that this year, the Re-Read Challenge 2010 wasn't as successful. Part of it was obviously me - being late on posts is never a good thing ^_^; At the same time though, I think the challenge suffered from the blogging blues. There were less participants, but at the same time, there was less blogging overall in blogland. Seems like many went through blogging slumps, me included. Still, there were some consistent participants: Miss Moonlight, Hilcia, Leslie and Ames :) Thank you to you 4, as well as everyone who participated :)

Surprisingly, there was only one person who completed the challenge, i.e. did 12 re-reads and wrote 12 reviews, and that person is...


Woohoo!! Totally awesome Hils!! And you've just won a 50$ gift certificate for anymore bookstores you wants!! I meant  to do something special with the Re-Read Challenge back in June and July, but never got around to it and I think the only person who completed this challenge should be rewarded :)

Finally, I'm wrapping up the Re-Read Challenge 2010 with the following reviews...

And here we go, the end of the Re-Read Challenge :) It was really a pleasure to host this challenge and I hope everyone who participated had a blast and everyone else enjoyed all the reviews!! :)

Re-Read: Stealing Shadows by Kay Hooper

Guess what?!? There is no Hauling Sunday post this week, because... I didn't buy books!! Woohoo! Surprised? LOL, I am. This is due partly because it was so busy and hectic as I mentioned in my other post, but also because there was no new releases. However, do not worry, everything will go back to normal this week and there will definitively be a post next week :) Proof? I got 4 books today LOL.

Since I don't have a Hauling Sunday post today, I'd continue catching up on the posts for 2010 that I've been wanting to do. So today, I'm wrapping up the Re-Read Challenge :) I'm concluding this challenge with a book from one of my favorite authors, Kay Hooper.

Stealing Shadows by Kay Hooper
published by Bantam Books in September 2000

What if you can enter a madman's cruel mind as he plans his vicious crimes? What if you can see the terrified face of his prey as he moves in for the kill-but you can't stop his frenzy once he strikes?

Psychic Cassie Neill helps the L.A. police catch killers-until she makes a terrible mistake and an innocent child dies. Cassie flees to a small North Carolina town, hoping that a quiet life will silence the voices that invade her unwilling mind. But Cassie's abilities know few boundaries. And she's become certain-as no one else can be-that a murderer is stalking Ryan's Bluff.

It's his fury that Cassie senses first, then his foul thoughts and perverse excitement. Yet she doesn't know who he is or where he will strike. The sheriff won't even listen to her-until the first body is found exactly where and how she predicted. Now a suspect herself, she races desperately to unmask the killer in the only way she knows: by entering his twisted mind. Her every step is loaded with fear and uncertainty...because if he senses her within him, he'll trap her there, so deep she'll never find her way out.

In Stealing Shadows, Kay Hooper introduces FBI agent Noah Bishop, whose rare gift for seeing what others do not helps him solve the most puzzling cases. Now, Bishop's adventures continue in two new electrifying tales of psychic suspense.

Beware of what you see. It's dawn when the police arrive at the murder scene. The victim is propped against a tree, her eyes still open, her head tilted, her lips parted in a silent cry. Just as Cassie Neill predicted. Just as she saw while she was inside the killer's mind. The killer knew she was there. And next time he won't let her get away.
Genre: Romantic suspense, psychic
Series: FBI SCU series, Book #1

The Story: Cassie Neill is a psychic with the uncanny ability of entering the minds of twisted monsters and seeing through their eyes. As a result, she has spent most of her life helping the police putting those monsters behind bars. However, her gift - or more accurately, her curse - only gives her an edge and is not a certainty. A wrong interpretation can lead to a tragic end; and when a little girl dies, Cassie knows she's reached her limits and can no longer continue. She retreats to Ryan's Bluff where she's inherited a house from her estranged aunt.

The last thing she expects in this small and peaceful town is to connect with the mind of a killer, but that's exactly what happens. With no big surprise, the sheriff refuses to believe her and Cassie cannot remain on the sideline. She decides to reach out for the judge, Ben Ryan, in the hope he can sway the sheriff.

As women are murdered, Ben and the sheriff quickly realize that Cassie might be their only way to stop the killer. However, Cassie is not certain she can go this once again... and Ben finds himself unwilling to let Cassie risks herself. Especially when the case is more complicated than they believed it was and connected to Cassie...

My Opinion: I discovered Ms Hooper FBI SCU series back in 2004 and simply fell in love with it. It was in-between two classes and I was at the bookstore, flipping through some books and I picked up Whisper of Evil. I started reading it and after a couple of chapters, I knew. I knew that I would love Ms Hooper and that these books were for me. So put back Whisper of Evil and set on a mission: go to every UBS in downtown Montreal to find Ms Hooper FBI SCU series books. After that, I came back to the bookstore and bought the ones that were missing :) Like I said, I just knew... and I was right :)

Stealing Shadows is the first book of the series I really enjoyed it, although it wasn't my favorite and I haven't re-read it in a couple of years... which is why I picked it up back in December. I was in a mini-slump and felt like reading a Kay Hooper and thought, why not Stealing Shadows? Sometimes, it's good a few years have passed, because you don't remember everything about the story and can go "Ohhh, right" and that's what happened :)

Overall, I really enjoyed re-reading Stealing Shadows. I pretty much like everything about it - the characters, the romance and the suspense. Cassie is very strong and independent. She might not be someone you get chummy with, but it's definitively someone you admire. It also seemed to me that she was finally living... For too long, she's focused on helping with her gifts and I can't imagine the pressure it was, the horrors she's seen... and thus, seeing her meeting Ben, falling and love and getting her HEA ending, it was great. As for Ben, he was really solid, exactly what Cassie needed. I liked that he was persistent in his pursuing of Cassie, that he did not give up and his protective side of Cassie. I have to say though, I would have liked to know Ben a little bit better, to have him a bit more fleshed out... However, I don't think it detracted too much from the book.

I would categorize Ms Hooper's Shadows trilogy as romantic suspense as opposed to her Fear and Blood trilogies being more mystery/thriller instead. That being said, the romance is on the light side. Still, I was satisfied with it. Cassie and Ben get to know each other, understand each other and build a relationship. Yes, the timeline was a bit fast, but the romance well written :) As for the suspense, I think that's what Ms Hooper does best. It was really suspenseful and complex. I think that the psychic element also allows Ms Hooper to flex the boundaries a little bit. At the same time though, it's not evident. What I mean is that because of the psychic element, not everything is explainable. For example, not everything is A --> B, sometimes, it's A --> C... and you perhaps have to suspend disbelief, so it probably doesn't work for everyone, but it does for me :) All in all, I think Ms Hooper did good balancing everything in this book :)

One of the thing I also like about this book is Noah Bishop's appearance. Noah Bishop is the pivotal character in the FBI SCU series, because he's the one who put together the SCU - Special Crime Unit. What I never caught on my first reading of Stealing Shadows though is that Cassie and Noah are cousins!! I only found that out later, on Ms Hooper's website, and after re-reading the book, I could pick up the clues. I thought that was really cool LOL.

Another thing that I really like about Stealing Shadows is that it might be the first book in this series, but it doesn't throw you in the SCU right away. Instead, it's like a preface book. It shows you a bit why Bishop wants to build the SCU, the motivation behind it and the usefulness of such an unit. I think it was a brilliant way to open the series really. Usually, in the first book, the unit would already be put together and running. You'd be introduced to all those characters and there'd be a lot of explaining about the unit, it's purpose, etc. This way, we get to experience it and I like that :)

Finally, the reason why I like the FBI SCU series and why it stands out the most for me is the way Ms Hooper has incorporated the psychic element into the suspense/mystery. The approach she's taken to explain psychic abilities is scientific and her characters are no-nonsense about it. Also, most importantly is that the characters have come to terms with their abilities and have learned to live with them... and her characters are stronger for it :) Some of them do have a vulnerable side to them, but it's not the fragility that you usually associate with psychics. Put it all together and that is why it matches with the suspense so well. Instead of the psychic abilities being mystic and something elusive, it's scientific, cold and solid and suits the FBI :)

My Grade: B. What's really hard with re-reads of romantic suspense and mystery/thriller books is that knowing who's done it takes out of the intensity... and Stealing Shadows is not an exception. However, I still truly really love this book :) Perhaps it's more sentimental than logical, but isn't that the way with books? :)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Monthly Reads: December 2010

Okay, where did my week go?!? I didn't mean to neglect my blog this week; only it's been real busy and hectic. I haven't had much time to sit and type and so have been pushing back this post a day and another... and before I know it, it's already Friday!! Sigh. Ah well, it's life LOL. But the spirit is definitely here :)

Now, let's try to get my December reads list over with :P December was kind of a rough month for me. It started off really well and then, it just lost momentum. Part of it was the holidays and therefore, work parties and general busy-ness associated to it... but another reason was simply that I needed a vacation. As a result, I kind of fell from my bandwagon and didn't log in my reads and books bought ^_^; So this might be an incomplete list, as my memory lately is quite faulty. In any case, I'm going to try to keep it short LOL. However, you know me...

1) The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron: C

This new fantasy series features Eli Monpress as the main character, a charming, wizard-y thief. Eli's purpose in life is to make a name for himself and that means getting a bounty of 1,000,000 gold standards. In order to reach this goal, he and his gang - a talented swordsman and a demonseed - are wrecking havoc wherever they go. Eli's latest scheme is the kidnapping of the King of Mellinor. Everything just gets more exciting when Miranda Lyonette, a wizard part of the Spirit court whose job is to apprehend Eli. Of course, everything goes off plan when the king's brother show up to steal the throne...

I picked up The Spirit Thief because I was looking for a new fantasy series and I love, love, love thief characters. There's just something enigmatic about them that I find attractive... and Eli Monpress is all that. He's such a fun character - charming, witty and surprising. Another interesting aspect of Eli is his interactions with his companions, Josef the swordsman and Nico the demonseed. There is definitively friendship between the three, but at the same time, they are all pushed by individual ambitions. So it's really a balance of friendship and selfishness... and while Eli can appear very selfish and whiny at times, there are key moments where his true personality and deepness appear.

Another thing that attracted me to this book was the fact that Eli was a wizard. However, a wizard in this world doesn't wield magic through spells. Instead, wizards are able to communicate and control spirits and everything has a spirit. Wood, trees, grass, moss, water, wind and the list goes on. So you can imagine how that can be handy. Anyway, while the concept is interesting, I think I would have preferred regular magic :P

The plot of The Spirit Thief is not bad either. Actually, it's quite interesting. Then again, I enjoy court intrigue and so perhaps that's why. So I enjoyed Eli's scheme to kidnap the king and demand a ransom and all for the purpose of increasing his bounty. I also liked Miranda Lyonette and what she stood for... and really, Eli and Miranda are engaging in quite a dance :P So a lot of positive in this book. However, where I'm hitting a wall is the writing I think. Either the writing or the voice. There is just something about it that stops me from completely getting into the story. Or perhaps it's the pacing? I just know that I wasn't totally engaged by The Spirit Thief, even though I liked many of its elements :(

By the way, ditto for The Spirit Rebellion and The Spirit Eater. I skimmed through most of both books and I doubt if I'll go back and read it properly ^_^; So I guess your enjoyment of this book will depend on your enjoyment of the author's writing style.

Hmmm, I'm not really keeping this short, right?

2) His Captive Lady by Anne Gracie: B

Harry Morant is the by-blow of an earl who was mistreated by his stepfather as a child, but luckily saved by his great-aunt and later went to war with one of his half-brothers. However, war is now over and Harry decides it's time to settle down. He asks his aunt to find him a wife while he searches for the right property to start his horse business. However, one glance at Lady Nell Freymore and he knows she's the one... Except she refuses to marry him!

Nell Freymore doesn't believe anymore. Her father was always full of promises and hope... and he died in the middle of the road, leaving Nell practically destitute. But one glance at Harry and maybe, maybe he can change her mind. Unfortunately she doesn't have time to find out because Nell is on a mission and needs to return to London to continue her search...

In November, I read The Accidental Wedding by Anne Gracie and really enjoyed it, so looked for her backlist. One of the books I hoped to read was His Captive Lady as Harry and Nell make an appearance in The Accidental Wedding and Harry has quite an interesting past.

Basically, there was a lot I enjoyed in this book. First the characters for their quiet strength and perseverance. I liked their relationship too and their instant attraction for each other. It's not attraction in terms of lust, but more like they fell under the spell of each other. It was all very sweet and even more with Harry's understanding. The whole plot was engaging and I liked that the characters actions were natural, but also understandable. Like there was nothing out of character, just to make the story moves along. Everything flowed well and the intrigue was well incorporated into the the storyline. It was really a pleasant romance; I can't say fluffy, because there was some serious issues, but but it wasn't overbearing and this is kudos to Ms Gracie's writing. Overall, an excellent job. My only complaint is I wanted more interactions between the Renfrew brothers. They share a difficult relationship that stems from their parents and I don't really feel like it was resolved. Plus, Harry and his friends (Luke and Rafe) all went to war together and were known as the Devil Riders - the name of the series. While we do meet Luke and Rafe, I didn't feel their connection. Yes, there is friendship between them, but there is something more that link them, which is why they all went to war together (they didn't meet in war, they enlisted together) and I wanted to see that. I'm not saying that I want a subplot about something that happened to them during war like the Black Cobra Quartet by Stephanie Laurens or the Legend of the Four Soldiers by Elizabeth Hoyt, because I don't. However, I feel there is something in this friendship and it could be expanded.

3) An Indecent Proposition by Emma Wildes: B
Upcoming Review.

4) Alien Tango by Gini Koch: B+
Upcoming Review.

5) The Perfect Rake by Anne Gracie: C-

Prudence Merridow is the oldest of five girls who are living under the thumb of their tyrant grandfather. When the man sprained his ankle and is confined to bed for several weeks, Prudence plots their escape to London where they seek the help of their great-uncle. Prudence's hope is for her beautiful sisters to make their debut and potential marry so they could access their inheritance and never return to their grandfather. However, their great-uncle Oswald worry that the girls will overshadow plain Prudence and therefore decides that only Prudence can make her debut and the others will have to wait till Prudence's future is secured. Except, Prudence is already affianced, but has promised to keep the engagement a secret... and thus, she fakes being engaged to the reclusive duke... only to have him and his rake of a cousin show up and foil her plans...

I actually owned this Perfect series a few years ago and tried reading The Perfect Rake and it just didn't work for me. This is why I was so hesitant to buy The Accidental Wedding, but then, I ended up loving it. So I decided to give The Perfect Rake another go... and it turns out my initial impression of this book remains ^_^;

Actually, the book isn't bad at all and there is a lot to enjoy such as the sisters relationship, their love for each other. The plot is quite good and well thought out, although at times it might seem like a lot is going on. Plus, the writing is there. So what's my issue with The Perfect Rake then? The romance. It just didn't work for me, I didn't feel the connection between Prudence and Gideon (the duke's cousin) nor the chemistry. Prudence's engagement just got in the way and it stalled the whole romance. I also thought Gideon's reformation was a bit too quick... and the fact that we kept being reminded that Prudence wasn't as pretty as her sisters was annoying. Finally, the secondary romance involving Charity, the second sister, and Gideon's cousin, was a bit bland ^_^;

6) The Perfect Kiss by Anne Gracie: C

After reading The Perfect Rake, I jumped to the fourth book of the series, The Perfect Kiss, because out of the 5 sisters, I liked Grace the best :) Grace has grown into a lovely woman and has no intention to marry a fortune hunter. Instead, she plans to travel to Egypt and discover the world. Her plans are pushed aside temporarily though when her good friend Melly Pettifer is forced to marry Dominic Wolfe against her will.

Dominic Wolfe hated his father and intended to let the family estate go to ruins. However, once he shows up at the estate, he realizes he cannot let that happen for the sake of the tenants whom his father has neglected. Unfortunately, the only way Dominic is going to inherit is if he marries Melly... unless the Pettifers break the contract. Only Melly's father is dying and is adamant that Melly marry Dominic believing the man will fall in love with his daughter and Melly is too shy to stand for herself - that's where Grace comes in.

I chose to read The Perfect Rake, because I really liked Grace character in The Perfect Rake. She was only 12 years old, but full of spirits. While her sisters worried about balls and men, she was more down to earth, a real skeptic and overall, fun :) In The Perfect Kiss, Grace has grown up and I felt she was a bit more subdued. Oh, her strong personality was still there, but it was a bit overshadowed by her doubts about finding happiness like her sisters. As for Dominic, he was a good hero in the rough around the edge kind. He came across a bit at a hard man and I wouldn't say he was mellow inside, but reasonable and who understood what a hard life was.

Overall, I thought The Perfect Kiss was a good read. I liked how Dominic got attached to his estate and the people. I also thought his past was very interesting and would have liked it to be a bit more developed. Where I have a problem is the romance once again. Not the attraction or interactions between Dominic and Grace, but the conflict. The reason why Dominic and Grace could not be together despite their love was that Dominic would then lose the estate. At first, he didn't care... and then, when he was ready to give it up, Grace wouldn't let him. I understood the dilemma and that there were people dependent on the decision, but I felt the selflessness was out of character. Instead, I expected Dominic and Grace to fight and find a solution to allow them to be together. I thought our H/H gave up a bit too easily and the selflessness just dragged down the romance :( In the end, there was a solution and it was actually quite obvious ^_^;

7) Cold Midnight by Joyce Lamb: C-

At 17 years old, Kylie McKay was a tennis star on the rise; however, a vicious attack damaged her knee permanently, putting an end to her career. After the attack, as a way to cope, Kylie left Kendall Falls, Florida, and ran all over the way to California... leaving behind a broken-hearted Chase Manning.

Ten years later, Kylie finally returns to Kendall Falls intending to build a tennis center in the memory of her father. However, construction is delayed when a baseball bat covered in blood is found... Perhaps the bat that ended Kylie's career. Things get more complicated when Chase, now a police detective, is assigned to the investigation. It soon becomes that neither Kylie or Chase have let go of their feelings for each other...

I was looking for the upcoming new releases when I stumbled across Ms Lamb True Colors. I thought this was Ms Lamb's debut novel, but I was wrong. However, the surprise came when I found out that True Colors was going to be Ms Lamb's third release with Berkley... I like Berkley as a publisher and thus, am usually aware of the authors associated with it and somehow, not one, but two romance books by Ms Lamb with Berkley have slipped through my radar. Okay... So that's why I picked up Cold Midnight... plus, it sounded like a promising RS book.

Overall, I thought the premise was promising and the case, potential. Unfortunately, the romance got into the way ^_^; Or more specifically, Kylie and Chase's relationship. Is there a difference? So Kylie construction crew unearths the baseball bat that might have been used in Kylie's attack and Chase is assigned to the case. Already, there's a problem because Chase is too close to the case, he cannot remain impartial and detached. Then, he is so not over Kylie. While investigating, he's trying to figure out the new Kylie and is pissed all over again that she abandoned him. I don't know, I felt like he was spending too much time on Kylie instead of on the investigation. He also blamed Kylie for abandoning him behind, which she did. However, in a matter of 2 or 3 months after she left, Kylie realized that she made a mistake and planned to come back to Chase, only to find out that he was getting married and was going to be a father soon. In that situation, I don't think you can put all the blame on Kylie. Sure she did a mistake, but really, she couldn't come back to him... and yes, the situation arise because Kylie broke his heart, but seriously, it doesn't excuse drunk sex. However, I think what annoyed me most in the end was the fact that Chase arrested Quinn. Yes, the clues pointed to Quinn and he had motives, but there were no solid evidences! Chase knew Kylie's reaction to Quinn's arrest wouldn't be favorable to their relationship and yet, he still went ahead with the arrest with the reasoning being that he could build a case for trial... and then, he was angry at Kylie for shying from their relationship. Seriously?!?! You just arrested your girlfriend's half-brother whom she loves and believes is innocent for an attack that changed her life without real, solid evidence... and when she feels guilty about your relationship, you are angry that she's choosing her family over you. Wow.

So yeah, this is why the book didn't work for me. I think that instead of focusing so much on this insane relationship, Ms Lamb could have developed the secondary characters better and make use of her premises and settings better. All this would have made this book more thrilling in my opinion. I mean, the case overall was interesting, but it could have been much better by simply shifting the focus a little. Still, I'm going to try more of Ms Lamb because she definitively showed promise to me :)

8) Silver and Spice by Jennifer Greene: E

Anne Blake and Jake Rivard grew up in the same neighborhood, both raised by their grandparents, and friendship became love. However, all Anne wants is a normal and simple life, while Jake is always looking for the next adventure. Of course, this has never stopped Anne for falling into bed with Jake whenever he is back, although she knows there is no future for the two of them as they want different things out of life. Unknown to Anne though, Jake does not agree and this time is different. This time, Jake has come back with the intent of marrying Anne... He's given her ample time to settle down with someone, to make a life for herself and she hasn't and so they will together.

Silver and Spice was originally written by Ms Green as Jeanne Grant and has been picked up by Carina Press to be re-published. While I usually love free-spirit heroine thawing the stuffy hero theme, the reverse is not always true. I find that heroines can be more stubborn than heroes when it comes to adjusting their lifestyle.

Anyway, Silver and Spice was not totally what I expected it to be. First, from the blurb, I had no idea Anne and Jake knew each other. Then, I felt Anne was too unwilling to try, to simply listen to Jake and think about it. Playing hard to get is a ploy that can work sometimes, but in this case, that's not what was happening. Anne truly believed that she had no future with Jake because they were so different, although she loved him. She didn't even consider it and it was just annoying. Jake could be charming at times, but I didn't get him, I didn't understand him and thought he was a bit under-developed. I loved the fact though he came back to Anne. Overall, I just didn't hit it off with this book and ended up skimming through a lot of it :(

9) The Family Way by Jayne Ann Krentz: C

Prudence Kenyon agreed to embark in an affair with Case McCord even though he was very clear from the beginning that he was not interested in marriage because she believed he was the one... and perhaps she could have continued simply living with him as his lover. However, getting pregnant changed the rules. The last thing that Pru wanted was for Case to marry  her out of duty, she wanted him to marry her for love... and thus, gave him an ultimatum. Unfortunately, Case thought she was bluffing and Pru walked out.

This is a pretty classic old-school JAK with a hero who's a bit of a jerk and a heroine that loves him despite everything. I thought the book would focus more on the relationship between Pru and Case, him trying to woo her back. LOL, I don't know what I was thinking since it's so not JAK style ^_^; The romance between Case and Pru was resolved quite rapidly, although Case should have grovelled a lot more for Pru to come back. And instead, the story delved in Case's past and his relationship with his family. Overall, the story was good and interesting... but it would have been better if it didn't remind me so strongly of The Golden Chance. There were a lot of similarities between the two books - hero estranged with family, the pregnancy, heroine's belief that hero would have done what's right because of pregnancy, etc. So much that I believe The Family Way is the precursor of The Golden Chance and that dampened my enjoyment of the book a little bit. Also, in the end, The Family Way could not really compare to The Golden Chance given the difference in length and the way the book wrapped everything up a bit too neatly and abruptly.

10) Call it Destiny by Jayne Ann Krentz: D

As a teenager, Heather Strand just couldn't see eye to eye with her father, probably because the two were so similar. As a result, she left Texas at 18 years old and wounded up in California... where she learned all about the family business - hotels. Now that her father has retired, Heather has come back to Tucson to take over the rein of the family business. To this end, Heather proposes a marriage of convenience to Jake Lavender, the man  who's become her father's right-hand man. However, Jake is not interested in a marriage of convenience. Instead, he wants a real marriage and somewhere to belong.

Okay, a quick disclaimer. I picked this book up at around mid-December, exactly the time when I started growing restless and also knew that my vacation was coming up and this probably influenced the way I feel about this book. Anyway, I'm a sucker for marriage of convenience and thought it was interesting that for once, it's the man that wants more. I thought Call it Destiny started out really well and was very promising. However, it all went south when Heather found out that her father has already sold the business to Jake. I have to agree with Jake on this count that it was very arrogant of Heather to believe she could just come back and take the rein... Not knowing anything about the difficulties the resort has gone through while she was away. Plus, I don't know, spending so much time away, why would you come back for the family business that you didn't follow, pay attention to? Why not just start something of your own? At the same time, it was bad of Jake and Heather's father to keep the truth from her... I think they should have told Heather and then, Jake would have had more success just wooing her afterward. So anyway, Heather makes a mega scene at her wedding... and then proceed to run into her ex-boyfriend, the one she ran away with. That's where I started losing interest in the book. I personally think that Ms Krentz had enough conflict between the characters to focus on instead of bringing in a villain and external events. It just seems very superfluous... And when finally, Heather falls in love with Jake, it seems just too quick to be believable. Overall, Call it Destiny was just okay... but the last scene was cute :)

11) Test of Time by Jayne Ann Krentz: DNF

Okay, I'm cheating. The synopsis is from Goodreads LOL.

He had married for all the best reasons: They liked and respected each other; they had a lot in common and would be great together in business . . . and in bed; and marriage to Katy Randall would help make people forget just how rough Garrett Coltrane's past has been. But she had married for only one reason: love. And that was the one thing Garrett didn't want.

I think that part of the synopsis is wrong though. It's not that Garrett didn't want love, but he didn't consider it the best reason to get married. Garrett and Katy knew each other since Garrett used to be a stable hand in Katy's family. Then, he returned as a self-made man and Garrett and Katy went through a whirlwind courtship. However, after their wedding night, Katy realizes that Garrett doesn't love her and she wants to annul the marriage. Garrett convinces her to stay, see how things go and take a decision after a few months...

I picked this up because I didn't know what to read... but quite frankly, after xxx, I should have picked something else. I think I simply wasn't in the mood for this book and so ended up getting bored and not wanting to finish it ^_^; Sometimes, you need something familiar to get you through a slump... but it was not the case this time. That being said, I might pick up this book again in the future...

12) At the Duke's Pleasure by Tracy Anne Warren: D+

Edward Byron, Duke of Clybourne, and Lady Claire Marsden have been engaged ever since Claire has been a little baby, the marriage arranged by their fathers. Edward has ignored the engagement as long as possible, but it is now time for him to settle down. And why bother looking for a new bride when Claire, the daughter of an earl, has been raised all her life to be his duchess? However, Claire does not want to marry Edward... When she was a young girl of 16, Claire reached out to Edward, believing in their love... only to find him in the arms of another woman. At 21 years old, Claire is no longer deluded about their engagement... Unfortunately for Claire, her father doesn't want to hear about her refusal to marry. The only way she'll get out of this marriage is if Edward breaks the engagement...

At the end of 2010, I was on a historical romances binge. I read what is an unusual high number for me and enjoyed quite a few of them. When I picked up At the Duke's Pleasure, I thought it was going to be a perfect fit for me. I love arranged marriage and was looking forward to Edward and Claire getting to know each other which is what was hinted in the blurb. However, I was in for a few surprises. First, there was the fact that Edward was working as some kind of secret agent. I guess authors find this ploy handy to add some intrigue or mysterious element, but it's seriously being over-used and the problem is, authors are not coming up with any original idea. The secret agent is usually looking for a traitor or someone that did him/her wrong for revenge and being so secretive, it leads to misunderstand and ultimately, at the end, someone - usually, the loved one, is going to be in cross-fire/danger. So as soon as you learn about a secret agent, you know half the story already and it takes away from the book.

Then, I thought At the Duke's Pleasure would be about Edward and Claire getting to know each other. Instead, it's more about Claire getting into mischief, hoping it'll be scandalous enough to embarrass Edward and push him to break off the engagement. Unfortunately for Claire, Edward is used to scandal as his family is known to be "mad, bad, and dangerous to know" and therefore, he has a high threshold of tolerance. Instead of embarrassing him, she actually she intrigues him. The whole was supposed to be amusing, but it fell short for me because Claire seemed too childish. I mean, she is 21 years old and the oldest of three, so I expected a certain level of maturity and the way she handled the issue, it didn't show.

Overall, At the Duke's Pleasure was just an okay read for me, especially in comparison to "similar" storyline such as His Sinful Secret by Emma Wildes or Passions of a Wicked Earl by Lorraine Heath.

13) The Homecoming by JoAnn Ross: C+

Cheating again LOL. From Goodreads...

Former Navy SEAL Sax Douchett returns to his home town and is hailed as a local hero. But starting over is difficult when he unearths a long- buried secret that reunites him with a past he's never forgotten. She's Sheriff Kara Conway, a girl who's always held a special place in his heart. But as he cautiously reconnects with Kara and bonds with her young son, another long-held secret in Shelter Bar threatens their second chance at a life together...

I'm not really up-to-date on Ms Ross books, not having read her last few releases. However, The Homecoming had favorable reviews and a strong voucher, Holly :) This book turned out to be  a surprise for me, mainly because it is not quite what I expected. Ms Ross' latest releases have been mostly romantic suspense featuring SEALs and army men, a little a la Suzanne Brockmann. The Homecoming though was on the light side of RS and more of a small-town romance.

I really liked the pacing of The Homecoming. Perhaps because that's what I needed :P The relationship between Sax and Kara happened at its own pace and was well developed. I liked that they were attracted to each other, but took things slowly. They each had issues and things to figure out and were in no hurry to jump into a relationship. I also liked Sax' friendship with Kara's son, how Sax was considerate of the boy's feelings.

As for the suspense, it was light, but interesting... except the end when they arrested the villain. That was quite anti-climatic. However, I did like how everything was linked together as well as the balance with the romance. I'm not too sure how I feel about the whole case being made easier by Sax' contacts though... but oh well. Few things that didn't work too much for me. First, the side story involving Kara's mother and deputy. Not too interesting in my opinion. Second, Sax' ghosts - totally superfluous. Sax having ghosts is totally understandable considering what he went through, but have them being apparition? Perhaps if they did something... It felt like Ms Ross included them in the story because she had a plan in the beginning and then got side-tracked by something else and so the ghosts end up doing nothing ^_^;

Overall, The Homecoming was a very enjoyable read, especially if you enjoy small-town romances :)

14) A Christmas Waltz by Jane Goodger: D

Tired of waiting for her American fiancé to send for her, Lady Amelia Wellesley decides to surprise him, traveling all the way from England to Texas. Only when she arrives, she discovers that Carson Kitteridge is not the man she thought she knew. Even worst, he has no intention of marrying her and has only proposed in order to get under her skirts!! Unfortunately for Amelia, she cannot return to England unwed, as she would be ruined... luckily for her, Carson's older brother, Boone, is willing to marry her... However, can these two persons coming from such different and contrasting worlds find happiness together?

When I read a book by Ms Goodger, I expect something emotionally poignant. A story that will make my heart ache and my eyes tear. However, it didn't happen with A Christmas Waltz. It was missing that omphf factor, that little something that pull the readers into the story and make them care so much about the characters. Part of the problem is that it was very hard to sympathize with Amelia. Yes, it was unfortunate that she got sweet-talked by Carson and that she fell in love with a man that didn't exist. However, leaving England in pursuit of her fiancé was her decision and therefore, the situation was her own doing ^_^; Also, there was Amelia herself. To me, she came across as immature, spoiled and selfish. It didn't show too much in the beginning of the book, but when she was reunited with her brother and sister-in-law. Not wanting to assume the consequences of her action - the fact that she'd be ruined because of her decisions if she returned to England unmarried. Then, later when she did return to England with Boone, it felt like she didn't think of Boone. Didn't try to understand his discomfort with her obvious wealth or even help him adapt to his new surrounding. Not adjusting to her new situation either - wanting such a grand house, such a big staff, etc. It was a lot of "me, me, me" and that really got on my nerve... Mostly because despite her foolishness, she ended up with a great man. Really unfair. Luckily, what saved the book for me was Boone's character. He's pretty much Amelia's opposite, the strong and silent type, very observant, with a pure heart and so generous. He deserved a lot more than what he got in life. It was very heart-breaking, his childhood and his belief that he was not lovable :( I felt that Boone's character was well-developed and layered and his relationship with Carson was quite interesting.

 The rest was pretty decent. The storyline was okay, I liked the setting and the book did have its moments. One that comes to mind is when Carson comes to Amelia and tells her to take care of Boone, that he deserves to be loved. That was very touching. So really, the H/H is what made and broke A Christmas Waltz and while Boone was a great hero, he unfortunately cannot make up completely for Amelia :(

15) Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rache CohnDavid Levithan: B+
Upcoming Review.

16) The Lady Most Likely... by Julia Quinn, Connie Brockway and Eloisa James: B-
Upcoming Review.

Books bought: +24
Books read: -16
TBR pile: +8

So, still here? LOL. I think I still need to work on keeping things short ^_^; But there you have it, my December reads!! LOL, now I can finally move onto full reviews :) I hope that I'll be able to review all I want, but I wouldn't bet on it ^_^; If there's any books you really want me to review, feel free to let me know and I'll prioritize them :)

A quick look at my numbers. I read quite a few more books than I thought, 16. I'm really surprised at the number, because I remember having a few bad days. Days where I really didn't know what to read, picking up books just to put them right down... and while those bad days don't reflect in the number of books read, I think it shows in my grades. Yes, I did read, but nothing came across as awesome and part of the reason might have been my mood when I read those books. I also bought much more books than I thought ^_^; And I know that 24 is not the exact number. In fact, I should have a few more to that number, as I know there are a few category JAK that I did not include in my Hauling Sunday post... However, what is a few more going to change? LOL.

So this is done :) Hopefully, this week-end, I'll be able to wrap-up all the 2010 posts that I wanted to write :)

Have a nice week-end!!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Hauling Sunday XXVII

Hey there! How was everyone's week-end? :) Okay, okay, the week-end is not over yet... but almost if you're working tomorrow ^_^; Mine has been okay. Not much reading done, but I did plenty of that during the week, so I don't mind :) I've been having some computer problems again since Christmas and so, I decided this week-end would be spent re-formatting my computer. That's pretty much what I did, fiddle with my computer... Had to back-up everything on external hard drives, re-download and install programs, cleaned up the external hard drives and so on. And now, I'm fretting a little bit - is my computer safe or not? In short, I'm being my self: paranoid ^_^; Seriously, computers are such a source of headache, but then, can't live without them either ^_^;

Book-wise, I'm quite proud of myself :) I was a very good girl this week! Seriously!! Want to know what I got?

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist and Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan - During the holidays, I read Dash & Lily's Book of Dares and enjoyed it so much that I wanted to read more of their work... and so, I went and got more LOL.

Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg - I wasn't planning to get Prom & Prejudice just yet. My initial intention was to wait till Ames read it and see how much she enjoyed it. However, there was 30% off on hardcover books and I thought why not? :P

Marry Me by Jo Goodman - After seeing all the good reviews for this book, I finally broke down LOL.

There you go, my new books :) And you know what? I've already read 3 of them! Go me LOL.

This week, I'm planning to try to wrap up the year 2010. Hopefully, I'll get up my December reads list soon and will try to complete the Re-Read challenge and write some end of the year posts... Then, I'll finally be able to start reviewing again! Can't wait for it, seriously! Lucky me, my boss is away till the 20th, so that will give me more time to read and blog! :) Woohoo!