Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hauling Sunday XLIV

Wooohooo, I bought books this week!!! Yes, I admit it, I've been going through withdrawal LOL. So what do you think I bought?


Zach's Law by Kay Hooper - This is a reprint :) It is part of my quest to own all of Ms Hooper's books LOL. I actually enjoy Ms Hooper's category romances... there is something quite unique to her style :)

Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn - Ms Quinn is the keynote speaker at this year's RWA Librarians Day Luncheon. This means her presence at RWA is guaranteed. As such, I was going to wait till RWA to get a copy... but that proved impossible after reading the blurb. It was just too cute to wait for LOL.

The bookstore actually had Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews, but since it has a strict release date, they couldn't sell it to me yet. Sigh. At least, I'm guaranteed to have it on Tuesday. Now, my other dilemma is whether or not I'll be able to resist the lure of Kiss of Snow. I've pre-ordered a copy, but there's no way it's going to come before Tuesday. What to do? What to do? I have some reading plans in place, but I don't know... the lure of Kiss of Snow is pretty irresistible, especially given all the great reviews on blogland :) I guess we'll see on Tuesday.

And then, to get me through the drought of new releases in June (and only partly due to RWA!!), I got a bunch of library books. Yep, library books :)

Don't know if I'll read them all, so much depends on the mood ^_^; But at least, if I do, it'll tide me over... What do you think?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

How's everyone?

Hey there!!

Today's post is not going to be about books. Instead, it's going to be about you and me :) I'm just wondering how everyone's doing? :) Blogland has been quiet lately and I wonder if it's because a number of us are too busy or suffering from blogging blues or what?

I've been a good girl not spending too much money on books. However, I had the urge to spend money and so I went shopping with my sister :) And boy, did I spend :) The good news is I'm all ready for the summer! Found some nice shorts, reasonably priced at RW & Co. My jaws almost dropped, because while they have nice stuff, it's usually a bit more expensive than what I'm willing to pay. Anyway, very happy with my purchases. Of course, that's not going to stop me from shopping in New York, but really, that's another story :P Now, all I need is a new purse. I've been actively shopping for one, but so far, haven't found any that suits...

Speaking of New York, RWA is exactly a month away :) Woohoo! I can't wait! This is the time when I usually start to plan my trip :) I'm not totally anal-retentive as in I don't need to have every minute planned, but I like to have a loose outline :) Plus, the list of authors present at the Literacy autographing event is finally out!! :) I can finally go through it (more than 500 names!!) and make a list of authors to meet and books to get... LOL, so maybe there's some books I'll be able buy

By the way, if you're going to be in New York City on either June 27 or June 28, be aware that Wendy is hosting the 2nd Annual Blogger Bar Bash!! All the details are here :) Feel welcome to join the fun!! The more, the merrier, right? :)

So in preparation for NYC, I brought my car to the garage this morning  to have the brakes checked. There's been a screeching noise lately every time I brake, so I wanted to make sure it was okay... and it was :) Yay! Now, I can focus on other stuff... like getting a haircut LOL.

I really hope everyone's doing well and is having a great time!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Review: Blood Ties by Sharon Sala

Diclaimer: I've received Blood Ties as an eARC from Netgalley

Blood Ties by Sharon Sala
published by Mira (Harlequin) in May 2011

The truth will set you free... if it doesn't get you killed

Savannah Slade is not the person she thought she was. The reading of her "father's" will has led her to a world-shattering revelation: her sisters are not her blood kin—and she may be the heiress to a massive fortune. Her not-quite-fiance Judd doesn't if it doesn't care where she came from—he only wants her by his side. But the primal need to uncover her past wins out, and Savannah trades the Montana ranges for Miami's moneyed oceanside enclaves.

The wealthy and powerful Stoss family is less than overjoyed to find that Gerald Stoss's daughter has emerged from the past. But theirs is a clan seldom troubled by…inconveniences. They've always had the means to eradicate any blemish on their perfect lives. One more won't make a difference.
Genre: Contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: The Searchers, Book #2

The Story: After the death of their father, the Slade girls - Hannah, Maria and Savannah - discover through his will that they are not related by blood. Instead, all three girls were taken in by Andrew Slade under unusual circumstances. Andrew kept a journal for each of his daughter relating the circumstances and adding as many information as possible so if they decide to, the girls could explore their past.

In the case of Savannah, her mother was dying of cancer and had contacted Savannah's father so he would acknowledge his daughter. He did agree to take in and take care of Savannah, but was unfortunately killed. Then, Savannah's mother received a call threatening Savannah's safety. At wit's ends, she decided to entrust her daughter to the evangelical preacher doing revivals.

Another shock for Savannah is finding out that she is actually the legitimate heir to the Stoss' empire - a familial business which the first-born and only first-born inherit, and this most probably is what got her father killed. After such revelations, Savannah needs to know who she is, to find out about her birth parents, but also claim justice for her father's death. Her high school sweetheart Judd is not thrilled about Savannah leaving for Miami on her own. He's not sure if their relationship can survive the distance... and if Savannah really turns out to be the heir to the Stoss empire, would she be willing to come back to Montana to a rancher?

However, there are bigger problems than Judd being unhappy... such as people being unhappy at Savannah's reappearance in their lives...

My Opinion: Let's dive in directly, shall we? I'll start with the complaints I have about this book first, then will get to what I enjoyed :)

Basically, I had two issues with Blood Ties. The first is the sense of déjà-vu. Not only does Blood Ties take place in parallel to Blood Stains, but it also has a similar storyline: heroine posing a threat and people wanting to get rid of her. If you've been a long-time fan of Ms Sala, you'll realize that it's a trope that she uses often (Out of the Dark, When You Call My Name). I usually don't mind authors using such writing strategies, especially when they're good at it... and Ms Sala is good with this trope - Out of the Dark is one of the most poignant book I've read. Unfortunately, I don't think it was a good idea to use the same story trope in two books in a row, especially as they are part of the same series ^_^; Worst, I have a feeling Blood Trails will also follow the same pattern ^_^; I think I know what Ms Sala is trying to accomplish - trying to add some suspense to these books, but I think there is a different way than hired thugs.

My other issue with Blood Ties is that some of the elements/events of the book definitively felt over-the-top ^_^;  I know this is fiction and some things should be taken lightly, but I couldn't help but going "Huh? Really?" and I think that's never good.

Putting aside those two issues, Blood Ties was quite an enjoyable read. Savannah was a good heroine - nice, realistic and smart - and you couldn't help but root for her. I like that she already had her hero and they were already involved; it made for a different romance. I thought Judd was the perfect match for Savannah and it was cute to see him worry. His worries all made sense and showed that he cared about Savannah. All in all, I thought Savannah and Judd made a sweet couple and while the romance wasn't the focus, I was okay with it :)

Other good elements of the book were the secondary characters, especially Savannah's lawyer. I liked his personality and how he looked out for Savannah :) The story was pretty interesting as well. There were some twists to the storyline I didn't see coming, one that was really sad :( Also, I liked that Ms Sala tried to throw the readers off LOL. Finally, the constant: Ms Sala's writing :) Still enjoying it :)

Out of the three sisters, it was Savannah's storyline I was looking forward to the most because it involved her family. I guess I was expecting a typical story where they'd welcome her ungraciously, try to win her and plot against her in her back. What Ms Sala offers us is definitively different which would have been a good thing if not for Blood Ties echoing her previous books.

My Grade: C. All in all, I liked Blood Ties :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Review: Baby, Drive South by Stephanie Bond

Disclaimer: I've received Baby, Drive South as an eARC from NetGalley

Baby, Drive South by Stephanie Bond
published by Mira (Harlequin) in May 2011
The hardheaded Armstrong brothers are determined to rebuild their tornado-ravaged hometown in the Georgia mountains. They've got the means, they've got the manpower... what they need are women! So they place an ad in a northern newspaper and wait for the ladies to answer their call...

Porter, the youngest Armstrong, is all for importing women. Still, he's so blown away by the sheer numbers, he falls off the water tower. Luckily there's a doctor among the newcomers—sweet and sexy Dr. Nikki Salinger.

And Porter has every intention of checking out her bedside manner...
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Southern Roads, Book #1

The Story: The three Armstrong brothers: Marcus, Kendall and Porter, are retired from the military and their goal is to rebuild their tornado-ravaged hometown, Sweetness. They are on a tight schedule and must meet some requirements if they want to keep this project alive. Then, the men start to complain about the lack of female company... If it was Marcus, he'd keep it that way, but can't have disgruntled workers and so they come up with the idea of advertising Sweetness as a new beginning, a second chance place.

Dr. Nikki Salinger's engagement came to an end when she found out her fiancé cheated on her with a stripper. All she wants to do is forget all that happened and start fresh which is why she joined the "caravan" to Sweetness. However, the conditions in Sweetness are rougher and more rustic than she ever could have imagined. Added to it the men aren't thrilled to get a female doctor. Nikki can't help but reconsider her decision.

Porter is Nikki's first patient and let just say they started off on the wrong foot. Nikki might not be Porter's type; however, the community needs a doctor and if Nikki leaves, all the women will too. Thus, Nikki has to stay no matter what and it's all up to Porter.

My Opinion: I think I've read one book by Ms Bond in the past... and it didn't leave a deep impression. Still, I picked up Baby, Drive South because the premises sound interesting and original, it's contemporary romance and published by Mira.

What really worked for me in this book was the concept of the trilogy; I thought it was original and fun. Take something that really happened in the past and modernize it, give it a twist. So the premises definitively have potential. At the same time, I wonder why there wasn't more females involved in the project to begin with. I mean, in this day and age, there are women in the military, there are women involved in construction and engineering. As a result, I'm just surprised that there weren't more women to start with.

Frankly, the rest of the book was okay for me. The real big problem is that I wasn't engaged by the storyline or the characters. I found Porter to be quite immature. He did have his moments, but most of the time he was impulsive and didn't think stuff through. As for Nikki, it really took a long time for me to warm up to her. Actually, not even sure that by the end, I did ^_^; It's logical that once she arrives to Sweetness and sees the conditions and after few days there, she doesn't want to stay. To settle in Sweetness will definitively be hard work, but this is fiction. I didn't feel any real enthusiasm coming from Nikki for Sweetness, for trying, for really getting her new start. Almost immediately, she wanted to back and I thought that was unfortunate. Understandable, but then in that case, it's hard for me as a reader to feel good about Sweetness, no? I also didn't think that Porter and Nikki had any chemistry, sigh, and their romance felt flat for me.

In Baby, Drive South, readers are also introduced to some secondary characters. There are of course Porter's brothers, Kendall and Marcus, but also Rachel which seems to be the women's leader. My first impression of Rachel wasn't very good, but as the story progressed, she showed some maturity... so I don't know, she might turn out to be quite a complex and interesting character.

I think for me, everything in Baby, Drive South was a bit too forced and overall, this was just an okay book for me. Something to pass time, but not something that really reached me. Right now, as it is, I'm not really inclined to read the second book, Baby, Come Home.

My Grade: D+. I still think the book and trilogy have a lot of potential, unfortunately this book just didn't work for me ^_^;

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monthly Reads: April 2011

Ahhh, it's almost the end of the month and I'm only now posting my monthly reads ^_^; I guess the old adage, better late than ever is right though :) One of the reasons I've been procrastinating about this post is that I did read a lot in April (yay!), but that also means a lot of reviews/mini-reviews to write up ^_^; I guess, I should really switch to weekly reads posts :P A plus though about procrastinating is that it gave me time to get some reviews written :)

By the way, for those who are curious, no new books for me this week. Haven't I been a good girl? However, I have to say, I'm bored out of my mind ^_^; I think publishers should review their releasing schedules...

Now, here are the books I've read in April :)

1) An Invitation to Seduction by Lorraine Heath: C+

I was in a Lorraine Heath binge in March and April. While looking for Texas Glory, I came across An Invitation to Seduction. It sounded like something I would enjoy, so I picked it up.

The heroine of An Invitation to Seduction is Kitty Robertson. Kitty was born of wedlock in Texas and then, adopted by a rich British couple, Madeline and David Robertson. Her whole life, Kitty has tried to forget her origins and emulate her adoptive mother, being a proper English lady with exquisite manners and bury her passionate nature. It is why she chose to marry the kind and fun-loving Marquess of Farthingham, while she likes Nicky, he doesn't ignite her passions and is therefore safe. Everything is going well, until she spies Richard Stanbury, the Duke of Weddington, swimming in the ocean naked. She knows that a sensible English lady would turn around and flee, but she is curious and can't help but admire his body.

After they share a passionate kiss, Kitty's life is turned upside down. Richard is determined to woo Kitty away from Nicky, despite the fact that they are best friends... because Richard knows that Nicky cannot make Kitty happy. As a result, Kitty finds herself torn between two men... one that is safe and another that makes her heart beat wildly...

I actually quite enjoyed An Invitation to Seduction. I thought the storyline was quite interesting and how the story progressed actually surprised me. I liked Richard's character... Ms Heath tried to make his character ambiguous given the fact he's trying to seduce his best friend's fiancée away, but through his actions and attitude, you can see he is in fact quite honorable. I also liked the secondary characters, especially Nicky. It was nice not to have a bad villain in the story and sometimes, things happen that are out of your control and nature and you can't change them.

All in all, An Invitation to Seduction should have been a really good book, unfortunately, I had two issues with it. First, I thought Kitty was a bit hard to love ^_^; I understand her reasoning, given the era and the way she was raised... At the same time, she drove me crazy by always denying Richard :( It was just so frustrating... and in many instances, I found her immature. The worst is when they make love the first time. Obviously, Richard didn't force her, she consented to it... but she blamed him and made him shoulder all the responsibilities and that really made me angry :( The other issue I had concerned the whole bit about how Richard's father died and how it affected the second half of the storyline. I didn't like that part too much, I thought it was a bit too much.

Overall, I liked the book, but there were definitively some issues.

2) Deadly Lies by Cynthia Eden: B-

I read Deadly Fear and while I enjoyed the writing, I wasn't too sure about the storylines of the two next books based on their blurb. Tabitha really enjoyed Deadly Lies and so I decided to give it a try.

Samantha Kennedy is a computer genius who was recruited by the FBI after she finished her PhD at MIT at the age of 21 to join the elite team SSD: Serial Services Division, a task force dedicated to catching the worst of the worst. In Deadly Fear, Samantha was abducted by a serial killer and almost lost her life through her biggest fear - drowning. To say it affected her is an understatement. However, Samantha is ready to forget the past and just work, unfortunately, she feels like everyone is waiting for her to break down... and despite her brave words, she is scared. The only moment where she feels safe and confident is in the arms of sexy and successful contractor, Max Ridgeway. What originally started out as a one-time deal has suddenly become more... and that's how Samantha finds herself smack in the middle of their current cases.

SSD is currently investigating a serial kidnapping case - very rich college students are disappearing from bars and then ransomed, if no money is delivered then they die...a painful death. The latest victim is Max' stepbrother, Quinlan. To say that the family is dysfunctional is an understatement; however, Max promised his mother that he would take care of Quinlan on her deathbed and it's a promise Max intends to keep... no matter what.

I was hesitant to pick up Deadly Lies because of the ordeal Samantha went through and thus, the repercussions on her life - the nightmares, the anxiety attacks, etc. All those make sense given what Sam went through, it's simply not my favorite thing to read and lately, I find it's a trope that's been a bit over-used in RS series. However, I was kind of curious about Max and Samantha's affair from reading the blurb, so when Tabs said she enjoyed it, that was enough for me :)

Overall, I thought the suspense in Deadly Lies was very well done. The case is complex, intense and with a lot of twists and turns. As a result, that part was a definite winner with me. What didn't work so well was the characters. Of course, this one is on me... See, when I read the blurb, I made a mental image of Max - what kind of guy he was. I was expecting someone charming and compassionate, but at the same time, tough, able to help Sam deals with her feelings. Max was definitively tough, but let's forget about the rest LOL. And I guess that's what Sam needed it... but to me, he was a bit too rough, too tough. Then again, I liked the way the author developed him and the fact that he was what he was. She didn't try to soften him around the edges and all. As for Sam, what she went through definitively defined who she is now and Ms Eden handled that part well... but it doesn't mean I liked it ^_^; As for the romance, very hot and intense as the two main characters definitively have chemistry :)

All in all, quite a good book and the grade would have been higher if I've liked the characters better :)

3) Resistance by L.M. Turner: B

Ryan is an artist who supports himself by being a bouncer at a strip club. He's also gay and is the king of one-night stand. Due to his past, Ryan doesn't do relationship... ever. Until that is, he meets Jayden. Somehow, Jayden has found the way to insinuate himself into Ryan's life, bed... and heart. However, Ryan is afraid and keeps pushing Jayden away... And when Jayden finally gets the message, Ryan realizes what a mistake it was.

Picked this book up because Ames gave it an A grade :) I thought Resistance was a very enjoyable novel - no villain in here, just a book about two guys that meet, fall in love and dance around their relationship. From the first, Jayden knows that Ryan is the one... but Ryan is just not the commit kind of guy. I really like this kind of story, I loved seeing how Jayden got under Ryan's skin :) It was great also that Jayden didn't let Ryan call all the shots, that he had limits and walk away. It was great to see the table turns and Ryan being the one who had to go after Jayden :)

Resistance also has some great secondary characters. I loved Ryan's roommate and their interactions, friendship. How they embraced Jayden into their folds. Also, it was very real as well, like her distancing herself of Ryan once she found a boyfriend. However, they never steal the show... this is Ryan and Jayden's story and that's where the focus it :) I ended up really enjoying Resistance, even though I didn't love it as much as Ames did :)

4) Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins: B
Upcoming review.

5) As An Earl Desires by Lorraine Heath: C-

I bought this book at a bookfair a few years ago and since I was binging on Ms Heath's books, I thought this was the perfect time to read As An Earl Desires.

Archibald Warner was a teacher in the country who recently gained the title of 7th Earl of Sachse. Helping him to adapt to his new world is his predecessor's widow, the Countess of Sachse. While Camilla helps Archibald navigate the ton, she also has a secret agenda - find herself a duke to marry. Camilla grew up in an orphanage and later became the previous Countess of Sachse's companion. When she died, the 6th Earl of Sachse married Camilla to beget an heir. Let just say the experience was not a fond memory; however, it taught Camilla a lot. Rank is power and with power, you can do a lot and change a lot.. and thus, the reason why she wants a duke. Poor Archibald ends up falling in love with Camilla... Can he change her mind?

As An Earl Desires turned out to be an okay book. The story was okay, the characters as well and so it made for a somewhat bland book, but in no way, bad. The hardest for me was to warm up to Camilla. At first, she comes across as very calculative, everything was about getting her duke to achieve more power :( Once we got to know her character better, her reasoning and her actions all made sense, unfortunately the damage was already done and I really had difficulty to like her. I didn't dislike her as much, but it's simply hard to warm up to such a character... First impressions are deadly!

I did really like Archibald though :) It's always interesting to see someone inheriting a title that he wasn't expecting and his adaptation to it. I really liked the fact that Archibald was still very down-to-earth, given his new situation. What I didn't understand however is why didn't he move his family in with him? Or at least, his younger brother and mother? Not that they really needed it... but it didn't really make sense to me.

As An Earl Desires really focused on the characters, especially Camilla. Thus, I find that there isn't much of a storyline to the book. What I mean is not a lot of things happened and I still can't decide if it's a good thing or not. I did like the progresses of the romance and Camilla coming to realize what was really important... Still, As An Earl Desires is really not Ms Heath's best book ^_^;

6) Blood Ties by Sharon Sala: C
Upcoming review.

7) The Last Goodbye by Sarah Mayberry: C

Ally Bishop is a journalist with a "Dear ..." column and a house-sitter. Thus, it gives her the freedom to move around Australia whenever she feels like it and that's how she likes it. Falling in love with Tyler Adamson threatens it all, because he is the settling type and has roots to a place - his business where he builds high-end furniture. However, Ally has only herself to blame as she is the one who brought Tyler into her life.

Tyler and his father have been estranged ever since Tyler was old enough to leave home and they have not seen each other since his mother passed away. However, when Ally who is his father's current neighbor hunts him down to let him know that his father is dying, Tyler cannot leave him alone... and this mean moving back home to take care of his father.

Ms Mayberry's popularity has really grown in the past few years in my opinion. She's proved herself a very talented category romance author and her books are well-loved by blogland. That is why I keep picking her books up :)

On a objective standpoint, Ms Mayberry has a very good book with The Last Goodbye. I really admire Ms Mayberry for not turning this story into a fairy tail, with a miracle reconciliation between Tyler and his father. I thought the whole storyline was very realistic and more poignant as a result. Tyler's father was quite complex... Through Tyler's memories, you can see that there were some good memories in the past, that his father was not always bad... but the reality is that he beat Tyler and his older brother and he was a tough man. At the same time, that was how he was raised and that's all he knew about raising kids. It's not excusing his actions, but it makes Tyler and the readers understand where he comes from. Also, Tyler's father has stomach cancer... there's no miraculous recovery for it and we all know how that's going to end... All in all, it was very sad :(  And I really applaud Ms Mayberry for the way she handled the storyline.

I also really liked the characters, Allie and Tyler. They were likable, mature and normal :P They were also well developed and fleshed and we really got a sense of who they were. Especially Tyler since the story focused mainly on him. Love, love their love for ice creams! LOL. If I ever go to Australia, I'm going to have to hunt down those places!! Once again, the Australia setting is a winner :P

The Last Goodbye sounds like a great book, so why a C grade? Well objectively, it is... However, it was missing the most important in my opinion - feelings. Ms Mayberry had such a poignant storyline, but she wasn't able to capture my feelings. Really, I thought I'd be crying buckets when Tyler's father died, but I didn't. Also, while you have two likable characters, I felt the chemistry between them was lacking. The romance didn't live up to the characters, perhaps because it was a bit too rushed. All in all, The Last Goodbye just didn't grab me, didn't engage me and I thought that was very unfortunate given all the good elements in it.

8) Torn Apart by Sharon Sala: C
Upcoming Review.

9) The Texan's Wager by Jodi Thomas: B

Bailee Moore and her two friends, Lacey and Sarah, were left behind by the train because people feared Lacey was a witch and Sarah's sickness was contagious. While trying to survive and find a town, they come across Zeb, a villain that intended to rob and rape them... However, Bailee and her two friends got the better of him. Unfortunately, that also means they've killed a man and were arrested by Cedar Point sheriff. As Zeb was not a good guy and given the lack of female in Cedar Point, the sheriff comes up with a scheme - he won't hang the three women if they agree to enter a "wife lottery." Bailee's lucky winner is Carter McKoy, a very, very quiet man... some even believes that he is dumb. However, as  Bailee comes to know him, she realizes how lucky she's been.

After reading Ms Heath's Texas trilogy, I thought why not read more western? And so I picked up The Texan's Wager since it's been in my TBR pile for a few years as well :P Another plus is that I really like Ms Thomas' writing.

The Texan's Wager was a very unbalanced read for me. What really made the book for me was Carter's character. When Carter was still a kid, he witnessed his parents' murders by raiders... that and the fact that his mother was actually deaf and communicated through sign language is the reason Carter himself is so quiet and rarely utters a word. His past was very touching, but it's to see how he survived that was really poignant. He was a great man and he deserved happiness. It was great seeing Bailee and Carter getting to know each other and fall in love. That part of the story was very sweet :)

What didn't work as well for me was the overall storyline. Oh, I had no problem with the whole "wife lottery" ploy - after all, it's not so different than mail-order-brides :) But it's the rest, whether Zeb was alive or not and to a certain extent, when Carter was called to the next town to help them out with a little deaf girl who was the sole survivor of a train raid. I actually loved the part where Carter and Bailee helped out the little girl, but I couldn't believe that the raiders would go to such an extent to eliminate a witness. That I found was a bit over the top.

Still, the good by far overweights the bad and I quite enjoyed the book. I'm actually trying to get my hands on Lacey's book. Think that one will be interesting :)

10) Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts: B

11) Dark Descendant by Jenna Black: B+

12) Tangled Threads by Jennifer Estep: B

13) Knock Me Off My Feet by Susan Donovan: D+

After her mother's death, Autumn Adams inherited her mother's job as being Homey Helen - Chicago's version of Martha Stewart. Problem? Audie is the complete opposite of her mother - she's a bit messy, a klutz and cannot cook at all. Still, Audie is giving it a try because she promised her mother who died in a home robbery. Another problem? She seems to have acquired a stalker and the messages are getting more and more threatening. Enters Detective Stacey Quinn who along with his partner has been mandated to protect Audie and solve the case. When Quinn meets Audie, he thinks he has it all figured out: she's sending herself the threats so she can quit the job... However, as it is not the case, everyone has become a suspect - from her estranged brother to all her ex-boyfriends, among whom is Quinn's nemesis.

Another book from my TBR pile! What can I say, that's what happens when I limit my book-buying... which I guess is not a bad thing at all :) I was in the mood for a contemporary romance and so picked this one up. Everything from Knock Me Off My Feet was okay, from the characters to the romance to the actual storyline. Nothing really engaged me and I didn't have the urge of finishing this book. I actually put it down to read Chasing Fire, Dark Descendant and Tangled Threads. I guess it does mean something that I've picked it up again to finish it... I felt the book was trying too hard too be funny, cutesy. The whole felt like a jumble of confusion ^_^;

The romance between Audie and Quinn was the best part of the book in my opinion. However, it was a bit too rushed for me and also, the lack of trust, that really frustrated me. There was also a lot of misconceptions and the characters were quick to assume things and again, really frustrating. The whole part with Quinn's nemesis felt really superfluous and really disliked the guy. Another good thing about the book was the villain and the motivations. I really didn't expect that and it was a nice twist.

14) The Summer of You by Kate Noble: B

Lady Jane Cummings is the daughter of the Duke of Rayne. She missed the past season because she was in mourning for her mother and had to take care of her father. Her father is suffering from what we now know as Alzheimer and it has worsened after her mother's death. While she had to shoulder all the responsibilities, her brother was off on his Continent tour... so as soon as Jane could return to London, she did, if only to forget a little bit. Unfortunately, Jason has returned and once he found out about how severe their father's illness truly is, he decided it'd be better to spirit the proud man and Jane to Merrymere Lake where they used to spent their summer... However, he didn't expect Jane would blackmail him to join them.

Merrymere Lake has been the target of many robberies and the inhabitants believe the highwayman is the newcomer, Byrne Worth, who's been an hermit, rude and disagreeable. Jane met Byrne in London and his brother has recently married her best friend. She knows that Byrne is not responsible for the robbery as he's a war hero and an elusive spy who went to Merrymere Lake to recover from his injuries...

There's something about Ms Noble's writing that I cannot pinpoint, but that makes her stand out as an historical writer. As a result, I really enjoy her books and The Summer of You was no exception.  I really liked that the book took place away from the Season and the ton and showed us Jane in a different light. I think that having to care for her father has really turned Jane into a mature woman. Oh, she wants the fun and frivolities of the Season and the ton, she's after all a young woman, but she has lost the naivety that sometimes makes heroines annoying. She has a much better sense of reality and life in my opinion. I also liked to see her shoulder the responsibilities of being the woman in the house, I thought that was very interesting and not as easy as it seems. I also really enjoyed the siblings relationship between Jane and Jason. They're close and Jane cannot help but feel like Jason abandoned her. As for Jason, he isn't as mature as Jane, but it doesn't mean he's irresponsible or doesn't care for his father and sister. I thought he was quite a complex character and I wonder how he'll turn out in his own book, Follow my Lead :)

As for Byrne, he was okay. The problem with his character is that it's not very original. Wounded war hero... sounds a bell? Still, Ms Noble was able to make him unique and address some serious issues with him. I enjoyed seeing him getting out of his shell and getting to know Jane better. I thought the romance was very realistic and that only added to the book.

What didn't work as well for me is the whole highwayman business. The book was very focused on the characters' development, growth and dynamics. As a result, the mystery aspect was superfluous and wasn't tightly woven enough to really have an impact. Still, I enjoyed The Summer of You a lot and I thought the whole aspect with Jane and Jason's father was really touching.

15) A Growing Passion by Emma Wildes: C+

Victoria Manwell has had an unusual education for a lady. She shares her father's love for botany and was able to accompany him on his travels. This time around though, she has elected to stay home... and plans to seduce her childhood friend, Stephen Forsythe.

Very short novella about two childhood friends who finally make the step of becoming lovers. While it was well-written, A Growing Passion reads a bit more like a tame erotica historical short story. Enjoyable, but not much depth.

16) The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong: C+

17) Warcry by Elizabeth Vaughan: A-

Books bought: +11
Books read: -17
TBR pile: -6

Woohoo!! Negative number :) Okay, so I guess holding off to RWA does pay off :)

April was a really good reading month for me.  Not only I got to read a lot of books, but there were some really good ones in there and a lot of books that I was looking forward to :) The only downside is that I was such on a roll that I fell off the blog-hopping bandwagon and my recording in my spreadsheet. Good thing there's Goodreads!

Now, will I be able to get the May monthly reads post on time?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review: Hounded by Kevin Hearne

Two reviews this week!! Woohoo :) Although it's 11.40pm and that means I won't have much time to read... ah well. Nothing much happening this week. I'm a bit disappointed because I'm doing computer work these days and I thought I'd have time to write reviews or blog-hop,but unfortunately no :( Booo. As for reading, it's going so-so...

I went to the library yesterday to pick up a book - A Secret Affair by Mary Balogh - but once I was there, somebody else had already gotten to it. And turns out the other copy that was available, was only available on May 19. Seriously, if it's not available now, then just don't mark it as available! Anyway, let see if I can be a good girl and resist the temptation of buying it :P

Hounded by Kevin Hearne
published by Ballantine Books (Del Rey) in May 2011

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book #1

The Story: On the outside, Atticus O'Sullivan is an Irish lad, too young to run his own occult bookshop with an apothecary's counter. In truth, he is 21 centuries old and the last druid walking this earth. Centuries ago, during the Battle of Magh Lena, Atticus stole a magic sword, Fragarach - the Answerer, given by Lugh Lamhfhada to Conn of the Hundred Battle so he could conquer and unite Ireland. The Fragarach's magical powers allow it to pierce any armor, a definite ace up your sleeve in a battle. Because of this, Aenghus Og, the not so lovable god of love, has hounded Atticus to reclaim the sword and through a deal with Morrigan, Atticus has remained alive and been on the run for centuries. As a result, Atticus has seen and done it all...

Nowadays, Atticus is settled in Tempe, Arizona because of its low god density and quasi-total absence of faeries. Unfortunately for him though, the respite is over as Aenghus Og has found him... through the internet! And this time around, the god of love has decided to get his hands dirty instead of sending his goons... and Atticus will be waiting, tired of running. Standing on his side will be the local pack of werewolves, a  Viking vampire, bartender possessed by a Hindu witch and his loyal wolfhound, Oberon. Together, they'll have to wade through the various Celtic Gods intentions and be wary of witches...

My Opinion: I saw the cover of Hounded a couple of months ago and told myself I had to check it out... and then, forgot about it ^_^; It's only after seeing Anna's review that I remembered and then, checked out the author's website. After reading the blurbs, the reviews and ahhh-ing over the covers, the decision was quite simple - I had to give Hounded a try :)

I have to admit, I found the whole concept of this series very similar to the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher and that played a big part in my decision to pick up this book. I liked the idea that Atticus is a druid, although I have to say, Celtic god pantheon is not my favorite ^_^; Overall, so far, there is some similarities between the Iron Druid Chronicles and Dresden Files, but it's different enough to stand on its own and Hounded was quite enjoyable :)

The most important element in a series like the Iron Druid Chronicles is the main character and in this case, Atticus. I think Atticus was quite an interesting character, given what he is and how long he's lived. He is very knowledgeable - of about everything :) He's definitively smart as well as friendly. Also, his wittiness reminded me a lot of Harry. What bothered me though was that he felt "young." I know he has to look the part and that means adopting the demeanors and speech of a modern American, but the aura Atticus projected... He didn't feel like 21 centuries old. I'd have expected someone a bit more wise, zen and less of a hot head. Also, I can't help but LOL at men and sex - gets them at any age :P Still, I think he makes a good hero and it's someone I'd read more about :)

The world building so far is okay. I enjoyed the parts that were about Atticus' magic - I thought that was very interesting, how he drew power from the earth, the three forms he can morph into. I think that Mr Hearne took time to think about that part and it paid off. I also liked the other supernatural beings present - witches, werewolves and vampires. I especially love the fact that Atticus' lawyers consist of the second-in-command werewolf Hal, and the viking vampire Leif. By the way, viking vampire - two words I never thought to associate together LOL. Really looking forward to seeing more of him! I also liked the animosity between witches and druids which for some reasons doesn't surprise me. What didn't work as well for me was the whole Celtic aspect ^_^; I know that comes with the druid territory, but I thought it was a bit confusing, especially combining it with the faeries. Except for Morrigan, my Celtic mythology knowledge is very limited... Add in Celtic terms like Tir na nOg, Tuatha De Danann and yep, I was a bit lost. Sure, by the 10th time I stumbled across those words, I kind of figure out what they meant... but while reading Hounded, I wished there's been an index and I usually loath those, but in this case, it would have come in handy. Also, I know it adds authenticity, all the Celtic words incorporated was just too distracting ^_^; So on the world building front, I think that it was a bit of a mixed bag.

When I picked up Hounded, I was quite surprised at how thin it was - it comes at just under 290 pages. At the end though, I was pleasantly surprised because I think Mr Hearne handled it quite well. We got a good sense of Atticus, the world is set and there was even a story in it! LOL. No, truthfully, I thought the story was a bit slow at first... it seemed that all we saw was Atticus running around in a bit of panic at first... but in the end, it turned into something quite complex and had me engaged :)

At the end, I'm going to say that the most interesting part of this book was Atticus and his interactions with everyone else. How he found himself in this situation, how he's adapting and dealing :) Plus, he has a great cast of characters surrounding him. Oberon his wolfhound is just too cute and seems like the perfect companion for Atticus... Plus his addiction to French poodles tells me that he is quite the dog version of a lady's man like his master :) I'm also really looking forward to Granuaile's storyline, I think to see what a druid is is going to be very interesting.

By the way, as I mentioned in one of my comments, don't go into Hounded expecting romance. I think it is in the cards in the future, but unfortunately, not this time...

My Grade: Originally, I was going to give Hounded a B+... but after a few weeks and this review, I think a B is better suited. Hounded was definitively a very enjoyable read, although a bit muddled at times. I'm really looking forward to the next release, Hexed. I think that the series has a lot of potential and that's why I'm going to hold back on the grade a little :)

By the way, did I mention the covers? :P

Monday, May 16, 2011

Review: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

Finally, I'm done with this review! I planned to have it up late April, early May... but for some reasons, just couldn't come up with anything. Hopefully, now that I've plowed through it, my reviewing muse will come home :P What do you think?

***Warning: There might be spoilers in this review. Read at your own risk!***

The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong
published by Harpercollins in April 2011
Sixteen-year-old Maya is just an ordinary teen in an ordinary town. Sure, she doesn't know much about her background - the only thing she really has to cling to is an odd paw-print birthmark on her hip - but she never really put much thought into who her parents were or how she ended up with her adopted parents in this tiny medical-research community on Vancouver Island.

Until now.

Strange things have been happening in this claustrophobic town - from the mountain lions that have been approaching Maya to her best friend's hidden talent for "feeling" out people and situations, to the sexy new bad boy who makes Maya feel... different. Combine that with a few unexplained deaths and a mystery involving Maya's biological parents and it's easy to suspect that this town might have more than its share of skeletons in its closet.
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy
Series: Darkness Rising trilogy, Book #1

The Story: Hmmm, I've been trying to write a synopsis for The Gathering for weeks now and it's just not coming together ^_^; I think that the blurb has it right for the first half, but the second half is a bit melodramatic. That's why I'm going to give it another try, but don't expect too much ^_^;

Maya has lived in the little town of Salmon Creek on Vancouver Island with her adoptive parents since the age of five. Her father being the park warden, she grew up in the nature, surrounded by wilderness, and loving it. Maya definitively has an affinity with the animals, which comes in handy when taking care of them when they are injured.

Maya is about to celebrate her 16th birthday and is looking forward to it after a difficult year. She's still trying to figure out how her best friend, Serena, captain of the swimming team, drowned and what she could have done to save her. When a reporter comes into town asking questions about the teenagers and their hobbies, Maya starts to wonder if what happened to Serena didn't involve foul play... Then, there is Rafe Santiago, the newbie, who's been flirting with one girl after another and it seems Maya's number is up. Maya's determined not to get involved, but that's before she sees the cracks in Rafe's bad boy imagine... Finally, the cougars seem more agitated than usual and Maya seems to have developed some unusual abilities... What on earth is happening?

My Opinion: It's not a secret on this blog that I'm a big fan of Ms Armstrong and the Women of the Otherworld series. When Ms Armstrong jumped on the YA bandwagon, I followed and it was really worth it as I enjoyed the Darkest Powers trilogy a lot. I liked the idea and how it was connected to the Women of the Otherworld series... The Gathering is the start a new trilogy and I was quite disappointed that we'd start all over again with new characters and a slightly similar plot, i.e. the Genesis project where they are trying to "breed" superiors supernaturals. Still, it's Kelley Armstrong right? So I went ahead and picked it up :)

It's hard for me to describe my feelings concerning The Gathering, because I'm not exactly sure how I feel ^_^; But let me try, otherwise, why write this review, right? :P From the get-go, what I can say is The Gathering was not a wowzer to me. It didn't keep me on the edge of my seat, didn't make me jump up and down or bemoan the fact that the next book is only coming out next year. However, it isn't without merits. As usual, I enjoyed Ms Armstrong's writing and I liked the characters. I think Ms Armstrong did a good job developing them, especially Maya as she's the heroine. I like that Maya's voice is very different from Chloe's - I think that's really important when the books are first person POV. Maya was very confident and knew what she wanted and where she was going. I also liked the friendship between Maya and Daniel, as they have known each other since they were kids. They definitively know each other well and have each other's back and trust each other. I'm already rooting for their romance and really am crossing my fingers! I like the cast of secondary characters and am wondering how they will come into play.

For me, the downfall of The Gathering was the pacing and the storyline. The storyline was actually quite interesting, but things started to happen too late in the book for me to get engaged. I feel Ms Armstrong spent too much time introducing the characters and the environment to the readers through the characters' daily routines. This translated into a slow pacing and a lack of action that's quite uncommon to Ms Armstrong.

Something else that bothered me was the lack of connection between The Gathering and the world of the Women of the Otherworld series, or at least to me. I think the main reason for the disconnection feeling is that all the important characters were unaware of the supernaturals, but as a reader, I wasn't. While reading The Gathering, I kept looking for clues, mentions of the world that I know. The St. Clouds, the Nasts, the Cabals, etc. Anything I could get and I wonder if that didn't detract me from the story even more ^_^; Also, throughout the book, I kept wondering what supernatural beings Maya and her friends were. I was disappointed that we didn't find out about Daniel and cie, although I have a few guesses... At least, we found out what Maya was... and I have to say, I was quite disappointed at it too. It turns out that Maya is a skinwalker... I'm not thrilled at this turn of events because it increases the disconnection feeling as this race of supernaturals has never been mentioned in her books before. I know that Ms Armstrong likes to introduce and play with those rare races, so it doesn't come too much as a surprise, but it still burst my bubble a little... because I was really looking forward to something more related to what we've known. Something else that bothers me is that the skinwalkers will always make me think of the Mercy Thompson series by Ms Briggs ^_^; So it makes me a little uncomfortable.

Overall, I think The Gathering was an okay book.  It had nice characters and set the trilogy up quite well, especially near the end when the action finally picked up. The last quarter of the book was quite exciting and it feels like anything could happen in the second book! However, beware those who don't like cliffhangers!

My Grade: I was hesitating between a B- and C+ and in the end, I have to go with the lower grade, C+. The Gathering was just not engaging enough for me. Still, if Ms Armstrong plays her cards right, with the elements she put in place at the end of The Gathering, the next book could really be awesome!

Also, I'm throwing this out for those who have read the book... Do you think that the adults in Salmon Creek are all in on the project? Obviously, Daniel's "father" is... but what about Maya's parents, the director, the sheriff?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Hauling Sunday XLIII

As you can see by my lack of post last week, I'm having the blogging blues. As if that's not enough, I also have the reading blues :( It cannot get worst than this, really, sigh. Personally, I blame the gym for it, because it robs away time that I could put to better use LOL... but really, I don't go to the gym 7 days/week so it doesn't explain it all, right ^_^;

Work is okay. The new summer student started this week and I've been training her. A bunch of other students in the department have gotten their response back from med and pharmacy school applications... All rejections ^_^; It was quite bleak at work on Friday :( I say the selection system is rotten anyway.

The good thing though is that I went shopping yesterday and actually bought something :) Woohoo! I need new clothes badly, but seriously... I don't know, everything has gotten so expensive and a lot of it is not worth it ^_^; I'm really looking forward to my trip to NYC to replenish my wardrobe :P

This week, I only got a new book...

Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes - I first heard of this book at last year's RT convention during one of the YA panels. Then later, Ames read and really enjoyed it, so it sealed the deal for me. By the time Ames read it, the paperback release was really close... so I decided to wait for it :) LOL, I'm impressed at my will this time :P

What good books have you read lately?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Review: Backstage Pass by Olivia Cunning

Hmmmm, well this review proves that I'm hopeless when it comes to "plan" my reviews LOL. This definitively was not the review I was planning to write today; however, it's the only book that is inspiring my review muse... So have to go with it, right? :)

Backstage Pass by Olivia Cunning
published by Sourcebooks in October 2010

Five stunning guys, one hot woman, and a feverish romance...

For him, life is all music and no play...

When Brian Sinclair, lead songwriter and guitarist of the hottest metal band on the scene, loses his creative spark, it will take nights of downright sinful passion to release his pent-up genius...

She's the one to call the tune...

When sexy psychologist Myrna Evans goes on tour with the Sinners, every boy in the band tries to seduce her. But Brian is the only one she wants to get her hands on...

Then the two lovers' wildly shocking behavior sparks the whole band to new heights of glory...and sin...

Genre: Erotica romance
Series: Sinners on Tour series, Book #1

The Story: Myrna Evans is a professor at Kansas City University with a PhD in psychology and her expertise in human sexuality. She is in Chicago to attend a conference when she meets Brian Sinclair, the lead guitarist of the very popular and successful rock band Sinners - one of her favorites. Unable to resist, Myrna embarks into two days of sex and sin.

Brian was nursing a broken heart when he met Myrna, but she quickly made him forget everything. Not only is the sex hot, but Myrna also inspires Brian. Quickly, Brian realizes that the few days they had together is not enough and he wants more. Unfortunately, Myrna has been burned in the past by a bad marriage and all she wants is having a good time with Brian. Can he change her mind?

My Opinion: Backstage Pass is not a book I would normally pick up - not only because I read very few erotica romance, but also because I'm not much into music and even less into rock music ^_^; However, Sourcebooks was promoting Ms Cunning by offering Backstage Pass as a free e-book and so far, her Sinners on Tour series has received quite a buzz on blogland. So I thought why not? :)

I have to say, I'm really surprised at how much I enjoyed Backstage Pass, because I really didn't think I would. What won me over was Brian and his bandmates :) Their boyish attitudes, their love for music and their enjoyment of life. I really enjoyed the friendship between Brian and the guys, how they teased each other but also how they looked out for each other. The dynamic between them was very interesting and made the book for me. I liked how the guys all welcomed Myrna once they realized she made Brian happy :) Really, their lives are over the top with women (and men) throwing themselves at them and obviously, they indulged themselves. They come across as a bit crude, rough and crazy... and yet at the core of it, they know what's important and values the right things in my opinion.

I also thought Brian was very cute. He was a mix of bad boy, but also cute and naive at the same time, the romantic his friends called him :) The sulking when Myrna had to go away just made me go awwww. Also, he was right when he said he's been the one compromising in this relationship. Very often, he walked a fine line between his attitude being cute or being annoying, but in the end, I really liked him :)

In contrast, Myrna didn't impact me as much as the heroine. She wasn't as cute as Brian as she was the mature one in this relationship and that's okay. The problem for me was just the character herself. Like she is a trained psychologist and specializes in human sexuality and yet, she is still haunted by her ex-husband calling her a whore and such. She enjoys sex a lot, but at the same time, there was a naïveté that didn't seem to match her knowledge. I just felt her character was very contradictory. If she had been anything else than a PhD in psychology with her expertise in human sexuality, then yes, her character would have worked very well... but because of what she is? Then, yeah, to me it didn't make much sense.

Another issue I had with Backstage Pass was that Ms Cunning introduced a lot of conflicts, but they were all half-developed or too easily resolved. For example, Brian has been playing music since he was in his teens and had always wanted recognition from his legend of a father and never gotten it... and then, just a few words from Myrna and voila, papa is very proud. Trey actually being in love with Brian, Myrna's ex-husband, etc. In my opinion, it would have been better if she'd introduce only a few and really focused on them. In this case, it just feels like Ms Cunning is throwing conflicts in just for the kicks of it ^_^;

All in all though, I enjoyed this book much more than I expected :) As I said, I loved the boys - they're the ones that made the book for me :) I also liked the behind-the-scenes feel, what it's like for a rock band on their tour - the bus, the fast food, the number of people involved. LOL at the Sinners being slobs - why doesn't that surprise me? Them "reserving" the bedrooms in the buses was cute. It was simply a fun book, one that you read without thinking about it too much... and the sex was definitively HOT :)

My Grade: B-. I'm debating whether to read Rock Hard or not. I really want to see more of Sed and the boys, but I'm not sure about the heroine ^_^; Whenever Trey, Evan and Jace have their books out though, I'm picking them!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Hauling Sunday XLII

to everyone!!

How was everyone's week-end? Me? Same old, same old. I sound like a broken record and it really bothers me :( I had all those plans and best intentions and ended up not doing much except reading. Not that reading is bad, but I wished I could have at least blogged a little. My problem is that I'm still having vertigos :( It's been much better than what it was a couple of months ago (can you believe that, a couple of months ago!), but it still won't go away completely and that really annoys me. I suspect the cause now is the way I sleep ^_^; I've tried raising my head higher, but I still end up sleeping on my "bad" side most of the time... Changing the way you sleep is hard!! Yep, that's my life now. Sigh, depressing isn't it?

So of course, to keep me happy, I buy books LOL.

Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison - I wanted to wait for RWA, but come one... there was way too many good reviews out there for me to wait. Plus, it was released on my birthday... so it was my gift to myself LOL

Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart by Sarah MacLean - Again, got too impatient because of the good reviews this book has gotten :)  What made me finally cave though is the 25% off coupon...

Lady Amelia's Secret Lover by Victoria Alexander - Okay, it doesn't look like it, but I think I've been doing okay in the buying-book department, especially waiting for RWA to get some books. Okay, looking back at the Hauling Sunday posts, it'd be a fail for most people... but we're talking about me, so it's really different standards LOL. In any case, if I'm not reading the new releases, I need to replace those by other books. I've been reading more from my TBR pile... but it's also the perfect opportunity for buying the books that I've put off buying... such as Lady Amelia's Secret Lover. This book by Ms Alexander was released only in e-book format a few years ago... So now, I got it :P

And voila :P What do you think?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Review: Dark Descendant by Jenna Black

First, I want to thank everyone for the birthday wishes! It was great and really precious :)

The week has been pretty busy so far. I've gotten together with my friends on Monday evening; also, it was election day in Canada. On Tuesday, I ate with my family and invited over a friend as well, so I spent the evening watching TV: Masterchef Australia - the third season just started (woohoo!!) and The Voice. And yesterday, I went to the gym with my sister... So all this has been playing havoc with my reading, blogging and blog-hopping!! Especially since it's been raining the whole time and I swear, rain makes traffic horrible!!! Hopefully though, I settle back into my routine soon enough :)

As it is, I've had very really time to work on my monthly reads post and as I've read a lot last month, it's really going to take me forever ^_^; So instead, I'm going to focus on more reviews :) Enjoy!

Dark Descedant by Jenna Black
published by Simon & Schuster
From the acclaimed author of the Morgan Kingsley, Exorcist books comes the gripping first novel in a new series about a private eye who discovers, to her surprise, that she’s an immortal huntress.

Nikki Glass can track down any man. But when her latest client turns out to be a true descendant of Hades, Nikki now discovers she can’t die... Crazy as it sounds, Nikki’s manhunting skills are literally god-given. She’s a living, breathing descendant of Artemis who has stepped right into a trap set by the children of the gods. Nikki’s new “friends” include a descendant of Eros, who uses sex as a weapon; a descendant of Loki, whose tricks are no laughing matter; and a half-mad descendant of Kali who thinks she’s a spy. But most powerful of all are the Olympians, a rival clan of immortals seeking to destroy all Descendants who refuse to bow down to them. In the eternal battle of good god/bad god, Nikki would make a divine weapon. But if they think she’ll surrender without a fight, the gods must be crazy...
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Dark Descendant series, Book #1

The Story: Dark Descendant takes place in a world where gods - from all pantheons - not only exist, but used to walk around, having kids with mortals. Then, when they left, they gave each of their children a seed from the Tree of Life that made them immortal. These immortals were called Liberi and what they did not know till too late is that anyone with divine blood - their children and descendants - could steal away their immortality by killing them.

Nikki Glass is a private investigator who was abandoned when she was four years old and later adopted by the Glasses. As such, she had no idea she was a descendant of Artemis till she accidentally kills a Liberi - descendant of Hades. Now immortal, Nikki also has to deal with some new powers as she's suddenly become a crack-shot. However, it's Nikki's ability to track down people and find objects that has two rivaling factions vying for her. Circumstances the way they are, Nikki must choose side and quick: on one hand, there is the Olympians whose goals are to run the world and kill all the descendants as they can steal their immortality and on the other hand, a group under the leadership of a guy named Anderson who can offer protection to Nikki's adoptive family. The choice should be simple, except that some members of Anderson's group are suspicious of Nikki since she killed one of theirs... and what are Anderson's true goals?

My Opinion: I picked up Dark Descendant because of its great cover, interesting blurb and also because I've been wanting to try Ms Black's writing, but felt her Morgan Kingsley, Exorcist series didn't suit me. So I was happy she had a new series coming out and I knew right away that the Dark Descendant series would better suit to me :)

Dark Descendant turned out to be a really quick and enjoyable read :) What I liked the most was the writing style as it was simple and breezy. Ms Black has an engaging voice and it helped the readers getting immersed into the storyline, but also process all the information more easily. For some reasons, I thought the world building in this series would be complicated, but it wasn't. Oh, it does have its complexity, but it's subtle and surprisingly straightforward and so readers don't have to go through pages and pages of world building information and decipher was is important and what is not. I think that all this combined allowed Ms Black to focus a little bit more on the heroine and the storyline :)

Nikki was a nice heroine. I liked how she was able to remain calm and think about what her next steps were to be, analyze the situation. She was also one smart cookie as she didn't fall into denial and ignore all the danger, but also didn't take everything she was told at face value. Instead, she was cautious and thought of consequences. A level-headed heroine who doesn't put up a kick-ass, tough chick front, but who instead acknowledges and deals with her vulnerabilities. I also like the fact that if she has secrets or is somehow special, she doesn't know it herself.

The storyline was also interesting. It was fast-paced and had some action, but at the same time, it allowed readers to learn about Nikki, the secondary characters and the world building. There were also some surprises and those are always interesting :) Ms Black did take some direction that surprised me, but that's all good since it means it doesn't fall into the predictable route.

For those who are wondering, there was no romance in Dark Descendant; however, I didn't miss it. There was some hints for the future and if really Ms Black takes that direction, it'll be really interesting - talk about an unlikely pair! All in all, Dark Descendant felt like a setting up book. It introduces us to the players, to the conflict and is setting up for the rest of the series; however, not only it does its job efficiently, but also enjoyably :) I'm definitively going to pick up the next installment in the series as I'm curious to see how it will all turn out :)

My Grade: B+. A solid, enjoyable first book in a series that reminds me a little of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, but the grown-ups version LOL.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Review: Warcry by Elizabeth Vaughan


LOL, I love having the same birthday as someone else - makes it easy to remember! Tracy, I hope you have a great day today and all the best in all your endeavors!!

This year, I'm really excited for my birthday, because it falls on a Tuesday which means new books!! LOL, I know, I'm such a bookworm!! What can I say? Seriously, there's nothing better than having books being released on your birthday, especially when it's books that you really want LOL.

So to celebrate, I'm reviewing one of today's new release which I've been very excited about and really looking forward to... Warcry by Elizabeth Vaughan! Enjoy!

Warcry by Elizabeth Vaughan
published by Berkley in May 2011

Atira of the Bear is a fierce Plains warrior who lives for battle - and values freedom above all else. But when she encounters a former enemy from the land of Xy, she finds herself wanting something more than her own independence.

Heath of Xy has traveled to the Plains to serve his Queen - but also because he cannot resist the hunger he feels for Atira. Now that the Queen and her Warlord are returning to Xy, he has one more chance to convince this beautiful, proud warrior to share her life with him.

But all is not well in Xy. There is a faction of nobles who are plotting against the Queen and her barbarian warlord. As cultures clash and tempers flare, Heath and the fierce Plains warrior woman Atira of the Bear must come together to fight the conspiracy... and to search their hearts for something deeper than raw passion.
Genre: Fantasy, romance
Series: Chronicles of Warlands series, Book #4

The Story: At the end of Warlord, Xylara was proclaimed warprize; however, Keir lost his status of Warlord. Although he was allowed to reclaim his status through the spring trial, Keir had to postpone his plans as Lara is pregnant. Following the Xyian customs, the birth of the heir to the crown has to be witnessed by the lords and thus, Lara and Keir along with those who remain loyal to him have to make their way back to the Kingdom of Xy.

Among their entourage are Heath, the son of the seneschal and Lara's childhood friend, and Atira of the Bear, a fierce warrior of the Plains. Atira was summoned for the warprize's confirmation and Heath had followed her and journeyed to the Plains to aid Lara... but in truth, he has succumbed to Atira's charm. Unfortunately for him, while they have enjoyed each other's company, he has been unable to convince Atira to marry/bond with him... not only because Atira treasure her freedom and independence, but also because of their different backgrounds.

Uniting these two different cultures, bettering their lives is Lara and Keir's goal, but not everyone can see it. While happy for peace, it has come at a cost and the people of Xy have yet to forget... and Keir's loss of status feels like a betrayal towards the warriors who have stayed behind. Each side has its lot of unhappy people, factions plotting and ready to make a move against the crown at Lara and Keir's first misstep. Thus,  the Queen and Overlord of Xy must maneuver carefully, with the help and and support of their friends. Can Atira grasp what Lara and Keir want to achieve and can she set the example?

My Opinion: It's no secret that I love and enjoyed the Chronicles of Warlands series and I was soooooo happy when I learned that Ms Vaughan was writing more books in this series!! At the same time though, I was a bit surprised that the H/H of Warcry would be Heath and Atira and didn't really know what to expect. So, it's with a lot of excitement, but also trepidation that I picked up Warcry.

My first thought when I held Warcry for the first time was disappointment because the book is actually a bit thin. It comes at just under 300 pages and I just wanted more already LOL. However, once I finished reading Warcry - which by the way, only took me a day, I was really pleasantly surprised because Ms Vaughan managed to tell quite a complex but also very satisfying and complete story in such a short amount of time :) And in the end, I really loved this book :)

As I said, with Heath and Atira as H/H, I didn't really know what to expect. I noticed that in the whole series, Ms Vaughan avoids mentioning age completely and so, the way the characters behave, their actions, their thought process "speak" even louder, have even more impact when shaping the characters in the readers' mind. For some reasons, I always felt Atira was a bit older and so when reading Warcry, I had to re-adjust my perception of her and it was quite interesting. I think that Ms Vaughan did a great job with Atira's character. Not only was she an interesting character, but also quite complex. I love the fact that although she's loyal to both Keir and Lara, she's not quick to throw away all her beliefs and upbringing. For example, she's still uncomfortable with Marcus and Amyu's presences, with Lara's request that Keir lives on if something happens to her, etc. She really shows to the readers how difficult it will be for Lara and Keir to change both their peoples and their ways of thinking. As for Heath, I liked him a lot and he turned out to be much more than I expected :) The guy is clever, cautious and responsible. While he followed his love, it doesn't mean he forgot about his duty or responsibilities or others' feelings. Heath's been raised to follow in his father's footsteps and really, I have no doubts that Lara has acquired an efficient right-hand man. Also, Heath was very passionate and good for him not wanting to just settle for sex. He wanted more from Atira and demanded it and didn't let her belittle what they had. Personally, Heath and Atira's romance was a bit secondary for me; however, I cannot argue against the fact that the two had a lot of chemistry and some very hot scenes :) I like that the passion and anger came from both parties and neither let the other get away or walk away. Also, I have to say, Atira's grand gesture at the end? It made their whole journey worth it! :)

My favorite part of Warcry was re-visiting this world and its characters. I love seeing Lara, Keir, Rafe, Prest, Marcus, etc. again. They're all great characters, but at the same time, they did not steal away Heath and Atira's spotlights. Also, I love, love, love the contrast between the Xy and Plains people and cultures. I think this is really what makes this series stand apart. To us, readers, the two cultures aren't foreign - one is sedentary with a city, houses, forests and values and beliefs pretty similar to the medieval era and the other is nomadic with tents, deserts, clans with more freedom and liberty, but also more pragmatism in their beliefs and way of thinking, and the idea of these cultures coming together is not mind-blowing or new... but to actually read about it and witnessing it, it's much more complex in practice than in theory. Like when Atira saw the forge for the first time and realize that the Xyians actually made and bent metal and crafted weapons and jewelry... It's Ms Vaughan's attention in these little details, in her world building that makes these books so enjoyable and wow :)

As for the overall storyline, I loved it :) I love court intrigue and really, Ms Vaughan did not disappointed. She found the perfect balance to complement everything going on in the book. The storyline has its share of surprises and twists, was not overly complex, but at the same time, not too simple that it was too easily solved and rendered anti-climatic. I also loved Keir's ambitions to become warking, hinting a little at what there is in store for us in the future and tying up some loose ends from the first trilogy. Also while not explicitly mentioned, we know that the events in Destiny's Star will come into play in the future books and that will be interesting to see. Also, something very interesting about the whole series is the number of possibilities for the future that Ms Vaughan has set into place. I mean, I'd be happy to read about Keir becoming warking of course... but I wouldn't be against reading the adventures of the trade routes being re-opened or about Liam and Marcus relationship... or simply the Xyian life from a Plain warrior's POV or the changes happening in the kingdom of Xy from a Xyian POV. There is a lot of possibilities to this series and I can't wait to see what Ms Vaughan chooses! By the way, for those who don't like cliffhangers, no need to worry :) The hints are all very subtle, it doesn't feel like Ms Vaughan is trying to sequel-bait us at all, and she also does a good job at wrapping up Warcry's storyline satisfyingly :)

I feel that every element that made the Chronicles of Warlands series a winner for me was present in Warcry as well. The characters, the world building, the fast-paced storyline, the court intrigue, the humor, the action and the emotions... it's all there. If you enjoyed the first three books, you'll enjoy Warcry as well :)

My Grade: A-. It feels that all I did in this review was gushed, but really, I loved and enjoyed this book a lot. I am extremely happy that Ms Vaughan's return to the Chronicles of Warlands world is a winner and I can't wait for the next book!!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Hauling Sunday XLI

Another week is over, time really flies!! And May is upon us!! Woohoo!!

So nothing very new this week except for the fact that I signed-up to the gym and have been working out and am all sore ^_^; It's really sad how out of shape I am, especially compared to how sporty I was in my teens ^_^; Also, since the presentation, I've been feeling pretty much lethargic and unmotivated. Sigh. Hopefully, the nice weather we're having is going to last and pull my out of the blues.

One thing that has sustained me is books :) My reading was pretty good and my book-buying, pretty exciting :) Want to know what I got?

A Growing Passion by Emma Wildes - This is a very short novella available in e-format only. I've become a fan of Ms Wildes' historical romance and so, there was no question I was getting it :) Hopefully, this short story will tide me over till RWA where I plan to get Ms Wildes' new release, One Whisper Away.

Warcry by Elizabeth Vaughan - Wooohooo. I love, love, love Ms Vaughan's Chronicles of Warlands series and so happy that she's re-visiting this world :) I'm hoping for many more books in this series!! Please, please, pretty please Berkley!

Hounded by Kevin Hearne - New urban fantasy series. I was first attracted by its cover, I think it looks great! Then, I learned that the hero was a druid and I was sold :)

So there you have it, my new books for the week :) What about you? Any new good books?