Sunday, November 27, 2011

Away for a few days!

Hey everyone!!

How are you doing? Sorry I've been MIA the past couple of days ^_^; Although I figured most of you would be busy with Thanksgiving and away from the internet, so it was good timing :) Work has been quite busy this week as we got ready for our conference. As I said in my previous post, we had 2 posters to prepare... and we only started on Thursday. Last minute? Yeah, pretty much. Also, I ended up working on the one which project I was less familiar with... So I felt pretty useless. Not a good feeling.

I was planning to have some posts scheduled, but that didn't work out ^_^; I'm still planning to blog, but quite frankly, I don't know how much internet access I'll have... so I might be pretty quiet till Thursday :( But I'll try my best!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Review: Heiress in Love by Christina Brooke

Ugh, the past two days have been brutal. It's really gotten cold and I've been having headaches and feeling nauseous. I'm knocking on wood it's not a BPPV relapse. Instead, I'm blaming the cold... In any case, I cannot afford getting sick as I'm going to the conference this week-end. Hmmmm, now that I think about it, it could be the conference is stressing me up. I mean, we're leaving Sunday and I have just booked the bus tickets today. It's soo annoying because my boss is indecisive about everything and so it doubles the planning time ^_^; Also, my labmate is really starting to panic as he and our boss each has a poster presentation... but we have not started on the posters yet!! Yeah... guess what I've been drafted to help with?

On the review front, I'm trying to catch up on books from this summer ^_^; I'm so behind, it's not funny. To try to avoid this situation in two months, I've been mixing it up, old and new... If there are any books that I was supposed to review and I haven't yet and you'd like me to, please let me know! LOL. In the meantime, enjoy this one!

Heiress in Love by Christina Brooke
published by St. Martin's Press in June 2011

When the Ministry of Marriage arranges a match, all that matters is power, wealth and prestige. In the business of marriage, there is no room for love. But even the most prudent plans can go awry...

Jane, Lady Roxdale, has endured one marriage of convenience decreed by the Ministry of Marriage. While she deeply regrets her late husband’s death, she is relieved to be free at last. But when a dissolute rake threatens everything Jane holds dear, she must contemplate marrying a second time...

Disgraced libertine Constantine Black inherits his cousin Roxdale’s land and title—while Roxdale’s prim widow is left all the wealth. Constantine is not a marrying man, but wedding Jane is the only way to save the estate from ruin. Jane resists the smoldering heat between them, desperate not to fall in love with an unrepentant rake. But for the first time ever, Constantine wants more than seduction. He wants all of her—body, heart, and soul...
Genre: Historical romance
Series: Ministry of Marriage series, Book #1

The Story: Through ironic circumstances, the Duke of Montford, a confirmed bachelor, found himself the guardian of 5 children - 3 girls, all heiresses, and 2 boys, titled and landed. He did his best raising them and ensuring their futures which means making sure their fortunes grew and in the case of the ladies, that they'd also marry well. As a member of the Ministry of Marriage, Montford had his pick for the best matches...

Jane, Lady Roxdale, was one of Montford's ward and was married off to Frederick Black, Baron Roxdale, at the age of 17. While she had liked him during their courtship, marriage did not turn out as she expected... and as a result, Jane is content to be free again. All she wants is to live peacefully and to take care of her 6 years old nephew and Frederick's ward, Luke Black. She knows that soon, Montford will plot to get her married again, but this time, she intends to remain independent. Unfortunately, Frederick's will have taken away that option...

Constantine Black is the defunct Lord Roxdale's cousin and heir. Years ago, Constantine refused to marry a young lady that he had compromised and as a result, he's been estranged with his family and has become persona non grata to the ton. And of course, he's gotten a reputation that he hasn't earned. Now that he's inherited the title though, Constantine wants to forget the past, start anew and prove to everyone they were wrong about him... However, it won't be as easy as he thinks...

Indeed, in his iron-clad will, Frederick Black stipulated that all his funds would go to his widow and Luke's guardianship was transferred to Constantine. Each has what the other wants as Constantine now has no funds to maintain the estate... and therefore, there is really only one solution: a marriage of convenience between the two!

My Opinion: This book caught my attention earlier this summer when I was going through the list of authors attending RWA. Back then, I was binging on historical romance and this definitively seemed to be right up my alley :) I was determined to get a copy at RWA... and I'm glad I did!! :)

The premise of Heiress in Love is not really original - it's a marriage of convenience after all. Constantine needs the funds to maintain his estate and Jane wants to remain close to Luke. However, Ms Brooke did a great job with it and it's all due to her interesting characters :) I have to say, I really liked the hero of this book. Despite his reputation, Constantine was really an honorable man. I liked that he accepted the consequences of his decision and they were quite dire. He didn't blame anyone, didn't whine and wasn't  angry at the whole world. He stood by his principles and wouldn't be coerced into a marriage and it took guts. With Jane, while he didn't have many options, to marry her was still his choice. I also liked that he bonded with Luke - I love men getting along with kids in books :) It shows a different side of them. I also liked that he was hard-working and cared for his tenants. As I said, a great hero and he totally stole the spotlight in this book. I'm not saying that Jane was a bad heroine. She was likable, but paled a little bit in comparison to Constantine. She wasn't as self-assured as Constantine and was a bit the ice maiden. She did feel, but it felt to me she didn't know how to communicate her feelings. The only persons she let close to her were her childhood friends and Luke. Still, at the end, you have to admire her love for Luke.

The romance in the book was okay. I think the fact that bothered the most to me was the fact that Jane didn't enjoy the conjugal act with her late husband and therefore she finally finds passion with Constantine. It's just so common whenever you have widow heroines ^_^; Although I guess it's all a question of chemistry. In any case, I'm happy the two of them didn't jump right in the marriage and in bed together. Actually, both had reservation about it and were trying to find other options. I thought that was realistic. It also gave them time to get to know each other better and develop their feelings. In that aspect, the romance worked for me :) All in all, the romance was there and it was nice, but it lacked a bit of omphf to it making it only okay.

The overall storyline of Heiress in Love was interesting :) Surprisingly, there was a lot going on and Ms Brooke did a great job balancing everything. The most interesting part for me was Constantine's past :) The weakest part for me was the Ministry of Marriage. It seems to be consisted of three persons: Montford, Lady Arden and Lord DeVere and together, they seemed to be related to everyone in Society LOL. As it is the basis of this series, I wished there'd have been more explanations about the Ministry of Marriage. Why did they form, who has given them the power, what is their purpose. Obviously, it is to make match... but there must be more to it, right? So I hope Ms Brooke clarifies that in the future. I also wish for more interactions between Montford and Jane, just so she understands that Montford really did care for them all.

In the end, I was really pleasantly surprised by Heiress in Love. I think Ms Brooke has a nice writing style that flows well and is easy to read.  Heiress in Love was definitively a solid debut, its flaws minor, and I am looking forward to Mad About the Earl, the next book in this series :)

My Grade: B-.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Review: The Next Always by Nora Roberts

Hi everyone!! How's your week-end going? Mine is great, but I feel so unproductive :( Didn't do anything.. and it's worst considering that I had Friday off as well because I went in for a doctor appointment. Sigh. Also, I haven't been reading... Just don't know what to pick up ^_^; At least, I have been re-reading, but it doesn't feel right sigh. And today, I'm meeting friends the whole day, so no reading either. Ah well, hopefully, I'll make it up this week...

Once again, no Hauling Sunday post this week as I haven't gone to the bookstore. Shocking right? LOL. But it proves that I can do it! Of course, lack of release and pre-orders play a big role. I still have my Monthly Reads post for October to post, but I didn't feel like it since I've just post September's last week. Maybe next week? :) So instead, you get this review!

I had other books I wanted to review first, but after the discussion topic of this week, I thought it would tie-in well if I reviewed The Next Always... and so The Next Always it is :) Enjoy the review!

The Next Always by Nora Roberts
published by Berkley in November 2011
The historic hotel in Boonsboro has endured war and peace, changing hands, even rumored hauntings. Now it’s getting a major facelift from the Montgomery brothers and their eccentric mother. Beckett is the architect of the family, and his social life consists mostly of talking shop over pizza and beer. But there’s another project he’s got his eye on: the girl he’s been waiting to kiss since he was fifteen.

After losing her husband and returning to her hometown, Clare Brewster soon settles into her life as the mother of three young sons while running the town’s bookstore. Busy, with little time for romance, Clare is drawn across the street by Beckett’s transformation of the old inn, wanting to take a closer look... at the building and the man behind it.

With the grand opening inching closer, Beckett’s happy to give Clare a private tour - one room at a time. It’s no first date, but these stolen moments are the beginning of something new - and open the door to the extraordinary adventure of what comes next...
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Inn Boonsboro trilogy, Book #1

The Story: The Montgomery brothers - Ryder, Owen and Beckett - along with their mother Justine are committed to bringing Inn Boonsboro back to its splendor and re-opening it for business. Beckett, the youngest, is the architect on this project, although he doesn't mind strapping on his tool belt to pitch in whenever necessary.

Clare Murphy Brewster married right out of high school and followed her husband who enlisted in the army to Kansas. After his death, she moved back to Boonsboro with her three boys and opened Turn the Page, her bookstore.

Beckett has been sweet on Clare since high school. With the inn bringing them closer together, Beckett seizes the opportunity to make his move on Clare and start his courtship...

My Opinion: I was a bit worried when I started this book because the reviews have been so-so... However, it turned out that I really enjoyed The Next Always! Perhaps it's because I went in with low expectations, but most probably I think it's because this book really suited my mood at that time :)

It seems to me the keyword to The Next Always was normal. Beckett and Clare live in Boonsboro where they grew up and therefore know almost everyone. They have normal lives, normal jobs, normal families. No big, dark secrets in their closets, no recent changes to adapt, no upheavals to overcome. Simply two persons who were friends and took their friendship a step further, with no obstacle standing in the way :)  It sounds simple and perhaps a little boring, but it wasn't. Sometimes, you need books like The Next Always because they're nice and feel real :)

I really liked the H/H in The Next Always. Beckett was a nice guy, fun even. He's had a crush on Clare for a long time and even now, often stops by her bookstore for books and coffee to see her :) I thought that was really sweet :) I loved how he connected with Clare's boys. He really enjoyed spending time with them and it showed. I liked that he wasn't out of his depth dealing with boys under 10 years old... Probably because he remembered being a boy of that age :) I also enjoyed Beckett's camaraderie with his own brothers. They really knew and understood each other well and had a good relationship. They also loved their mother, were a little scared of her and that was cute :) As for Clare, I liked her a lot as well. She was a great mom and her boys were happy and well adjusted. The children were definitively her priority, but she had space in her life for more :) I liked that she wasn't scared of starting a relationship with Beckett, that she didn't over-worry too much. I also liked her friendship with Avery and Hope - every woman needs girlfriends :) Ms Roberts also did a great job with the secondary cast. I loved Clare's sons, especially Murphy. They were a blast :) I liked what I've read so far of Owen, Ryder, Avery and Hope and I think Ms Roberts did a great job at keeping the sequel baiting at a minimum :)

The romance was nice and sweet :) Some feel that there wasn't enough focus on it, that Beckett and Clare didn't have enough alone time, but I didn't mind. They've known each other for a long time, so I didn't feel the need for them to always be together. Also, they were two busy persons - Beckett with the inn, Clare with the boys and the business, so it made sense to me that they couldn't always get together. However, when they did, they enjoyed it and that's what mattered :) The fact that there wasn't any big conflict worked for me, although it doesn't mean that the relationship was smooth sailing. There were a few kinks of course, but Beckett and Clare did a great job at communicating and compromising :) They were simply good together :)

One important part of the book was the inn and I know some feel that Ms Roberts focused a little bit too much on it... and most probably, they are right, but it didn't bother me. I considered the inn like another character of the book and as it is the central element to this trilogy, why not? In addition, I thought it was interesting to read about it. It made me feel part of the project. To read about Beckett and Justine's vision and reading about the brothers making it real... Also, may I say I really like the concept of the inn? The atmosphere they're aiming for, but also the rooms theme. Knowing it's real just makes it more awesome LOL. Oh and I thought the ghost was a nice touch to the story :)

The only thing that didn't really work for me is the stalker plot. I don't know, I think it didn't really fit with the mood of the book, although at the end, it was a good plot device to make Beckett and Clare's relationship advance. Also, now that I'm reviewing the book, it does seem that The Next Always is lacking a bit of depth. I mean, we really just see the surface of everything - the characters and the relationships. It doesn't bother me, but perhaps it will others ^_^;

My Grade: BThe Next Always is not Ms Roberts' most memorable book, but it worked for me. The writing was solid as usual and I liked the characters, the setting, the romance and the simplicity of the book :) I'm definitively looking forward to the next book in this trilogy, The Last Boyfriend. I really liked Owen - I find his organization skills sexy LOL.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review: Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep

Ugh, what an awful few days it's been. First, it's been really busy at work... and second, my computer is giving me trouble. Again. This time though, I'm throwing down the towel and I'm ready to buy a new computer. Except, buying one is not as easy as it seems or as it should be ^_^;  I'm debating whether I should still go with Dell or another brand and how long it'll take till I get it if I order it. Just yesterday night alone, I got the blue screen of death 6 times!!  That's not counting the number of times Chrome crashed on me! At the rate it's going, I won't be able to wait for long... so I'm thinking perhaps instant gratification at a store is the way to go instead of ordering online. Sigh, decision, decision, decision.

In the meantime, I'm really happy to finally have this review up!! Yay!! I'm really having a hard time putting reviews together lately. It's just not coming together nicely in my opinion... Despite that, I hope this review still make sense :) Let me know if it doesn't!!

Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep
published by Kensington in July 2011
My name is Gwen Frost, and I go to Mythos Academy — a school of myths, magic and warrior whiz kids, where even the lowliest geek knows how to chop off somebody's head with a sword and Logan Quinn, the hottest Spartan guy in school, also happens to be the deadliest.

But lately, things have been weird, even for Mythos. First, mean girl Jasmine Ashton was murdered in the Library of Antiquities. Then, someone stole the Bowl of Tears, a magical artifact that can be used to bring about the second Chaos War. You know, death, destruction and lots of other bad, bad things. Freaky stuff like this goes on all the time at Mythos, but I'm determined to find out who killed Jasmine and why—especially since I should have been the one who died...
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Series: Mythos Academy series, Book #1

The Story: In Gwen Frost's family, the women have powers. Her grandmother sees the future, her mother could sense the truth and Gwen knows, sees and feels an object or a person's history upon touch. Because of those powers, the Frost women are considered as Gypsies.

Six months ago, Gwen's mother died. Not long afterwards, Gwen was enrolled at Mythos Academy, an elite Ivy League prep school for the descendants of mythological warriors: Amazons, Valkyries, Romans, Vikings, Spartans, Trojans, Celts, Samurais, Ninjas and so on. Being the new kid is difficult, but in this case, Gwen just feels she doesn't fit in: she is not a warrior and cannot wield any weapon, she's not rich, she's not wearing any brand names and is into comics... Her friendless state doesn't really matter anyway as Gwen is still dealing with her grief.

Then, the most popular - and mean - girl, Jasmine Ashton, is murdered in the Library of Antiquities, where Gwen works, and the Bowl of Tears, one of the Thirteen Artifacts, is stolen... Jasmine wasn't among Gwen's favorite people, but she is bothered that everyone is indifferent to Jasmine's death. Something else that's on her mind is that Gwen actually touched Jasmine's blood and corpse... and didn't flash. Things just don't add up and therefore, Gwen decides to investigate Jasmine's death. And in the course of her investigation, she ends up making unexpected allies...

My Opinion: Well I've become a fan of Ms Estep with her Elemental Assassin series and I was looking forward to Touch of Frost because I thought that Ms Estep's writing would lend itself well to YA... and I was right :) Touch of Frost ended up being a really enjoyable read :)

I admit, I'm not a fan of high school drama. I know, I know, it's the predominant theme in YA books ^_^; I guess it's because I never experience high school drama to that extent, so I cannot relate. That's why I usually prefer paranormal or fantasy YA. However, in this instance, I think Ms Estep did a good job at blending the regular life of a teenager with the paranormal elements. It felt a bit like the Percy Jackon series version teenagers LOL. I like that while these characters were supernaturals: Valkyries, Spartans, etc., their concerns were ones from typical teenagers, i.e. going to school, having friends, their crushes, who are they going to go to the dance with and so on. For them, being supernatural didn't bring them more angst or make their lives so different. I liked that at Mythos Academy, they didn't need to hide who they were. As you can see, the setting  really worked for me.

Another aspect of the book that worked for me were the characters :) I really liked them. Gwen was a nice heroine that I could get behind and cheer for. She was quite independent and didn't really care about high school drama - a plus in my book :) I liked that she was her own person and was quite comfortable with it. I also liked that she wasn't too morose or depressed. Yes, her mother passed away and part of Gwen felt guilty and that's why she isolated herself in the past few months... However, she was ready to come out of her shell and move on, start making friends and live. Basically, she was a good character with a lot of potential and one that I'm curious to see what will happen to :) I also liked what I've seen of the secondary characters. I thought at first that Daphne would be a bitch, but it was nice to see things turn around and her becoming Gwen's ally. I'm looking forward for their relationship to develop :) Carson was a nice guy, a bit of a geek. I thought his romance with Daphne was cute and most likely, he will become the voice of reason in their little group. As for Logan, he was quite the mystery. It was hard to figure him out, as he blew hot and cold... Obviously though, the guy is interested in Gwen and I'm sure whatever his secret or reasons to be had to do with Gwen. Right now, I'm thinking he's her protector... He seemed to always be there at the right moment and probably know much more than he let on. I wonder how long it will take for Gwen to figure it out :)

There was a lot of world building in Touch of Frost, but Ms Estep was good at not dumping all the information at once. She was able to spread it out as the story went on and I thought the storyline was a good one. I liked seeing Gwen taking an interest and investigating Jasmine's death... although it felt like her amateur sleuthing was too easy. Also, the fact that the teachers didn't look more into Jasmine's death was highly suspicious in my opinion. In any case, the twist at the end was quite interesting and I didn't really expect it :) What I'm most happy about though is that Ms Estep cleared out the Gyspy thing in this book. First, it means she thought about it and so every dots should connect :) Also, it gives us a little idea of what to expect in the future.

All in all, Touch of Frost was a solid start to this series in my opinion. The style of the book is easy to read and enjoyable, the characters are engaging and the storyline was interesting. Ms Estep gives us enough information and answers so we are not too anxious and going crazy, but still looking forward to the next book :)

My Grade: B.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Self-promotion or harmless fun?

My plan for today was to have a review up... but as you can see, there is no review yet ^_^; One would think it shouldn't be too difficult to finish one that I've already started, but alas... I ended up cleaning my room yesterday ^_^; Poor excuse, but then, you haven't seen my room LOL. Then, today was busy, busy, busy! Plus, I blame Ames for stealing my reviewing mojo LOL. So instead, I've decided to bring up a discussion topic :)

The topic today is what do you think of authors mentioning bits and pieces of their other work in their newest books? And I'm not talking about books in a same series or that are loosely connected. For example, I was reading Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep and in it, Gwen mentioned how her mother and her enjoyed BBQ from the Pork Pit which is the restaurant that Gin, the heroine of her Elemental Assassin series, owns. In The Next Always by Nora Roberts, the rooms at the inn are named after popular romance couples such as Titiana and Oberon, Elizabeth and Darcy... and Eve and Roarke. I also remember in Night Pleasures by Sherrilyn Kenyon, the heroine was reading a book by Kinley MacGregor which is Ms Kenyon's pseudonym.

My question is: What do you think of those mentions? Is it self-promotion or harmless fun?

And when does it become too much? Once again, we go back to The Next Always by Nora Roberts. In Goodreads, Marg wrote in her thoughts of The Next Always: "Given that NR owns the Inn Boonsboro in real life, I can't quite decide if she is clever to write a story about something that she has personally spent a lot of time and effort on, if it is clever marketing for the town or Boonsboro or if it is one huge example of product placement." I read that comment a while ago and it stayed with me. I admit this is a bit different from what I brought up as it's not from Ms Roberts's previous books, but her real life... but I don't think it's off topic.

Personally, most of the time, I think it's fun that an author would mention something from her previous books in a newer one. Also, you have to be familiar with the books to catch those mentions so I think it's harmless and it's just fun for the authors as well :) I mean, as long as it doesn't overshadow the current story, it's all good and fun :)

When it comes from real life though, things become a bit more iffy. Usually, I don't have any problem either. For example, the Sherrilyn Kenyon and Kinley MacGregor thing - why not? :) Inside joke, right?  But recently, I read a book and it just rubbed me the wrong way. IIRC, it was in The Next Always again. They were looking to buy books for the library at the inn and a couple of romance author names were mentioned. It just seemed to me a bit clique-y. Are those authors friends with NR and that's why she mentioned them or simply just luck of the draw. I know, that's me being picky though and most probably, I'm over-thinking it ^_^;

As for the question Marg brought up...  Well I don't think it's a  huge product placement. Ms Roberts often write about different careers and she always does her research just well. This time she chose the inn to be the focus of this trilogy and it's not that different from her previous trilogies/quartets. Actually, while I knew she owned an inn, I didn't realize it was in Boonsboro. To me, it was simply a case of "you write what you know about." Although now that I am checking it out... the bookstore is indeed called Turn the Page and the Italian restaurant is Vesta, just like in the book. Hmmm, I guess the saying "ignorance is bliss" is true ^_^; Okay, now, perhaps I need to re-think this...

What are your thoughts?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monthly Reads: September 2011

Ugh, it's just just after midnight ^_^; Ah well, I can't do much about it. As I did not buy any books this week - yes, you've read that right and no, I'm not sick... simply, did you see my last two hauls?!? LOL. My plan for this week-end was to have my September reads post up to make up for no Hauling Sunday post - it's really becoming an habit. Plus, I'm already one month late... But as usual, my plans got derailed and instead of spending the week-end writing and refining this post, I ended up reading manga ^_^; I'm glad because it's been a while since I've read manga and I've discovered two new series :) However, on the down side, I didn't do anything... not blogging, not reading, and definitively not cleaning. Ah well, I guess I'll have to fit the cleaning some other time.

As a result, a word of warning, I have a feeling the mini-reviews are quite rough. I tried putting my thoughts together, but I feel they might not convey well what I mean to say about the books... plus, they might not be really coherent. Especially the last one... Anyway, you should get the gist though and there's always the grades you can trust :)

1) Demon Marked by Meljean Brook: B+

2) A Tale of Two Lovers by Maya Rodale: B-

This is Ms Rodale's second book in The Writing Girls Romance series. Lady Julianna Somerset is one of the four writing girls of The London's Weekly. She is secretly the author of the Society's column and while it started out as necessity, she has grown proud of her work. Julianna's identity as the author cannot be revealed as she wouldn't be invited to events anymore and Julianna needs this job as her deceased husband didn't leave much behind and she is too proud to ask help from her family as they disapproved her marriage - with good reasons. Julianna is always on the look-out for Lord Simon Roxbury as his love of women and good times always make good stories. Especially when she catches him in a torrid embrace with a woman dressed as a man! Of course, Julianna knows it's a woman... but it's never wrong to... imply.

To say Lord Simon is furious at the news, especially when his friends start giving him looks and ladies close their bedroom doors, is an understatement. Then, his father gives him an ultimatum to get married! Really, how is he going to achieve that when ladies are no longer receiving him? And Simon definitively knows who is to blame! And then, Lord Simon and Lady Julianna are caught in a compromising situation and have to get married... Can this marriage of convenience really turn into a love match?

I liked Ms Rodale's writing in A Groom of One's Own; however, the storyline wasn't to my taste. Therefore I was looking forward to A Tale of Two Lovers to see if Ms Rodale would make it on my list of authors to buy and I'm glad to report this book was more enjoyable than the previous one :) I think the storyline just worked better. It was very ironic that Julianna suggested in her column that Lord Simon had a penchant for men and that she ended up married to him LOL. Of course, she knew that it wasn't the case... Unfortunately, Simon kept finding himself in ambiguous situations LOL. So yes, that part was funny :)

I think A Tale of Two Lovers was a nice read, but I don't think it's a memorable one. Julianna and Simon were okay characters, but they don't capture your attention. What makes the book is the storyline. Personally though, I think I could have done without the marriage of convenience. There was enough material for Ms Rodale to work with: Julianna reporting on Lord Simon's tendency, Julianna wanting to discover the identity of her rival over at the other newspapers and Julianna's issues with marriage. I think the romance would have been more entertaining if they haven't been married. As it is, I think they fell in love a bit too fast. Just a thought.

So really, the jury is still out on Ms Rodale :) I'm most probably going to read more of her books; however, I'll be choosing the ones that attract me.

3) Archangel's Blade by Nalini Singh: C+

4) Revenge at Bella Terra by Christina Dodd: C-

Eli Di Luca's vineyard is in financial trouble and Eli is too proud to tell his family about it. Eli is becoming quite desperate when he is approached by this Italian man who proposes to save Eli's vineyard in exchange for Eli marrying his daughter. Eli thinks it's crazy... but he can't think of any other way out and accepts to woo Chloe Robinson, a best-seller author who needs a quiet place to overcome a severe case of second book syndrome. Chloe is aware of her father's matchmaking, but all that matters is her book and the deadline.

Revenge at Bella Terra just didn't work for me. It started out well enough for me with the introduction of the characters and the setting... Unfortunately, it didn't last ^_^; I liked the characters, but I think they didn't match each other well. First, there was the age difference between Eli and Chloe. Age is just a number and most of the time, if it's about 10 years give or take, I don't really care. The problem is that in this case, you felt the difference. Heck, it was obvious that Chloe made Eli feel old ^_^; and that's not good. Basically, Eli is a tough and hard man with quite a past, but he escaped and is now following his path making wines. Chloe is a young author, quite independent, who's really just starting her career. The two of them have nothing in common and quite frankly, there was no connection, no chemistry between the two. I also didn't like the idea that Eli precipitated Chloe into marriage to save his vineyard. I know at that point, he had feelings for Chloe, but the least he could have done was let her know what was going. It was obvious that the whole plan would exploded in his face and Chloe would be angry about it all. I just think it wasn't well done at all from Eli's part and it left a sour taste in my mouth.

Aside from the romance, the suspense was well done. There was a lot going on and I have to say, I liked the case concerning the still and the disappearance of the man. Unfortunately, I think the pacing didn't work that well and it probably has a lot to do with the balance of the book. As I said, there was a lot going on. Quite frankly, at the end of Revenge at Bella Terra, I wasn't involved in the book anymore and started skimming some parts, mainly because I wasn't engaged in the romance.

So I'm giving it a C- because there were some good elements in the book... Unfortunately, it just never came together for me.

5) Sean Grisworld's Head by Lindsey Leavitt: B
Upcoming Review.

6) The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June by Robin Benway: C+

April, May and June are going through a lot. Their parents have recently divorced, the girls had to move and are starting at a new school. As if it's not enough, they suddenly wake up with powers! April gets flashes of the future, May can become invisible and June can read people's thoughts! Of course, for June who wants to be popular, being able to know what others think come in quite handy. For May who's taken the divorce the hardest, becoming invisible is just reflecting her mood... although she's not sure she likes it quite that literal... And April who is the studious and responsible type, well now she's really a know-it-all!

This book came to my attention after I read a review for it on Alex' blog. I like psychic powers and I thought this would fit the bill. It also turned out that I was pretty burn-out in September, so to change things up, I started reading more YA. Good stuff for me :) The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June is more about the girls handling their new lives after the divorce and the new school and who just happens to have powers than them, dealing with their powers. I mean, sure they have to get familiar with their powers because May becoming invisible in public - not a good thing - and they use their powers and they were handy. However, what I mean is that these powers are not the focus of the story, the sisters don't look for the source of their powers or decide to play superheroes. In fact, I find that they adapt quite rapidly to their powers and it just becomes a part of their lives.

I'd say out of the three girls, I liked April's storyline the most and June's, the least. I'm sorry, but I can't help but dislike girls that want to be part of the popular group no matter what. Most of the time, these characters are just so superficial and I think that was the case with June. April, well I think it's because she kind of had a romance. May's storyline though was the most realistic I think. Being angry is normal at her age, but add everything that's going on and yeah, it's not easy to be a teenager. One thing that Ms Benway captured well in this book was the sisterhood, i.e. the bickering LOL. Okay, seriously, there was no doubts that these three girls were sisters... and the bonds between them were solid. Overall, The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June was really the story of three sisters going through a tough period in their lives and them having powers was just a bonus. It was a nice read, but not one that stood out.

7) Cheri on Top by Susan Donovan: B-
Upcoming Review.

8) New York to Dallas by J.D. Robb: C
Upcoming Review.

9) Second Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones: A-

10) The Duff (The Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger: C

Bianca Piper is not impressed by Wesley Rush whom she considers a man-slut, especially after he calls her the DUFF: the Designated Ugly Fat Friend. Unfortunately for her, she gets stuck with him on an assignment for English and therefore, can't ignore him.

Then, she learns that her mother, who's been going away more and more in the past years, has asked for a divorce and her father has started drinking again. Things are definitively not going well at home and Bianca needs to escape, needs to be distracted... and finds refuge in Wesley's arms. At first, it's just sex... but soon, Bianca realizes that Wesley is more than a man-slut. However, she's not sure she can see him under a new light and have a relationship with him. It gets even more complicated when her long-time crush becomes single...

There was a lot of buzz about this book on blogland last year and I wanted to check it out. I have to say though, straight contemporary YA novels are not my favorite... mostly because I don't really care about high school drama. On that front, The Duff wasn't bad at all. In fact, I think it had a lot of depth to it. Bianca is going through a tough time at home and wants to escape and she does it by having sex with Wesley and withdrawing from her friends. I thought what Bianca was going through and her way of coping was very realistic. And the more time she spent with him, the more she learned about the true Wesley. I can also understand why Bianca had difficulty to trust Wesley... Him calling her the Duff, well it didn't endear him to her and obviously, it brought into question whether or not he found her attractive and really wanted her. I did think Ms Keplinger started laying it a bit thick with Wesley's story though. Although there are more and more negligent parents and it made sense... it's just overall, The Duff was quite serious in tone and I think I need a bit of happiness, of glimmer somewhere.

Basically, I can understand why this book was so popular and such a success. It has depth and is quite realistic and I think it reaches a lot of the readers. Unfortunately, I'm not among those readers ^_^; I thought the book was a bit on the boring side with not a lot happening. There was just too much internal monologues and passages that it never really gripped me.

11) At Hidden Falls by Barbara Freethy: D

Isabella Silviera is on her way to Angel's Bay to visit her older brother when her car is hit and she almost goes over the cliff. Luckily for her, Nick Hartley was passing by and saved her. Instantly, there's an attraction between the two of them... However, Nick is in no position to get involved in a relationship. He's trying to mend his relationship with his teenage daughter who has recently moved in with him after she's spent the last 10 years with her mother in England and she is definitively his priority. Unfortunately for him, Angel's Bay is small and he keeps running into Isabella, especially when she decides to volunteer at the Hartley family theater. As for Isabella, while she understands Nick's position, she is not about to give up on the man... as he's been haunting her dreams for quite some time now.

At Hidden Falls was a meh book. Perhaps it's because I haven't read the first three books or it might have been my mood... but basically, I never got into this book. The whole storyline simply didn't appeal to me. I did like Isabella and Nick, but there was just too much going on and in the way. It bothers me when one minute, a character says s/he can't be in a relationship or can't do this or that and the next minute, s/he's doing exactly that. And this was the case with Nick. I don't think it makes you a bad parent if you start a new relationship... it's really simply the way you handle it. Nick was too wishy-washy and it ruined the romance for me. Despite Nick haunting Isabella's dreams, I never felt much chemistry between the two. Isabella is quite confident in herself, but she never went after Nick. Finally, they just didn't spend enough time together for me to really buy the romance ^_^;

Also, there was just too much about the subplot which was about a young, single mother disappearing. Her baby is left with the town's doctor who is still feeling the lost of her own baby as a teenager and who must choose between two beaux. And oh, the baby's father is married and actually, among one of four couples who wants to adopt the baby. Yeah, complicated, much, right? This part of the storyline was just too prominent and not really interesting as it didn't connect to the real main characters. I guess it does serve to set-up the doctor's book, but I never took the bait. Simply wasn't interested ^_^; Then, you add in my burn-out for small-town romances and all in all, this book didn't have much going on to interest me :(

12) Spider's Revenge by Jennifer Estep: B

13) Flawless by Carrie Lofty: B
Upcoming Review.

Books bought: + 15
Books read: -13
TBR pile: +2

September really felt like a slow month for me. The biggest problem I had that month is I started feeling burn-out on many genres. I just didn't feel like reading historical or contemporary romances which are two genres that I read a lot. Urban fantasy also held little appeal ^_^; That's when I started turning to YA and lucky me, it worked! I ended up with 13 reads, so overall I'm happy because it's in the double digits. I'm also happy that I managed to review quite a few of them already... Hopefully, I'll be able to review all I want.

All right, need to go to sleep now! Night night!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Review: Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

Hey everyone! How are you doing? There's nothing going on with me lately :( It's just the usual: work. I've been going out with some friends, but nothing out of the ordinary. Oh, the change of time though seems to give me an extra hour in the morning :) I'm not complaining LOL.

I'm working really hard on getting reviews for some books that I've read a while ago ^_^; These are books that I really wanted to review, so I'm doing my best so that they don't fall between the cracks! I seem to have find a balance between my reading and reviewing - it's been a while! Hope that it keeps on! :)

Today's review is Ghost Story by Jim Butcher. Hmmm, somehow, it's more of a gushing than a review ^_^; but hope you enjoy it nonetheless!

***Warning: This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk***

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher
published by ROC (New American Library) in July 2011

When we last left the mighty wizard detective Harry Dresden, he wasn't doing well. In fact, he had been murdered by an unknown assassin.

But being dead doesn't stop him when his friends are in danger. Except now he has nobody, and no magic to help him. And there are also several dark spirits roaming the Chicago shadows who owe Harry some payback of their own.

To save his friends-and his own soul-Harry will have to pull off the ultimate trick without any magic...
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Dresden Files, Book #13

The Story: Six months have gone by since the cliffhanger ending of Changes and Harry is given the chance by the higher powers to go back as a ghost and solve his own murder. Otherwise, three of the people he loves will come to great harm. With his friends' lives at stake, Harry does not hesitate one second.

However, once Harry arrives in Chicago, he is in for a surprise. First, it's May and there is still snow. Second, his beloved city has been invaded by dark beings. Indeed, with Harry - the biggest badass in the area- gone, many beings are no longer afraid of coming out and are vying for power, for territory. In order to counter these attacks and protect people, Murphy and Marcone have allied and formed a militia in which most of Harry's friends have engaged in. Then, there is his apprentice who has gone rogue and whom everyone seems to fear... Oh and let's not forget that as a ghost, Harry has some communication problems... and no magic.

Nonetheless, Harry is determined to help his friends, face old foes and find his murderer... Dresden's style :)

My Opinion: I realize that I've fallen behind in my reviewing of the Dresden Files books or of the Codex Alera books for that matter ^_^; I think one of the reasons is they're just so complex and most of the time, I'd sounded like a rabid fangirl LOL. However, I always look forward to a new release by Mr Butcher and try to get my hands on it ASAP. Ghost Story is his latest and I really wanted to review it because it was sooo good!

So the previous book in the series, Changes, was really titled appropriately because it was the catalyst of the series so far and brought a lot of changes to what the readers were familiar with. It also ended on a really big cliffhanger and I was really looking forward to Ghost Story to see what Mr Butcher would do! What would happen to Harry?!? And all I can say is that Mr Butcher really pulled it off :)

I love Harry. Even as a ghost, he's still himself :) He's a genius and a clown at once LOL. I liked that he's so oblivious to the notoriety he has built on over the year. I think that's a real sign of selflessness. In all his adventures, it wasn't about him, it was really about the people he helped and the circumstances. Also, it's nice to re-visit the whole gang. I thought that Bob now being in Butter's possession was quite clever. LOL, the bond between them just makes me laugh. It's also very nice to see Butters being more confident :) Molly's transformation is quite interesting as well. To me, it really makes sense. I kind of feel bad though that she has to live up to her mentor's and to some extent, her father's reputations. The poor girl is not a fighter, but she has to become one. The fact that she's not running away and instead is enduring Lea's tutelage is really brave and really shows her strength. By the way, Lea and Molly's combo is quite interesting and not one that I'd have predicted but once again, one that makes sense :) The only person I'm a bit wary is Murphy. She's never been weak, but now, with everything that's happened, she really toughened up, hardened up... and I found it unfortunate and sad :( I feel like she lost something and perhaps, it's part of her heart when Harry disappeared.

As usual, there's a lot going on in Ghost Story. It's full of action, pretty much non-stop, and fast-paced... and I simply loved it :) Mr Butcher brings back an old foe and it really fit the story. I really liked that part of the story. I enjoyed Fitz' introduction and I'm hoping he's going to become a recurring character. Finally, regarding Harry's death... Once again, it's really clever. I didn't figure it out, but once I read it, it simply made sense and it's so in character with Harry. I think Mr Butcher did a great job at foreshadowing it. Also, regarding the big revelation... I really liked that it didn't come out of no where either, that Bob and Harry were able to figure it out.

Okay, I guess that's why I don't often review Mr Butcher's books... because, in the end, it's not much of a review ^_^; It's quite simple though. First, if you've never read the Dresden Files books, don't start here! Then, if you're a fan of this series, I believe you're going to be happy with Ghost Story. It has all the elements that has made the Dresden Files series a success. It's thrilling and funny, you just want to keep reading and it's great to re-visit the characters. Yes, the storyline concerning the White Council has stalled, but it's not a bad thing. Considering what happened in Changes, Mr Butcher really had to address those issues and storylines first. I'm sure we'll be back on track very soon :) My only disappointment in Ghost Story is that we have no seen more of Mouse, Thomas and Ebenezar ^_^;

My Grade: A-. I really liked this book and am looking forward to the next one as always :)

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Review: Second Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones

Second Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones
published by St. Martin's Press in August 2011
When Charley is rudely awakened in the middle of the night by her best friend who tells her to get dressed quickly and tosses clothes out of the closet at her, she can’t help but wonder what Cookie’s up to. Leather scrunch boots with a floral miniskirt? Together? Seriously? Cookie explains that a friend of hers named Mimi disappeared five days earlier and that she just got a text from her setting up a meet at a coffee shop downtown. They show up at the coffee shop, but no Mimi. But Charley finds a message on the bathroom wall. Mimi left a clue, a woman’s name. Mimi’s husband explains that his wife had been acting strange since she found out an old friend of hers from high school had been found murdered a couple weeks prior. The same woman Mimi had named in her message.

Meanwhile, Reyes Alexander Farrow (otherwise known as the Son of Satan. Yes. Literally) has left his corporeal body and is haunting Charley. He’s left his body because he’s being tortured by demons who want to lure Charley closer. But Reyes can’t let that happen. Because if the demons get to Charley, they’ll have a portal to heaven. And if they have a portal to heaven... well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be pretty. Can Charley handle hot nights with Reyes and even hotter days tracking down a missing woman? Will Cookie ever get a true fashion sense? And is there enough coffee and chocolate in the world to fuel them as they do?
Genre: Mystery with paranormal elements,
Series: Charley Davidson series, Book #2

The Story: There's never a dull moment in Charley's life. Everything starts when Charley is rudely awakened by her neighbor/secretary/best friend Cookie. Cookie's friend, Mimi, who has disappeared 5 days earlier, has just contacted Cookie to meet at a coffee shop. However, when Charley and Cookie arrive at the coffee shop, there is no sign of Mimi... Instead, there's only a name. Charley agrees to help Cookie out and investigate on Mimi's disappearance. She quickly realizes that Mimi is in trouble when she discovers that Mimi's high school entourage has been dropping dead one after another. The fake FBI agents who paid a visit to Charley were also a pretty obvious clue.

Meanwhile, Charley is heading an investigation of her own. She's looking for Reyes Alexander Farrow's body. Reyes is the entity that has been haunting her and looking over her. Reyes is also her sort-of-boyfriend and Satan's son and his physical shell is being tortured by demons who want to know her whereabouts. Soon, he won't be able to take it anymore so he's decided to let his body die... To say that Charley is not thrilled with this idea is an understatement and thus, she's determined to find him. Unfortunately, there's the slight problem that Reyes is a fugitive and therefore, Charley can not openly ask for Uncle Bob's help... And as if all this was not enough, Charley's father is acting weird. Should she worry about it?

Yep, never a dull moment.

My Opinion: Well, Second Grave on the Left was another winner for me :) I'm really liking this series so far and am happy that 1) there is little wait between the books and 2) there is going to be more than three books in this series.

Basically, everything that I enjoyed in First Grave on the Right, I found in Second Grave on the Left :) Charley is still a fun heroine, but more importantly, she's interesting and intriguing. I like that there's a lot more to Charley than meets the eyes. As I mentioned in First Grave on the Right, my first impressions of Charley was that she reminded me of Stephanie Plum by Janet Evanovich. Mainly because she is quite a klutz and finds herself in preposterous situations :) However, as it turns out, Charley does know what she's doing. Actually, I find Charley to be smart, savvy and competent... but she hides herself behind a veil of absurdity that makes her hilarious. Mostly, I think it's her way of protecting herself. She's different and therefore, often misunderstood and feared. She's definitively been hurt in the past - by her own stepmother and sister, but also friends... and so she maintains a distance. So that's Charley as a human... but Charley is also the grim reaper. I liked the fact that when we met Charley, she already had a handle on her abilities and her functions as the grim reaper and that she's been learning as she grew up. I like that the powers weren't just foisted on her one day. Instead, she's had a lifetime to learn and adapt. Then again, I also like the fact that Charley has a lot more power than she thought and she is slowly uncovering it. To me, it makes sense that as she learns more about the world, she learns more about her abilities and her true nature :)

Along with Charley, we have a yummy hero, Reyes :) Reyes is another interesting character and he's still quite a mystery. I find Reyes' character to be refreshing. I like how dark and ruthless and how kind he can be. He's a very ambiguous character. Good or bad? Does it really matter? What matters is that he's willing to sacrifice himself to protect Charley and that Charley loves him. I do admit I'm anxious about the romance. Is there really a way for Charley and Reyes to be together at the end? I sure hope so!! I definitively don't want a love triangle somewhere in the future... However, I have to say Charley and Reyes are quite devoted to each other so perhaps we'll be spared. It feels to me that their romance is transcending, it's been thousand of years in the making... at the same time, it is so fragile, because when it comes down to it, Charley doesn't know Reyes. She is getting to know him though and she is dealing with what she learns... LOL, as you can see, Ms Jones has me invested in this romance! Don't need to tell you this is a good thing, right? LOL.

Finally, I really enjoyed the mystery aspect of the book. The case about Mimi was interesting and quite suspenseful. I also liked that Charley is delving more into Reyes' past, finding out more about him and meeting his best friends. Most interesting is Ms Jones's good use of Charley's informants and aides which of course, are from the ghostly nature :) It gives her some leeway when it comes to the mystery because Charley gets information that usually wouldn't be available to her. At the same time, Charley actually does some investigating of her own, gets information the old fashion way. For me it works, because the ghosts are involved in both Charley's professions - PI and grim reaper - and let's face it, they make for great secondary characters :) With everything going on, Second Grave on the Left is full of action and very fast-paced; I couldn't turn the pages fast enough :) I do admit that at time, there was perhaps a bit too much going on and I was confused a little... but overall, I think Ms Jones did a great job at balancing everything and keeping the readers at the edge of their seats :)

My Grade: A-. I really enjoyed and loved Second Grave on the Left. It was a great book and my issue with it was pretty minor and will probably clear up once I re-read it at a slower pace. All in all, I'm really happy I gave this series a go and it's probably my "find" of the year so far :)

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Hauling Sunday LXII

And another week has gone by. Not much we can do about it, right? LOL. At least, this week was good :) My boss was out sick - very unfortunate for him, but that meant I had a light workload. Didn't have the chance to play hooky though :P Instead, I worked on catching up on things like the samples inventory and thawing the freezer. Not very fun things, but things I can never get around to when my boss is around.

Then, I went ahead and had fun with books :) First, there was a 31% off at Harlequin for Halloween. Li has been on a Kelly Hunter binge. I read a couple of her books a while ago and really enjoyed it... but somehow, she slipped off my radar. When Ames told me about the special at Harlequin, I was determined to put her back on the radar :)

Her Singapore Fling by Kelly Hunter - This is the last book of the Bennetts series and the one the blurb attracted me most, so that's why I got it :)

The Man She Loves to Hate by Kelly Hunter - I was looking at the reviews on Goodreads and Jane for Dear Author mentioned how the setting of this book is quite similar to After the Night by Linda Howard which is a book I really, really, really enjoyed :) So it was a no-brainer that if I was going to re-discover Ms Hunter, I was getting this book :)

Playboy Boss; Live-In Mistress by Kelly Hunter - I liked the blurb of this book. Seemed like my kind of book :)

Always the Bridesmaid by Nina Harrington - There was a review not long ago on Dear Author that caught my attention. I've been keeping this book in mind ever since and this was the perfect occasion to get it :)

Then, I received a book that I've pre-ordered a while ago...

The Next Always by Nora Roberts - Quite a no-brainer for me. I love Ms Roberts' writing and even though the reviews have been so-so, I was happy to get my copy and proceeded to read it :) I have to say , the cover is pretty, but I think it's even better when you're holding it :)

Finally, I went to the bookstore. The 20% off coupon was still valid and so, I went to get the books released on November 1st :)

The Comforts of Home by Jodi Thomas - I'm loving Ms Thomas' Harmony series and was really glad to get my hand on the newest one! I probably sound like a broken record, but there is something special about Ms Thomas' writing. I also like the fact that Ms Thomas' characters are really different than what I'm used to :)

Heart of Darkness by Lauren Dane - By now, you all know my weakness for witches and wizards, right? :) So that's one reason I picked up this book. Another is I've been wanting to give her a serious try. I have some of her Brown Siblings books... unfortunately, they don't really appeal to me ^_^; This one does though.

His Mistress by Christmas by Victoria Alexander - Ms Alexander is my comfort author when it comes to historical romance. There's just something about her writing, characters and books that work for me :) Plus with the 20% off coupon, I didn't hesitate anymore because this was a trade-size book :)

Baby It's Cold Outside by Addision Fox - This book just caught my eyes. I love the cover and on the back, there's an adorable husky puppy!! Of course, the blurb was interesting as well!

The Spy Who Left Me by Gina Robinson - I've never read Ms Robinson, but this book sounded a little absurd and a lot funny :) And lately, I've been in the mood for funny, so this one should be right up my alley :)

And there it is, my haul for this week :) A really nice haul!! Now, technically, this should be it till the end of the month because there's nothing that I want coming out till November 22 at least. However, it turns out that next week-end is Chapters/Indigo Family and Friends week-end, so that means 15% off on everything (plus my 10% iRewards membership). Sigh, why now? Why not at the end of the month or early December?!? Ah well, we'll see how things go ^_^;

What about you? What are your new precious?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Review: Changing the Game by Jaci Burton

How are you doing everyone? Hope you had a nice week-end and that your Halloween was very spooky! LOL. It's a new month, so head over to Breezing Through to look at the new releases we're looking forward to :)

I've been in a bit of a reading slump. I have no problem re-reading books, but new ones? I just don't know what I feel like reading ^_^; Ah well, if I can't read, why don't I review? :) It's funny how some books are easier to review than others... I was going to  cover Changing the Game in my Monthly Read post of August, but it just begged for a post of its own :) So here it is! Enjoy!

Changing the Game by Jaci Burton
published by Berkley in August 2011

Most people play by the rules. Gavin and Liz aren't most people...

Win at any cost. That's always been the mantra of sports agent Liz Darnell. When she carries things too far and risks losing her number-one client, baseball pro Gavin Riley, Liz realizes that she'll have to work extra innings to win him back. It might not be too much of a stretch. She's had a thing for this player's moves since she first laid eyes on him, and by the looks of it, he wants her just as bad.

Gavin's more than ready—especially when Liz is offering herself as part of the bargain. And as much of her as Gavin wants. For added thrills, he decides to throw a little curve ball Liz's way to see just how far she's truly willing to go to keep him as a client. But when love unexpectedly enters the playing field, neither Liz nor Gavin are ready for the biggest game-changer of them all.
Genre: Sport romance
Series: Play by Play trilogy, Book #2

The Story: Liz has had a crush on Gavin Riley for a long time, but never acted on it because he was her client. After losing Mick, Liz believes that Gavin will side with Mick and fire her as well, so she gives in her long-time crush and kisses him at the end of Perfect Play. It's been months now since the kiss and Liz has been avoiding Gavin. When they find themselves at the same sport banquet, it is time for Liz to face the music. However, instead of being fired as she expected, Liz ends up having very hot sex with Gavin.

Gavin has no intention of firing Liz as she's done a good job with his career. He's always kept his relationship with Liz professional, but with the kiss and Liz' belief that she'll be fired, things have changed. He's seen a different side of Liz, one that he wouldn't mind exploring. Soon, Gavin and Liz find themselves embarking in a fling - one that they both enjoy.

However, is it good to mix pleasure and business? Especially when not everyone in Gavin's entourage is welcoming Liz?

My Opinion: Like many readers, I had my doubts when I started Changing the Game because I didn't really like Liz' character in Perfect Play. However, Liz turned out to be a pleasant surprise and instead, Gavin is the one who didn't measure up.

I really enjoyed the first half of the book. It was all about Gavin and Liz and they were fun to read about :) I liked seeing them together, enjoying each other's company and getting to know each other better. While Gavin and Liz have known each other for years, it's always been more on a professional level. Sure, over the years, Liz has become a family friend, but I suspect she always kept more distance between herself and Gavin than she did with Mick and as a result, there was a lot about him that she didn't know. Inversely, Gavin learned more about Liz - her life, family and her motivation for her job. All in all, I think they made a great couple and I enjoyed them together with the baseball setting as a backdrop :)

As I mentioned earlier, I ended up liking Liz' character a lot more than I expected. Mainly because she was nicer, but also more real and more sincere. In Perfect Play, she was portrayed as the villain, a bit one-dimensional, but in truth, her character has a lot of depth and Ms Burton did a great job at fleshing it out. I really liked the fact that she had to deal with the fall-out of her action and that she learned a valuable lesson. Though she did make a mistake meddling in Mick's love life; ultimately, it wasn't with bad intent and that made her more sympathetic to me. I liked that her complex character was paired up with someone "simpler" like Gavin. By simpler, I mean that Gavin is just a regular guy who plays professional baseball. Sure, he has enjoyed the high life and the perks of his job - who wouldn't? But he wasn't too much of a jock, didn't have a big, dark secret in his closet or a sob story as his past. That contributed to make the couple more fun and easier to enjoy. And oh, let's not forget the sizzling chemistry that Gavin and Liz shared :)

Other things that I enjoyed from this book was the Riley family - well, Gavin's parents and his sister, Jenna :) The parents are really good people, genuinely nice and they kept their sons grounded to earth :) Jenna is spunky and doesn't let people walk over her which is good considering how popular her brothers are. I really liked that they didn't hold a grudge against Liz for her actions in Perfectly Play and welcome her back. I also think that Ms Burton did a great job at giving this contemporary romance its "sporty" atmosphere. It was just the right amount of baseball and jocks for this to really feel like a sport romance and I liked that she stayed away from the clichés :)

Unfortunately, I had some issues with this book. I enjoyed the first half, but I think the book started losing some steam about half-way. Why? Well because, there was no real storyline going on ^_^; The first half was pretty much about Liz and Gavin fooling around and getting to know each other better. Lots of sex going on - a bit too much in my opinion - and not much else. So when the conflict appeared, it seemed a bit out of no where... I don't want to give too much away, but I just don't understand how Gavin could say that to Liz. He spent half the book taking Liz' side and then suddenly, does a 180 and is suspicious of her?!? It didn't make sense to me and it was really hurtful for Liz. The worst is that I don't think he really believed what he was saying... it was more as if he wanted to hurt her with his words! I'm really glad Liz didn't let him treat the way he did and she walked out. However, I have to say it ruined his character a little bit for me. Also, I don't really  get Gavin's attitude or reaction towards his father's heart attack. I understand being concerned and I think that him taking time off to care for his father was very filial. But not going back to play... when you want to play? Especially when his father was recovering well and urging him to go back? It seemed out of character for me.

One more thing that really bothered me throughout Changing the Game was Mick. Oh gosh, he was a jerk and soooo annoying!!! I understand that he was mad at Liz for what she did... but Liz has apologized and even paid for it and Tara has forgiven her. So what else did he want? He kept harping on it like a broken record and in the process, poisoned Gavin and Liz' relationship a little... and at the end of it all, he asks Liz to be his agent again?!?! Are you kidding me? Have I been Liz, I would have turned him down.

Overall, I think that Changing the Game started off well. I enjoyed the chemistry between Liz and Gavin, the interactions between Liz and the Rileys... However, I feel there was a lack of direction in the book which was reflected in the lack of goal/purpose for the H/H. Good chemistry and hot sex can only carry a book so far. That being said, I'm curious about Jenna's book. She's very different from Tara and Liz and from what we've seen, she seems to have enough personality to carry the book on her own :)

My Grade: C+.