Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: Redwood Bend by Robyn Carr

Disclaimer: I've received Redwood Bend as an eARC from Netgalley

Redwood Bend by Robyn Carr
published by Mira (Harlequin) in February 2012

Katie Malone and her twin boys’ trip along the beautiful mountain roads to Virgin River is stopped short by a tire as flat as her failed romance. To make matters worse, the rain has set in, the boys are hungry and Katie doesn’t have the first clue about putting on a spare. As she stands at the side of the road pondering her next move, she hears a distinct rumble. The sight of the sexy, leather-clad bikers who pull up beside her puts her imagination into overdrive.

Dylan Childress and his buddies are on the motorcycle trip of a lifetime. But the site of a woman in distress stops them in their tracks. And while the guys are checking out her car, she and Dylan are checking out one another.

In one brief moment, the world tilts on its axis and any previous plans Katie and Dylan might have had for their futures are left at the side of the road.
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Virgin River series, Book #18

The Story: Katie Malone is a widow raising 5-years-old twin boys. She's moving to Virgin River to be closer to her brother, who's been the only male influence for her sons. On the way to Virgin River, she gets a flat tire and is helped by leather clad bikers. One of them she recognizes as Dylan Childress who used to be a child/teen actor and made Katie dreamed.

Dylan is on a motorcycle trip with his friends and colleagues, but he has other purposes to be in California. He has a small charter flying company in Montana and he is facing some hard time with this economy. He hopes to visit other airports and struck some deals with them... If not, he'll consider his back-up plan - go to Hollywood and make one or two movies to tide things over till the economy picks up.

Neither expected romance, but that's exactly what they found... but the road to a HEA ending won't be easy.

My Opinion: Wow, book #18!! Hard to believe it's been almost 5 years since I picked up Virgin River on a whim!! Even after so many books, I find Virgin River and Jack's Bar to be warm places - almost idyllic - that I'd love to visit :) Guess Ms Carr has been doing a good job :) While the place has not lost its charms, the books themselves have been a bit like a roller coaster with ups and downs. They are definitively some that stand out, like Wild Man Creek, which is why I keep reading the series. I was hoping Redwood Bend would be one, especially since it got positive feedback... unfortunately, it wasn't. Before I launch myself into this review, I'd like to mention that I did not read Hidden Summit, the previous book in the series. However, I don't think I missed any vital information and it didn't impact my enjoyment of Redwood Bend. All right, here we go :)

For me, the strength of Redwood Bend was the setting and the characters. There's a reason why readers keep reading the Virgin River series. Obviously, the writing is good :) But the real reason is the setting, the place itself: Virgin River. It's the rustic and isolated feeling Virgin River gives off, the warmth and helpfulness of its inhabitants. It's a quiet and charming place to be, a bit too true to believe and perfect for fiction :) Yes, the conditions are harder... but the concerns and priorities are different and so is the lifestyle than in big cities. You can do more with less. And there's a sense a community in Virgin River that is so strong - the kind that you used to find in all neighborhoods and that is slowly fading away in suburbs and big cities. It's nice to revisit such a place in Redwood Bend :) It was warming to see Katie and her two boys be welcomed in Virgin River and how easily they settled in. It was also great to revisit some of the characters such as Jack and Preacher. Jack is definitively the core of the community, not just because of his bar, but his personality... so it's not a surprise to see him again. As for the rest of the cast, I think Ms Carr did a good job at balancing their apparitions so the spotlight was not taken away from Katie and Dylan.

As I mentioned, the other strong aspect of this book for me was the characters, i.e. Katie and Dylan. Katie is a widow raising two 5 years old twin boys. I loved how her maternal side came through in Redwood Bend. She's really what I imagine a mother of two active young boys to be. A Buddha with multiple hands, preventing her sons' action to get out of hand and creating full-blown chaos :) But even SuperMom needs a break from time to time... Katie simply felt real and that was nice. As for Dylan, I admire him for the man he has become... especially since he did not have a great start. As a very popular teen actor, Dylan was spoiled, basically a brat, who got into drugs and alcohol. Luckily for him, his grandmother got him in hands and straighten him out and he made it. I liked how loyal he was to his employees, accepting to do something he didn't love anymore - acting - to keep his business afloat. I think he was a very nice and good man.

My issue with this book is I felt Katie and Dylan had no chemistry together. They're attracted to each other and then, Dylan finds himself hanging around Virgin River longer to be close to Katie and they have a fling. That part was kind of cute, but I needed more. What held them together, what made this romance work besides physical attraction? There wasn't really a connection between them, so I wouldn't be able to answer... Okay, I could, but aside from the surprise result. Sure, they were both nice people... but what else? They simply didn't seem to fit each other. Katie was SuperMom and Dylan was the ex-heartthrob who didn't believe he'll ever have a family, given the example his parents set out and his estranged relationships with all relatives except his grandmother. I mean, technically, in real life, these people would never have started a fling. Also, I was quite disappointed that there was no bonding between Dylan and the twins :( That's one thing I always enjoy in books with small children, their interactions between the H/H. In this case, it was awkward. Yes, the twins got attached to Dylan eventually, but we don't see how this attachment is formed... and I suspect it is more due to proximity and time, than actual feeling ^_^; Also, I felt there was no trust between Katie and Dylan. It seems to me Katie was too quick to believe the worst out of Dylan, all the stories written in the gossip magazines. She didn't even give him the benefit of doubt. I felt that given the amount of time she spent with him and their intimate relationship, she would know him better and have more confidence in herself and more faith in Dylan.

Another issue I had with Redwood Bend was the event that happened at the end of the book with one of the twins. Yes, Ms Carr foreshadowed it... but I felt it was a tad far-fetched. I don't get why the boy would suddenly have an inclination to go into the forest ^_^; I seemed out of character for me and I guess it was there to add some drama, but I think the story could have done without it.

Despite all the issues, I did like how the romance was resolved and the ending of the book :) I thought it was nicely done and I liked how Dylan didn't give up his home. Oh and I have to say, one of my favorite part of the book was when Dylan's grandmother came to visit! I thought it was sweet she was looking out for Dylan... Plus, I liked how she was an acquaintance of Muriel. The world is indeed small LOL.

My Grade: C+. All in all, Ms Carr delivers another nice installment in the series. While it didn't wow me, it was nice and cozy. Fans of the series will most probably enjoy it :)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hauling Sunday LXXI

Another quiet week for me when it came to books - both reading and buying. I was really hoping to buy some books for this week-end, but they haven't shown up in the bookstores :( Now, I only hope they'll be out this week!

So my only loot this week is these two ebooks:

Conor's Way by Laura Lee Guhrke - Decided to get a digital copy of the book :) I mean, why not when it's only 0.99$!

Ride with Me by Ruthie Knox - Nice cover, positive reviews and interesting premise are the reasons I picked up this book :)

Told you it was quiet. I definitively need to get my hands on new books this week, otherwise, I'm heading for the reading slump. It wasn't too bad this past week because I had curling to watch... but there'll be none this week :( Sigh.

What are you all reading? Anything good that I should rush to the bookstore and get? Let me know!!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Week-End's Minis III: Because of the List by Amy Knupp

Guess what? We're having snow!! Yep, about 6 inches of snow has fell since yesterday afternoon ^_^; The weather for the past couple of weeks has been so mild that I think people started to hope LOL. This week, I actually walked in the mud because the snow was almost all melt! It definitively felt like spring... and then bam, snow! And the wet, heavy kind also! I wished I had taken pictures so I could show you the contrast! And according to forecast, we're getting another 4-6 inches in the coming week. Oh joy ^_^; I don't mind snow, but it makes traffic nightmare-ish!! Luckily, this coming week is spring breaks for most students and so, there won't be such an impact. Yay! So how's the weather where you live? LOL.

I haven't been reading much. I'm waiting for the new releases and unfortunately, none made it to the bookstores yet T_T Hopefully by Tuesday, they'll be there... Otherwise, I might go in severe withdrawal! The good news is that I've been blogging a lot! So much that it's taken a bit of a toll on me ^_^; It seems I can never reach the right balance between reading and blogging LOL. Anyway, because of that, I've decided to only write one mini-review and this week's winner is Because of the List by Amy Knupp! :) So enjoy!!

Oh and don't forget to vote for next week's book :) By the way, the poll is new every Saturday!

Oh and for those who were wondering, curling has been very good :) Strong field this year and many tight games... In the end, 4 teams came on top: Manitoba, BC, Alberta and Quebec. My favorite team is Manitoba, so I hope they'll win... but I'll be happy if Quebec does :)

Because of the List by Amy Knupp
published by Harlequin in November 2011
Taylor McCabe likes equations. They make sense. But one buttoned-up computer whiz plus an injured army pilot simply does not add up. It's time to get over her childish crush on Alex Worth, her brother's best friend, and find a husband. Enter The List—Taylor's ten must-have traits for a viable suitor.

But her plan goes awry when Alex insists on vetting each contender. The way he dismisses them feels like the actions of a protective boyfriend. Strangely, his attitude makes her even more attracted to him. Too bad he doesn't meet even one of her requirements...
Genre: Category romance, contemporary romance
Series: None

What do you need to know about the storyline? Alex was Quinn's, Taylors big brother, best friend. They grew up and went to war together where Alex was a helicopter pilot. Unfortunately, during a mission, Alex crashed... and Quinn died. Alex is determined to overcome his injury and return to war, because flying gives him a sense of purpose and that's what Quinn would have done. In the meantime, he feels guilty about the death of Quinn and decides to keep an eye on Taylor, especially since she's started dating. That's what her big brother would have done... or a protective boyfriend.

Why this book? Lori reviewed it back in January TBR Challenge and she enjoyed it. Then, Hils picked it up and also enjoyed. So I thought Because of the List was worth a try then :) Plus, I enjoy the SuperRomance line :)

So my thoughts? I enjoyed Because of the List. I thought the writing and the characterization were solid. Ms Knupp did a great job taking things slowly and really developing the romance and the characters. Perhaps at time, it felt a little draggy, but I think draggy is better than rushed, because at least, you get the answers and it's more believable. Also, I felt this story was very realistic - the emotions the characters felt and their actions, but none was overdone. I especially liked how both Taylor and Alex handled their grief for Quinn and came to term with it.

I thought all the characters were likable, from our H/H to the secondary characters which were mainly Alex's family. I liked Taylor because she was sensible and a total brainiac. Yet, Ms Knupp didn't fall into stereotypes. Instead she layered the character. Taylor was a bit of a geek, was a bit shy and liked organization, but her world wasn't just about her work and computers. She liked shoes, enjoyed shopping and wasn't totally socially-awkward. When she struck a friendship with Alex's sister, she opened up and it was fun to see and the friendship between the two women was great :) I also thought her list for the perfect man was hilarious because it was so impossible! LOL.

My only complaint and it's the reason why Because of the List gets the grade it does and not higher despite having solid writing, characters and storyline is the lack of originality. Contemporary romance authors definitively need to start finding original ideas, because it's getting boring out there. Let see, Alex was the wounded hero who was determined to get better, go back and fly again, despite what everyone said about his injury. Rings a bell? There's also the overprotective act brought on by guilt... And the one romance trope that I'm starting to really hate, the no-string-attached sex that quickly becomes a lot more, but one party doesn't want to. Ugh!! This one was even more annoying in Because of the List, because Taylor was obviously not the kind of women to have no-string-attached sex. However, they both ignored that little fact because they wanted each other sooo much. See I'm thinking here, it's not because you want, that you have to get. I'm just really, really tired of this trope because it's been over-used and we all know what's going to happen at the end. If only there was many ways to play it out, it'd be better... but it doesn't. Sigh. And that really dimmed the enjoyment of the book for me... because while there was a lot of positive elements in Because of the List, the crux of the book was the tropes I mentioned above. Nothing outshone them :(

My Grade? B-. Because of the List is one of the better category romance I've read recently :) It was enjoyable with a good story, good development, good characters and solid writing. At the same time, I felt it could have been more, could have been better if the conflict wasn't so familiar ^_^;

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review: My Wicked Little Lies by Victoria Alexander

Well, looks like I'm on a roll!! Wooohoo! Just too bad it's coming at a cost - my reading. Then again, not many books I feel like reading, plus there's curling, so I better just blog when the muse is here, right? :)

Today on the program is a buddy review over at Breezing Through :) My partner is Hilcia and we're discussing one of my favorite authors' new release, My Wicked Little Lies! Click here for the review :) By the way, don't you think the cover is pretty? :P

My Wicked Little Lies by Victoria Alexander
published by Kensington in January 2012

Evelyn Hadley-Attwater has it all--a genteel Victorian life replete with loving husband, ball gowns and elegant parties. No one, including the man she married, suspects that she was once "Eve," a spy for England's most enigmatic intelligence agency. Summoned for one final assignment, the excitement of her former life and memories of her mysterious, flirtatious boss "Sir" prove too tempting...

Adrian Hadley-Attwater is a respectable, dignified gentleman. But even the most proper gentlemen have secrets of their own. Secrets from the rest of the world, from their families, from their wives. Secrets that have a price. Now, as a veil of secrecy frays, a tantalizing game of cat and mouse will test the bounds of unfailing love...
Genre: Historical romance
Series: Sinful Family Secrets series, Book #2

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Monthly Reads: January 2012

LOL, it seems to me I'll never be getting these posts "on time" anymore. So to remedy that problem? Easy, change the date! Instead of the first of the next month, you can expect my Monthly Reads posts from now on to go up during the third week of the month :) That way, it gives me time to focus on reviews of books I've just read instead of juggling both months together :)

This month, I'm really happy at the number of reviews I've written :) Plus, even though there's only been two editions, the Week-End's Minis feature is working! I got some nice mini-reviews out of it and this means I'll have less to review in this post :) I also think that instead of writing mini-reviews in this post, I'll just stick to my thoughts of the books? I'll just go with the flow and see :)

So let's take a look at what I read in January :)

1) The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander: C-

I've been wanting to read Paradise by Ms Alexander for a long time because Ames really enjoyed that book. However, I haven't had the opportunity to, but stumbled across The Sweetheart of Prosper County and decided to give it a go after reading Alex's review. I really hope that Paradise is better ^_^; The story of The Sweetheart of Prosper County goes along the lines of: every year, Prosper County has a parade and Austin Gray thinks that if she can be the parade's sweetheart, the bane of her existence will stop harassing her and making jokes. So for Christmas, she asks for a rooster and intends to enter it at the fair contest.

Basically, I have mixed feelings about this book. I enjoyed the writing, the style and how time went by flawlessly. I liked how Austin got a rooster LOL. So unusual. Unfortunately, I wish there had been more development... for just about everything ^_^; I didn't really care for Austin very much. I thought she was immature and cared too much about what other people said, especially Dean - the bully. I also think that given how small the community is, some parents should have stepped up and deal with Dean's behavior. It is pretty classic of today's society, letting your kid do anything they want without real consequences and to have the parents buy their way out. There was potential in the relationships, Austin making new friends and her crush, but there just wasn't enough of it. It wasn't developed enough for me to really care :(

2) My One and Only by Kristan Higgins: C+

3) Twice Fallen by Emma Wildes: B
Upcoming Buddy Review.

4) Bride by Mistake by Anne Gracie: B+

5) It Takes a Witch by Heather Blake: B

6) Hidden by Kelley Armstrong: A-

7) Whispers in the Dark by Maya Banks: E

8) Island Heat by Sarah Mayberry: C

9) No One Left to Tell by Karen Rose: A

10) Destiny by Carly Phillips: C

11) The Shy Duchess by Amanda McCabe: C-

Did you see the cover? I simply fell in love with it and after checking out the blurb, decided to give The Shy Duchess a go :) The story is about Lady Emily Carroll, the daughter of a viscount or an earl who desperately wishes for his daughter to make a good match. Lady Emily Carroll could be the belle of the ton, if only she wasn't so shy. In addition, her shyness is also mistaken for haughtiness, earning her the nickname of "Ice Princess." Nicholas, the Duke of Manning, knows his duty is to marry and have heirs and is therefore looking for a wife. While Lady Emily is beautiful, she is not the one, as she wouldn't fit in his boisterous and scandal-ridden family. However, circumstances throw them together and when they are caught in a compromising situation, both Nicholas and Emily have no choice. Especially since scandal is the last thing Nicholas wants... but sometimes, scandal is inevitable.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I really liked the characters and the romance. Emily and Nicholas were both likable characters that you could cheer for :) The romance was sweet and I liked how it progressed, the fact that they spent time together, got to know each other and fell in love. It was a very natural process. Even though Emily was not Nicholas' choice of bride, he went into the marriage open-minded and gave Emily and their marriage a chance. He found out that Emily was a lovely woman on the shy side who was very eager to please and make him happy, that she wasn't at all haughty or snobbish. As for Emily, she found out that Nicholas was a good man who took his responsibilities seriously and loved his family.

What didn't work for me was the direction the book took. From the blurb, I expected the author to focus on Emily's shyness and the ways she would overcome it. I thought Nicholas would draw her out. Instead, once Emily and Nicholas were married, her shyness was barely mentioned and instead, the focus shifted to some external conflicts that appeared a bit out of nowhere and which I thought were superfluous and a little far-fetched :( In addition, when it came time for me to write this post, I could barely remember what were those conflicts about ^_^; In the end, I really liked Nicholas and Emily... Unfortunately, they weren't enough to keep me totally engaged and in the end, The Shy Duchess turned out to not be a memorable read :(

12) Mad about the Earl by Christina Brooke: B-
Upcoming Review.

13) Midnight Caller by Leslie Tenter: C-

After reading No One Left to Tell, I was really in the mood for romantic suspense and therefore picked up Midnight Caller. The main appeal, aside from being RS, was that the hero was from the FBI and I was hoping for a story focused on the investigation.

FBI Special Agent Trevor Rivette of the Violent Crimes Unit has been pursuing a serial killer, who's been exsanguinating his victims, for over a year when he ends up in New Orleans. Trevor can't help but wonder if the end game taking place in New Orleans is a coincidence or a taunt from the killer given Trevor's past. By pure luck, Trevor figures out that Dr. Rain Sommers - psychologist, host of a late-night radio show and daughter of a deceased emerging rock star - might be a target... Or at least, the caller named Dante is a person of interest. In order to catch this killer, Trevor intends to ask for Rain's help to introduce him into the gothic circles... and potentially act as bait.

I thought Midnight Caller started out really well and was quite intriguing. Also, the storyline had some nice twists and surprises :) I also really liked Trevor's character and his background story. His reluctance to come back to New Orleans was totally understandable and I was glad to see him reconnect with his family and that the three siblings are moving forward. However, I didn't like the direction in which the storyline veered. The whole goth scene and vampiric feel of the case just didn't appeal to me. If anything, it turned me off ^_^; The romance also didn't work for me because of the lack of chemistry between the H/H, the fact that I didn't connect with Rain and therefore didn't care for her character and also, the timing and pacing of the romance. Finally, I was quite disappointed with the investigation aspect of Midnight Caller. There was just too much going on and therefore, we didn't have much of a feel of the investigation going on. And while I do believe in gut instinct, the way Trevor figured out that Dante was a person of interest in this case, by just happening to be listening to Rain's radio show? It just seemed a bit too coincidental and far-fetched to me.

That being said, Ms Tentler showed me enough potential in her debut novel that I will most probably give her another try :)

14) Joy by Jayne Ann Krentz: D

A couple of years back, I went on a Jayne Ann Krentz' binge and ever since, I've been collecting her backlist. Joy seemed like one I would enjoy based on the storyline. A.C. Reyson is celebrating his break-up with Daisy Middlebrook as he realized they didn't suit each other and both escaped from the marriage her parents were hoping for. Then Reyson meets Daisy's older sister, Virginia, and sparks fly. However, both have had bad marriages previously and have decided to take things slowly. Then, Reyson decides to take their relationship to the next level and whisk Virginia away on a Caribbean trip.  During this trip, Reyson wins an emerald bracelet during a high stake poker game. He never expected this bracelet to put them in danger...

As you can see by the grade, I didn't enjoy Joy as much as I hoped :( It's unfortunate, because Joy had all the signs of a classic JAK, but it simply didn't deliver. Once again, I thought the beginning of this book was very promising. I liked how Virginia and Reyson were taking things slow, getting to know each other. However, once they went on the trip, the book went downhill. My main issue with Joy was with Reyson. At first, I thought he was very considerate taking things slow... the problem is that it didn't last. He started pressuring Viginia - to have sex, to move in together, etc. It wasn't done meanly or abusively, but I didn't like it nonetheless. He was short-tempered when he didn't get his way and he didn't seem to hear what Virginia was telling him... and that pretty much ruined the book for me. The other thing that didn't work for me was the suspense. I thought it was pretty obvious, not well integrated into the romance and the pacing was bad.

One thing I found interesting though is that Joy was first published in 1988. In the novel, the heroine had a really bad first marriage. Basically, her husband belittled her, made her lose all her confidence, even made her believe she was frigid and everything was her fault, etc. I found it interesting that even 20 years later, we still have heroines like Virginia in our contemporary romances. With all the advancements in technology we've made in 20 years, it seems that women/men relationships have not changed all that much...

If you're a fan of JAK and have not yet read Joy, my advice is just skip it ^_^;

15) A Lady Never Surrenders by Sabrina Jeffries: C+
Upcoming Review.

16) She Tempts the Duke by Lorraine Heath: B+

17) My Wicked Little Lies by Victoria Alexander: B+
Upcoming Buddy Review.

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

Woohooo! Double digits negative number in the TBR pile! This was definitively a great start to the year 2012!   Obviously, there were some duds, but it was nicely balanced by some great reads :) Overall I'm really happy with how much I've read, how much I bought - although truth be told, I wished this number would be higher... Withdrawal people! LOL - and I'm happy to have gotten back in a good reviewing rhythm. Hopefully, February will be as good :)

P.S. - Last day to vote for this week's WEM! Check out the poll on the sidebar to see what are the choices :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review: No One Left to Tell by Karen Rose

Had the day off yesterday :) It was so nice to sit back and relax :) I went out to lunch with my parents and sister. I also read, blogged and watched curling. What better ways to spend the week-end? The field this year at the nationals is really strong as well, so the games are really tight :) Now, everything would be perfect if I had a couple of books to read and stop wondering what to read next! If everything goes well though, I'll be getting some new releases at the end of the week and my wish will become true LOL.

All right, I'm off to bed :) Enjoy this review! :) I really enjoyed the book and I hope it comes through the review :) Also, don't forget to vote for the next Week-End's Minis! The poll is on the sidebar :)

No One Left to Tell by Karen Rose
published by Headline in January 2012 in UK/June 2012 in US
A woman is dead and her fiance is serving a life sentence for a murder he didn't commit. Now PI Paige Holden holds the only piece of evidence that could see him freed, and she cannot take it to the police. With the help of disarming state attorney, Grayson Smith, Paige is determined to avenge the murdered woman and set an innocent man free. But Paige has only scratched the surface of a cover-up far deadlier than she could ever imagine. A string of mysterious deaths of women with a shared past sets Paige on the trail of a ruthless killer. The problem is, the killer's on her trail too...
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Baltimore, Book #2 - but loosely connected to all her books

The Story: Readers met Paige Holden in Silent Scream, as one of Olivia's best friend. Since then, Paige has been assaulted and has witnessed a friend's murder. Shaken, the karate master has moved to Baltimore for a fresh start and is now working towards becoming a licensed PI.

While walking her protector dog, Paige is almost run over by a minivan. The driver is Elena Munos, Paige's cleaning lady and also a client whom Paige was working a pro bono case for. Six years ago, a young woman was killed during a party at the estate of retired State Senator James McCloud and the gardener Ramon Munos, Elena's husband, was found guilty of the crime. All these years, Ramon has claimed to be innocent... and before dying, Elena hands to Paige a USB key containing the evidence to clear her husband. Not knowing whom to trust with the evidence, Paige decides to check out the prosecutor on the case, Assistant State's Attorney, Grayson Smith. However, it soon becomes clear that someone wants the evidence to disappear and as a result, Paige has become a target.

Grayson Smith is proud to have one of the better conviction rates in the state's attorney's office, but more importantly, he believes in his job and the system. As such, he is shaken by the death of Elena, especially since she has come to him not long ago to ask for a new trial for her husband. Grayson starts to wonder if he convicted an innocent man... and if he did, he intends to rectify the mistake. Even it comes at the cost of his job and threatens to reveal some big secrets about his past.

Obviously, it won't be a simple case, but as Paige and Grayson investigate, they quickly realize they've stumbled across something way bigger than they expected...

My Opinion: Okay, it's no secret on this blog that I love, love, love Ms Rose's books! :) You know how Nora Roberts is known as La Nora? Well for me, Karen Rose is the Queen of RS :) I simply devour her books. With No One Left to Tell, I told myself I should savor the book, take my time. What did I do instead? Stay up till 2am to read as much as possible LOL. And let me tell you, it's been a while since I've been this engrossed in a book :)

There is just something about Ms Rose's writing that works for me. It's the perfect blend of interesting and likable characters, good suspense and fast pacing and No One Left to Tell was no exception. I was really engrossed by the storyline and suspense in this book, I liked how the case was more than meet the eye. Ms Rose has a knack for complex stories and cases and as always, did a great job at connecting all the elements. Also No One Left to Tell was quite a thick book and Ms Rose really made good use of the number of pages. There was moments in the storyline when it was quieter, when it didn't feel as thrilling, but it was in no way draggy or boring.

Something else I enjoy about Ms Rose's books is that she dares. She's not afraid of writing about dirty cops and bribery, but at the same time, she always shows the two sides of the coin. She shows us cops dedicated to their jobs, prosecutors who believe in the system... Also, she shows us shades of grey. For example, you couldn't help but feel for Silas, one of the villains. He did bad things and some of the circumstances were his own faults, but he did what he had for his family. It doesn't make it right, but... All of this makes for a good balance of things and adds to the realistic feeling. Another thing that made the storyline real was the addition of technology. The fact that the video went up on Youtube almost before the crime was over, that everyone has cell phones that can take videos... the texting. It added to the storyline and makes you realize how hard it is to keep a secret nowadays, but also how more complicated some people's jobs are ^_^;

Finally, I want to talk about the characters. I loved Paige and Grayson characters. They were great people, very genuine, determined and brave. They both had heavy back stories, which sometimes may seem too much, but it wasn't because of the way they were introduced. Instead, it added layers and depth to their characters :) I liked how Paige didn't miraculously recover from the events that made her leave Minneapolis, but also how she didn't lie to herself or others by saying she was okay. She was still affected, but she coped at best she could. She didn't let others push her around... and she was patient with herself. She knew when she'd be ready, she'd resume karate and get back to a more normal self. I also liked that she wasn't too stubborn with the investigation. I think too often, heroines in romantic suspense act rashly or do something readers consider TSTL and you wonder why? Oh why? In this case, Paige had good reasons not to go to the police with the evidence... but she didn't plan to investigate solo. She reached out and that was smart. Grayson was another great hero from Ms Rose. Liked I mention earlier, he's dedicated about the job... but it's more. He cares and believes and that makes him a man of integrity and an interesting character. I also liked how protective he was of his family and found his situation very interesting. He's a man that you'd want at your back during and he was there for Paige :)

Speaking of Grayson and Paige, I really liked their chemistry and the romance. It's hard to make a romance work sometimes when the timeline of the story is so short. However, in No One Left to Tell, there was a connection between Paige and Grayson, one that was felt as soon as they met that made the romance believable. Perhaps it's because Grayson saved Paige's life, but the chemistry was undeniable :) I also liked the pacing at which the romance progressed. Paige and Grayson didn't job into bed right away. They acknowledged the attraction and also discussed what they wanted out of a relationship. I guess that's another reason why the romance worked, because despite the short period they knew each other, they communicated :) In any case, I enjoyed the moments they spent together and the romance.

All in all, I really enjoyed and loved No One Left to Tell and will definitively re-read it soon :) I have to say, I was surprised that Clay didn't have a more prominent role in the storyline, given he'll be the hero in the next book. At the same time, it might have been a good decision, so Clay wouldn't steal the spotlight LOL. I did have one little niggle with the plot, but I don't want to address it in the review, because it'd be too much of a spoiler. However, it was a really small issue and didn't affect my enjoyment of the book at all :)

My Grade: A. Once again, Ms Rose delivers a great book with a solid plot, good suspense and pacing and satisfactory romance. Fans of Ms Rose and of romantic suspense will definitively enjoy this book. And if you haven't read Ms Rose yet, what are you waiting for? :)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hauling Sunday LXX

Pretty quiet week for me reading-wise and book-wise. Although I'm really happy about my blogging and reviews. Seems like I finally got into a rhythm :) Yay!! Sigh, so hard to get a great balance between reading and blogging :)

Also, curling started yesterday!! Yay! I know, I know, I've been mentioning it a lot... but I just can't help it. I've been yearning for something to watch on TV and there aren't many TV shows I'm following anymore and even then, it'd be what? Once  a week? Here, it's 3 games a day!!! And a game is about 3 hours!! For the whole week :) A lot of my friends don't get why I like curling so much. A lot of them don't even consider it a sport... but it is. It's all about execution, skills, strategy, reading the ice, nerves and momentum. It's also interesting because you can be any shape and any age and still play competitively. So far, it's already been very exciting :) Lots of close games :)

Okay, back to books. Here is what I got :)

Two books that should get my reading mojo going :)

Celebrity in Death by J.D. Robb - The new In Death book. The comments I've seen for Celebrity in Death have been quite favorable and therefore, have made me excited for this release :)

No One Left to Tell by Karen Rose - It's Ms Rose, need I say more? :) Love the author and the blurb sounds great! Also, it seems that for a while, we could not buy UK edition books on Book Depository anymore... but now we can again :) That's great because I have to say, I really like this UK cover. I think it's nice than the US one :P

What about you? Any new books? :)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

WEM II: My One and Only by Kristan Higgins and Destiny by Carly Phillips

Yay, second edition of the Week-End's Minis! :) So far, so good! Thank you for everyone who voted!! I was a bit nervous at first, especially since after 8 votes, 4 books were tied!! LOL. When I started the Week-Ends' Minis, I was thinking I'd aim for one to two mini-reviews by post... but 4? That's a bit too much!! In the end, My One and Only by Kristan Higgins and Destiny by Carly Phillips prevailed :)

My reviews are still a bit long for minis, but if I compared them with my review of She Tempts the Duke from yesterday, they are shorter! So it seems to work... and best of all, I'm enjoying this format of reviewing. Guess I'll be sticking with it :)

Enjoy!! And don't forget to vote for the next poll!!

My One and Only by Kristan Higgins
published by HQN Books (Harlequin) in March 2011
Just when she thought she had life and love all figured out…

Divorce attorney Harper James can’t catch a break. Bad enough that she runs into her ex-hubby, Nick, at her sister’s destination wedding, but now, by a cruel twist of fate, she’s being forced to make a cross-country road trip with him. And her almost-fiancé back at home is not likely to be sympathetic.

Harper can’t help that Nick has come blazing back into her life in all of his frustratingly appealing, gorgeous architect glory. But in Nick’s eyes, Harper’s always been the one. If they can only get it right this time, forever might be waiting—just around the bend.
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: None

What do you need to know about the storyline? Harper suffers from mother abandonment issues and it pretty much shaped her whole life. She married Nick out of college and they didn't last a year. She's now a successful divorce attorney with a steady boyfriend and is ready to move their relationship to the next level, given that he'll fix some few quirks. Then she gets news that her younger stepsister is walking down the aisle... for a third time. Last thing she expects is for the groom to be Nick's younger half-brother. So Harper and Nick are thrown together which is uncomfortable enough. And somehow, the two of them are stuck together on an impromptu roadtrip... and it's clear Nick still has issues with how things ended.

Why this book? I'm a fan of Ms Higgins. I really enjoy her books and I heard this one was different because the heroine was a bit more cynical and jaded. Definitively did not want to miss it :)

So, my thoughts? I liked that My One and Only was different than Ms Higgins' other novels. Yes, the heroine was more jaded and cynical and it definitively had repercussions on the storyline. There were less funny situations and more serious undertones and overall, it was a very nice change :)

I thought My One and Only started out very slow. It was all about setting up the characters and relationships, then you had the wedding, etc. I have to say, I didn't care much about that part of the book and it's unfortunate it was 1/3 of the book ^_^; My favorite part of the book was the road-trip. I liked that Nick and Harper were stuck together in the car and didn't have a choice to communicate and eventually, work things out. I liked that they were doing something they had planned when they were married :) Other things that I liked was the characters - Nick and Harper and the fact that Harper faced the truth about her mother and resolved her abandonment issues and finally realized who was there for her, who her real mother - the one that cared - was.

While I liked Nick and Harper, I'm not sure that together, they really worked ^_^; I definitively thought it was romantic that Nick has always believed that Harper was the woman of his life. Which woman doesn't want to hear that? At the same time, it was annoying to see that he hasn't let go. That he was still clinging to what happened and still blamed Harper. Harper definitively had responsibilities in how the marriage ended and I agree with Nick that she never had faith in their marriage, never believed that they would make it and at the first sign of trouble, she ran out... but Nick wasn't blameless. She was unhappy and he brushed it off with the excuses that he was building their future. There is no future if there is no present. Also, I felt that Nick pressured Harper into the marriage. She accepted his proposal because she was worried she'd lose him... I don't think Nick was unaware of her doubts and should have given her more time. And then, despite everything that had happened in the past, his resentment, Nick is ready to jump right back in, pick up where they left without any thoughts? It just seemed off to me. Although at the end, I'm happy Harper was the one to do the grand gesture :)

My Grade? C+.  There was a lot to enjoy about this book and I liked that Ms Higgins finally broke the mold. Unfortunately, I didn't feel the romance in this one.

Destiny by Carly Phillips
published by Berkley in January 2012

Nash Barron may be cynical about love, yet even he likes a good wedding. But the only good thing about his brother’s wedding is Kelly Moss. Nash can’t help but admire her confidence and beauty, but he’s forced to keep his distance because getting involved with Kelly could destroy his relationship with his newly discovered half sister, Tess... And Kelly has other reasons for keeping her distance--like the secret she knows Nash will never forgive.
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Serendipity series, Book #2

What do you need to know about the storyline? I felt Destiny was less about the obstacles in Nash and Kelly's romance and had everything to do with Nash coming to terms with his anger at his older brother, Ethan. After their parents' deaths in an accident, Ethan was overcome by guilt and abandoned Nash and Dare. As a result, they ended up in foster care... but the worst part was they were separated and Nash ended up in a privileged environment while Dare did not. In addition, he has to compose with his new teenage half-sister Tess, from his father's affair, who doesn't like him much... and he doesn't think hooking up with Tessa's half-sister, Kelly, from her mom's side will endear him to her.

Why this book? I was looking for a good contemporary romance and saw on Goodreads that Holly enjoyed this one.

So, my thoughts? I think the writing was good and I really liked Nash's character. He was basically a really good guy with issues and those were understandable. You cannot blame him being angry with Ethan, because ultimately, Ethan's desertion placed him in a really tough spot. Being taken by a rich couple, but seeing your brother suffer poverty... Not understanding why the couple who's taken you in had such wealth and couldn't take in another boy... There was guilt, resentment, love and gratefulness and Nash had to deal with all those contradictory feelings as best as he could. Then, there's his ex-wife who is Nash best friend and divorced him when her MS got worst because Nash stifled her, but for whom Nash still really cares about. He's hurt by the divorce, but still there to help her out. I think Nash's character had a lot of depth and that made him really interesting. Unfortunately, at times, it also seemed a bit too much of "me, me, me" and I think in that sense, Destiny wasn't very well-balanced. It's almost as if the first half was all about Nash and the second half, Kelly... and Kelly's troubles with her ex-boyfriend wasn't as interesting.

The romance was just okay for me. Overall, my problem is that they fell into bed too quickly to my tastes. I liked that they didn't let the situation concerning Tess hamper their attraction. At the same time, I felt besides physical attraction, they didn't really know each other enough. Also, I'm surprised after her previous relationship, Kelly would go to bed with Nash without having a clearer idea of the future. I just didn't know what these two were looking for. Sex? A meaningful relationship? Let just takes the first step and see where it leads us? I wished they had dated a little, got to know each other a bit better instead of basing the whole relationship on physical attraction.

Finally, two last things that bothered me about this book. The first is Kelly working as a paralegal for Nash's ex-father-in-law and also the lawyer who handled Nash and Dare's foster care situation. Yes, the paperwork that Kelly found involved Nash, but wasn't it a tad unethical to show it to him? The question was raised, but also brushed off too quickly to my tastes. Had it been another guy in Nash's shoes, not dating Kelly, would she have shown him the papers? I'll venture no. The other element didn't really bother me per se, but I thought it was superfluous, was the whole storyline involving Nash's ex-wife. I think Nash had enough issues without an ex-wife and her new romance.

My Grade? C. I simply never really got hooked by Destiny and I think it's more me than the book.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Review: She Tempts the Duke by Lorraine Heath

It's Friday!! Woohooo! I can't wait for the week-end :) We had a big experiment yesterday and for a moment, I panicked a little... We had to use a scanner and had to stick to a schedule... and the scanner ate my slide!! We had to turn off the scanner and waited till it warmed up to eject the slide and try again... However, the warm-up always takes like 30 minutes! Then, the supervisor of the lab came and she said it'd be preferable in this case to reboot the computer as well... but if you reboot the computer, you have to turn off and on the scanner again! In the end, it turned out well but seriously. Then, it was also a grant application deadline. For once, my boss was all done with the paperwork... but there was panic again because apparently, the documents had to be in their office by 5pm! It said in the guidelines that the documents needed to be courier stamped on that day, but seems like they were confusion. So there was a rush to deliver the documents, and guess who had to do that?

Anyway, I'm just happy it's Friday! Week-end! :) My sister is hosting a Tupperware night today LOL. It'll be interesting to see how it'll turn out. Also, Canada women nationals for curling is starting this week-end! It's going to be on for a week!! I'm so glad, because I enjoy the sport and it gives me something to watch :) It's three matches of about 3 hours per day!! Yay! It'll help because I've been a bit in a reading funk lately, so I'll have something to do. Have barely read this week :( I'm hoping to get my copy of Celebrity in Death, I think that'll get me going again :)

However, most important today is this review!! It took me days to write a review for She Tempts the Duke! :) I really enjoyed the book, but for some reasons, the words would just not come. After two attempts, I finally got inspired and it flowed this morning! Enjoy!! And look forward for the Week-End's Minis tomorrow :)

She Tempts the Duke by Lorraine Heath
published by Avon (Harpercollins Publisher) in January 2012

Three young heirs, imprisoned by an unscrupulous uncle, escaped—to the sea, to the streets, to faraway battle—awaiting the day when they would return to reclaim their birthright.

Sebastian Easton always vowed he would avenge his stolen youth and title. Now back in London, the rightful Duke of Keswick—returning from battle a wounded, hardened, changed man—cannot forget the brave girl who once rescued him and his brothers from certain death.

Lady Mary Wynne-Jones paid dearly for helping the imprisoned young Lords of Pembrook, and she remembers well the promise she made to Sebastian all those years ago: to meet him once more in the abbey ruins where they shared a bold, forbidden kiss. While Mary is betrothed now to another, a friendship forged with dark secrets cannot be ignored. Unexpected passion soon burns dangerously between them, tempting Sebastian to abandon his quest for retribution to fight for a love that could once again set him free.
Genre: Historical romance
Series: The Lost Lords Pembrook trilogy, Book #1

The Story: She Tempts the Duke is the first book in a trilogy about the three Lords of Pembrook who, after their father's funeral, had to run away to escape the "mortal accident" their uncle had planned. Sebastian Easton, the 8th Duke of Keswick, went into the army while his twin brother, Tristan, became a cabin boy and went at sea, and their younger brother, Rafe, was left behind at a workhouse.

Twelve years later, Lord David is finally petitioning to have his nephews declared dead. To his surprise, it's also the time the three brothers chose to reunite, boot him out of residence and reclaim their status. Unfortunately, the Lords of Pembrook have been away from Society for too long and are not quick to be accepted given the circumstances... Especially Sebastian, the rightful Duke of Keswick, as he was disfigured during the war.

However, there is one person that will stand by them and that's their childhood friend and neighbor, Lady Mary Wynne-Jones, who has grown into a beautiful woman. On that faithful night, Mary was the one who helped them escape... and as a result, was sent to the convent by her father. It is only recently that her father has relented and let her come back to Society as well. Mary has never forgotten her friends and is extremely happy that they are still alive. She is determined to do her part to help the Easton brothers re-integrate Society... even if it displease her fiancé.

My Opinion: Well, I'm glad that after a rather weak end to her London's Greatest Lovers trilogy, Ms Heath has come back strong with She Tempts the Duke. I have to say, Ms Heath definitively has a knack for coming up with interesting premises for her series :) Three young boys, among which a new duke, run for their lives, go their separate ways and then, reappear twelve years later to reclaim their due? How can you not be enticed by this exciting premise? Add in the childhood friend who helped them escape... Oh yeah, this book got me as soon as I read the blurb :) And I'm really glad that the book measured up to my expectations!

I think what I enjoyed most in She Tempts the Duke was the characters dynamics. I loved how complex the three brothers' relationship was. On one hand, they are bonded by blood, but their brotherhood goes deeper than that. It is sealed by that faithful night and the hardships they went through resulting from it. On the other hand, they have spent twelve years apart and therefore, they don't know the men they have become and are not close to each other. There's also the resentment and tension to consider... Sebastian and Tristan are twins and older, so there's always been a chemistry, a complicity between them which left out the four years younger Rafe. When they were boys, Rafe was excluded and was also considered spoiled and whiny, which is usually the mantle that younger siblings have to wear... Then, when they went separate ways, Rafe was left at the workhouse, while the twins rode off... They later separated as well, but in Rafe's mind, he was still being excluded. Over the years, these feelings have not disappeared and they still cast a shadow on their relationship. Yet, they stood together to face their uncle and Society and they believed in the men their brothers have become. My favorite scene of the book is when the three brothers barged in the ball room, Sebastian standing in the middle, flanked by his two brothers with pistols drawn! Then, proceeded to boot their uncle out of residence :)  It was totally kick-ass! LOL. Another part I liked is when Tristan was frustrated on Sebastian's behalf because people wasn't giving him his dues as a duke. I thought these scenes showed their unity and their loyalty to each other :)

Aside from the three brothers' relationship, I also liked Mary's friendship with them :) I loved that she stood up for them at the ball, backing them up - even though she doesn't have much influence in the ton. It was definitively brave, especially since she did it again and again throughout the book and even if it displeased her father and fiancé. And she did it because these men were her friends, even if she hadn't seen them in twelve years. She was loyal to them and seemed baffled that her father and fiancé did not understand the concept. And I was also happy to see her so outraged at Sebastian's treatment because he was disfigured. For her, his injury did not change anything, he was still her friend, the boy she gallivant with in her childhood. While she was closest to Sebastian, her friendship included Tristan and Rafe and I liked how the men were considerate of her and cared about her :)

Overall, I really enjoyed the characters. I liked that Sebastian was flawed both physically and emotionally. He was raised to be a duke, but he spent twelve years in the army, fighting wars and ended wounded. Any man who comes back from war disfigured always have a complex about it... but for Sebastian, it was even worst... Because I think he considered a reminder that he failed. He failed to protect his brothers, he failed his duties as a duke, he failed Pembrook... and that's what drove him. I also really liked Mary. I think she was a great heroine. No simpering miss here, no spoiled lady... spending ten years in a convent took care of that. I think it also made her appreciated life better :) I liked that she didn't over-resent her father or blame the Easton brothers. But really, what made Mary was her personality. She's just a nice woman, loyal... and she spoke out her mind. She and Sebastian married not under the best circumstances, but she wanted their marriage to work... and whenever Sebastian dropped the ball, she'd point it out. Not in a harpy manner, but just so Sebastian is aware of it... and that's what you need in a marriage. Communication.  I enjoyed the romance, because Sebastian and Mary were childhood friends. Their bond was strong and not even distance or time had weakened it... And I really believe that have the boys not escaped, the result would be the same: Sebastian would have married Mary :)

She Tempts the Duke seemed to me to be all about the characters and setting up the trilogy. As such, the suspense was a bit weak - for example, their uncle's motive for wanting to kill the three of them. Although I did buy the explanations. Given the characters and the premises, I didn't mind the weakness :) However, there are a few things I wondered while reading the book. The three boys escaping made for something exciting... but I wondered if nobody could have helped them out. I mean, their father was a duke. He must have had a friend, a confident or perhaps a relative on their mother's side that they could have run to, no? Even if their uncle was their guardian, they were boys and Sebastian was the duke. They had more power on their side than have they been girls. Would nobody really believe them? Also, I wondered about Mary's situation. Her father was worried about her future, because he knew her cousin - his heir - would not take care of her once he died... and so he gave Mary a big dowry and pushed her to make a match. Couldn't he have made provisions for her in his will? If I'm not wrong, money is usually not entailed... Of course, she would probably have been booted out of her home by her cousin... but she had an aunt who was married to a peer. At least, if Mary had money, she wouldn't be without resource. So those are the two issues that niggled me a little while reading. Not big enough to dim my enjoyment, but still there.

My Grade: B+. She Tempts the Duke did not wow me as much as Passions of a Wicked Earl, but it was nonetheless a very good read and a very solid start to this new trilogy :) I'm really looking forward to reading Tristan and Rafe's books and finding out what happened and what the future holds for them :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

TBR Challenge 2012: Conor's Way by Laura Lee Guhrke

Wooohooo, I made it! Not only I've read the book, but I've also reviewed it! No mad dash to have this review up before midnight LOL. In fact, I even have something special... a buddy review with Leslie! It turns out that we both read Conor's Way by Laura Lee Guhrke, so we figured why not? :) You can head over to Breezing Through or click here for the review.

Wait, wait, wait!!! Before you head over to the review, please take a look at the poll on the sidebar, under the search box!! The poll is to decide which book(s) I'll be writing a mini-review for this week-end and it ends today!! So if you haven't voted, please do!! So far, My One and Only by Kristan Higgins is leading, but I'd like to break the tie for the 2nd place book :)


Conor's Way by Laura Lee Guhrke
published by Harper Torch in April 1996
A courageous woman

In the aftermath of the Civil War, beautiful and stubborn Olivia Maitland was determined to save her family and their new-bankrupt Louisiana plantation no matter what - even if it meant taking in cynical ex-boxer Conor Branigan in exchange for help. It wasn't long before she discovered the secret pain hidden beneath his rugged ways. And his ache touched something in her, lighting a fire in her heart.

A hard-fighting man

Conor Branigan had seen his family and his hopes destroyed in Ireland and had sworn never to care for anyone again. But now he dared hope for a love greater than any he'd ever dreamt of, with Olivia and her three adopted children - and a future that he would fight to keep forever.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hauling Sunday LXIX

So where's everyone? It's been very quiet on blogland and I hope everyone's okay. I'm thinking perhaps it's the time of the year or something. I've been feeling pretty lethargic myself... and it seems the dreaded reading slump is upon me. I've been really having difficulty at picking up books to read. I look at my TBR pile and there's not much that appeals to me ^_^; I know, I know, I've been feeling that way for a while now, but it seems worst. Luckily for me, I have a strong urge to re-read... so if I ever get to slumpville, I won't go cold turkey. I'm wondering if the feeling is linked to the fact there hasn't been many new releases lately. It would be so me ^_^;

While there wasn't many new releases, I still managed to buy some books. Yay! There's a "Buy 2, Get the 3rd Free" promotion at the moment at Chapters/Indigo ending today. That's a really awesome sale because it's usually "Buy 3, Get the 4th Free." But boy, did I have difficulty finding three books ^_^;  See I'm telling you, lack of release!! Really no fun :( I did some juggling around and came up with these :)

Sweet Enemy by Heather Snow - I had my eyes on this one, but I was a bit hesitant... Ames took care of my hesitation :) It isn't the highest grade, but taking into consideration it's a debut novel, it sounds promising.

The Many Sins of Lord Cameron by Jennifer Ashley - I've actually already read this one, but didn't own a copy. Now I do :) I really liked it and hopefully, I'll be reviewing it soon.

My Wicked Little Lies by Victoria Alexander - You saw this book in my last Hauling Sunday (LXVIII) post... That was the e-book. Since I really enjoyed this book and technically, it was free, I decided to get a print copy as well :) Review should be coming shortly :)

A Lady Never Surrenders by Sabrina Jeffries - The conclusion to the popular Hellions of Halstead Hall series. I'm looking forward to see Lady Celia fall in love and find out the truth behind the parents' tragic death.

Next of Kin by Sharon Sala - Ms Sala is a favorite author of mine. Unfortunately, I find her last couple of books have been so-so, just because it's basically the same story over and over again ^_^; There's a definite pattern to her storylines :( I knew I was going to continue to support Ms Sala, but didn't know in which format... In the end, there was this sale and so, I went for the print :) Reviews have been a bit mixed, but I hope I'll get into this one.

Black Wings by Christina Henry - I was wondering which books to buy... And the thing with these kind of sale is to try to buy there books that are approximately the same price to maximize your saving, right? So I went with Black Wings because it's been on my radar for a while now and I think reviews have been favorable. Hopefully, this is a new series I'm going to follow :)

So there you go, my new books :) It's too bad the sale isn't at the end of the month with all the new releases. That would have been a lot of fun. Still, I might go to another bookstore today and see if I can take advantage of this sale again... and maybe I'll hit the UBS... Stay tuned to my next Hauling Sunday post to find out :)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Week-End's Minis: Whispers in the Dark by Maya Banks

It's finally the week-end!! Yay! Hope it'll be a good one for everyone! The week has gone by so quickly (although the days have not), but if there was a way to make the week-end stretched, it'd be awesome LOL. Especially when we're having nice weather. A girl can dream right? :P

So I'd like to introduce the newest feature on my blog: Week-End's Minis. Earlier this week, I mentioned in the Monthly Reads post that I was toying with the idea of having weekly recaps, simply because my Monthly Reads posts were becoming overwhelming to write. However, the idea just lost its appeal the more I thought about it. My reasoning is I have difficulty being on time with a monthly recap which is, technically, once a month. Now, I'm going to have 4 posts at fixed dates? Sure, they'll be shorter... but I think it'll be more pressure as well ^_^; Plus my reading week vary a lot from one another and a weekly recap is just not me LOL. Instead, I tried to come up with something in-between and I think I did: the Week-End's Minis :)

Basically, the Week-End's Minis will be a weekly post with one to two mini-reviews :) It won't be a weekly recap and it won't be necessarily books that I've read during the week. It'll just be mini-reviews of books I've read and wasn't planning to write a full review for. If I can stick to having a weekly mini-reviews post, then when it'll come to the Monthly Reads post, many of the books will already be reviewed and therefore, the post itself will be shorter and less daunting to write :) And to make things a bit more fun for everyone, I thought I'd let you decide what should be reviewed! :) The plan is that I'll put a poll up on the sidebar of books that I'm considering writing mini-reviews for and you let me know which mini-review you want to read :) The poll will run from Saturday to Wednesday and on the next Saturday, the post will go up. What do you think?

Oh by the way, mini-reviews. You've seen my Monthly Reads posts and you've seen that my "mini" reviews aren't that "mini" LOL. Well it's something I want to work on. The goal of these mini-reviews is really to let you know what worked and what didn't. I have a tendency in my full reviews to go through the characters, the settings, the romance, the storyline, etc. Hopefully, here, it'll all be more concise and focused... but I'm not sure yet how I'm going to do that LOL. So please be patient with me :) And if you have any suggestion, please feel free!!

This week, I didn't have time to make a poll and I really wanted to get started LOL, so I chose the mini-review. But you can start voting for next week! :) Hopefully, this new feature will be an enjoyable one for everyone :)

Whispers in the Dark by Maya Banks
published by Berkley in January 2012
She came to him when he needed her the most

She came to him at his lowest point. The voice of an angel, a whisper in the dark. She's the only thing that gets Nathan Kelly through his captivity, the endless days of torture and the fear that he'll never return to his family. With her help, he's able to escape. But he isn't truly free, because now she's disappeared and he's left with an all-consuming emptiness as he struggles to pick up the pieces of his life. Did he imagine his angel? Or is she out there, needing his help as he'd once needed hers?

Now he rushes to save her before it's too late

Shea has been on the run from people who will stop at nothing to exploit her unique abilities. She never wanted to drag Nathan, who'd already suffered so much, into danger, but she doesn't have a choice so she reaches out to him for help. Finally face-to-face after having already formed a soul-deep bond in hell, their emotional connection is even more powerful than their telepathic one. Nathan refuses to consider ever letting her go again, but she worries they can never have a life free of the dangers that dog her every step. He'll protect her with his every breath, but can he convince her that they are meant to face these threats together?
Genre: Romantic suspense, psychics
Series: KGI, Book #4

What do you need to know about the storyline? The blurb is pretty spot on, the only thing they didn't mention - and wow, they did a great job at writing an accurate blurb and leaving this big detail out - is that the heroine is psychic. From what I've heard, this is the first book in this series that has paranormal elements in it. All the previous books have been straight romantic suspense.

Why this book? This is the first book in the series I've read and it just called to me. It sounded like something I would enjoy :)

So, my thoughts? I'll start with the most obvious for me. I don't mind psychic characters. Actually, I love them when it's well-done... Unfortunately, it wasn't in Whispers in the Dark. Perhaps it's because I've been spoiled with the FBI SCU series by Kay Hooper, but the psychic aspect here just didn't work for me. First, I don't like the idea of manufacturing psychics for military purposes. There is so much we don't know about psychics, the abilities and where it comes from... How can you "breed" psychics? Then, the psychic element was just too unbelievable ^_^; Yes, I know ^_^; When it comes to psychics, I think readers always have to suspend their disbelief a little to enjoy the story and I've done it with no problems in the past. But the thing is, you still want the psychic element to be realistic and it simply wasn't in Whispers in the Dark. I mean, a trans-Atlantic connection? If Shea and Nathan's connection was established prior, then perhaps I've had bought it... but Shea just happened to grasp on Nathan's mind while she was in the US and Nathan, in Afghanistan? In that case, what stops her from hearing any voices in the whole big world? Also, healing someone without touching? That's already stretching it, but healing someone through someone's else connection without any physical anchor? Yeah, no. You just lost me there.

Aside from the psychic element, there was also the romance that went too fast for me. Okay, yes, Shea and Nathan have a connection, but they don't really know each other. Shea calls Nathan for help, he runs to save her and hours after they've met face-to-face for the first time, they're all over each other and having sex. I can buy having feelings for each other, I can buy being protective and possessive... but the sex was pushing it for me. We're not talking one-night stand here, but real, committed sex... and I just felt it was too fast.

So basically, Ms Banks lost me pretty early in the book because of the psychic element... and I ended up skimming through most of the book. Nothing in this book - the story, the romance, the characters or the suspense - was able to grab me and while reading, I just wanted Whispers in the Dark to be done and over. That's not usually a good feeling when you're reading a book. Someone on Goodreads mentioned that the book was boring and too corny and I have to agree wholeheartedly. The only scenes I really enjoyed were the Kelly brothers ribbing each other and even then, I thought it was sometime not with a good timing.

My Grade? E.

All right, it still winded up a bit long LOL. But hey, it's my first attempt! :) What do you think? Does this format work?

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Review: It Takes a Witch by Heather Blake

Ugh, I've been meaning to write this review for days... and things just come up. I want to write, but my sister has hijacked my computer. I have the computer, but I feel like reading. At work, I've been running like a chicken without a head ^_^; But the worst reason? I've addicted myself again to Minesweeper. Pathetic, yes I know. That what happens when you have an addictive personality :( But I finally stopped long enough to write this review :) And hopefully, I'll be able to wean myself off... Wish me luck LOL.

It Takes a Witch by Heather Blake
published by New American Library in January 2012

Darcy Merriweather and her sister, Harper, hail from a long line of witches who have the power to grant wishes using spells. They're come to Enchanted Village in Salem, Massachusetts, to join the family business, but they soon find themselves knee-deep in murder...

Until three weeks ago, Darcy and Harper were working dead-end jobs and trying to put their troubles behind them. Then their aunt Velma delivered a bombshell: They're actually Wishcrafters - witches with the power to grant wishes with a mere spell. Wanting a fresh start, they head to their aunt's magic-themed tourist town to master their newfound skills.

But their magic fails them when a wannabe witch turns up dead - strangled with Aunt Ve's scarf - and Ve's sweetheart, Sylar, is found looming over the body. Ve is standing by her man, but Darcy overheard Sylar wish that the victim would disappear - forever. With Harper distracted by her handsome new crush, Darcy is determined to sleuth her way to the truth. But it'll take more than a wish to unravel this mystery...
Genre: Mystery
Series: A Wishcraft Mystery, Book #1

The Story: After their father's death, Darcy and Harper Merriweather learn from their maternal aunt Velma that magic really exists in this world. Not only that, Darcy and Harper are both Wishcrafters! This means that under the right circumstances, they can grant people's wishes with a spell. For Darcy, this revelation comes at a perfect time. With her father dead and his dental clinic closed, Darcy is without a job, she still hasn't moved on from her divorce two years ago and with Harper's latest arrest, she's at a wit's end. Thus, she jumps at the opportunity to move to the Enchanted Village in Salem, Massachusetts, for a fresh start.

As Darcy is learning the ropes of both Aunt Ve's business, As You Wish, and wishcrafting, she and Harper are slowly settling down in the Enchanted Village and learning the rules of their new world. Darcy is happy with her new life... but unfortunately for her, it is about to get complicated when Alexandra Shively, a woman who claimed to be a Crafter, is found dead and the main suspect is Velma's current beau. And then, there's Nick Sawyer, a widower with a daughter and also the first man since her divorce whose sight makes her heart beats faster... and also a Mortal.

My Opinion:  I was really looking forward to It Takes a Witch for two reasons. First, as you must all know by now, I'm a fan of witches and wizards characters. I can't express in words my attraction to them. Perhaps it's the possibility of magic or the fact that among the supernatural beings, they're the closest to normal but with a few quirks :P Anyway, I like witches and wizards :) Second and most important, the author is Heather Blake aka Heather Webber who writes the Lucy Valentine series, a series that I've really been enjoying :) I've been looking forward to her next release and therefore, It Takes a Witch :)

I have to admit that at first, I was a bit anxious about It Takes a Witch. While I love witches and wizards characters, finding good books featuring them is hard ^_^; Guess I'm really picky when it comes to world building and the use of their powers. Also, I've been reading more cozy mysteries lately and discovered that I'm not a fan of characters sleuthing... which is 95% of the cozy mystery genre ^_^; However, it turns out my worries were for naught and in the end, I really enjoyed It Takes a Witch :)  Once again, Ms Heather (dunno if I should go with Blake or Webber, so Ms Heather it is) has come up with fun characters and a cute series.

What I liked most about It Takes a Witch was the setting and atmosphere. The Enchanted Village reminds me of a town square with a lot of touristic attractions, shops and where everyone knows each other. It seems serene and cute, but at the same time, quirky and it's the feel I got from reading the book :) I also think Ms Heather did a great job with the world building when it came to the Crafters. In the acknowledgments, Ms Heather thank a friend for the hours spent fleshing out the rules and I believe it was hours well-spent! :) It's clear that Ms Heather knows where she is going and that the world is fleshed out in her mind. I like that there are rules, structure to this world. Another reason I think why the world building worked so well for me is the fact that Darcy is new to this world. As a result, she has limited knowledge and nothing is a given, taken for granted or considered 'normal.' And instead of the dreaded info dump, readers get to discover the world alongside Darcy :)

Another aspect of this book that I enjoyed a lot was the characters. Ms Heather has created a fun and likable cast and I find they really contributed to the feel of It Takes a Witch :) They're just fun and good-natured and of course, curious :) Oh and I liked Ms Heather's inclusion of the familiars!! :) Of course, I should mention Darcy as she's the heroine. I have to say, I really liked Darcy :) It seems like Darcy was stuck in a rut before discovering she was a Crafter. However, once she moved to the Enchanted Village, it looks like she has finally awaken. I like that she's taking advantage of this fresh start and is embracing her new life. She's making new friends and becoming part of the community. It was really nice to see. The only thing that bothered me about Darcy was the fact that she was a bit too suspicious of everyone and everything. I guess it's because I trust too easily in real life... But to see her question everyone's motives and intentions, it just felt  a bit sad and very tiring to me :(

Of course, the fact that Darcy was suspicious served well to storyline :) Otherwise, I doubt she'd have sleuthed around to resolve the mystery. Speaking of the mystery, I enjoyed it too. It was interesting and suspenseful enough to keep me engaged. And I liked that the culprit wasn't obvious. There were some nice twists and surprises and that's always nice when reading cozy mysteries. I also appreciated the touch of romance or should I say the promise of romance in the future :) I liked Nick and I think he and Darcy have a great chemistry together. I thought the pacing of their relationship fit with the circumstances and the fact that they've both been burned before. I'm definitively looking forward to more.

My only complaint about It Takes a Witch aside from Darcy being over-suspicious is the fact that this series has a lot of similarities with the Lucy Valentines series. Darcy is a witch and Lucy, a psychic. Both work in a family businesses that take advantage of their abilities. And while this new series isn't as fluffy as the Lucy Valentine's, the feel is very similar. I don't think it's a bad thing that Ms Heather took elements that worked in the Lucy Valentine series and used them here... but it definitively gives a sense of déjà-vu a times. That being said, it won't stop me from reading both series and enjoying them LOL.

My Grade: B. I really liked It Takes a Witch and thought it was a solid first installment to the series. I'm looking forward to the next book, A Witch Before Dying, coming out in August :)

Monday, February 06, 2012

Review: Hidden by Kelley Armstrong

Hidden by Kelley Armstrong
published by Subterranean Press in December 2011
Hiking through the snow, holiday baking and playing board games by the fire – what’s not to love about an old-fashioned family Christmas?

Werewolves Elena Michaels and Clayton Danvers want to give their four-year-old twins, Kate and Logan, something their parents never had: a nice, normal holiday. No Pack responsibilities, no homicidal half-demons or power-hungry sorcerers to deal with – just the four of them, alone, at a chalet outside Ontario’s Algonquin Park.

Then a strange werewolf shows up at their door…while the town is buzzing about a young man, back from college, found half-eaten in the woods. And there’s the missing little girl…

With all the signs pointing to a rogue mutt with a taste for human flesh, Elena and Clay have no choice but to investigate. But are they the hunters – or the hunted?
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Women of the Otherworld, Book #10.4

The Story: It is pretty much as the synopsis describes. In Hidden, Elena and Clayton have planned to celebrate Christmas with their twins, Logan and Kate, at a cabin in Ontario. Unfortunately, plans are disrupted when it appears there is a mutt in the neighborhood and they must assess the threat.

However, what worries Elena the most is a personal problem. As the twins are growing up, it's becoming increasingly hard to hide their werewolves nature from the twins and Elena is faced with the dilemma of revealing the truth or continuing the charade.

My Opinion: The Women of the Otherworld series holds a special place in my heart :) It's one of the first urban fantasy series I've read and also one of my favorites! I love the world and the characters Ms Armstrong has created. Although, I admit that in the past couple of years, I've dropped the ball a little bit ^_^; Basically, it's because Ms Armstrong is wrapping up the series with a trilogy featuring Savannah... Savannah has never been my favorite character and I figure I'd stack up the deck by reading the whole trilogy in one go instead of waiting a year in between book :) However, when I heard that Ms Armstrong was coming out with a novella featuring Elena, Clay and the twins? There was no doubt that I'd move heaven and earth to get my hands on it!

Not surprisingly, I really enjoyed Hidden :) Where to start? LOL. I looooved seeing Elena and Clay as parents and their interactions with the twins! It was just so sweet! We've witnessed Elena and Clay's relationship evolved throughout the series, from Elena and Clay's reconciliation to Elena's concerns about them becoming parents and up to this point. I have to say, I'm really glad Ms Armstrong took this step with this relationship and the way she developed it. Yes, it was the natural and logical next move in their relationship, but I don't think it was an easy one to execute and therefore Ms Armstrong was very brave. And execute she definitively did :) As I mentioned, I loved seeing Elena and Clay as parents. It's hard to be good parents, but it's even harder when you're werewolves! It's especially hard for Elena as she became an orphan at a young age, was moved from one foster home to another and therefore, didn't have a great childhood. I find her insecurity very realistic, but she doesn't let it show when she interacts with her children and with the support of Jeremy, both she and Clay are formidable parents in my opinion :) I also love that parenthood has strengthened their love as well :) I think it was great to see them wanting each other as much as they did in the beginning, perhaps even more. All in all, I think Elena and Clay have achieved the ultimate HEA ending and I'm glad for them!

We've seen glimpses of Kate and Logan in the past, but Hidden was really a treat :)  Obviously, the twins are a bit precocious, but I think, overall, it worked LOL. They do remind me a lot of Clay! I also liked that Kate and Logan each had their own personality. I thought once again Ms Armstrong did a great job with the characterization, but for me, it was really the bond between the twins. The ribbing between siblings, the subtle rivalry, the chemistry and connection :) You can see that even as such a young age, their bond is unbreakable :)

I was really surprised to find out that Elena and Clay had not told the twins about being werewolves. It was definitively interesting to see Elena's feelings and approach to the dilemma and as it was explained, it was totally understandable. I assumed that Logan and Kate would both turn into werewolves... but it's true that Clay and Elena were both bitten and Elena is the only female werewolf, so nothing is guaranteed. As such, I can understand why she's so cautious and worried. I think this was definitively the most interesting storyline of the book. As for the mystery, it was okay. It wasn't particularly suspenseful or as strong as what we're used to with Ms Armstrong, but then again, Hidden was quite short. Plus, it really wasn't meant to be the focus of this book. Another element that I enjoyed in Hidden was the Pack. We got to see the new dynamics of the Pack with the inclusion of the twins and the two new members, Reese and Noah. Reese and Noah are two young werewolves and I feel that's exactly what the Pack needed. And it was great to see Nick in the role of a big brother :) By the way, still love the connection between Elena-Clay-Nick.

My only complaint about this book would be the publication itself. Hidden was published by Subterranean Press and as such, is not cheap. I didn't mind the price so much, because I'm really a hardcore fan and I think that's the audience the author and publisher had in mind. Also, I think this is a good length novella and the binding of the hardcover is good quality... but, I was expecting more illustrations. Ms Armstrong's website indicates 6 illustrations and there were 4. I wonder if it's because I got the hardcover copy as opposed to the leather-bound one. Also, if the publisher has gone to such length, it would have been cool that the illustrations coordinate with the text.

My Grade: A-. I really, really enjoyed Hidden. I think it was a great book and I simply loved re-visiting Elena and Clay and the Pack. Throughout the story, I picked up little references to the past and it really made me want to go back and re-read the series, especially Savage. Clay will never, never, never live down the guinea pig!! LOL! I also loved reading more about the twins and discovering the new dynamics :) This book was definitively meant to be for the fans and please them... and it pleased me enormously. It was a real joy to read Elena and Clay's HEA ending and it really tied up some loose ends... for now :) I definitively hope that Ms Armstrong will be re-visiting this series in the future. For now, if you are a fan of Clay and Elena, do not miss Hidden :)