Friday, September 28, 2012

Curling... I joined the club!

As promised, here are some pictures from my first attempt at curling! :)

I was lucky I came across a promotional event in a mall for the curling club. It advertised for the club's open house, but also a 3-parts free curling clinic for beginners. As you can guess, I was really interested LOL. Part of it is because I really enjoyed watching it, but also because it's something my friends and I talked about trying last winter, but didn't know how. What better then than a free clinic that would teach you the basics? :) My sister and some friends joined me for it.

The first day, we learned how to push out of the block and keep our balance on the ice - with and without the rock. The second day was more focused on throwing the rocks and at the same time, applying the rotation. And yesterday, we learned how to sweep and played a short game :)

I really liked it on the first day and thought of joining, but wasn't sure. Then, on the second day, I had a lot of doubts... but after playing yesterday, I decided to take the plunge. I thought the pros outweighted the cons... The cons are distance - let just say the club is not close to my house ^_^; but from work, it's not too bad - and also, the commitment. Once you sign up, you're part of a team and that means you have three other people depending on you. If I don't feel like going, I can't just not go... or at least, I have to find a replacement. The last con is that the best league for beginners turn out to be on Friday. I'm just thinking Friday's gatherings with friends to open the week-end or leaving for a week-end away... But as my sister says, it's not a regular thing and we'll just have to work around it.

I was not the only one having fun! Just too bad about my sister's school schedule, otherwise, I would have made her join with me!

But as I said, the pros outweighted the cons... First, it was a lot of fun! Two, it's good exercise and I need to move LOL. I'm also a lot more likely to stick to it than say the gym. Also, it's a good way to meet new people... And really, I need to widen my horizons a little bit. Do something different, meet new people and just get out there.

And my friends were good sport! They came and had fun with me! Up there is W, M and V :)

So there you go :) I joined the club. The curling season is 6 months, from October to April. It officially starts on October 14... My first league game will be on October 19 and I'll keep you guys posted :)

LOL, my sister's knee and mine. Obviously, she's doing something good and me, something wrong ^_^; Might need to invest into a knee pad for this first year :)

Now though, my focus is going to be kicking my reading slump to the curb!! :) Or sweep it under the rug LOL.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review: Almost a Scandal by Elizabeth Essex

Hi everyone!! How are you doing? I'm doing okay, except I'm in a dreaded reading slump T_T I haven't read anything so far this week and it just sucks!! I guess it's the combination of the New Bride with White Hair and curling that got me revved up. I've been so excited for the TV series that it took up all my energy and then, when I finally calmed down, curling took my time. Speaking of curling, I'll have a post with pictures up this week-end :) In the meantime though, I don't know what to read, nothing appeals to me. I'm hoping next week with the new releases, I'll get back into a rhythm. Sigh.

Luckily, I'm behind in my reviews LOL. So I can at least still write them! Hopefully, I'll start reading more before I catch up, because reading slump and blogging blues, that'd be hell! Anyway, today is a buddy review over at Breezing Through. Ames and I are discussing Almost a Scandal by Elizabeth Essex, a book that we discovered while looking for new releases :) You can find out how much we enjoyed it here.

Almost a Scandal by Elizabeth Essex
published by St. Martin's in July 2012
Bold, brazen, and beautiful, the Reckless Brides refuse to play by society’s rules of courtship. But—come hell or high water—they always get their man..

For generations, the Kents have served proudly with the British Royal Navy. So when her younger brother refuses to report for duty, Sally Kent slips into a uniform and takes his place—at least until he comes to his senses. Boldly climbing aboard the Audacious, Sally is as able-bodied as any sailor there. But one man is making her feel tantalizingly aware of the full-bodied woman beneath her navy blues...

Dedicated to his ship, sworn to his duty—and distractingly gorgeous—Lieutenant David Colyear sees through Sally’s charade, and he’s furious. But he must admit she’s the best midshipman on board—and a woman who tempts him like no other. With his own secrets to hide and his career at stake, Col agrees to keep her on. But can the passion they hide survive the perils of a battle at sea? Soon, their love and devotion will be put to the test...
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Reckless Brides, Book #1

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Review: Wild Texas Rose by Jodi Thomas

Wild Texas Rose by Jodi Thomas
published by Berkley in August 2012
Twenty-five-year-old Rose McMurray may be beautiful, smart, and capable of running her family's ranch at Whispering Mountain, but she's backed away from marriage three times without giving anyone reasons. Everyone thinks she is a coward, afraid of any adventure, including falling in love. She's never done a single wild or reckless thing in her life...until now.

Duncan McMurray, like Rose, was adopted into the family. As a Texas Ranger, he swears he'll never settle down and marry. He's been Rose's guardian angel since they were kids but for the first time in their lives he's the one who has caused her to be in danger. Somehow, he has to protect her from an outlaw gang determined to kill her without letting Rose know of the danger she's in. He's convinced that her heart can't take the stress if she knows...the only question is can his heart take the nearness of her. When opposites collide the adventure begins...
Genre: Historical romance, western
Series: Whispering Mountain, Book #6

The Story: Rose McMurray's favorite place in the world is her family ranch at Whispering Mountain. That's where she felt safe for the first time in her life and also where her loving family lives. To everyone's surprise though, Rose has left home and traveled to Austin because Victoria, Rose's friend from finishing school, is in distress. Victoria has always been spoiled by her father, the Major who cannot forget that his side lost in the Civil War, making her a demanding person. However, this time around, her father is forcing Victoria to marry the man he has chosen... But deep down, Victoria knows something is wrong and in addition, she loves someone else. So she needs Rose's help to avoid this marriage.

Duncan "Duck" McMurray has grown up with Rose. From the first moment they met, the two have been at odds with each other. At the same time, they've always have each other's back as well. When Duncan learns that Rose is coming to Austin, he makes it his responsibility to check up on her and make sure she is safe. As she wears the same family name as him, Rose could be a target for people who have a grudge against Duncan... And this possibility becomes a real eventuality when criminals from Duncan's latest case escape jail...

My Opinion: As you know, I'm not a huge fan of western romance; however, I am a big fan of Ms Thomas :) As a result, I've read quite a few books in the Whispering Mountain series and am familiar with the characters and the series. I actually wasn't aware of Wild Texas Rose's release, but when I found out that it was Rose and Duncan's book, there was no doubt I was going to get my hand on it! I loooove Duncan! LOL. Duncan first appeared as a little, wild boy in Texas Rain and I've really enjoyed seeing him grow into a man. So I was really looking forward to read his story. Unfortunately, I ended up having mixed feelings about Wild Texas Rose.

It's hard to review Wild Texas Rose because I cannot say I was disappointed with it. It was actually quite a good book... The problem is, it wasn't really Rose and Duncan's book as there were 3 additional couples to the story ^_^; All three couples had interesting romance and their presences actually fit seamlessly into the story of Wild Texas Rose. However, it doesn't change the fact that they took the focus away from Rose and Duncan and that's why I have mixed feelings. I actually really enjoyed reading about Rose and Duncan. They were great characters in my opinion; they have an interesting history together and great chemistry. Still, I wished Ms Thomas had focused on their romance more, fleshed it out a lot more. I understood the attraction between Rose and Duncan. After all, they've been frenemies since they were young LOL... but I thought the transition from "friends/cousins" to two persons in love wasn't well handled simply because it was too abrupt and seemed to come out of nowhere. For Duncan's story, I was expecting something more romantic... and Wild Texas Rose just wasn't it. Oh it was sweet and gentle and I loved that, but it wasn't enough and also, I felt Duncan was clumsy at times. The way he proposed to Rose to be together was very off-hand and casual. At the end, while Duncan loved Rose and knew her, I don't think he understood her totally. As for Rose, I really liked her character :) She was a lot stronger than people thought and I really liked her loyalty.

The other three couples in Wild Texas Rose were Killian and Victoria, Stitch and Hallie, Abe and Sara. All the couples were interesting and so their romance. As secondary characters and romances, they fulfill the job :) I especially liked Killian and Stitch's back story - it was very touching. While Abe and Sara's romance was very gentle and interesting, I thought it was a bit superfluous in Wild Texas Rose. Just because there were so many other romances in the book. I wouldn't have minded reading Abe and Sara's romance in another book perhaps.

Finally, the overall story of the book was really well done and very interesting. It was surprising how everything connected together :) As usual, everything would not have fit if it wasn't for Ms Thomas' writing :) I think if you're a fan of Ms Thomas, you definitively want to give Wild Texas Rose a try. If you're new to her books though, this might not be the best too start with.

My Grade: C+. Wild Texas Rose was not a bad book, it was actually quite good. However, it lacked focus and the romance suffered from it, hence the grade. Had there been more of Rose and Duncan, the book would have easily been a B read.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hauling Sunday XCI

Hi everyone! How was your week-end? Hope you had a nice one! Mine was very quiet, which is exactly what I needed :) The only thing I did besides reading Riveted by Meljean Brook and watching New Bride with White Hair was to go to a curling club open house. And guess what I'm going to be doing this week? Yes, I'm going to try to play curling! The curling club has a free 3-parts clinic this week and I, my sister and a bunch of friend have signed up :) I'm really excited to finally try it out. My friends and I have talked last winter of trying it out, but didn't know how and where. Well this solves our problem :)

Otherwise, nothing much has been going on with me and the week has been very quiet. I'm looking forward to this week, since there are going to be quite a few new releases that I'm looking forward to :) In the meantime, I did buy a book - yep, one single and lone book. Curious?

Speechless by Hannah Harrington - I read Alex' review of the book and it sounded really interesting, so I decided to give it a try :)

This was an impulse buy, but I got a really good price, so can't complain. I have to say, I feel I've been doing great this year book-buying-wise :) What do you think?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Week-End's Minis XXV: Fool for Love by Beth Ciotta

Fool for Love by Beth Ciotta
published by St. Martin's Press in August 2012

Call her a fool, but chef-in-training Chloe Madison wants to have her cake and eat it too. So when her boyfriend dumps her for some French tart, she decides to start over from scratch—with a new life and job in Sugar Creek, Vermont. What could be sweeter than cooking for an eccentric lady who’s crazy for desserts? What could be more tempting than joining a club called the Cupcake Lovers? Just one thing: local business-hunk Devlin Monroe...


Although he’s the grandson of Chloe’s fun-loving boss, Devlin Monroe is all work and no play. Micro-managing the family business, he doesn’t have time to indulge in life’s sweetest pleasures—until he meets Chloe. How can he resist such a vibrant, beautiful woman who brings so much passion to the table? But when old grudges and secrets threaten to destroy the Cupcake Lovers, Devlin must decide if his feelings for Chloe are a recipe for disaster—or a sinfully delicious ever-after...
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Cupcake Lover, Book #1

What do you  need to know? Chloe Madison has had many interests in her life, but none that she was able to pursue and turn into a career... until cooking. As she graduates from the Culinary Arts Institute with honors, Chloe finally feels like she has achieved something, until her boyfriend rains on her parade and dumps her for another woman. In a moment of weakness, her best friend convinces Chloe to move to Sugar Creek, Vermont, and become Daisy Monroe's gourmet chef, companion and driver. It's not exactly what Chloe was looking for for a job, but it'll give her time to get back on her feet, so she accepts.

As soon as she arrives into town, Chloe runs into Devlin Monroe, Daisy's grandson, and finds herself attracted to him. Too bad she has swore off men and sweets! Unfortunately for Chloe, there's no way around Devlin... nor Sugar Creek's cupcake club. As for Devlin, he's shocked that the first woman he's been attracted to in ages turns out to be his grandmother's new companion. Having taken a look at her background, he doesn't find Chloe very reliable and is not sure she's the right person for the job. Plus, he has no time for women when the family business' survival is in jeopardy because of the arrival of a Walmart super center.

Why this book? I saw the cover and it caught my attention. Sooo pretty! Then, when I read the blurb, I knew I had to get the book. Cooking shows are the new trend on TV and therefore, chef, cupcakes and cooking have made their way to books :) I've not escaped this new trend and have been looking for books with chefs as main characters :) Fool for Love sounded perfect.

What didn't work? My biggest problem with Fool for Love was I didn't find the book engrossing ^_^; The story simply didn't grab me and neither did the main characters :( Everything in Chloe's past indicates that she was a flake and while she finally found something she really wanted to do, her life still lacked direction. I don't mind heroines who are flakes as long as they are fun, but it was not the case with Chloe... The whole book, she was so uncertain... it just got a bit tedious to read. As for Devlin, he was overbearing with his micro-managing manners. He wants what is best for everyone and that's admirable, but the way he went about it was just annoying. As a whole, Chloe and Devlin were not bad characters, just not ones I'd like to hang out with. As for their relationship, it was annoying how both kept reminding themselves to keep their distances... and I really disliked how Devlin went in the situation having prejudices against Chloe because of her past.

Something else that bothered me is that Daisy is surrounded by family and friends, but none of them noticed her strange behavior. None of them questioned the reasons why she started living so outrageously. I thought it was quite obvious and it bothered me that of course, Chloe was the one to pick up all the signs. I understand she's a newcomer and therefore has a fresh view on things... but as I said, it was quite obvious.

Finally, I feel something was off with Fool for Love. Perhaps it was the pacing of the book, quite uneven throughout the book, or perhaps it's because a lot of things happened. Either way, the result is that the romance was very rushed at the end and while I wasn't exactly rooting for Devlin and Chloe, I still found that dissatisfying.

What did I like? Fool for Love had quite a few weaknesses, but there were some strengths as well. The writing and the setting were solid. The cupcake club's subplot was kind of nice. However, what got my attention and interest were the secondary characters. I enjoyed the Monroes, thought they were an interesting lot :)

My Grade? C-. Fool for Love just didn't do it for me and half-way through, I skimmed through till the end... and that's unfortunate because I was really looking forward to reading this book.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Monthly Reads: July 2012

I'm slowly catching up on my reviews and blogging and re-establishing my blogging pace. Yay! It helps that I've calmed down a bit about the New Bride with White Hair :) I'm still excited and checking for the subbed version every hour, but I'm less giddy ^_^; I know, I know, kind of pathetic, but what can I say LOL. Here is a picture of the series, just because :P Ma Su is so pretty in my opinion, but a lot of people don't think so. I guess beauty is really in the eye of the beholder... But I think many of them are blind LOL.

Oh and I'm also getting used to the new blogger interface. Okay, it's not new, but I didn't do the switch back then and now, I no longer have a choice. Still don't love it, but I can live with it...

Okay, enough of ramblings :) Take a look of my reads for July and what I thought :) Now, only one month behind!

1) A Duchess to Remember by Christina Brooke: B
Upcoming Review.

2) Angelic by Kelley Armstrong: C+

This is one of the novellas, part of the Women of the Otherworld series, that Ms Armstrong published with Subterranean Press. I missed its initial print release, but luckily, it's been released as an e-book. I have to say, that's when I'm really glad for e-books :) Since it's a novella, it goes without saying that the story is short. It features Eve Levine who's ready to put aside her angel duties for 6 months of vacation in the ghost world where her lover, Kris, is. However, the Fates have other plans and Eve ends up investigating some djinns rebellion and it leads her to some surprising findings.

I thought Angelic started off very strongly, but at the end of the day, it was simply too short. Perhaps if Ms Armstrong had only focused on the investigation, it would have been fine... but instead, Ms Armstrong added some personal developments and therefore, there was not enough time to make the mystery as suspenseful as possible. It also affected the resolution of the case which I thought was a bit too rushed. That being said, I wouldn't want Ms Armstrong to take out the personal developments LOL. I really liked the flashback of Kris and Bryce, it explains why Bryce disliked Savannah so much. And while I was not totally sold on Eve's work conflicts, it was interesting to see what Eve's afterlife was like :)

3) Starlight by Carrie Lofty: C-
Upcoming Review.

4) Scandal Wears Satin by Loretta Chase: B-
Upcoming Review.

5) About Last Night by Ruthie Knox: B+

6) Sweet Stuff by Donna Kauffman: B-

I came across this book when I was browsing the bookstore and the cover caught my attention, so I decided to give it a try :) It's the story of Riley Brown who used to be a food stylist in Chicago, but moved to Georgia  with her enormous, clumsy and lovable dog, Brutus, after a particularly difficult break-up. She lives on her friends' boat and has re-invented herself as a house stager. It's during one of her jobs that she meets Quinn Brannigan, a best-seller author who's come to Sugarberry to finish his latest novel and is therefore looking for a quiet place. The two are instantly attracted to each other and their attraction only grows deeper as they get to know each other... However, Riley is still wary and is not ready to risk herself in a new relationship yet... What does Quinn have to do to prove to Riley he is worth the chance?

I know I have a few books by Ms Kauffman in my TBR pile, but Sweet Stuff was actually my first book by this author and I ended up enjoying it quite a bit :) I thought Riley and Quinn had great chemistry together and loved that getting into bed was not their first priority. Each had reasons not to commit immediately, although those reasons were stronger for one of them, and they both respected it. While I was happy that Riley and Quinn did not jump into bed right away - which is often one of my complaints in romance, I have to say that in Sweet Stuff, I felt it took the H/H too much time to get together ^_^; I know, I know, very ironic. It's simply that Sweet Stuff was very character- and romance-orientated, but at the same time, not much happened. It was a lot of wishy-washy attitudes from both parties. It would have been nice to see more lovey-dovey scenes between Riley and Quinn or some action or something. I don't mind low levels of conflicts in romance, but I think in that case, you need a certain balance between the attraction, courting and relationship and in this case, the balance was a bit off. Still, it was refreshing to have a contemporary romance where the H/H didn't get together just for a fling! That is the prevalent theme lately and I'm so over it. Plus, Riley and Quinn were nice and likable characters and I felt their personalities complemented each other :) Aside from the H/H, I loved Brutus!! LOL. He was such a great dog - not smart, but the kind that will always be there for you and that you want to hug when you feel down :) Would have loved to have more scenes of him in the book. I also liked the other secondary characters and thought the Cupcake Club was a lot of fun :) Made me hungry and wanted a cupcake :)

7) Sugar Rush by Donna Kauffman: C

I enjoyed Sweet Stuff so much, I decided to go back and read the first book in the series. This book is about Leilani Trusdale, Lani for short, and Baxter Dunne who made an appearance in Sweet Stuff. Baxter is a renowned pastry chef, very popular and in demand at the moment. Not only does he have his own restaurants, but also has a TV show. Lani used to work for him in New York City and had a huge crush on him. However, she gave up her stellar career up and came back to Sugarberry after her mother passed away and her father had a heart attack. She's settled back home and opened her own cupcake shop and has never been happier. Of course, she misses her friends, but not the cut-throat and backstabbing environment of the kitchens... The last thing she needs is for Baxter to come to her neck of the woods to film his next series for his culinary TV show, but that's exactly what he does. Forcing the two to acknowledge their feelings and taking a decision.

Overall, I did like Sugar Rush. Once again, the H/H have good chemistry and I enjoyed their interactions and dynamics. And once again, it was nice that they worked through their issues and problems before becoming a couple. At the same time, it also felt like it took them forever to get together and I just started getting bored. The difference between Lani/Baxter and Riley/Quinn is that Lani and Baxter knew each other. They had a past and both have had feelings for one another for quite a long time. Baxter even came down to the South to film his TV show! They meant something to each other, a lot more than they wanted. As a result, it didn't make sense that it took them so long to sort things out. I simply wished there had been more scenes of the two together as a couple and I think it would have been more interesting to see them work out their relationship and overcome the obstacles than just waffling back and forth. I just wished Baxter had swept Lani off her feet, that there was a bit more passion between the two and they stopped being so logical.

Otherwise, Sugar Rush wasn't a bad book... but because I read it right after Sweet Stuff, I couldn't help comparing the two and I definitively enjoyed Sweet Stuff more. It was nice to see how the Cupcake Club started and to meet the secondary characters. I do wish we'd have seen more of Charlotte and Carlo, they are an interesting couple.

8) Off the Menu by Stacey Ballis: B`


Books bought: + 5
Books read: -8
TBR pile: -3 

Contemporary Romance – 3
Women's Fiction/Chick-Lit – 1
Historical Romance – 3
Urban Fantasy – 1


July was a slow month, both reading-wise and book-buying-wise, but it makes sense since I was on vacation. I really thought I would have had more time to read, but alas. LOL, I underestimate Europe :) Still, at the end of the day, I'm happy with the numbers. It's not half-bad and I did at least manage to read some.

What about you? Do you manage to read when you're on a trip overseas?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

TBR Challenge 2012: The Best Laid Plans by Sarah Mayberry

It's been a while, but I finally made it again for the TBR challenge! Yay me! I think the trick is to read the TBR book as soon as possible LOL. That being said, I went with what I was in the mood for and didn't stick with this month's theme. But really, one step at a time, right? :)

The Best Laid Plans by Sarah Mayberry
published by Harlequin in November 2010
"Boundaries." The key to how corporate lawyer Alexandra Knight manages her busy life. However, lately all her precisely drawn lines are getting blurred. Blame it on her out-of-control biological clock that is ignoring her single status...and on Ethan Stone.Because her sexy, no-strings colleague has posed an outrageous solution to her dilemma--he'll be her baby daddy. This from the guy who avoids all commitment? Okay, so they're attracted to each other. Really, really attracted. But crossing the line from coworker to co-parent with Ethan could ruin Alex for all other men. After all, when you've had the best...
Genre: Category romance, contemporary
Series: None

The Story: Alexandra Knight has always wished to be a mother, to have her own family. However, she put aside her dream in order to build her career and wait till her boyfriend who didn't want children to change his mind. Unfortunately, he never did and as a result, they parted ways after 7 years of relationship. So imagine Alexandra's shock when she runs across him, pushing a stroller with a four month old baby. Another shock is to find out that she's running out of time to procreate. From the doctor, she learns that once she hits 40, her chances to carry a baby to term will be very slim... and Alexandra is already 38 years old. She always thought she'd have time to meet a nice guy, fall in love and start a family, but now, it doesn't seem so. What if she meets someone, but doesn't fall in love? What if they do but he doesn't want children? And when should she bring up the question of children? On the first or third date or 6 months into the relationship? Alexandra finds her answer when she comes across an ad for a sperm donor. Why depend on someone else when she can do it herself?

Ethan Stone is Alexandra's colleague, also a junior partner in the firm they work for, and her racquetball partner. He's also very handsome and eligible, but has sworn off marriage after his divorce. When he accidentally finds out about Alexandra's plan, he thinks it's a crazy plan. However, seeing how determined Alexandra is to go through, he starts thinking... What if he was the donor? After his divorce, he thought kids were out of the picture for him, but what if this was his opportunity? He and Alex get along well and can have shared custody... But can this really work?

My Opinion: So I was in the mood for a Ms Mayberry's book and thought of More Than a Night; however, when looking for it, I came across The Best Laid Plans and thought it'd be better to read that one since I could use it as my TBR challenge entry and here we are :) It's fun when things work out well.

I bought The Best Laid Plans during my "Sarah Mayberry" period. I've never been a fan of category romance, mostly because of the shorter format. However, as there is less and less contemporary romance published (especially non-small-town contemporary romance), I've been trying to get my fix through category romance :) And one name that pops up again and again when it comes to this genre is Ms Mayberry... so of course, I gave her a try and enjoyed her book well enough that I started buying every one of her new releases - and that's how The Best Laid Plans found its way to my TBR pile. Nowadays, it's not that I don't enjoy Ms Mayberry's writing; however, I'm more selective because she often tackles an idea in a book and really, fully developed it... and those ideas don't always fit with my reading taste. For example,  if The Best Laid Plans was published next month, I wouldn't have picked it up. I'm not a fan of books where the heroines are desperate to have a baby... Of course, that'd mean I'd have missed a very solid book though ^_^; So it's good I got The Best Laid Plans when I did :)

The reason The Best Laid Plans worked for me is that Ms Mayberry really made the readers understand why Alexandra wanted a child, a family so much and why she was in such a rush. It wasn't Alexandra seeing all her friends hooking up and wanting to fit in or being afraid to be alone or simply because it was time. No, Alexandra truly wanted a child and you really could feel her desire was genuine. As for her biological clock ticking, well it wasn't just a saying, it was indeed ticking. I liked that Ms Mayberry set us straight on the fertile years of a woman and about how difficult it is to become pregnant and carry to term after the age of 40. As such, Alexandra's urgency, being 38, made sense. Some people might think artificial insemination is cold and desperate and to some extent, it was; however, it was the most reliable of her options and also the most honest in my opinion. To go out there in the dating world and find a man, to settle for someone, simply to start a family... that isn't a better choice.

I really thought The Best Laid Plans started out well and very strong. Both Alexandra and Ethan are likable characters, very level-headed and competent. I also very much liked their approach to the whole theme. I thought Ethan's reaction especially felt very honest. To be shocked at first that Alexandra would consider such a thing and later, admire her for going after what she wanted... and then consider his own wish and dream. Here was his chance to be a father, would he really let it pass? And I'm glad he didn't. In addition, it was good that Alexandra and Ethan were not strangers, but instead, friendly colleagues. I liked that they knew each other, but not inside out and I enjoyed the parts where they got to know each other.

I wished they had had a bit more time to get to know each other though, but that was fine. I also wished they had gone through with the artificial insemination. I think that was a bit of a let-down that they didn't go through, because the whole first half of the book was building up to this moment... And also, it would have been much more interesting to see them deal with it and come together. As it is, I found the romance a bit lacking. I mean, I understand the reasons why they fell in love - after all, they were already attracted to each other prior and after playing house together, getting to know each other better... but it fell a bit flat. The book would have been so much more memorable and interesting if they have fallen in love after she got pregnant in my opinion. Also, the love declaration at the end was a bit rushed so that didn't help my feeling towards the romance.

Finally, Ethan's secret at the end, the reason why he didn't want to commit to marriage again was totally understandable... but given the theme of the book, very predictable as well ^_^; Also, I found it sad that he could not share it earlier with his brother, but I guess it hurt too much... So for him to share it with Alexandra, it showed how much she meant to him.

My Grade: B-. The Best Laid Plans was definitively an interesting book because of Ms Mayberry's approach to the theme and she did have likable characters. However, that aspect put aside, the romance wasn't very memorable resulting in a weaker second half of the book.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Review: Dark Frost by Jennifer Estep

Dark Frost by Jennifer Estep
published by Kensington in May 2012
I've seen so many freaky things since I started attending Mythos Academy last fall. I know I'm supposed to be a fearless warrior, but most of the time, I feel like I'm just waiting for the next Bad, Bad Thing to happen. Like someone trying to kill me again. Everyone at Mythos Academy knows me as Gwen Frost, the Gypsy girl who uses her psychometry magic to find lost objects and who just may be dating Logan Quinn, the hottest guy in school. But I'm also the girl the Reapers of Chaos want dead in the worst way. The Reapers are the baddest of the bad, the people who murdered my mom. So why do they have it in for me? It turns out my mom hid a powerful artifact called the Helheim Dagger before she died. Now, the Reapers will do anything to get it back. They think I know where the dagger is hidden, but this is one thing I can't use my magic to find. All I do know is that the Reapers are coming for me and I'm in for the fight of my life.
Genre: YA, Paranormal
Series: Mythos Academy, Book #3

The Story: The winter semester has just started at Mythos Academy and already, Gwen has her hands full. It all started with the attack from the Reapers at the museum where Gwen and her friends had to put in practice what they've learned in order to survive. It's one thing to learn how to fight, but to actually apply the theory... and kill someone? Problem is, the Reapers and Loki's champion will never leave Gwen alone until they find what they want: the Helheim Dagger which is the last artifact they need to release Loki unto the world. And it seems there's a possibility that all along, the dagger was hidden at the academy!

Unfortunately for Gwen, she has no one to turn to when she needs it most. Daphne is busy coming to term with her nascent Valkyrie ability which manifested during the attack. It's really not what she wanted nor expected, although it did save her boyfriend's life. Then there's Logan... He wants to be with Gwen, but he has issues with Gwen's gift, not wanting her to know his deepest and darkest secrets...Only, Gwen has already had a peek and there's nothing she can do if he doesn't accept that.

Finally, there's the new job Gwen has been hired for, to find Vivian's - another student at Mythos Academy - ring. It should have been simple, only it is not. She knew that there were Reapers among the students at Mythos Academy... but could it be that Loki's champion is among them as well?

My Opinion: Let's jump right in, shall we? :) I thought Dark Frost was better than Kiss of Frost... but it still hasn't reached the point where I'm going to go out and rave about this book or the series :( It still hasn't realized the potential it exhibited in Touch of Frost.

The positives of Dark Frost include once again a solid world building and interesting characterizations. The plot was also interesting and actually moved the overall storyline along well. It was tighter and I felt Ms Estep did a better job at balancing the action and the relationships. I actually quite enjoyed the relationships part of the book. I enjoyed seeing Gwen befriending more people and I really liked her growing friendship and chemistry with Oliver. Also, I think it was a good move on Ms Estep's part to add a bit of conflict between Daphne and Gwen. It's all good that Gwen has a best friend to depend on, but one has to remember the friendship is quite new and there can be waves to rock it. It's also more realistic given Gwen and Daphne are teenagers and at a crucial period of their lives. And all this will contribute to helping them build character.

Something else I enjoyed was seeing Gwen evolve in term of her abilities and ditto with her friends. Having a better grasps on their powers will only make the action more interesting in future books. There were also some interesting revelations in Dark Frost that shed some lights on some behaviors :) All in all, the series is really shaping up and that's a good thing.

Unfortunately, I do have one issue with Dark Frost and the series and it's a big one: the stories are too obvious. Quite frankly, I feel there's no subtlety in the plot and writing... therefore, if something is mentioned, you know it's going to be important ^_^; There is foreshadowing and there is "right there in your face" and the Mythos Academy series falls more in the "right there in your face" category ^_^; And that's really unfortunate, because it takes a lot away. I just feel the story is not intricate enough. Oh, there has been some nice twists, but for the most part, it's been too straightforward and easy to connect the dots. It's as if Ms Estep has a plan for the story and characters and she's following it... but I feel in this kind of series, you kind of need to throw the readers into the loop a little, let them figure out what's happening and why. In my review of Touch of Frost, I compared the Mythos Academy series with the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Well throwing the readers into the loop is something Mr Riordan achieved really well. When you start reading the Percy Jackson series, you are aware of the prophecy. You know where the characters are head, but you don't know how and while they go on new adventures, you don't know how these adventures connect to the end. In the case of the Mythos Academy series, you know how it connects to the endpoint and it just takes away from the enjoyment, from the wondering.

Something else that bothered me as well in Dark Frost was Gwen pining after Logan. Sigh. Besides the fact that Logan is the hottest guy in the Academy and he's been nice to Gwen on occasions, I don't know if he's really worthy of Gwen's feelings. I mean, so far, I feel the way he's been treating Gwen has been lacking. It doesn't matter the excuses he has, it's just not okay. He blows cold and hot and Gwen just let him. I wish Gwen would grow a spine when it comes to Logan and stopped letting him dictates everything between them... because the way it's going, it feels like Gwen is weak. It's really too bad there's no chance of any love relationship between Gwen and Oliver, because so far, he's the one who's been there for her.

Overall, I still think the series has potential, but it's not enough. Ms Estep needs something more for the Mythos Academy series to really stand out, to completely and utterly hook the readers... and personally, I think it's going to have come through the plots and storylines.

My Grade: B-.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hauling Sunday XC

I never thought it was possible to be too excited, but that's how I'm feeling right now. I really need to calm myself down ^_^; I mean, I've been so excited that I haven't been able to sleep. It's worst than Christmas LOL.

So to clear my mind, let's talk books :) Yesterday was the Smart Chicks Kick It! tour and Kelley Armstrong, Melissa Marr, Rachel Caine, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Melissa de la Cruz, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl were present. I went to get some of my books signed by Kelley Armstrong. She's the only author among them that I read, which when you think about is quite unfortunate... but I'm not a huge YA reader, so what can I say?

Anyway, the book signing was a bit of a mix bag. I was really happy to be able to attend and to meet the authors and I think it's a really fun event. There was a short introduction and a Q&A session and then, the signing. These authors are fun, witty and happy to be there which was really cool. Unfortunately, I thought the area they held the book signing was too small. It would have been fun if there were actually chairs so we could be comfortable. Instead, we stood in line the whole time. While we could hear, we hardly had a view of the stage where the authors were. Ah well. I also think there was a higher turn-out than the bookstore expected, so I didn't have the chance to get a lot or some great pictures... but here is what I have :)

Yeah, not the greatest pictures, but the best I could do. Oh and the good thing about this signing is I could bring my own books, didn't have to buy the books from the bookstore. Yay! Cos being a big fan of Kelley Armstrong, I already have them all LOL. Anyway, it was still a cool activity overall :)

And here is what I got this week in the mail:

Delusion in Death by J.D. Robb - Always on the look out for the new In Death book :)

Riveted by Meljean Brook - I hesitated a little, but it's really been getting good reviews :) Can't wait to read it.

And that's it for this week. Not a lot, but books from two great authors :) And you, what did you get?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Week-End's Minis XXIV: Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros

It's the week-end! It's the week-end! And I'm awake at an insanely early hour because I'm so excited about the New Bride with White Hair tv series. Sigh. Ironically, when episodes 3 and 4 are going to be broadcast in China, I won't even be home. Instead, I'll be on my way to a book signing. Yep, the Smart Chicks Kick It! tour is making a stop in Montreal. Kelley Armstrong, Melissa Marr, Rachel Caine, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Melissa de la Cruz, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl should be present at the book signing. I've only really read Kelley Armstrong and I've already seen met her twice already... But what can I say, it's so rare that authors that I'm interested in stop by Montreal, cannot skip this occasion. I'll definitively have pictures tomorrow. Ugh, perhaps not tomorrow actually because I'm having issues with Picasa... seems like I'm over the storage limit, sigh. Will have to figure that out. But anyway, as soon as possible! LOL. That is if the New Bride with With Hair doesn't distract me :)

Anyway, today I had plans to review another book, but I figure this one would come more easily :) So enjoy!!

Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros
published by Simon & Schuster in December 2010 (trade)/August 2012 (paperback)
Can two strangers who meet (and tweet) by chance find a love strong enough to last a lifetime? That’s the question former literary sensation Abby Donovan is forced to explore when she meets Mark Baynard on Twitter. Mark, an English professor traveling the world, shatters Abby’s writer’s block one witty tweet at a time. Just as she begins to write and live again, she discovers Mark is hiding a secret that could change both of their lives forever. In the tradition of Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail, two lonely people discover it doesn’t take 140 characters to find your soul mate, just three little words.
Genre: Contemporary romance/chick-lit
Series: None

What do you need to know? Abby Donovan is an author whose debut novel about a girl growing up with a bipolar mother (based on her own experience) won Oprah's approval and almost a Pulitzer prize. However, the fame has its downside and that is when you're on top, there's only one way to go: down. As a result, Abby is having a major writer's block and has been stuck on chapter 5 of her second book for a couple of years... Her deadline is past due and fans are starting to forget who she is... That's not good at all! In an effort to maintain Abby's visibility, her agent creates for her a Twitter account.

On her first day on Twitter, Abby is taken under the wing of Mark Baynard, an English Lit professor at Ole Miss who is on sabbatical and traveling the world. He offers Abby to teach her how to navigate the Twitter world. Their discussions quickly take a flirtatious direction and soon, Mark and Abby are going on "tweet dates." But can a relation be born of these exchanges? And have both parties truly been honest with each other?

Why this book? I've read some of Ms Medeiros' books in the past and enjoyed them, although they were historical. I remember wanting to read Goodnight Tweetheart when it first came out, but didn't because it was trade. So when I saw it at Walmart, I picked it up :)

What did I like? I didn't really know what to expect of Goodnight Tweetheart, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Actually, the Twitter format is like email or instant messaging in epistolary format book, so it was very readable. I admit to counting some of the tweets to see if it was really 140 characters LOL. Surprisingly, you can write a lot with 140 characters :)

So yes, Goodnight Tweetheart was very readable and I enjoyed Abby and Mark's budding relationship. They really had chemistry between each other and with this anonymous cover, they shared personal information and secrets more easily. Abby's fear and writing block, Mark's issues with his ex-wife, etc. It felt really real and I love that they got to know each other and had no chance to fall in bed LOL. Also, being a blogger, I know really well you can form strong relationships over the net. And as I said, Mark and Abby had really good chemistry together, so it was believable. I also liked the pattern in their conversations - how they greeted each other and said goodbye, it was really cute.

Something else that I really enjoyed was the twist about Mark. I knew from the blurb Mark had a secret, but I did not expect what it was. And it fit the situation so well and made so much sense. So bravo to Ms Medeiros for that :)

What didn't work? A few things didn't work for me. First, there was a lot of pop culture references in Goodnight Tweetheart and as a result, it was hard for me to follow at times. However, it gave them a rhythm and really proved they were suited for each other, so in the end, that was okay.

My second issue is pretty much Abby's character. I thought she was hard to like and root for. I can understand her fear of failure, but I thought it went a bit too far. Because of it, she became almost agoraphobic and also, the denial? You're due past your deadline a couple of years and when your editor asks to meet you and your agent, you think it's good? Come on, be realistic. The thing is, Abby was clearly in a rut, but she did nothing to get out of it and that annoyed me. Quite whining and do something. Can't write chapter 5, then why don't you write the ending? Also, she was afraid to run out of money because she could not hand in her book... Perhaps moving out of her posh apartment with a view on Central Park for something more affordable would have been a good thing to do? I just wanted her to be more pro-active.

Another thing that bothered me was Abby's reaction when Mark told her the truth about her situation. She got angry and hissy about it and hurt. Those are all good reactions, but instead of work things out, she just disappeared. I felt Abby was a bit naïve about it all. I mean, it's the internet... people are going to lie, they're going to keep secrets. Mark came clean... and really, it doesn't change who he was. I also felt she did not consider his side of the story. It really, really made sense.

One final thing, as much as I believe it's possible for two strangers to meet on Twitter and develop a romance, as much chemistry Abby and Mark had, I still felt Goodnight Tweetheart lacked some depth. Something to make Goodnight Tweetheart truly memorable...

My Grade? C.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Been distracted... by New Bride with White Hair!

Well I guess this week is to be forgotten reading-wise ^_^; I've read only two books. One that I started before going to New York City and the other was Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros and it took me a week, sigh. Oh, it wasn't because of the book at all... Actually, Goodnight Tweetheart was very readable. Nope, as I mentioned in my last post, I've been distracted by TV LOL. So what has caught my attention?

First is the TV show Leverage. My friend V has been telling me about it for a couple of years and I finally started watching it. Actually, it's more my sister after talking to V who really wanted to watch it and I got pulled in. Leverage is about a team of 5 people who picks up where justice leaves off and offers some leverage :) I love shows that feature con artists like Ocean Eleven and White Collar, so Leverage is really perfect for me. So far, I've watched 2 seasons... 2.5 more to go LOL. I like the team chemistry and so far, the script writers have done a good job not to muddle it up too much with romance. Hey, I'm a fan of romance, but in long running TV shows, it doesn't always work out well. Script writers are really good at creating chemistry and sexual tension; however, what happens when the characters get together? Of course, they can't just get along and be happy. No, that'd be too boring, so they are stuck creating conflicts or excuses as to why they can't be together... Think Chuck, Castle and Bones! Even Grey's Anatomy. I don't know about you, but I find that very tiring after a while.

 The movie posters. Actually, The Bride with White Hair was so successful, they made a sequel movie!

 TVB TV adaptation in 1994 and Taiwan adaptation in 1999

Lucky for me, I found another TV show for my romance fix and that's been the real distraction. So what is it? Well it's a new Chinese kung fu TV series: New Bride with White Hair :) Why "New"? Because this is the newest adaptation of the novel White Hair Demoness by Liang Yusheng. Liang Yusheng is a renown kung fu novel author and is reputed to have very strong heroines - yay!! :) Unfortunately, I'm not as familiar with his work as I'd wish because not many has been translated in vietnamese :( One of his most popular works is White Hair Demoness and as any popular kung fu novel, it's been adapted numerous time on the big and small screen. The 1993 Hong Kong film featuring Leslie Cheung and Brigitte Lin is a classic and a must-see if you're a fan of martial arts movie of the golden era. I personally don't love it all that much... I thought it was a bit weird  and some of the scenes, I really didn't like. I did watch the tv adaptation done in 1994 by TVB and featuring Ada Choi and that's when I fell in love with the story. The overall plot was solid, the love story touching and the kung fu scenes were great! Ah, that was the golden era in my opinion, before the special effects took over. I know Taiwan made another adaptation of the series in 1999 and I was excited for it, because I love the story and it featured one of my feature actors, Julian Cheung. However, after watching a couple of episodes, I just never got hooked. It was draggy, the plot silly in place and the production quality wasn't great...

But New Bride with White Hair? Oh, this production totally has me hooked!! Once again, because it's an adaptation of White Hair Demoness, but also because it features some of my favorite actors, Nicky Wu and Ma Su!! Not only that, but best of all, they are the main characters and a couple!! I just love this pairing! Actually, Ma Su first came to my attention in Hero on the Silk Road in which Nicky Wu was also the main character. I really liked the chemistry between Ma Su and Nicky in that series; however, their love story was kind of ambiguous... Actually, really ambiguous. But I liked them together and now, in New Bride with White Hair, well this is an epic love story, so wooohooo for me!

Okay, so what's the story? I mean, you've seen the posters above from the previous adaptations and you probably wonder what is up with the "White Hair" LOL. I know there's a political plot in the novel, but I'm not really familiar with it. To me, The Bride with White Hair has always been about the love story... Basically, it's kind of a Romeo and Juliet love story... perhaps even more tragic. Zhuo Yi Hang (Nicky Wu) is our hero, he is the son of an court official family and was sent to Wu Dang to study kung fu. He's very talented and smart and is expected to be the next leader of Wu Dang. Lian Ni Chang (Ma Su) is a vigilante and the leader of a gang. She steals from the rich and corrupted and redistribute the money to the poor. In her way, she upholds justice... But in the eye of the "good" side, she's seen as a bandit and a ruthless one at that. Her kung fu is very powerful and quite unorthodox and she loves challenging people to fight and doesn't hesitate to kill. So Zhuo Yi Hang and Lian Ni Chang are basically from opposite sides (good vs evil), but they are attracted to each other and fall in love. However, everyone in Zhuo Yi Hang is opposed to the match and there are eventually many misunderstandings in their relationship. One of those misunderstandings actually causes Zhuo Yi Hang to injure Lian Ni Chang. Heart broken, Lian Ni Chang's hair turn white overnight. Zhuo Yi Hang wants to atone for his action, but it's too late. Love and hate is a fine line and having lost her beauty and tired of fighting for Zhuo Yi Hang, she has given up on him... To show his sincerity, Zhuo Yi Hang vows to find the flower that will turn Lian Ni Chang's hair back to black. He finally finds the flower, but it only blooms once every 60 years and he doesn't know when it will happen, but he waits for it.

Ma Su actually looks good with white hair! Like Nicky's outfit :)

It's really been a looong, loooong time since I've been this excited for a chinese TV series. And you know what? I was soooo lucky! I found out about this series when I came back from my trip from Europe, if I remember correctly. The series had started filming earlier this year in April and I was looking for pictures of the production. I just wanted to see you know! At first, I admit, I was a bit worried because of the costumes ^_^; Some of the color choices they've made - especially for Nicky, ouch. Just a tad too showy and fluorescent. Also, the lack of pictures of Ma Su with white hair?!? Oh yeah, that got me really worried. I mean, you never know with TV adaptation. They can change anything and everything. In one tv adaption of a different novel, I've seen them turn an important secondary character, but who only appeared at the beginning and end of the story - 9 volumes long! - into the main character!! So they could take away the white hair, but that's the story. Anyway, I finally found a forum with tons of pictures, and the more I saw, the better my feelings about the series were and it just got me more excited for this series... That was probably three weeks ago. And then, I found out that New Bride with White Hair would start being broadcast on September 14!!! April to September, that's less than 6 months! Post-production for kung fu series usually takes a year! There's a TV series that Nicky has filmed after his success in Bu Bu Jing Xin, but before New Bride with White Hair that still hasn't aired yet! Really, for New Bride with White Hair to be shown now, it's pretty much a miracle and as I said, lucky for me, because I won't die waiting for it! LOL. So what have I done this past week instead of reading? Basically looked for more pictures and any video clips, trailers, etc. ^_^; Even started visiting some Chinese forum, using Google translation.. And let me tell you, the translation is not great ^_^; Yep, that's how addicted to this series I've been. And it finally started showing today!! Oh and the broadcast schedule? Two episodes per night on Friday, Saturday and Sunday! Originally, it was going to be only Friday and Saturday, but afterwards, they added Sunday. I don't know why, but I'm not complaining! This series is 36 episodes so I went from 9 weeks to 6 weeks! I'm telling you, I'm totally hooked LOL.

 Possible happy ending? I'm basing myself on the costumes and hair style LOL. See how flexible they are?!

From the pictures I've seen, it looks like they've changed a lot of things to the storyline. Actually, I even suspect that in this version, Lian Ni Chang and Zhuo Yi Hang are going to get a happy ending! LOL. Usually, I'm a stickler for adaptation faithfulness. However, as I'm not really familiar with the plot of White Hair Demoness, I don't mind the changes so much. Plus, as a romance reader, I can't help but hope for a HEA ending :) Plus, I skimmed through an English translation of White Hair Demoness (ironic isn't it? Can't get my hand on the viet version, but someone has actually translated it in English!) and the original Zhuo Yi Hang sounds a bit spineless ^_^; He doesn't have the charisma which makes me wonder why Lian Ni Chang would fall in love with him. Changing some stuff might not be a bad idea. So yeah, for this one, I'm just going to sit back, watch and enjoy :) There's also been rumors at the poor quality of the production since they took only a couple of months instead of a year. They had to rush because they wanted to show a series with Nicky - his popularity since Bu Bu Jing Xin has really soared and it's been kind of a rebirth for me. Personally, from the clips and the two first episodes I've seen today, it looks really good to me.  Okay, so some of the special effects look a bit cheesy and fake as well as some of the backgrounds that were added (they filmed on a green screen), but that's to be expected from Chinese production... and might depend more on the budget. Oh and another reasons why I am so excited for New Bride with White Hair is for the kung fu action!! One of the reasons why I gave up watching kung fu series was the poor fighting scenes. Too much special effects and no longer hand-to-hand fighting scenes. I'm sorry, but when two people stand 10 meters away from each other and move their swords and someone adds CGI to the scene and that's the fighting, it takes everything away. However, New Bride with White Hair has a bit of an old school feel. Obviously, there's special effects and some CGI, but so far, there's also been a lot of hand-to-hand fight scenes. And why? Because as a producer, Nicky was smart enough to choose actors that knew kung fu or who were flexible enough to perform! Seriously, it looks awesome :)

Okay, I'm going to stop here. I've probably bored you enough :) Although you'll probably here from New Bride with White Hair again :) For the meantime, I leave you with the ending credits of New Bride with White Hair. I looooove the song!! I've been re-watching the credits to hear the song over and over this evening LOL. Oh and that first scene where Ma Su walks aways and Nicky won't let go of her hand? Ahhhhhh.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Review: Haven by Kay Hooper

LOL, so my plan to keep having posts for the blog is not going so well as I'm getting distracted by TV. I'm most probably going to blog on that later this week :) However, I'm not giving up! So here's my review for Haven by Kay Hooper! Enjoy :)

Haven by Kay Hooper
published by Berkley in July 2012
Emma Rayburn lived a quiet life in the sleepy town of Baron Hollow, North Carolina, until she injured her head in a riding accident. Afterwards, her dreams were full of nameless girls being tortured and murdered, nightmares that didn't seem to have any link with her life...until her estranged sister, Jessie, returned to Baron Hollow. Now an investigator who uses her psychic abilities in her work, Jessie has long been plagued by something that happened to her as a teen girl, before she ran away from Baron Hollow. She's come back to uncover the truth - and to discover the ones responsible for the deed. Could Emma's nightmares be connected to Jessie's quest? But it isn't just the truth at stake - there's an evil that's haunting the present, an evil that has roots in the darkness of the past, and a terrifying violence that neither sister can remember...
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Series: FBI SCU, Book #13

The Story: Jessie Rayburn left Baron Hollow at the age of 17 and never looked back. No, she didn't leave - she ran away and as fast as she could... but she doesn't remember why. She spent years drifting until she became part of Haven and found a purpose. Haven is the civilian version of the FBI Special Crime Unit (SCU), backed up by the billionaire John Garrett. It consists of private investigators who are also psychics and has more freedom than the FBI. Being a telepath and a weak medium, Jessie fit right in. Unfortunately for her, something is preventing her from using her abilities to their full potential and everyone believes it is linked to her past, the reason she ran away. Not feeling ready, but wanting to move on, Jessie decides to go back to Baron Hollow to face her past.

What is waiting for Jessie in Baron Hollow is her younger sister, Emma... and ghosts. When Jessie's boss learns of the ghosts, she decides to send someone to assist Jessie: enters Nathan Navarro, a fellow investigator in Haven. His unique ability allows him to find dead bodies... and it doesn't take long for him to find one and he's pretty sure there is more. Both Jessie and Nathan can feel a dark presence in Baron Hollow, evil.

Emma is not sure why Jessie came back home. She would like to reconnect with her sister, but Jessie keeps brushing her off, going on expeditions and being distracted and preoccupied. Then, Nathan shows up at her B&B, someone she never expected to see again. Finally, the body is found... and strangely, the woman seemed to have died the same way Emma dreamed and probably at the same time. Ever since she had a riding accident, Emma has been dreaming of women being tortured and dying... What if they weren't dreams?

My Opinion: All right, before you continue on, keep in mind that I'm a huge fan of Ms Hooper, kay? :) Right off the bat, I'm going to tell you that Haven is not the best book in the FBI SCU series. However, I did like it and more importantly, it brings me hope. It brings me hope because it tells me Ms Hooper is back and on the right track :)

So, what I liked about Haven is that we finally find out more about the organization itself. Haven's been mentioned quite a lot in the last couple of books, but it remained kind of elusive. Now, we have clarifications. It's quite interesting how Haven is kind of an extension of the FBI SCU and vice versa. It's also clever because there's a lot less red tape. At the same time, I have to wonder about the risks that some of the PI might run into. Hopefully, most of them are less stubborn than Jessie and accept help and also, gotta trust Maggie and John.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and the plot; however, the book was a bit of a frustrating read. A lot of it had to do with Jessie. I didn't like her attitude or how she handled things. It feels some things could have been simplified if only she had taken two seconds to talk to Nathan and Emma. At the same time, it was very in character with her, so I guess ultimately, it works. The past that she was trying to uncover was interesting and there was a nice twist with it which I did not see coming. The serial killer case was not bad, but I wished there had been more physical clues for Nathan and Emma to follow instead of abstract feelings, intuition and clues. I guess what I'm saying is I'd have like a more procedural approach to the case. Although as usual, I feel Ms Hopper handled the psychic aspect of the book really well. Ultimately though, I think the case could have been more interesting and tighter.

I also liked Nathan and Emma's characters. Quite frankly, when I got into the book, it was a bit hard to figure out who was the heroine, Emma or Jessie? They both play big roles in the story. At the end of the day, Emma edged out Jessie - yay! Of the two, I thought Emma was just more likable and more willing also. She was the one who tried to reconnect, she was the one who was more open... I really liked Nathan's character and I'm really hoping that we'll see him in future books. Still, there's a part in me that's a bit dissatisfied. I think for this book to have been better, there need to be more development to both Emma and Nathan. Flesh them out more and have their relationship more established. I liked that the two of them had a connection prior to Haven, but I would have liked it to be explored. Perhaps Ms Hooper has plans for it in the next book. I know Ms Hooper usually writes the FBI SCU series in trilogy and while it usually features new characters, this might be an exception. Anyway, at the end of Haven, I wished I knew Nathan and Emma better. Oh and don't go into Haven thinking this is a romantic suspense book. It is not. Unfortunately, Ms Hooper has made the switch from RS to mystery/thriller a couple of years ago and it looks as if it's going to stay that way... to my eternal regret.

As usual, seeing Hollis was a pleasure :) I like how she's starting to be a really important secondary character. I'm curious to see how her relationship with Reese develops. I'm also curious to see how her abilities have evolved. Another familiar face is Noah Bishop! A FBI SCU book wouldn't be one without him making an appearance. Overall though, I think Ms Hooper kept the familiar faces to a minimum and that's good. Other familiar elements include the bad guy being a serial killer, the psychic abilities helping the case along and all the red herrings. Oh and of course, the cryptiness and goriness of the mystery. When I read Haven, there was definitively a familiar feeling... it was like meeting and talking to a friend you haven't seen in a while :) If you've read the last two trilogies of the FBI SCU series and didn't enjoy the books, you should definitively skip this one. I also

My Grade: I admit not being totally objective with Haven. Had this book been written by any other authors, based on the mystery and the plot, the grade would probably have been lower ^_^; However, what can I say? I'm just so happy there's finally a new book in the FBI SCU series, one of my all-time favorite series, and also to reunite with the familiar writing of Ms Hooper :) Like I said, Haven is not Ms Hooper's strongest book, but she's getting there. B-.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Review: A Witch Before Dying by Heather Blake

Woohoo, I had a great start to the week :) I feel like I'm back in the rhythm today. I was really productive today and I'm happy about it :) Hopefully, it'll continue that way. In the meantime, I think I have a plan to stay ahead for my blog. Wish me luck :P

Today's review is A Witch Before Dying by Heather Blake. LOL, I stalked the online indicator and as soon as it showed up in one of the bookstore, I went to get it :) And you know what? I would do it again! Enjoy!

A Witch Before Dying by Heather Blake
published by New American Library (Signet) in August 2012
Darcy Merriweather is Salem, Massachusetts’ newest resident Wishcrafter—a witch who can grant wishes for others. While Darcy isn’t able to grant wishes for herself, she does possess a certain knack for solving problems—including the occasional murder...

When Darcy is hired by Elodie Keaton to clean up her missing mother’s disorderly home, the Wishcrafter is certainly up for the task. After all, the motto of her Aunt Ve’s personal concierge service As You Wish is “No Job Impossible.” But beneath the piles of old newspapers and knickknacks Darcy discovers something much more disturbing—Patrice Keaton’s body.

Darcy’s determined to give Elodie peace of mind by investigating her mother’s disappearance and death. Patrice was last seen over a year ago after a fight with her Charmcrafter boyfriend. Was her murder a crime of passion? Or were Patrice’s troubles caused by the Anicula, a wish-granting amulet? Now Darcy has to not only find a killer, she has to find the Anicula— before the power of ultimate wish fulfillment falls into the wrong hands...
Genre: Cosy mystery
Series: A Wishcraft Mystery, Book #2

The Story: Darcy Merriweather is making the best out of her new start in life, settling in Salem, Massachusett, adapting to being a Wishcrafter and enjoying the possibility of more with the hunky sherriff and single dad Nick Sawyer. Her newest job at As You Wish, her aunt's personal concierge service, is to clean out Elodie Keaton's mother's house. This is going to be easier said than done given that Patrice, Elodie's mother, was a hoarder. It is also a delicate situation as Patrice has disappeared two years ago. And the situation is becoming more delicate by the second when Darcy discovers her mummified body in a suitcase under all the mess... Quickly, the town is buzzing with gossips and names of possible suspects... but all agree that Patrice lost her life because of the Anicula, the amulet that grants all wishes, even those of a wishcrafter.

When Elodie asks Darcy to resolve the murder, Darcy has no choice as Elodie is a client. Not that Darcy is unhappy with the request as she'd like to satisfy her curiosity as well. However, time is tight as Darcy also has to take care of the last minute preparations for Aunt Ve's wedding while she is sick... and when things start to go really wrong, Darcy suspects foul play.

My Opinion: A Witch Before Dying is a book I was really looking forward to reading this summer as I really enjoy Ms Blake aka Heather Webber's cosy mystery books :) I enjoy her writing style and the fluffiness in her books and A Witch Before Dying was no exception, although I did have a few issues.

Everything that I said I liked and enjoyed in the first book, It Takes a Witch, when it comes to the setting and the characters is still valid in A Witch Before Dying. The world building is interesting, well-developed and most important, consistent :) The atmosphere is still light and fun and the cast of characters, still quirky :) It's also interesting to see that Darcy is still discovering her new town, getting familiar with her surroundings and the people. What I like the most is that Darcy feels like she finally belongs :)

One thing that stood out for me in A Witch Before Dying is that Darcy is actually going to get a PI license! How refreshing! LOL. I've tried to read more cosy mystery, but I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of amateur sleuthing ^_^; I just feel they find themselves in dangerous situations that could be avoided. Part of it is of course to add to the storyline, but another part is due to them being amateurs and not having a head over their shoulders ^_^; I don't really believe that Darcy having a PI license will make her a true professional and give her instant experience, but I like that she's acquiring a license and at least, will be legitimate :) I also like that Darcy ended up mentoring Mimi, Nick's daughter. Although both are new at being wishcrafters, I think it's sensible that Mimi has a mother's presence around. Finally, I'm enjoying the pace at which the romance is developing between Nick and Darcy. It's just perfect because you know that the two are attracted to each other and will eventually end up together, so there's no need to rush. It's not one of those romance where you wonder how the guy feel or with multiple love interests. I like knowing that Nick and Darcy are attracted to each other, because it allows Ms Blake to focus on other aspects of the story.

Surprisingly to me, I find the weakness of A Witch Before Dying was the mystery ^_^; The one involving Aunt Ve's wedding was well-done, but the one concerning Patrice Keaton's murder and the Anicula, not so much. I just feel it took a while before the main mystery became interesting, engrossing - which is unfortunate because once it did, I was totally hooked. The twists accompanying the main mystery were also great - I did not see them coming - and was pleasantly surprised when the culprit and the details were revealed. I think one of the explanations as to why it took so much time for the story to becoming interesting is that Ms Blake tried too hard to set up multiple directions, possibilities and suspects to the case. It just didn't feel, hmmm, natural and it detracted from the whole storyline instead. In addition, there was the part where someone was after Darcy and that was totally superfluous. I'm actually still not sure it totally made sense ^_^; And this was disappointing because the mystery aspect is usually one of Ms Blake's strengths. Case in point, I still haven't figured out who is the Elder is and I'm mighty curious LOL.

My Grade: B-. A Witch Before Dying was a good sequel to It Takes a Witch. The only complaint I have with the book is the weak mystery, otherwise, it was very enjoyable. I'm now looking forward to the next installment in the series!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Hauling Sunday LXXXIX

Hi everyone! How's your week-end going? Mine is nice and relaxing... and I have to admit, I needed it! It's fun when you look at your schedule and see you have stuff to do, people to meet and etc. But I don't know. This summer has been really busy for me and I feel it's been forever since I just stayed home and relaxed. I might be wrong though LOL. Could have been only a couple of week-ends ago... but my brain is too tired and refuses to think :P

Last week-end, I went to New Jersey and New York City with my sister and two of my friends, V and W :) We stayed at Hils' daughter's house again - thank you so much! I know Hils and her daughter are well located, but really, this was the first time I really realized how well! We went shopping at Woodbury outlet, explored New York City, went to Carlos' Bakery and spent some time with Hils :) I was lucky that Christine and Mariana did no have any plans on Saturday evening and were able to join us at Coach House Diner - my sister's favorite place and also mine to eat when we're in New Jersey. And seriously, I am not kidding when I say it's our favorite place... we ended up there 3 times!! LOL. Here are some pictures...

 Christine in the background of the first picture, but the true purpose for our trip to Coach House: milkshake! My friends W and V.

Hilcia, Mariana and Christine talking... about books, of course! 

 We had a huge debate about how to go in NYC, in the end, we chose driving. It was really close!! Lincoln tunnel.

 The four of us in Times Square.

 On our way to Carlos' Bakery. Yep, W and V are fans of the show :)

 Looks like we have a new passenger in the car! Waiting at the border - 1.5hour ^_^;

It was W's b-day dinner the next day, so we brought back a cake from Carlos' Bakery. And yes, it made it :)

 To new friendships!!

Hmmm, I'm a bit bummed I didn't get more pictures. I know though that Christine has a great group shot of the "readers" at Coach House and V has a lot more pics :) I'll still it from her and post more later. All in all, I had a blast, it was a fun roadtrip. Although my feet was killing me at the end of it. LOL. I think V is still not completely back on her feet LOL. What I enjoyed the most though is seeing my real life blending with my blogger life :) V and W have actually met Ames during her short visit in Montreal and they really got along well. And now, they've met my friends from New Jersey :) It's just awesome LOL.

Me going to the States mean that I'd finally buy books! Yay! I was lucky because there was a 15% off coupon for Barnes & Noble during the Labor Day long week-end, so I made use of it :) Here is what I got:

Ruined by Moonlight by Emma Wildes - I was so thrilled to find this in store because the release date was September 4. Anyway, I'm a fan of Ms Wildes, I love her books, so there was never a doubt I'd get this one :)

Blades of Winter by G.T. Almasi - This book looks so interesting! The cover and the blurb :) I have to say though, I dislike the format: it's a bit longer than most paperback. I don't see why publishing houses still released books in that format since they are more expensive. I would have understood if the book was thicker, but it wasn't the case here.

Widow's Web by Jennifer Estep - I'm a huge fan of the series :) Love Gin and Owen... and that's why I haven't rushed to the bookstore to get it yet, because apparently Gin and Owen are having some issues at the end of this book. I might wait till the next book, Deadly Sting, is released in March 2013 to read Widow's Web. That way, I won't be torturing myself for months LOL.

Another great place to buy books wen I'm in the States is Walmart:

Mysterious by Nora Roberts - I was in the mood for contemporary romance and Ms Roberts is always a great choice. Only, I just realized yesterday that I already have Mysterious in trade-size. Ah well, luckily, I bought it for cheap :)

Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros - Love the cover and the story sounds interesting :) Although now that I look at the cover and title, perhaps it would have fit better if it was a night scene? Anyway, this book just looks fun :)

When You Wish Upon a Duke by Isabella Bradford - Got this one because I know Ames has enjoyed it a lot :)

There is always good books coming out at the beginning of the month and September was no exception. I just couldn't wait to get my hand on this one...

Archangel's Storm by Nalini Singh - The Guild Hunter series is not my favorite of Ms Singh; I think we all know which is my favorite LOL. However, she's a solid author and delivers with almost all of her books :) I've read good reviews about Archangel's Storm and wanted to see how much I would enjoy it :)

So this is it for me :) What about you? What good books did you get?