Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review: Archangel's Storm by Nalini Singh

Woohoo, another review I've been wanting to put up and inspiration just wasn't coming. I think I'm on a roll at the moment. Two weeks ago, I was worried how I was going to juggle reading, blogging and curling... but now, it seems everything is simply coming together. Rare, but you won't hear me complaining :) And I sure hope it continues this way!

Enjoy the review!

Archangel's Storm by Nalini Singh
published by Berkley in September 2012
With wings of midnight and an affinity for shadows, Jason courts darkness. But now, with the Archangel Neha’s consort lying murdered in the jewel-studded palace that was his prison and her rage threatening cataclysmic devastation, Jason steps into the light, knowing he must unearth the murderer before it is too late.

Earning Neha’s trust comes at a price—Jason must tie himself to her bloodline through the Princess Mahiya, a woman with secrets so dangerous, she trusts no one. Least of all an enemy spymaster.

With only their relentless hunt for a violent, intelligent killer to unite them, Jason and Mahiya embark on a quest that leads to a centuries-old nightmare… and to the dark storm of an unexpected passion that threatens to drench them both in blood.
Genre: Urban Fantasy, paranormal romance
Series: The Guild Hunter, Book #5

The Story: After the execution of her daughter in Archangel's Kiss, Neha's, the Archangel of India, rage threatens the balance of the world once again upon the discovery of her consort and husband's mutilated corpse. To avoid Neha falling to madness, Raphael decides to divert her by sending Jason to her territory to investigate Eris' murder. However, Neha is unwilling to welcome Raphael's spymaster to her court unless he swears a blood vow... and that's how Jason finds himself bound to Mahiya.

Mahiya is a 300 years old angel with a doomed future. She is the result of Eris and Nivriti's, Neha's husband and sister, forbidden affair. Consequently, Eris was imprisoned in his jewel-studded palace while Nivitri was executed for their betrayals. Mahiya has no illusions of Eris and Neha's feelings for her. She quickly found out as she grew up that her aunt only kept her to torment her, to exact her revenge... and all Mahiya can do is bite her lips till the day she escapes... And she will escape one day.

As Jason and Mahiya investigate Eris' death, they realize that not all is as it seems at Archangel Fort... As old secrets are uncovered, they realize that something is brewing... something that could disrupt the Cadre of Ten's power and no one can do anything about it.

My Opinion: To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect of Archangel's Storm. Oh sure, the reviews for it were good... but then again, they always are for any books written by Ms Singh :) The truth is, I don't enjoy The Guild Hunter series as much as her Psy-Changelings series. I'm just not clicking with the feel of this series as I think Ms Singh is trying too hard to be dark, to have tortured heroes... However, while Archangel's Storm doesn't escape this syndrome, I did end up enjoying this book quite a bit :)

I think one of the reasons why I enjoyed this book so much was for the heroine, Mahiya. I simply found her really refreshing. She's a young angel, very resilient and brave. Her background is not rosy pink, but she doesn't dwell too much on it. She doesn't let it weigh her down and that's what I found admirable. Instead, she's determined to survive, to escape... that's her motivation to endure the humiliations and embarrassments and she's learned not to let them show. To me, she is different than all the other angels we've come across in this series. All the others could rely on the knowledge of their immortality... A lot of them are unhappy, scarred and so on, but one thing they know for sure, is that they'll live. For Mahiya, it's different. She knows the only reason she lives is because her aunt Neha allows it, she's there on sufferance. The day Neha has decided she no longer wants Mahiya around, Mahiya won't be around anymore. That gave her a different perspective and in my opinion, distinguished her from other angels. All in all, I liked her character very much. It was also poignant to see that after 300 years, she still craved for family, for maternal love.

As for Jason, he was an interesting character... but even now, I don't really know how I feel about him. I guess I'm neutral where he is concerned. He was yet another tortured hero, having gone through a family tragedy when he was very young. And even now, centuries after, he still has flashbacks of what happened. I don't want to make light of what he went through or what any of the heroes in this series have gone through... but don't they say time dulls the pain? Do they have eidetic memory, as in they can never forget? Do they purposely cling to their pains and memories? Or perhaps because their lifespan is so long, their minds are different. Seriously, I'd really want one main character who is happy, who hasn't gone through anything tragic. I mean, I don't usually mind tortured characters, but so many together? I think the only one we got so far in this series who had a normal upbringing is Galen... and from what we've glimpsed from the rest of Raphael's Seven, he might be the only one ^_^; But back to Jason. He was an interesting and intriguing character, a competent one as well, and I'm very sad for what happened to him... but at the end of the day, I didn't really connect with him... and I feel that affected my view of the romance a little bit. I mean, I like Jason and Mahiya as a couple, but I didn't see such a deep connection between them. Their romance just seemed to have happened and I'm not sure exactly what brought them together besides proximity.

As for the rest of the book, I quite enjoyed everything. I liked that we got to see more of the Seven, but in a different context, outside of New York City, the Tower and Raphael's proximity. I feel we got to see more of their personalities. I also liked the different setting - India and Archangel Fort. We got to see a different culture, different ways... It was interesting to see a territory that wasn't under Raphael. We all know that each Archangel governs its territory in a certain way and it was interesting to witness it. And I really, really enjoyed the court intrigue as well at the mystery in Archangel's Storm. One thing Ms Singh can do is plot and come up with complex storylines and it was neat how everything tied up together. It was also very clever... I'm really curious at how it is going to impact the world and its balance. I hope we get to meet the other Archangels soon as well :)

The Grade: B. Despite its tortured hero, Archangel's Storm finds itself at the top of the list for my favorite read in this series, just under Archangel's Kiss because I enjoyed Mahiya, the storyline and the setting very much :)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Curling Recap II

There was a lot of curling for me the past week! I played 4 games and I can't wait to share everything with you all! :)

Curling 101

I decided that in each post, I'll try to share a bit about the game, so you guys will know and understand it a bit more and no longer think curling is the weirdest sport ever LOL.

I thought I'd start with the basic today. Why is it called curling? Well, curling ice is not like skating ice. Apparently, if you throw a rock on skating ice, it wouldn't travel very far. What makes the curling ice different is that it is pebbled. So you have the ice and usually, before a game, someone will walk and water the ice with droplets of water, creating a texture... This allows the rocks to travel. Also, the reason why it's call curling is because the rocks will never travel straight, the trajectory will always curve or as they say in curling, curl LOL, especially since a rotation clockwise or counter-clockwise is applied. However, the harder you throw, the straighter the rocks will travel. And why are they people sweeping the rocks? Well sweeping does two things: 1) it helps straightening the trajectory and 2) allows the rock to be drag farther. Apparently, if you have really good sweepers, you can drag the rock several feet.

By the way, those curling rocks? They are made of granite, all 8 of them the same size, and weight about 40 pounds. That's why a curling sheet is symmetrical - i.e. two hacks, two hog lines and two houses on either side. You start from one side and instead of dragging back all the rocks after an end, you start from the other side for the new end.

The house is the target rings. I don't know if you can see to the other side, but there is another house. In the second picture, my sister is getting ready to throw... That's the hack.

Next week is going to be how the scoring works :)


The team - I got to meet our other third :) I actually saw her at the free clinics back in September and back then, I thought she looked intimidating. Of course, she turns out to be really nice LOL. I also found out that our second is quite competitive... It's really  no surprise given the level at which he plays, but it translates in being a bit sulky on the ice from time to time. However, he was able to let go after the match while we had the customary drink, so that's good :)

The game - We lost big time LOL. I think the score was either 7-2 or 9-2 by the sixth end, so we conceded. They are usually 8 end matches and I think you have to play a minimum of 6 ends. The good news in my opinion is that we all played so-so, you really couldn't pinpoint anyone in particular for the loss. And our skip just couldn't draw - a shot to the house. His first two went through and the rest of the match, he was too light ^_^; Although our second was able to drag one in at the 5th end by sweeping, everyone was amazed because it was seriously light. And if we look at it on a positive side, from here on, we can only play better :)

My performance - Like the rest of the team, my performance was so-so. I had a few throws too light, especially at the beginning of the game, because the ice just got pebbled and therefore is slower. As a lead, I'm usually asked for guards which are shots that stopped in front of the house. However, in one of the end, I was asked to take an opposition stone out and my teammates had told me I had to throw it harder... LOL, I got in, kicked away from the hack and then I remember, harder! So I gave the rock a push with my arm/hand and the rock just flew! Let just say my sweepers hadn't seen it coming LOL. And by the way, I totally missed ^_^; Oh and usually, when you throw, you shouldn't push with the arm ^_^; All the end do is guide the rock...

Our standing - If I'm not wrong, there's only one team that has 2 wins. I guess that means another team has 2 loss and everyone else is at 1-1, so not bad :)

Level of soreness - As we haven't played a complete match, I was fine the next day :)



The team - I'm getting to know my skip better which is good. I find him a bit intimidating, but he's not bad at all. Oh apparently, I don't align probably sometimes to throw my rocks... So he's there at the other end of the sheet, giving me hand signals LOL. And when I do it right, I get a thumb up. But yeah, very funny to watch him trying to tell me if I'm aligned probably or not. Oh and I love our third in this team! Her name is Jennifer and she's a second year curler, very keen. I get along really well with her :)

The game - Another loss, although this one was much tighter. IIRC, the score was 6-5 and they won on the last rock.

My performance - Better than the previous day I believe. I had a few bad stones as usual, but a few nice one as well :) What's so hard is repeating what you did right. Like throwing two good stones in a row? Very hard!! And as time goes by, the ice changes as well! It gets quicker... So a rock that didn't reach the house in the first end might go halfway through in the middle! On the Friday's match, I do a lot more sweeping and at one point, it was so funny. So the second threw a rock and it was going to make contact with an opponent rock and once it hit, our skip yelled "keep going!" So I kept sweeping our rock and he was like: "No, this one" LOL, he wanted us to sweep the opponent rock! Yeah, sometimes, it's really hard to tell what they want :P

Level of soreness - Still good ;)


Opening Bonspiel!

Bonspiel means tournament in curling language :) So there was an in-house tournament on Saturday,  followed by dinner. The purpose is mainly to introduce the new members of the club. At the club, there's curling Sunday to Friday and that means, depending on how much curling you play and on which days, there are people you don't get to meet. Say you play at night, well there's very little chances you are going to run into day curlers. So this is an occasion to get to know more people and I think it's really cool that the more experienced players also join :) How did it work? People signed up and they were assigned to teams and then, got two play 2 matches of 6 ends. Winners were calculated based on a point system: a win was 5 points, a loss 2.5 points. Then, it was 2 points for each end in which we scored and finally, the differential ("how much you won by" x 0.5 points). At the end, you added your points from each match and got a grand total... and guess what?

Yep, my team won!! Woohoo! There was only two teams who won both their games, which worked out well because the two best teams won a prize... But  my team had the highest score :) We won our first match 8-3 and our second, 7-1. It's funny because for our first game, we played against another team whose skip is really experienced. I'm talking about really, really experienced and plays at a high competitive level. So my skip who has played with and against the opponent skip for a number a year was all like: "Okay, let's go get our butts kicked" and really, I can understand his reaction, because when I saw whose team we were playing against, I was like, "Oh, that's going to be a tough game." And all I know is the other skip is good, I've actually never witnessed him play ^_^; But in the end, it just worked out really well for our team. We got lucky on a lot of shots too where situation Bs were as good as Plan A LOL. And Lady Luck didn't smile on our opponent teams as much... so by the time it was the skip's turn, they didn't really have a shot or had to do damage control.

It was the first time I played 2 games in a day and that was my third day in a row curling. The good side is that I played well. There were quite a few of my rocks that ended in the right positions! Yay! I did lose my balance three times while kicking out of the hack which hadn't happen to me in a while though. And I did fall at one point... I really don't  know why. Probably, stepped wrong. Luckily, I landed on my side, so didn't hurt myself too much. And it seemed it was the afternoon of falls because Jennifer who was playing for another team also fell while sweeping and another third also. Anyway, I think at the end of the day, I'd say perhaps 4 to 6 out of my 24 rocks were not good meaning they went through or didn't reach the hog line. I'm happy with that number... and boy, did I sweep yesterday! LOL. That's the bad side. My arm is pretty sore and my knee hurts if I put pressure on it ^_^; But it's all good.

And I had a great time meeting new people at dinner :) A lady volunteered her time and made ham, a potato casserole, salad and apple crisp for about 60 people. I helped peeling apples for the apple crisp. Luckily, she had one of those peelers where you just need to stick the apple and turn the handle LOL. As I said, it was nice meeting others and I stayed till 9pm... because I was just so tired LOL.

But so far, I really enjoy the curling and I love the club and the people. Everyone is very nice, people are very welcoming and I just like the ambiance of it. I'm already pretty sure I'll be signing up next year. Even though it's a 40 minutes drive, it's really worth it. I'm really glad I started curling.


Speaking of tournaments, some exciting news! :) So there's this tournament called the Debutantes and it's for women curlers with 5 years or less of experience. Well my Friday third, Jennifer, she wanted to participate last year, but they close the entry after 8 teams. So this year, she's going to try again and guess whom she asked to join? Yep, yours truly! So that's going to be in January. She had another lady in mind for skip and that lady proposed another player to round up the team. I actually ended up playing with the other player, Debbie, in the Opening Bonspiel LOL. Happy coincidence. And we decided it wouldn't hurt to get some practice under our belt as a team, so we are also going to sign up for another tournament that takes place in November 17. That tournament is a club tournament, so it's all the different club in the Montreal area playing against each other. They need a minimum of 4 women teams per club and I'm guessing it'll be by point system, similar to the Opening Bonspiel, where the total score will include all the games from a club's team.

So yeah, a lot of curling ahead of me! :)

Hauling Sunday XCV

Okay, so I think I might be sick LOL. I was looking back at the past few Hauling Sunday posts and have realized I haven't been to the bookstore in a month. The last time I went was actually for the book signing and actually didn't buy anything!! And I'm starting to feel the itch LOL. Hopefully, they have a promotion soon! Also, there was the McGill bookfair this year - last year was supposed to be the last, but they found new volunteers to carry it on, so yay! - and I didn't go. A lot of it had to do with schedule, but at the end of the day, I elected not to go because... well most of the books that I want, I already own ^_^; I'd basically just be buying books to buy books and they'd probably end up in the TBR pile. Yes, I'm getting wise... or as I said, I might be a wee sick ^_^; Seriously, few years ago, there was no way I'd miss it LOL... and I just hope there was nobody this year that decided to donate his/her entire collection of romance books to the bookfair :P

Anyway, so the past week was another quiet one with only one book... Actually, an e-novella. However, it was a good one!

Turning Up the Heat by Laura Florand - I received Ms Florand's newsletter earlier this week and learned she self-published a novella. Being a big fan, I of course bought it :) Seriously, well worth the price! And even if it was by Ms Florand, I'd have been interested because of the premises... The hero's a chef who is so stressed that he can't eat because his wife has left on a South Pacific vacation without a word. Intriguing, right? :)

So that's it for this week. But definitively more to come as I'm expecting a few books in the mail :) Yay! What about you? What are your new precious? Did you go to the bookstore to buy them? 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Week-End's Minis XXX: Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks

Good morning everyone!

I'm so glad to have this mini-review up! Just in time, since I have to run to the curling club again LOL. Today is the new members in-house tournament, a chance for new members to meet everyone :) All details coming in tomorrow's post!

Before I run though, I want to say this... I've had a bit of difficulty writing my reviews lately, just that they don't come as easy lately and sometimes, I have difficulty formulating my thoughts. As a result, I'll sit in front of my computer and type away and as soon as the review is ready, I post it up. I just wanted to ask, am I making sense? Are my reviews jag-y lately? Please be honest with me, because it'll help me adjusting :) Thanks a bunch!!

Enjoy the mini-review!

Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks
published by Random House publishing (Ballantine Books) in September 2012
Eveline Armstrong is fiercely loved and protected by her powerful clan, but outsiders consider her “touched.” Beautiful, fey, with a level, intent gaze, she doesn’t speak. No one, not even her family, knows that she cannot hear. Content with her life of seclusion, Eveline has taught herself to read lips and allows the outside world to view her as daft. But when an arranged marriage into a rival clan makes Graeme Montgomery her husband, Eveline accepts her duty—unprepared for the delights to come. Graeme is a rugged warrior with a voice so deep and powerful that his new bride can hear it, and hands and kisses so tender and skilled that he stirs her deepest passions.

Graeme is intrigued by the mysterious Eveline, whose silent lips are ripe with temptation and whose bright, intelligent eyes can see into his soul. As intimacy deepens, he learns her secret. But when clan rivalries and dark deeds threaten the wife he has only begun to cherish, the Scottish warrior will move heaven and earth to save the woman who has awakened his heart to the beautiful song of a rare and magical love.
Genre: Historical romance, medieval
Series: The Montgomerys and Armstrongs, Book #1

What do you need to know? So our heroine was engaged at a young age to marry Ian McHugh for an alliance. In front of everyone, Ian treated her well, but behind the scenes, he scared her. When she shared her worries with her father, he brushed it aside thinking she was just nervous. As a result, Eveline decided to run away and ended up falling from her horse. That probably led to an infection and left her deaf and the shock of the accident, mute. Everyone thought she was "touched" and she never corrected them because the end result was that the McHugh broke the engagement; however, she was always afraid that if anyone found out she was simply deaf and not daft, that the McHugh would be knocking at the door again.

Enters Graeme Montgomery. His clan and Eveline's, the Armstrongs, have been at odds for decades... and to bring peace, the king has ordered a marriage between Graeme and Eveline. Graeme cannot disobey, but he's definitively not thrilled to have a daft woman as the wife of the chieftain! However, once he meets Eveline, he feels a kind of connection... Perhaps everything will turn out fine. As for Eveline, she also feels the connection, but more importantly, Graeme makes her feel safe.

Can these two overcome years of rivalry and hatred?

Why this book? I've never read Ms Banks' historical romance books, but have been meaning to. What made me pick up this book though is the fact that Eveline is deaf. I have a weakness for deaf characters :) I think they are interesting and am always interested to read how they cope with their handicap.

What did I like? Overall, Never Seduce a Scot was a very enjoyable book. It was quick and sweet read, with likable main and secondary characters and good premises. I liked the family dynamics of both clans, there was genuine affection and it was nice to read about it. I especially liked how Graeme's brothers were so supportive of him and quickly adjusted their opinion of Eveline - not only because Eveline was not as bad as they thought, but to back up Graeme and also, for his happiness. I thought Eveline was a great heroine too, not being passive, taking the steps to insure her happiness. I loved the scene where Graeme put her in a room at their arrival and she convinced Graeme's sister, Rorie, to show her which was Graeme's room and then to move all her trunks to it LOL. She wanted a marriage between Graeme, she wanted love and that's what she got. As for Graeme, I liked him also because he was fair, open-minded and a good leader... something you don't always expect in medieval settings. So you had two interesting characters and the best is that they had great chemistry together, making for a sweet romance :) All in all, Never Seduce a Scot was about two people getting to know each other and that's what Ms Banks delivered :)

What didn't work? As much as I liked Never Seduce a Scot, I thought everything in Graeme and Eveline's romance went a bit too smoothly. I was expecting more conflicts, more difficulties in their relationships. Oh there was some from external sources such as the other women of the Montgomery clan, not liking Eveline because she was an Armstrong and also for swooping in and marrying Graeme, which results in some bullying. By the way, regarding that part, Eveline did great for the most part, but at the end, her giving up and wanting to go home... I thought that was weak and not in character with Eveline's personality. Eveline is strong and I expected her to keep going until she got their respect, just like she did with Graeme's siblings. But, I digress. So there was some conflicts, but from the first moment Graeme and Eveline met, the connection between the two was there and their relationship was smooth-sailing and it wasn't about them anymore, but convincing everyone around them. Eveline wanted to please Graeme and Graeme would protect Eveline. I know that Graeme was fair and all, but still, for two persons from rivaling clans, I expected a bit more grudge. Also, it feels to me Graeme that as soon as he found out Eveline was simply deaf, nothing mattered anymore. Like Eveline being "touched" is the only thing going against her and as soon as he had an explanation, poof, everything was all right. But even beforehand, I thought Graeme didn't make too many efforts to get to know Eveline or to communicate with her, because the two had this connection, they just were good together.

My Grade? B. As I said, I thought the romance and Eveline's integration to the Montgomery clan went a bit too smoothly. A bit more conflict between the two would not have hurt and would have results in a higher grade from me :) Nevertheless, Never Seduce a Scot was still a good, solid book :)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Review: Ruined by Moonlight by Emma Wildes

Finally, a review! And not any review, but my review of Ruined by Moonlight by Emma Wildes! I've been trying to write this review for weeks, wanting to share with everyone my love of it, but it just didn't come ^_^; As a result, I focused on other books whose reviews were easier to write :) But finally, I've managed it! So enjoy!! Next, Archangel's Storm by Nalini Singh... hopefully!

Ruined by Moonlight by Emma Wildes
published by New American Library in September 2012
What is society to do when the diamonds of the first water are caught in compromising situations, one after the other? Can the young ladies survive the season with their reputations intact... or will the scandalous whispers surrounding them bring about the ultimate ruination?

When Lady Elena Morrow, the reigning belle of the ton, suddenly disappears, her family is desperate to find her—and to keep the story from spreading through London society like wildfire, before her reputation is ruined. Unfortunately, it may be impossible to avoid a scandal. Viscount Andrews, better known as the Raven, London’s most notorious rake, has gone missing at exactly the same moment.

Benjamin Wallace, Lord Heathton, is more accustomed to untangling political difficulties, rather than those of the heart. But when he is pressured to help find Lady Elena, he can’t refuse—the distraught father is also his wife’s uncle. Now he must find the beautiful debutante before the connection to Andrews does away with her innocence—assuming the vulnerable young lady wants to be found...
Genre: Historical romance
Series: Whispers of Scandal, Book #1

The Story: Ruined by Moonlight is about two couples. The first is Lady Elena Morrow and Randolph Raine, Viscount Andrews, also known as the Raven. The two of them were kidnapped and found themselves locked up in a tower with little amount of clothes on. After insuring that neither had anything to do with the situation, Elena and Ran pull their efforts together to try and figure out why they were kidnapped and thrown together and find an escape. Ideally, it should be done before the ton realizes that Elena and Ran - one being the reigning belle of the Season and the other, a notorious rake, and therefore under the ton's scrutiny - have disappeared at the same time and rumors start flying, ruining Elena's reputation... and possibly her recent engagement with Lord Colbert, who while doesn't make her heart flutters has the approval of her father. But can two attractive persons be in such close proximity under such circumstances without developing feelings for each other?

The other couple featured in Ruined by Moonlight is Benjamin Wallace, Earl of Heathton, and his wife Alicia. Lord Heathton has recently married the lady of his choosing for duty, figuring that Alicia, with her impeccable background and poise, would make him a perfect countess. However, what Alicia wants is marriage and all the intimacy it entails instead of separate lifestyles that interconnect from time to time which is what her husband seems to have planned. As a result, she has issued an ultimatum to her husband: the suspension of his conjugal rights until they know each other better. While it rankles, Lord Heathton grudgingly conforms... And therefore, when Alicia's uncle, Lord Whitbridge, comes to Lord Heathton to ask him to discreetly investigate his daughter's, Elena, disappearance, Lord Heathton accepts figuring it'd mark points with Alicia.

My Opinion:  I've really been looking forward to Ms Wildes' new release, Ruined by Moonlight :) Seriously, nine months between releases is much too long. However, I gotta say the wait was worth it! I often bemoaned on my blog how I haven't clicked with certain popular authors such as Jill Shalvis, Tessa Dare, etc., to my greatest dismay :( Well with Ms Wildes, it's the opposite. She and I clicked right from the start and I have enjoyed and adore pretty much everything I have read by her. I don't know what it is about her writing and stories, but they work for me and Ruined by Moonlight was no exception :)

Back in January, I read the excerpt of Ruined by Moonlight at the end of Twice Fallen and just that bit had me hooked! I knew I would enjoy Ruined by Moonlight and a lot of it has to do with Elena and Ran's story, the two of them being kidnapped and discovering they've been locked up together. Yes, there is something unbelievable about it and unfortunately Ms Wildes doesn't completely pull it off when it comes to the "who" and "why," but still, it made for an interesting and refreshing premises. I liked that under ordinary circumstances, these two would never cross path as Ran has a tendency of avoiding debutantes and innocents, but thrown in together, there's an irresistible temptation and they both succumb. I really enjoyed how the friendship and romance develop between Elena and Ran, how the intimacy builds up... and given their situation, it's believable. Ran is handsome, cares about his family, has wealth and is a gentleman, LOL, to a certain extent... and Elena is pretty, but more importantly clever. These two obviously suit each other and make a good couple together. So the romance worked for me and I liked that Ran was not an idiot and fought for Elena. I also liked that he didn't propose to Elena out of obligation, out of circumstances, but really felt something for her. I also have to say I liked that Elena was active in their escape, that she wasn't a delicate flower waiting for Ran to come up with a plan and relying on him. No, Elena was independent and quite poised and she made for an interesting heroine :)

I also very much enjoyed Benjamin and Alicia's storyline. This is not the first time Ms Wildes explores this trope where the couple is married, but the wife wants more. It's one of my favorites and Ms Wildes executes it very well and once again, she pulls it off in Ruined by Moonlight. It's just a trope that makes sense to me. The lady marries a good man, why wouldn't she want more from him? Why shouldn't she expect more from him? And she takes the necessary steps to ensure that she gets it, that there is love in their marriage. I liked that Ms Wildes showed how hard it was for Alicia to take the reins and demand something of her husband. I think it showed us strength and how brave Alicia was, as well as how hopeful and determined she was about her marriage. At the same time, she didn't go overboard, imagining up plots to make her husband pay attention to her. I liked that she was honest and communicate with him. Benjamin being huffy at Alicia's ultimatum - I don't know any men that like them, LOL - was expected, but what wasn't was the fact he was honest with himself, admitting to himself that something about the arrangement didn't suit him, didn't feel right. It made Benjamin interesting and I liked the efforts he made to conform to Alicia's ultimatum. I enjoyed reading about Benjamin and Alicia discovering each other and really falling in love, it was sweet :) These men are not raised to believe in love, but there's something good about them discovering it :) Also, I have to add that I enjoyed the interactions between Elena's father and Benjamin. It was really interesting to see a pompous, older man share his inner feelings, his love for his daughter... Something that Benjamin obviously never expected to hear from him... and it provided Benjamin with perspectives. As a whole, I think that Elena's father was really a good addition to the story. He brought a different and refreshing point of view.

My main complaint about Ruined by Moonlight is that I felt the novel unraveled a little at the end when it came to the "who" and "why" Elena and Ran were kidnapped. As I mentioned earlier, it's a bit of an unbelievable tale and as a result, Ms Wildes really need to have a solid explanation to pull it off... And I felt she didn't. The motives, at most, are acceptable... but the "who" is still unknown. Perhaps it's going to be uncovered as the series progresses, but it's still a bit weird. Also, in Ruined by Moonlight, I felt both couples had equal amount of pages... It's not such a bad thing, but at the same time, I think Elena and Ran's story could have been fleshed a bit more, more rounded and solid. Perhaps if Ms Wildes could have provided a "who," the storyline would have felt more completed. And one last thing is an error that slipped through editing about how Ran's parents died. Their death was mentioned twice in the book, but in each instance, the cause was different ^_^; At first, I thought I misread it, but alas no. Although it's not too important since it doesn't impact the story at all. It just stands out though ^_^;

When I picked up Ruined by Moonlight, I was taken by surprise that this book was the start of a new series. I was a bit disappointed because I thought there were more stories to be told in The Ladies in Waiting series... but after reading Ruined by Moonlight and the excerpt of the next book, A Most Improper Rumor, I'm actually glad for this new series, Whispers of Scandal. It's interesting, original and I liked that the connecting element between the books is going to be Lord Heathton's investigation :) I definitively hope we'll get to read more about Benjamin and Alicia's marriage.

My Grade: B+Ruined by Moonlight definitively had some flaws in the story, but I really, really enjoyed it :) Perhaps it's the fact that Ms Wildes and I click LOL. All I can say is it rejuvenated my love of Ms Wildes' writing and that now, I'm anxiously waiting for the next book, A Most Improper Rumor :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pre-Release Discussion: Guardian Demon by Meljean Brook

Hey everyone! Hope you had a great week-end :)

As some of you may know, Meljean Brook has unveiled the cover and blurb of the last book in The Guardian series a few weeks ago. This sparked a discussion between me and Brie from Romance Around the Corner. Since we're smart bloggers, we decided not to let this discussion go to waste and share it with all of you :) So head over to Breezing Through or click here or here to read our thoughts and take part of the discussion! Also take a look at the fun drawings, courtesy of Brie :P

In this thrilling conclusion to the Guardian series, New York Times bestselling author Meljean Brook delivers another stunning page-turner, in which the fate of humanity depends upon a tortured warrior winning the trust—and heart—of the woman he wounded… After a terrifying encounter in Hell destroys her trust in Michael, the Guardian’s powerful leader, former detective Andromeda Taylor is ready to call it quits as one of the angelic warriors and resume her human life again. But when demonic forces threaten her closest friends and she uncovers a terrifying plot devised by Lucifer, Taylor is thrown straight into Michael’s path again… To defeat Lucifer, Michael needs every Guardian by his side—and he needs Taylor more than any other. The detective is the key to keeping his own demonic side at bay, and Michael will do anything to protect her and keep her close. And when Taylor manifests a deadly power, her Gift might tip the scales in the endless war between Heaven and Hell…or it might destroy them both with a single touch.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Curling Recap I

Since curling is going to be a big part of my life for the next couple of months, I thought I'd share my experience with all of you in a weekly recap :) It's also a good way for me to chronicle things and keep a good souvenir :)

So here is a small introduction for those who are unfamiliar to curling. A team is composed of 4 members: a lead, a second, a third and a skip - that's also the order of throw. The skip is the captain of the team, the one calling the shots and the third is usually the vice-captain. So each member of the team has to throw two rocks and in a game, you alternate with the other team as well. Example: Lead from Team A throws a rock, then lead of team B, then lead of team A again, lead of team B followed by second from team A, second by team B and so on. An end is like an inning in baseball and terminates when all 16 rocks have been thrown - that's when you count the point. And a match can be 6, 8 or 10 ends. At the club, we play matches of 8 ends... so that means I'll be throwing 16 rocks total and sweeping 48 rocks LOL.

The club where I play has three leagues: open ladder, mixed ladder and TGIF league. Open ladder and mixed ladder are the competitive leagues, the teams are formed for the whole season (October to April) and are divided in different section. Depending on your win-loss records, you move up or down. The difference between open and mixed ladders is that in the open ladder, your team can be any combination of players you want: it can be all guys, all girls, half-half, 1 girl/3 guys or 1 guy/3 girls and there's not restriction in the throwing order. In the mixed ladder, a team has to be composed of 2 guys and 2 girls and the order of play must alternate between a guy and a girl: so either girl-guy-girl-guy or guy-girl-guy-girl. As for the TGIF league, it's meant to be social and play more for fun. Teams are formed for 6 weeks and then, are mixed up so players can meet and play with other people, at different positions as well. It's also where most new players start, to get accustomed to the game and get a feel :)

All right, introduction is done :) If you have any questions, please feel free to ask and I'll answer the best I can :P Initially, I only signed up for the TGIF league, but as I mentioned in a previous post, I got a phone call of one of the instructors asking me if I wanted to play in the mixed ladder and I said yes. So now, I play twice a week, on Thursday and on Friday, and I'm lead on both teams :) So here is how it went...



The team - So the instructor had told me my teammates were good players with a good caliber and therefore, didn't mind having a green curler for the lead position... Jeez, he wasn't kidding about them having a good caliber!! Our second is 18 years old and won the junior provincial last year and played in the national junior championship! And our third, well we have two thirds depending at which time we play (7pm or 9pm)... but it doesn't really  matter because J plays on the provincial level in women curling, having participated to a few provincial championships and A is part of the current provincial champion team for mixed curling and is participating in the national championship next month. That makes for an excellent team who can clean up my mistakes indeed LOL. As for our skip, well he hasn't played for a few years because of family schedule conflicts, but from what I heard, he's a good and experienced player :) 

LOL, I had a lot of people asking me who was my team when I tell them I play in the mixed ladder and when I tell them, I get pretty much the same answer: "Wow, those are good curler!" Yep, now I know LOL and pressure is on :P

The game - We won!! :) It was tight though... IIRC, the score was 5-4 and we had to play an extra end because it was tied. It came down to the last rock thrown and we won because the other team missed. I actually wasn't sure we have won till I met with the team at the bar... I thought we did, but didn't see the last rock thrown ^_^;

My performance - I didn't really know what to expect since it was my first game. In the end though, I was quite happy with my throwing... although I either have the weight or the position right ^_^; but hey, first game! Out of 16 rocks, only 3 were no good; not bad right! However, I can't say the same about the sweeping. Seriously, coming in the game, I thought the throwing would be the hardest... but nope, it was the sweeping! Mainly because I couldn't keep up with the rock thrown ^_^; Part of it has to do with my shoes being too slippery. It got better when I found a gripper (kind of a shoe cover that grips the ice). Another reason is not being the right place. Also, I realized after my match on Friday that on Thursday, I play with very experiment players, so they know when to sweep and when not to, so the skip doesn't yell as much. Me though? I have no idea when to, so I don't and usually, it's a bit too late. Something to work on :)

Level of soreness - Really not bad! I was really surprised LOL. No bruise on my knee and didn't have difficulty getting out of bed or going up or down the stairs :)



The team - I think I have a good team for the TGIF league as well. Our second is another new member in the club. He and his wife were actually at the free clinic I participated to a couple weeks ago as well. They have some experience as they used to play in another club... However, the average age of the other club was like 70 y.o., so they were quite on their own when it came to learning the proper technique and so on. Our third is a very nice lady and this is her second year curling. She tried it out last year with her son and signed up for the TGIF league and also ended up playing in the mixed ladder as well. As for our skip, I know he has a lot of experience. He also plays in the open and mixed ladder, so that means he plays three times a week. And from the shots he made on Friday, he is very good indeed. The feeling I get from him so far is that he's a bit of a smart aleck. I'm hoping we all get along well :)

The game - We also won this one, this time to a score of 6-5 (or perhaps 7-6). 

My performance - Not as good as Thursday. This time around, I'd say I have about 6-7 rocks that stayed in play and really, only the last four were anywhere near what the skip had demanded ^_^; It's hard because the ice seems to change from day to day, so I felt like I was throwing with the same strength as the night before, but it wouldn't go as far! And then, throughout the game, the ice changes as well... It's really hard to gauge :( But at least, I was able to sweep that night! 

Level of soreness - Bad! LOL. Still no bruise on the knee, but getting out of bed, ouch ^_^; I could feel my thigh, the groin area because I lost balance a few times while throwing the rocks ^_^; Oh and the shoulders... Ouch.

By the way, something I learned is that curling is as much a physical game than a mental exercise... The number of people I have met so far and whose names I have to remember!! LOL. Kidding aside, the members of the club are all very nice. A lot of people saw me and realized I was a new face and introduced themselves :)

It's also fun to see people of all ages on the ice and off the ice. I really like the fact that they are older people playing and they are good! Some of them are also newbies like the lead in the opponent team on Friday. I think it's awesome that they give this sport a try at their age, it's very motivational :)

Finally, the club is having a tournament for new members next week on Saturday and I signed up :) The concept is that the newbies will be paired up with more experienced players and will play at least 2 games of 6 ends. And at the end, there'll be a dinner :) I think it's a really great way to welcome the new members :)
So that's it for this week. Wow, long recap LOL. Shouldn't be as long next week :P

Week-End's Minis XXIX: Playing to Win by Jaci Burton

Playing to Win by Jaci Burton
published by Berkley in September 2012
Someone’s going to have to let down their guard…

Football star Cole Riley is notorious for doing as he pleases—on the field and off. He parties hard and fights harder, but if he doesn’t clean up his act, his career is over—so Cole reluctantly agrees to work with image makeover consultant Savannah Brooks. He’s not used to being told what to do, especially by some (admittedly hot) Southern belle. As for Savannah, she’s not convinced she can transform this cocky (and aggressively sexy) force of nature. But she’s determined to give it her best shot.

When the sparks start to fly, Savannah lays down the ground rules: no personal complications. If she can turn off the tingle she feels every time Cole gives her a hot stare with his gorgeous baby blues, he can turn off his desire as well. But for two people determined to have it all, a hands-off policy can only last so long before one of them yields.
Genre: Contemporary romance, sports romance
Series: Play by Play, Book #4

What do you need to know? Cole Riley is a good football player, but he has some attitude problems and a bad reputation, most of it over-exaggerated by the media. Thanks to Elizabeth Darnell, Cole got a contract with the Traders of St. Louis... To ensure that Cole remains with the Traders, Elizabeth has hired Savannah Brooks, an image makeover consultant, to rebuild Cole's reputation. And let just say that Cole is very resistant to the idea, deeming that he is not the problem, but the lies that the media make up are. In addition, he's been attracted to Savannah from the first glimpse, so he's not thrilled that she's been hired to change him. As for Savannah, she doesn't want to miss business with pleasure, but the temptation is hard to resist...

Why this book? I read a few good reviews about this book, so wanted to give it a shot :)

What did I like? As usual, I enjoyed Ms Burton's writing. It flows well, it's easy to read and it suits the books she writes :) I also thought the storyline had a lot of potential... and the H/H definitively have chemistry together and that makes for some very intense and hot scenes :)

What didn't work? I'm most probably in the minority here, but I had difficulty connecting and liking Cole and Savannah. I thought Cole could really be paranoid and a jerk at times and he seemed to have some anger management issues. Some of behavior was explained, but some of it not and that's the part I had difficulty with. Like insisting he didn't need to change and his family making excuses for him when I felt some of it was a bit overboard. As a whole though, Cole wasn't that bad, but I didn't fall in love with him, didn't feel like rooting for him.

Then, there was also Savannah. On the surface, I thought I'd like her more than Cole... but in truth, I think I had more issues with her character ^_^; What bothered me the most is how she felt she had the right to get into Cole's business, but not the other way around. I know she was hired to be his image makeover consultant, so indeed, she had a right. But very quickly, her relationship with Cole was more than just client-consultant. As her lover, I thought he had a right as well. It just made for a very uneven relationship I think. In addition, I would have liked to see Savannah work with other clients. She said that Cole wasn't her only one, but we had no proof. Furthermore, I felt her approach with Cole was very personal, too much... Especially for someone who said she didn't want to mix business and pleasure. From the start, it felt like untrue by the way she acted. Finally, as I said, Cole wasn't that bad... so I'm surprised that no PR person could actually salvage Cole's image before. I know that otherwise, we wouldn't have a story, but I thought it could have been harder for Savannah.

My Grade?C. I had some issues with Playing to Win, but I still think it was an okay book. I would have enjoyed it better if I had connected with the characters. Gotta say though, I'm really looking forward to the next book, Thrown by a Curve, having read the excerpt :)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Hauling Sunday XCIV

I know, I know. It's not Sunday yet, but as I'm not planning to buy any books... plus I'm sore and don't think I have the energy to write a review, even if it's a mini-review, I thought I'd post the Hauling Sunday post today and have the WEM tomorrow :) Gotta be flexible in life! And for sure, there is a post about how curling is going coming soon!

For now, here's my new precious!

What Happens at Christmas by Victoria Alexander - Yes, I know, it's a bit early for Christmas-theme books... but I've been itching to read a historical and Ms Alexander is one of my favorite historical author! By the way, I actually really like the format of What Happens at Christmas... It's hardcover, but smaller than normal - more square-ish. It makes it different, special... and so it fits the mood of Christmas LOL.

What are the new books you got? and do you think it's too early to read books about Christmas?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Discussion: Goodreads

TGIF!! Woohoo :) I'm looking forward to this week-end LOL. Once again, nothing planned except relax and read... and hopefully clean my room ^_^; That seems to be a challenge every week and I don't know why ^_^; This time around though, I don't have any excuses... except perhaps a good book to read!

By the way, I had my first game of curling yesterday! We won! And it was fun! And I didn't do as badly as I thought I would LOL. I'm also playing tonight, a different league though. I'll let you all know about my teammates and the games after tonight :) So stay tuned!

As for today, well originally, I had a review planned (not that it's written yet), but something happened this week that made me changed my mind. And instead, here's a discussion post that I've been wanting to write for a long time already. The topic, Goodreads :)

When I have to describe Goodreads to people who are not familiar with it, I basically tell them that Goodreads is Facebook for book lovers LOL. I think the description is quite accurate, no? And as a whole, I like Goodreads. I think it's a very useful tool to keep track of books - what I've read, what I want to read, what others are reading, etc. It's also a source of reviews and opinions and that's good for older books - the ones that were published before blogland existed - and the ones which I've missed the buzz for when they were released because I'm just discovering them. I also admit that a lot of time, I check the overall rating of a book before purchasing it, although I know some of it can be misleading because it depends on taste... and very often, if it doesn't have a rating of at least 4, I'll think twice about it before giving the book a try.What I like most about Goodreads though is that it is convenient. Kind of one place for everything and also, it's quick - a few clicks and voila.

As much as I like Goodreads, there's no denying there is some flaws. This week, we got some changes in Goodreads (which is what prompted this post)... but instead of improving or changing those flaws, they went and changed something that did not need it: the shelves/labels/tags. We got a shinier and bigger button and quite frankly, I personally feel it doesn't fit ^_^; Ah well.

What don't you like in Goodreads and wished it'd be changed/improved?

Here is my list.

1) How the search results are displayed. Before Goodreads, I used to look up for books on bookstores websites. I actually still do, just not as much. One thing I do like about those websites though is how the results are displayed. Okay, not so much how they are displayed, but the fact I can sort through the results quickly. I'd like to be able to sort through the books by year of publication or perhaps alphabetically. I know  it can be done on Goodreads, but not directly. Say I'm searching for Victoria Alexander newest book... I'll type Victoria Alexander and then, will get the results of all her books. Then, I'll have to click on one of the books "Victoria Alexander" which will lead me to the author's Goodreads page. Then I'll have to go look for her "distinct works" and finally, I'll be able to sort them out by whatever I want. Well it'd have been nice to have that option right away.

2) Ratings before publication dates. Ugh, I hate those!! It totally skews the ratings :( I understand that some people get an ARC copy and that's fine... However, to see ratings before the book is actually published simply because fans are excited or for whatever reasons, not good! Sigh.

3) Half-star scale. I wish Goodreads would implement half-star scale for the rating. I understand how it'd probably complicate the calculations and so on, also how it'd affect past ratings... but at the same time, I think it'd be a lot more accurate and reflective of our true feelings.

4) The search engine. Okay, this is minor, but it's still annoying. So for the longest time, I thought you couldn't search a book with its title and author's name at the same time. I just (read: a few hours ago, testing for this post) discovered that you could! The trick is when the results appear, click on the "all results" tab instead of "books." My question is why bother with such a tab? I mean, I'm looking for a book... So why would it show in "all results" and not "books"? Just doesn't make sense to me. Is it because it's too specific then? Speaking of specificity, I'd like to still be able to find my book if I make a small mistake... Just saying.

I know I'm not being very original since a lot of these issues have been brought up before... but this begs the question: why hasn't it been addressed yet? So what about you? Do you use Goodreads? What do you like  and don't like about it?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

TBR Challenge 2012: Exit Strategy by Kelley Armstrong

Wooohooo, made it for this month's TBR challenge :) Every time, it's an exploit LOL. This month, I did not stick to the theme even though we had a choice between paranormal and romantic suspense, but I wasn't that far off, having chosen a mystery book :) However, what I am most proud of is that this book is the farthest I've gone back - not in term of publication date, but actual years spent in my TBR pile!! Oh I'm sure I have older books in my TBR pile, but their chances of being read are quite slim ^_^; But Exit Strategy... well I always meant to read it one day... and it seems like the day has come. Keep reading to find out what I thought of it :)

Exit Strategy by Kelley Armstrong
published by Bantam Books in June 2007
Regulars at Nadia’s nature lodge don’t ask what she does in the off-season. And that’s a good thing. If she told them, she’d have to kill them. She’s a hit woman for a Mafia family. Tough and self-sufficient, Nadia doesn’t owe anyone any explanations. But that doesn’t mean she always works alone. One of her contacts has recruited her in the hunt for a ruthlessly efficient serial killer cutting a swath of terror across the country. The assassin is far too skilled to be an amateur—and the precision of the killings is bringing the Feds much too close to the hit man community for comfort.

To put an end to the murders, Nadia will have to turn herself from predator to prey as she employs every trick she knows to find the killer. Before the killer finds her...
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Nadia Stafford, Book #1

The Story: Nadia Stafford comes from a family of cops and has always known she would join the force. She also learned at a young age that cops and evidence cannot always bring justice and that criminals do walk away. This led to the 'incident' after which Nadia was asked to retire from the force and became persona non grata among her family. Nadia escaped the scandal to a remote area and nowadays, owns a nature lodge and shows her regulars a good time through the firing range and extreme sports... and to keep her business in the black, she'll accept assignments as a hit women for the Tomassinis, a Mafia family.

Nadia is coming back home from such an assignment and finds her mentor, Jack, waiting for her. It turns out a serial killer dubbed The Helter Skelter killer because he leaves a page of the book with each of his victims has been making the news and rumors have it that he's in the business... which is bad publicity for the others. So a group of hit men and women have decided to hunt him down and Jack wants to know if Nadia wants in. The only other hit man that Nadia knows is Jack and keeping it that way would be the safest... but it seems the assassin has not totally taken her over and there's still some cop in her.

My Opinion: I bought Exit Strategy when it first came out to support one of my favorite authors, Kelley Armstrong, and it's been sitting in my TBR pile ever since. Yep, 5 long years. Why haven't I read it yet? I don't really know. My best guess would be some kind of mental block and the fact that it was a departure from Ms Armstrong's usual style. So why picking it up now? Well because I've been craving for Ms Armstrong's writing... Unfortunately for me, I seem to have developed a new mental block for Waking the Witch. Yeah, I know, very ironic ^_^; Since I can't read Spellbound and 13 without Waking the Witch, I decided to give Exit Strategy another try. It also motivated me to know that Ms Armstrong has gone back to this series, now that the Women of the Otherworld series is on hiatus.

All in all, I'm happy to have read Exit Strategy :) It's not my favorite book by Ms Armstrong, but it's still a solid read and something very different. Having a hit woman as your main character is something tricky and I feel Ms Armstrong has definitively pulled it off, especially since she has kept it very realistic as opposed to the Elemental Assassin series by Ms Estep which takes place in an urban fantasy world. At the same time, while it was realistic, it wasn't overly dark or gory... and the biggest feat here was that the characters felt normal, regular despite their unusual occupation. So kudos to Ms Armstrong.

Overall, I liked the characters in Exit Strategy. I think Ms Armstrong did a good job with each of them, but more importantly, she did a great job at balance. She avoided exaggeration and stereotypes, she didn't make "being an assassin" sound cool and I think that was important. In the case of Nadia, her becoming a hit woman was all about circumstances. It's not a path she chose, instead it's a crucial event in her life combined with some decisions she made that led her here. She didn't make excuses or justified herself and she didn't pat herself on the shoulder either, thinking this was the best decision. I felt there was an honesty in Nadia that  is rare, an objectivity that you hardly ever come across... I liked the fact that for her, being a vigilante isn't better than being a regular hit man or more excusable. I also liked Jack... the first word that comes to mind is indescribable and I think it fits him :) I like that he let Nadia take her own decisions, that he didn't push her in the direction that he wanted or manipulated her. The other characters were also quite interesting and it showed me that hit men come in every shape :)

What I liked best though in Exit Strategy was the mystery: the serial killer's motivations and the rush of adrenaline he felt as well as the idea of assassins binding together to get rid of one of their own who has crossed a line. I really liked the idea that it's a network and that people in this line of business would know one another, their personalities, their work... Also, in this case, there was a lot of investigative work involved... and a lot of theories. Why was this killer killing? And why these people? In the end, I enjoyed the story as I thought it was intriguing and I liked the world it showed. By the way, one of the best scene was when Evelyn, an old lady and Jack's mentor, met with the FBI agent in charge of this investigation:
"[...] We want one thing: this guy's name removed from our ranks. Once he's yours, he was never one of ours."
It just sounds so bad-ass LOL.

I did have some issues with the book though. Mostly, it all boils down to the pacing which I thought was slow. Exit Strategy was somewhat a slow read and as much as I liked the elements above, I have to admit I simply wasn't hooked. I think it has to do with the story itself being slow at times, because it was weighted down by Nadia's long monologues since the book is written from her POV. Also, there wasn't as much action as I expected which is probably more realistic, but it also means less suspense and excitement in my opinion. Furthermore, I was a bit disappointed at how some events unfolded and a bit dubious at some relationships forming :(

My Grade: C+. Exit Strategy was a solid book with an original premise. I was going to give it a B-, but the truth is, after finishing it, I didn't jump on its sequel Made to be Broken and I think that has to be taken in consideration - hence the grade.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Review: Delusion in Death by J.D. Robb

Delusion in Death by J.D. Robb
published by Putnam in September 2012
After years on the force, Eve Dallas didn't think she could be shocked anymore... until now.

It was just another after-work happy-hour bar downtown, where business professionals unwound with a few drinks, complained about the boss, maybe hooked up with someone for the night. Until something went terribly wrong. At first it was just a friction in the air. The noise intensified. The crow seemed oppressive. some sharp words were exchanged, some pushing and shoving.

Then the madness descended. And after twelve minutes of chaos and violence, eighty people lay dead.

Eve Dallas is trying to sort out the inexplicable events. Surviving witnesses talk about seeing things—monsters and swarms of bees. They describe sudden, overwhelming feelings of fear and rage and paranoia. When forensics makes its report, the mass delusions make more sense: it appears the bar patrons were exposed to a cocktail of chemicals and illegal drugs that could drive people to temporary insanity—if not kill them outright.

But that doesn't explain who would unleash such horror—or why. Eve's husband, Roarke, happens to own the bar, yet he's convinced the attack wasn't directed at him. It's bigger than that. And if Eve can't figure it out fast, it could happen again, anytime, anywhere. Because it's airborne...
Genre: Mystery/Thriller, romantic suspense
Series: In Death, Book #35

The Story: Eve Dallas has been on the force for a long time and she's seen what humans can do to one another; however, she can't help but be shaken when she walks in the crime scene of her newest case. Eve and her team quickly figure out that an air-bone cocktail of substances is what caused the people in the bar to turn against one another, creating the massacre... which means they have to work fast to find out who is behind it. The threat to the people of New York City is such that Eve is forced to work with Homeland, not her favorite people. And as if it was not enough, Eve is also dealing with a new set of nightmares, an aftermath of  the events of New York to Dallas.

My Opinion: You know what is great about an In Death book? It's the fact that you can just read and relax because it's a no-brainer :) You don't have to wonder how many books the author has planned for the rest of the series, who is it going to be the main H/H or even whether there is going to be any progress on the overall story... And that's why I believe this series is so successful. That and the fact that we love Eve, Roarke and all the secondary characters :) Reading an In Death book is like catching up with friends and Ms Robb has the knack of settling her readers in the story as if it hasn't been six months since the last installment... and Delusion in Death is no exception. In fact, I'd say that Delusion in Death is one of the better installments I've read in recent years :)

The strength of Delusion in Death in my opinion was the case. I really liked it. It was interesting and the way Ms Robb carried it out, compact and efficient. Recently, I've been in the mood for romantic suspense books, but not the ones featuring ex-military characters. Instead, what I want is cops or FBI agents, doing investigative work... and that's exactly what you get in Delusion in Death - though of course, Eve gets some help from her genius husband and that's always handy :) It'd be nice though that from time to time, everything doesn't work out so well for Eve and that she doesn't zoom in immediately on the key victim or key suspect or key witness ^_^; Although nobody could fault Eve from not looking at every option and crossing her Ts and dotting her Is. And I know that Eve is very experienced and has a lot of resources and so on, but sometimes, it just seems too easy... In any case though, the legwork in Delusion in Death was solid work and so was the mystery and the motivation.

For those who like the more emotional aspect of the series, you'll be pleased with Delusion in Death since Eve is coming to terms with the events in New York to Dallas. Personally, I didn't care much, although everything Eve is going through does make sense. My issue here is I was never happy with what happened on the personal level to Eve in Dallas and also the fact that for us, readers, it's been a year since those events, so we've come to terms with it, but for Eve, it's only been a couple of months... So obviously, she hasn't... but I can't help but wish Eve has moved forward. Still I recognized that given the events and Eve's background, the nightmares and the need for her to work it out fit and are actually necessary for her personal growth. It also brought some slight conflict between Eve and Roarke and it was nice to see them dealing with it. It showed us how far Eve and Roarke have come in term of compromise and marriage :)

In short, Delusion in Death is nothing out of norm for an In Death installment. However, it had an interesting intrigue which was well executed and combined with our familiar and lovable cast, made for a solid and very enjoyable read :) Although it'd be nice if Eve stopped taking Roarke everywhere. Actually, it'd be interesting to see a day from Roarke's POV and see him in his element. Just saying.

My Grade: B. As I said, an enjoyable read and more importantly, it had me engrossed and wanting to know what happened :)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hauling Sunday XCIII

Another quiet week for me :) My boss came back so work finally picked up! In a way, I'm happy because I was really getting uncomfortable not doing anything. Anyway, it's good to be busy... and I will be since we have stuff to complete by the end of the year. I don't know if I mentioned on the blog, I know I told some of you already though... Long story short, my lab didn't get its funding renewed and the department was unwilling to support us till the next grant application. As a result, it will be closing down at the end of the year :( I've been looking at the positive side of this news... Yes, there is one. Initially, I was planning to stay at this job for 2 years, but it's been already 4 years... I don't think it's a bad thing for me to look for something different or at least, reassess what I want my future to be, so I'm taking this as an opportunity. Anyway, my contract ends at the end of the year. So far, I'm looking at the easy way out and looking at the other labs in my department. I should really start looking for a new job and it's something I was planning to do starting October (got the news end of August), but it's not easy given the market and the fact I really can't leave my current job immediately. So instead, I'll see where life leads me... but it's some scary stuff and I feel worried from time to time... Especially since I haven't told my parents yet - nope, my parents do not read my blog. I don't want them to know yet because they'll be stressing and there's nothing much they can do about it. Ah well.

Anyway, that in part explains why I've been buying less books. I'm really trying to only get the ones that I absolutely want and not be too impulsive. Also, I'm waiting for a good promotion to get the books that are less urgent but still on my list. However, I have been impulsive this week and gotten this:

Together for Christmas by Lisa Plumley - I've been in the mood for contemporary romance and the review I read for this book was really good. Since Together for Christmas is from Kensington, it means the promotion codes do apply when buying an ebook... and I got it for a really good price :) 

And that's it for this week. This week was actually rather boring. I'm looking for the coming one since I start curling this week! I'm really looking forward to it :) 

What about you? What new book did you get?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Week-End's Minis XXVIII: Along Came a Duke by Elizabeth Boyle

Along Came a Duke by Elizabeth Boyle
published by Harpercollins Publisher (Avon) in May 2012
"A young lady with a fortune is subject to all sorts of untoward attentions by the worst sort of vagrants." Aunt Allegra

A lesson Tabitha Timmons, a penniless spinster, has never needed to heed. That is, until she is left a vast fortune payable only upon her marriage to the very respectable Mr. Barkworth--a match that offers little chance of discovering exactly what her aunt means by "untoward attentions."

But the same can't be said when the Duke of Preston happens along Tabitha's path. He spies a rebellious streak in her that matches his own and he makes it his mission to save her from such a passionless match, interfering in her life at every turn. All too soon, Preston--whose very name spells ruin--has Tabitha caught between the good fortune that guarantees her security, and his kiss, which promises an entirely different kind of happily-ever-after.
Genre: Historical romance
Series: Rhymes with Love, Book #1

What do you need to know? Tabitha Timmons lives in the village of Kempton, which seems to harbor an unusually high number of spinsters. It seems young men have a tendency to leave the village and not return... Tabitha's father was the vicar and after his death, his brother took over his position, He and his wife were not keen on keeping Tabitha, but they did not have a choice and they quickly realize how useful she can be in helping out with the house chores. As for Tabitha, despite her friends' invitations to move, she stays on because it is home. She has also come to term that she will not marry and all right with the situation as she tells Preston, Lord Roxley's friend, who believes every woman is out to entrap men in marriage. However, Tabitha's future changes when she inherits a fortune from her maternal uncle... but this fortune also comes at a cost: marriage to the very respectable Mr. Backworth, heir of a marquess. Quickly, Tabitha is whisked to London to be introduced... but everywhere she turns, there is Preston.

Everywhere the Duke of Preston goes, he lives scandals in his wake. His latest frasque has left him almost persona non grata to most social events. His uncle and aunt have issued an ultimatum: Preston is to marry and become respectable or else, they'll move out. Having no choice, Preston is ready to court the girls on his aunt's list... but Tabitha is the one he cannot forget. Can his reputation withstand another scandal... one that will lead to happiness?

Why this book? Ms Boyle's books are usually miss and hit for me... and lately, they've been more on the miss side. I wasn't going to pick up Along Came a Duke; however, this is quite a striking cover and I've been reading good reviews for the book, so I changed my mind.

What did I like? I thought Along Came a Duke had a lot of potential. When I first started this book, I was hooked as the first few chapters were very strong in my opinion. However, I had to take a break reading this book because of the New York trip and then, books that I wanted to read more than this one... and when I picked Along Came a Duke again, I really had a lot of difficulty getting back into the story. Even now, I don't really know if this was due to the story or me... All I know is that once I picked up the book again, I just wasn't as hooked and that's really unfortunate :(

Here are the reasons why I thought Along Came a Duke had so much potential. First, I loved the fluffy and light tone of the book. It was fun and fit perfectly the setting of the book. I loved Preston's relationship with his uncle and aunt - Henry and Hen, short for Henrietta - who are twins and only 6 months older than Preston. LOL, I can totally see the bond between them and I thought this situation was quite unique. I actually wished I've seen more of their interactions. Yes, Henry and Hen are exasperated at Preston's antics, but you can see they still care about him. Preston's background was also very interesting and I wished Ms Boyle had elaborated more on it. I wished we've known how good a parent Preston's grandfather was. At least, what we were given gave really good insight into Preston's personality and why Henry and Hen's ultimatum was so grave for the duke.

I also enjoyed Preston's friendship with Lord Roxley and the friendship between Tabitha and  her two best friends, Daphne and Harriett aka Harry. It's clear that Daphne and Harriett are going to be the future heroines of this series and I enjoyed what I read of them. Especially Harry :) She was a lot of fun and I just can't wait to read her story.

Overall, I thought Ms Boyle did a great job with the setting and the characters. Where I had issues was which turns the story took.

What did not work for me? I guess if I had to sum it up, it would be the romance ^_^; I liked the characters and I actually thought Preston and Tabitha had chemistry together... but the way their romance unfolded, it was simply frustrating. I liked the fact that it took so long for Tabitha to figure out that Preston was a duke LOL. What I did not like is how she stringed him along. I know she was not convinced of his character, she thought he was lazy and so on, but she was still attracted to him and I think it would have been good if she had been honest from the start. The two of them seemed to play a game, dancing around each other... but that game just wasn't good ^_^; I hated how Preston had such a bad reputation and that most of it was unwarranted :( That definitively did not helped. I also thought Daphne was a bit annoying, giving advice to Tabitha when she herself didn't get it. Finally, I felt that throughout too much of the book, Tabitha was a bit of a doormat, letting everyone lead her, listening to their opinions and advice. I mean, she just became an heiress, wouldn't it be time for her to stand up to her family and say what she wants? Time to really take the reins of her life instead of following the flow. That part was frustrating given Tabitha actually had a strong personality, ideas of her own, which is what Preston was attracted to. But that part of her personality didn't shine with the others and that's how she found herself in such a mess :( And that's why I found the romance lacking.

My Grade? C. I do believe that Along Came a Duke would have gotten a higher grade if I've read this book without taking that long break... unfortunately, I didn't. Overall, the book was enjoyable, but didn't measure up to the expectations I had based on the strong opening. The good news is that I did like the characters and they had me hooked and so, I am most likely to pick up the next book in the series :)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Monthly Reads: August 2012

Sorry for the lack of post this week!! I had plans for the blog this week, but the long week-end kind of derailed everything. Also, it seems I'm not completely out of the slump... Oh I do read, but I feel like putting down most books I pick up which is totally not me ^_^; Only way to beat the slump is to read right? :) Also, it seems I'm not the only one having a bit of blogging blues. Where is everyone?! I hope that you're all doing well and reading a storm LOL.

Anyway, I've decided to give my blogging muse a little break this week... and I'm thinking I'll put her to work this week-end LOL. With curling starting next week, I think I'll have to devise a plan so I have posts prepared :P Hopefully, this week-end will be inspiring :) So while my blogging muse is on break, I thought I could list my reads in August. Simple right? Here we go!

1) That Thing Called Love by Susan Andersen: C

2) Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews: B-
Upcoming buddy review to come

3) Haven by Kay Hooper: B-

4) The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires by Molly Harper: C

5) A Witch Before Dying by Heather Blake: B-

6) Forever and a Day by Jill Shalvis: B

7) Almost a Scandal by Elizabeth Essex: B+

8) Mina Wentworth and the Invisible City by Meljean Brook: C-

Mina Wentworth and the Invisible City is a short novella, a kind of epilogue to The Iron Duke, in which readers get to see how Mina and Rhys are adapting to their new life after the HEA ending. A big part of the book is about Rhys and Mina's internal struggles: Rhys and his fear for Mina due to her profession and the risks it entails and Mina trying not to overload their adoptive daughter's, Anne the Tinker, life with her maternal instincts. In addition, there's also an investigation about the death of an aristocratic bounder who has been drumming support for his labor initiative to reward factories that didn't install fully automate machinery, putting manual workers out of a job.

Honestly, Mina Wentworth and the Invisible City was an okay novella. I picked it up because I was curious to read about Mina and Rhys' HEA ending... Unfortunately, I forgot that I didn't care much about Mina and Rhys' characters and thus found the whole internal struggles, Rhys' fear for Mina's life and their adaptation to married life, boring ^_^; I simply wasn't hooked. The mystery was not bad, but it wasn't great either. It would have been more interesting and intriguing if Ms Brook had more pages to work with, if it wasn't so closely connected to Mina's life and if the ending hadn't been so anti-climatic. Like everyone else, I did enjoy Scarsdale's appearance and I'm wondering if he'll have his own book one day...

9) Paradise by Jill S. Alexander: B-
Upcoming Review.

10) Dirty by Megan Hart: B

I'm not going to attempt to summarize Dirty because I don't think I could make it justice. If you want to know what happens, you can always check out Goodreads or read Hilcia or Rosie's reviews.

I've heard a lot of good about Dirty, especially since it was Ms Hart's debut novel IIRC, and almost singularly launched her at the top of the list of best erotica authors in romance blogland. Of course, her subsequent books kept her there :) Nowadays, whenever I hear the name of Megan Hart, I always associate the name with refreshing and deep erotica romance books. I'm not a big reader of erotica romance, but I'll pick up a book once in a while... and after reading Hilcia's review, I was intrigued and therefore decided to revisit the past and give Dirty a go. And now, I understand why Ms Hart became so popular so quickly :)

Dirty was a very solid and good book, one that I stayed up late to finish and let me tell you, those books are rare these days. What makes Dirty stands out so much in my opinion is that nobody expects such a deep story when picking up an erotica romance book. It comes as a total surprise, so at the end, you can't help but be a little wowed. Also, I thought the story, everything that Ella has gone through, felt very real. I really admired Ella and was so happy that despite everything, she built herself a good life. She didn't let the past control her totally. I loved Dan, the hero. I thought he was a great guy and his patience was exactly what Ella needed to heal. The secondary characters were well written and all served a purpose in the story. I liked Ella's younger brother, hated her mother and was happy that Ella was opening up her shell and making friends. I have to say though, having read the reviews and knowing this book was more than it appeared, it was easy to pick up Ms Hart's clues throughout the book and know the reason why Ella was broken. And I guess that lessened the wow factor for me, hence the grade. Still, at the end of the day, Dirty was an excellent book... and it was actually a lot steamier than I expected in comparison to Broken, one of the other books by Ms Hart that I've read :)

11) The Line Between Here and Gone by Andrea Kane: C+

12) Wild Texas Rose by Jodi Thomas: C+

13) All Seeing Eye by Rob Thurman: B+

14) The Best Laid Plans by Sarah Mayberry: B-

15) Fool for Love by Beth Ciotta: C-


Books bought: +9
Books read: -15
TBR pile: -6

Category Romance - 1
Contemporary Romance - 3
Historical Romance - 2
  --> (Regence - 1/Western - 1)
Urban Fantasy - 1
Steampunk Romance - 1
Paranormal Romance - 1
Mystery/Thriller - 3
Cosy Mystery - 1
YA - 1
Erotica Romance - 1


Well, well, well. I think August turned out to be a great month after July. Reading double-digits of books always signifies a good month for me :) All the other numbers also look good to me LOL. And I think this was my most diversified month to date when it comes to what I've read. All in all, can't complain... except to say I wished September had been as good!

Quality-wise, well no wowzers - although a few were on the verge of being so - but no real bummers either. Maybe I'm a tough grader, but at the same time, I know what I like... and well, it seems to me that a lot of books have the same problems when it comes to the romance... so perhaps it's not really me :P

What do you think of my month?