Thursday, December 27, 2012

On a short Hiatus...

Wow, so this is not the way I envisioned ending 2012 or starting 2013. When I started the holidays vacation, my plans were to read and blog. However, both didn't really happen. I got busy running around and then, on Christmas day, I started a cold. Bleh. It's already a lot better, but you know how it is. You don't really feel like doing anything :(

Unfortunately, the reason I'm going on hiatus is that we received a sad news this morning. My aunt, my mom's sister, passed away last night T_T It was very sudden and totally unexpected. And therefore, in the coming days, I'll be busy helping out with the funerals and so on. As such, I don't think I'll be much in the mood of blogging and has decided to put the blog on a short hiatus. However, rest assured, I will be back soon!!

To everyone, Happy New Year! May 2013 brings you happiness, health and good books :) See you all very soon :)


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012!


I hope everyone has a great day today! Once again, I'm sorry I went MIA. I didn't mean so. I really planned to blog this past week-end, but my subconscious decided otherwise. Guess that deep down, I was tired. I'll definitively be trying to catch up this week!

In the meantime, have a great time!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Quick update...

Hi everyone!!

Sorry I've been MIA this week! It really wasn't my intention! I had plans, but you know me and plans... I've been so busy trying to tie things up at work. I almost managed to get everything done, but at this point, it doesn't really matter anymore, because I just had confirmation that I'll be working for a different supervisor, but using the same lab! :) So I can finish everything such as packing after the holidays. I'm officially starting on January 7th :) Yay! So I just wanted to share the good news with everyone :)

Another reason why I haven't had time blogging is because I finally got out of my reading slump! Finally! I really got engrossed in my book and decided I should enjoy it while it lasts :) And I also had curling. Phew. However, I'm off starting this week-end with no plans in sight and I might be snow-bound... so I'll work really hard on having some posts ready! Look forward to it!

What about you? Are you surviving the holidays madness?!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Week-End's Minis XXXV: Trouble Me by Laura Moore

Trouble Me by Laura Moore
published by Random House Publishing (Ballantine Books) in March 2012
Trouble isn't the only thing on her mind.

The youngest and wildest of the Radcliffe sisters, Jade is the last to return home to her family’s sprawling Virginia horse farm and its unsettling memories. She never planned on a night of passion with a stranger before starting her new life as a teacher and riding instructor—or the shock of recognizing the man who gave her so much pleasure standing right there in her classroom.

Officer Rob Cooper is stunned. Not only is the woman who rocked his world his daughter’s second grade teacher, but she’s the troubled teen whom he blames for his wife’s death years ago. Worse, now that he sees her in the light of day, he wants her more than ever. Time has softened Jade’s hard, rebellious edge—she’s spirited, honest, and sexy to distraction. But will the feelings ignited in the heat of desire be enough to heal a past that needs forgiving?
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: The Rosewood trilogy, Book #3

What do you need to know? Trouble Me takes place about 6 years after Believe in Me and features the youngest Radcliffe sister, Jade, as the heroine. In Remember Me and Believe in Me, Jade was a teenager going through a tough time. She had just lost her parents in an accident and started at a new school and the gossips were cruel. Therefore, she was acting out... Especially after she found her mother's diary where her mother had written pretty bad stuff about her. It also seemed that her mother was having an affair and that perhaps, the plane accident in which her father was the pilot and which killed her parents might not have been an accident after all...

In Trouble Me, Jade has grown up and matured. She has just finished her degree in education and has found a job as a substitute teacher for grade 2 which takes her back home in Warburg and Rosewood. She also plans to start teaching children how to ride at the horse farm. On her trip back, because of the weather, she is forced to stop at a hotel... One thing leads to another and she ends up having a one-night stand with a sexy stranger. However, the stranger turns out not to be such a stranger... Instead, it's Rob Cooper aka Robocop, the cop that witnessed and arrested Jade multiple times during her rebellion years. He's also the father of Hayley, a cute 6 years old girl who happens to be Jade's student at school and for the horse riding class... Oh and he also blames Jade for his wife's death because the night she died, Rob was busy arresting Jade. So when they both realized with whom they slept with, Jade and Rob aren't very happy... but they can't deny they are attracted to each other and decide to take a chance. However, there's a few things not in their favor Except Jade has decided to hire a PI to investigate on her mother's lover and hasn't told Rob... and this secret could jeopardize their relationship.

Why this book? I picked up Trouble Me because I read and enjoyed Believe in Me. Also, I was curious to find out what was the big secret and how Jade would turn out.

What did I like? There was actually a lot that I liked and enjoyed in Trouble Me. I thought the beginning of Trouble Me was very good and I liked discovering the new woman that Jade had become. I liked that she was passionate about her teaching and the horses and was going after her dreams, doing what she liked in life. It's inspiring and something I really wished I had done, although besides reading, I don't exactly know what I'm passionate about LOL. While Jade has matured, she still had issues about what her mother wrote about her in her diary and it was good that her issues hadn't miraculously disappeared, that it was realistic. I also liked Rob's character. First, he was a great father and you could really feel his love for Hayley. What I liked most about Rob though was that he was level-headed and could be reasoned with. The two instances that come to mind is when he first realized that Jade was going to be his daughter's teacher and when he  found out that Jade was the woman from the one-night stand he couldn't forget. In both cases, he really wasn't happy about it, but after discussions and reflections, came to his sense. I liked that he realized that Jade was in no way to blame for his wife's death and that it wasn't really an issue between the two. I also liked that he didn't hold onto this anger and let it come between the two. I guess what I'm saying is that Rob was a mature man as well :) By the way, speaking of the one-night stand, I really liked the fact that it took time before Jade and Rob came face to face in the story and realized each other's identity. I thought that was well handled by Ms Moore - she gave herself time to set up the characters and at the same time, gave time to the readers to know them better instead of throwing us in. It was clever too since given the situation, sooner or later, Jade and Rob would have met and she chose later. And as a couple, Jade and Rob worked for me, they had good chemistry :)

Finally, I did enjoy seeing past characters and I thought they were well integrated in the storyline. I could have used a few more sisters scenes, but I think the focus of the story was where it was supposed to be :)

What didn't work for me? As I said, there was a lot to like about Trouble Me. I think Ms Moore did a great job setting up the story. Unfortunately, it's an important part of the story that didn't work for me: the conflicts ^_^; In a way, there was two parallel storylines in Trouble Me. The first was about the woman Jade has become and the conflict was that the old society biddies still held a grudge against Jade for her past mistakes and her mother's mistakes and therefore, they campaigned to have Jade lose her job. Perhaps it's because I didn't read the first book in the series, but I didn't really get the vendetta the old biddies had against the Radcliffe sisters and especially Jade. I thought their quest was superficial and laughable and those old biddies were really malicious. I mean, it's one thing not to like someone, but to campaign for them to lose their job? If they had succeeded, it would mean that Jade wouldn't have been able to live in Warburg and that's really extreme. And while I was happy Jade's sisters found something to hold over the old biddies' heads so they couldn't go ahead with their plans, I feel the message being sent is not right ^_^;

The second storyline was about Jade hiring a PI to find out who was her mother's lover from the diary... and the conflict was that she kept it a secret from Rob, to the point he was jealous of the PI and thought perhaps Jade was cheating on him. I guess you could sum it up to lack of trust on both parts. What I don't really understand in the story is why Jade kept it a secret from Rob. I don't think she had to tell him everything, but she could have at least told him the other guy was a PI. As for Rob, to jump to such conclusions... well as I said, lack of trust that wasn't really warranted. By the way, I did like the resolution of Jade's mommy issues, although the way it came about was a bit unbelievable.

Finally, I feel that Ms Moore missed an opportunity here. I thought the conflicts would have been more interesting if it stemmed from their joint pasts instead of these issues.

My Grade? B-. Good start, just too bad it didn't finish as strongly. I was hesitant about the grade, wavering between a B- or a C+, but in the end, there was a lot that I enjoyed :) And I'll definitively be reading more of Ms Moore's books in the future.

Hauling Sunday CII

So how was everyone's week-end? :) Mine was good, but could still have been better. It was our annual gift exchange yesterday :) Lots of fun and laughs as usual LOL and I got a new scarf! However, we wrapped up early because everyone was tired and we were actually meeting for brunch today. Alas, I missed brunch! :( I went to the emergency to have my foot checked out. On Friday, I said that I've been experimenting twinges in my left heel right? Well I ran some errands yesterday and it became pain when I put my weight on it and it hurt a lot when I walked :( Since I figured I wouldn't have time to see the doctor this week before Wednesday and I was afraid it could become worst, I went to the emergency... Sigh. As I was not a high priority case, I did wait a long time. I totally understand, but I have to admit it was frustrating... Anyway, my heel is inflamed apparently and it's most probably due to change of footwear ^_^; Also, the doctor asked me if I've taken something like Tylenol and I was like: "Euh no." Felt really stupid... I didn't even think about it. Guess because lately, I've had a few health issues where there's nothing I could do except wait, so it didn't even cross my mind. Plus, I didn't it would help because frankly, it feels like something is tight... but it is. The pain was better than yesterday and with the Tylenol, looks like it'll go away. Sigh, I'm just so tired of all this crap!! It's always like that it. It seems that whenever something happens to me, it's never just one thing, ugh.

Okay, enough about all of this. It just depresses me! Let's talk about something cheerful. Books. I'm still slumping, but I really hope something will pull me out soon :) Hope these books will do it:


The First Prophet by Kay Hooper - It finally arrived!! I pre-ordered this book back in November, but I guess they had some issues at the warehouse... The First Prophet is the first book in Ms Hooper's new series, Bishop Files, which is kind of spin-off series of the FBI SCU that I love so much. Hey, if I mean I get two books by Ms Hooper per year, I won't be complaining :)

The Other Side of Us by Sarah Mayberry - This is Ms Mayberry's next release coming out in January. I requested it on Netgalley hoping that it'll pull me out of this slump. Seriously, this lack of release is killing me!


That's it for me this week. Pretty slow. What about you? What did you add to your TBR pile? Or they waiting patiently under the Christmas tree? Again, suggestions to get me out of my reading slump are welcome :)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Review: 'Twas the Night After Christmas by Sabrina Jeffries

Phew, I made it!! I really wanted to have this review up this week :) It's really been fun to review Christmas-themed novels, really put me in the mood for the holidays. However, there's one week left before Christmas, and I've run out of books to review... Does anyone has a suggestion for next week's review? :)

I've been quiet this week and I'm really sorry about that. Life has been really busy the past week and I realized I haven't been very chatty about what's been going on in my life lately and that some of you are wondering... so here's a quick update :) First, my health. So the dizziness has gotten a lot better in the sense that it's not constant anymore. I do still get spells from time to time, so it's not completely gone... but it's a lot more manageable and I can function a lot better. I think given enough time, it'll really go away. *knocking on wood* I bumped my knee pretty hard earlier on Monday and have a major bump on it. Sigh, since I started playing curling, I don't recognize my right knee anymore LOL. I've put a knee pad on my Christmas wishlist, hoping that it will solve this issue :) And ugh, my latest bother is my left heel. This time, it's not curling related... I've been getting twinges in my left heel if I stretch my foot a certain way or walk a certain way. It's not painful or anything, but it pulls... I have no idea why... It started on Tuesday and I think it was my boot or something. Sigh. Once again, I'm ready to move on to the new year, health-wise LOL.

Second, work. Work has been really busy. As you know, the lab is closing at the end of the year... but what me and my co-worker just found out is that my boss is going away on vacation next Wednesday. Yes, next Wednesday!! The good news is that I won't have to work between Christmas and New Year, but the bad one is... He's gone next Wednesday! There's some stuff to take care of and so we're trying to do that before next Wednesday. Ugh. And that's pretty much why I haven't had time to blog this week. By the way, for those wondering about my job prospects... There's a really big chance that I'll be working in another lab in the same department. There's two positions that just opened... so I'm just waiting for confirmation. I'm supposed to get news before Christmas, i.e. next week. As soon as I know, I'll share :) If I don't get anything here, then I'll start looking after New Year... but in either case, there's a high possibility I'm going back to school...

However, at the moment, my biggest issue is that I'm in a reading slump T_T I have not read a single book this week, sad :( So if you have any suggestions, they are really welcome!! Especially with lots of free time coming up. I've been meaning to get reacquaint with my TBR pile, but I've had no time ^_^; Seriously, I totally blame the publishers and their release schedule LOL.

Anyway, enough about me. Here's the review, enjoy it!

'Twas the Night After Christmas by Sabrina Jeffries
published by Simon & Schuster in October 2012
Pierce Waverly, the Earl of Devonmont, has been estranged from his mother for most of his life. When his mother’s new companion, Mrs. Camilla Stuart, writes to tell him that his mother is seriously ill, he goes home. But when he learns that the lovely widow tricked him in order to effect a holiday reconciliation, he refuses to stay—unless she meets his “terms.” Somewhere between trying to seduce the beautiful Camilla and struggling with the cruel memories of his childhood Christmases, Pierce discovers that not only does forgiveness go two ways, but that love can blossom even in the coldest of winters.
Genre: Historical romance
Series: Hellions of Halstead Hall, Book #6

The Story: The blurb for the book is quite accurate, but here is my version :)

Pierce Waverly, the Earl of Devonmont, has been estranged with his parents for most of his life, but without Pierce knowing why. The only thing he knows for certain is that from the age of 8 years old, he never got to spend time with his parents when he was on break from school during the holidays or the summer. Instead, he was sent to his cousin's, Mr. Titus Waverly, home. When he reached his majority, Pierce returned to the family estate, wanting to learn how to manage his estates, and was kicked out by his father... And when his mother didn't offer any explanations for their abandonment after his father died, Pierce decided to continue on with the estrangement and cut her out of his life. Thus, he ignored all the letters she sent and whenever he returned home to Montcliff, he made sure to avoid the dowager house so their path wouldn't cross.

Mrs. Camilla Stuart is Lady Devonmont's new companion and is quite outraged at the Earl of Devonmont's attitude towards his mother. Seeing how Lady Devonmont dotes her son, Jasper, and how often she reminisces about Pierce, Camilla decides to give what her employer wants most for Christmas: her son's presence. Therefore she pens an express to Pierce telling him how seriously ill Lady Devonmont is. However, Camilla never expected the events her note has instigated...

My Opinion: When I first found out that Pierce Waverly was the hero of 'Twas the Night After Christmas, I wasn't very happy. Not because I had anything against the character from his brief appearances in To Wed a Wild Lord and A Lady Never Surrenders - a rake who doesn't commit; if I did, I would not have many historical romance books to read! LOL. It's simply that after A Lady Never Surrenders, I thought the Hellions of Halstead Hall series was over and was looking forward to Ms Jeffries' new release... Honestly, I felt the whole series had been a bit underwhelming and therefore, would have welcome a new premise. Instead, the series seemed to have been extended and with the main storyline wrapped up, I wasn't sure what to expect from 'Twas the Night After Christmas. I actually wasn't going to pick it up... but you know me and new releases, LOL, I'm just drawn to them. So in the end, I gave 'Twas the Night After Christmas a go and guess what? I ended up being pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the book a lot more than I expected!

While 'Twas the Night After Christmas is branded as the 6th book in the Hellions of Halstead Hall series, in reality, for all intends and purposes, the book is actually a stand-alone and I think that is why the story worked out so well. Yes, some of the previous characters showed up, but Ms Jeffries limited their appearances. As for Pierce, his link to the Sharpes was tenuous and he really had nothing to do with the overarching storyline. As such, Ms Jeffries didn't have to recap previous events or re-introduce characters. In fact, as a stand alone, she didn't even have to set the scene up for subsequent books nor worry about sequel baiting... Which means she had all the time of the world to focus on the characters, story and romance of 'Twas the Night After Christmas and she did. I truly believed this focus was key and made the difference, because frankly, the story of 'Twas the Night After Christmas wasn't ground-breaking, but Ms Jeffries was able to deliver something solid and enjoyable :)

Overall, I enjoyed the holiday themed of 'Twas the Night After Christmas. It worked for me. The story wasn't overly sweet, but there was just enough Christmas traditions incorporated to put you in the mood of the holidays. Also, I think in such books, it's always nice to have a kid, because they're the ones who believe in magic :) And in this case, Jasper was cute and acted like a 6 years old boy. LOL, I loved his first encounter with Pierce, it was so funny. By the way, I also liked the grown-up characters. My heart broke for Pierce in the prologue when his parents did not come to pick him up for the holidays... and he didn't understand why. I find his behavior towards his mother - the resentment, bitterness and anger - justifiable. There was a lot of misunderstandings and assumptions on Pierce's part, but what can you expect when you abandon a boy and he grows up with gossips? Plus, he gave his mother the opportunities to explain, to tell him the truth: when he reached 21 years old and when his father passed away, but she never did. So you can't expect that when she's finally ready to move on, he's going to listen. I also believed that all Pierce wanted was an explanation or the truth from his mother, even if it shattered his hopes... to live with the unknown, that's hard. In the end, it all worked out and the reason why I'm satisfied with the resolution in 'Twas the Night After Christmas, it that contrarily to A Fool's Gold Christmas, despite everything, Pierce still loved his mother, still cared for her. He cherished the memories he had from his early childhood. In addition, to a certain degree, what Pierce's mother did was for his well-being and future. So all in all, the circumstances were better. I do wish that his mother had explained the whole situation to Pierce earlier.  As for Camilla, I did like her as well. She did overstep a little bit when she wrote that letter to Pierce, not knowing the whole story... but it was done with good intentions. What I liked about Camilla is that she never lost sight of what mattered: her son, Jasper. She refused to become Pierce's mistress, even though she was attracted to him, because of Jasper. I think that deep down, that is something Pierce admired because his mother couldn't do the same.

As for the romance, this is where it becomes a bit trickier. I thought that Pierce and Camilla had good chemistry and they balanced each other well. I liked that they spent time together, got to know each other. What I did not like though is how the whole thing began. As soon as Pierce found out the letter was a lie, he intended to leave... but in the end, he stayed, but that was conditional to Camilla spending time with him. Part of it was because he was attracted to her, that I'm sure of... but another part, it was to strike back at his mother and well, I found that part a bit despicable on Pierce's part and it colors the romance a little bit ^_^; It's one thing if you don't want to marry, have no heir and therefore, your mother doesn't get grandchildren... That's your business, your decision... but it's another when you involve someone else.

My Grade: B. Life can be so ironic at times :) At first, I wasn't planning to read 'Twas the Night After Christmas because I thought it was the continuation of  the Hellions of Halstead Hall series which I felt had run its course... but in the end, it turned out to be the best book of the series in my opinion! :) It was a nice Christmas-themed book and I felt Ms Jeffries focused on what mattered the most: the characters and the romance. I'm really glad I picked up 'Twas the Night After Christmas because I had a good time reading it and I hope you do as well! :)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Review: The Perfect Hope by Nora Roberts

The Perfect Hope by Nora Roberts
published by Berkley in November 2012
Ryder is the hardest Montgomery brother to figure out-with a tough-as-nails outside and possibly nothing too soft underneath. He's surly and unsociable, but when he straps on a tool belt, no woman can resist his sexy swagger. Except apparently Hope Beaumont, the innkeeper of his own Inn BoonsBoro…

As the former manager of a D.C. hotel, Hope is used to excitement and glamour, but that doesn't mean she can't appreciate the joys of small-town living. She's where she wants to be-except for in her love life. Her only interaction with the opposite sex has been sparring with the infuriating Ryder, who always seems to get under her skin. Still, no one can deny the electricity that crackles between them…a spark that ignited with a New Year's Eve kiss.

While the Inn is running smoothly, thanks to Hope's experience and unerring instincts, her big-city past is about to make an unwelcome-and embarrassing-appearance. Seeing Hope vulnerable stirs up Ryder's emotions and makes him realize that while Hope may not be perfect, she just might be perfect for him…
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Inn Boonsboro trilogy, Book #3

The Story: The Perfect Hope is the latest and also the last book in the Inn Boonsboro trilogy by Ms Roberts and, without surprise, features Ryder Montgomery and Hope Beaumont as our H/H. Ryder and Hope didn't start off on a good footing. Ryder was annoyed that his mother hired the innkeeper on the spot without any real interview and without consulting him and his brothers. He was also not sure that Hope, coming from a big city, would suit the inn, fit in their town. As for Hope, from his clear reluctance and subsequent interactions with him, she found him surly and unsociable. In fact, when it comes to their personalities, the two are opposite... but despite their differences, there's no denying they have chemistry. And so Ryder and Hope decide to embark into a no-string relationship to explore the sparks.

Oh and we also get the conclusion about the ghost, Eliza, and how she connects with the inn.

My Opinion: To be honest, I did not have high expectations for The Perfect Hope when I picked it up. It's not that I didn't like Ryder or Hope from what I read previously in The Next Always and The Last Boyfriend. It's just that the first two installments, while solid, weren't exactly memorable and Ms Roberts' trilogies and quartets can be very predictable. Also, this cover is, hmmm, well ugly! The setting looks fake and the colors are bland. It just doesn't reflect the vibrant feel of the Inn Boonsboro... Ms Roberts usually gets such great covers, but The Perfect Hope's was a total miss and I was afraid it was an indication of the story itself... However, I was totally wrong and The Perfect Hope turned out to be the most enjoyable book in the trilogy for me!

It all came down to Hope and Ryder, they made the book for me :) I enjoyed their characters as they were very likable. I loved Ryder's surliness LOL. I've said it before, but it bears repeating, Ms Roberts definitively has a knack at writing surly, grumpy heroes :) Seriously though, I think I like this type of heroes so much because they are frank, have very little patience for BS and they take care of the heroines when they need to. They're really the perfect mix of alpha and beta heroes :) So yes, I liked Ryder's character and I thought it was cute that his solution to female problems was flowers LOL. As for Hope, she was also very likable. The perfect blend of sophistication and amiability. The kind of woman you can't help but be wowed by, but who's still very nice and sociable. In truth, both Hope and Ryder were your typical Nora Roberts' characters, the ones that are confident, at ease and happy with their lives. So what set them apart, why did I enjoy The Perfect Hope so much? You're going to laugh at me, but it was the no-string relationship ^_^;  This is a very popular theme in contemporary romance at the moment and I've been complaining about it so much in recent months. How tired of the trope I am, how I want something different, how the characters that get into these so-called no-string flings are just not the types that should, etc... But what can I say, Ms Roberts nailed the no-string sex that develops into something more in The Perfect Hope! LOL. What transpires between Ryder and Hope is exactly how the progression from sex to relationship should be done in my opinion. It starts with both Ryder and Hope being attracted to each other and wanting nothing more than sex... And as they have sex, they settle into a routine and get to know each other better. Then at a certain point, they don't really know what they are to each other - more than sex buddies, but not exactly boyfriend/girlfriend. As the fling continues, they develop feelings for each other, they care... and ultimately, they realize they are in love. Best of all, they don't balk at it, they don't get scared and run away! What I loved about Hope and Ryder's relationship was that it was mutual as well. And I also really appreciated the fact that the friends and the brothers didn't get all noisy and ruin it for Ryder and Hope by announcing that they were in love. Instead, they where there as sounding board, offered support and advice... but that's it. The romance was very low in conflict, but it really worked for me :)

In The Perfect Hope, we also got to follow Hope in her life, saw what being an innkeeper entailed, and kept up with the Montgomery's activities and their gatherings. The book pretty much has the same pacing as The Next Always and The Last Boyfriend. If you didn't enjoy it in those two books, chances are it's not going to work for you in The Perfect Hope either. Obviously though, it worked for me :) We got glimpses of the characters' lives showing us their personalities and their work without being bogged down by the daily routine and with a brisk timeline. I think Ms Roberts is one of the best authors at writing this kind of pacing. I've picked up a lot of contemporary romance books lately that tried to mimic this kind of pacing, but a lot of them fell into a too passive rhythm and it made for a dull story. I think Ms Roberts' secret is the use of the secondary characters, but also showing us different kind of interactions and dynamics. I loved seeing Ryder with his brothers, Hope with her best friends... but the best moments were really the family gatherings and the dynamics that involved the kids and the dogs, especially Ryder's D.A. :)

The only part that I didn't care much in The Perfect Hope was the storyline with the ghost. Ms Roberts' use of the paranormal in her trilogies and quartets are always hit or miss for me and in this case, it was a miss. I can see though that it was needed. All three novels were rather low in conflict where the romance was concerned and she couldn't just go on about the inn stuff, so she needed something, another storyline... However, Ms Roberts has had ghosts in previous trilogies, so it wasn't very original. Furthermore, I felt it was just too convenient and predictable how it connected to the Montgomerys :( So I wish Ms Roberts would have come up with something else, something more original and perhaps suspenseful.

My Grade: B. Despite the fact that the story was predictable, I still really enjoyed The Perfect Hope for the characters and the execution. It was not the most memorable story, but it was solid and I have a feeling it's going to be one that I'll be re-reading :) Also, there is a comfort factor in picking up a Nora Roberts book. The writing style, voice and pacing are so familiar, they simply me in the story :)

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Hauling Sunday CI

Hi everyone!

Here is what I got this week:

Steel's Edge by Ilona Andrews - Actually, this came last week, but I forgot about it because I haven't opened it ^_^; I'm a big fan of Ms Andrews' Kate Daniels series, but her other works leave me lukewarm. Still, I bought Steel's Edge because I wanted to support the author... and on the off case this one would be a wowzer :P

The Weird Girls by Cecy Robson - This is a new author to me. I've already pre-ordered her debut novel, Sealed with a Curse, which sounds really interesting and is the beginning of a new urban fantasy series. This e-novella is a prequel and I decided to get it to have a taste of Ms Robson's writing :)

And that's it for the week. Not a lot, but I can't be blamed! It's all the release schedule's fault! Believe me, with all the promotions, if there were more books to buy, I would in a heartbeat! Especially since I seem to be heading in a reading slump. Ugh :( I've been looking for something to read and I just don't know what to pick up T_T Any suggestions?

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Week-End's Minis XXXIV: Turning Up the Heat by Laura Florand

Turning Up the Heat by Laura Florand
self-published in October 2012
Top chef Daniel Laurier might not know what is wrong with his marriage or his wife, but he knows one thing for sure. He’s not losing her. So when he comes home to find his wife has run off to a remote Pacific Island, he decides it’s time to turn up the heat.
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: none

What do you need to know? Daniel Laurier and his wife, Léa, were just kids, 19 and 18 years old respectively, and had just started dating when Léa's father, chef and owner of the three stars Michelin restaurant Relais d'Or, died from an unexpected heart attack. Immediately, Daniel had stepped up: he married Léa and took over the restaurant. The two of them work tirelessly to maintain the quality and the reputation of the restaurant - Daniel in charge of everything having to do with food and Léa, the accounts and the people.

Back then, it was crucial for them to insure their livelihood because they had Léa two younger siblings to raise. Ten years later, the Relais d'Or is still a three stars restaurant and Daniel has become a superstar chef. However, their success comes at a price. All the hard work means Daniel and Léa barely have time to be together... and lately, Léa is just so tired and all she wants to do is sleep. Deciding she needs a vacation, Léa heads for Tahiti and leaves a message on Daniel's voicemail letting him know she'll be back in one or two weeks.

Daniel has sensed that something has been wrong lately... but when he hears Léa's message, he becomes panicked and determined. He's worked so hard to deserve Léa, he won't lose her... and so he goes after her.

Why this book? I'm a fan of Ms Florand :) So when I heard about this novella, it was really a no-brainer to buy it :)

What did I like? Pretty much everything about Turning Up the Heat :) I loved Daniel and Léa, I think they were great characters. Their strength and determination, the hard work and sacrifices they made, their perseverance... It's really quite amazing. I also loved their chemistry, it's been a while I haven't seen a couple with such a strong chemistry. Daniel and Léa are just right for each other, especially after everything they went through together. However, what really worked for me was the story: a couple who married young out of circumstances, who are still together and working to stay together. I loved that Daniel went after Léa and fought for their marriage, for them. Also, what this novella shows is how marriage is hard work. I mean, Daniel and Léa stood together through lows and highs, faced the adversity together and yet, despite this bond, there is a chance that their marriage unravels because of their lack of communication. To a certain extent though, their lack of communication was understandable. They were young when they married and are actually still young... and there's feelings you just don't voice. For example,Daniel thought he had to deserve Léa and that all his hard work through the years were to prove his worth to her. I thought that part was really touching and I do think this is not something that a guy would willing voice though. The problem is that Léa never knew Daniel felt this way and I'm sure given a few years, this feeling of Daniel would have turned to resentment. It just goes to prove how communication is important to marriage. Also, I think that Ms Florand did a great job of making this novella feel real.

Finally, I want to give Ms Florand a thumb up for the length of Turning Up the Heat :) Obviously, I wouldn't mind reading more about Daniel and Léa, but since this was self-published, I feel that Ms Florand wasn't really restricted in length and therefore used the amount the words she needed to tell the story she wanted. The story felt complete and not rushed and this is rare with a novella :)

What didn't work for me? All right, so what I'm about to say is not really a complaint or an issue per se that I had with Turning Up the Heat... but it is the reason why this novella did not get an A from me. There's no doubt in my mind that Daniel and Léa loved each other very much and that they were meant for each other. However, I do think it's sad that as much as they loved each other, Daniel and Léa didn't seem to know each other ^_^; It's just a bit contradictory to me, because if they didn't know each other, how can they really love each other? Whom did they love then? Their younger selves or their perception of each other? So that's the one niggle I have with Turning Up the Heat and as much as I liked the story, I can't give it an A because it's an important niggle.

My Grade? B+ I really enjoyed Turning Up the Heat. I loved the couple, their chemistry and the story. Looking forward to reading more works by Ms Florand!

Friday, December 07, 2012

Monthly Reads - October 2012

TGIF yay! I can't wait till the end of the working day. It seems like this week has been really busy and going by very slowly ^_^; And I have to say, I'm starting to dread the coming weeks. It just seems like there is a lot of work ahead of me and very little time. By the way, it seems like there will be a good outcome about my job situation after New Year, but it's not confirmed yet. As soon as it is, I'll let you know!!

For today, I was debating whether to blog about books or curling LOL. Seems like the two big passions of my life right now. I opted with books because I figured it'd be quicker... which I'm not sure it was LOL. But also because there's an in-club tournament this week-end and I might as well cover that in my next recap, right? So stay tuned for it next week!

Now, let's talk about my first love: books! Here is what I read back in October! I can't believe we're in December ^_^; I'm so behind on my review! Although this post should help :)

1) When You Give a Duke a Diamond by Shana Galen: C-

2) The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan: B

3) Exit Strategy by Kelley Armstrong: C+

4) Believe in Me by Laura Moore: B+

5) Trouble Me by Laura Moore: B-/C+
Upcoming Review.

6) Midnight's Daughter by Karen Chance: B-

7) Death's Mistress by Karen Chance: B+
Upcoming Review.

8) Fury's Kiss by Karen Chance: B
Upcoming Review.

9) Home for the Summer by Mariah Stewart: C-

The cover of Home for the Summer caught my eyes and then, I decided to read it because it was a friends to lovers trope. When they were kids, Lucy Sinclair and Clay Madison were best friends. However, for some some reasons unknown to Clay, Lucy started to isolate herself from everyone during high school and now, they are more like regular acquaintances. Nowadays, Lucy is a successful event planner based on the West Coast and seldom comes back home while Clay is happy with his farm and has just started an organic brewery business. When work brings Lucy back to St. Dennis for several months, Clay decides he wants to reconnect with Lucy and see where it leads them. But there's a reason Lucy left town and stayed away... and it might just keep them apart.

It's nice to read low-level conflict romances from time to time, which is what Home for the Summer was. Overall, the story was sweet and the characters, nice. I liked Lucy and Clay, they were just regular people going about their life and I enjoyed seeing them reconnecting. Unfortunately, I thought there was not enough depth to the characters and to the story. In addition, the way the book was written, it was quite passive: the romance, the timeline and the events. We didn't get to see everything that was going on, which in some cases work, but not in Home for the Summer. I think it would have been better if the storyline focused on a shorter period of time and more happened, instead of Lucy and Clay reconnecting and falling into a relationship over time. Because of the passiveness, it felt like the storyline was a bit dull and as a result, I never really got hooked by it. Also, the foreshadowing of what happened to Lucy to make her avoid home was not very subtle. It was easy to guess what happened to her... I wouldn't have minded if at least, she has worked through it and moved on, but she didn't seem to. And what I really disliked was since Lucy revealed her secret to Clay, of course, something had to happen to impact her current life. It's just too coincidental and it never sits well with  me.

Bottom line, Home for the Summer was not a bad book, there was a lot of good elements to it actually. Unfortunately, it's not a memorable book either - not while reading and not afterwards :( And that's why I'm giving it a C- instead of a C.

10) What Happens at Christmas by Victoria Alexander: B-

11) Turning Up the Heat by Laura Florand : B+
Upcoming Review.

12) The Accidental Bride by Christina Skye: C

Once again, I saw the cover, thought it was cute and decided to give it a try since I usually enjoy those fake wedding/marriage plots. However, the blurb of The Accidental Bride was a bit misleading...

Jill O'Hara is a chef whose hard work is finally paying off. Her restaurant is starting to get really good critics and her organic salsa range is becoming popular. Life should be good... until Jilly suffers a minor heart attack, prompted by too much stress. Per doctor's order, it is imperative that Jilly changes her lifestyle and if possible, her line of work, but she doesn't know how and being a chef has always been her dream. To help her out, her best friends send her to a cooking retreat which turns out to really be a knitting retreat in Lost Creek, Wyoming. There, she meets Walker Hale, the town's hero and recluse, and Winslow, his brow Lab retriever. Both have been to war and come back injured and now, help training the U.S. troops to use service dogs in hostile terrain. It's love at first sight between Jilly and Winslow, but she is not immune to Walker either... And yes, they do plan a fake wedding ceremony, but it has nothing to do with television and everything to please the retreat's owner, an elderly lady with a heart condition.

When I started The Accidental Bride, I thought the story really had potential. I liked the issues that Jilly was going through with her life, both health and career-wise. It's hard to find something you want and love to do, but Jilly did. Not only that, she is successful at it... and then, to be told she can no longer do it? How do you deal with that? The problem though with The Accidental Bride is that Ms Skye had a good premise, but once Jillly found herself in Lost Creek, it's as if the author lost direction of what she planned and started improvising and the focus of the book got shifted to something else ^_^; The focus should have been on Jilly's problems and her new life, but instead of trying to figure out those, we got knitting and Jilly's lack of skills at it. We had Jilly playing barrista and helping to extinguish a kitchen fire... and we had the whole fake wedding fiasco going on. Jilly's denial was used as an excuse for the lack of focus on her issues, but still, those were important! Also, there were a few things that weren't very logical to me and the whole wedding thing, I can't believe Jilly accepted. She's a pretty down-to-earth person, level-headed, so it's hard to believe she would accept to marry someone just to please an elderly lady whom she has known less than a week... No matter how attracted and how much she liked the fake groom. This lack of direction was really quite unfortunate because Ms Skye actually had a great hero ^_^; I actually enjoyed the connection between Walker and Jilly and where they were heading. And I loved Winslow and his dynamics with the H/H! He such a great dog character and the highlight of the book. And then, the ending was rushed with a big conflict concerning Walker's background... instead of being about Jilly's issues introduced in the beginning.

To recap The Accidental Bride had a lot of potential with a good premise and great characters, but it was never exploited because the author went on a tangent when it came to the storyline ^_^;

13) Suddenly You by Sarah Mayberry: B
Upcoming Review.

14) My Kind of Christmas by Robyn Carr: B

15) All He Ever Needed by Shannon Stacey: C-

16) Within Reach by Saran Mayberry: C+
Upcoming Review.

17) All They Need by Sarah Mayberry: C+
Upcoming Review.

18) A Fool's Gold Christmas by Susan Mallery: B-

19) First Impressions by Nora Roberts: C

Another book I picked up because of the cover ^_^; What can I say, I'm easily swayed :) So First Impressions is a re-print and contains two oldies from Ms Roberts: First Impressions and Blithe Images.

In First Impressions, Shane Abbot comes home after a teaching stint in the big city with the dream of converting the house she has just inherited from her great-grandmother into an antique shop. She decides to hire the new guy in town and her new neighbor, Vance Banning, because he looks like he needs the job. What she doesn't know is that Vance is actually a wealthy businessman who needed time to find himself again after an atrocious marriage to a gold-digger.

First Impressions was a nice book. I actually really liked Shane's character, she was very bubbly, optimistic and passionate. Vance was more controlled and quiet and the two balanced each other out really well and I thought the romance was sweet. At the end of the day, there's nothing new to First Impressions, but it's a good book to pass time. My one issue with it was Shane's mother. She's a calculative woman who cares only about money and beauty. When she finds herself in trouble, she comes back home to see what her grandmother has left her, which is nothing. She's determined to make trouble to Shane, but Vance scares her... He then threatens her to stay away from Shane, but the woman is vengeful and when she finds out the dirt on Vance's previous marriage, she comes back to throw it in Shane's face. Let's face it, Vance's secret about his wealth and his marriage was always going to be the conflict of this book. That's fine to me. However, I really disliked the way it was thrown in Shane's face. Quite frankly, I just don't understand why the mother came back to face Shane. Just to hurt Shane? Because she was such an evil woman? I think the story could have done without her character...

20) Blithe Images by Nora Roberts: D

Oh wow, Blithe Images... I think this is the worst book I've read by Ms Roberts ^_^; I think it's largely due to the dated style of the story.

Hilary Baxter is a model enjoying success when she is offered an exclusive 6 months contract for a very prestigious fashion magazine. Of course, she accepts and this brings her in close proximity to Bret Bardoff, owner and and publisher of the magazine. So that's the premise of the story. From the get go, you know that Hilary and Bret are attracted to each other, but they keep circling each other... They're not in a relationship, but they want to... but enters the evil woman, Charlene who is from Bret's entourage and high society. She and Bret used to have a thing, but Bret put an end to it. Yet, she still believes she is going to marry Bret and is all jealous of Hilary and warning her of.

Where to start? First, I actually liked Hilary. She was pretty level-headed and felt humane... and that's pretty much the highlight of Blithe Images. What didn't work for me was Bret. I usually love Ms Roberts' hero, but Bret, ugh. He was sooooo patronizing! And the reason why I say Blithe Images feel dated in style is because Bret feels like a stereotype of the  wealthy businessman hero in the 80's romance. The kind that doesn't show his emotions and what he is feeling. Also, I think Ms Roberts meant for him to be elusive, but the whole combination didn't work for me. Instead, it frustrated me. I think Bret should have cleared things up with Charlene from the start instead of using her to make Hilary jealous and should have just gone after Hilary. Also, it's hard for me to believe that Hilary is in love with Bret when she has barely spent quality time with him. Most of their interactions were about work and she had to figure out the man he was and meh.

So yes, Blithe Images just didn't work for me :(


Books bought: +6
Books read: -20
TBR pile: -14

Category Romance - 3
        --> (Contemporary - 3)
Contemporary Romance - 10
Historical Romance - 2
        --> (Regency -2)
Urban Fantasy - 3
Mystery/Thriller - 1
YA - 1


Obviously, I can't complain about the numbers! October was my best reading month of the year with twenty books :) Yay!! As you can see, I went on two binges: contemporary romances and Sarah Mayberry LOL. I was just in the mood for contemporary romances and just gobbled them one after the other... and since that's what I was in the mood, well naturally, I went through the Sarah Mayberry books I had in my TBR pile. I have not reviewed any of them yet... I'm hoping to do a Sarah Mayberry week eventually... Eventually being the key word LOL. I have to say, while I read a lot of books, not many stood out which is unfortunate.  Is it because I'm a tough grader? There is a bit of that probably, but I think it's the books as well. But that's a discussion for another day.

How was your month of October? Did we read any of the same books?

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Review: What Happens at Christmas by Victoria Alexander

Seriously, I don't know where my week went! I complained about being busy on Tuesday, but I don't know where my time went and what I used it for ^_^; Also I'm really sorry that I haven't blog-hopped a lot recently, although I tried to make the rounds this morning. Hopefully, I'm going to get back on track for that...

At least, I managed to write this review, so I'm happy! Yes, another Christmas-themed book :) It's kind of my Christmas Advent :) So enjoy!

What Happens at Christmas by Victoria Alexander
published by Kensington in October 2012
Camille, Lady Lydingham, knows precisely what she wants for Christmas--an official engagement to a handsome, dashing prince. Her very proper suitor expects a proper English family and the perfect Dickensian Christmas, which leaves the lovely widow with a slight problem. The last thing Camille wants is for the prince to meet her unconventional relatives. But with the aid of a troupe of actors, Camille intends to pull off a Christmas deception of massive proportions.

At least until Grayson Elliot shows up. A dozen years ago, he declared his love on the day before her marriage to another man, then vanished from her life. Now he's back, gate-crashing Camille's already chaotic house party, playing absolute havoc with her scheme--and with her heart. Because for Grayson, losing Camille once was quite bad enough. Losing her twice? Unthinkable. And he'll find a way to show her they belong together--for this season, and every Christmas yet to come...
Genre: Historical romance
Series: Loosely connected to My Wicked Little Lies and The Importance of Being Wicked

The Story: The blurb of the book is actually quite accurate... but let me see if I can give your more details :)

When she made her debut in Society, Camille followed her mother's advice to marry for security rather than love and that is how she ended up as Lady Lydingham. She spent eight content years with Harry before he died and left her with a great fortune. After four years of widowhood, Camille believes she wants to marry the Prince Nikolai Pruzinsky of the ruling family of the Kingdom of Greater Avalonia because he is everything she ever wanted. With the perfect setting, Camille is sure she can secure a proposal from the prince. Thus, she invites him to her mother's country house, Millworth Manor, where she intends for him to experience the perfect Dickensian Christmas with a proper English family. Except her mother, younger sister and uncle are rather unconventional and she'd rather the prince doesn't meet them... and so she has hired a troupe of actors to impersonate them. With the help of her twin sister, Beryl, Camille intends to pull off the deception... that is until Grayson Elliot, the one man she has ever loved, shows up again at Millworth Manor.

Grayson Elliot is the nephew of the Earl of Fairborough and was taken in by his uncle's family after his parents died. As a result, he grew up with Camille as the two country estates are adjacent. Realizing he couldn't lose Camille, Grayson confessed his love the day before her wedding to Lord Lydingham. When Camille rejected him, Grayson took it hard. Believing she did not choose him was his lack of money, he went to America to build his own fortune... and only came back to England twelve years later after his cousin, Lord Stillwell, tricked him. And as soon as Grayson comes back, his cousin sends him to Millworth Manor for a neighborly visit to prove a point. Very quickly, Grayson realizes that something is up at Millworth Manor and it doesn't take him long to get the truth from Camille. And as quickly, Grayson realizes that he still has feelings for Camille and cannot lose her a second time... so despite her protests, Grayson joins the deceit as Lady Lydingham's distant cousin, but his goal is opposite to Camille: to make sure the prince doesn't propose.

My Opinion: I'm a huge fan of Ms Alexander and as such, I was really looking forward to What Happens at Christmas. There's just something about her writing, her characters and her stories that work for me... and What Happens at Christmas was no exception :)

I have to admit that at first, I had my doubts about  What Happens at Christmas especially after Camille was introduced ^_^; At first glance, Camille appears very shallow and calculative - wanting to marry the prince to become a princess, hiring actors to impersonate her family because she doesn't think they are proper enough and hence, could hurt her chance of becoming a princess and rejecting Grayson's love declaration to marry an older man. That last one actually had the potential to ruin the book for me, but in the end, Ms Alexander pulled it off first by presenting both characters' POV of what happened and second, by well developing the characters. Also, what I found refreshing is that Camille was not perfect, there was indeed a bit of shallowness in her personality and she did not apologize for it. I liked that she did not make excuses for the fact that she married Harry partly for his money, that there weren't extenuating circumstances such as family debts or that for some ludicrous reasons, the marriage was never consummated. Camille wasn't a self-sacrificing heroine, her husband wasn't villainous either and their marriage was real. Refreshing right? :) But what really elevated Camille in my eyes is that she came to the conclusion that she did not want to marry the prince in the end on her own, before he proposed. It sounds like very little, but I think it shows that Camille was honest with herself and her feelings. In contrast, Grayson's character was simpler, more straightforward and therefore, easier to like. Also, at first, he appears like the victim and as such, you can't help but sympathize with him and what he went through. However, I think that Grayson clung to the feelings a bit long ^_^; and I'm glad that his cousin finally shook him out from being the victim and showed him Camille's perspective. I also liked that Grayson's purpose in the book was not about revenge and that he didn't lie to himself about his feelings for Camille. All in all, I liked the characters and really appreciated that they were flawed, it added to their likability and the story.

As for the romance, it was okay. It worked that Camille and Grayson had a past, but I think there was too much focus on the past and not enough on the present. I would have liked for the two to get to know their current selves. I mean, twelve years have gone by... something must have changed. As for what happened in the past, I think Ms Alexander did an excellent job. Camille did not marry Harry for love, she married him for security. Yet, Ms Alexander managed to not make Camille's rejection be simply about mercenary intent. There was a lot more to Grayson's love declaration and Camille's rejection than meet the eye, especially given the timing, and in the end, I thought that the outcome was quite heart-breaking... and not only one of them can be blamed for it, I think to some extent, both of them were at fault and circumstances could be blamed as well. So I was glad that they finally got their HEA ending... Two persons that love each other and can be together should :)

What about the rest of What Happens at Christmas? Well I did enjoy the Christmas elements of the book - the Carrolls for Christmas was really quite inspired LOL. While I was glad it wasn't overdone, I do think a few more traditions or depictions of Christmas wouldn't have hurt. But really, the highlight of What Happens at Christmas were the secondary characters! It was nice to see Lady Beryl Dunwell again - she was introduced previously in My Wicked Little Lies. What was even better was to see yet another side of her and I have to say, Ms Alexander really have to continue with these unlikely likable characters! As you can expect, Camille's other relatives also do show up and they were quite fun as well... but really, the one who steals the spotlight has to be Grayson's cousin, Winfield the Viscount of Stillwell. Oh, I loved, loved, loved Win!!! He was so much fun LOL. I loved his wittiness and charm, his loyalty and his love for his family. LOL, that part where he learns of Camille's deception and asks to join as another cousin or even being away, he can stir things up such as sending the Carroll boys to Millworth Manor :) But what I liked most about Win was he made Grayson realized that he was not the only victim and that to a certain extent, he was wrong. It showed that Win was clever, clear-minded and fair and that he understood other's feelings. Lucky for me, Win is getting his own book in February 2013, The Importance of Being Wicked, and also had a little e-novella, Lord Stillwell's Excellent Engagements. I hope that his character is as great in his own story that he is What Happens at Christmas :)

Finally, my only real complaint about the book is Camille's deception. This big farce had a lot of potential to be funny and it was to some extent... but I think it could have been more. The actors were a nice touch, but they got old quickly. I don't know how Ms Alexander could have made this farce funnier, but I do feel like she missed an opportunity here.

My Grade: B-. What Happens at Christmas turned out to be quite an enjoyable book, but it did have some flaws. Still, I liked it better than last year's Christmas book by Ms Alexander, His Mistress by Christmas. And now, I'm eagerly awaiting The Importance of Being Wicked :)

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Review: Midnight's Daughter by Karen Chance

Ugh, why is it that every time I have a plan to write a review, I get busy? Seriously! Okay, I was perhaps a little ambitious, wanting to review all three books of the series, LOL, so I should be happy that I at least managed to write this one... Anyway, it seems that I need a better plan since the next few weeks are going to be extremely busy with the holidays but also the lab closing. Hmmmm, if only I was good at building up a stash of reviews LOL. In any case, I'll be trying and I guess that's what matters!


Midnight's Daughter by Karen Chance
published by New American Library in October 2008
Dorina Basarab is a dhampir-half human, half vampire. Subject to uncontrollable rages, most dhampirs live very short, very violent lives. So far Dory has managed to maintain her sanity by unleashing her anger on those demons and vampires who deserve killing.

Now Dory's vampire father has come back into her life. Her Uncle Dracula (yes, the Dracula), infamous even among vampires for his cruelty and murderous ways, has escaped his prison. And her father wants Dory to work with gorgeous master vampire Louis-Cesare to put him back there.

Vampires and dhampirs are mortal enemies, and Dory prefers to work alone. But Dracula is the only thing on Earth that truly scares her, so when Dory has to go up against him, she'll take all the help she can get…...
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Dorina Basarab series, Book #1

The Story: As it says in the blurb, Dorina is a dhampir, i.e. half-human, half vampire. Dhampirs usually live short lives given vampires' hatred for them and the berserker blackouts. Dory is a rare one, probably the only one, who has managed to survive 500 years... However, she knows her end - that one day, she'll go into a rage and won't come back either because she'll be killed or will have lost her mind. For now though, she is content with her life. She even has found a roommate, a null, who has a calming effect on her rages. Except that Claire has suddenly disappeared and Dory suspects foul play, especially when word on the street is that Claire is pregnant and the baby is a dhampir.

So Dory is busy and is less than happy when her father, the mighty Mircea, shows up and demands that she helps him with family business. Considering that family business is to capture Dracula - again - and she almost got killed the last time, plus uncle Drac hates her and is looking for payback, let just say that Dory is less than thrilled. However, as a bargaining chip, Mircea offers to find Claire and with the Senate resources at hand, he is most likely to achieve it faster than Dory is... and thus, Dory accepts to help. As a result, she is now saddled with Louis-Cesare, her uncle Radu's first-level master vampire offspring, who is determined to fight with her for control of the mission.

My Opinion: I was looking for something to read and came across Li's post for October new releases. On it, she had Fury's Kiss by Karen Chance. Li has been a fan of Ms Chance for years and she's always so excited when a book comes out and always seems to enjoy them so much. I tried reading Touch of Dark, the first book in the Cassie Palmer series, years ago and I don't know, just didn't get into it... and I'm not likely to try again given the love triangle. However, Fury's Kiss blurb sounded really interesting and Dorina seemed like my type of heroine :) Plus, this is a spin-off series, so I thought I'd give it a try from the beginning... and I'm really glad I did :)

As I suspected, Dory was indeed my type of heroine: kick-ass and a little crazy LOL. She was also very loyal, not only to her friend Claire, but to her family as well. I'm sure that given some time, she would have accepted to go after Dracula even if Mircea didn't offer the incentive. And I liked her attitude. Life is not perfect, but she rolls with it. She doesn't weight herself down thinking too much about the past or the future and it's not that she doesn't care, because she does... but mostly, she simply lives in the moment. Which is not a bad idea for someone who expects to die at any moment. In addition to her character, I also loved her family background - that she is the daughter of Mircea, a powerful vampire on the Senate, and the niece of Radu and the Dracula... Also that Ms Chance based it on a little on history with Mircea, Dracula and Radu... It was the perfect backdrop to this dysfunctional family because the conflicts were real and it definitively added a little something to the series.

Another pro to Midnight's Daughter is that I really enjoyed all the other characters and their dynamics with Dory. The relationship that Dory shares with Mircea is complex, but also very interesting. The way Dory talks about Mircea, it seems he doesn't care about her and is always manipulating her... but I'm sure Mircea loves Dory a lot. Perhaps it's being an outsider and therefore having a new perspective. Or else, it's always been there, but Dory just never wanted to believe, preferring to lie to herself. In any case, she talks a good game, but as I said earlier, she cares and she does love Mircea. I loved, loved, loved Radu!! He was soooo hilarious LOL. His interactions with Dory were fun and ridiculous. There's a solid bond between Radu and Mircea which I liked. I liked that family matters - to a certain extent - and that Dory, Mircea, Radu and Louis-Cesare have each other's back. As for Louis-Cesare, once again, I liked his interactions with Dory. LOL, that opening scene when Dory is rubbing Louis-Cesare's face in the rug... He also has a huge chip on his shoulder which makes him resent Dory a little, but despite that, he's still loyal to Radu and Mircea. I feel we haven't seen him enough, but from what we saw, I say he is intriguing and has potential.

Where it gets tricky in Midnight's Daughter is the plot. It was actually interesting and it got me hooked... at first. I mean, Dory and Louis-Cesare are going after Dracula! It should have been very exciting, with action non-stop... but it wasn't. There were quite a few down times and those felt incongruous with the storyline. I also need to mention that for some reasons, the storyline was difficult to follow. I read and re-read some parts and somehow, things were still jumbled up and I just could not untangle it :( Furthermore, there was the other storyline about Dory's missing friend Claire which intersected with the main plot several times... and it just added to the confusion ^_^; Perhaps some of it stemmed from not reading the original series and therefore, missing some information in the world building... but I don't think so. Plus, I actually liked the world Midnight's Daughter is taking place in, mostly because while it does focus on the vampires, it doesn't have all the vampires clichés and is therefore refreshing. Although I wouldn't mind reading a bit about the different levels of masters and their hierarchy and what is going on with the world besides the fact there is a war. Anyway, at the end of the day, Dracula was slayed, but I thought the showdown was anti-climatic.

My Grade: B-. I think that Midnight's Daughter does a good job at setting up this spin-off series. It introduces Dorina, the important players and their dynamics well... But as much as I loved that part of the book, I think the storyline was a bit disappointing. It had a lot of potential, but things never really happened... Or they did, but it was so confusing that I didn't get it ^_^; At the end of the day though, I enjoyed Midnight's Daughter enough to start the next book, Death's Mistress, right away :)

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Hauling Sunday C

Hey everyone :) How is your week-end going? Hope it's a good one! It's the beginning of December and that means, the start for the Holidays madness for me LOL. I went shopping with some friends yesterday and wow, lots of people, lots of car! But at least, this year, I'm in the mood for Christmas, so I don't mind.

Now, let's talk books! First, as usual, we have a New Releases post over at Breezing Through. Check out the books we're looking forward to :) There are a few good books coming out, yay! But really, I don't understand the publishers and bookstores schedule strategy. You'd think they could release more books so people could buy and offer them as gifts. Also, could have more coming in January, so people could use the gift cards they have received. Ah well.

By the way, this is my 100th Hauling Sunday post! Isn't that awesome! LOL. In almost two years in half, about 130 weeks... That's pretty good numbers. It means that there were indeed weeks, I did not buy books! Although I think it's been in more recent times. Anyway, want to see what I got this week?

Cold Days by Jim Butcher - Woohoo, I've really been looking forward to Cold Days. I definitively think it's one of the best if not the best urban fantasy series out there :) Love the characters, love the world building and love the complexity of the stories and how the storylines are coming together! This is another thick book (over 500 pages) - gotta love them LOL - and I`m halfway through it... and I can tell you already that it's a winner :)

Lord Stillwell's Excellent Engagements by Victoria Alexander - Oups! Almost forgot that I bought this e-novella! However, that's because of I'm being absent-minded, not because it wasn't good! Yes, I already read it :) I was really looking forward to this e-novella! It's a prequel of sort to Ms Alexander's next release, The Importance of Being Wicked coming out in February. We meet Lord Stillwell in What Happens at Christmas and I was really happy to know he was having his own book and really, this e-novella is just the cherry on top of the sundae :)

Now, I'm waiting for The First Prophet by Kay Hooper. That's one thing though about changing my buying habits. Now that I pre-order a lot more, I end up waiting a lot more as well. Sigh.

What about you? Got any good books?

PS - My dizziness is getting better :) And I knock on wood every time I mention it!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Week-End's Minis XXXIII: When You Give a Duke a Diamond by Shana Galen

When you Give a Duke a Diamond by Shana Galen
published by Sourcebooks in September 2012
He had a perfectly orderly life...

William, the sixth Duke of Pelham, enjoys his punctual, securely structured life. Orderly and predictable—that's the way he likes it. But he's in the public eye, and the scandal sheets will make up anything to sell papers. When the gossip papers link him to Juliette, one of the most beautiful and celebrated courtesans in London, chaos doesn't begin to describe what happens next...

Until she came along...

Juliette is nicknamed the Duchess of Dalliance and has the cream of the nobility at her beck and call. It's disruptive to have the duke who is the biggest catch on the Marriage Mart scaring her other suitors away. Then she discovers William's darkest secret and decides what he needs in his life is the kind of excitement only she can provide...
Genre: Historical romance
Series: Jewels of the Ton, Book #1

What do you need to know? As you'll quickly find out, Juliette aka the Duchess of Dalliance is not really a courtesan. She goes along with it though because she needs a protector, an income of money... and that's why her reputation and what other people think of her and her friends is so important. So when the Duke of Pelham gives her the cut, in public, it could have disastrous impact on her livelihood. Then, things get worst when Juliette witnesses the Duke of Pelham's fiancée's murder and is later threatened in her home. Taking refuge with the Duke of Pelham seems to be a good idea...

At first, what the Duchess of Dalliance says about his fiancée seems ludicrous - her death and possible involvement with Lucifer, the owner of a gaming hall... but when she disappears and then, a footman in his household is attacked, the Duke of Pelham starts to wonder. He decides that retiring to the country is  the safest measure... which means he'll be traveling and spending time with Juliette. Someone he shouldn't be associating with... but somehow can't seem to help himself to.

Why this book? I'm not a huge fan of courtesan heroines - yes, I know, I'm picky - but disregarded this pet peeve because When You Give a Duke a Diamond seemed to be a "happy-go-lucky heroine thawing out a stuffy hero" trope and I love those :)

My thoughts? I'm going to be honest and admit that I don't remember much of When you Give a Diamond a Duke ^_^; So let say that this book hasn't impacted me much. However, I do have some notes, so I can write this review. Still, given the circumstances, I've decided to skip the "What I liked?" and "What did not work for me?" questions... Hmmm, perhaps I should have chosen another book for this mini-review, but it's too late ^_^;

This was my first book by Ms Galen and I enjoyed the writing. I also liked Juliette and William, the Duke of Pelham, and their respective background stories were interesting. I enjoyed their interactions because William was so proper and Juliette was trying to provoke him, draw him out of his shell. However, I expected more of their interactions, I wanted to see William enjoy life more, to thaw a lot more. Seeing Will accepts being called Will and breaking his punctuality wasn't enough in my opinion. So in that regard, I thought the book was disappointing.

What surprised me in When You Give a Duke a Diamond was the intrigue. There's not hint of it in the blurb and so, I wasn't expecting it. The start of it was really strong in my opinion and therefore, it had potential. I mean, the hero's fiancée not only has a clandestine relationship with someone she shouldn't, but also is addicted to gambling and has built up quite a debt. And then, she still something from the person she owns, resulting in her death. As I said, lots of potential here! The problem is that Ms Galen doesn't follow up on it. It took too much time for the duke to believe Juliette and his accusations were annoying and distasteful.  Then afterwards, when William finally believes that Juliette is in danger, they run away to hide in the country and little is done about the intrigue. Granted, William leaves the whole thing in the hands of constables which is the sensible thing and they had a good lead of who did it, but then, that means the whole intrigue was simply a huge plot device to force William and Juliette to spend time together: too obvious. In addition, the intrigue is not even resolved satisfactorily at the end, leaving it open for the next book. So it just didn't work for me.

One highlight of this book for me was Warrick Fitzhugh, a secondary character and friend of William. He is most probably going to be the next hero of the book. I liked and enjoyed his character and I think brought something to the story, without too much sequel baiting. Speaking of secondary characters, there was also Juliette's two friends, the other "Jewels of the Ton," Fallon the Marchioness of Mystery and Lily the Countess of Charm. The ladies were fine, except that none of them were real courtesans. As I said, I'm not a fan of courtesan characters, so in a way, it works out for me... but at the same time, I can't help but wonder why not? Why have them known as courtesans and end up being so chaste? This is fiction after all, so is it because it's more romantic that way? Also, in theory, the sobriquets are cute and witty, but in reality, I don't know, they feel overboard. What with the "Three Diamonds" and the "Diamonds in the Rough"... Just too much, no?

My Grade? C-. I originally gave this book a C+, but I had to lower the grade given I don't remember much of the storyline after two months which means it hasn't left a deep impression... and also, what I remember from it is mostly my issues with the book. At this point, I don't think I'll be reading the next book.