Saturday, January 31, 2009

Re-Read Challenge: January!

*This is a sticky post, please scroll down for new post!

Here we go... First month into the challenge :) Excited? LOL.

If you're new to this blog and don't know what is the Re-Read challenge, you can find out here :)

Meanwhile, let see what people have been re-reading and what they thought of it :D The official date for the challenge is tomorrow, January 31... but since it's a Saturday and blogland is usually quiet, I've decided to post the link now... So people who are organized and don't do things at the last minute (i.e. people unlike me LOL) could post their link right away.

So if you've done your re-read, don't forget to post the link in the comment section :)

Since the end of the month turns out to be a week-end, I'll give everyone an extension to post the review ;) You have till Monday to do so :) Then, I'll have the draw for the 10$ prize :)

Rowena: Can you Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella
Isabel: Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
AmyC: The Bride Finder by Susan Carroll
Renee: Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Seneca: Moon Awakening by Lucy Monroe
Ames: Annie's Song by Catherine Anderson
Jace: A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clark
Taja: The Love Potion by Sandra Hill
Kristie: Cool Shade by Theresa Weir
Lori: Sweetheart, Indiana by Suzanne Simmons
Tracy: Winterbourne by Susan Carroll
Zeek: Spell of a Highlander by Karen Marie Moning
Kmont: The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey
me aka Nath: Homeport by Nora Roberts
Li: Powder and Patch by Georgette Heyer
Kris: Lord of the Fading Lands and Lady of Light and Shadows by C.L. Wilson
Jenn: Tapestries series, books 1 to 3 by NJ Walters
Leslie: Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer
Angela's entry
Wandergurl: A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole
Jill: To Die For by Linda Howard
Brie: The Brider Finder by Susan Carroll
Jan: Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
Rosie: Letters to Kelly by Suzanne Brockmann
Nikki: One Night of Sin by Gaelen Foley

Re-Read: Homeport by Nora Roberts

Wow, reviews have been coming in... Definitively time for me to write mine up!!

For part of the month, I didn't know what I'd be reading. This Re-read challenge all started when I realized that it's been a while since I last re-read... well any of my keeper books from Jennifer Crusie, Nora Roberts, Katherine Stone, Judith McNaught, etc... all books that I've accumulated when I've started reading romance.

As a result, I've chosen Homeport by Nora Roberts, one of the very first romance books... that I've read in French. I've read this book for the first time... most probably before 2000... and since I've only started blogging in 2006, well yeah, I don't have a first review for it. So let's see how it fares almost 10 years later in its original language...

Homeport by Nora Roberts
first published by Putnam in January 1998 (hardcover format)

For Dr Miranda Jones - after having been mugged outside her own home in the USA - the summons to Italy, in order to authenticate a Renaissance bronze, comes as a welcome distraction. Unfortunately, that mugging was only the beginning of her troubles.

: Contemporary romance/Romantic suspense
Series: none

The Story: Okay, that's a very short synopsis out there ^_^; and since I don't have the hardcover version, I have no idea what the original synopsis was.

Basically, Dr Miranda Jones is one of the Jones from Jones Point, a little town in Maine. All her life, she has craved for love and acceptance from her parents which has led her to follow the family footsteps - art and history.

The story starts when Miranda is summoned in Florance by her mother, the director of Standjo, their art institute in Italy, to authenticate a bronze 'Dark Lady' that was found in a house and which could date to the Renaissance period - Miranda's area of expertise. When the story of the bronze is leaked to the press with fingers pointing at Miranda as the leak and and the bronze is taken away from Standjo and given to another institute for authentication, Miranda is sent back home in shame... Then, everything goes wrong when the other institute's analysis contradicts Miranda's conclusions. As a result, her reputation is in shreds and credibility is questioned.

Which is the reason why one night, Miranda is woken up by a threatening Ryan Boldari, a business associate. In addition to being a respected gallery owner in New York, Ryan is also an art thief... an almost retired art thief who was commissioned to steal a bronze 'David' from the Jones' art institute. However, after the whole debacle of the Dark Lady, even the person who commissioned Ryan for the theft has his doubt - after all, the stolen bronze was also authenticated by Miranda, so he had it analyzed... and it turned out to be a fake. Now Ryan has to tie up loose ends and request compensation from Miranda.

Both come to the conclusion that there has been a switch for the Dark Lady and David and therefore decide to team up in order to get the bronzes back... while fighting their attraction to each other.

My Opinion: This was one of my first Nora Roberts and I loved it the first time I read it... and I still love it now, perhaps even more now that I've read it in English LOL :) I have to admit that I have a fondness for cat burgler/art thief plot :)

So what do I love about this book? Basically everything :) I love Miranda and Ryan's chemistry and relationship :) They are so different and Ryan definitively makes Miranda happier. Miranda is a great heroine... strong, but at the same time, vulnerable. Ms Roberts did a great job at writing the different layers of Miranda. I also love her relationship with her older brother, Andrew. It's cute and touching, these two siblings clinging to each other while growing up in a cold and sterile environment, always seeking for love and acceptance from their parents.

Ryan is slick and smooth... and a real good guy :) I liked how he drew out a different side of Miranda and made her stronger and able to face her fears. He had great insight and a quick mind. I especially like his love for his family :)

Speaking of family, I have to say, family dynamics - whether they are happy or dysfunctional - are really one of Ms Roberts writing strengths. She is able to portray relationships in such a believable way, even though they are complex. This book is no exception. I liked the contrast shown between Ryan and Miranda's families.

In addition to love the characters, I enjoyed the plot as well. I thought the pacing was really interesting. Ms Roberts took her time setting up the story and didn't rush through thing... There are a lot of things going on, but it's well handled and everything ties in well. The whole story was interesting and got me hooked :)

If I have any complaint, it would be that I wished Andrew's story would be a bit more developed. However, it was still well written and handled :) I just like his character and wished to read more :)

I also have to admit though that knowing the ending - who the real culprit was, it did take away a bit of the excitment and punch at the end. In most books/romantic suspenses, this is not a problem for me... because the villain is just a villain to be caught... but in Homeport, the whole conspiracy is an attack at Miranda... it's all very personal and the ending was quite a surprise. So of course, knowing who did it, well you take away this surprise. Aside from this, my feelings towards Homeport didn't change. Homeport is definitively a great book and a winner. Rarely will a Nora Roberts' stand-alone book disappointed... and Homeport, to me, is a fine example of why Nora Roberts is the queen of romance :D

My Grade: On my first read, this was an A. Now, as a re-read, it's an A- because of that missing punch at the end... but still a great book :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Review: Men of the Otherworld by Kelley Armstrong

Review time!! Yay!!

So I got a lot of good books lately and I've been reading steadily. It was hard to choose which books to review... I mean, so many good books and so little time! and I know some of you are anticipating some reviews (well at least, that's what I'm hoping, LOL :) So I'll definitively be reviewing Second Chance Pass by Robyn Carr, but a bit later this week.

For today, I've chosen Men of the Otherworld by Kelley Armstrong because Women of the Otherworld is one of my favorite series and this book is just awesome!!

Men of the Otherworld by Kelley Armstrong
published by Random House in January 2009

Men of the Otherworld is a very special book. It's actually a collection of online novellas that Ms Armstrong has written a few years back for fans. The ones that were chosen for this book are all narrated from men in the series, a nice change :) There's been talks about novellas being printed in hardcovers and quite frankly, I'm against it... but Men of the Otherworld being a compilation with two lengthy novellas is really worth it and I'm glad to have it in hardcover format :) By the way, all the proceeds are going to World Literacy of Canada! Isn't that great from Ms Armstrong?

As a curious child, Clayton didn’t resist the bite—he asked for it. But surviving as a lone child werewolf was more than he could manage—until Jeremy came along and taught him how to straddle the human-werewolf worlds, gave him a home…and introduced him to the Pack. So begins this volume, featuring three of the most intriguing members of the American Pack—a hierarchical founding family where bloodlines mean everything, and each day presents a new, thrilling, and often deadly challenge. For as Clayton grows from a wild child to a clever teen who tests his beloved mentor at every turn, he must learn not only to control his animal instincts, but to navigate Pack politics—including showing his brutal arch nemesis, Malcolm, who the real Alpha is...
Genre: urban fantasy
Series: Women of the Otherworld

This book contains 4 novellas...

Infusion is more of a short story and is basically about the origin of Jeremy, the werewolf we know as the Alpha. Although quite short, the story still gives us great insight into Malcom - Jeremy's father - and Jeremy's background and origins. I mean, reading about Jeremy, who didn't wonder about his grandfather and father? However, this is not my favorite story, probably because I dislike Malcom. Still, it is very interesting.

Savage and Ascension are two lengthy novellas and cover Clay's childhood... From the moment Clay was bitten and turned into a werewolf to his early 20s when Jeremy became the Alpha. These two stories are basically AWESOME!! I just love them!! I read them online a few years back and still, re-reading them? Still love it :) It's written at the first person, from Clay's point of view... and Ms Armstrong did such a great job capturing Clay's personality, even from such a young age!

I personally LOVE reading about the relationship between Jeremy and Clay. It's sooo endearing! and again, gives a lot of insight in Jeremy and Clay's relationship and dynamics. I think reading these novellas, you understand Clay's loyalty for Jeremy better.

I have to say, Savage is really my favorite, because we get to read about a young Clay. The novella is quite humorous and I got quite a few laughs out of it :) Also, if you've read Bitten and Stolen, the first two books of the series, there were some mentions of incidents in Clay's childhood and Ms Armstrong did well incorporating them in the novellas (which I think, were written afterwards).

Again, I can't emphasize enough how cool it is to read about Clay and Jeremy. It's also great to read about a younger Jeremy. I think that you get to know him so much better. You understand better how he thinks and how he became the Alpha he is.

Here's a snippet of Savage :)
Before we left the motel, Jeremy had spent a lot of time making phone calls. Not that I understood what he was doing. For whatever reason, I had holes in my memory such that I'd know perfectly well what a car or money was for, but objects like telephones and toilets were unfathomable mysteries.

At the time, it seemed to me that Jeremy was spending a lot of time with a piece of plastic pressed against his ear, talking to himself. Which was fine by me. We all had our eccentricities. Jeremy liked talking to plastic; I liked hunting and eating the rats that ventured into the motel room. Or, at least, I did like hunting and eating the rats, until Jeremy caught me and promptly kiboshed that hobby. Some of us are less tolerant of eccentricities than others.
Isn't that just Clay? LOL :)

Ascension covers more years and is a great story. Not only do you continue to have more insight about Jeremy and Clay's relationship, but also about the pack. The story basically focuses Jeremy becoming the Alpha and Clay, his enforcers. I like how Ms Armstrong wrote it... the flow was just perfect and the years went by so smoothly. The story is a bit more serious, but there are still many nice moments.

One thing I also love is that we get to know Antonio and Nick much better :D They really play a big role in the novellas and it's nice to read about them, because they play such a big role in Jeremy and Clay's lives... so I think it's nice that they get their moments.

Finally, the last novella is Kitsunegari, a new novella written especially for Men of the Otherworld. I really think this is a nice gesture from both Ms Armstrong and the publishers. I mean, it would have been so easy to just put together all those novellas together and just publish it... but it make it more sincere to have something new in.

So Kitsunegari is a short story with Jeremy as the narrator. Basically, Jeremy and Jaime are together for the week-end and Jeremy has the feeling that he is being observed. Kitsunegari is such a great story for so many reasons! First, we get an update on Jeremy and Jaime, that's already good... but we get to see how they're handling their relationship. I've rooted for Jeremy and Jaime from the beginning, even though I wonder how they would handle their relationship. I mean, they are so different personality-wise and then, when you factor their lifestyle and responsibilities... it's hard to have a relationship... and Ms Armstrong just made the right choice and handled it perfectly. Their relationship is stronger and more meaningful than a lot of H/H I read in other novels... they have this confidence in each other that make this relationship works so well... and the fact is, it suits them well. I'm glad that Ms Armstrong didn't force the issue and make their relationship a "typical" one.

Oh and I especially like the parts where Jeremy is thinking of his few first encounters with Jaime... LOL, so clueless... so cute :)

Then, we get to discover what Jeremy is. He's not only a werewolf and that's been hinted many times in previous books... we get a clearer image with Infusion, but in Kitsunegari, we finally get an answer. And it's not just getting an answer, but how Ms Armstrong is giving it to us. It's done really seamlessly and masterly :) It sure makes things interesting for the future :)

Finally, all I can do is take my hat off to Ms Armstrong. It's not just her writing that's awesome, but how she incorporates hints in her books and then, link them all together... She has the readers going "ahhhh" and "ohhhh." Ms Armstrong really had thought this series and characters out well and her execution is flawless :)

My Grade: A+. This book is just AWESOME!! and a great addition to the series :) You really get to know Clay and Jeremy better and that's great :) After reading this, I'm really looking forward for Frosbite which is narrated by Elena and puts the werewolves at the front again.

Also, side-notes... for those who wonder, you don't need to have read all the series to enjoy Men of the Otherworld. As long as you've read Bitten and Stolen, you're okay. It's be great if you've read No Humans Involved, since that's the book where Jeremy and Jaime get together, but it's not needed to enjoy Infusion, Savage and Ascension.

*EDIT: Kmont wrote in the comment section how unfortunate it was that you needed to read the full length novels in order to be able to enjoy this book... and that made me think... and, well, my conclusion? You don't actually need to have read the series to enjoy it (well perhaps for the last short story, yes, but otherwise, no), LOL. Infusion, Savage and Ascension are basically prequels to the series, so really, there's no mentions of the future... duh!

It's just that these prequels were written after Bitten and Stolen were published, so they tie in very well with the actual series. Also, most of the readers are already acquainted with Clay and Jeremy... It's very hard for me to look at Men of the Otherw0rld with a new eye - having already read these stories online and being such a huge fan of the series...

Anyway, final words? You don't need to have read any books to enjoy Infusion, Savage and Ascension :) You might be a tiny bit lost for Kitsunegari, but not too much, because Ms Armstrong does a good job at summarizing how Jaime and Jeremy got together.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Score! Score! Score!

So last week was a long week; however, I got a few great surprises at the end that re-energized and cheered me up :) Believe me, it was much needed!! LOL.

If you've read my post here, you know that I've been trying to be patient and not go to the bookstore, because I have a 5$ off coupon for any purchases over 35$ in January. Since the coupon is actually online (here - Chapters/Indigo/Coles), I can basically just print and use it as many times as I want. Alas, the problem was there were no book to buy!! Well, well, well... problem was resolved last week!!

Basically, I stalked Chapters/Indigo online, checking for books on the online indicator. Some of the clerks must wonder how I always call the day where they just put out the books, LOL. Well the answer is easy, I check every single day... more than once ^_^; Anyway, it paid off last Wednesday because this book showed up:

and that meant, all the Mira and HQN books showed up as well!! Yay :) So in addition to Second Chance Pass by Robyn Carr, I got...

Kristan Higgins has become one of my auto-buy author, because I love her previous books... Fools Rush In and Just One of the Guys. Too bad she's only releasing one book a year. Sigh. Ransom My Heart, well that's because of Rowena and Katiebabs who loved it :) Between the Devil and Desire by Lorraine Heath and Fireside by Susan Wiggs, those two, I have to admit, were surprises to me. I somehow missed Between the Devil and Desire when it came out... and I had no idea about Fireside!! I bet that Fireside is considered fiction and not romance, so when I was making my list, it slipped past me. Anyway, I like both authors so that's why I picked it up :) As for the Maureen McKade... well, I needed 35$ (although at this point, I was way past LOL) and then, I want to read Mail Order Bride by this author... Only problem is can't find it at the bookstore, so I'll settle for another of her books... which turned out to be Where There's Fire. Also, you can never have enough romantic suspense... right? LOL :)

Then, I went to buy manga! Oh manga!! The series I follow in French are actually imported by France... So here, in Montreal, I'm always one to two months behind the release dates in France... which is okay. The only thing is when Christmas or summer vacations come, then, for some reasons, the shipping is late... So basically, I haven't bought any mangas since... November!! and that's an extremely long time. Anyway, long story short, I got my hands on:

- Hanakimi, vol 23... This was the final volume and I was able to buy the deluxe version!! It basically comes with a different cover than original, a magnet and notepad!! Cool LOL :) This is a shoujo manga about a Japanese girl from California who admires an athlete boy in Japan. In order to get to know the boy, she passes herself as a boy and enters the same boarding school as him. Very cute story, was hugely popular in Japan :)

- Full Metal Alchemist, vol 19... This is one great series!! If you have a chance to read it, go for it. The manga version is much better than the anime. Basically the story of two brothers, Edward and Alphonse who taught themselves alchemy from the books their father left behind. When their mother died, Ed and Al tried to bring her back using alchemy - which is forbidden. As a result, Al's body disappeared... Luckily, Ed was able to attach Al's soul to an armor; however, he paid a heavy price - a leg and an arm. Both brothers are now looking for the philosopher's stone in the hope they'll be able to get back their bodies... However, something much bigger is going on. Really good series!

- One Piece, vol 46... Yep, volume 46 and it doesn't look like it'll end soon. Doesn't matter though, because this is another awesome series :) Story is basically about pirates and their adventures... Volume 46 starts a new story arc which isn't the greatest... but as a whole, I just love this series :) Lots of series go through ups and downs, so far, One Piece had a lot more ups... and the story arcs are damn good and clever!

- Yakitate Japan! vol 19... This series is just hilarious. It's about a boy, Azuma, who becomes a baker and dreams to make a bread that will represents Japan. Seriously, it sounds boring... but manga can make any subjects sound interesting. Love this series, but I have to admit that the first 2 story arcs were much better.

- Samurai Deeper Kyo artbook. This is a series I finished a while back... now, they are releasing the artbook. Have to admit, I'm really glad they are releasing the artbook, even though it's a bit pricey... I mean, have you seen the art (the image on the right is from Samurai Deeper Kyo)? How can you not want it? Especially when you have 38 volumes of the series? LOL :)

You'd think that would be enough in a week... or at least a night? Right? Well nope... because there was another book that I wanted available... Men of the Otherworld by Kelley Armstrong. Yep, this one turned out quite early last week (Monday or Tuesday)... Thing is, I needed 35$ to use the 5$ coupon... and the book is a hardcover. Now, if I ordered it online, I would have saved a bit more money... but I would need to find other books so my order would total more than 39$ to get the free shipping... Plus, I'd have to wait till January 27 at least so it wouldn't be considered a pre-order and I wouldn't have to pay the extra shipping fee of 5.99$... See my dilemma here? Order online, save a bit of money but have to wait... or buy it at the bookstore and save less, but instant gratification... I'll let you guess what I chose, LOL :)

To make 35$, in addition of Men of the Otherworld, I got Witch Heart by Anya Bast.

Seriously, there's no bigger thrill in my life at the moment than to get my hands on books before their release date... it sounds pathetic, but that's how it is... Sooooo... on Friday, when I checked for Kill for Me by Karen Rose and realized that the bookstore had received 4 copies... I couldn't resist and went on a hunt LOL :) I have to admit, Kill For Me was a bit more tricky to find... Unlike Men of the Otherworld, I showed up at the bookstore on the exact same day it showed on the online indicator... and the bookstore which received it is not one known to be fast to unpack... so after checking the shelves (as if it would be there) and all the carts... there were only two boxes left. Quick peek... it's not in the first one... Look around for any clerk, none in view. Quickly moved the box and look into the second one... and YES!! There it was, Kill For Me! LOL.

What I got in addition to make it 35$?

I blame The Solomon Sisters Wise Up by Melissa Senate on Rowena again, LOL :) But then, for 5$, it's a bargain :) Falling In Love by Pauline Trent was a bit of an impulse buying. Never read her book, but again, it was cheap... 5$ too. The Briar King, well I was looking for a new fantasy to read and it seemed to fit the bill... finally, Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, well that was for my sis. She saw the movie on Thursday night and was curious about the story.

So that's all the books I bought... now, I just have to read them :) I've already finished Men of the Otherworld... I'm half-way through Second Chance Pass... and I finished my re-read book :) So all is going well :)

Now, I'm on the look out for Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs... or perhaps I should order online?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Review: Too Far Gone by Marliss Melton

Ugh, work has totally been kicking my butt. Let me tell you, working 12 days straight is hard and exhausting!! I think it's going to take me a while to recover ^_^;

Meanwhile, for those who are interested, the experiment for which we rushed was a mini-success :) My supervisor is very excited... I just hope it won't turn into too much work, LOL. He treated us last Friday to celebrate both the experiment and Chinese New Year. Anyway, I'm wishing for a relaxing week...

Guess I'm not the only one who's been busy. Blogland has been very quiet. So what have everyone been up to? Last week, I was lucky and got my hands on quite a few good books :) I've been reading a lot; however, I'm quite behind on my reviews :( I'll try my best this week though, so drop by :)

Too Far Gone by Marliss Melton
published by Grand Central publishing in November 2008

Ellie Stuart's life ended the day her children were stolen from her. Driving on a Virginia backroad, Ellie was ambushed by two men who violently pulled her from her car and drove off with her three sons inside. Devastated, Ellie begs the police to bring her babies home. But the authorities wonder if this stressed-out single mom may not be telling the whole truth about what happened that day...

Navy SEAL Sean Harlan agrees to help Ellie find her children, but vows to keep their relationship professional. He's got no room in his life for a woman and her kids--no matter how beautiful she is, or how desperate their situation. But when a sinister organization begins pulling strings behind the scenes, the investigation suddenly targets Sean. Can he and Ellie rescue her children and save themselves? Or are they already...

Genre: romantic suspense
Series: Military Romances, book #6

The Story: Ellie is a single mother and has three sons. She has recently kicked out her husband and has moved on. Her new landlord is Navy SEAL Sean Harlan. Sean and Ellie are attracted to each other and he seems fond of her children. The problem is that Sean doesn't date women with children... However, after 6 months in Afghanistan, the temptation is huge.

Then, everything goes awry when on their way home, Ellie is ambushed by two men who kidnap her sons. Sean immediately comes to her help, especially when he hears that she is the main suspect. While trying to investigate on their own, Sean and Ellie find out they've stumbled into much more than a simple kidnapping...

My Opinion: Hmmm, I was browsing the aisle when I came upon this book. I've read one previous book by this author and thought it was okay. Since I was in the mood for a romantic suspense, I gave this one a go.

So what did I think? Meh. The storyline didn't really grab me and I never connected with Sean and Ellie, so let alone their relationship. So where to start? I guess that my biggest problem with this book was the fact that Sean doesn't date women with children. So for that reason, he had to find another woman to relieve his itch... and that's pretty much a no-no for me. It's never very endearing to have your hero sleep with someone other than the heroine, even if he hasn't hooked up with the heroine yet. In some circumstances, I could let it go and not bother, but what frustrated me so much is how nice Sean was to Ellie and her sons. I mean, there's this mutual attraction between the two grown adults and hey, the guy doesn't date women with children... so what is he doing? Getting closer to the kids - taking them out, treating them to ice cream, etc. Shouldn't it be more logical if he avoided temptation? Sure, it's nice of him to pay attention to the kids... but it just didn't make sense to me. Or at the very least, he could try to avoid Ellie... but no. Then, he goes around, whining that he wants Ellie, but alas she has kids so she's off-limits. Ugh. You want the woman, like the kids... I mean, it's clear no? Just try having a relationship with her. Then at the end, he declares he wants Ellie and doesn't mind anymore that she has kids. So why was it a problem in the beginning?

Aside from that, I thought the original idea was quite good. The whole kidnapping plot with the secret society, I liked it... The problem is I don't think the author exploited it to its full potential. Then, halfway into the book, Ms Melton introduces another storyline with another couple... I think it would have been better if she focused on either story - the kidnapping or the undercover. Instead, she chose to carry both of them and as a result, couldn't develop them to their fullest extent. Maybe if it'd been two books, it would have been better. In my opinion, Skylar and Drake's storyline, albeit very interesting, was superfluous...

Personally, I think that Ms Melton's style is very similar to Suzanne Brockmann, but there are less storylines which makes it less confusing - plus point for Ms Melton. It also seems to me that the books in the series are somewhat connected... I had the feeling reading Too Far Gone that Ellie and Sean were previously introduced and that some of the secondary characters already had their books... However, Ms Melton did a good job and Too Far Gone can and do stand alone.

Overall, Too Far Gone was an okay book. The idea was a good one, just not developed enough. Unfortunately, Ellie and Sean were meh H/H and totally forgettable. I was more interested in Skylar and Drake and wonder if they will have a book of their own.

My Grade: C-

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

TBR Day: Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

LOL, I'm so proud of myself... I'm writing a review for tomorrow LOL :) Yeah, I rarely schedule posts, but with work being so crazy, I think I'm going to start to do so more often.

Anyway, you're not here to hear me complain, but to read a review. The theme this month for Keishon's TBR challenge was category romance... However, I don't buy/read many of those and didn't have any that dated before 2008 and weren't read... so you get a fantasy book instead. I was looking for a fantasy romance and well, there's been a bit of a buzz for Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier lately. So I decided to start from the beginning and read Daughter of the Forest.

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
first published by Tor in April 2000

Lord Colum of Sevenwaters is blessed with six sons: Liam, a natural leader; Diarmid, with his passion for adventure; twins Cormack and Conor, each with a different calling; rebellious Finbar, grown old before his time by his gift of the Sight; and the young, compassionate Padriac.

But it is Sorcha, the seventh child and only daughter, who alone is destined to defend her family and protect her land from the Britons and the clan known as Northwoods. For her father has been bewitched, and her brothers bound by a spell that only Sorcha can lift.

Exiled from Sevenwaters and cast out into the forest and beyond, Sorcha falls into the hands of the enemy. Now she is torn between the life that she has always known and a love that comes only once.

Thus the famous legend of the six brothers who turn into swans, and the sister who must save them, is beautifully retold by Juliet Marillier
Genre: fantasy
Series: Sevenwaters, Book #1

The Story: I don't know the legend of the six brothers who turn into swans, so I can't say how closely to the legend the book is... however, I was intrigued when I first read the synopsis.

Sorcha is the youngest of 7 children and the only girl. Her mother died, giving birth to Sorcha and it changed her father's attitude towards all his children and life in general. Raised by her brothers, Sorcha is not a spoiled princess... She's a bit of a tomboy who learned about medicine and healing herbs and run around, giving her help, barefoot. All the children seem to have some gift or calling...

Sorcha's people are at war with the Britons, trying to reclaim the magic island. The story really starts when Finbar, the most mysterious of Sorcha's brother, asks her to help him heal a Briton prisoner that he wants to set back free. The Briton is named Simon and they befriended each other. Unfortunately, on the day Sorcha's father comes back with his new bribe, Simon has to escape and his whereabouts and conditions become unknown to Sorcha.

Sorcha's father's new bride is definitively the evil stepmother. She tries to tear apart father and children and is somewhat afraid of Sorcha. In the end, the brothers decide to rebel to make their father sees reasons... but they are too late, as they are turned into swans. Sorcha was able to escape, she is then helped by the forest's spirit who tells Sorcha that if she can undo the spell. However, it will be difficult. For her brothers, Sorcha is willing to do anything... that includes not uttering a word or making a sound till she has spin starwort, some kind 0f flowers with needles, and made 6 shirts, one for each brother.

Although determined, it is a difficult task for Sorcha, all alone in the forest... till the day she has to leave and fall into the hands of a Briton, Lord Hugh Harrowfield who has come to Sevenwaters to look for his younger brother... Simon.

My Opinion: As a whole, I thought Daughter of the Forest was an okay book. I thought the story was quite original and the strongest point to the book. Unfortunately, there were a few things that did not work for me and it kept me from fully enjoying this book :( In addition, I guess I was expecting something a bit more focused on romance. While there is a love story, it is definitively not the focus.

So let see... First, I had difficulty getting into Daughter of the Forest. It took me several attempts before settling down and reading it. I don't know if it was the writing style or the pacing, but something was just a bit off for me to really get engrossed. In the end, I do think this was compensated by the storyline.

I thought the pacing at the beginning was particularly slow. Ms Marillier spent a long time building up the story, giving background information on Sorcha and her family... and that's good. However, I think she neglected the world building. I'm not totally sure what sort of people Sorcha is... as for the Britons, it seems they were English people. See, I don't know if the storyline is taking place in a new world, an alternative world or our world, but modified. As a result, it was hard to make up an image. At first, I thought it was a separate new world, but then, there were mentions of Vikings... so that confused me a bit. I think the first part of the book would have been better if Ms Marillier balanced it more between the world building and the characters.

I liked Sorcha as a heroine. I mean, what's not to like. The girl is bright, courageous, self-sacrificing, but at the same time, quite vulnerable and naive... totally my type of heroines. However, although I really liked Sorcha, I had a problem with her... her age. At the beginning, Sorcha is 12 y.o. if I'm not wrong... and at the end, she's around 16. That's wayyyyy too young. I know, I know, it wasn't surprising to see girls be married at that age in those times so it fits the time period; however, it's too young for my tastes. For Sorcha to have gone through all she's gone through at such a young age, it's just too much. Also, I'm not sure her personality really matches her age. It does explain her naiveness and innocence, but... couldn't she have been perhaps 2 years older? I think I would have liked it better.

The whole book really focuses on Sorcha. I felt like there wasn't really an hero. I guess I could pick Hugh aka Red as the hero... but the book is 544 pages long and he appears, what, half-way in? Also, liked I said, Daughter of the Forest doesn't focus on the romance... which is unfortunate. I think that Ms Marillier could have blend fantasy and romance better. It would have been nice to see Red and Sorcha spend more time together and would be more believable for readers to accept their love. I wasn't surprised when Red declared his love for Sorcha, but I didn't totally buy it either :(

Finally, the brothers... again, I don't know if it's the writing style or what, but I didn't fully connect with them. Especially Cormack and Diarmid. Something was missing for me to really like them... and as a result, I didn't believe in their connection to each other. I mean, no doubt that they all liked their little sister... but between each other? Not sure...

Okay, so it sounds like I didn't like the book... but I did. Despite the writing style, the slow start, Sorcha being too young, this is quite an interesting storyline. Was it the best book I've read or the wowzer I was looking for? No. If you're looking for a fantasy series and want to try something different, then this would be my pick. However, keep in mind that the romance is kept to a minimum.

My Grade: C. I originally gave this a B after I finished reading it... then, I realized that there were much more things that didn't work for me that I thought... but what really made me settle for a C is the fact that I've finished the book almost two weeks ago and I haven't rushed to read the sequels yet. While I think that Daughter of the Forest was okay and a decent set up for more, I still have difficulty getting into book 2, Son of the Shadows... Therefore, C it is.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Jayne Ann Krentz recommendations...

All right, as the title of the post indicates, I'm looking for recommendations for Jayne Ann Krentz's books. On Sunday, I wrote a post about a book I remembered but didn't know the author and title... Thanks to Kris and the person who answered at the RT board, it turned out the book is Deep Waters by Jayne Ann Krentz :) Yay!! Finally, years of wondering are over LOL!

As a result, I'm heading to the library tonight to borrow that book and read it again :) Jayne Ann Krentz is not an author I'm familiar with and I've read very few books by her. However, she is quite popular and so, the library actually carries quite a lot of her books... so double yay for!! So I'm just wondering, fans of Jayne Ann Krentz, which books did you like and are must-read?

Going to the library tonight is going to be the highlight of my day LOL :) I haven't gone to the bookstore since I bought Kiss of a Demon King by Kresley Cole (review coming soon) and that was last week... I've been itching to get my hand on Ransom My Heart by Meg Cabot since Rowena had a glowing review for that book... However, I've managed to "control" myself. I'm actually waiting for a few more releases to come out so I could use my 5$ off coupon (I need a minimum purchase of 35$). Men of the Otherword by Kelley Armstrong has just showed up, but not in the same bookstore as Ransom My Heart, ugh. I'm trying to be patient and hopefully, by the end of the week, the Mira/HQN books will show up as well.

I've been quite busy lately, especially since I had to work the whole week-end :( Not only busy, but I'm tired as hell and stressed :( This job is worst than all my university years put together ^_^; Hopefully, the workload will lessen a bit in the next few weeks. At the moment, we're close to a deadline, so that's why it's mayhem. Anyway, needless to say, I don't have much time to review :( However, I will try harder. Small comfort is that I have been reading...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Anyone knows this book...

So I was thinking of which book I was going to re-read while I was on my way to work (yes, I had to work today. Not fun...) and it made me think of how long I've been reading... and then, it reminded me of a book.

I've read this book perhaps 10-15 years ago... I don't know the title nor the author and my memories are a bit vague. All I remember is the heroine had a burn-out, resigned from where she was working (I think it was a familial company; however, she was only the step-daughter) and moved to a little town and opened a bookstore. Then, the hero moved in... He just came back from another country...

Other details I can remember... The heroine said something about the hero not able to eat spicy and somehow, it offended him. So on one of their dates, he cooked for her and it was all very, very spicy food. Another scene I remember is the H/H are together in bed, sleeping... and someone broke and entered the house... the hero woke up and ran after the intruder... thing is, the hero was naked and he had some kind of weapon with him (but not a gun...) LOL. Oh and if I'm not wrong, the heroine has half or step-siblings... and her younger sister is going to marry and everyone's afraid the heroine will react badly (I think the younger sister is marrying the heroine ex-fiance... but not too sure).

So that's it. Does it ring a bell to anyone? I'm pretty sure this was originally written in English, although what I read is the French translation.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

My life is research... NOT

Hi everyone!!

How are you doing? It's been quiet in blogland yesterday and today... Wonder what's going on... Yeah, okay, I'm a worrier and I'm wondering if everyone is all right.

My reading is going well... Presently reading Talk Me Down by Victoria Dahl. I'm halfway through it and so far, it's okay :) I'm in a hurry to finish it because... guess what I got yesterday at the bookstore? (okay, guess what my sis picked up for me :P)


I know tons of people are eagerly awaiting for this book. Head to your bookstores or give them a call because chance is, it's there just waiting for you :)

Oh, I was wondering if anyone would be interested to buddy review For the Love of Pete by Julia Harper or/and Kiss of a Demon King by Kresley Cole with me? If yes, let me know :) It'd be fun!

Okay, so onto a little anecdote that happened yesterday. Basically, it's been going so-so at the lab. I've been quite busy and my supervisor is - for some unknown reasons to me - in a hurry. He's been pushing for some database work and now, for the experiments as well. So he optimized this experiment and gave it to me and I did it for the first time on Tuesday and got the result yesterday... and bummer, it didn't work. So I got this whole speech on how I should be careful and gentle working with a certain reagent and blablabla. Basically, he's not sure why it didn't work, but hey, I could use a reminder speech.

Anyway, it's 10am and I'm ready to repeat the experiment. Then, what happens? The fire alarm goes on. All right, so I pick up my coat (hey, it's -30C outside!) and my bag, cos it's just there... and why not my books as well LOL! Then, we evacuate the building, but luckily, didn't have to stand outside. So 10 minutes have gone by and I realized my supervisor's not here... He's probably still working in his office, figuring this was a false alarm... and well, he's right, but still. So about half an hour later, the security guards cleared everything and we go back to the lab. As I entered the lab, the phone rang. I picked it up and tada, the fire alarm went off again... and on the phone, it was my supervisor!

Sup: You're still here? Good. I have a question... oh, are you going to run away because of the alarm? Well, please answer my question before. What did you do at this step.

So I explain it to him and he asked me to repeat. By this time, the ring of the alarm has changed... My co-worker is waiting for me... So I told him again what I did. Then he tells me what I should do instead and that I should be careful and blablabla... There's only my co-worker and me left on my floor, he's waiting... my supervisor is babbling and finally...

Sup: Okay, you can run now.

THANK YOU!! It was kind of funny at the moment... I mean, sure, we all thought it was a false alarm... but seriously!!! Seriously!!

So that was pretty much my day yesterday... and oh, my experiment still didn't work :( Looks like I'll have to come in this week-end... NOOOO :(

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Review: Tempted at Midnight by Jacquie D'Alessandro

Finally, seems like the blogging muse is back with me :)

Today's review is Tempted at Midnight by Jacquie D'Alessandro... However, you'll have to head over to Book Binge to find out what I thought of the book :) Of course, you could always click here.

Have a nice day!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Review: The Girl Most Likely To... by Susan Donovan

Finally, blogging and reviewing!! Life has been somewhat busy for me in the past week. Like I said, I'm trying to juggle work, blog-hopping, reading, review, this blog and Breezing Through. Let me tell you, it's not easy. Especially since I like to go blog to blog to comment - it's very time consuming! :)

All right, onto the first review of 2009 for my own blog :) My first review will be The Girl Most Likely To... by Susan Donovan. Since this is a contemporary book, I'll kill two birds with one stone and make it my January entry for the Contemporary Romance challenge hosted by Brie :)

The Girl Most Likely To... by Susan Donovan
published by St. Martin's Press in December 2008

Kat Cavanaugh was sixteen when she hitchhiked out of Persuasion, West Virginia and vowed never to return. Who could blame her? She'd just stumbled upon her father's adulterous affair, found out she was pregnant, got dumped by her boyfriend, and kicked out of her house and school... all in a single afternoon. Twenty years have gone by and Kat's back - gorgeous, rich, and looking for an apology from everyone who'd turned their backs on her. First on that list is Riley Bohland, the boy who broke her heart before she could tell him about the baby. But Kat didn't count on Riley having his own axe to grind, or that he'd be just as delicious as he was at sixteen. She also didn't count on her heart opening at the sight of him. When their anger ignites a passion intense enough to burn through two decades of secrets and lies, Kat must question everything she thought she knew about her past. And what about her future? The only place to find the answers may be in Riley's arms.

Genre: contemporary romance
Series: none

The Story: The back blurb does a good job of giving the background of the story, so I won't go over it again. So Kat is back in Persuasion, along with her best friend, and is hoping for a little revenge... or at least, to show off what she has become. However, to say that things didn't go as expected is putting it mildly. First, Riley knows about their son and second, her mother has passed away. After her initial shock, all Kat wants is to run back to Baltimore... especially after having sex with Riley and learning he has a fiancée.

However, this time, Riley is not about to let her disappear and nothing will stop him from getting to know his son and winning back Kat... not an obsessed ex-fiancée, nor Kat's doubts and fears nor her deranged father.

My Opinion: Ms Donovan is a hard author for me to categorize. She actually isn't an autobuy author for me and her books are hit and miss... However, for some reasons, as soon as I read the back blurb and the excerpt of this book... I was hooked. I wanted this book really badly.

In the end, I have mixed feelings about The Girl Most Like To... On one hand, I enjoyed it a lot. It was a quick read and kept me turning the pages. It wasn't as funny as I expected, but still, I was really engrossed. On the other hand, I have difficulty understanding some of the characters' actions.

Let's start with Kat and Riley. I really liked them as a couple and liked the glimpses we got of their past. They weren't just boyfriend/girlfriend as kids, but also best friends... I particularly like the flashback scene that we get of Kat escaping the chaos at home and climbing up Riley's window and joining him in his bed for comfort. There was something really innocent about them... Oh and their little ritual about who they love and their futures? Really, really cute. They really loved each other and have a real connection... That's why I could believe them falling into bed with each other less than 24 hours after meeting again. Seeing those little flashback scenes made me really sad to think that they waste 20 years apart from each other... seriously, what was Riley thinking?!?

Another thing that I liked about this book which sets it apart from all the other secret babies books (or most) is that the baby is 19-20 years old. I thought it was really nice that Aidan was a young adult instead of a teenager. It meant he was more mature and more independent. Sure, he was angry at Kat and I guess he had all the rights, but I think we were spared a lot of drama, teenage angst and sulking. Yes, he was angry at Kat and it's understandable... but at the same time, it was different :) So thumbs up for Ms Donovan for that move. By the way, the first contact and reunion scenes between Riley and Aidan were great :)

I think the book would have been better if it would have focused a bit more on Riley, Kat and Aidan. The whole obsessed ex-fiancée subplot, as well as the B & B owner who was after Riley's brother... and to some extent, Riley's problems with the clinic were all superfluous. In my opinion, if you are going to add conflicts to the book just to fill the pages and then, not focus on it or resolve it by simply snapping your fingers, then those conflicts are not worth it. So yeah, I would have liked the book to focus more on the main couple... and perhaps even on Kat and her father, Virgil. Virgil was the reason Kat was so unhappy as a child and I think there should have been a confrontation between the two. Or at least, a scene where Kat would learn Virgil's motives... Why he beat Kat's mother. It's not something happy or good and the knowlede would probably have made Kat sick; however, she would have known and understood. As it is, I don't feel like the whole issue with Virgil is resolved.

Now, onto some of the things the characters did and I don't understand...

1) How could Riley break up with Kat (even if it was only temporary) that way? "It's over, go home Kat." If the guy I loved and planned my future with told me that, without anymore explanation, my wolrd would shatter. The worst is that Riley only meant a temporary break-up so his father wouldn't pressure him anymore. How hard would it have been for Riley to explain everything to Kat correctly? They could have only pretended!! But no, the idiot only tells her those 5 words. Then, he blames Kat for leaving and never telling him he had a son....

2) Kat never explained to Riley or Aidan the sequence of events that made Kat leave that day. I mean, she didn't plan to leave or run away. She was forced, after a very difficult day. I think if she would have explained it to Riley and Aidan, they would have understand better where she stood. Why she did what she did.

3) Why did Kat repress so many memories? Also, what did she do as a living before getting rich?

All right, this is getting lenghtly. Obviously, this wasn't the perfect book. However, despite all my complaints, I really did enjoy the book. It had a good rythm, a good H/H and the story was good. I particularly like the twist at the end :) Fans of Ms Donovan, you should definitively give it a try :) By the way, this was better than Daisy is Back in Town by Rachel Gibson :P

My Grade: B.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Best and Worst of 2008

Whhhhew. Okay, I'm trying to get into some blogging routine, juggling between work, this blog, Breezing Through and reading... I have 3 reviews that I'm supposed to write and I don't know how I'll do it, LOL :)

However, this is nice busy. Hopefully, I'll be going home earlier next week and will have more time to blog and read :)

So in the last post, I did my year in review... and realized that my system to keep track of books wasn't great ^_^; Usually, I write all my reads in a book journal and then, I compiled at the end of the month when I put up my monthly reads list. However, going through the book journal to count or even trying to count something in a post is really not easy. I guess that means I'm a convert and this year, I'll be keeping a spreadsheet of my list of reads! I have to say I was jealous of Wendy, the Super Librarian, who was able break it down to the genres and grades...

Anyway, I did try to break it down at least into the grades... here's how it turned out:

Books read - 207
A graded - 13
D graded - 5
DNF - 9
B and C graded - the rest

LOL :) I'll do better next year, I promise!!

If you want to know what was my best and worst reads of the year 2008, head over to Breezing Through or simply click here.

Now, now... should I read or review?

Monday, January 05, 2009

The year 2008 in review...

Yes, I'm still here and alive! (just in case you were wondering, LOL)

First, once again, Happy New Year to everyone!!! How was it to be back at work? I know, it sucked. Why do I even bother asking. Sigh.

Okay, so let see... So many reasons why I was MIA. First, I was working on the new template over at Breezing Through. Check it out if you still haven't! Please let me know if there's any bugs or something that isn't working well/isn't looking good.

Then, I was busy reviewing Broken Wing with Chantal and Ames... Let me tell you, the amount of e-mails that has been exchanged for the new look over at BT and the review... Let just say that I had difficulty keeping up with my other tasks!

Of course, since it was a holiday, there was hanging out with my friends, catching up on sleep and going out with my sister... Every time I sat down to start my Best and Worst list, I got distracted, disturbed or interrupted... but I'm ready now!

First, I'd like to say that I am indeed working on my Best and Worst list; however, that will be posted over at BT once it's ready. Chantal has already done hers, so it's only Ames and me who've been dragging our feet. However, you can bet I'll be working on it... because Ames said that the last one to finish was a rotten egg. I am no rotten egg, LOL!

So, let see how 2008 was for me reading-wise :D

I read 207 books in 2008. That's about 20 more books than last year. I have to say I'm very pleased with myself, especially since I was a consistent reader. I'd go on binge... read a lot at the beginning or end of the month. Not at all during the week and read 3 books during the week-end. One of my problem though in 2008 is that I became obsessed more with the number of books read instead of what I was reading... which dimmed my enjoyment. Hopefully, I will have learned something and won't repeat the mistake in 2009. I hope that having the re-read challenge will help. By the way, for those who are keeping track of the books read, should re-read counts?

Something I found really unfortunate in the past year was the lack of wowzers. Of course, I read some good books, but no wowzer. When I'm bored and don't know what to read or need to get out of slumpville, I reached out to books I've read in 2007... none of my reads in 2008 had a big of an impact as Virgin River or Demon Angel or Warprize or Count to Ten, just to name a few.

One of the good thing in 2008 though is that I kept it varied. I read quite a few of historicals and urban fantasy.

I participated to two challenges: Keishon's TBR challenge and the Fall challenge. I was successful in the TBR challenge, but not in the Fall Challenge. Although if I go back, I've probably read some books that fit the categories I'm missing. What I'm still not good at is to read books that are pre-selected, for whatever reasons. Even if I'm the one doing the selection ^_^;

So that's about it for me at the moment :D Stay tuned for the Best and Worst list coming up soon :D

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Re-Reading Challenge is officially starting... NOW!

Happy New Year everyone!!

Hope 2009 is going to be a wonderful reading year for everyone!! Yay!!

To start off the year, here is the list of participants who have accepted the Re-Reading Challenge :D First, a few things though :D

Here is the icon to the Re-Read Challenge. Thank you very much to Jill for making it!! It was really appreciated :D It'd be fun if the challengers put it in their sidebar :)

*EDIT: Seriously, I don't know where's my brain. For the icon, I'd like to thanks Jill for making it, but also Sherry from La Cerise Verte for letting us use her picture! Sherry, thank you very much!

Also, let me recap the rules :D

1. The book you choose for the challenge must be one that you've already read :D

2. Review must be posted on the last day of the month.

3. At the end of each month, I'll put up a post for the Re-Read Challenge. Please post the link to your review in the comment section - this way, it'll be easier to keep track of all reviews so everyone can find them easily and enjoy them :D

To sweeten the deal, I'll give away a 10$ gift certificate each month to one challenger. I'll draw the winner among the challengers who will have posted their review link as requested in rule #3. The gift certificate is to whichever bookstore the winner wants, provided that I can purchase the gift certificate online and send it by e-mail.

*WARNING: if you don't post your review link in the comment section, you won't be eligible for the draw. I'm sorry, but this is supposed to be fun :D I don't feel like running after all the reviews, especially not knowing at what time you'll post it. This makes it easier for me :D

So here is the list of participants!! Thanks everyone to participating :D I have to admit that, there were more people than I expected! But that's only going to make it more fun :D

1. Ames
2. Kara
3. Lori (from Let's Gab and I Just Finished Reading... and Living in the House of Testosterone)
4. KMont
5. Zeek
6. Amy C
7. Li
8. Nikki
9. Kristie (J)
10. Rowena (from Book Binge and Coffee House Banter)
11. Kris
12. Jace
13. Isabel
14. Jenn
15. Leslie
16. Samantha
17. Kat O+ & Wandergurl (from Book Thingo --> reading list here)
18. Renee (from Renee's Book Addiction)
19. Brie
20. Seneca
21. Anne (from Let's Gab and I Just Finished Reading...)
22. Taja
23. Jill
24. Kate Diamond
25. Ann-Kat
26. Tracy
27. Jan
28. Book Dragon
29. Bookwormom
30. Angela
31. me :D

Honorary participants

Holly (from Book Binge and What Were You Expecting?

So I declare the Re-Reading Challenge 2009 officially starting!!

Let's have fun :D