Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Life According to the Books I Read in 2011

LOL, instead of typing my Monthly Reads posts away, I've been procrastinating and decided to have a little bit of fun. For the past couple of years, Christine has posted this meme at the end of the year on her blog. I always have a lot of fun reading the answers and since I have a little bit of time on my hand... Why not? :)

Describe yourself:
Absolutely, Positively by Heather Webber

How do you feel:
Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder

Describe where you currently live:
Perfect Harmony by Nora Roberts

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
The Comforts of Home by Jodi Thomas

Your favorite form of transportation:
Vanish by Tess Gerritsen

Your best friend is:
A Rare Gift by Jaci Burton

You and your friends are:
A Hoe Lot of Trouble by Heather Webber

What's the weather like:
Baby, It's Cold Outside by Addison Fox

What is life to you:
Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn

Favorite time of day:
Veil of Night by Linda Howard

Your fear:
Forgotten by Cat Patrick

What is the best advice you have to give:
Never Resist to Temptation by Miranda Neville

Thought for the day:
Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan

How I would like to die:
Knock Me Off My Feet by Susan Donovan

My soul's present condition:
Blackout by Rob Thurman

What do you think of my answers? Initially, I thought the form of transportation was going to be the hardest ^_^; Turns out the two I got stuck on were Thought of the day and My soul's present condition...The easiest was the weather... LOL, I had a couple of option: Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen and Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep... but in the end, the answer I went with was the most accurate LOL. One title that I wanted to use was Flawless by Carrie Lofty, but it sounded a bit presumptuous LOL. I also tried not using the same author twice, but I couldn't resist LOL.

It was definitively lots of fun!! Nice way to start wrapping up the year :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review: Slow Ride by Erin McCarthy

Hey everyone!! How's the holidays? Are you off the whole week? I've been back to work since yesterday... but I'll be off again on Friday :)

Sorry the blog has been a bit quiet. I've been shopping a lot LOL. We don't have Black Friday in Canada, so some of the biggest sales happen to be on the day after Christmas - Boxing Day! Actually, did you know that Boxing Day is a stat holiday? LOL. Anyway, aside from shopping, I've also been reading. I'm only 2 books away from achieving my reading goal this year! With 4 days to go, I'm crossing my fingers I'll make it :) Finally, I'm trying to complete my Monthly Reads posts... I have October, November and December to do ^_^; Sigh, how did that happen? I've started October... but I still have a long road to go. I think the trick is really to keep it short which you know, it's hard for me ^_^;

Anyway, I didn't want my blog to be too empty, so here is my review for Slow Ride by Erin McCarthy which initially was supposed to be part of the October Monthly Reads post... but I realized it was detailed enough to be a full review on its own. See what I mean by having difficulty keeping it short? ^_^; Okay, it is shorter than my usual reviews... but still, for a Monthly Post that can contain 10 reviews? Yeah, not short enough...

Slow Ride by Erin McCarthy
published by Berkley in October 2011
As a tribute to her late journalist father, Tuesday Jones is planning a career benefit, auctioning off racing memorabilia and meet-and-greets with drivers. Ex-racing star Diesel Lange has had his own brush with death, and is determined not to waste another minute of his life- especially when he meets Tuesday. He wants nothing more than to shift their romance into high gear, but he knows she's still grieving. Can Diesel do the one thing he could never do on the track and take it slow?
Genre: Contemporary romance, sport romance
Series: Fast-Track series, Book #5

The Story: Tuesday Jones is a reporter and has a very popular blog about NASCAR - what happens on and off the tracks. She has recently lost her father who was also a sport reporter and is dealing with her grief. During her best friend's wedding, she runs into Daniel "Diesel" Lange whom she previously met at her father's funerals. Diesel used to be a NASCAR driver till he got in an accident and almost lost his life. Now, with a busted knee, he stays connected to the racing world by restoring vintage race cars.

Tuesday and Diesel are attracted to each other and it doesn't take long for them to act on this attraction. However, they both brings a lot of baggage to the relationship. Can they deal with their issues and turn this fling into something more?

My Opinion: The last book of this series that I read prior to Slow Ride was Hot Finish and I was a bit disappointed because I was expecting more from the story between Ryder and Suzanne. Then I skipped over The Chase, because I didn't like the premise of a female driver. However, I was really looking forward to Slow Ride because of the blurb... but once again, I was disappointed.

The biggest problem I had with Slow Ride was that nothing much happened ^_^; Basically, Tuesday and Diesel meet, start dating and have sex. Sure, the sex was hot, but it was not enough to carry the storyline. In fact, given the amount of sex and the thickness of the book (304 pages), Slow Ride actually read more like an erotica romance than a contemporary romance. Another issue was the lack of development of the characters and the relationship. I thought that Diesel and Tuesday didn't really get to know each other throughout the book and as a result, it gave rise to a weak conflict and prematured HEA ending. For example, Tuesday reproached Diesel for not opening himself, not discussing his accident with her. I thought that was ridiculous. They have only known each other a month, barely spoke about themselves and she wants him to talk about the biggest life-changing event in his life? Also, based on Tuesday's behavior, I have to say, she hadn't really earned Diesel's trust at that point.

Finally, my last issue with this book was Tuesday. I really didn't like her character. She got on my nerve and rubbed me the wrong way. Also, I thought her behavior towards Diesel was very disrespectful - the time he came to pick up for the date and she was drunk and the whole article fiasco. While I didn't like Tuesday's problems with alcohol, I thought it was very realistic and could have made the book really interesting. Unfortunately, Ms McCarthy missed that opportunity :(

What saved this book for was the hero, Diesel. I thought he was a great guy and really liked his personality. I liked that he was the one who wanted a relationship. I liked that he wasn't bitter about how his career ended and was content with life. Also, he did try to help out Tuesday with her problems... and I don't think him not wanting to speak about his accident was a real conflict. All in all, Tuesday was really lucky in my opinion.

In my opinion, Slow Ride had potential, but it wasn't developed enough to fulfill it. In the end, I felt the relationship was rushed and as a result, the HEA ending was not believable. I think it'd have been much better if the book had ended on the H/H giving each other another chance for a relationship than with Diesel proposing.

My Grade: C-. Diesel is the reason why the grade is in the C-range, otherwise, I'd probably have given Slow Ride a D. At this point, I'm not sure if I'm going to continue with this series...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Hauling Sunday LXV

Hey everyone!! :)

First, let me start by wishing:


I hope you're having a great time with your family and friends! My sister and I are having a Big Bang Theory TV marathon and later, we'll be going out for dinner with my parents at our favorite Chinese restaurant! Yay! Oh and I've finally bought a new computer!! Can't wait to have it delivered :) Then tomorrow, we might venture out for the sales... or go see The Adventures of Tintin. I'm rooting for the movie :) While everyone is at the sales LOL.

Anyway, surprisingly, I did buy books this week! Lucky me, the December 27 releases came into store early and I got my hands on some!! :)

Trouble at the Wedding by Laura Lee Guhrke - I'm so happy this book is finally out! I've been looking forward to it ever since I finished reading Scandal of the Year! Although I have to say, I can't remember the hero appearing in the previous books! Ah well, it's okay :) I'm getting my LLG fix :)

By the way, funny story about Trouble at the Wedding. When I went to the bookstore, it wasn't on the shelf yet. However, the new Eloisa James and Gaelen Foley were. So I asked a clerk to go to the bookstore to look for it. He comes back a minute later telling me that his co-worker pointed out that Trouble at the Wedding had a release date of December 27 and so was not on sale yet. I told him that it was okay because Trouble at the Wedding didn't have a strict release date. I mean, if the Eloisa James was on the shelf, then I don't see why I can't get Trouble at the Wedding... and then I told him about the computer system, as in in-store, when you look up for books, if a book has a strict release date, even if they have copies in-stock, it will only say: Available for pre-order. As to books with no strict release date, if they are in-stock, even before the release date, it will indicate the number of copies available. So yeah, I told him all that and that it was okay to go get my copy. He said he was going to check with his manager to be sure... and a couple of minutes later, he came back with a copy and told me I was absolutely right :) Yay!! All in all, I got the book and it made my night :)

Hidden Summit by Robyn Carr - New Virgin River trilogy :) The reviews have been quite positive, so I'm giving it a go :)

And I got this from Netgalley:

Redwood Bend by Robyn Carr - Redwood Bend  is the second book in the trilogy and has also been getting good reviews. I'm also more interested in it based on the blurb :)

And there it is :) My haul for this week along with my latest bookstore adventure LOL.

Once again, hope you're enjoying the holidays!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Review: Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

Disclaimer: I've received Touch of Power as an eARC from Netgalley

Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder
published by Mira (Harlequin) in December 2011

Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan absorbs their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Fifteen Realms, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life….
Genre: Fantasy romance
Series: Healer series, Book #1

The Story: Avry of Kazan is the last healer in the Fifteen Realms. However, this status isn't as prestigious as it sounds... Not when it is believed that the healers were the source of the plague that killed two thirds of the population. Now, healers are hated and a bounty has been placed for every healer caught and executed. As a result, Avry has spent the last three years in hiding, but she's growing tired of it and when she is captured after healing a child, Avry is ready to give up. But when she is rescued by a band of rogues and given a choice between life and death; to her surprise, her will to live is still very strong...

Unfortunately for Avry, being rescued came with a price. The leader of the band, Kerrick of Alga, wants her to heal someone from the plague: Prince Ryne of Ivdel... The same prince who held contempt for healers, the one who started the accusations against them! Avry is determined not to heal the prince no matter what. However, what Avry doesn't know because she spent the last three years in hiding is that the world is changing. With the Fifteen Realms decimated, three forces have emerged to unite the realms and rule over them... but only one has the well-being of the people in mind: Prince Ryne. As they make their way to where Prince Ryne's body is kept in stasis, Avry witnesses first hand the forces of  King Tohon of Sogra and High Priestess Estrid of Ozero and in the end, she has to agree with Kerrick... But unbeknownst to Kerrick, healing Prince Ryne will come with a price: Avry's life.

My Opinion: I was really looking forward to Touch of Power as it is Ms Snyder's newest release :) I fell in love with Ms Snyder's writing with Poison Study and Magic Study. Those two books were amazing and are on the all-time favorite bookshelf :) Unfortunately, her subsequent books have not measured up in my opinion. For Fire Study, I think it was a case of the expectations being too high combined with the extremely long wait for the readers. As for the Glass trilogy, the heroine just wasn't likable enough and then, there was the whole romance/relationship aspect that didn't really work out for me. With this series, set in a new world, I thought it was the perfect opportunity for Ms Snyder to start afresh :)

Overall, I liked Touch of Power and I think it was a good effort on Ms Snyder's part. The writing was solid and I definitively liked the world building. It was well developed and a very good backdrop for the fantasy aspect of the storyline. When it comes to fantasy, I always like a little political intrigue and with 15 realms and leaders or leading family, the possibilities for alliances, betrayals and intrigues are endless :) Add in the fact that most of them have been to school together and yeah, it's going to be extremely interesting. So far, I liked the players that Ms Snyder has introduced and I'm looking forward to more :) I also found the magical aspect of this world interesting. I liked that magic didn't make someone absolute, above everyone else. Sure, it is an asset, but in the end, intelligence, honesty and heart are the elements that are going to break or make someone :) Also, it seems to me that Ms Snyder has a clear idea of the magical powers in this world, she knows where she's going with it and that is promising.

Another strong element of this book was the characters. I really liked Avry. She was strong for having survived, but she was not a kick-ass heroine. The reason she survived was because she was smart and was careful. She also had principles and a lot of integrity and that made her character very interesting. I liked that she could be reasoned with, that she could see right and wrong and make her own decisions. If she was stubborn, it was because there was a reason, but she didn't clung to her beliefs when she was shown otherwise. Out of the other characters, the one I liked the most was Belen - Kerrick's bodyguard and childhood friend, because he was just so likable and friendly. Prince Ryne seemed to be a good guy and I can't wait to see him in action :) As for Kerrick, I'm still not sure about him. He's not totally hero material, swoon-worthy and I applauded  Ms Snyder for developing him this way. I think it really took guts as he is the love interest and readers usually prefer guys that oozed goodness or those who redeemed themselves. However, Kerrick is neither - he is himself. The best way I could describe him is cold on the surface as he seems to only care about achieving his goals and he can be ruthless sometimes, but deep inside, he does really care. I think all in all, it made him more interesting and gave him more depth... but at the same time, it was hard to like him. Especially some of his action in the beginning of the book, they were hard to forgive.

The romance was not the focus of the book, but there was some between Avry and Kerrick. At this point, I do feel like it was a bit forced. I can understand Kerrick having feelings for Avry, but that his mission took precedence... However, I'm not absolutely certain why Avry would develop feelings for Kerrick ^_^; I mean, why not Belen who was much nicer? I do like the fact that Avry came to trust Kerrick through their hardships at the end, that part was believable... I wished Ms Snyder would have developed Avry's feelings towards Kerrick a bit more. I do hope that we'll have more interactions between them in the future books to really cement the romance.

Aside from the romance, I had two other issues with Touch of Power. The first is the pacing of the book. Touch of Power was well-written and the storyline was interesting. There was a lot of action and a lot of twists and surprises in the storyline. Unfortunately, most of these surprises and twists fell a bit flat, because of the pacing, the tone. It was a bit monotonous and lacking in ompf. You simply couldn't feel the excitement, the thrill. Touch of Power was quite a thick book and as I said, a lot happened, but I'd say the overall tone of the book was passive and that just doesn't work when a book is full of action. My other issue with Touch of Power is that it felt like an echo of Poison Study ^_^; It seemed to me Ms Snyder based herself on Poison Study when writing the book and therefore, there was a lot of similarities: the heroine, the hero, the romance, the camaraderie and so on. Obviously, it made for a good book, but for a fan like me, well I can't help making comparison... and if I have to compare Touch of Power and Poison Study, then Poison Study definitively has the upper hand. In my opinion, it would have been preferable if Ms Snyder distanced herself of Poison Study instead and write something really original... Also, familiarity also led to predictability at times :(

In the end though, Touch of Power was still a very enjoyable book and a good start to the series. And I hope that Ms Snyder will surprise me in future books :)

My Grade: B-.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Hauling Sunday LXIV

All right! My parents are back, work should be more quiet and the stress of my annual gift exchange is over :) I love organizing the gift exchange every year, but it's always a bit hectic - finding the gift, making sure everything runs smoothly, the menu for food, etc. It's always a ton of fun :) but also a bit of work :) Anyway, now that it's over, I'm pretty  much free and should have more time for my blog now! Yay!!!

First thing is to keep up with the Hauling Sunday feature :) Have to admit though that lately, I have not been buying that many books as there aren't many releases... Ah well. Still, I have two for this week :)

As You Wish by Gabi Stevens - Truth be told, I got this week a couple of weeks ago, but forgot to include it in the last Hauling Sunday. I read the first book in this series, The Wish List and it was cute and so I got As You Wish. Also, I admit I have a fondness for the Tor line which brought us the Warland Chronicles series by Elizabeth Vaughan.

A Rare Gift by Jaci Burton - This was a free download, part of Harlequin's 12 days of Christmas campaign :) I was actually planning to buy it, because I've been in the mood for contemporary romance... but I've been dragging my feet... and I'm glad since because of it, I got this free :) I only realized afterwards that A Rare Gift is part of this year's Carina Press' anthology. Surprise surprise :)

And there you have it, my haul for this week :) This week is most probably going to be quiet as well... unless the bookstore receives the Avon releases early. That'd be a great Christmas gift LOL. What about you? Too busy to read? Or expecting books as Christmas gifts? :)

Now I'm off to read and watch curling... but I'll definitively be working on some reviews tonight. I must! :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lost mojo...

Hello everyone! How are you doing?

So sorry that I haven't really blogged or blog-hopped recently ^_^; The conference has really put a kink in my blogging routine and even though I've been back for two weeks already (gosh, how did that happen?!?), I still haven't settled back into a routine yet. I have lots of excuses for it... Want to hear them? LOL.

Well, work has definitively been quite busy as my boss has decided to rush an experiment, sigh. My parents have been away ever since I came back and so my sister and I have been fending off for ourselves. I don't mind, but it is time consuming LOL. Good thing they are coming back tomorrow :) It's the holidays season and I've been trying to squeeze in some shopping... and finally, my room. I'm still not done with it ^_^; It's mostly a matter of re-shelving the books in an order that I like. Hopefully, I'll be done with it tonight especially since my parents are coming home tomorrow ^_^;

And oh, I've finally given up on my computer and therefore has been using my dad's laptop. It's not bad, but I prefer a desktop which I'm hoping to buy on Boxing Day, hoping there'll be a good deal. In the meantime, well my desk is a mess and I feel cramped when using the laptop and so I've taken refuge into reading... Although I'm really having a hard time deciding what to read. Ugh, December is just too slow release-wise :(

And that's what I've been up to. What about you guys? Blogland has really been quiet lately so I'm assuming everyone's busy with the holidays :) Still, read any good books lately?

Anyway, since it's been so quiet, here are some pictures of my room. I didn't really want to post them at first, because seriously, it's a bit embarrassing ^_^; But hey, maybe it'll liven up my blog LOL. Also, Tabitha was wondering how much a mess could one person do... The answer is: a lot ^_^;

So this was at the start, when I came back from the conference...

This was during the week-end...

It looks like there's been very little changes, but actually it's mostly books. So if I could just shelve them... However, I've been feeling quite cramped in... Wonder why ^_^; and so instead of continuing shelving, I've decided to just ignore it and read... Don't think it was the best idea...

And this was as of this morning:

 See there is some progress!!! I'm also weeding out books as well. Stay tuned for a list and perhaps some books... and hopefully, I'll be able to shelve everything and at the end, it'll look like this:

Isn't that pretty?!? Okay, need to get to work now!


This is as of this morning (Dec. 15). Ames says she can't see a difference, but hey, you see a lot more floor! The books are all on shelves or in boxes. All I have to do tonight is put them away either in the basement or corner of the room. Quick vacuuming and straightening the desk and chairs and voila. Might not be as organized as I wished, but much better than when I came back from the conference :)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Happy Birthday Ames!!

Happy Birthday Ames! :) We're getting older!! LOL. Hope you have a great day and a great time. May your future be filled with tons of good books :)

Friday, December 09, 2011

When reading leads you into trouble...

So initially, I was planning to post a review... However, I didn't have time to write it. Why? Funny you should ask...

I went shopping with a friend and my sister this evening. I parked my car in a free spot. Free parking in downtown is rather rare. The few places that remain usually have time restrictions, for example you cannot park from 9am to 6pm because it's reserved for delivery. So I got to my parking space at approximate 5.50pm and waited 10 minutes in the car. While I was waiting, I of course pulled out a book to read. Since it was dark, I turned the inside light on... and yes, you can guess what happened. I forgot to turn it off while I was shopping and when I came back, about 4 hours later... my car wouldn't start ^_^;

At first, I wasn't sure if it was the battery or my remote starter. I sometime have problems with my remote starter as in I'll use it once and the next time I want to start my car, I cannot do it manually, I'll have to use the remote starter again. I tried several time starting the car manually and with the remote starter and it wouldn't work. My headlights were a bit dimmed, but nothing drastic. Finally, I had to ask a taxi driver to take a look. He confirmed it was the battery... yay! Unfortunately, he didn't have any booster cables. I asked another taxi and he didn't have any either. In the end, I had to call a friend and she was nice enough to come and give me a hand.

Little problem is that we've each had boosted a car only once before... and with help. LOL, the funniest is that we told my friend to park her car so both the cars would be hood-to-hood. She then popped the hood and I tried looking for her battery to connect the cables... After a moment, I had to ask her where her battery was... She took a look as well and a minute later, she remembered that she had a Mitsubishi Evo and therefore: "Oh, my battery is in the trunk!!" LOL, it was sooo funny, especially the look on her face :) Finally, I was able to connect the cables... but it still wouldn't work.

At that point, I was really starting to panic :( If it wasn't the battery, than it was the remote starter and the battery, I can jump start... but what do I do with the remote starter?!? Finally, I was ready to give up and I called roadside assistance. I was on the phone with them when a security guy was passing by and gave us a hand. Turns out the pliers were not well connected to the battery!!! My friend's battery was a bit dirty and therefore, the pliers weren't in contact with metal, but with grease... After a few tries, my car finally started!!! Alleluia!!

A few things I learned from tonight's experience? Check the horn and headlights as indicators for battery - although they can still work and battery be weak. If there's no sparks when the pliers make contact with metal, then it means the pliers are not well connected ^_^; And finally, I should put the booster cables and a flashlight in the trunk of my car. Well next time that it happens, I'll be more prepared and know better what to do. But I hope there's not a next time ^_^;

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Review: New York to Dallas by J.D. Robb

***Warning: This review contains spoilers***

New York to Dallas by J.D. Robb
published by Putnam in September 2011
The number-one New York Times-bestselling author J. D. Robb presents an intense and terrifying new case for New York homicide cop Eve Dallas, one that will take her all the way to the city that gave her her name-and plunge her into the nightmares of her childhood.

When a monster named Isaac McQueen-taken down by Eve back in her uniform days-escapes from Rikers, he has two things in mind. One is to pick up where he left off, abducting young victims and leaving them scarred in both mind and body. The other is to get revenge on the woman who stopped him all those years ago.
Genre: Romantic Suspense, mystery, futuristic
Series: In Death series, Book #33

The Story: In New York to Dallas, Eve faces an old foe, Isaac McQueen. McQueen is a pedophile who kidnapped young girls, marked them with a number within a heart on their torso and kept them in a proof-sounded room for his sick pleasure. He was also Eve's first collar when she was still in uniform.

Now that McQueen has escaped from Rikers, he intends to pick up where he left off and seek revenge on the cop that arrested him. Meanwhile, Eve is determined to put him back in a cage where he belongs. When McQueen moves his hunting ground to Dallas, Eve and Roarke are hot in pursuit - even though Dallas is the last place Eve wants to be...

My Opinion: I kind of had high hopes for New York to Dallas, partly because of the blurb, but also because of the title change. In a series like the In Death series, after 30-something books with the same pattern in titles, when there's a change, there must be a reason and it must have a big impact, hit hard. Unfortunately, it wasn't the case and instead of being a wowzer, New York to Dallas fell flat for me :(

I think the biggest problem about New York to Dallas was the lack of excitement. There wasn't anything in the book that made me sit at the edge of my seat or make me turn the pages faster to know what would happen next. There was also a lack of intensity in my opinion. New York to Dallas was just another book in the series instead of being one with a lot of impact. Don't get me wrong, I'm always happy to read an In Death book, because I know it's going to be a solid read... but the couple last installments have been solid, but not great and I think it's time to have a great In Death book just to shake things up. I thought New York to Dallas was a great opportunity for Ms Robb to deliver something different, considering that Eve and Roarke were alone in Dallas, away from the gang - no Peabody, McNab, Feeney, Summerset and the tons of supporting characters. It would have been a great opportunity to explore Eve and Roarke's relationship for example, have something happens... but instead, it was just the usual, i.e. Eve trying to stop the bad guy. Even worse, I missed the gang because Ms Robb didn't really have anything in the storyline to fill the void ^_^;

All right, so instead of thinking what was missing, let's focus on what was actually in the book. The writing as usual was solid, fluid. Ms Robb definitively has a distinct style of writing when it comes to the In Death books and I like it :) The actual case wasn't bad... but it didn't really stand out for me. One of the reasons is if I remember correctly, there was a similar case in a previous book, i.e. the villain fixating on Eve for revenge. Another reason is Eve's ability to "read" the villain - know his thinking process, what he's going to do, etc. It bothered me in New York to Dallas because it seems that Eve was very familiar with McQueen, the kind of familiarity that comes from a cop chasing after a killer for a long period of time, through many cases. However, it is not the case between Eve and McQueen. McQueen's arrest by Eve was "coincidental." She basically stumbled over him while going door to door for another investigation. I can understand Eve familiarizing with his M.O. afterwards, because that's just who she is, especially given this was her first arrest. But even then, what they would have discovered from McQueen would be hear-say as opposed to living it and therefore, I can't really believe that the bond between Eve and McQueen would be so strong... and the fact that Eve was so effectively in McQueen's head, knowing him, predicting his next move - it just took away from the suspense for me.

Another issue I had with New York to Dallas was Eve's mother's appearance. Obviously, going back to Dallas, there would be a part of the book dedicated to Eve's past. I knew that, even expected it. However, I thought it was a huge coincidence that McQueen's accomplice would be Eve's mother. If at least, it had been intentional, as in McQueen actually chose her because she was Eve's mother... but no. Also, the one time that Eve goes to Dallas, she runs into her mother? I think it'd have been more powerful if it's been somewhere else, like in New York or another city. The only good news is that we're finally done with Eve and Roarke's parents and can move on ^_^;

All in all, New York to Dallas wasn't that bad. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to my expectations either. I just feel that Ms Robb had an opportunity to deliver something really different and she missed it. Instead, New York to Dallas felt redundant, nothing original or new :( Still, I'm not giving up on the series yet and I'll be picking up Celebrity in Death in February :)

My Grade: C.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Hauling Sunday LXIII

Ugh. I had a few days off and I was so happy to have them and health issues just came and ruined all the fun :( Really sorry to sound/be whiny, but I just need to get it off my chest. Sigh, I just want to be healthy again and not worry about things :( In part, I think I'm having a BPPV relapse :( I've been nauseous in the past few weeks and had a few dizzy spells. Nothing as bad as last March though. I actually felt better while I was in Toronto... but this week-end? Bleh. And now, I don't know, but I think I feel a bit of tingling/numbness in my hands and feet. Not sure if I'm just over-worrying and imagining it or paying too much attention to it. Seriously, I regretted taking my health for granted and I'd do anything just to feel normal and not worry at every little health hiccups ^_^; Anyway, I'll pay attention to it. I just hope it's perhaps BPPV combined with stress and dehydration. Oh yeah, gotta love the internet for self-diagnosis ^_^; If it's not better in a few days, then I'll go to the doctor.

Okay, whining part over. Now, onto a much more fun topic: books :) Wow, hard to believe it's been almost a month since I last did a Hauling Sunday post!! So are you ready to see my haul? :)

Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook - I got this book a couple of weeks ago, but didn't want to do a Hauling Sunday post with only one book. LOL, I never thought though it'd be so much time after! I still haven't read The Iron Duke. I think I'm having a mental block when it comes to that book ^_^; I'm hoping I'll have more success with this one :) Ms Brook is a brilliant author and I so want to love this series.

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally - So I've never really been into contemporary YA, but lately, that's what I've been craving to read. Weird, I know. In any case, as soon as I read Catching Jordan's blurb, I knew I wanted to read that book. I thought the premise was really interesting - Jordan being a girl and playing quarterback for her high school team. I thought it'd be a good mix of contemporary and sport and I was right :)

Fate's Edge by Ilona Andrews - I'm a big fan of Ms Andrews' Kate Daniels series. I love that series - the action, the characters dynamics and the humor. However, the world building has always been a problem with me, just because I have difficulty "seeing" it. Well I have the same issue with The Edge series and the characters have not won me over yet.... but I have hopes, especially considering the hero is Kaldar :)

Kiss of Frost by Jennifer Estep - I've reviewed Touch of Frost not too long ago and if you've read my review, you know why I got Kiss of Frost :) I just love Ms Estep's writing and I'm glad she has two series going on :)

Treasured Vows by Cathy Maxwell - This book was released in 1996 (wow!) and the reason it caught my attention is because Alex has reviewed it not long ago. I wanted to give it a go because while it's set in England, it's different as in the hero is not titled. Small detail, but it can be a lot of fun!! :)

To Wed a Wild Lord by Sabrina Jeffries - This is the 4th book in the Hellions of Halstead Hall series. I've been enjoying this series so far and wanted to know more about Gabe... especially after the challenge the heroine threw him in the last book!

So all these books have been ordered online a couple of weeks ago. I've just been waiting for them to arrive. The only book I've actually bought is the following:

The Lady's Secret by Joanna Chambers - I read Hilcia's review yesterday and it was such a great review that I immediately bought it LOL.

And speaking of Hils, well she sent me a couple of books...


LOL, you can say I'm ready for the holiday season :)

And voila, a month-worth of haul! Definitively a great haul, but not too crazy right? :) Yes, I'm fishing for compliments for my restraint LOL.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

I'm home!!!

Hi everyone!!

How are you doing? I'm back home!! Yay! Actually, I've been home since Wednesday night ^_^; Sorry I haven't blogged earlier! I wanted it to, but recovering from the trip - most specifically the bus right - took precedence LOL.

So can you believe that I made it for 4 days without internet?!? Yep I did :) LOL, great detox. There was wifi actually, but I had no gadget to connect to ^_^; No laptop, no iPhone or iPad... I do have a cell phone that could... but I don't know how ^_^; Plus, checking emails on the phone is not the greatest. I was hoping to borrow my labmate's laptop, but after days of hanging out together, we just went our separate ways in the evening... Booo.

Overall though, it was a great experience. It was the first time I went to a scientific conference and I think it was good. Not as fun as RT or RWA, but good LOL. Basically, this was the first Canadian Cancer Research conference on such a scale. There are many agencies in Canada funding cancer research and they usually each have their own conference... but this year, they forgo theirs and unite their efforts to make 1 big conference. There was about a thousand persons registered... This is much smaller compared to the American equivalent, but a good effort still considering this is the first conference. The conference was all about building bridges - making connections, seeing what is done here and elsewhere and what is the trend. And the caliber of the speakers was quite impressive as there was two Nobel Prize winners!!! I mean, seriously, it's hard not to be impressed LOL. But those two aside, I mean, there were some impressive names... Of course, my favorite talks were the ones with humor. Some of them are really well articulated and fast on their feet.

While some of it was really interesting, some of it was also really boring. I mean, sitting in hotel chairs from 9am to 5pm and listened to a myriad of talks... it's really long!! Also, some of it was a bit scary. Let just say that once I came back, I did google the symptoms of breast cancer, colorectal cancer and so on ^_^; Also, this conference was all about precision/personalized medicine. It's kind of funny when you think about it, but there is trends in research as well and that was it. The idea is with genome sequencing now more affordable, researchers are sequencing different tumors of a same cancer - the ones that respond to treatment and the ones that don't and compare them. They're trying to look for the mutations that will allow to predict whether a patient will respond to a treatment and which one in order to avoid over-treatment and toxicity of chemotherapy. Of course, in theory, this is awesome... but whether it'll really be feasible - not just from the science POV, but ethically and so on... That'll be interesting to see.

So that was pretty much it for the conference. Oh, the poster session went well. However, it was just too crowded... and I'm really glad I didn't have to present any poster. Basically, there were 477 posters for 2 sessions of two hours!!! Everyone registered to the conference was given a booklet the size of half a phone book with the abstracts (summary of what the poster was about). So people could know beforehand what was there and go see the posters that they were actually interested in. Posters were put up on panels in the morning and people had the whole day to peruse... and from 4 to 6pm, people presenting would stand next to their poster and people could ask them questions. I saw a lot of people just standing there and looking bored. I'm just glad I wasn't one of them ^_^; My labmate had about 8 persons coming up to him and my boss, about the same numbers. Although in the case of my boss, it was all the big names in our field, so that's encouraging.

The best moment of my trip? When Cindy and Bob drove up to Toronto to have dinner with me!! It was awesome to catch up with Cindy and Bob and it was really nice of them to do so! :) For those who worries, she's doing fine!! And she should be back to blogging soon :) There, I've said it Cindy. You can't back out anymore! :)

Since I had Thursday and Friday off, I decided to just relax... and tackle my room. My room has been in such a messy state, I really couldn't stand it anymore. You think I'm exaggerating? Just ask Ames! I have some pictures of my room, but really it's just too embarrassing to share... But just to give you an idea of how messy my room was... I received a really big package from Chapters/Indigo while I was away... and I didn't even notice the box in my room... cos it blended in so well with the boxes of books that I've gotten from RWA! Yeah ^_^; Hopefully, I'll be done by Monday LOL. However, in my defense, I have to say I'm making progress :)

I'll also be taking a lot of breaks to blog and blog-hop! It's good to be back home :)

Oh and for those who are wondering... Yes, I had time to read while I was away! LOL, it's kind of funny cos everyone's been asking me that question LOL. But with no internet, let just say books were the only way to keep me from going insane with boredom LOL. I read To Wed a Wild Lord by Sabrina Jeffries,  Tis the Season to be Sinful by Adrienne Basso and re-read Count to Ten by Karen Rose and River's End by Nora Roberts :) 4 books in 4 days. Not bad, right? :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Away for a few days!

Hey everyone!!

How are you doing? Sorry I've been MIA the past couple of days ^_^; Although I figured most of you would be busy with Thanksgiving and away from the internet, so it was good timing :) Work has been quite busy this week as we got ready for our conference. As I said in my previous post, we had 2 posters to prepare... and we only started on Thursday. Last minute? Yeah, pretty much. Also, I ended up working on the one which project I was less familiar with... So I felt pretty useless. Not a good feeling.

I was planning to have some posts scheduled, but that didn't work out ^_^; I'm still planning to blog, but quite frankly, I don't know how much internet access I'll have... so I might be pretty quiet till Thursday :( But I'll try my best!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Review: Heiress in Love by Christina Brooke

Ugh, the past two days have been brutal. It's really gotten cold and I've been having headaches and feeling nauseous. I'm knocking on wood it's not a BPPV relapse. Instead, I'm blaming the cold... In any case, I cannot afford getting sick as I'm going to the conference this week-end. Hmmmm, now that I think about it, it could be the conference is stressing me up. I mean, we're leaving Sunday and I have just booked the bus tickets today. It's soo annoying because my boss is indecisive about everything and so it doubles the planning time ^_^; Also, my labmate is really starting to panic as he and our boss each has a poster presentation... but we have not started on the posters yet!! Yeah... guess what I've been drafted to help with?

On the review front, I'm trying to catch up on books from this summer ^_^; I'm so behind, it's not funny. To try to avoid this situation in two months, I've been mixing it up, old and new... If there are any books that I was supposed to review and I haven't yet and you'd like me to, please let me know! LOL. In the meantime, enjoy this one!

Heiress in Love by Christina Brooke
published by St. Martin's Press in June 2011

When the Ministry of Marriage arranges a match, all that matters is power, wealth and prestige. In the business of marriage, there is no room for love. But even the most prudent plans can go awry...

Jane, Lady Roxdale, has endured one marriage of convenience decreed by the Ministry of Marriage. While she deeply regrets her late husband’s death, she is relieved to be free at last. But when a dissolute rake threatens everything Jane holds dear, she must contemplate marrying a second time...

Disgraced libertine Constantine Black inherits his cousin Roxdale’s land and title—while Roxdale’s prim widow is left all the wealth. Constantine is not a marrying man, but wedding Jane is the only way to save the estate from ruin. Jane resists the smoldering heat between them, desperate not to fall in love with an unrepentant rake. But for the first time ever, Constantine wants more than seduction. He wants all of her—body, heart, and soul...
Genre: Historical romance
Series: Ministry of Marriage series, Book #1

The Story: Through ironic circumstances, the Duke of Montford, a confirmed bachelor, found himself the guardian of 5 children - 3 girls, all heiresses, and 2 boys, titled and landed. He did his best raising them and ensuring their futures which means making sure their fortunes grew and in the case of the ladies, that they'd also marry well. As a member of the Ministry of Marriage, Montford had his pick for the best matches...

Jane, Lady Roxdale, was one of Montford's ward and was married off to Frederick Black, Baron Roxdale, at the age of 17. While she had liked him during their courtship, marriage did not turn out as she expected... and as a result, Jane is content to be free again. All she wants is to live peacefully and to take care of her 6 years old nephew and Frederick's ward, Luke Black. She knows that soon, Montford will plot to get her married again, but this time, she intends to remain independent. Unfortunately, Frederick's will have taken away that option...

Constantine Black is the defunct Lord Roxdale's cousin and heir. Years ago, Constantine refused to marry a young lady that he had compromised and as a result, he's been estranged with his family and has become persona non grata to the ton. And of course, he's gotten a reputation that he hasn't earned. Now that he's inherited the title though, Constantine wants to forget the past, start anew and prove to everyone they were wrong about him... However, it won't be as easy as he thinks...

Indeed, in his iron-clad will, Frederick Black stipulated that all his funds would go to his widow and Luke's guardianship was transferred to Constantine. Each has what the other wants as Constantine now has no funds to maintain the estate... and therefore, there is really only one solution: a marriage of convenience between the two!

My Opinion: This book caught my attention earlier this summer when I was going through the list of authors attending RWA. Back then, I was binging on historical romance and this definitively seemed to be right up my alley :) I was determined to get a copy at RWA... and I'm glad I did!! :)

The premise of Heiress in Love is not really original - it's a marriage of convenience after all. Constantine needs the funds to maintain his estate and Jane wants to remain close to Luke. However, Ms Brooke did a great job with it and it's all due to her interesting characters :) I have to say, I really liked the hero of this book. Despite his reputation, Constantine was really an honorable man. I liked that he accepted the consequences of his decision and they were quite dire. He didn't blame anyone, didn't whine and wasn't  angry at the whole world. He stood by his principles and wouldn't be coerced into a marriage and it took guts. With Jane, while he didn't have many options, to marry her was still his choice. I also liked that he bonded with Luke - I love men getting along with kids in books :) It shows a different side of them. I also liked that he was hard-working and cared for his tenants. As I said, a great hero and he totally stole the spotlight in this book. I'm not saying that Jane was a bad heroine. She was likable, but paled a little bit in comparison to Constantine. She wasn't as self-assured as Constantine and was a bit the ice maiden. She did feel, but it felt to me she didn't know how to communicate her feelings. The only persons she let close to her were her childhood friends and Luke. Still, at the end, you have to admire her love for Luke.

The romance in the book was okay. I think the fact that bothered the most to me was the fact that Jane didn't enjoy the conjugal act with her late husband and therefore she finally finds passion with Constantine. It's just so common whenever you have widow heroines ^_^; Although I guess it's all a question of chemistry. In any case, I'm happy the two of them didn't jump right in the marriage and in bed together. Actually, both had reservation about it and were trying to find other options. I thought that was realistic. It also gave them time to get to know each other better and develop their feelings. In that aspect, the romance worked for me :) All in all, the romance was there and it was nice, but it lacked a bit of omphf to it making it only okay.

The overall storyline of Heiress in Love was interesting :) Surprisingly, there was a lot going on and Ms Brooke did a great job balancing everything. The most interesting part for me was Constantine's past :) The weakest part for me was the Ministry of Marriage. It seems to be consisted of three persons: Montford, Lady Arden and Lord DeVere and together, they seemed to be related to everyone in Society LOL. As it is the basis of this series, I wished there'd have been more explanations about the Ministry of Marriage. Why did they form, who has given them the power, what is their purpose. Obviously, it is to make match... but there must be more to it, right? So I hope Ms Brooke clarifies that in the future. I also wish for more interactions between Montford and Jane, just so she understands that Montford really did care for them all.

In the end, I was really pleasantly surprised by Heiress in Love. I think Ms Brooke has a nice writing style that flows well and is easy to read.  Heiress in Love was definitively a solid debut, its flaws minor, and I am looking forward to Mad About the Earl, the next book in this series :)

My Grade: B-.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Review: The Next Always by Nora Roberts

Hi everyone!! How's your week-end going? Mine is great, but I feel so unproductive :( Didn't do anything.. and it's worst considering that I had Friday off as well because I went in for a doctor appointment. Sigh. Also, I haven't been reading... Just don't know what to pick up ^_^; At least, I have been re-reading, but it doesn't feel right sigh. And today, I'm meeting friends the whole day, so no reading either. Ah well, hopefully, I'll make it up this week...

Once again, no Hauling Sunday post this week as I haven't gone to the bookstore. Shocking right? LOL. But it proves that I can do it! Of course, lack of release and pre-orders play a big role. I still have my Monthly Reads post for October to post, but I didn't feel like it since I've just post September's last week. Maybe next week? :) So instead, you get this review!

I had other books I wanted to review first, but after the discussion topic of this week, I thought it would tie-in well if I reviewed The Next Always... and so The Next Always it is :) Enjoy the review!

The Next Always by Nora Roberts
published by Berkley in November 2011
The historic hotel in Boonsboro has endured war and peace, changing hands, even rumored hauntings. Now it’s getting a major facelift from the Montgomery brothers and their eccentric mother. Beckett is the architect of the family, and his social life consists mostly of talking shop over pizza and beer. But there’s another project he’s got his eye on: the girl he’s been waiting to kiss since he was fifteen.

After losing her husband and returning to her hometown, Clare Brewster soon settles into her life as the mother of three young sons while running the town’s bookstore. Busy, with little time for romance, Clare is drawn across the street by Beckett’s transformation of the old inn, wanting to take a closer look... at the building and the man behind it.

With the grand opening inching closer, Beckett’s happy to give Clare a private tour - one room at a time. It’s no first date, but these stolen moments are the beginning of something new - and open the door to the extraordinary adventure of what comes next...
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Inn Boonsboro trilogy, Book #1

The Story: The Montgomery brothers - Ryder, Owen and Beckett - along with their mother Justine are committed to bringing Inn Boonsboro back to its splendor and re-opening it for business. Beckett, the youngest, is the architect on this project, although he doesn't mind strapping on his tool belt to pitch in whenever necessary.

Clare Murphy Brewster married right out of high school and followed her husband who enlisted in the army to Kansas. After his death, she moved back to Boonsboro with her three boys and opened Turn the Page, her bookstore.

Beckett has been sweet on Clare since high school. With the inn bringing them closer together, Beckett seizes the opportunity to make his move on Clare and start his courtship...

My Opinion: I was a bit worried when I started this book because the reviews have been so-so... However, it turned out that I really enjoyed The Next Always! Perhaps it's because I went in with low expectations, but most probably I think it's because this book really suited my mood at that time :)

It seems to me the keyword to The Next Always was normal. Beckett and Clare live in Boonsboro where they grew up and therefore know almost everyone. They have normal lives, normal jobs, normal families. No big, dark secrets in their closets, no recent changes to adapt, no upheavals to overcome. Simply two persons who were friends and took their friendship a step further, with no obstacle standing in the way :)  It sounds simple and perhaps a little boring, but it wasn't. Sometimes, you need books like The Next Always because they're nice and feel real :)

I really liked the H/H in The Next Always. Beckett was a nice guy, fun even. He's had a crush on Clare for a long time and even now, often stops by her bookstore for books and coffee to see her :) I thought that was really sweet :) I loved how he connected with Clare's boys. He really enjoyed spending time with them and it showed. I liked that he wasn't out of his depth dealing with boys under 10 years old... Probably because he remembered being a boy of that age :) I also enjoyed Beckett's camaraderie with his own brothers. They really knew and understood each other well and had a good relationship. They also loved their mother, were a little scared of her and that was cute :) As for Clare, I liked her a lot as well. She was a great mom and her boys were happy and well adjusted. The children were definitively her priority, but she had space in her life for more :) I liked that she wasn't scared of starting a relationship with Beckett, that she didn't over-worry too much. I also liked her friendship with Avery and Hope - every woman needs girlfriends :) Ms Roberts also did a great job with the secondary cast. I loved Clare's sons, especially Murphy. They were a blast :) I liked what I've read so far of Owen, Ryder, Avery and Hope and I think Ms Roberts did a great job at keeping the sequel baiting at a minimum :)

The romance was nice and sweet :) Some feel that there wasn't enough focus on it, that Beckett and Clare didn't have enough alone time, but I didn't mind. They've known each other for a long time, so I didn't feel the need for them to always be together. Also, they were two busy persons - Beckett with the inn, Clare with the boys and the business, so it made sense to me that they couldn't always get together. However, when they did, they enjoyed it and that's what mattered :) The fact that there wasn't any big conflict worked for me, although it doesn't mean that the relationship was smooth sailing. There were a few kinks of course, but Beckett and Clare did a great job at communicating and compromising :) They were simply good together :)

One important part of the book was the inn and I know some feel that Ms Roberts focused a little bit too much on it... and most probably, they are right, but it didn't bother me. I considered the inn like another character of the book and as it is the central element to this trilogy, why not? In addition, I thought it was interesting to read about it. It made me feel part of the project. To read about Beckett and Justine's vision and reading about the brothers making it real... Also, may I say I really like the concept of the inn? The atmosphere they're aiming for, but also the rooms theme. Knowing it's real just makes it more awesome LOL. Oh and I thought the ghost was a nice touch to the story :)

The only thing that didn't really work for me is the stalker plot. I don't know, I think it didn't really fit with the mood of the book, although at the end, it was a good plot device to make Beckett and Clare's relationship advance. Also, now that I'm reviewing the book, it does seem that The Next Always is lacking a bit of depth. I mean, we really just see the surface of everything - the characters and the relationships. It doesn't bother me, but perhaps it will others ^_^;

My Grade: BThe Next Always is not Ms Roberts' most memorable book, but it worked for me. The writing was solid as usual and I liked the characters, the setting, the romance and the simplicity of the book :) I'm definitively looking forward to the next book in this trilogy, The Last Boyfriend. I really liked Owen - I find his organization skills sexy LOL.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review: Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep

Ugh, what an awful few days it's been. First, it's been really busy at work... and second, my computer is giving me trouble. Again. This time though, I'm throwing down the towel and I'm ready to buy a new computer. Except, buying one is not as easy as it seems or as it should be ^_^;  I'm debating whether I should still go with Dell or another brand and how long it'll take till I get it if I order it. Just yesterday night alone, I got the blue screen of death 6 times!!  That's not counting the number of times Chrome crashed on me! At the rate it's going, I won't be able to wait for long... so I'm thinking perhaps instant gratification at a store is the way to go instead of ordering online. Sigh, decision, decision, decision.

In the meantime, I'm really happy to finally have this review up!! Yay!! I'm really having a hard time putting reviews together lately. It's just not coming together nicely in my opinion... Despite that, I hope this review still make sense :) Let me know if it doesn't!!

Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep
published by Kensington in July 2011
My name is Gwen Frost, and I go to Mythos Academy — a school of myths, magic and warrior whiz kids, where even the lowliest geek knows how to chop off somebody's head with a sword and Logan Quinn, the hottest Spartan guy in school, also happens to be the deadliest.

But lately, things have been weird, even for Mythos. First, mean girl Jasmine Ashton was murdered in the Library of Antiquities. Then, someone stole the Bowl of Tears, a magical artifact that can be used to bring about the second Chaos War. You know, death, destruction and lots of other bad, bad things. Freaky stuff like this goes on all the time at Mythos, but I'm determined to find out who killed Jasmine and why—especially since I should have been the one who died...
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Series: Mythos Academy series, Book #1

The Story: In Gwen Frost's family, the women have powers. Her grandmother sees the future, her mother could sense the truth and Gwen knows, sees and feels an object or a person's history upon touch. Because of those powers, the Frost women are considered as Gypsies.

Six months ago, Gwen's mother died. Not long afterwards, Gwen was enrolled at Mythos Academy, an elite Ivy League prep school for the descendants of mythological warriors: Amazons, Valkyries, Romans, Vikings, Spartans, Trojans, Celts, Samurais, Ninjas and so on. Being the new kid is difficult, but in this case, Gwen just feels she doesn't fit in: she is not a warrior and cannot wield any weapon, she's not rich, she's not wearing any brand names and is into comics... Her friendless state doesn't really matter anyway as Gwen is still dealing with her grief.

Then, the most popular - and mean - girl, Jasmine Ashton, is murdered in the Library of Antiquities, where Gwen works, and the Bowl of Tears, one of the Thirteen Artifacts, is stolen... Jasmine wasn't among Gwen's favorite people, but she is bothered that everyone is indifferent to Jasmine's death. Something else that's on her mind is that Gwen actually touched Jasmine's blood and corpse... and didn't flash. Things just don't add up and therefore, Gwen decides to investigate Jasmine's death. And in the course of her investigation, she ends up making unexpected allies...

My Opinion: Well I've become a fan of Ms Estep with her Elemental Assassin series and I was looking forward to Touch of Frost because I thought that Ms Estep's writing would lend itself well to YA... and I was right :) Touch of Frost ended up being a really enjoyable read :)

I admit, I'm not a fan of high school drama. I know, I know, it's the predominant theme in YA books ^_^; I guess it's because I never experience high school drama to that extent, so I cannot relate. That's why I usually prefer paranormal or fantasy YA. However, in this instance, I think Ms Estep did a good job at blending the regular life of a teenager with the paranormal elements. It felt a bit like the Percy Jackon series version teenagers LOL. I like that while these characters were supernaturals: Valkyries, Spartans, etc., their concerns were ones from typical teenagers, i.e. going to school, having friends, their crushes, who are they going to go to the dance with and so on. For them, being supernatural didn't bring them more angst or make their lives so different. I liked that at Mythos Academy, they didn't need to hide who they were. As you can see, the setting  really worked for me.

Another aspect of the book that worked for me were the characters :) I really liked them. Gwen was a nice heroine that I could get behind and cheer for. She was quite independent and didn't really care about high school drama - a plus in my book :) I liked that she was her own person and was quite comfortable with it. I also liked that she wasn't too morose or depressed. Yes, her mother passed away and part of Gwen felt guilty and that's why she isolated herself in the past few months... However, she was ready to come out of her shell and move on, start making friends and live. Basically, she was a good character with a lot of potential and one that I'm curious to see what will happen to :) I also liked what I've seen of the secondary characters. I thought at first that Daphne would be a bitch, but it was nice to see things turn around and her becoming Gwen's ally. I'm looking forward for their relationship to develop :) Carson was a nice guy, a bit of a geek. I thought his romance with Daphne was cute and most likely, he will become the voice of reason in their little group. As for Logan, he was quite the mystery. It was hard to figure him out, as he blew hot and cold... Obviously though, the guy is interested in Gwen and I'm sure whatever his secret or reasons to be had to do with Gwen. Right now, I'm thinking he's her protector... He seemed to always be there at the right moment and probably know much more than he let on. I wonder how long it will take for Gwen to figure it out :)

There was a lot of world building in Touch of Frost, but Ms Estep was good at not dumping all the information at once. She was able to spread it out as the story went on and I thought the storyline was a good one. I liked seeing Gwen taking an interest and investigating Jasmine's death... although it felt like her amateur sleuthing was too easy. Also, the fact that the teachers didn't look more into Jasmine's death was highly suspicious in my opinion. In any case, the twist at the end was quite interesting and I didn't really expect it :) What I'm most happy about though is that Ms Estep cleared out the Gyspy thing in this book. First, it means she thought about it and so every dots should connect :) Also, it gives us a little idea of what to expect in the future.

All in all, Touch of Frost was a solid start to this series in my opinion. The style of the book is easy to read and enjoyable, the characters are engaging and the storyline was interesting. Ms Estep gives us enough information and answers so we are not too anxious and going crazy, but still looking forward to the next book :)

My Grade: B.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Self-promotion or harmless fun?

My plan for today was to have a review up... but as you can see, there is no review yet ^_^; One would think it shouldn't be too difficult to finish one that I've already started, but alas... I ended up cleaning my room yesterday ^_^; Poor excuse, but then, you haven't seen my room LOL. Then, today was busy, busy, busy! Plus, I blame Ames for stealing my reviewing mojo LOL. So instead, I've decided to bring up a discussion topic :)

The topic today is what do you think of authors mentioning bits and pieces of their other work in their newest books? And I'm not talking about books in a same series or that are loosely connected. For example, I was reading Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep and in it, Gwen mentioned how her mother and her enjoyed BBQ from the Pork Pit which is the restaurant that Gin, the heroine of her Elemental Assassin series, owns. In The Next Always by Nora Roberts, the rooms at the inn are named after popular romance couples such as Titiana and Oberon, Elizabeth and Darcy... and Eve and Roarke. I also remember in Night Pleasures by Sherrilyn Kenyon, the heroine was reading a book by Kinley MacGregor which is Ms Kenyon's pseudonym.

My question is: What do you think of those mentions? Is it self-promotion or harmless fun?

And when does it become too much? Once again, we go back to The Next Always by Nora Roberts. In Goodreads, Marg wrote in her thoughts of The Next Always: "Given that NR owns the Inn Boonsboro in real life, I can't quite decide if she is clever to write a story about something that she has personally spent a lot of time and effort on, if it is clever marketing for the town or Boonsboro or if it is one huge example of product placement." I read that comment a while ago and it stayed with me. I admit this is a bit different from what I brought up as it's not from Ms Roberts's previous books, but her real life... but I don't think it's off topic.

Personally, most of the time, I think it's fun that an author would mention something from her previous books in a newer one. Also, you have to be familiar with the books to catch those mentions so I think it's harmless and it's just fun for the authors as well :) I mean, as long as it doesn't overshadow the current story, it's all good and fun :)

When it comes from real life though, things become a bit more iffy. Usually, I don't have any problem either. For example, the Sherrilyn Kenyon and Kinley MacGregor thing - why not? :) Inside joke, right?  But recently, I read a book and it just rubbed me the wrong way. IIRC, it was in The Next Always again. They were looking to buy books for the library at the inn and a couple of romance author names were mentioned. It just seemed to me a bit clique-y. Are those authors friends with NR and that's why she mentioned them or simply just luck of the draw. I know, that's me being picky though and most probably, I'm over-thinking it ^_^;

As for the question Marg brought up...  Well I don't think it's a  huge product placement. Ms Roberts often write about different careers and she always does her research just well. This time she chose the inn to be the focus of this trilogy and it's not that different from her previous trilogies/quartets. Actually, while I knew she owned an inn, I didn't realize it was in Boonsboro. To me, it was simply a case of "you write what you know about." Although now that I am checking it out... the bookstore is indeed called Turn the Page and the Italian restaurant is Vesta, just like in the book. Hmmm, I guess the saying "ignorance is bliss" is true ^_^; Okay, now, perhaps I need to re-think this...

What are your thoughts?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monthly Reads: September 2011

Ugh, it's just just after midnight ^_^; Ah well, I can't do much about it. As I did not buy any books this week - yes, you've read that right and no, I'm not sick... simply, did you see my last two hauls?!? LOL. My plan for this week-end was to have my September reads post up to make up for no Hauling Sunday post - it's really becoming an habit. Plus, I'm already one month late... But as usual, my plans got derailed and instead of spending the week-end writing and refining this post, I ended up reading manga ^_^; I'm glad because it's been a while since I've read manga and I've discovered two new series :) However, on the down side, I didn't do anything... not blogging, not reading, and definitively not cleaning. Ah well, I guess I'll have to fit the cleaning some other time.

As a result, a word of warning, I have a feeling the mini-reviews are quite rough. I tried putting my thoughts together, but I feel they might not convey well what I mean to say about the books... plus, they might not be really coherent. Especially the last one... Anyway, you should get the gist though and there's always the grades you can trust :)

1) Demon Marked by Meljean Brook: B+

2) A Tale of Two Lovers by Maya Rodale: B-

This is Ms Rodale's second book in The Writing Girls Romance series. Lady Julianna Somerset is one of the four writing girls of The London's Weekly. She is secretly the author of the Society's column and while it started out as necessity, she has grown proud of her work. Julianna's identity as the author cannot be revealed as she wouldn't be invited to events anymore and Julianna needs this job as her deceased husband didn't leave much behind and she is too proud to ask help from her family as they disapproved her marriage - with good reasons. Julianna is always on the look-out for Lord Simon Roxbury as his love of women and good times always make good stories. Especially when she catches him in a torrid embrace with a woman dressed as a man! Of course, Julianna knows it's a woman... but it's never wrong to... imply.

To say Lord Simon is furious at the news, especially when his friends start giving him looks and ladies close their bedroom doors, is an understatement. Then, his father gives him an ultimatum to get married! Really, how is he going to achieve that when ladies are no longer receiving him? And Simon definitively knows who is to blame! And then, Lord Simon and Lady Julianna are caught in a compromising situation and have to get married... Can this marriage of convenience really turn into a love match?

I liked Ms Rodale's writing in A Groom of One's Own; however, the storyline wasn't to my taste. Therefore I was looking forward to A Tale of Two Lovers to see if Ms Rodale would make it on my list of authors to buy and I'm glad to report this book was more enjoyable than the previous one :) I think the storyline just worked better. It was very ironic that Julianna suggested in her column that Lord Simon had a penchant for men and that she ended up married to him LOL. Of course, she knew that it wasn't the case... Unfortunately, Simon kept finding himself in ambiguous situations LOL. So yes, that part was funny :)

I think A Tale of Two Lovers was a nice read, but I don't think it's a memorable one. Julianna and Simon were okay characters, but they don't capture your attention. What makes the book is the storyline. Personally though, I think I could have done without the marriage of convenience. There was enough material for Ms Rodale to work with: Julianna reporting on Lord Simon's tendency, Julianna wanting to discover the identity of her rival over at the other newspapers and Julianna's issues with marriage. I think the romance would have been more entertaining if they haven't been married. As it is, I think they fell in love a bit too fast. Just a thought.

So really, the jury is still out on Ms Rodale :) I'm most probably going to read more of her books; however, I'll be choosing the ones that attract me.

3) Archangel's Blade by Nalini Singh: C+

4) Revenge at Bella Terra by Christina Dodd: C-

Eli Di Luca's vineyard is in financial trouble and Eli is too proud to tell his family about it. Eli is becoming quite desperate when he is approached by this Italian man who proposes to save Eli's vineyard in exchange for Eli marrying his daughter. Eli thinks it's crazy... but he can't think of any other way out and accepts to woo Chloe Robinson, a best-seller author who needs a quiet place to overcome a severe case of second book syndrome. Chloe is aware of her father's matchmaking, but all that matters is her book and the deadline.

Revenge at Bella Terra just didn't work for me. It started out well enough for me with the introduction of the characters and the setting... Unfortunately, it didn't last ^_^; I liked the characters, but I think they didn't match each other well. First, there was the age difference between Eli and Chloe. Age is just a number and most of the time, if it's about 10 years give or take, I don't really care. The problem is that in this case, you felt the difference. Heck, it was obvious that Chloe made Eli feel old ^_^; and that's not good. Basically, Eli is a tough and hard man with quite a past, but he escaped and is now following his path making wines. Chloe is a young author, quite independent, who's really just starting her career. The two of them have nothing in common and quite frankly, there was no connection, no chemistry between the two. I also didn't like the idea that Eli precipitated Chloe into marriage to save his vineyard. I know at that point, he had feelings for Chloe, but the least he could have done was let her know what was going. It was obvious that the whole plan would exploded in his face and Chloe would be angry about it all. I just think it wasn't well done at all from Eli's part and it left a sour taste in my mouth.

Aside from the romance, the suspense was well done. There was a lot going on and I have to say, I liked the case concerning the still and the disappearance of the man. Unfortunately, I think the pacing didn't work that well and it probably has a lot to do with the balance of the book. As I said, there was a lot going on. Quite frankly, at the end of Revenge at Bella Terra, I wasn't involved in the book anymore and started skimming some parts, mainly because I wasn't engaged in the romance.

So I'm giving it a C- because there were some good elements in the book... Unfortunately, it just never came together for me.

5) Sean Grisworld's Head by Lindsey Leavitt: B
Upcoming Review.

6) The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June by Robin Benway: C+

April, May and June are going through a lot. Their parents have recently divorced, the girls had to move and are starting at a new school. As if it's not enough, they suddenly wake up with powers! April gets flashes of the future, May can become invisible and June can read people's thoughts! Of course, for June who wants to be popular, being able to know what others think come in quite handy. For May who's taken the divorce the hardest, becoming invisible is just reflecting her mood... although she's not sure she likes it quite that literal... And April who is the studious and responsible type, well now she's really a know-it-all!

This book came to my attention after I read a review for it on Alex' blog. I like psychic powers and I thought this would fit the bill. It also turned out that I was pretty burn-out in September, so to change things up, I started reading more YA. Good stuff for me :) The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June is more about the girls handling their new lives after the divorce and the new school and who just happens to have powers than them, dealing with their powers. I mean, sure they have to get familiar with their powers because May becoming invisible in public - not a good thing - and they use their powers and they were handy. However, what I mean is that these powers are not the focus of the story, the sisters don't look for the source of their powers or decide to play superheroes. In fact, I find that they adapt quite rapidly to their powers and it just becomes a part of their lives.

I'd say out of the three girls, I liked April's storyline the most and June's, the least. I'm sorry, but I can't help but dislike girls that want to be part of the popular group no matter what. Most of the time, these characters are just so superficial and I think that was the case with June. April, well I think it's because she kind of had a romance. May's storyline though was the most realistic I think. Being angry is normal at her age, but add everything that's going on and yeah, it's not easy to be a teenager. One thing that Ms Benway captured well in this book was the sisterhood, i.e. the bickering LOL. Okay, seriously, there was no doubts that these three girls were sisters... and the bonds between them were solid. Overall, The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June was really the story of three sisters going through a tough period in their lives and them having powers was just a bonus. It was a nice read, but not one that stood out.

7) Cheri on Top by Susan Donovan: B-
Upcoming Review.

8) New York to Dallas by J.D. Robb: C
Upcoming Review.

9) Second Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones: A-

10) The Duff (The Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger: C

Bianca Piper is not impressed by Wesley Rush whom she considers a man-slut, especially after he calls her the DUFF: the Designated Ugly Fat Friend. Unfortunately for her, she gets stuck with him on an assignment for English and therefore, can't ignore him.

Then, she learns that her mother, who's been going away more and more in the past years, has asked for a divorce and her father has started drinking again. Things are definitively not going well at home and Bianca needs to escape, needs to be distracted... and finds refuge in Wesley's arms. At first, it's just sex... but soon, Bianca realizes that Wesley is more than a man-slut. However, she's not sure she can see him under a new light and have a relationship with him. It gets even more complicated when her long-time crush becomes single...

There was a lot of buzz about this book on blogland last year and I wanted to check it out. I have to say though, straight contemporary YA novels are not my favorite... mostly because I don't really care about high school drama. On that front, The Duff wasn't bad at all. In fact, I think it had a lot of depth to it. Bianca is going through a tough time at home and wants to escape and she does it by having sex with Wesley and withdrawing from her friends. I thought what Bianca was going through and her way of coping was very realistic. And the more time she spent with him, the more she learned about the true Wesley. I can also understand why Bianca had difficulty to trust Wesley... Him calling her the Duff, well it didn't endear him to her and obviously, it brought into question whether or not he found her attractive and really wanted her. I did think Ms Keplinger started laying it a bit thick with Wesley's story though. Although there are more and more negligent parents and it made sense... it's just overall, The Duff was quite serious in tone and I think I need a bit of happiness, of glimmer somewhere.

Basically, I can understand why this book was so popular and such a success. It has depth and is quite realistic and I think it reaches a lot of the readers. Unfortunately, I'm not among those readers ^_^; I thought the book was a bit on the boring side with not a lot happening. There was just too much internal monologues and passages that it never really gripped me.

11) At Hidden Falls by Barbara Freethy: D

Isabella Silviera is on her way to Angel's Bay to visit her older brother when her car is hit and she almost goes over the cliff. Luckily for her, Nick Hartley was passing by and saved her. Instantly, there's an attraction between the two of them... However, Nick is in no position to get involved in a relationship. He's trying to mend his relationship with his teenage daughter who has recently moved in with him after she's spent the last 10 years with her mother in England and she is definitively his priority. Unfortunately for him, Angel's Bay is small and he keeps running into Isabella, especially when she decides to volunteer at the Hartley family theater. As for Isabella, while she understands Nick's position, she is not about to give up on the man... as he's been haunting her dreams for quite some time now.

At Hidden Falls was a meh book. Perhaps it's because I haven't read the first three books or it might have been my mood... but basically, I never got into this book. The whole storyline simply didn't appeal to me. I did like Isabella and Nick, but there was just too much going on and in the way. It bothers me when one minute, a character says s/he can't be in a relationship or can't do this or that and the next minute, s/he's doing exactly that. And this was the case with Nick. I don't think it makes you a bad parent if you start a new relationship... it's really simply the way you handle it. Nick was too wishy-washy and it ruined the romance for me. Despite Nick haunting Isabella's dreams, I never felt much chemistry between the two. Isabella is quite confident in herself, but she never went after Nick. Finally, they just didn't spend enough time together for me to really buy the romance ^_^;

Also, there was just too much about the subplot which was about a young, single mother disappearing. Her baby is left with the town's doctor who is still feeling the lost of her own baby as a teenager and who must choose between two beaux. And oh, the baby's father is married and actually, among one of four couples who wants to adopt the baby. Yeah, complicated, much, right? This part of the storyline was just too prominent and not really interesting as it didn't connect to the real main characters. I guess it does serve to set-up the doctor's book, but I never took the bait. Simply wasn't interested ^_^; Then, you add in my burn-out for small-town romances and all in all, this book didn't have much going on to interest me :(

12) Spider's Revenge by Jennifer Estep: B

13) Flawless by Carrie Lofty: B
Upcoming Review.

Books bought: + 15
Books read: -13
TBR pile: +2

September really felt like a slow month for me. The biggest problem I had that month is I started feeling burn-out on many genres. I just didn't feel like reading historical or contemporary romances which are two genres that I read a lot. Urban fantasy also held little appeal ^_^; That's when I started turning to YA and lucky me, it worked! I ended up with 13 reads, so overall I'm happy because it's in the double digits. I'm also happy that I managed to review quite a few of them already... Hopefully, I'll be able to review all I want.

All right, need to go to sleep now! Night night!