Monday, October 31, 2011

Review: Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins

Disclaimer: I've received Until There Was You as an eARC from Netgalley

Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins
published by HQN Books (Harlequin) in October 2011
Posey Osterhagen can't complain. She owns a successful architectural salvaging company, she's surrounded by her loveable, if off-center, family and she has a boyfriend—sort of. Still, something's missing. Something tall, brooding and criminally good-looking...something like Liam Murphy.

When Posey was sixteen, the bad boy of Bellsford, New Hampshire, broke her heart. But now he's back, sending Posey's traitorous schoolgirl heart into overdrive once again. She should be giving him a wide berth, but it seems fate has other ideas...
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: none

The Story: While the blurb is accurate, it left out some important details. So hopefully, my summary will fill in some blanks :)

Posey Osterhagen's first love was Bellsford's bad boy Liam Murphy; unfortunately, he had eyes only for nice girl Emma Tate. Unbeknownst to him though, Liam broke Posey's heart during prom when he made a very hurtful comment.

Years have gone by and Posey has put it all behind her. At least, that's what she thinks until Liam, who is now a widower, is moving back to Bellsford so his teenage daughter, Nicole, can be closer to her maternal grandparents. For some reasons, the two of them keep running into each other... and soon, Posey finds herself falling for him once again. However, things are complicated as a potential client is dangling an important salvaging contract at Posey and Posey's very demanding cousin, who always made Posey feel inadequate, is coming to town for an extended visit. In all this chaos, Posey must deal with her feelings for Liam, try not to get hurt as last time and not forget that Liam's priority is his daughter.

My Opinion: Before reading Until There Was You, I was a bit wary of the book. First, I was afraid that I was a bit burn-out on Ms Higgins' books because she has a very unique style and when you read many of her books, her heroines and the storylines start to blend together ^_^; Second there was the switch from first to third POV and finally, the so-so reviews that have been popping up on blogland. Perhaps it's because I came in with low expectations, but I ended up enjoying Until There Was You quite a bit :)

Until There Was You is a pretty typical Kristan Higgins book in the sense that readers get a fun and successful heroine with a quirky family, quirky friends and a big dog who is looking for love. While it sounds familiar, Ms Higgins keeps it fresh by varying the details and does a really good job :) The best part of Until There Was You though was the characterization of Posey and Liam. Ms Higgins did a great job at developing and fleshing the H/H so we had complex and flawed characters :) Posey was very likable. I loved that she was happy with her life: loved her job, had great relationships with her family and was surrounded by good friends. I think there's a bit too many down-on-their-luck heroines, heroines that must do something big in order to save their job, heroines that want to prove themselves at the cost of love and/or heroines that are desperate for marriage and children. It is nice to have happy heroines and there definitively should be more of them in romance. While Posey is happy, it does not mean she's not vulnerable. I thought the issues Posey had were different and refreshing - her weight, the evil cousin, etc. It showed different sides of Posey, made her more sympathetic and real. In contrast, Liam was not as likable as Posey, but he was as well developed. I liked that he really loved Emma, but he wasn't blind to the problems in their marriage. I liked that he did not idealize or revile his wife. He was very realistic about it and I thought that was refreshing. I also liked that he was honest - that's always a great quality in an hero. He was also a great father, perhaps a bit over-protective, but it made sense given the circumstances.

The romance was an interesting one. I thought it was a bit uneven as in the beginning, Posey seems to have the impression that Liam does not like her and Liam seems to be a bit freaked out by Posey's stalker-ish manners when they were younger... And Ms Higgins never goes back to these feelings, to work them out or explain them. Instead, she moves forward. I liked that the relationship took time to establish between the two of them as they are different persons. I never had the feeling that Posey fell in love with the "young" Liam or her idealized version of Liam. Also, I loved that Liam realized that he was happy with Posey and what a mistake he did and that nobody around him really nudged him. I wouldn't say the romance in Until There Was You is very romantic, not a lot of "ahhhh" and "ohhhh" - although there is a grand gesture at the end - but everything was resolved in a satisfying manners and I liked it :)

Other things that I enjoyed in this book was Posey's interactions with her family and friends. I loved seeing her hanging out with her best friends (one of them her brother-in-law, Jon). I do wish that we've seen more of her relationship with her brother, Henry. Also, Henry and Jon were a great couple and every time they appear, the mood of the book lightened up :)  I enjoyed the light-hearted scenes: the baseball matches, the prom, the cooking for singles LOL. Ms Higgins really has a talent for blending funny situations with more serious matters and she proves it once again in Until There Was You. There was a lot going on in this book, but in the end, Ms Higgins juggled with everything and Until There Was You turned out to be a well-balanced book.

One of the thing I was most happy about was getting Liam's POV. This book would have never worked otherwise. I think Ms Higgins did a great job at handling the switch from first to third POV. I always felt in the past that her books were more chick-lit because of the first POV and have wished several time that she'd do the switch so it'd be more contemporary romance... and it was :) I hope she will continue in that direction with her future books!

My Grade: B.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hauling Sunday LXI

It's Sunday again!! Why do week-ends go by so fast, but not weekdays? It's definitively unfair in my opinion. I was planning to do a bit more of blogging, but this week turned out to be quite busy. Part of it was work as usual, but another part was that I went to see The Three Musketeers on Wednesday evening. Yes, going to the movies has disrupted my routine... Doesn't take much LOL. That and my sister hijacking my computer.

I've had a bit of the blues this week. I just don't know what to read ^_^; The usual dilemma LOL. To cheer me up and spur my reading, I went to the bookstore on Friday evening. I've been planning it out the whole week ^_^; 1) I had an additional 20% off if my purchase was over 35$ and 2) I wanted that blanket that is 30$ if I spend more than 50$... Tell me, why do the books I want never come to the same bookstore?!? Most of the releases was available at bookstore #1 and one or two, at bookstore #2 ^_^; At the end, I was lucky a friend  came with me and bought a travel book as one of the new releases I wanted was on strict release date. Plus, the sale person just couldn't find it ^_^; Okay, enough babbling. Here is what I got :)

Until There was You by Kristan Higgins - I'm a big fan of Ms Higgins. I've read some so-so reviews on this book and I've actually read the Netgally e-ARC. Well in the end, I enjoyed it enough to get my own copy :)

Beauty Dates the Beast by Jessica Sims - Found this one out thanks to blogland :) It's been getting some good reviews. It sounds very funny which is what I've been in the mood for :)

The Famous Heroine and The Plumed Bonnet by Mary Balogh - These are re-prints. I've fallen in love with Ms Balogh's this year and so am collecting her backlist :)

The Fall of Lucas Kendrick by Kay Hooper - Another re-print. Unconditional fan of Ms Hooper here. I've read the first two books in this series and enjoyed it. I have to say though, I'm really looking forward to her next FBI SCU book... When is it coming out?!?

The Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams - This was a calculated risk. It has faeries in it... but KMont seems to have enjoyed it a lot. She's a big reader of UF as well and if she enjoyed it so much, I think it's worth a shot.

There is my week :) I'm hoping to get some more this coming week, hopefully my 20% off coupon will still be usable :) What about you? What did you get this week?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review: Bring Me Home for Christmas by Robyn Carr

Bring Me Home for Christmas by Robyn Carr
published by Mira (Harlequin) in October 2011
This year, Becca Timm knows the number one item on her Christmas wish list—getting over Denny Cutler. Three years ago, Denny broke her heart before heading off to war. It's time she got over her silly high-school relationship and moved on.

So she takes matters into her own hands and heads up to Virgin River, the rugged little mountain town that Denny calls home, as an uninvited guest on her brother's men-only hunting weekend. But when an accident turns her impromptu visit into an extended stay, Becca finds herself stranded in Virgin River. With Denny. In very close quarters.

As the power of Christmas envelops the little town, Becca discovers that the boy she once loved has become a strong and confident man. And the most delicious Christmas present she can imagine.
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Virgin River, Book #14

The Story: Becca Timm finds herself free during the Thanksgiving holidays and decide to join her twin brother's men-only hunting weekend in Virgin River. Obviously, Becca has no interest in hunting and the real goal of this trip is to see Denny Cutler again. Three years ago, Denny broke up with her before heading for Afghanistan and Becca was devastated. Time has passed and she is now dating a law student, Doug, who is about to propose to her. Unfortunately, as things are right now, Becca wouldn't be able to accept Doug's proposal in good conscience as she's still not over Denny. So Becca is determined to see Denny, get some closure and move on. However, things don't go as planned when Becca breaks her ankle and therefore is stuck in Virgin River for two weeks, in close proximity to Denny, and her boyfriend turns out to be an egoistical jerk...

At first, it's a shock for Denny to see Becca in Virgin River. Although Denny is the one who broke up with Becca, he always loved her... Now that he has a second chance, Denny is not about let it slipped... and he'll make this relationship work no matter what.

My Opinion: Wow, I can't believe Bring Me Home for Christmas is the 14th book in this series... I remember when I picked up Virgin River :) Back then, I didn't know what to expect, but it turned out to be formidable read! Good times really :) Now, I know exactly what to expect from these books... and that's why I continue reading. Comfort :)

Bring Me Home for Christmas is Denny's book. I have to admit when I read the blurb in the bookstore, it took me a few minutes to realize who Denny was ^_^; I hadn't paid much attention to the blurb before that, because this book had slipped under my radar. So I was a bit surprised that it was Denny's book and felt like it came out of nowhere LOL. I guess I expected more buzz - from the author and the bloggers - since Denny is such a great guy :) I was also surprised that Denny got his book so soon because it seems to me his character has not been fleshed enough in the previous installments. Yes, he's been through a lot - his mother's death, the war, a romance that didn't work out and the disappointment that Jake was not his biological father... but most of it happened off the pages, before he came to Virgin River. In the books, the Denny we've seen is a bit uni-dimensional in my opinion: the nice guy who helps around. He's nice, smart, not afraid of hard work, responsible and satisfied with a simple life. I mean, those are great qualities that make him such a likable character. At the same time, I can't help but feel it makes him way too mature for his 25 years old. You'll argue with me that it's because of what he's been through... Yet, it's so at odd with the man who was so enthusiastic learning about farming, seeing the fruits of his labor grow or the one who "ran away" when he learned Jake wasn't his father. Despite how likable and responsible Denny is, I wish we've seen him grow a bit more, find himself a bit before he got his own book... That way not only would I understand him better, but would have also connected more with him. Or if not before his book, than in his book... Unfortunately, Bring Me Home for Christmas was more Becca's book than Denny's book.

Sigh, looks like I got carried away a little LOL. So let me start from the beginning :) I enjoyed Bring Me Home for Christmas and thought it was a nice addition to the series. Becca and Denny were obviously not over each other and they were lucky to get a second chance and it was a nice story for Christmas. Of course, there were some flaws to the book. As a whole, I thought Becca was a nice girl. Young, vibrant and confident, but what I admire most about her was her honesty. Not committing to marriage with her new boyfriend because she might still be hung up on the previous - not many heroines would question themselves as Becca did and take the steps for closure. Not only it was honest with herself, but it was also a mature decision. However, there were definite times when Becca got on my nerves. What bothered me the most is that she didn't really compromise in the romance, in the relationship. Granted, she didn't have to because Denny was pretty quick sacrificing himself and decreeing he was going to follow her anywhere she went and then, she ended up getting a job... But what if she had to? Would she have compromised to make this relationship work? I'm not sure. At the end of it all, I guess I felt Becca was a bit self-centered.

This brings me to the romance. It's always nice to see two lovers get back together especially given it was more circumstantial in the case of Becca and Denny than them growing apart or fighting like crazy. Unfortunately, in Bring Me Home for Christmas, I thought there was not enough focus on the romance. Everything happened really fast. I know that Becca and Denny are familiar with each other, but the readers aren't. I would have liked to see Becca and Denny really work out their relationship, take more time before jumping in. Instead, everything was really rushed and worked out too easily, especially with Denny deciding to go back to San Diego. As you can see, that part really bothered me. I understand that he loved her, but at the same time, he was willing to give up everything - his new friends, his new promising job... and because the romance was not fleshed enough and me, not engaged in enough, I'm not sure that Becca was worth it ^_^; I seriously think the romance would have worked better also if there had been more of Denny's POV. See what he was thinking and feeling. Instead, Bring Me Home for Christmas is 3/4 Becca's POV. That's why earlier, I said that this was more Becca's book than Denny's. That was another disappointment, seeing at how great Denny has been as a character. I was expecting more of him and from this book. At the end, it made me wish that Denny has met a new woman instead of getting back together with Becca ^_^;

My last issue with this book was the whole holiday spirit element. I don't mind theme books at all and I think that what they do in Virgin River is great actually: the Christmas tree, the decorating and the Thanksgiving and Christmas boxes. That's the holidays spirit and how a community should be :) However, I thought Ms Carr went a bit heavy-handed this time around and it impeded on the romance. It felt to me the author wrapped up the romance really fast and then focused on these holidays things to convince the heroine to stay, show her how great Virgin River was and yes, you really want to live here ^_^; If there'd been more balance between the romance and this, it would have been a better book.

Okay, it sounds like I had a lot of issues with this book and perhaps I did, LOL. However, it was also nice to be back in Virgin River and to see everyone. Having Jack and Preacher taking Denny under their wings, I knew we would see them and their family... but this time around, I think Ms Carr did a great job at keeping their appearances as cameos :) Nobody took over the spotlight, it was definitively focused on Becca and Denny :) Overall, Denny and Becca were nice and likable characters with flaws and the story was sweet. Exactly what you expect from a book in this series :)

My Grade: C+.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Monthly Reads: August 2011

Guess what? I didn't buy any books this week! Didn't even step in a bookstore. True, I bought most of what I wanted last week... but that's just a detail, right? LOL. As a result, since there's no Hauling Sunday post to write, I decided to tackle my Monthly Reads posts ^_^; I've been lazy lately and therefore, August was never posted. Well I've rectified that today! Yay! Finally!

It didn't take as long as I thought, but I don't know, all the mini-reviews sounds so-so. It's been so long since I've written one it seems I've lost my touch ^_^; Still, it's better than never posting it :) Now, I need to work on September's... Only one week-end left. Wish me luck!

In the meantime, enjoy August!

1) The Soldier by Grace Burrowes: C-

Devlin St. Just is the acknowledged bastard of the Duke of Moreland and has just been given the Earldom of Rosecroft. However, a surprise awaits for him when he gets to his new estate... the bastard child of the previous earl... And then, the urchin turns out to be a girl! No matter, Devlin has experience with children and knows what the child is going through... What he does not have experience with is the child's cousin and guardian, Emmie Farnum. Emmie had planned to take Winnie away, to forge themselves a new life. However, the child has taken to new earl and he is willing to take care of her... What right does she have to take Winnie away then? Except one thing is sure, Emmie cannot stay.

My biggest issue with The Soldier is that it couldn't hold my attention. There were some positive things: I liked Devlin's character and loved his interactions with Winnie - he was just so at ease with her, it was really heart-warming. I liked that we got to see Devlin's younger brother Valentine again. He's quite an interesting character. Unfortunately, I didn't care much about Emmie and the romance ^_^; I thought the overall story was dragging and considering how thick this book is, that is not a good thing ^_^; I just want Devlin and Emmie to get on with their relationship and I think Emmie could have come clean earlier. Then again, facing someone as perceptive as Devlin, she didn't really have to. Also, I'm still confused about Devlin's whole family situations. I know some of his brothers died and one of them left a wife and a daughter behind... but I still don't get why Devlin has never met his niece? Overall, I think if the whole storyline had been tighter and Emmie was less wishy-washy, I would have enjoyed it more.

2) Magic Dreams by Ilona Andrews/Curran POV and Fathers and Sons by Gordon Andrews

3) The Dangerous Viscount by Miranda Neville: C-

Sebastian Iverley is passionate about books, but doesn't care much about women... Until he falls under the charms of Lady Diana Fanshawe and even shares a kiss with her. However, when he finds out the kiss was part of a bet between Lady Diana and his cousin, Sebastian is hurt... and angry. Angry enough to plot revenge.

Lady Diana is a widow of a baron who has always had a crush on Sebastian's cousin, Lord Blakeney, and is determined to marry him. She meets Sebastian during a visit and while he looks nice, he's not as handsome as his cousin, is badly dressed and wouldn't elevate her status. However, after she shares a kiss with him, Lady Diana cannot help but pay attention to him... and then, his situation changes and Lady Diana finds herself choosing him over Lord Blakeney.

The Dangerous Viscount started off well in my opinion. Sebastian was a total beta hero, very nerdy, but interesting. Him going to his friend Tarquin to learn how to dress better and stuff was cute and funny LOL. Also, I think his childhood stories explain his personality very well and why he didn't care much for women. So yeah, I liked him... until he decided to take revenge on Lady Diana. I just thought he should be above that... Then again, he was really hurt and so I guess it does make sense. As for Lady Diana, I loved her family. They were eccentric, but interesting and Sebastian fit well in. Lady Diana though? I didn't like her. I thought she was too shallow... Just the way she judged Sebastian by the way his clothes fit and the way he sat a horse. Then, taking that bet with Lord Blakeney so he would pay more attention to her. I don't understand why she wasn't happier in life, considering she was a wealthy widow... The way she was embarrassed by her family.

I think Ms Neville does a good job at setting up a book - the characters and the setting... It has a lot of potential... Unfortunately, the direction the book takes is where everything goes wrong for me ^_^;

4) Heartbreak Creek by Kaki Warner: C

The South has been torn apart by the civil war and as a result, Edwina Ladoux has lost her home. In order to start afresh and keep a roof over her and her sister's head, she's decided to become a mail-order bride for Declan Brodie in Heartbreak Creek, Colorado. However, as she approached her destination, Edwina is starting to have some doubts... Especially as Edwina does not know much about cooking, cleaning and children... which were Declan's requirements. Once Declan sees Edwina, he starts having doubts of his own. She's definitively not was he hoped for, but he can't help but being attracted to her. Still, what is he to do with a wife that can't help him? He's already had one running away with a gambler and then, gotten herself dead. So Declan and Edwina decide to give their marriage a three-months trial and see if this can work...

Okay, so I picked up Heartbreak Creek because I've been meaning to give Ms Warner a try. All in all, I think Ms Warner's writing is excellent and understands why she won a RITA this year :) Unfortunately, well, I'm just not a fan of Western ^_^; I just had difficulty getting into the story. The beginning was okay, seeing Edwina and Declan tip-toeing around each other, Edwina facing the 4 kids. She's lucky she had help from her sister!! LOL. However, once the Indians came into the picture, I started losing interest a little. I guess it's simply not a time period I relate well to. I wasn't that thrilled either by the dead wife re-appearing, although it did shake things up a bit.

5) Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park: B

6) Storm's Heart by Thea Harrison: C-

7) Ghost Story by Jim Butcher: A-
Upcoming Review.

8) The Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver: C

Seventeen years old Riley Blackthorne hopes to follow in her father's footsteps and become a Demon Trapper. However, the task ahead of her is monumental as there's no female Demon Trappers... and it doesn't help her case when one of her assignment goes south. Things go from bad to worse when her father is killed by a demon and Riley is orphaned. What Riley doesn't realize yet is that she's become a target for some very powerful demons... because Heaven has chosen her.

I really, really wanted to like The Demon Trapper's Daughter... but the book simply felt flat for me. One of the reason is the world-building. It's actually an interesting world, but what I don't get it how it turned that way. There were a lot of references at how it was before, but the big event that change things completely was never explained. Perhaps the author is keeping it for the future, but it just got me confused, curious and frustrated. Also, I would have liked the demons to be explained to me. How many kinds they are, how are they graded, etc.

Then, there was Riley. Not the most likable heroine I've come across. I want to be sympathetic, because she's gone through a lot of harsh events in the course of The Demon Trapper's Daughter; yet, I can't relate to her, like her ^_^; One of the biggest reasons I think is the way she treats Beck - her father's apprentice. She used to have a crush on him and because of their age difference, Beck rejected her and she seems to have a grudge. It's hard because you can see Beck trying his hardest to help her out, especially after the death of her father... and the way she treats him. I think you have to be pragmatic at times and understands... and she doesn't.

So far, I'm not sure whether I'm going to continue this series or not. This book was clearly setting up for things... but it's really vague as what to expect. Some people won't mind, but I need more to be hooked.

9) Texas Blue by Jodi Thomas: B

Duncan McMurray was tasked by his uncle to find three eligible men and arranged for them to travel to Whispering Mountain to be introduced to his three female cousins. However, instead of accompanying them, Duncan goes on an expedition with the Texan's Rangers. Lewton Paterson is Duncan's good friend and is aware of Duncan's duty. When one of the eligible man turns out to be not so quite eligible, Lewton decides to take his place. At first, it is just for fun and to help out a friend... But as Lewton approaches Whispering Mountain, he realizes that he is tired of his current life - being a gambler man, and he'd like to settle down, start a family and become respectable... and starts to make plans.

Emily McMurry has no intention to be married. All she wants to do is help her father taking care of the ranch and so has asked a friend to impersonate her. Meanwhile, she'll be free to come and go and continue on with life. As a mere employee, Emily did not expect Lewton to seek her out. The man is clearly not a rancher, but he wants to learn about the life... and Emily finds no reason why not. Perhaps if she works him too hard, he'll just up and leave. However, Lewton is made of sterner stuff.

There's something about Ms Thomas' writing, it is so gentle and delicate, that sets her western apart. It's hard for me to describe that quality, but even when her books are filled with action, you can still feel the gentleness and it gives a distinct feel to the storyline :) Texas Blue is no exception and overall, I thought this was a cute book :) I liked both characters, Lewton and Emily. I liked Lewton's smoothness, but at the same time, his honesty. The fact that he was willing to learn about ranching and work hard. You can feel that he really wants to settle. I think it was also humbling for him to realize that despite his charms and planning, it's not only a question of wooing the lady that will get him everything. The lady actually has to choose him as well. It was heart-breaking when he was about to give up because he knew none of them were interested in him. As for Emily, I liked her... but her aversion to men bothered me a little. I understand she was traumatized as a child... but after growing up in a loving family with a lot of men, for her not to do the distinction between a good man and a bad one. It was a bit baffling.

The romance between Lewton and Emily was very nice. It was like a flower blooming. Slow at the beginning, they got to know each other by spending time working and then, developed some feelings. Because both were hiding their true identities, it didn't bother me much that they kept their secrets and at the end, it worked out well :) I also really liked Lewton's friendship with Duncan and their efforts to save the man :) All in all, a very enjoyable read :)

10) The Many Sins of Lord Cameron by Jennifer Ashley: B+
Upcoming Review.

11) Attachments by Rainbow Rowell: B+
Upcoming Review.

12) Changing the Game by Jaci Burton: C+
Upcoming Review.

13) Only Yours by Susan Mallery: B-

14) Good Girls Don't by Victoria Dahl: C+

Tessa Donovan might be the baby of the family, but she plays the role of the middle child, keeping the peace between two older brothers. She's spent a lifetime covering for Jaime's mistakes and that's what she does after Jaime sleeps with the daughter of one of their potential business associate, leaving the deal in jeopardy, despite Jaime's protests. She also has to deal with the robbery at the brewery which puts her to close proximity with Detective Luke Asher, Jaime's college friend. Even with her busy schedule, she is determined to explore the sparks between them.

Ugh, okay, very bad recap, but it gives you the gist of the story. In any case, this book has gotten a lot of buzz, a lot of reviews and that's why I decided not to write a full review. Basically, I liked Ms Dahl's writing and style in Good Girls Don't and I loved the hero. I thought Luke Asher was an awesome hero. He's sexy, patient, loyal and caring... He stood by his wife, he stood by his partner despite what it did to his reputation. I can't imagine how hurt he must have been by their actions and the rumors and yet, he let people think what they wanted... I think it takes courage and strength to do what he did. What brought down the grade for me was the heroine, Tessa. I just couldn't stand her. I know she wanted the best for her family, but she acted so immaturely and the lies and manipulations. It's really not how a family should be. The worst is that Jaime wanted to come clean. Both her and Ethan kept harping on how Jaime was immature and irresponsible, but they didn't let Jaime be himself, grow up and act maturely. Also, the whole "Madonna-whore" complex kept being mentioned in the book and that just turned me off. Her being "perfect" and a "virgin" was just another lie of her. I don't know, after what the three siblings have gone through together, I expected there to be more honesty and more trust between them. Overall, I think Good Girls Don't could have been a great book, if the heroine had been more likable, less neurotic ^_^;

15) One Good Reason by Sarah Mayberry: C+

Jon Adamson is at some loose ends. He sold his business in Canada, rushed back to Australia so he could be by his father's side when he died, but was too late. As a result, he never got closure for the years of abuse he suffered at his father's hands. When his brother Tyler brow-beat Jon into working for him in his custom furniture business, Jon accepts... knowing it's not permanent. He's just passing time while he figures out what he'll do next... but he can't deny that building furniture soothes him.

Gabby Wade is the office manager. She was once in a relationship with Tyler, but had to break it off because Tyler wouldn't open to her and their relationship couldn't continue on as it was... Now Tyler is newly married and Gabby can't help but be jealous of his new-found happiness. Why couldn't it be her? Eventually, Gabby and Jon start their own relationship... but will it end the same way?

I think One Good Reason was slightly better than The Last Goodbye. At least, it was less heart-breaking. Ms Mayberry wrote two well-developed characters that had their share of baggage, especially Jon. I liked Jon and I can't imagine ever being in his shoes. I think he was really lost after the death of his father - the lack of closure. Then, there he is, in Australia... His only family left is Tyler, but they've never been close... and now, he wonders if it's too late, if they've drifted apart too much to ever really connected. As for Gabby, I really admired her for ending her relationship with Tyler. Sometimes, you have to take tough decision. She knew what she wanted in a relationship and Tyler wasn't giving it to her... so she had to move on. Except, she didn't really move on ^_^; She didn't go out and try to find someone else. Anyway, at times, I found her independence a bit annoying. It was more a shield for stubbornness. Also, her first impressions of Jon really rubbed me the wrong way. How she was so quick to judge him, to think the worst of him.

Overall, One Good Reason was a good read, with well developed characters. I think Ms Mayberry did a good job as well with the romance. The characters really got to know each other and they've learned from their past. However, this wasn't a very happy-happy read ^_^; It was very emotion-heavy and perhaps not what I needed at the time I read it.

16) When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James: A-
Upcoming Review.

17) Stand-in Wife by Karina Bliss: B-

Vivienne Jansen is a costume designer in the States and had some free time, therefore decided to go back to Australia to surprise her family. Upon her arrival, she finds her twin sister in a middle of a crisis. Perfect Meredith has separated from her husband and is looking for a new job... in a new town. During the interview, Meredith breaks her leg and she's in a frenzy - if her husband finds out that she was planning to take the children to a new town, he'll sue for custody and will have big chances to win. Vivienne assures her twin that she will keep the secret and take care of the children while Meredith is at the hospital... and somehow, Vivienne ends up impersonating Meredith! However, it won't be easy to keep up the charade when her niece is blackmailing her with the secret and sparks from the past fly between her and Meredith's brother-in-law, Ross Coltrane.

This was an enjoyable category romance. Despite the length, it was quite meaty. We have Vivienne who is helping out her sister and at the same time, dealing with twin issues. Vivienne has always been independent and a bit of a free spirit and therefore, had difficulties being a twin. Added in the sisters were type-cast: Meredith was perfect and Vivienne... was not. This has caused a rift between the twinship that Vivienne now has to deal with. Then, there's Meredith who strayed... Or did she? Can a kiss and some emails be considered cheating? Meredith was tired of being a mom and a wife, she wanted some sparks back in her marriage and therefore, indulged in some flirting... Then again, if she wasn't so controlling, if she wasn't micro-managing everything, would her marriage turned out the way it had? Then, there's the niece who's gotten everything ever since her parents have separated to make up for it... This has made her spoiled and not really nice... Then, there's Ross who's a special forces elite soldier and demolitions expert and he's been injured very severely. He's working himself into the ground to get back into shape and get out there again... wanting to seek revenge for two of his friends. However, can he ever?

Like I said, very meaty book. Was there too much going on? Perhaps, but I thought Ms Bliss did a great job. The only problem I think was the romance suffered a bit. Also, considering that Vivienne is impersonating Meredith and there's a limit at just how far Vivienne and Ross can take things... Even though Ross finds out early about Vivienne's impersonation. I definitively think Ms Bliss could write another book, focusing on Vivienne and Ross romance. I would read it :) In any case, the characters were interesting and well fleshed out. They were flawed and real and did grow up a bit by the end of the book. Oh and the baby, Harry, was adorable!

18) Heiress in Love by Christina Brooke: B+
Upcoming Review.

Books bought: + 15
Books read: -18
TBR pile: - 3

I'm happy with the month, number-wise. 18 is pretty good and I have a negative number from the TBR pile :) Also, a couple of the books did come from my RWA TBR pile, so that's good. However, most of the books were C-range ^_^; I don't know if it was just me... but I don't know, I just didn't connect with most books I've read and found fault with a lot of heroes and heroines ^_^; I'm thinking perhaps it's my mood. Ah well, what's done done, right? :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review: Archangel's Blade by Nalini Singh

Nothing new with me. Work, blogging and reading. The usual :) Still addicted to Bu Bu Jing Xin and since I've reviewed twice this week (!!), it's been cutting in my reading time ^_^; But hey, I'm reviewing again, so it's worth it :)

Review today is Archangel's Blade by Nalini Singh. Please peeps, don't throw tomatoes at me :P

Archangel's Blade by Nalini Singh
published by Berkley in September 2011

The severed head marked by a distinctive tattoo on its cheek should have been a Guild case, but dark instincts honed over hundreds of years of life compel the vampire Dmitri to take control. There is something twisted about this death, something that whispers of centuries long past...but Dmitri's need to discover the truth is nothing to the vicious strength of his response to the hunter assigned to decipher the tattoo.

Savaged in a brutal attack that almost killed her, Honor is nowhere near ready to come face to face with the seductive vampire who is an archangel's right hand, and who wears his cruelty as boldly as his lethal sensuality...the same vampire who has been her secret obsession since the day she was old enough to understand the inexplicable, violent emotions he aroused in her.

As desire turns into a dangerous compulsion that might destroy them both, it becomes clear the past will not stay buried. Something is hunting...and it will not stop until it brings a blood-soaked nightmare to life once more...
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal romance
Series: The Guild Hunter, Book #4

The Story: Archangel's Blade opens with a severed head being found in the river. This head is special as it belongs to a newly made vampire whom the Tower is unaware of and it has some kind of tattoo. When the body turns up in many pieces in Times Square where Raphael punished a vampire in Angel's Blood, Dmitri knows it's personal. As Raphael and Elena are absent, the vampire steps in and takes up the investigation. He reaches to the Guild for help to decipher the tattoo and the director sends him their expert in ancient languages and history, Honor.

For two months, Honor was kept captive, blind-folded, by vampires for them to feed and play their sick games. She was lucky to be rescued by her fellow hunters, Ransom and Ashwini, and has spent the past few months recovering and hiding in the Guild Academy library. She's always had this strange fascination for Dmitri - even keeping a scrapbook of him, but after what she's been through, the thought of meeting him doesn't make her happy... It scares her. However, the director is not giving her a choice and it's time for her to start putting her life back together. Nobody said it'd be easy.

Dmitri is attracted to and intrigued by Honor; however, he knows she cannot be rushed otherwise she'll run. No matter, he is a very patient man...

My Opinion: Okay, so please people, don't throw tomatoes at me LOL. I know I'm in the minority of readers who aren't wowed by Ms Singh' Guild Hunter series. I really enjoyed Archangel's Kiss and there were some elements in Archangel's Consort that I liked, but as a whole... I don't know,  the Guild Hunter series is not working for me and I simply enjoy the Psy-Changelings series much better. Still, I decided to give a try to Archangel's Blade as Dmitri was the hero and I thought perhaps it'd change my feeling towards this series... Unfortunately, it didn't.

Oh, the writing is still great. Hey, it's Ms Singh after all :) I definitively have no complaints about that. For me, what's not working in the Guild Hunter series is the feel. It seems to me Ms Singh is trying very hard to make this series "dark" - perhaps too hard. The constant mention of torture, regeneration and infliction of pain and the reluctance of the ones who have to inflict the pain and do it because "they have to"... it just get repetitive and over-bearing. The fact that so many of the characters have been punished and hence, have "tortured" souls. I know it gives them interesting pasts, but it's just too much. It's like nobody in the series has had a normal life/upbringing and that's just weird. Like I said, it feels to me Ms Singh is trying too hard, that the atmosphere is too forced.

All right, enough about the series, let's talk about Archangel's Blade. I have to say, I've never been a big fan of Dmitri. He's simply not my cup of tea. Most readers find him sexy and sensual. Me? Well I didn't like the way he treated Elena in previous books and the whole tendrils of exquisite scents just go over my head LOL. I like likable characters and Dmitri is not. I guess getting his book, I was hoping Ms Singh would turn him into a more sympathetic hero... but she didn't and kudos to her for it. Dmitri's personality in Archangel's Blade is the same as in previous books, she didn't change him to please the fans and that's not only brave, but smart as well, because otherwise, it wouldn't be Dmitri. So yeah, I still feel lukewarm about him. His whole "I like a bit of pain during sex" probably made some fans swoon, but it left me indifferent. While I didn't warm up to his character, I did enjoy reading about his past :) That part was interesting and unexpected :)

As for Honor, I did like her. Really, what's not to like? Strong and smart heroine who's trying to overcome trauma. She isn't as kick-ass as some other heroines, but she is one determined woman. The romance was also nice with just the right amount of protectiveness and sweetness :) Although I wished for a bit more. Also, I'm not entirely won over by the revelation at the end. I usually like that type of romance, but the revelation is usually earlier in the romance. The problem in this case is that we don't see Dmitri really processing the revelation.

Now, the story. Archangel's Blade has two storylines: one is about the severed head found which is linked to Dmitri's past and the other is Dmitri and Honor finding Honor's captors and seeking justice/revenge. I really liked the storyline involving Honor's case. I thought it was great that Dmitri helped her out and by finding her captors, it gave Honor's closure. Plus, the whole plot was intriguing and engaging. I liked how from a bite, they found one person which led to another and another and another :) Personally, the way it was developed, I think the story should have been about this and Honor and Dmitri of course. As it is, the other storyline about the severed head got the short end. I thought the mystery/suspense of it was very thin. Since there was little focus on it, the clues became very obvious... And I really didn't like how it was linked to Dmitri's past. I understand why Ms Singh did it, so she could bring up Dmitri's past... I simply don't understand why it didn't happen sooner ^_^; Why now? Yes, it is Dmitri's book, but it's a bit too coincidental.

My Grade:  C+. I've really been torn about this grade, debating between B- and C+. In the end, although it pains me because this is by Ms Singh, I need to be honest with myself. Do I love this book? No. I've enjoyed parts of it and so, I did like it-ish... and therefore, it's in the C range. I really don't know what I'm going to do when the next full-length Guild Hunter novel comes out. I guess it's going to depend on the characters, story and reviews :) Although knowing myself, I'm most probably going to read it because it's Ms Singh after all :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review: The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

***Warning: There are spoilers in this review. Read at your own risk!***

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
published by Hyperion in October 2011
Seven half-bloods shall answer the call,
To storm or fire the world must fall.
An oath to keep with a final breath,
And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death.

Percy is confused. When he awoke from his long sleep, he didn't know much more than his name. His brain fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa tol him he is a demigod and trained him to fight with the pen/sword in his pocket. Somehow Percy manages to make it to a camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he has to keep killing monsters along the way. But the camp doesn't ring and bells with him. The only thing he can recall from his past is another name: Annabeth

Hazel is supposed to be dead. When she lived before, she didn't do a very good job of it. Sure, she was an obedient daughter, even when her mother was possessed by greed. But that was the problem - when the Voice took over he mother and commanded Hazel to use her "gift" for and evil purpose, Hazel couldn't say no. Now because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk. Hazel wished she could ride away from it all on the stallion that appears in her dreams.

Frank is a klutz. His grandmother says he is descended from heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn't see it. He doesn't even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery - although not good enough to win camp war games. His bulky physique makes him feel like an ox, especially infront of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely - enough to share the secret he holds close to his heart.

Beginning at the "other" camp for half-bloods and extending as far as the land beyond the gods, this breathtaking second installment of the Heroes od Olympus series introduces new demigods, revives fearsome monsters, and features other remarkable creatures, all destined to play a part in the Prophesy of Seven.
Genre: Young Adult, fantasy
Series: The Heroes of Olympus series, Book #2/Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book #7

The Story: The Titans' defeat has stirred up Mother Earth - Gaea - from her slumber and she is now slowly awakening. Meanwhile, her sons - the giants - are being reborn and are getting ready to challenge Mount Olympus. This is really bad news for the Olympus gods as it means another battle looms in the near future. Juno (Hera) believes that the only way Olympus will be able to defeat Gaea this time around is if the demigods from the Roman and Greek camps unite. In order for this alliance to happen, she's taken the leaders of each camp - Jason and Percy, stripped them of their memories and sent them on their way to the opposite camp.

After months of slumbering, Percy finally makes it to the Roman demigods camp. Because of previous incidents, other campers are wary of children of Neptune and as a result, Percy finds himself in the legion's weakest cohort, the Fifth Cohort, which is composed of the misfit demigods. Quickly, he becomes friends with Hazel, daughter of Pluto (Hades), and Frank who's still unclaimed. Both demigods are part of the Fifth Cohort, new to the camp and have secrets of their own.

Before Percy can get comfy at his new camp, he is sent on a quest with Frank and Hazel. Pluto (Hades)'s lieutenant Thanatos has been captured by the giants and chained which means the Doors of Death has been forced open and no one is policing them. Therefore demigods and monsters have stopped dying, Gaea's pawns and minions are being resurrected and eventually, even mortals will find it impossible to die. Frank, Hazel and Percy are tasked to go to Alaska to free Thanatos before June 24th, which is only a few days away... On their journey, Hazel will have to face her past, Frank will need to find out what is his family's secret and Percy hopes to regain his memories.

My Opinion: Wooohoooo, my friends, Percy Jackson is back! LOL. Okay, so I wasn't dying to get my hands on and The Son of Neptune earlier this month, because I've been disappointed with Mr. Riordan's last couple of releases. The first book in this new series, The Lost Hero, was only okay and I really had difficulty finishing The Throne of Fire earlier this year... All in all, I was a bit wary of The Son of Neptune, wondering if the magic was gone for me... Well let me tell you, it isn't!! :)

As soon as I started reading The Son of Neptune, I knew this book was going to be a winner :) A big part of it was due to seeing Percy again. Actually, it's not so much his familiarity, but his personality :) Percy is such fun character to follow because he is clever and witty. A real smart-ass LOL. He is very likable and also has a lot of charisma which makes people pay attention to him and want to follow him. In comparison, Jason from The Lost Hero was bland and boring. His personality did not shine through his amnesia, while Percy's did. I also think that Percy has come a long way from The Lightning Thief in term of maturity. I think it shines throughout the book: when he assessed Octavian during the senate, when he faced Phineas, when he coordinated the rescue at the end, etc. Also, everything he went through  has made him a good leader, someone caring, compassionate and easy to interact with :) Of course, Percy's not perfect and sometimes, he can still act like a kid such as when he discover Frank's family gift. LOL. However, I think it's normal and it adds to Percy's depth :P

While Percy is a big presence in the book, his companions aren't about to let him outshine them :P I think a lot more thoughts went into Hazel and Frank's background stories and personalities than Piper and Leo's from The Lost Hero. Hazel and Frank are definitively more interesting characters, but more importantly, more likable. Hazel and Frank both have big secrets and things to worry about, but it doesn't stop them from forging ahead and do what they believe needed to be done. Also, they don't constantly doubt everything and believe in themselves and Percy. I think that was a big difference with Piper whom I really didn't care about in The Lost Hero. In this book, Hazel and Frank really hold their own with Percy and prove they are worthy to be part of the big quest :) I have to admit that even now, Frank's ancestry still confuses me a bit LOL. However, it definitively makes him more intriguing... The potential he has!! Another thing that's interesting is that Mr. Riordan has not wrapped up their storylines yet - both of their curses - and I'm looking forward to see how all this will be resolved :)

Something else that made me wary of The Son of Neptune was the storyline. I knew coming in that Percy would have amnesia and he would find himself in the Roman camp, etc. and I was afraid that the storyline would be a repeat of what Jason went through in The Lost Hero. I should have had more faith in Mr. Riordan ^_^;  First, Mr. Riordan did not dwell on the fact that Percy had amnesia too much and the memories and glimpses from the past came back to him much faster than for Jason. Also, I think it was fun to discover the Roman demigods and their camp, how they did things. It's quite different from the Greeks, while still being familiar. Does that make sense? I appreciated it even more because I had just re-read the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher which is very heavy on Roman legions and stuff, so some elements were very familiar such as the way they fight, the gladius, etc. :) Happy coincidence LOL. Finally, I liked the quest Percy, Hazel and Frank went on. I liked how the quest was connected to Hazel's story as well as Frank. I also thought Mr. Riordan is relying less on the myths which is a good thing. Oh, there is still a lot of elements taken from mythology such as the Amazons, Hazel's horse Arion, the gorgons and so on... but what I mean is when facing foes, our heroes have to rely on themselves and their wits more instead of thinking back on how these monsters were killed in the myths and legends and then, tricking the monsters into situations mimicking those circumstances/situations to win. Yes, that way is clever... but this way is more exciting and unpredictable :)

All in all, I really enjoyed The Son of Neptune and I think this was a great installment to the series. I was really glad to see some familiar faces such as Nico and Tyson!! Two of my favorite characters!! Tyson is just cute because of the love and loyalty he has for Percy... and seriously, the possibility of him having a harpy as a girlfriend is just so cute! And Nico!! I can't wait to find out what happens to him and I really hope that we'll get his POV at some point. I'm crossing my fingers that it'll be in the next book... At the same time, I think Mr. Riordan did a great job at not overdoing it - not adding Grover, Annabeth, Jason, Leo or Piper. This story was really about Percy getting accepted by the Roman camp and I say it's a success :)

Finally, I don't have any major issues with The Son of Neptune. I read this book in one sitting and it was just so much fun :) If I'm going to be picky though and have to find fault, well it'll be the usual quick timeline the book has. Why do the kids always have only a few days to complete the quest?!?

My Grade: I'm splitting hair with this grade. I've been debating whether to give The Son of Neptune a B+ or A- and so, I went back to look at how I graded the previous books in the series. My favorite book remains The Last Olympian, although this one comes to a close second. I'd say, my feeling for The Son of Neptune is on par with The Lightning Thief and so, B++ it is :)

I really, really enjoyed The Son of Neptune :) It was great to meet up with Percy again and this book really re-ignited my love for this series and Mr. Riordan's books. My hands are already itching for The Mark of Athena  - a year is really looong! I'm looking forward for the demigods heading to Rome! (Is this the first time they get out of America?) I also hope that we'll get a bit of Nico's POV in the next book. Sigh, I can't help but hope we're in for a great adventure!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hauling Sunday LX

Hey everyone!

Hope you had a nice week-end :) Mine was pretty relaxed. The weather has been rainy - perfect weather to cuddle in bed with a good book :) Which is what I did. Ended up re-reading Sense of Evil and Hunting Fear by Kay Hooper. Just felt like it :) Then, today, I looked up the new releases for the next couple of months :) Filling  blank pages with books to come really cheered me up LOL Now, I'm really looking forward to the next couple of months!

In the afternoon, I drove my sister to town cos she had a midterm. Gave me the occasion to shop... I got a few tops, but more importantly, more books! There was a 20% discount plus my usual 10% member discount :) Wooohooo. Here is what I got:

Snapped by Laura Griffin - Leslie really enjoyed this book based on her review  :) The blurb sounds really good and I skimmed through the book a little and... I'm in LOL. Also, lately, it seems I'm starting to overdose on a lot of genres (historical, small-town contemporary, paranormal...), but romantic suspense is not one of them :)

Home Sweet Home by Bella Riley - Yeah, I said I'm a bit burn-out on small-town romance... but for some reasons, I'm attracted to this one. I think it's the blurb once again :) Also, the price... 6.50$ + 20% off+ 10% off... It was pretty cheap! :)

In Total Surrender by Anne Mallory - I hesitated a lot about this one. I have not read Ms Mallory's books before, but this one has been getting good reviews in blogland. I skimmed through the book and indeed, it sounds really good :) Plus, I thought it'd be good to support the author... I've never read Ms Mallory before, but I have two of her books that I've received free from RWA.

Dragon Actually and About a Dragon by G.A. Aiken - I got these books because I know Tabitha enjoys this series a lot. At first, I was just going to get the first book, Dragon Actually, but reading the blurbs, I couldn't help but smile :) If I'm going to get the same reaction while I'm reading the books, they'll be really worth it!

So there it is, my books this week... More like today LOL.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review: Spider's Revenge by Jennifer Estep

Yes, I finally able to stop watching Startling Early Steps and focus on my review LOL. It freaking took me 3 days to write it, so I hope I did a good job... although I don't know. It doesn't feel complete to me ^_^;

I'm really having difficulty lately to write review. The worst is that I want to review!! But when it comes to choosing which books and to put my feelings into words... Ugh. So frustrating. I guess I'm having the reviewing blues ^_^;

In any case, I hope it was the right decision to choose Spider's Revenge and that you will enjoy the review!

***Warning: There are spoilers in this review. Read at your own risk!***

Spider's Revenge by Jennifer Estep
published by Simon & Schuster

Old habits die hard for assassins.
And I plan on murdering someone before the night is through.

Killing used to be my regular gig, after all. Gin Blanco, aka the Spider, assassin-for-hire. And I was very, very good at it. Now, I’m ready to make the one hit that truly matters: Mab Monroe, the dangerous Fire elemental who murdered my family when I was thirteen. Oh, I don’t think the mission will be easy, but turns out it’s a bit more problematic than expected. The bitch knows I’m coming for her. So now I’m up against the army of lethal bounty hunters Mab hired to track me down. She also put a price on my baby sister’s head. Keeping Bria safe is my first priority. Taking Mab out is a close second. Good thing I’ve got my powerful Ice and Stone magic—and my irresistible lover, Owen Grayson—to watch my back. This battle has been years in the making, and there’s a good chance I won’t survive. But if I’m going down, then Mab’s coming with me . . . no matter what I have to do to make that happen.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Elemental Assassin series, Book #5

The Story: Gin Blanco, aka the Spider, is anxious. She has declared war against Ashland's strongest elemental and mob queen Mab Monroe, who turned out to be an old family enemy. Now, she just wants it to be all over - which means killing Mab - so her family and friends can be safe. However, Gin is not the only one growing anxious... Mab is too. She wants things to be over just as much as Gin - with a different ending, of course. To speed it all up, she has called in reinforcements: bounty hunters... and some of them are actually competent! The stakes get higher when Gin finds out that Mab has not only placed a bounty on the Spider - which is expected, but also on her baby sister, Detective Bria Coolridge. It's high time to end things... but can Gin really take on Mab in a face-off? And whom will Lady Luck favor?

My Opinion: So, Spider's Revenge. LOL, well the title says it all, right? Very appropriate :) It was a satisfying ending for the story arc and overall, I enjoyed it :)

As usual, Spider's Revenge has a very short timeline and is action-packed... and as usual, Ms Estep makes it work :) I think the storyline of Spider's Revenge was very solid. While we all knew how this book was going to end - with the death of Mab, Ms Estep was able to make the storyline interesting with a few twists :) The addition of the bounty hunters was a good idea to mix things up. I really liked Ruth Gentry and Sidney. Not because Sidney reminded Gin of herself at that age; instead, it was the fact that they were competent foes for Gin. Also, there's the fact that they're not "bad" like the other people that work for Mab and Gin has gone against in previous books. That meant Gin's dealing with them was different. Oh I'm sure that if they had really pose a danger, Gin wouldn't hesitate to get rid of them... but since it wasn't the case, she had to be a bit more wily :)

Another aspect of the book that I really liked was the relationships. Finn and Bria finally pair up - not surprising, but good to see :) You also have Owen and Gin declaring their love for each other :) I'm glad that Gin is finally overcoming Donovan Caine. I mean seriously, Owen is a prize and she should never let go. Also, the image of Owen fighting with hammer... I'd like to see that :) What I liked best though was the part where Jojo revealed to Gin how she met Fletcher and how her alliance with Fletcher and later Gin started. When you depend so much on a person to put you back together injuries after injuries, it's nice to know where their loyalty stems from... So you know that your own loyalty is not misplaced. After all, Gin is from a very dark world.

What dimmed my enjoyment of Spider's Revenge a little was the lack of excitement... and this lack of excitement stems from the predictability of the series. Yes, Ms Estep was able to make things interesting with the twists, but ultimately, I knew that Gin and Mab would face off and Mab would die. Or for example, Finn and Bria hooking up. It was great to see happening, but as I mentioned it wasn't a surprise. I just think that all along the series, Ms Estep has been too obvious in her next moves and her agenda. Her foreshadowing was big neon signs in the dark ^_^; Which is actually why I'm so glad this storyarc is ending. It means that with the next book, By A Thread, we're going into unknown territories. Ms Estep can start a whole new storyarc and we, the readers, are totally in the dark :)

My Grade: B. Spider's Revenge had the potential to be great in my opinion... if only it had been accompanied by a breathless feeling, the urge to turn the pages as fast as you can to know what will happen next. It is nonetheless a very solid and enjoyable read :) And as corny as it may sound, Spider's Revenge is not the end of things, but a new beginning for the readers :) And guess what? When I was at RWA, Ms Estep told me that Donovan Caine would be back in By A Thread... I think things are going to get exciting!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

When TV gets in the way...

There's a review on the way, I promise! I've been working on one, I swear... but I've stumbled across a new chinese TV series on Monday. Seriously, why not Thursday when I started my days off? Of course not, it had to be by the end of it. Anyway, the TV series is Bu Bu Jing Xin aka Startling Early Steps. It's a 35 or 40 episodes novel adaptation... The story is about a modern 25 years old woman being electrocuted in an accident and waking 300 years ago, in the body of a 16 years old girl during the Qing dynasty. She becomes the Emperor's maid and is embroiled in the court intrigues as the princes fight for the throne. And I'm watching it with subtitles... Vietnamese and English, LOL. Whatever I can get my hands on... which is why it takes more concentration and time to watch... If I don't pay attention, I basically don't know what's happening!!

The series is pretty good. I like the court intrigues and the series is quite faithful to the novel and the novel, to history :) I's not a comedy and it's not about the modern girl trying to changes things up in ancient time, so that's really good with me :) Aside from the court intrigues, well it's all about relationships... Take a look at the map fans made :P

I'm a bit annoyed that all these guys are in love/develop feelings for the heroine. Makes the heroine a bit too Mary Sue for me. The acting is also pretty superb and spot on :) And to add to everything is the decors, sets, costumes... It's  so authentic and gorgeous. The embroideries on what the princes wear... Make them even more handsome! And there are several eye candies in there... Of course, I'd rather them to have more hair LOL... but that what happens when you watch a TV series set in the Qing dynasty.

 I got to catch up with two of my favorite actors...  Nicky Wu and Kevin Cheng:

Jeez, hard to believe they are 40-something :) And I've become a fangirl of Yuan Hong!

Just love, love, love his role of Prince 13th!! :)

Okay, I'm going to finish watching what I have and then work on my review. Hopefully, sometime tomorrow... In the meantime, I leave you with the opening. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Hauling Sunday LIX

Nothing much going on with me this week-end :) I'm just relaxing LOL. 

Here are the books I bought this week:

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan - And Percy Jackson is back!! :) I wasn't too sure about this book, because I thought The Lost Hero was okay... However, I just finished reading The Son of Neptune yesterday and it's really good!! If you're a fan of this series, you don't want to miss The Son of Neptune!!

A Touch of Crimson by Sylvia Day - I picked up this book because Ames enjoyed it. Plus, I heard Ms Day talking about this series last year at RT and I'm a sucker for reincarnation :)

Bring Me Home for Christmas by Robyn Carr - I was looking for A Touch of Crimson at the bookstore, looking on the cart, when I stumbled across this book. LOL, I jumped on it since it's supposed to come out only later this month! The Virgin River series has its ups and its downs and I'm hoping that Denny's story is going to be an up :) High school sweethearts reunion combined with Christmas spirit :P

And there you go :) A quiet week for me, but better than no books at all!

Saturday, October 08, 2011


Hey there everyone!

Sorry to have been MIA in the past few days... Sigh. Once again, my plans had gone awry. As you all know, Ames was supposed to come over this week-end, but she had an accident :( The good thing is that her trip is not cancelled! Just pushed back... probably till after the New Year. So yeah, a little disappointed, but the most important is that Ames is okay :)

Since I already asked for Thursday and Friday off, I decided to keep them! Seriously, I need a break from work. Was really looking forward to this extra long week-end! So first thing I do on Thursday is as usual, to turn on my computer... and I get this error message that Windows cannot load because config32 has been deleted or corrupted. WTF?!? I panicked during a moment, because I haven't back-up my stuff for a couple of months and I thought I'd lose everything! Finally went on my dad's computer, typed the message and followed the instruction. That got me into Safe mode. Yay! Started backing-up everything... the reason I don't like to do that is because it takes sooooo freaking long!! In the meantime, I had to drive my sister to school and my mom decided she wanted to go shop... Then, I came home and back to the computer it was. So I was able to access safe mode; however, I couldn't carry out the next step to repair config32. So I tried to restore my computer to an earlier point - all the restore points had been delete. Ugh. That meant only one thing was left to do: re-format the computer. Yes, again. This is probably the third time I had to re-format my computer ^_^; Once Windows was up and running again, that meant re-installing all the programs and etc. So yeah, it pretty much took me the whole day :( Then, in the evening, we went out to eat for my sister's birthday.

Speaking of my sister's birthday, well it was on Thursday which was when Ames was supposed to arrive. When my sister learned that Ames wasn't coming, she was a bit bummed... She was like: "Oh, I could have done something with my friends then." Seriously, I admit I still don't get it, because hey, even if Ames was here, my sister could have done something with her friends. But whatever... So I told her to do something and she was like: "But this is too last minute, you know my friends." Well I don't see why she shouldn't try, so on Tuesday night, I started calling her friends and try to do a surprise party. Of course, I'm not very subtle so yesterday night, when her friends arrive, she knew LOL. But at least, we had a good turn-out and she had a good time :) So that was pretty much my day yesterday, running around to get ready for the surprise party.

But now, now I'm free!!! Woohoo!! Still have three days of freedom ahead of me :) With absolutely no plans! I've been re-reading the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher the whole week. Next is going to be Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan... Maybe I'll finally do my Monthly Reads post LOL... Get ahead in my blogging. LOL, a girl can dream, right? :)

In any case, I hope you have a nice week-end!! :)

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Review: Kate Daniels series novellas

See, this is my kind of laziness. I was looking at my Monthly Reads post and decided that instead of doing mini-impression, it would be quicker to put these three reads in a review. Wrong!! It sure wasn't faster, but in the end I'm happy with the results LOL. How can I have so much to say about novellas though, that baffles me :P

Nothing much going on with me. I've decided to re-read Cursor's Fury by Jim Butcher... and am slowly getting ready for Ames' arrival. I'm really looking forward to the two days off at the end of the week!! Yay!! Now I'm off to review more books from August... Enjoy this post!

Magic Dreams by Ilona Andrews
published by Berkley in August 2011
Shapeshifting tigress Dali Harimau finds herself in deep waters when she must challenge a dark being to a battle of wits or risk losing the man for whom she secretly longs.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Kate Daniels series, Book #4.5

The Story: Dali Harimau is a petite Indonesian woman who wears coke-bottle glasses and can shapeshift into a vegetarian white tiger. She is very smart, but not physically strong and therefore feels cuddled by the Beast Lord and her Alpha's rules. While Dali might stretch the limits of these rules, she is always ready to help the Pack. When Jim comes to Dali for her expertise on South Asian magic, she quickly realizes that something is wrong with her Alpha. After poking around, Dali finds out that Jim is being possessed by a Japanese spider demon and said demon is draining Jim from his life energy. Dali is determined to save Jim's life... even if it means putting her own at risk.

My Opinion: I loved Magic Dreams. Simply loved it :) When I picked up the anthology, I had no idea that Dali was the narrator of this Kate Daniels series installment... but when I found out, SQUEEEE!!! I loved Dali from the first when she was introduced in Magic Strikes. She's just so quirky LOL. I mean, seriously, did you ever hear of a vegetarian tiger that get sick at the sight of blood? Also, she has attitude in spades. Being able to stand up to Curran and Jim is no small accomplishment. So yeah, it just made my day to read a story from her POV and to see her romance with Jim unfolds :)

I always thought the strengths of the Kate Daniels series were 1) the characters, 2) the plots and 3) the touch of humor. Well Ms Andrews reinforced this belief for me with Magic Dreams. I enjoyed reading about Dali and Jim, finding out more about their personalities. They are secondary characters that definitively had potential to be expanded and it was great of Ms Andrews to do so. I also loved reading about Jim and Dali's feelings for each other. It's been hinted that Jim had feelings for Dali in Magic Bleeds and I was curious about it. In Magic Dreams, it's more from Dali's perspectives, but it's good to see that she reciprocated his feelings :) Still, you can see how much Dali matters to Jim... I mean, he learned her dialect! That was really cute. So overall, I was very happy with the romance :)

I think that Ms Andrews did a great job at balancing everything in this novella: the characters, the romance and the storyline. The storyline was both interesting and complex. I thought that was really important, so it kept with the spirit of the series. It also fit Dali's background really well, which made it even better. Then, there were the touches of humor :) It's great when you're reading a story and just laugh out loud because of those :)

My only issue with this novella was Dali's voice. I simply think that it is not very distinct from Kate. What keeps them separate is Dali's Asian background and her strength being different from Kate, but otherwise... I think it's partly due to both women being snarky and thinking the same way, plus how the story is actually constructed. But really, this is a very small complaint and perhaps if we had a full-length novel with Dali as a heroine, it wouldn't be a problem at all ;)

My Grade: A. Magic Dreams is one of the best novellas I've read. Of course, if it was a possibility, I would have loved for Magic Dreams to be longer, would have loved to read more of Dali and Jim... However, as a novella, it is well-written, complete and a great read :) I hope we'll get to see them more as a couple in the future books :)

Curran POV vol. 1 by Gordon Andrews
published by Ilona Andrews in July 2010

This isn't a short story or a novella. This is a collection of scenes written by Gordon Andrews as a companion to our Kate Daniels series of books. These scenes illustrate the point of view of Curran, the Beast Lord of Atlanta and are provided in gratitude to our readers for all of their support. This collection isn't meant to stand on its own as an independent work of fiction.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Kate Daniels series

My Opinion: As described in the blurb, Curran POV is a collection of scenes from the Kate Daniels series written from Curran's POV. These scenes are a couple of pages each and are definitively not meant to be read as a stand-alone. However, fans of the Kate Daniels series will definitively enjoy them :) I know, I did.

I think these scenes give us a better insight at Curran, a better idea of who is Curran, which is a good thing considering that all we've read in the Kate Daniels series have come from Kate's POV. I don't think that Kate's view of Curran is romanticized and actually, he has told her many times what to expect from... but still, I don't think I really believed it till I read some of his thoughts and actions. After reading Curran POV, I find Curran more ruthless and domineering than ever. Perhaps subconsciously, I was the one romanticizing his character.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Curran POV. Whatever is found in this collection doesn't alter the events that has taken place... but it was fun to read these scenes from Curran's POV. To know his thoughts, his feelings and his reactions to some of the things that happened. I especially enjoyed his impressions of Kate when they first met and my favorite scene is when he is feeding soup to Kate in Magic Burns :)  Therefore a big thank you Mr Andrews has taken the time to write these little snippets and that he shared it with us :)

My Grade: B.

Fathers and Sons by Gordon Andrews
published by Ilona Andrews in May 2011
Infuriated by Kate's treatment at the hands of the Pack, the Beast Lord demands an explanation. When words fail, claws and fangs must do the talking.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Kate Daniels series, Book #4.25/Curran POV, Book #2

The Story: Fathers and Sons takes place just after Magic Bleeds. Curran wakes up from his coma and is none to happy to hear that his mate had had to face 22 challenges in the past two weeks. He is especially angry at Mahon, his adoptive father and Alpha of Clan Heavy, because with his support, Mahon could have prevented the situation... However, Mahon has never approved of Kate as the potential consort... and thus, father and son battle it out.

My Opinion: Another very short story, but fun to read :) I think this is the short story that really made me realized how ruthless Curran is. How he expects to be obeyed... and in a way, his selfishness. Once again, nothing new here. We already knew and Curran had already told Kate... but still, to see proof of it makes it more real.

I like this short story because it really solidifies Kate and Curran bond. The fact that Curran would "retire" his adoptive father if necessary for Kate to rule along side with him. I also enjoyed the politics of the Pack. LOL, lots of frienemies :) And despite the shortness of the story, it still got my heart to beat loudly for one or two seconds :)

My Grade: B+.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Hauling Sunday LVIII

Hey everyone!!

October arrived yesterday and with it, fall. I mean, seriously, the temperature dropped about 10 degrees Celsius between Friday and Saturday. Brrrrrr.

I've been pretty quiet since coming back from my week-end away. One of the reasons is that I've been meaning to write up my Monthly Reads post for August. My plan was to have it up before the end of September. Yes, epic fail ^_^; Then, I switched gear and tried to have a review up... but I didn't know what to review ^_^; Sigh. At least, our New Releases post went up without a hitch over at Breezing Through. Yay!! LOL, I'll take it. One of the reasons I haven't accomplished much is that the whole week, I went to bed early. I just fell asleep. I think the past few weeks combined with the week-end has just wiped me out. 

Yesterday was Doctor Who's season finale!! I don't know if I've written on the blog how I've become a fan of the show. Well at least, the last two seasons of the show. I really like the River Song storyline... Anyway, the finale was okay. I liked the big twist, but I thought they could have finished the season with more bang. I hope Alex Kingston is coming back in the next season.

Anyway, I'm all good now :) Ready to start a new blogging month and catch up on everything! So I'll start by my Hauling Sunday :) I had hopes to buy some books in the States... Take advantages of their cheaper price. However, the Walmart and Target's selections were sadly disappointing. As a result, I made it up when I came back home :) Ready to see my haul?

Spider's Revenge by Jennifer Estep - Wooohooo, the conclusion of this story arc! :) And the reasons I'm still so happy? Because Ms Estep has two more books contracted! :) Yay!

Flawless by Carrie Lofty - I've been meaning to read Ms Lofty's books, but yeah... just never happened. I'm happy that this new release is in print :) Plus, for some reasons, I'm really excited the story is taking place in South Africa. I'm not one for exotic locations... but South Africa and diamonds = exciting :)

Utterly Charming by Kristine Grayson - I didn't realize that this was a re-print. Ms Grayson has a new release, Wickedly Charming, coming up soon and to celebrate the occasion, Sourcebooks is re-releasing the two books in this series. In any case, I'm happy I picked up this one. I've always liked Sleeping Beauty's story more than Cinderella :)

Blood Trails by Sharon Sala - Fan of Sharon Sala I am :) Hopefully, this one will be different than the previous two books in this trilogy though.

Slow Ride by Erin McCarthy - Liked the cover and the blurb :) Diesel sounds like a yummy hero!

Heartstrings and Diamond Rings by Jane Graves - Sounds like a cute contemporary romance and I usually enjoy Ms Graves' books.

Every Scandalous Secret by Gayle Callen - Okay, this book was totally NOT on my radar. However, it was on the cart when I was looking for Slow Ride and Animal Attraction and it just caught my eyes. I really like the cover for some reasons. Plus, in my  mind, I was confused LOL... I was thinking Gaelen Foley for some reasons... and I thought the blurb sounded familiar. Well yeah, it's familiar, because I did read the first book in this series: In Pursuit of a Scandalous Lady! Anyway, impulse buying LOL.

Animal Attraction by Jill Shalvis - Sigh. I wasn't planning to get Animal Attraction. Thought that Animal Magnetism was okay and I'm not a huge fan of Ms Shalvis. Her writing is good, but her books are just not grabbing me. Then, I read Leslie's review... and I have to say, I really was curious about Dell and Jade when I read Animal Magnetism. So yes, I caved LOL.

So this was my week :) Pretty good all in all :)

Now, let see if I can start some posts for the blog this week and squeeze some cleaning before the week-end ends. Oh and I've been looking for new blogs about books. Any new bloggers or blogs out there? If you know any or if you are one, feel free to leave links in the comment section :) Big thanks!