Saturday, March 31, 2012

WEM VIII: Flawless by Carrie Lofty

So I'm up this morning at 8am to watch curling. Am I addicted? I'm starting to think yes LOL. Then again, this is the last event of the year, so I better enjoy it when I can! Plus, it won't get as extensive a coverage than the other championships have received, because the Men's World is taking place in Switzerland and therefore, there's the time difference. So instead of 2 matches a day, I'll only get one :(

The good news is that I'm up early, so my week-end will be longer. Technically, LOL. By the way, this week-end is Bloggiesta. While I did not sign up, I read many participants' posts and it had inspired me :) I think I'm going to tinker around with the blog a little bit.  Cross-post some reviews into Goodreads, check that all the images are still working and the right sizes and perhaps, label every post :P We'll see :)

First though, let's get down to business :) For the second week in a row, there was a tie for the Week-End's Minis feature. Both Flawless by Carrie Lofty and The Many Sins of Lord Cameron by Jennifer Ashley got three votes. I actually planned to write both mini-reviews... but when it came time to write The Many Sins of Lord Cameron's, I realized I didn't remember enough of the story ^_^; So I think I'll use this week to refresh my memory and it'll be one of the mini-review for next week's WEM :) For now, enjoy Flawless by Carrie Lofty!

Flawless by Carrie Lofty
published by Simon & Schuster in September 2011

A passion this seductive is more precious than diamonds...

Sir William Christie, ruthless tycoon and notorious ladies' man, is dead. Now his four grown children have gathered for the reading of his will. What lies in store for stepsiblings Vivienne, Alexander, and twins Gareth and Gwyneth? Stunning challenges that will test their fortitude across a royal empire...and lead them to the marvelously passionate adventures of their lives.

Lady Vivienne Bancroft fled England for New York, hoping to shed the confines of her arranged marriage to unrepentant rogue Miles Durham, Viscount Bancroft—though she never forgot the fiery desire he unleashed with his slightest touch. And when the gambling man arrives on her doorstep for a little sensual revenge for her desertion, he is met with Vivienne's dilemma: She must earn her father's inheritance by profitably running a diamond business worth millions in colonial South Africa.

Swept together in an exotic undertaking filled with heated passion and hungry temptation, will Vivienne and Miles discover that the marriage vows they once made are the greatest snare—or the most treasured reward?
Genre: Historical romance
Series: The Christies series, Book #1

What do you need to know? Lots of details were left out of the blurb, so if you don't want to be spoiled, better not continue on! You've been warned :)

So Vivienne is the biological daughter of Sir William Christie, but she is also a bastard. Sir William found out about her when she was 6 or 7 years old (in France), took her home (in America) and told the world she was his adopted daughter. All her life, Vivienne has been grateful to her parents for taking her in and accepting her. As a result, she tried to be the perfect daughter and later on, when she married Miles Durham, Viscount Bancroft, the perfect wife... Basically, Vivienne strives for respectability because she never forgot that she was a bastard and her biological mother was French actress/courtesan. However, Miles is a debauched rake of the first order and doesn't care about respectability. But worst, he awakens Vivienne's passionate nature. Around Miles, Viv seems to lose control... Scared, Viv leaves him and moves to New York.

As for Miles, he married Viv for money... but somewhere along the way, he fell in love with her. When she hightailed it to America, his pride took a hit. With Sir William's death, it gives him an excuse to go after Viv. And when he learns of Sir William's will: one million dollars if Viv can turn around a failing diamond brokerage house in South Africa within a year, he's determined to have both.

Why this book? I heard a lot of good about Ms Lofty's writing and I've been meaning to give it a try. I'm not much into medieval romances, so I was looking at her historical books which have the added bonus of taking place in unusual setting. The problem is her last few releases have been in e-book format only and that made me drag my feet ^_^; So as soon as Flawless was released, I jumped on it :)

My thoughts? I'm happy I've finally read a book by Ms Lofty! You can be sure it won't be the last :) Really, Flawless measured up to the expectations of being an unusual historical romance. Ms Lofty did a great job with the setting, being South Africa. It wasn't just a location, it was another character as it came to life in front of our eyes. The culture and the lifestyle, those were elements that set the tone, the feel of Flawless... and it was really well done :)

The other plus for me in this book was Miles. I really loved his character and his growth. Miles lived his life as everyone expected it from him being an aristocrat: he drank, he gambled and he enjoyed women. Later on, he married Vivienne for her money and continued on his path. Although I think he did cut back on women. Anyway, I kind of liked the fact that he was unrepentant about his behavior. Yes, he was a bit of a jerk, but what do you expect from a man who grew up being entitled to things, right? And then, when he got to South Africa, he started changing. It was as if being South Africa, he was suddenly freed, no longer under close scrutiny. Yes, he was still a titled man, but it meant less. He started working, took a closer interest in business and people would not comment as much because it wasn't as disdainful as it was in London. Plus, coming to South Africa, he had purposes: to seduce and win back his wife as well as turn around the business so they could inherit the money. So he channeled his energy into achieving these goals, became more focused and turned out to be a good man, someone you could really admire :) He made the book for me :)

On the other hand, there was Vivienne. I think once again, Ms Lofty did a good job with her characterization.  I thought Vivienne had a lot of depth and her need for respectability and safety were understandable. Unfortunately, I really had a hard time connecting with her :( The problem is that she came across as a bit standoff-ish, even with Miles. Also, I felt she should have open herself to Miles a bit more... He was her husband after all. I know that theirs was a marriage of convenience, but there was chemistry and attraction between them. Miles was a jerk, but he wasn't a monster or a bad man... If she had explained to him why she needed respectability, safety, I'm sure Miles would have understood and perhaps be more considerate. Even in a marriage of convenience, you need a bit more communication. Also, it annoyed me a bit that she fell in love with Miles and her reaction was to run away...

My Grade? B. Had I warmed up to Viv, I would have given Flawless a higher grade. Still, there's no doubt in my mind that Flawless was a strong and solid book. I'll definitively be reading the next installment :)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Review: Oracle's Moon by Thea Harrison

Ugh, where did my week go?! I'm exhausted!! I feel like I spent the whole week running around :( Work was very busy this week, especially since my boss is going to a conference in Chicago tomorrow. The good news is that he'll be gone for a couple of days! Yay!

I was also very busy in the evenings. Basically, I had guests and friends over Monday, Tuesday and Friday. That's really rare for me LOL. Usually, once I come home, that's it. No going out again... Just the computer, TV and/or a book. I was planning to catch up on my reading this week, but yeah, didn't happen. I shouldn't complain though, because I had a great time :)

Now, I'm just looking forward to relax this week-end :) There's going to be more curling - yay! This time around, it's the Men World Championship. There's also some figure skating... but really, I just want to stay in bed and cuddle in my blankets :) Especially since the temperature is cold again! :)

What about you, any plans this week-end? If you don't, well you could read this review LOL.

Oracle's Moon by Thea Harrison
published by Berkley in March 2012
As a second daughter, Grace Andreas never had to worry about the intrigues of the Elder Races. But when her sister, Petra, and Petra’s husband are both killed, Grace inherits the Power and responsibilities of the Oracle of Louisville, as well as her sister’s two young children – neither of which she is prepared for.

Yet, she is not alone. Khalil, Demonkind and Djinn prince of House Marid – driven by his genuine caring for the children – has decided to make himself a part of the household both as their guardian and as an exasperating counterpoint to Grace’s impudence toward the Elder Races.

But when an attempt is made on Grace’s life, she realizes that Khalil is the only one who can protect her – and offer her more than a mortal man…
Genre: Paranormal romance
Series: The Elder Races, Book #4

The Story: Grace Andreas was in the same car accident that killed her sister - the Oracle of Louisville - and her brother-in-law. While Grace survived, it came at a cost: a shattered knee. With the death of her sister, Grace has inherited the Power, which has been passed down in the female line of the family for century, and has become the new Oracle, but more importantly, she's also become her sister's children's guardian, Chloe and Max, 4 years and 9 months old respectively. For this young woman, it is a lot on her plate; however, she is determined to do her best to protect and provide them a good life.

When the most powerful entities in the world show up at her doorstep asking for a prophecy, Grace cannot turn them down and ask them to come back at a later time. The good news is that she ended up saving Carling and, by extension, Rune's lives. However, all she has to show for her efforts is the presence Khalil, a condescending and critical Djinn who's taken an interest in her children... but at the same time, she's grateful to Khalil for the protection he provides as Grace seemed to have become a person of interest for very powerful Wyrs and other supernatural beings. When Grace suddenly has a vision, prompted by Dragos Cuelebre's presence, in bright daylight and on her front lawn, she realizes that perhaps all the traditions that have been handed down about manifesting the Power were wrong... As such, she sets out to harness the Power, take control of it, so her niece can be spared from becoming the next Oracle.

Khalil's first impressions of Grace are not good. However, he has elected to stay behind, entranced by the children. His protective instinct is awaken as such innocence is not seen among the Djinns. As he comes to know Grace better, to understand the circumstances and witnesses Grace's devotion to the children, his opinion of Grace changes for the better... and he actually finds himself being attracted to this young woman.

My Opinion: Well, well, well. If you have not heard of The Elder Races series, I'm sad to be the one to let you know that you've been living under a rock LOL. While this series is hugely popular, it didn't click with me :( I thought Dragon Bound was a good book, but not the wowzer everyone raved about. As for Storm's Heart, it was just a let-down. So I decided not to continue the series... and I was able to stay strong when Serpent's Kiss was released... But it was another story with Oracle's Moon LOL. Almost all the reviews for this book were positive, but more importantly, the blurb made me want to read this book and the storyline sounded interesting to me. And here we are :)

It's clear to me the strength of Oracle's Moon was definitively Grace and good thing too, since she was the focus of the book :) Ms Harrison definitively did a great job with her characterization. Here you have a young woman of 23 years old, who got into an accident. She lost her sister and brother-in-law, finds herself in charge of her young niece and nephew, has become the new Oracle, is recovering from her injury and has to deal with the pile of debts from the surgeries, but also student loans for a degree she has not been able to complete yet because of the accident. She's struggling to make ends meet as being the Oracle is not very lucrative... and despite everything, she still has a positive outlook on life. Oh, she's not bubbly and cheerful, but she's not grim and depressed either. She's very pragmatic and doesn't mind setting her pride aside for the sake of the children. She doesn't try to shirk her responsibilities as Oracle, even if she wished to. I couldn't help but admire her. I mean, most women under this much amount of stress would have cracked, but no Grace. There was so much strength, so much focus in Grace... However, what I liked most about her was her devotion to Chloe and Max, how much she cared about them. They came first, no matter what... She was truly a good mother: loving, understanding and solid, but also strict when needed it. And when the burden got lifted a little and Grace could relax a bit, you got to see her spunky side. It's no wonder she had the guts to  go toe to toe with a Djinn who's almost immortal. Something else I appreciated was her sense of fairness and justice. As you can see, I really loved Grace and she made the book for me :)

There were also some great scenes in Oracle's Moon between the characters, especially involving the children. Khalil's interactions with them were so sweet and made me smiled. I thought Ms Harrison did a great job with the characterizations of Chloe and Max as well. I know some readers don't like children in their books, but I do and really, Chloe and Max were very good secondary characters :) And seriously, there's just something about a powerful, almost immortal being asking to spend time with children, reading to them, etc. It makes my heart melt LOL. Another good scene was when Khalil tracked down Carling and Rune, reminding them that they own the Oracle and then, letting them know he's going on a date with Grace. LOL, their reaction was great and then, Khalil getting dating advice from Rune? Priceless LOL.

One weakness of Oracle's Moon for me was the pacing of the story. It was simply to slow to my taste. I felt it took an eternity for the storyline really take off. It's unfortunate, because I thought the overall storyline was very interesting. I also expected a lot more action and there was some near the end, but not the big bang like in Dragon Bound or Storm's Heart . Instead, there was a large part of the book focused on Grace harnessing the power, becoming the Oracle... and that was building up to the main intrigue, but with a lot of subtlety. It also felt like Ms Harrison spent time on many superfluous story threads such as where the Power came from and the tortured Djinn, Phaedra. And in actuality, they feel superfluous because Ms Harrison did all the built-up, the but resolution was a let-down. For example, the ghost that is the source of the Power. There was a description of what she looked like, how she gave the Power to Grace's family, her reasons for still clinging to the Power... and one tug from Grace and she was gone. It's unfortunate because it was all very interesting, but at the end of the day, I wonder why Ms Harrison did not focus on something else or really develop that part?

The second weakness of the book was the romance. It seemed a bit off for me in terms of timing. Everything happened too fast in my opinion. Yes, Khalil and Grace got to spend a lot of time with each other and therefore, got to know each other very well. That was definitively a plus in the pro column... but I had difficulty believing that Khalil would fall under the charm of someone so fast. It just seemed to me that for someone immortal, it'd take more time to thaw his feelings, warm up his personality. Also, I have to say, I never really got a good sense of Khalil as a character ^_^; It just seemed we got to know the "him"
 with Grace, but what about the "him" before Grace? There's no doubt to me he wasn't the same person and I felt he was able to let go too easily. Perhaps he didn't like himself ^_^; I'm just a bit baffled because I think someone like Khalil would have a lot of issues and I expected his issues to come into play, but it never really did. I would have liked for his character to be as well developed as Grace.

My Grade: B. In everything, Grace tried her best, give her best and that's my kind of heroine :) She made the book for me and that's why Oracle's Moon is getting this grade. Otherwise, I think the book lacked a bit of balance between the characters, storyline and action. I feel if there's been a bit more focus on the storyline and Khalil, Oracle's Moon could have been a wowzer.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Review: Nice Girls Don't Bite their Neighbors by Molly Harper

Hey everyone! How it's going? My week-end was really nice! There were 4 very good curling matches... In the end though, Korea didn't medal. Ah well, perhaps next year! Switzerland won the championship (yay!) and Sweden and Canada came second and third respectively. You know it's a good game when it is won on last rock!

Since I didn't buy any books last week, I took a break on Sunday. I was planning to get some posts ready, but I ended up reading till 3am... Let just say that I was dead yesterday LOL. But it's okay, because I have this review done :) I discovered Molly Harper previously with her Jane Jameson series. While I really enjoyed the series, I never got around to review the books ^_^; And I really didn't want to let Nice Girls Don't Bite their Neighbors slip through the cracks! One day, I hope to re-read the first three books and review them. But for now, you'll have this review :)

Nice Girls Don't Bite their Neighbors by Molly Harper
published by Simon & Schuster in February 2012

Just as Jane Jameson’s unlife seems to be stabilizing, fate sinks its fangs firmly into her butt. Despite her near-phobia of all things marital, her no-frills nighttime nuptials to her sexy boyfriend Gabriel are coming along smoothly. But the road to wedded bliss gets bumpy when a teenage acquaintance is fatally wounded in front of Jane’s shop and she turns him to save his life. The Council pronounces Jane responsible for the newborn vamp until he can control his thirst.

Jane’s kitchen at River Oaks barely holds enough Faux Type O to satiate the cute teen’s appetite and maintain Gabriel’s jealous streak at a slow simmer. As if keeping her hyperactive childe from sucking the blood out of the entire neighborhood isn’t enough to deal with, the persnickety ghost of Jane’s newly deceased Grandma Ruthie has declared a war on the fanged residents of River Oaks. Suddenly, choosing monogrammed cocktail napkins and a cake that she can’t eat seems downright relaxing in comparison.

Tensions inside the house are growing... and outside, a sinister force is aiming a stake straight for the center of Gabriel’s heart. Most brides just have to worry about choosing the right dress, but Jane fears that at this rate, she’ll never make it down the aisle for the wedding all nice girls dream of...
Genre: Paranormal romance
Series: Jane Jameson, Book #4

The Story: The blurb is pretty accurate. After all that happened, Jane is settling down with her HEA ending. Gabriel has moved in and Jane has finally acquiesced to marry him after his third proposal. And while she really hoped to elope, she has resigned herself to a wedding ceremony and reception. If only she can contains her mother, who is ecstatic that her daughter is finally getting married, from going crazy with the wedding plans. She hopes that by hiring Iris Scanlon, Half-Moon Hollow’s only daytime vampire concierge, it will help.

However, as customary with Jane, things get complicated and not always because of Jane... First, her grandmother, who has always been critical of Jane and obsessed with Jane's house, dies and grabs the opportunity of to be mistress by haunting the house. Then, when Jane witnesses Jamie, the kid she used to baby-sit, being run over by a car and dying, she decides to turn him. So now, she lives with her boyfriend and her childe and let just say the two men in her life are not getting along well. Finally, someone seems to be after Jane's life... but she has no clue who it could be!

Is a HEA ending really attainable for Jane?

My Opinion: The best way to describe the Jane Jameson books is that they are a blend of paranormal romance and chick-lit and therefore, very fun to read :) At first, I was a bit hesitant about the style and had difficulty getting into Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs... but in the end, Jane and her entourage as well as the story just sneaked on me :) Before I knew it, I was devouring the series! So when I found out that Ms Harper was writing another Jane Jameson book, I was really, really happy!

Some say that Nice Girls Don't Bite their Neighbors was an unnecessary book in the series and while I can see where they come from, I have to say I really enjoyed revisiting Jane and her entourage. For me, it was really a fun book and I liked that we got to see her HEA ending. I think a part of me wasn't convinced at Gabriel's commitment to Jane... The relationship seemed a bit uneven to me where Jane was the one more into Gabriel. This feeling was partly because he didn't have much "screen time" in Nice Girls Don't Live Forever and therefore, not enough interactions with Jane. However, after reading Nice Girls Don't Bite their Neighbors, I really can imagine Jane and Gabriel together forever as they indeed matched and Gabriel does love Jane a lot :)

I actually think that Nice Girls Don't Bite their Neighbors was the perfect continuation to the series :) Jane will never have her own babies, so the next best thing is to become a sire... And while it was unexpected, it worked out well :) Not only was Jamie one of her acquaintance, she's actually baby-sat him when he was younger. So she knew Jamie and did have maternal feelings towards him. Also, I think Jamie fits Jane's entourage very well LOL. The last scene where she's talking to Jamie's girlfriend - those were hilarious.

Another thing that I really enjoyed was Jane's interaction with her friends and family. It was great to see that Jane and her sister have made up, have come to an understanding in their relationship and are now close. That's really something I was wondering about. And surprisingly to me, Jane's mother isn't as annoying anymore :) Actually, Jane is really lucky that her mother never turned her back on her, never stopped caring. One thing though is that I wished we've seen a bit more of Zeb, Jolene and the twins. Otherwise, it was simply great to see Jane live her life and be with her friends and family. I think Jane has really found her place and the life she wanted to live :)

There was also an intrigue in Nice Girls Don't Bite their Neighbors where someone seems to be after Jane and Gabriel. It was actually quite amusing and well-done, but at the same time, I could have done without it ^_^; I don't know, it just seems like Jane deserves a break. Why does she always finds herself in those situation? Also, there was a twist at the ending concerning Jamie and that, I really did not expect!

My Grade: B. Overall, the entertaining value of Nice Girls Don't Bite their Neighbor was really high. I simply had fun being back in Jane's head :) And I think this slice of Jane and Gabriel's HEA ending concludes this series on a high note for me, better than Nice Girls Don't Live Forever. Now, I'm really looking forward to the spin-off series and hope it'll be as good and fun!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

WEM VII: Kiss of Frost by Jennifer Estep and Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt

It's the week-end! It's the week-end! Just too bad that the temperature has started dropping. Although, I'm kind of happy... because now, it feels more like spring instead of summer LOL.

I haven't talked about it, but this week was the World Women Curling Championship and I've been following it religiously :) The teams either did great or not in the round robin and some teams I was expecting to see as the top 4 didn't make it like Scotland and China. The big, big surprise this week was Korea!! Wow, they won 8 games and lost 3... Their previous best record was the opposite, 3 wins and 8 losses and that was 2 years ago! Such improvement! So I'll definitively be rooting for the underdog. The funniest thing about Korea is that they came to Canada to train a couple of month and guess how they learn strategy? By watching TSN! TSN is our national sport channel on which I watch curling all the time because it's so popular in Canada. The commentators are very good and knowledgeable. They will talk about all the options available, what is the best call in their opinion, what should have been done for the perfect shot (brush more, brush less), etc. I just find it fun that Korea could improve so much by watching it LOL. Oh and USA was pretty amazing this week. They lost 4 straight games and everyone thought they were out... and had 7 consecutive wins! That meant there was a tie-breaker with Canada. Just too bad they had one bad end, so Canada ended up winning it. The top 4 teams are Sweden, Switzerland, Korea and Canada. Sweden is already sure of winning either gold or silver and it was a great match between Sweden and Switzerland. I hope this week-end's curling will be as good as last night :)

All right, back to books :) Since I've been pretty much up-to-date with my reviews this month, I thought I'd take the opportunity the books that slipped through the cracks last year :) And I decided to go by genre, which was YA last week. The whole week, Kiss of Frost was leading... and at the last minute, someone sneaked in a vote and we got a tie with Sean Griswold's Head! So here we go :)

Oh and for next WEM feature, the genre is historical :) As usual, the poll is on the sidebar :)

Kiss of Frost by Jennifer Estep
published by Kensington in November 2011
I’m Gwen Frost, a second-year warrior-in-training at Mythos Acad­emy, and I have no idea how I’m going to sur­vive the rest of the semes­ter. One day, I’m get­ting schooled in sword­play by the guy who broke my heart—the drop-dead gor­geous Logan who slays me every time. Then, an invis­i­ble archer in the Library of Antiq­ui­ties decides to use me for tar­get prac­tice. And now, I find out that some­one at the acad­emy is really a Reaper bad guy who wants me dead. I’m afraid if I don’t learn how to live by the sword—with Logan’s help—I just might die by the sword...
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Series: Mythos Academy, Book #2

What do you need to know? The story actually takes place away from the Academy. The students are headed to a ski resort for the Winter Carnival. Otherwise, Gwen has been training with the Spartan boys. She still has a crush on Logan, but he's with someone else. So when she meets a cute guy at the ski resort from another Academy, she decides, why not? Also, Gwen has the feelings someone has been following her and perhaps there's been a few attempts on her life, but doesn't really speak up ^_^;

Why this book? In the past couple of years, I've become a big fan of Ms Estep. First with her Elemental Assassin series and now, the Mythos Academy series. I enjoyed Touch of Frost and thought the series had potential... so it was simply a matter of time for me to pick up Kiss of Frost. Plus, great cover!

My thoughts? Truthfully, I was a bit disappointed with Kiss of Frost ^_^; I thought Touch of Frost was a great beginning to the series and I thought Ms Estep would use this opportunity to ride the momentum. Instead, she seemed to have "halted" with Kiss of Frost, almost like a breather. It was bogged down by too many descriptions, internal dialogues and Ms Estep's Archilles heel, recaps. It's nice to provide information to new readers, but at the end of the day, this book is part of the series and therefore the author should expect that readers have read the previous books.

I did like that Ms Estep changed the setting for Kiss of Frost and that most of the story took place at the ski resort. I have to say, I wished there's been more action in this one, but what was there was good. As for the storyline, it wasn't great, but wasn't bad either. The idea was good, but I thought the identity of the villain was too predictable and I didn't like how it connected with Gwen's mother's death. Too coincidental and too obvious. I think for this series to be a success, it needs to be more subtle and intricate. The way it is now, you know that every new information or element is important and will come into play later on.

Something else that I liked about Kiss of Frost is that Gwen finally seems to be coming out of her cocoon and making friends. She's not universally loved, but at least, she has people that she can count on :) Aside from Daphne, I think Oliver will become someone she can confide in. While it's improving on the friendship front, there was little progress on the love front. It annoyed me that Gwen was mooning so much over Logan ^_^; I like Logan and I can see how someone would have a crush on him... but to say that he broke Gwen's heart is going too far as well as the way Gwen is hanging up on him. Yes, they could have started something but Logan backed out at the last minute. Both Gwen and Logan's attitudes towards each other is simply frustrating. Either you get together or you move on... However, as it is, one minute they care, one minute they don't: it's just so contradictory.

Luckily, what saved the day for me was the overall story about Gwen's family being Gypsies. It clears up some questions I had and kept things interesting :) And because of it, I think the series still has a lot of potential.

My Grade? C+Kiss of Frost felt very much like a transitional book to me. However, the end sets up well for the next book. I'm definitively going to read the next and hope it's a winner :)

Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt
published by Bloomsbury USA Children's Books in March 2011

According to her guidance counselor, fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas needs a focus object-an item to concentrate her emotions on. It's supposed to be something inanimate, but Payton decides to use the thing she stares at during class: Sean Griswold's head. They've been linked since third grade (Griswold-Gritas-it's an alphabetical order thing), but she's never really known him.

The focus object is intended to help Payton deal with her father's newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis. And it's working. With the help of her boy-crazy best friend Jac, Payton starts stalking-er, focusing on-Sean Griswold... all of him! He's cute, he shares her Seinfeld obsession (nobody else gets it!) and he may have a secret or two of his own.

In this sweet story of first love, Lindsey Leavitt seamlessly balances heartfelt family moments, spot-on sarcastic humor, and a budding young romance.
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Series: None

What do you need to know? Payton is very close to her father, therefore finding out that he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) is a shock. While not life-threatening, the disease is debilitating on a long-term basis and obviously, life-changing. Payton is scared, but also hurt that her parents did not tell her and she was last to learn about it.

Payton decides to listen to her guidance counselor who suggested to focus on an object and write about it to help her go through this rough period. And she chooses the object that she has been seeing most since third grade: Sean Griswold's head. Well it starts out with the head, but quickly expands to the rest of him. Payton realizes that while she's been sitting behind him for years, she barely knows the boy. What are his likes and dislikes, his interests? As Payton starts getting to know Sean better, she finds she enjoys his company and likes his personality... But Sean's migraines are troubling her and she fears they are not simple headaches...

Why this book? This book first came to my attention on Rowena's The Book Scoop blog :) There was the cover which I found absolutely cute, but also the fact that this book dealt with the acceptance of MS. During my undergrad, I worked at the MS clinic, so I'm familiar about the disease. Also, I thought I'd enjoy this book since it's about Payton's acceptance of her father's disease instead of high school drama.

My thoughts? I'm really glad I read Sean Griswold's Head, because I enjoyed it a lot. It was also as I expected: the book was focused on Payton's acceptance of her father's disease and not centered on high school drama. I find that Ms Leavitt did a great job because the story was very realistic, what Payton and her family were going through felt really real and so did their feelings. In addition, the author did a great job at balancing the serious aspect with the silly, fluffy side of the story :) While the topic is serious and hard at times, the tone wasn't dark or heavy. Instead, it was easy to read and that made it a good read for me :)

All in all, I really liked this book. Payton was a good heroine, although a bit self-centered. I don't mean it in a bad way though. It's just a side-effect of being a teenager :) Payton is hurt and scared and as a result, she's angry at her parents. And while she was angry, she didn't stop to think about how her parents felt... Especially her father who is the one sick. I thought the reaction was very normal, very real... Not just from Payton's side, but also her father. I really liked his explanation for not telling Payton sooner. He himself needed time to accept the disease... by telling Payton, it became too real. I also liked that overall, Payton had a good relationship with her parents and her family was normal.

I also liked Sean very much. He was such a great guy in my opinion. I wished we could have read his POV or seen more of him. I liked how Payton started getting to know him better. First, it was a bit stalker-ish, but then, she started talking to him and made a new friend, found a new interest - biking... Seeing her develop feelings for Sean and her feelings being reciprocated, that was definitively the cute part of the book :) Especially when it started from such a silly idea LOL.

My only complaint is the author's need to add conflicts to a story that already had one. First, there was the fight between Payton and Jac, her best friend. I thought it was superfluous and especially, the way it was done ^_^; Then, there was Payton pushing Sean away because of his migraines. I understand that Payton doesn't want to care for someone who might be sick... She's dealing with her father's illness and so, is scared she could lose Sean. So instead of standing by his side, she pushes him away. I really didn't like that part because I think it spoke poorly of Payton ^_^; As it turned out, Payton's reaction was very premature and lucky for her, Sean forgave her... But what about the future? If something does really happen to him, will Payton rabbit again or will she be strong? Obviously, the relationship was pretty new and as it deepens, things will change... but it left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Finally, with these two conflicts, it meant Payton was pretty much on her own in the last quarter of the book... and it took out steam from the book. It just wasn't as interesting and engaging and I thought it was unfortunate since the first 3/4 was so strong :(

My Grade? B. Despite a couple of issues, I really liked Sean Griswold's Head and will definitively read more books by this author :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

TBR Challenge 2012: The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook

Phew, I made it!! I really wasn't sure whether I would or not ^_^; Once again, I cut it a bit close... But I blame it on all the new releases that I bought earlier. They were all books I was really looking forward... and lately, I've been reading  a bit slower than I'm used to. Ah well, the most important is that I made it :) Yay!

This month's theme for the TBR challenge was "series catch-up." I'm actually up-to-date on most of my series... simply because I look forward to new releases and am very good at reading them as soon as I make their purchases :) Some series I have fallen behind, mostly because I lost interest in them. The only exception that I can think of is the Women of the Otherworld series. I'm two books behind and am waiting for Thirteen, the final book of the series, to be released because the last three books are forming a trilogy. So I put my own twist on this month's theme :) I went for a series that I have yet to start and as a result, picked up The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook.

I can actually remember how excited I was to read The Iron Duke! I love Ms Brook's Guardians series and was really looking forward to more books by her LOL. However, I couldn't find The Iron Duke at the bookstore and that burst my bubble a little... Lucky for me, I was going to the States to visit Hils and found a copy while book-shopping with Christine and Hilcia at Borders. Yep, Borders still existed then LOL. Then, when it came time to read it... I just couldn't ^_^; I picked it up several times, but never got past the first chapters... and more than a year has gone by. I was determined to have it read for this TBR challenge. So let see how it turned out for me :)

PS - Last day to vote for the Week-End's Minis!

The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook
published by Berkley in October 2010
After the Iron Duke freed England from Horde control, he instantly became a national hero. Now Rhys Trahaearn has built a merchant empire on the power-and fear-of his name. And when a dead body is dropped from an airship onto his doorstep, bringing Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth into his dangerous world, he intends to make her his next possession.

But when Mina uncovers the victim's identity, she stumbles upon a conspiracy that threatens the lives of everyone in England. To save them, Mina and Rhys must race across zombie-infested wastelands and treacherous oceans-and Mina discovers the danger is not only to her countrymen, as she finds herself tempted to give up everything to the Iron Duke.
Genre: Steampunk romance
Series: The Iron Seas, Book #1

The Story: Nine years have passed since England was freed from the Horde control, courtesy of Rhys Trahaearn, a pirate and captain of the Marco's Terror, who destroyed the Horde's Tower. For his action, Rhys was granted the title of Duke of Anglesey, but is commonly called the Iron Duke.

After 200 years of occupation, England is slowly putting things back together and adapting to their new freedom. However, there is still a lot of fear and definitively resentment. It means life is not easy for a woman like Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth whose features are definitively of Mongols descent and therefore, a reminder of the Horde. The daughter of the Earl of Rockingham knows that marriage is not in her future and as a result, devotes herself to her work.

When a body is literally dropped on the Iron Duke's doorstep, it brings Mina in contact with Rhys. Together, they discover the identity of the body: Roger Haynes, the new captain of Marco's Terror. Further investigation indicates Haynes was supposed to gather information about a Horde weapon, which could neutralize everyone infected with nanoagents, being auctioned and report back. Determined to regain his ship, the Iron Duke launches himself in pursuit, aboard Lady Cosair - a mercenary airship, and arranges for Mina to accompany him...

My Opinion: Sometimes, when you read a book that's been in your TBR pile for a while, you want to kick yourself and wonder why you waited it so long. Other times, you feel your instinct was right, there was a reason why the book lingered in the TBR pile. For me, The Iron Duke falls in the second category... I really, really want to love this book - it's Meljean Brook!, but even now, I don't know how I feel about it ^_^; Maybe once I'm done with this review, I'll know...

I previously read Here There Be Monsters, the prequel novella to The Iron Duke, and remembered being very confused with the world. I mean, the genre is steampunk, so it's very different than our reality and it means a lot of information... and I felt like I had a lot of questions at the end of it. Plus, the length didn't help. I'm glad to say the world building in The Iron Duke was much better and that I found it very interesting in the end :) I really liked the historical and geographical aspects of the world as well as the technology. I thought it was quite fascinating and at times, quite hard to wrap my mind around LOL. It's clear that Ms Brook invested a lot of time into creating this world and really thought about every aspect: society, other countries, etc. and it definitively paid off because she really created something unique! I really hope that in future books, there will be a map, that would make it complete :) Also, I think Ms Brook did a great job delivering the information. Indeed, she managed to avoid the dreaded information dump and instead, incorporated it into the storyline and the characters - what they said, what they did. Ms Brook believed in her readers, that we'd be smart enough to gather all the elements and get the greater picture :) It was very well-done on Ms Brook's part :)

My only complaint about this world would be the hatred and resentment and the consequences it had... especially on our heroine. I understand that people hated and resent the Horde, but it made it difficult for me to accept that without a bodyguard, Mina would be brutalized and perhaps even worse. As it is, even with a bodyguard, she was frequently insulted and spat on because of her Mongolian features. And that's what I don't understand... I mean, it should be obvious to everyone what were the circumstances of her conception, that her mother had no control because of the Frenzies...It's not as if Mina was a Horde sympathizer. In fact, she probably hated them even more than everyone else and yet,  yet, the way Mina was treated was mind-boggling and speak very badly of the population. How ignorant they are... And Mina is the daughter of an earl... I can't start to imagine the treatment of normal children with Mongolian features!! Also, what was being said of Mina's parents... Even our hero wondering early after he has met Mina whether her mother has "rutted" with a Horde and her father being know as the cuckold earl. I thought it was appalling since it had happened during a Frenzy and everyone knew what it meant everyone should know better :( Another thing I didn't understand is why they let the people from the New World come back and reclaimed the titles. Yes, they had money... but plainly speaking, their ancestors were deserters. After 200 years, do these people have a right to come back and reclaim their status? I don't think so. They should have made laws to prevent it. And seriously, I can't imagine how frustrating it'd be for English people to have these New World-ers coming, still clinging to ridiculous traditions. Funny how they were from the New World, but while the world around them had changed, they had not. However, I guess that Ms Brook did a great job if I ended up feeling so strongly about these two issues :)

Something else Ms Brook did a great job with was the characters, especially the secondary ones. I love Mina's family... Especially her parents. Despite what happened, they still loved each other, remained united and more importantly, loved Mina. They were such good people and righteous, but not in an annoying way... and also skilled. You can't help but admire them and the family they have created. That everyone would die for each other says what they have created and accomplished :) And I love Scarsdale, Rhys' navigator and friend. He was so funny, but at the same time, dangerous :) I wished he was straight so he'd get his own book. And of course, Lady Corsair, Yasmeen, was as mercenary as I expected and very interesting. In comparison, I felt Mina and Rhys paled a little bit. It's not so much the characters themselves, because I think Mina and Rhys were good characters, had good basis... But it's fleshing out, development and ultimately "likable" factor. I mean, once you get to know Mina, you can't help but admire her. This woman is tough and strong and her devotion to her family is admirable. She also gives off the vibe that she's a good inspector which is good too. But I can't help but wonder how... If she is so despised, how can she investigate properly and efficiently? Are people willing to talk to her, trust her or let her investigate? At one point in the story, if it hadn't been for Rhys' presence, she wouldn't have been able to hire a coach! It think it would have been good if we've seen her more in action without Rhys. As for Rhys, yes he was an alpha and tortured hero, he was also an honorable captain. He was also a survivor and as such, he has a tendency to look out for himself and his interest first. But as a man, who was he really? I don't know as I didn't get a sense of him. Rhys knew money, knew sex... but humans? Humans interaction? Not so much. And there wasn't really a softer side to him... All in all, I found that Rhys and Mina were difficult characters to relate to and just didn't evoke any feelings in me. They were just okay. And unfortunately, I felt the same way about the romance ^_^; I didn't think Rhys and Mina suited each other that much. They were so different and sometimes, it works... because the couple comes to a certain understanding. But I don't think it ever happened with Rhys and Mina. Sure, they were attracted to each other... But even after spending so much time together, they didn't understand one another. If they did, the whole "I'm done with you" wouldn't have happened... and that really showed to me they weren't suited. It didn't feel what they had together was solid and I wished for an epilogue to prove me wrong.

I'm almost done here, stay with me LOL. My last two issues had to do with the storyline and the tone of The Iron Duke. First, I think the storyline was good. It felt like a great adventure and that's what The Iron Duke was all about :) Unfortunately, great adventure is usually accompanied with great action and I felt it wasn't the case here. There was some great build-up, but when it should have been awesome, it became anti-climatic. For example, pursuing Marco's Terror and facing Hunt or when they finally found the weapon. My reaction was, that's it? I just thought it was unfortunate that how it unfolded was kind of a let-down :( Finally, the tone of the story... I found the whole feel of the book was bit crude ^_^; I think it was was the overuse of the word "shag" which sure, it's the accurate word since the story takes place in England... but it was a bit jarring for me. Plus, that's a reason why I didn't get in the romance... All Rhys wanted was to shag Mina, to possess her like a thing :( Then, there were a few other scenes that set the tone... I guess it took me by surprise, because it wasn't what I was expecting for this series. I was expecting something more clinical I guess, with all the technology ^_^;

My Grade: C. Phew, I didn't think the review would be so long LOL. I'm going with a C for The Iron Duke because there were some very good elements and there were others I didn't care much for. At the end of the day, I feel neutral about this book ^_^; Didn't love although I really wished to, but didn't dislike either.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Review: Fair Game by Patricia Briggs

Here's my review of Fair Game! Yay!! I really wanted to have this up at the beginning of the week and am so happy I managed it LOL. Also, it came a lot easier than I expected :) Seems like I'm really getting back my blogging groove! Double yay! Now, I need to get back to my TBR book... Otherwise, I won't make it on time ^_^;


Fair Game by Patricia Briggs
published by Berkley (Ace) in March 2012

They say opposites attract. And in the case of werewolves Anna Latham and Charles Cornick, they mate. The son-and enforcer-of the leader of the North American werewolves, Charles is a dominant alpha. While Anna, an omega, has the rare ability to calm others of her kind.

Now that the werewolves have revealed themselves to humans, they can't afford any bad publicity. Infractions that could have been overlooked in the past must now be punished, and the strain of doing his father's dirty work is taking a toll on Charles.

Nevertheless, Charles and Anna are sent to Boston, when the FBI requests the pack's help on a local serial killer case. They quickly realize that not only the last two victims were werewolves-all of them were. Someone is targeting their kind. And now Anna and Charles have put themselves right in the killer's sights...
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Alpha & Omega, Book #3

The Story: Ever since the werewolves have revealed themselves to the public, they have been under close scrutiny. They each have to behave carefully and be accountable for their action. The last thing they can afford is cause fear and being seen as animals. As such, the Marrok had no choice but to become more strict and less lenient. Unhappy with the new harshness of the laws, the Alphas have not dispensed the punishment, i.e. death, as they should. To enforce the laws, the Marrok therefore has to send in Charles. However, to kill for offenses that would have previously been pardoned... and so many werewolves that he knew is taking a toll on Charles. It is actually simply destroying him.

After Anna has brought this to Bran's attention, the Marrok realizes some changes are needed. In addition, it's time for Charles to play the hero instead of the bad guy... So he sends Anna and Charles to Boston which has become a serial killer's latest playground. As the last three victims were werewolves, the FBI would like a werewolf to consult with. As Anna and Charles offer their expertise, they realize that many of the serial killer's previous victims were fae. They hope that the FBI will accept their help in the investigation... especially since the next victim, a young half-human, half-fae woman, has already been taken and her life is in danger.

My Opinion: Finally, the new Alpha & Omega book!! I love the world Ms Briggs has created, but if I have to choose between the two series, it's Anna and Charles hands down for me :) And so I've really been looking forward to Fair Game. Do you realize that Hunting Ground was released in August 2009? That's 2.5 years ago! However, I can't help but wonder if this long wait has hyped up my expectations? Most probably ^_^;

Overall, I did enjoy Fair Game. It's Ms Briggs after all :) This means solid writing as well as an interesting plot. And indeed, I thought the whole serial killer case was very interesting. I liked the inter-agency investigation and turf war. I thought the FBI agents were good and solid characters and I really liked how they weren't afraid of Charles and Anna. Wary, yes, but there was no outright hatred or prejudice. What they wanted was to solve the case and they would accept Charles and Anna's help if it meant they would. I liked their interactions with Charles and Anna, trying to glean new information. These books have mostly been from werewolves POVs and involved supernatural beings. I kind of forgot that the werewolves just recently came out and how limited the humans' knowledge was. So this was a nice reminder.

I also very much liked the involvement of Alistair Beauclaire, a fae. He kind of made the book for me. In this type of world and story, it's always interesting to have such "old" characters. They have this kind of wisdom, knowledge and charisma that definitively enhanced the storylines in my opinion. They make the books more interesting by their life experience... We've seen Bran and Asil in previous books, both werewolves, and now, Beauclaire - from the get go, you know he's a powerful fae, but you don't know who. It's also all in the way they talk, always like half-thruths. Anyway, I thought Beauclaire really added to the story and the action and I was glad he was there :)
"It is not wise to give something old and powerful something they care about. And I am very old. Even possibly, older than your father."
Seriously, how can't you not be intrigued by this character? LOL. Also, those were the words of this book. They were very important and do not only apply to Beauclaire. Some foreshadowing perhaps? :P

One more thing I enjoyed was Anna and Charles' relationship. I was kind of disappointed that it wasn't as sweet as in previous books. Mainly because Charles has built some walls around him in order to shield Anna. However, the conflict in the relationship really worked and blend well with the storyline. Plus, I liked seeing how their relationship has evolved. I loved seeing Anna so much more confident, sure of herself. She's no longer hesitant towards Charles, their relationship or her position in the Pack. She understands Charles better than nobody and when he needed her, she acted. Even if it meant facing Bran. And when Bran didn't listen to her, she seek advice from Asil. She's really grown and it was a pleasure to see. I think it's now Charles' turn to let go and believe in Anna. She's strong and doesn't need him to shield her. So it'll be interesting to see how their relationship evolve in the next book.

While there was a lot to like about Fair Game, there were also some flaws. The biggest one for me was the mystery was not very suspenseful. I did like the case, the set-up, but I thought the investigation was a bit too linear. It was one foot in front of the other and they got to the end pretty quickly with very little surprise :( In addition, I thought the pacing or tone was a bit flat and that meant a lack of excitement. Like I wasn't sitting at the edge of my seat which is something I usually do with Ms Briggs books. Perhaps if the book had been a tad longer? I noticed that the Alpha & Omega books tends to be on the thin side. I mean, the firs three books of the Mercy Thompson series weren't thick by any means, but once the series switched to hardcover, it seemed they were normal thickness. Whereas Fair Game is not even 300 pages. Sure, the last thing readers want is for a book to be draggy... but you need a bit of balance. And the last thing is I wished there'd been a mention of how much time has gone by since Hunting Grounds. I know Fair Game takes place really soon after River Marked, since there's a mention of Mercy recovering from her injuries... but that doesn't tell me how long it's been since Hunting Grounds. One year? Two years? Because between Hunting Grounds and River Marked, there was Silver Borne. I'm just curious, because I think it would have told us a bit more about Anna and Charles' relationship.

And before I conclude my review, I want to mention the ending of Fair Game. I'm not going to say much, except that it was good. I really liked it, Beauclaire was awesome LOL. It also opens many, many doors for the series.

My Grade: B. There was lots to love and enjoy about Fair Game and I did. But ultimately, it came down to the feelings. The lack of suspense and excitement kind of took steam out of the book, so the impact just wasn't there. Basically, Fair Game was a solid book, but lacked the wow factor.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Monthly Reads: February 2012

Hello everyone! Hope you're having a good week-end :) It's gorgeous outside at the moment. It's also supposed to be +20C (68F) for the whole week! Which is quite unbelievable weather for March :) But I won't complain. In fact, I think I should try to do something outside... but I don't know what ^_^;

I didn't buy any books this week as there were no new releases I was looking forward to. So I decided to post my Monthly Reads post for February :) Initially, I was thinking later this week... but I realized there was also the TBR Challenge and it'd probably be too busy. So all works out well :) And as I mentioned yesterday, my Week-End's Minis feature is really working out well. This Monthly Reads post took me no time to put together and almost all of the books have already been reviewed! Yay!  I can't help but feel good about it :) Speaking of Week-End's Minis, don't forget the poll on the sidebar!

So here is what I read in February...

1) Deadly Intent by Kylie Brant: D

I've been on the hunt for new RS authors to discover. After reading No One Left to Tell, I was looking for other RS books heavy on the investigation side. I had Deadly Intent in my TBR pile and hoped it would satisfied my craving.

What is the worst fear for parents who had their child kidnapped? To have her being kidnapped a second time. This is what is happening to the Mulders and it's even worse this time around since it was from her own bedroom in their fortress. Millionaire Stephen Mulder does not hesitate one second to call Adam Raiker who returned Ellie the first time and bring in his team, in the hopes that the miracle will be repeated. Adam brings in Macy Reid, a linguist who's an expert on kidnapping and has gone through the trauma herself when she was a child, and Kellan Burke, an investigator who is not afraid to break some rules to obtain results. Macy and Kellan are complete opposite and often seem to be at each other's throat... but that's only because they are attracted to each other.

Overall, Deadly Intent was an okay read. There was some investigation going on - yay! - but at the end of it, it was more about turf war between Adam Raiker's team and the FBI and that got old pretty fast. In addition, the storyline didn't feel very suspenseful... you didn't feel like it was a race against time. Everyone, including the parents, were just so level-head. I think if Ms Brant has used some date/time headers like Karen Rose does, it would have increased the suspense a little... Because as it is, I found it hard to know how much time had gone by.

While I know this was Ellie's second kidnapping, I felt the investigators wasted too much time going through list of suspects related to the first kidnapping... which were pedophiles/human trafficking people. I guess this was to link with Macy's own kidnapping/past. By the way, I thought there would have been more links between Ellie and Macy's kidnappings... and perhaps it'd be more emotional. But it wasn't and I thought that was a waste. You give the heroine the perfect background to sympathize on such a case and you didn't carry it out. I know Macy is a professional, but still. Also, a bit part of the investigation didn't make much sense to me. The first time around, Ellie was taken from a birthday party outside... that speaks of opportunism. Kidnapping Ellie from her bedroom from a millionaire's house with so many security levels and all? It takes planning and money... and it's a complete different feel. I'd think trained investigators would have recognized this. Oh and the resolution of the case? The "who" did it? Not great either. Just very sad actually.

Finally, the romance was meh. I liked Kell because he was fun and a bit devious :) However, I never really warmed up to Macy... and I didn't feel like the H/H had much chemistry.

2) Third Grave Dead Ahead by Darynda Jones: B

3) Because of the List by Amy Knupp: B-

4) Dark Awakening by Kendra Leigh Castle: C

I received this book at RWA last year. I've seen good reviews for the second book floating around blogland and therefore chose to give this a try :) Plus, I haven't read many new paranormal romance series and was wondering if I was missing any.

Dark Awakening focuses on the vampires in this world. Vampires are divided into Houses with low and high bloods individuals. Tynan MacGillivray is a cat-shifting vampire who is part the Cait Sith which are considered lowbloods and have been enslaved by the Ptolemy House. Because of his hunting abilities, Tynan has been favored the queen of the Ptolemy and he hopes to lessen the burden on his brothers' shoulders. Some dark entity/curse has been killing Ptolemy vampires and they need to find a Seer in order to launch an attack against he enemy. Enter Lily Quinn who lately has been haunted by nightmares of a woman being beheaded. When Tynan discovers Lily, he thinks he's found the Seer... but the strange mark on her neck makes him hesitate. Unconsciously, he knows that Lily is much more than a Seer and wants to find out for himself... even if it means defying his queen.

First, I'd like to say my mood wasn't great when I read Dark Awakening... so the grade might be more me than the book ^_^; Overall, I thought the book had a lot of potential with its world building. I really liked the idea of dynasties and the politics that arose. It definitively makes for a complex and interesting world :) What I liked less about this world was the whole lowbloods and highbloods, the prejudices and condescension. It just got old very quickly. I find I have a lot of difficulties with such behaviors lately, perhaps because there is still so much in own world. Anyway, I wondered why the Cait didn't rebel earlier... or at least try. Also, how do you decide who becomes what house? Does it depend on the sire? Are some born this way? Does it depend on your ancestry? I'd have liked for this to be clearer.

So I found the world building very interesting and by extent, Lily's and the House of Lilith's story as well. I think it was really well thought out and executed. What I didn't much care for was the romance ^_^; All in all, Ty and Lily were okay characters... I thought Ty's character was interesting and quite honorable. He's trying to gain favor of the queen so he could show his House's worth and therefore, elevated it... The only problem is that he remained blind to his queen's faults too long. And Lily, I liked her because she has guts and was smart. However, once again, I thought their attraction was too fast, too instantaneous. Sometimes it works, if the characters show really good chemistry or usually, a prior acquaintances. But in this case, I wonder how Lily wasn't overwhelmed with all the new knowledge, the new world and the danger.

On the plus side, Dark Awakening had some interesting secondary characters. I really loved Vlad and Anura... Such old and powerful characters must have interesting back-stories in my opinion and I would definitively read more of them. Jaden and Damien, Ty's brothers-in-arm, I`m not sure ^_^; Although I have to admit, I'm tempted by Jaden's book, Midnight Reckoning. Guess I'll find out :)

5) Frostbound by Sharon Ashwood: C+

6) Thread of Death by Jennifer Estep: C+

7) Conor's Way by Laura Lee Guhrke: B+

8) Sweet Enemy by Heather Snow: C-

9) Celebrity in Death by J.D. Robb: B-

10) Black Wings by Christina Henry: D

Madeline Black is a 30 years old, single woman who happens to be an Agent of Death. As an Agent of Death, she is responsible for escorting the souls of the newly departed to the afterlife and she has retractable wings, which when opened makes her invisible, to reach her destinations. She inherited this job along from the powers from her mother who was killed by a monster which left her soulless. When Maddy's best friend is killed in the same fashion, Maddy is determined to find out the culprit and exact revenge... However, nobody at the office believes her, least her supervisor. The only help she receives surprisingly comes from her new tenant Gabriel Angeloscuro who's there under false pretense. Indeed, the angel was sent by Maddy's unknown father to keep an eye one her...

I was looking for a new UF series to start and remembered that Black Wings was one that I wanted to try. However, I doubt I'll be continuing it ^_^; I kind of liked the premises of this series, the fact that it involves demons, nephilims, angels and etc. And I also found Maddy's background/root story to be interesting... which actually all linked back to the demons and angels. However, the rest of the book didn't really impress me :( First, I thought that Maddy's attitude throughout the book was tad too casual. The timeline is quite short and given everything that's happening, it should be suspenseful and exciting... but Maddy's thought process and action negate that urging feeling. Also, it didn't make sense to me that she didn't seem to have any training in fighting or magic. Isn't that weird for Agents of Death? Does that mean that souls always follow them meekly? I didn't necessarily want a kick-ass heroine because there are so many out there in UF series... but I did expect someone with some basis. Add in the fact that she suddenly saves the day with magical powers she wasn't even aware of. Sigh.

Another strike for this book was the romance. It's clear that early on, Maddy and Gabriel are attracted to each other... but it seems their feelings for each other are a bit too premature. Then, Ms Henry seems to be setting up for a love triangle, if it's not a square.

In the end, instead of being satisfied with my read, I was left pondering too many questions. Sometimes it's a good thing, because it makes you want to read the next book to find out. Other times, like this instance, not so much because it shows that the book and the world building are flawed.

11) Ride with Me by Ruthie Knox: C
Upcoming Buddy Review for Breezing Through.

12) Trouble in a Pinstripe Suit by Kelly Hunter: B-

13) I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella: B

14) Angel's Flight by Nalini Singh: B

Books bought: + 8
Books read: -14
TBR pile: -6


Historical Romance – 2
Category Romance (Contemporary) – 3
Romantic Suspense – 2
Mystery – 1
Paranormal Romance – 2
Urban Fantasy – 3
Chick-Lit – 1

Something else to feel good about is the number in the TBR pile!! That's two months in a row with negative numbers :) I think I'm really doing well so far with my book-buying and reading. Also, something I've been wanting to add to my Monthly Reads post was the break-down in genre of my reads... But because my posts were always so long, I decide against. Now that it's much shorter, there you go :)

So what do you think of my months? Any books in there you've read and agree or disagree with my take? :P And how was your month of February?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

WEM VI: I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella and Frostbound by Sharon Ashwood

Time for the Week-End's Minis!! :) So, this week's winner was I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella :) I also decided to review Frostbound because this is the second time the book has come in 2nd place in the polls. Guess there are some people who really wants to know what I thought of the book, so I'm more than happy to oblige :)

It also turns out that I'm pretty much caught up on my reviews for my February reads. Probably a first, LOL. I'm really happy as it seems the WEM feature is really working out :) Plus, as I mentioned in yesterday's review, most of the books I've been reading lately are books I want to write full reviews for. So this week's poll is for books I've read a while back... and I decided to choose books from the same genre: YA. So let me know which one you'd like me to review!! :)

Also, this is the 6th edition of the Week-End's Minis... A lot of you told me you enjoyed the mini-reviews format when I started. Now that it's been running for a while, I'd like to get more feedback :) Do you still feel the same way? Are you enjoying the mini-reviews? Am I starting to be too lengthy?

Onto the reviews now! :)

I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
published by Random House Publishing in February 2012
I've lost it. The only thing in the world I wasn't supposed to lose. My engagement ring. It's been in Magnus's family for three generations. And now, the very same day his parents are coming, I've lost it. The very same day. Do not hyperventilate Poppy. Stay positive!!

Poppy Wyatt has never felt luckier. She is about to marry the ideal man, Magnus Tavish, but in one afternoon her 'happy ever after' begins to fall apart. Not only has she lost her engagement ring but in the panic that followed, she has now lost her phone. As she paces shakily round the hotel foyer she spots an abandoned phone in a bin. Finders keepers! Now she can leave a number for the hotel to contact her when they find her ring. Perfect!

Well, perfect except the phone's owner, businessman Sam Roxton doesn't agree. He wants his phone back and doesn't appreciate Poppy reading all his messages and wading into his personal life.

What ensues is a hilarious and unpredictable turn of events as Poppy and Sam increasingly upend each other's lives through emails and text messages. As Poppy juggles wedding preparations, mysterious phone calls and hiding her left hand from Magnus and his parents... she soon realises that she is in for the biggest surprise of her life.
Genre: Chick-lit
Series: None

What do you need to know? The blurb is pretty accurate. Poppy and Magnus met 6 months ago and are about to marry. He and his parents as well as brothers all have academic careers and this leads to very intellectual conversations which often leaves Poppy out and feeling inferior. She believes that his parents don't approve of her and therefore, the last thing she wants is to let them know she's lost her engagement ring, which is a family heirloom.

So in the book, Poppy's cell phone is stolen... and then, finds another one in the trash. It's like faith! Except the cell phone she found used to belong to Sam Roxton's previous PA who just left him hanging. Not only he needs the cell phone back, but also a new PA. Since Poppy has given the number out for her cell phone, she's reluctant to give it back. She promises Sam that she will forward all his messages... and of course, she can't help herself and read them. Seeing how terse and strict Sam is, Poppy starts trying to help out...

Why this book? I didn't know what to read and was started a reading slump... so I asked for suggestions and Tabitha recommended this book. I thought I'd give it a try since I don't read many chick-lit.

My thoughts? I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed I've Got Your Number. It was a very cute read that made me smiled from one end to another :) I was also surprised at how much I liked Poppy's character :) Most of the time, when reading chick-lit books, I find either the characters or the situations they find themselves are superficial... but it wasn't the case in I've Got Your Number. Poppy's character actually felt quite real to me and one I could relate to. I think part of it is Ms Kinsella found the perfect job for Poppy - a physiotherapist. As a physiotherapist, Poppy has to know what she's doing. She was also self-sufficient and put together, it diminished the "airhead" factor to me... actually, it made her smart and normal in my book :) I also liked that she was like a white knight, standing up for her friends. And of course, she wouldn't have been any fun if she wasn't a bit noisy :) However, at times, I definitively thought she needed better friends ^_^;

Overall, I enjoyed her interactions with Sam :) I liked how she tried to help him out, but at times, it backfired LOL. I thought the two of them had good chemistry. Her confiding in Sam was easy because he was a stranger... and her, making Sam realizes that there is more than work was sweet. Although as a whole, I thought Sam being so dedicated to his work wasn't a bad thing :) Also, I thought Sam was quite yummy as a hero once you make him realize there's more to work. And oh, his grand gesture at the end? So sweet!

While I enjoyed the book, there were a few hiccups for me. I didn't like that the storyline took place so close to the wedding date ^_^; In the beginning of the book, you can feel that Poppy loves Magnus a lot and how it was "love at first sight" for them... And then, everything starts to unravel. Yes, finding out more about Magnus did precipitate things... but I guess I just didn't like the fact that Poppy fell out of love with Magnus so easily or quickly ^_^; Also, I think that at one point, the book lost some steam and started being a bit draggy. Not enough to get on your nerves, but enough to be noticed... Finally, I was a bit taken aback with how the whole "mystery" was resolved. I mean, would someone keep calling the wrong number for three weeks? Wouldn't that person realize at some point it was the wrong number? That to me seemed a bit far-fetched.

My Grade? B. Despite the few hiccups, I've Got Your Number was a very fun book :) I definitively recommend it if you're in the mood for chick-lit or something different.

Frostbound by Sharon Ashwood
published by New American Library (Signet) in June 2011

Every dog might have his day, but the hellhound guards the night...

As a snowstorm locks down the city, more than the roads are getting iced. Someone's beheaded the wrong girl, and vampire-on-the-lam Talia Rostova thinks it was meant to be her. Now she's the prime suspect in her own botched murder—and the prisoner of her smoking-hot neighbor.

Lore is a hellhound, bred to serve and protect, so he's not freeing Talia until he's sure that she's the prey and not the hunter. You'd think a beautiful woman in his bedroom would be a good thing, but trouble-prone Talia has run afoul of someone more sinister than your average lunatic killer. An ancient Undead is wreaking vengeance on the city—and on her—and Lore will have to go far beyond a stake to put him back in his grave...
Genre: Paranormal romance
Series: The Dark Forgotten, Book #4

What do you need to know? Lore is the Alpha of the hellhounds and they have just escaped from the Castle (either a part of Hell or another dimension). So the hellhounds are slowly adapting to the world we know and as such, are kind of starting at the bottom of the ladder. Lore is focused on making the transition easier and building a better life for all of them... and finding his mate is not part of his concerns at the moment.

Talia Rostova grew up a part of the Hunters, a clan whose members are all skilled enough to take down supernatural beings. It's because she was a Hunter that Talia was changed into a vampire against her will. At the first opportunity, Talia stole a large sum of money and escaped from her sire, becoming a rogue.

When Talia's cousin/roommate who bears an uncanny resemblance to Talia is found beheaded, Talia knows it was meant to be her. She tries to run away, but is captured by Lore who is replacing the town's sheriff. And he won't release Talia until he finds the culprit... because he can feel that something really bad is coming.

Why this book? I read the first book in this series, Ravenous. Thought it was okay, but not a series I particularly want to continue. Then, at RWA last year, I got a copy of Frostbound and Ms Ashwood actually won a RITA for Unchained... So picking up this series was on my list of things to do. When I saw that Samantha has read and enjoyed Frostbound, it was the kick I needed to give this series another chance :)

My thoughts? Not having read Books #2 and #3 of this series, it wasn't the best idea to simply just pick up Frostbound. It's not that I had a hard time following the storyline, but there were obviously stuff that I missed... like Lore and hellhounds escape from Castle. Plus, the whole politics scene at Fairview with a vampire presenting himself as a candidate - this seems to be an ongoing story. Then again, I'm not sure I want to go back and read the books I missed ^_^;

Overall, I really liked the paranormal aspect of the book. How all the supernatural beings co-exist, the rules and so on. I thought the world building was well done and interesting. As well as the intrigue and the whole "who did it." The two elements really caught my attention and had me keep reading. I do admit I'm a bit tired of "humans" being so afraid that it leads to group like the Hunters whose sole purpose is to kill "monsters." I know it's understandable for humans to fear, because they are considered "weak." At the same time, it speaks of such bigotry ^_^; And perhaps, it's just a bit too real to my comfort :(

Anyway, back to Frostbound. Another strength of the book was Talia as a character and also, her storyline. I liked that Talia was able to take care of herself. From the blurb, I got a feeling she was weak... but it definitively wasn't the case :) LOL, the part where she called Lore "Bad dog" was simply priceless. She definitively had guts, but at the same time, wasn't too kick-ass :) Ms Ashwood did a great job creating a balanced heroine. I also liked the fact Talia was on the run. It shows she was smart... and had integrity (not spending the money she stole). Also, her torn emotions between humans and monsters because of the way she was raise and what she had become was well done.

What else did I enjoy? The quatuor: Lore, Joe, Errata and Perry and I wished they'd been more of us :)  I simply liked the sense of camaraderie and all.

Unfortunately, I thought the let down of Frostbound was the romance ^_^; I didn't feel that connection between Lore and Talia. The whole thing happened quite fast... One moment, Lore was suspicious of Talia and the next, he was all caring towards her. Sure, he was attracted to her before the book started. Plus, she really impressed him with her guts... but it still felt a bit too quick. It seemed their romance stemmed more of the situations they found themselves in instead of their attraction to each other. Plus, the whole resolution for the mate thing was too easy. I think it would have helped if there had been more of Lore in the book. It's not as if his character was neglected, but I didn't really get a sense of who Lore was. Instead, it was more about the hellhounds and his duty to them. Sure, it's a part of him, but I don't think it's all there is to him. Perhaps that's what I missed by not reading Book #2 and #3 of the series.

My Grade? C+. I'm glad I read Frostbound... but as I said, I don't feel the urge of going back and read Book #2 and #3, hence the grade despite some very good intrigue and world building.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Review: Thread of Death and By a Thread by Jennifer Estep

Finally, the week-end! I have no plans except for continuing to read and hopefully review :) I'm just looking forward to some time to relax and de-stress. What about you? I also need to try to read a book for the TBR challenge!!

I've been reading a lot of books I was looking forward to. So expect some reviews :) I thought I'd start off with By a Thread by Jennifer Estep. And I decided to knock out two birds with one rock by reviewing the novella that came out just before By a Thread, Thread of Death. Enjoy!!

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

Thread of Death by Jennifer Estep
published by Simon & Schuster in January 2012 (e-book only)

Gin Blanco, aka the assassin the Spider, might have finally killed her nemesis, Mab Monroe, but that doesn't mean that it's smooth sailing. Gin goes to Mab's funeral to say her goodbyes and runs into some of Ashland's most notorious underworld power players, including Jonah McAllister and Phillip Kincaid. McAllister wants her dead, and Kincaid has his own murky motives when it comes to the Spider, and Gin once again finds herself fighting for her life. Only this time, she might wind up in the cemetery right next to Mab.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Elemental Assassin series, Book #5.5

The Story: It is Mab Monroe's funeral and everyone with a modicum of power in Ashland has turned up. Gin and her entourage have also decided to come, for closure. However, not surprisingly, the Queen of Ashland's underworld will not go quietly - even dead...

My Opinion: When I heard that Ms Estep was contracted for two additional books in the Elemental Assassin series, I was thrilled :) And once I read Spider's Revenge, I was even more looking forward to By a Thread for the change of scenery and therefore less predictability. However, reading Thread of Death gave me some doubts as to whether or not my expectations for By a Thread were too high ^_^;

Basically, I had no issues with the writing of Thread of Death. I thought it was solid and I welcomed the additional POVs (Jonah McAllister and Phillip Kincaid) that we got. Although I admit that Jonah McAllister's voice seemed to be a bit off. I thought it wasn't distinct enough from Gin or Phillip... but still, it was a nice touch because it really let you know where he was coming from and how deep his hatred for Gin is. Gin hasn't only killed Mab and Jonah's son... but she single-handily changed his life the way he knew it. From very high, he now has fallen to the bottom. That loss of status is hard to swallow and he's definitively not going to accept meekly and thus, is going to try to take out Gin. That part of the novella made sense to me :) I also really liked getting Phillip Kincaid's POV. He's been mentioned several times in the series, but I think this is the first time readers got to meet him. For some reasons, in my mind, I thought he'd be older... Anyway, I'm now really intrigued about Phillip and Owen's friendship!! Obviously, there was a woman who came in between and has clouded Owen's judgement. From the bits we got, I think I'm really going to like Phillip's character! A ruthless man, but still loyal to his friends... almost honorable :) And I think Ms Estep did a great job at foreshadowing Widow's Web, the 7th book in the series. Right now, I'm really excited to read that book for Phillip, but also to know more about Owen's past!! I do hope that the friendship between the two men will be mended.

Where Thread of Death didn't work for me was the concept/idea of it: Gin attending Mab's funerals. I can understand that Gin and Bria need closure... but I think attending the funeral wasn't the right way to go about it. First of all, why would Gin - the owner of the Pork Pit and eternal college student, and Detective Bria Coolidge attend the funeral? Actually, could they? I mean, most of the people present at the funerals are the ones with power, the cream of society... Gin and Bria are neither. So wouldn't they stand out like a sore thumb? Okay, so Owen and Finn do have some status, but they were not friends or enemies with Mab. So even their presences are questionable. Then, there's the fact that Gin went after the sniper. For an assassin, it seemed to me Gin has tossed caution aside and has definitively tipped her hand here. Yes, there's been rumors and McAllister knows her true identity... but I don't think it was Gin's intention to confirm those rumors and that's exactly what she did. You'd have to be a moron to be at the funeral, see what Gin did and not wonder who that woman was and whether or not the rumors could be true... and most often than not, people in power are not morons ^_^;

My Grade: C+. To sum up my review, I think that Thread of Death's storyline was a bad idea conceptually. It simply didn't make sense to me. However, once written, it was well-executed and because of it, I'm looking forward to Widow's Web even more :)

By a Thread by Jennifer Estep
published by Simon & Schuster in February 2012
When killing people is your job, there’s no such thing as a vacation.

Then again, how often does an assassin live long enough to enjoy her retirement? In this line of work, you either get lucky or you get dead. And since I destroyed my nemesis Mab Monroe a few weeks ago, all of Ashland’s lowlifes are gunning to make a name for themselves by taking out the lethal Spider—me, Gin Blanco. So I’m leaving behind my beloved barbecue joint and heading south with my baby sister, Bria, to cool my heels in a swanky beach town. Call it a weekend of fun in the sun.

But when a powerful vampire with deadly elemental magic threatens an old friend of Bria’s, it looks like I’ll have to dig my silverstone knives out of my suitcase after all. Complicating matters further is the reappearance of Detective Donovan Caine, my old lover. But Donovan is the least of my problems. Because this time, the danger is hot on my trail, and not even my elemental Ice and Stone magic may be enough to save me from getting buried in the sand—permanently.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Elemental Assassin series, Book #6

The Story: Ever since Mab Monroe's death, rumors abounded that Gin Blanco, owner of the Pork Pit, is in fact the fearsome assassin, the Spider. As a result, Gin has been fielding ambushes and attacks right and left from everyone who wants to make a name for themselves. For a retired assassin, she's seeing a lot of action... and it's starting to take a toll on her. Thus, Finn proposes a vacation. They end up choosing Blue Marsh, a swanky beach town and Bria's hometown.

Gin ends up driving down to Blue Marsh with Bria a day before Finn and Owen join them. Ever since they have reunited, Gin and Bria's relationship has been fragile because of who Gin is and it has become even more tenuous after Bria has been kidnapped and tortured by Mab. Therefore Gin hopes this trip will give them the opportunity to strengthen their bond... especially since she's worried Bria has decided to return "home" now that their enemy is dead. However, Gin's bonding experience is not happening, in part because she feels like the third wheel once she meets Callie - Bria's best friend and the "sister she never had." Then, to her shock, Callie also turns out to be the fiancée of Detective Donovan Caine... Gin's lover who really hurt her in the past.

And to complicate the whole situation, Callie is in trouble. Callie is being harassed by a rich and powerful vampire to sell him her restaurant. She is the only land owner still holding out and therefore, is the only obstacle left in Randall Dekes' plan to build a resort and mega casino. Gin kindly proposes to take care of him... but let say her proposition doesn't go over well with Bria and Donovan... that is until, Dekes kidnaps Callie.

My Opinion: As I mentioned earlier, I've really been looking forward to By a Thread :) Overall, I have enjoyed the Elemental Assassin series; however, by the end of the first story arc, i.e. Spider's Revenge, I found the series really suffered from too many recaps and became too predictable. Therefore, By a Thread felt like Ms Estep's opportunity for another fresh start. In the end, although she didn't fully exploit the opportunity she was given, I think Ms Estep did a good job nonetheless :)

Overall, I did enjoy By a Thread. While the plot wasn't as refreshing as I hoped it'd be, it was a bit less predictable and still a very solid read. I guess there are plot limitations when your heroine is an assassin and her first reaction is to kill first and think later ^_^; Plus, Gin's victims have to be villains, people who deserve it... I mean, nobody likes a heroine who kills innocent, right? Going in By a Thread, I didn't expect Gin to be someone else and I knew she'd be doing her job, i.e. killing people... and in that respect, kudos to Ms Estep for being consistent with the characterization :) However, I can't help but be a bit disappointed because I felt Randall Dekes wasn't different from the previous villains in the series nor was the situation Callie was in which prompted Gin to take care of it. Once again, you have an underworld lord who appears to be nice and philanthropic bullying regular folks and resorting to violence and death. Like I said, it wasn't very original and I hope that in the next book Ms Estep will be able to come up with something different. In the meantime, Ms Estep pulls it off  in By a Thread because there are some interesting twists in the plot :) I really liked that Gin was reminded of her vulnerability in By a Thread. Not surprisingly, after killing Mab who is such a powerful elemental, Gin has gotten a bit too over-confident. It's a very normal reaction in my opinion... but it's also a very dangerous one and Gin pays for it. As an assassin, Gin cannot get sloppy... Sloppy means death. Also, there's always someone stronger waiting in the wings. So in that aspect, I think the plot worked :) And as usual, there was some nice action :)

The real strength of By a Thread wasn't the plot or the action this time around. Instead, it was the development and progress in the characterization and relationships in my opinion. I thought Ms Estep really did a great job. I liked that she tackled the broken relationship between Gin and Bria. I feel that ever since she's appeared in the picture, Bria has been acting like a spoiled kid. Bria was lucky... she was saved and then, was raised by a loving couple. Gin wasn't as lucky and in the end, she survived the only way she could. Obviously, Gin being an assassin does go against Bria's moral standards... but doesn't Gin deserve a break given what she's been through? I felt Bria should be the last to be so judgmental about Gin. Also, there was a lot of emphasis about how angry Bria was at Gin because Gin was the reason why Bria was kidnapped and tortured by Mab... and I just don't understand this part. The way I remember it, if it wasn't for Gin, Bria would have been killed right after she returned to Ashland ^_^; With or without Gin, Mab would have gone after Bria simply because of who she is... so I really didn't get why she blamed Gin. Anyway, I'm glad that seeing how Donovan treated Gin finally opened Bria's eyes and made her realized how badly she's been treating Gin. At the same time, I was also very glad that Gin was able to let go of Bria. Our heroine has been trying so hard to win over her little sister and really, I just thought Gin deserved better.

Another relationship that Ms Estep tackled was Donovan Caine. When I heard from Ms Estep that Donovan would make a return in By a Thread back during RT 2010, my first reaction was denial. I really wasn't looking forward to it, because I just hate love triangles... and there's no doubt to me that Gin has not let go, mainly because Donovan is the man who walked away and hurt her so much. Does someone you don't have feelings for can hurt you this much? No. So whether she admits it or not, I feel like Gin has loved Donovan at some point. I guess that in facing Donovan again, Ms Estep's intention was to give Gin some closure... and she did get closure, but it felt forced to me. My problem is that whenever Owen came up, Gin would think/talk about how much she loves him, how much they suit each other and how Owen accepts her... which is all true. However, the way it was done, it seems to me Gin was reminding herself. She was reminding herself to love Owen because he was safe, he wouldn't hurt her :( Also, in By a Thread, Donovan really acted like an ass ^_^; From his "too good" attitude towards Gin to the last scene at the restaurant... Ugh, Gin is totally better off without him. At the same time, I feel that Owen deserves more from Gin... And I hope Ms Estep will work on that in the next book. Oh and also, I loved Owen's attitude throughout By a Thread. Always supportive towards Gin, but also, he trusted her. He never pushed her, forced her in anyway to prove that she loved him... Sigh, such a great guy. I really hope Gin realizes how lucky she is :)

Finally, I want to say that I liked that Ms Estep addressed some of the issues readers have brought up in the previous books, mainly the recapping. I don't know whether she really listened to the readers or it's because By a Thread is a new story arc and didn't require as many recaps, but I hope she keeps it up :)

My Grade: B. I really wavered between a B or a B+. Had I not felt the way I do about the whole Gin and Owen, this book would definitively have been a B+. In the end, I just feel a bit uncomfortable with the whole situation and I hope Ms Estep will really make it clear in Widow's Web :)