Thursday, November 29, 2012

Review: A Fool's Gold Christmas by Susan Mallery

Two weeks ago, I wrote in a post that it'd be fun to review a Christmas-themed book each week till December 25 :) I missed last week because I was busy and didn't feel inspired, but I'm determined to keep it up from now on. I don't know about you, but this year, I'm really in a Christmas mood! :) I've been reading Christmas novels, feel like shopping, even feel like baking! LOL, I'm not because I'm not good at it... yeah, I'm feeling it this year :) And we just got our first snow yesterday, further reinforcing the feeling LOL. What about you? Are you excited for Christmas this year? If not, well perhaps this book will put you in the mood :)

A Fool's Gold Christmas by Susan Mallery
published by Harlequin (HQN Books) in September 2012
The unrelenting cheer in Fool's Gold, California, is bringing out the humbug in dancer Evie Stryker. She learned early on that Christmas miracles don't happen, at least not for her. And this year seems like no exception. An injury has forced her to return to the family fold, no matter that they're estranged. She won't add to the awkward scenario by being seduced by the bad-boy charms of her brother's best friend, the last man she should ever want to date. Even when she's recruited to stage the Fool's Gold winter festival, she vows to do as promised, then move forward with her life anywhere but here.

Jaded lawyer Dante Jefferson is getting used to the backwater town he now reluctantly calls home, but the pounding of little dancers' feet above his temporary office is more than any man should have to take! When he confronts their gorgeous teacher, he's unprepared for the attraction that sears him down to the soul. Evie is his best friend's sister--off-limits unless he's willing to risk his heart. Dante has always believed that love is the most dangerous force in the universe, but that was before he had to reckon with the magic of a certain small town, where miracles do seem to happen...
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Fool's Gold, Book #10

The Story: Evie Stryker is the black sheep of her family - not due to her attitude, but because of the circumstances of her birth. Her mother was newly widowed when she had an affair/one-night stand with a cowboy and Evie was the result. Because of their age differences, Evie was rarely included in the boys' activities and she also felt emotionally neglected by her mother. So when Evie was old enough, she left to pursue her dancing career and it somewhat naturally led to an estrangement with her family.

But things have changed in recent months. Her brothers and mother have all settled happily in Fool's Gold and the last loose end is Evie. As such, they all want a second chance with her to make amends and the opportunity shows up when Evie injures herself. Before she can protest, Evie is whisked to Fool's Gold where she ends up teaching dance and living next door to Dante Jefferson, her brother's business associate and best friend. Being new in town, the two quickly bond... especially when confronted to the town's Christmas enthusiasm. One thing leads to another and soon, Evie and Dante are a couple. But is there any future when neither plan to stay in Fool's Gold?

My Opinion: So, it's been a while since I've last read a book by Ms Mallery - almost a year!! - which is kind of surprising given how prolific the author is. The only explanation I have is the Fool's Gold books simply don't appeal to me. It's a combination of small town overdose - I mean, I've been mixing up the Fool's Gold and Lucky Harbor series and I'm usually really good at keeping characters and storylines straight - and the characters and blurbs not making me go "Ohhhh, I want to read this." Plus, it's been a while since Ms Mallery has really wowed me. The last two books of hers that I really enjoyed were Almost Perfect and Head Over Heels, that's not a lot given how much she's written... Anyway, I wasn't really planning to pick up A Fool's Gold Christmas, but then, I went ahead and read Brie's review and I don't know, thought the book had potential. And A Fool's Gold Christmas did indeed have potential, but I'm not sure if Ms Mallery completely delivered...

The good news about A Fool's Gold Christmas is that I really liked Evie and Dante - as individuals and as a couple. They were likable characters with some interesting background stories. I admired Evie's strength and independence, and not only when it came to her family situation. I mean, to be told that you're not good enough to achieve your dreams (being a dancer), it's hard... and not having the support of your family during those times, even harder. Still, I feel Evie came through it, she overcame the circumstances and was living her life. She resented her mother and I thought that was really understandable, but she wasn't overly bitter and I thought that was mature. She didn't blame her misfortune, she assumed it and went on with her life and that's what I found admirable. As for Dante, I thought he was likable as well. In the blurb, he is described as jaded, but I don't think the right word was used. He might have been in whatever other books he appeared in, but in A Fool's Gold Christmas, I thought he was friendly and caring, ambitious and focused. And as I couple, I really liked them together. They had chemistry and were a good match for each other. I liked the teasing and how they bonded over being newcomers to the town and being overwhelmed with Fool's Gold Christmas' spirit. I liked how they became a couple, it worked :) What didn't work for me though was Dante's stupid lie at the end of the book to break off things, breaking Evie's heart in the process... and him coming back and being forgiven. Ugh. First, I'm really tired of any character walking away and coming back because they realize their mistake. Seriously, it's not romantic at all! I'd really rather they communicate their fear, their concern and work it out together like, I don't know, mature adults! Second, she took him back too easily without any groveling! I think she could have made him worked a bit for the broken heart she got.

Something else that didn't work too well for me was the Strykers' situation. As Christmas' spirit demands, the conflict between Evie and her family was resolved... and I'm not convinced on the sincerity of all parties. Actually, I would have loved to read about Evie and her family's conflict in another book, one that was not Christmas-themed. I think it would have allowed more focus and development on the conflict than what we got in A Fool's Gold Christmas. I felt that Evie's resentment and anger towards her family and especially her mother were entirely justified. All her life, nobody in her family really cared about Evie. And it's not simply Evie's imagination. There were actions and events that showed the lack of caring. I simply can't imagine living through what Evie has. It wasn't physical abuse, but in my mind, it was definitively some kind of emotional abuse and negligence... And I don't think years of that kind of abuse can be resolved in a few days, simply because the other parties - the brothers and the mother - want to. While I really disliked the mother for her selfish attitude, I did at least see some efforts made in the book. I can't say the same about the brothers... and I think they are as guilty as the mother. Yes, there was an age difference and they were kids themselves and probably took their cue from their mother, but they've been adults for a long time now. They should have cared more about Evie. Now they want a second chance, but I'm sorry, I didn't see their actions backing up their words. There was definitively a bond between Evie and Clay and they had kept in contact and all... But Rafe and Shane? Suddenly veto-ing Evie's new boyfriend is not enough. As for the mother, as I mentioned, she made some efforts... But in many instances, it felt like she was playing the victim. Asking Evie if she hated her... What is Evie supposed to answer to that? I liked that Dante brought a different POV to Evie, that life is short and she doesn't want to be estranged with her family forever. However, there was a big difference between Dante's mom and Evie's and that is Dante was always certain of his mother's love for him. Anyway, it's not that I didn't want the conflict to be resolved.... but the way it was done was too simple for the complexity of the situation and as a result, the feelings didn't feel genuine.

Other than that, A Fool's Gold Christmas was kind of cute, with all the activities, decorations and Christmas spirit. I say kind of because, well, I'm more like Evie and find the whole thing a bit overwhelming LOL. I do wonder if there really are towns that pull all the stops like that out there ^_^; In addition, we got to see a lot of previous characters, but without them overtaking the spotlight which was nice.

My Grade: B-. In the end, I'm glad I picked up A Fool's Gold Christmas because I liked Evie and Dante and their romance :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Review: Believe in Me by Laura Moore

Believe in Me by Laura Moore
published by Random House Publishing (Ballantine Books) in January 2011
Even the most tightly locked heart has a key

After learning of her husband’s affair, Jordan Radcliffe is crushed, but she knows she must stay strong for her three young children. So she moves back to Rosewood, the idyllic horse farm where she grew up. Wishing only to recover and reassess her life, Jordan feels an undeniable attraction to architect Owen Gage—and does her best to ignore it. Her heart is too fragile to love again.

Yet when Owen, who himself is wary of any romantic involvement, offers her a job she badly needs, Jordan has no choice but to accept, even though it means she’ll be working alongside him every day. And that closeness could intensify the connection between them—a desire as unnerving as it is powerful.
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Rosewood trilogy, Book #2

The Story: As the oldest daughter, Jordan Radcliffe has always strove to satisfy her conservative father's expectations of a proper Radcliffe woman: she was domestically inclined, went to college, married young and had children. Jordan was happy with her life... until she found out her husband had an affair. Still, she was willing to work on saving their marriage after her husband had assured her the affair was done, but unfortunately for Jordan, her world crumbled when she discovered it was all a lie. She got a divorce and moved back to Rosewood with her three young children: Kate (6 y.o.), Max (4 y.o.) and Olivia (1 y.o.).

Jordan's first priority is to find a job, a source of income to provide for her children and also help out Rosewood. Her plan is to resuscitate her interior designer career by revamping an acquaintance's - one of the leading society ladies - guest house. However, Jordan's service is not retained, although her ideas are. Instead, the business goes to Owen Gage whose firm did the restoration. Owen is none too happy either to be using someone else's ideas, especially since he was impressed by Jordan's pitch. Feeling like he owns her and knowing she could use the work, Owen offers Jordan a job: to decorate Hawk Hill, the adjacent property to Rosewood and Owen's pet project.

But is it wise to work with someone you find so attractive?

My Opinion: I picked up Believe in Me because I was in the mood for a good contemporary romance and  a lot of my blogger friends have suggested that I give Ms Moore a try in the past year. I'm glad I listened to them, since I ended up enjoying Believe in Me a lot :)

Frankly, there was nothing new about the story told in Believe in Me, but the reason I enjoyed it so much was the beautiful execution: likable characters, sweet romance and solid writing. I mean, what more can I ask for? :) I really liked that Ms Moore took her time developing and setting up every aspect of the story. Some will find that it made for a slow pacing and it was to a certain extent. At the same time, it allowed me to really get a feel for Jordan's life - her routine and her struggles - and it contributed to make the whole story more realistic and normal. I also greatly appreciated that the H/H did not fall into lust and into bed too quickly, which is becoming one of my biggest pet peeves ^_^; It was just nice to read a slow romance, to see the relationship unfolds.

As I mentioned above, I liked that Ms Moore kept the story grounded. She didn't over-romanticize or dramatize the story. For example, Jordan's three children weren't overly cute or mature for their age. And Owen's discomfort with the children didn't miraculously disappear after one encounter. In fact, his wariness of Olivia was the source of a few chuckles LOL. And I have to say, I loved the way Jordan handled her situation with her ex-husband. I liked how level-headed and reasonable she was... and I found it sad that her ex-husband lied and hurt her instead of being honest to the person he vowed to love.

All in all, as I said, Believe in Me was an enjoyable book. Aside from the romance and the story involving the H/H, the book focused on the Radcliffe sisters. I have to say I enjoyed their interactions, their bond. The trilogy's storyline was also well woven into, it didn't steal the spotlight and didn't bore me. And I think Ms Moore addressed the situation with Jordan's teenage sister, Jade, realistically. Oh and if you're a fan of horses, you definitively want to read this trilogy :) In the end, when it came to Believe in Me, it was all about balance and Ms Moore did an excellent job. I only have two minor complaints about the book: 1) at times, Owen felt a bit boyish in my opinion, although it did fit with his bachelor status... but when you think he's paired up with Jordan, a mother of three, it just didn't feel right. Then again, he probably brought forth another side of Jordan, so it does work... just not for me. 2) I thought the ending was a bit abrupt. Given the rest of the book was so well developed, it feels like Believe in Me could have used the same development or an epilogue.

My Grade: B+.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hauling Sunday XCIX

Hi everyone!!

How are you doing? First, happy belated Thanksgiving to all my American friends. Hope you enjoyed the long week-end :) Did any good shopping?

Quick update about me. The past week was quite busy at work. Boooo. And then, when I had time, I was busy reading, hence the lack of reviews. Hopefully, this week will go better. Health-wise, I'm still feeling dizzy, although I got to say, the past two days were much better. I saw my family doctor on Thursday and she said the dizziness stemmed from post-concussion syndrome and it usually lasted 4 to 6 weeks. I get to see her again in mid-January and by that time, if I still feel dizzy, she'll send me for scans. After this week-end though, I'm hopeful that it'll go away soon. *Knock on wood* Finally, curling-wise, it was a so-so week. I lost both my games (Thursday and Friday) and played not very good. Very inconsistently. It felt like something was off and I think that on Friday, it was the way I held my broom when sliding off. Too close to myself. I lost my balance (when throwing) quite a few times... Also, my rocks just didn't curl. One of my teammates told me it's because my body wasn't properly aligned. Something to work on next week. It also seems that very soon, I'll be playing on Wednesday instead of Thursday, as we'll most probably drop section. Ah well LOL.

Now, book-wise. There was a Black Friday sale at the bookstore, "Buy 3, get the 4th free," but after the two last weeks, I really have no new books to buy. Sigh. Seriously, they should space out the promotions a bit!! I did get a book though and it's been one I was really looking forward to:

Did You Miss Me? by Karen Rose - Yep, it finally came!! And yes, I finished reading it :) This is the UK edition of the book. The North American one comes out in February, so keep your eyes open for it :) I just can't wait because I'm such a huge fan of Ms Rose. I really love her writing and this book was totally worth getting the UK edition. Not only the story and characters were great, but you really get your money worth as the book clocks over 500 pages! Been a while I haven't read such a thick book!

That was it for this week :) Luckily, this week will be as exciting as there are some books I'm really looking forward to coming out. What about you? Good week?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Week-End's Minis XXXII: Riveted by Meljean Brook

It's been a while since my last mini-review, but I finally have one! :) Hopefully, I'll get back in a blogging rhythm soon. Enjoy!

Riveted by Meljean Brook
published by Berkley in September 2012
A century after a devastating volcanic eruption forced Iceland’s inhabitants to abandon its shores, the island has become enshrouded in legend. Fishermen tell tales of giant trolls guarding the land and of seductive witches who steal men’s hearts. But the truth behind the legends is mechanical, not magic—and the mystery of the island a matter of life and death for a community of women who once spilled noble blood to secure their freedom.

Five years ago, Annika unwittingly endangered that secret, but her sister Källa took the blame and was exiled. Now Annika serves on the airship Phatéon, flying from port to port in search of her sister and longing to return home... but that home is threatened when expedition leader David Kentewess comes aboard.

Determined to solve the mystery of his own origin, David will stop at nothing to expose Annika’s secrets. But when disaster strikes, leaving David and Annika stranded on a glacier and pursued by a madman, their very survival depends on keeping the heat rising between them—and generating lots of steam...
Genre: Steampunk romance
Series: The Iron Seas, Book #3

What do you need to know? All in all, I think the book blurb is accurate and gives a good idea of what the story is about. Annika comes from Hannasvik, a community composed exclusively of women, situated in Iceland. The survival of this community when first established relied on secrecy and has continued to this day.  Five years ago, Annika's inattention could have given away the location of the village. Her sister Kalla took the blame and was exiled. Feeling guilty, Annika vowed to bring Kalla back home... but first, Annika has to find Kalla and therefore, she has been serving as an engineer on the Phatéon, traveling the world.

For years, David Kentewess has been looking for his mother's people in order to realize her last wish: to have her necklace buried with her ancestors. When David comes across Annika, he recognizes her accent and knows she holds the key to the mystery. And luck is on his side as he is a passenger of the Phatéon, so he'll have time to quiz her.

Annika is attracted to David, but she's also wary of him. David is a scientist and has been tasked to do a survey of Iceland to see if it's habitable again. His expedition and findings could threaten Hannasvik's secret...

Why this book? I'm a fan of Ms Brook's writing and had read good reviews for Riveted.

What did I like? The first word that came to my mind to describe Riveted was interesting. I liked that we got to discover another part of the Iron Seas' world, the culture, the sexuality, etc. The most interesting part was Hannasvik: how it came to be, how it evolved, the relationships, even the people's names. And it was interesting to see the Iron Seas' world from Annika's perspective, because given her background, she's sort of naive, but also very open and not prejudiced.

Annika and David's characters were great, especially David. I liked David's determination in finding his mother's people and his ruthlessness when it came to it... but at the core, he was more of a beta hero and that's why he backed down and apologized. It made him a complex character. I also admire how he overcame his past and handicap and set out for adventures. Overall, Annika and David's characters were both sweet and so was their romance and I felt the two simply complemented each other so well.

What did not work for me? I had a few issues with this book. First, it took me more than a week to read Riveted IIRC. Part of it was that I was heading into a reading slump and another part was simply because I didn't get hooked by the story. I liked the characters and the romance was sweet, but the whole intrigue about the Phatéon being attacked, the action part, just didn't grab me. Also, I do think the pacing of the book was a bit uneven. It seems to take a while before things happened... and while there was some action, the focus was more on the characters, on the culture. So it had a quieter feel than the first two installments. The biggest issue though was that I had difficulty visualizing the Iron Seas' world, the steampunk aspect the story. There were plenty of descriptions and yet, I still didn't see it. I get that it's my problem and has nothing to do with the author's writing, but you can imagine how it would dim my enjoyment not "seeing" it.

My Grade? B-. Riveted was an interesting book with good characters and a sweet romance. However, the story didn't grab me and left me lukewarm. I'm sure though if I was able to visualize the steampunk aspect better, I would have enjoyed Riveted more.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Curling Recap III

Hey everyone :)

So here is the Curling Recap post I told you about on Saturday :) I was aiming for Monday, but since the past week-end was so busy and I haven't posted a review in a while, I decided to talk books instead :) But I did not forget about this post, especially since last week, I played well! LOL.

This week, I'm not going to do any Curling 101, because I want to discuss scoring, but I'm missing pictures ^_^; Going to try to snap those during this week's games :) Instead, I'm going to show off my new equipment LOL.

Before my fall, I was already planning to invest in shoes and a broom, but I just didn't have time. Well for last week, I really wanted to be prepared, so I got my own broom and my shoes!! :) Take a look at the broom :)  The handle is made of carbon fiber and the whole thing weights less than 400g. The pad is very thin, so the sweeping is more effective, because it has more impact on the ice. When sweeping, you want to put as much weight as possible, so when you sweep, there's actually an effect on the ice. Also, you don't need to make big sweeping movements, just sweep about the rock's diameter. The lighter the broom is, the faster you can broom.

And here, you can see the famous shoes :) If you're right-handed, you want to kick out of the hack with your right leg... which means you slide on your left foot. If you're left-handed, well it's the opposite. So in a pair, one shoe will allow you to slide while the other will grip the ice. Depending on the model, the sliding surface can be two discs like mine or it can be the whole surface or just the outline, etc. In any case, you don't always want to be sliding, so you'll need a gripper which is basically a shoe cover that'll grip the ice. Honestly, I didn't really have to buy the shoes. There are sliders available at the club that you simply slip on...   The important part in my opinion is a slider. Even if you're a beginner, you should get one and it can go over sneakers no problem. I was just unlucky because all they have at the club are small or huge sizes. Anyway, now, I'm sure-footed :)

Last week, I got to play three times :) My usual Thursday and Friday games, plus the inter-club tournament. Here's how it went:


Thursday was my return on the ice. Everyone asked me how I was doing ^_^; It's nice to see everyone caring, but after a while, repeating yourself ^_^; Also, the word was spread, so pretty much everyone knew. 

The game - We lost 7-6 :( We actually started off really well, but one bad end and as a result, we lost. There was a tiny chance to tie in the last end, but that shot was really difficult LOL. 

My performance - I started out well, but halfway through the game, I don't know. My rocks were still in play, but it seemed to be they were either curling too much or not enough. I think it was due to my aim. Anyway, on 16 rocks, I think 12-13 of them stayed in play :) There was one pair of rocks that I threw during one end that was perfect... The rest, well they had the right weight or the right position, but not both :( I was also asked to throw a take-out, but I missed ^_^; Right weight, but the aim wasn't good. As I play lead, I'm rarely asked to play take-outs... Gonna have to work on those eventually.



Last week's TGIF game was actually a lot of fun :) To mix things up, there was a switch in position. So lead and second switched and so did third and skip. So I got to play second :) When playing second, the shots asked of you is a bit more varied and also, you need a bit more control of your weight. LOL, the first rock I threw, I actually threw the wrong way! I'm so used to being asked to play guards, so I was in the hack, kicked out and released my rock as usual and well, wrong turn LOL. Oups. 

The game - We won 11-6!! Yay! It was so funny. We took 1 in the first end which is fine. Then, in the second end, the opponent scored 5!! So it was 5-1 and my teammate and I were like: "Oh boy, we're in trouble!" That is until we scored 5 in the third end! After that, we ruled the game :) 

My performance - I played awesome on Friday evening! :) I was making pretty much all my shots. Even the first one where I threw wrong, well it stayed in play at least, so that was good :) There was one other rock that didn't make the call, but it was useful because it showed my teammate what weight was necessary for him to throw. So it turned out good :) It's definitively fun to be on! :)


Grande Dame

On Saturday, I got to play again because I participated to an inter-club tournament, Grande Dame. Each club had to enter a minimum of 4 women teams I think and we got assigned a match at a club - could be our club or anywhere else. The match was 10 ends with a 15-minute break after 5. That's the usual format in big tournaments. So yeah, I got to play in this very posh golf/curling club. The day before, at the TGIF night, I was warned not to wear jeans and I was also told I would fall in love with the locker room... and people were right LOL. It was soooo nice! Mahogany wood paneling and showers to die for. Oh and it was a lot bigger than ours LOL. Still at the end of the day, I wouldn't switch club. Ours is cozier and more relaxed, I really like the atmosphere there :)

Besides participating to the tournament for fun, we actually had a goal :) See the two ladies in pink in the picture? Well I'm teaming up with them to participate to the Debutante tournament next January which is for curlers of 5 years and under. So we went to practice together and see how good we get along. The answer was very good LOL.

The game - We won!! As you can see from the picture above :) We're Glenmore, by the way. So we won 11-8. It's okay if you can't figure out the score, the way they keep track is really weird and confusing LOL. Anyway, we were really excited and happy! We had a lot of fun and the game was actually close through 9 ends! Our skip (lady with the grey sweater) was very nervous because it was the first time she skipped. She has been playing for 8 years, but mostly lead or second. It's only the past two years that she's moved to third. We kept telling her it was okay, that we were playing for fun, but she was still nervous. It didn't help that the day before, on Friday evening, she had played skip for the TGIF game and lost... against my team! LOL. However, during the game, she was like: "It's not as hard as I thought it'd be!"

My performance - My stellar performance continued on Saturday. Out of 20 rocks, I think I had one that was short and another heavy, but the rest were in play :) I didn't make all the calls though :( I don't know, but  my rocks seem to curl too much. Ah well. Anyway, what was challenging in this game was actually the sweeping and calling the weight. Letting our skip know whether the rocks would get there on their own or were too light and therefore needed sweeping. When I play with my regular teams, I'm the newbie, so I let the others call the weight since they have more experience. But on this team, the other two ladies have only played a year more than me, so we're all a bit uncertain LOL. The thing though is that rocks can be deceiving! When you release them, they look like they have the good weight, but suddenly, they'll grab new pebble and die on you! Also, I got to have more input with the skip. All in all, I had a great time :)


So that was my curling week :) It was a lot of fun, but I'm glad I'm only playing twice this week LOL. On Thursday night, I bumped my knee a little bit and I was like: "Oh, there's a familiar pain. Can't believe I miss it!"

Monday, November 19, 2012

Review: Breaking Point by Pamela Clare

Bummer, I didn't have time to write a mini-review yesterday... However, I can tell you that my room is clean! Cleanest it's been in months! LOL. I was going to take the week-end easy, but it turned out to be busy :( So busy I did not have time to read at all! And this means I won't make it for this month's TBR challenge. However, for October, I actually read two books from my TBR pile that could have fit the theme... One was Exit Strategy which I reviewed and the other was Breaking Point. Therefore I decided to review Breaking Point today. I'm cheating a bit, but I'm sure nobody minds... and now, I'm wondering why I'm not posting this review on Wednesday instead ^_^; Oh well, that's what happens when you're swinging it :) Anyway, enough rambling! Enjoy the review!!

Breaking Point by Pamela Clare
published by Berkley in May 2011
Denver journalist Natalie Benoit and Deputy U.S. Marshal Zach McBride find themselves captives of a bloodthirsty Mexican drug cartel. Working together, they escape through the desert toward the border, the attraction between them flaring hotter than the Sonoran sun. They fight to stay ahead of the danger that hunts them as forces more powerful than they can imagine conspire to destroy them both...
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: I-Team, Book #5

The Story: Natalie Benoit is a journalist, part of the I-Team, an award-winning investigative team, for the Denver Independent. Lately, she found herself in a rut and therefore signed up for a three-day convention in Juarez, Mexico to learn more about the inter-mingled issues of immigration, the drug trade and human trafficking between the United States and Mexico. She's in the bus with her colleagues when it gets raided - all the Mexican journalists are killed and for some unknown reasons, Natalie is kidnapped... and the next thing she knows, she is held captive, at the same place as Zach McBride, an American of dubious background who has been tortured.

It turns out that Zach is a Deputy U.S. Marshal and is working undercover. He's been sold out and set up by an Interpol agent who stole a shipment of cocaine. Thanks to his Navy SEAL training, Zach has withstood the torture... but he feels the end is near. That is until the drug cartel brings in the new captive, Natalie. Zach knows what awaits her and wanting to help her gives Zach  a new purpose.

As Zach and Natalie escape and make their way back to the States, Zach knows deep down that Natalie was not kidnapped at random... And if he's right, what made her a target?

My Opinion: Usually, I try to stay away from books whose main characters are journalists or reporters, because I just hate them ^_^;; They make me want to scream, what with the whole "people has a right to know" which usually leads to TSTL or just plain annoying behaviors. However, Breaking Point has received a lot of good reviews, everyone raves about Ms Clare's writing... and did I ever tell you about the shortage of romantic suspense books? Anyway, I ended up picking Breaking Point during a "Buy 3, get the 4th free" promotion at the bookstore IIRC... and finally read it after a co-worker of mine binged on the I-Team series and raved about the books. And guess what? Yep, I ended up enjoying this book a lot LOL.

There are several reasons why I enjoyed Breaking Point so much. First, the heroine, Natalie, was awesome... and not just because she has the same name as me LOL. The first thing that strikes you with Natalie is how brave and courageous she is. She demonstrated it when she tried to save her colleague in the bus, then time and time again during the kidnapping and the escape... and when you learn about her past, you realize this bravery of hers comes from deep down. To have survived what she's been through and keep going on, brave is the perfect word to describe Natalie. I also loved that she was not passive during the escape, that she didn't sit around waiting for Zach to do all the work. I especially like that she's the one who actually saved them and then, listened to Zach to get back to the States because he knew more. She was just very composed and I felt that as a civil, it was refreshing. Zach was also a very interesting character that I enjoyed a lot. The fact that he turned his back on his life of privilege to make his own path says a lot about him. I liked that he was considerate of Natalie and what she was going through. Yes, he was an alpha, but didn't go overboard with his behavior. What I liked most though is the fact that his feelings towards Natalie progressed gradually and that he recognized them. It's nice to see a hero recognizes that he is in love without it being a punch in the face ^_^; The romance also worked for me. I enjoyed the chemistry between the two and how their relationship evolved. What I liked the most was their HEA ending with Natalie's decision. I liked that she could walk away...

What made the book for me was definitively the characters and their romance, although the story and suspense wasn't bad at all. The whole kidnapping being linked with one of Natalie's investigation made sense, although the connection was a bit tenuous. Still, it worked. Also, the past characters of the series play a big role, but they fit instead of being superfluous, especially the spouses and they were entertaining. Another reason why I think Breaking Point worked so well for me was the fact that Natalie being a reporter was not the focus of the story. For the first half of the book, Natalie isn't doing her job, she's trying to stay alive and therefore, there was nothing to be annoyed about.

My only complaint about Breaking Point is the big villain at the end. He was supposed to be a big shot and it seems they figure him out easily. Plus the ending was a bit anti-climatic ^_^; I guess I was expecting a bigger showdown and something more convoluted.

My Grade: B. A very enjoyable book :)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hauling Sunday XCVIII

Hi everyone!!

So I'm switching my Hauling Sunday post with the WEM feature this week because as you can see, it's quite late and I didn't have time to write a mini-review LOL. I had a curling game today, part of an inter-clubs tournament :) And guess what? We won our match!! Yay! LOL, we won't know the official winner (which club) until tomorrow. Look forward to a curling recap later this week :)

As for my health, I still have dizziness. It's a bit worst, but probably because I played curling three days in a row. I know, I know... Going to take it easy for the next few days. On Friday, I met a lady who had a severe concussion back in June-July. She said she had dizziness for two months and even now, she had spells from time to time. Sigh. Anyway, seeing my family doctor this week, so definitively going talk to her.

Now, onto books. I'm still waiting for my copy of Did You Miss Me? by Karen Rose :( I pre-ordered it on Book Depository and it says it was dispatched on November 2nd. Sigh. Hopefully next week. In your opinion, when should I contact them about not getting a book? Because usually, the shipping only takes a week. Ah well... I wasn't going to have any books, but the bookstore had another promotion this week: Friends and Family Event, which gave 25% off on purchase of 50$ and over, in addition to the i-rewards discount of 10%. So here is what I got:

A Duchess to Remember by Christina Brooke - I read and enjoyed Ms Brooke debut novel, Heiress in Love. I decided to give A Duchess to Remember a go :) In addition, I wanted to support the author since I got Heiress in Love for free at RWA in 2011.

Outlaw Derek by Kay Hooper - I'm a huge fan of Ms Hooper's FBI SCU series... as you all know LOL. And because I love Ms Hooper so much, I collect her backlist, which turns out to be easier than I thought since it's being re-printed LOL. However, I admit being way behind on this series ^_^;

Don't Cry For Me by Sharon Sala - Another book I bought to support the author. I have loved some of Ms Sala's older books. Unfortunately, her couple last releases have been underwhelming as I found them a bit repetitive. Let's hope this one will be different.

My Kind of Christmas by Robyn Carr - LOL, here's my review. All you need to know about me and this book, you can found there :)

Scorched by Laura Griffin - As I'm waiting for Did You Miss Me?, I've been in the mood for romantic suspense. There are really few out there though it seems. Ms Griffin is a hit and miss author for me, but guess what she writes? Plus I've read good reviews for this book :)


And there you have it, my haul for this week. I have to say though, my book buying habits are starting to change... I think I was at the bookstore for almost an hour before I came up with these 5 books ^_^; In the end though, it was worth it as I save 16$ which is 1.5 books.

What about you? Any good deals and good books lately?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review: My Kind of Christmas by Robyn Carr

LOL, not the review I was planning for today, but the one that I ended up writing :) Hey as long as I write, it works for me :) Hope you will all enjoy this review! And you know what? I think I'll try to review a Christmas book per week till the actual holidays... I'm in the mood this year! What do you think? Of course, that's if I have read enough LOL, but so far, it does look good :)

My Kind of Christmas by Robyn Carr
published by Harlequin (Mira) in October 2012
Patrick Riordan always thought that nothing could match the adrenaline rush he gets from his job. But this Christmas, Patrick's pulse is really racing...

The Riordan brothers may have a reputation for being rough-and tumble, but Patrick has always been the gentle, sweet-natured one. These days, his easygoing manner is being tested by his high-octane career as a navy pilot. But for the Riordan brothers, when the going gets tough…the tough find the love of a good woman.

Except the woman who has caught Patrick’s attention is Jack Sheridan’s very attractive niece.

Angie LeCroix comes to Virgin River to spend Christmas relaxing, away from her well-intentioned but hovering mother. Yet instead of freedom, she gets Jack Sheridan. If her uncle had his way, she’d never go out again. And certainly not with rugged, handsome Patrick Riordan. But Angie has her own idea of the kind of Christmas she wants—and the kind of man!

Patrick and Angie thought they wanted to be left alone this Christmas—until they meet each other. Then they want to be left alone together. But the Sheridan and Riordan families have different plans for Patrick and Angie—and for Christmas, Virgin River–style!
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Virgin River, Book #20

The Story: Back in March, Angie LeCroix was in a serious car accident resulting in multiple injuries. The most worrisome was the one to the head which required a shunt to be implanted and caused her to be in coma for three days. She fought her way to the world and luckily, came out mentally unscathed. However, the accident did give her a different outlook on life... and because she feels life is short and can change at any moment, Angie is reluctant to go back to her medical student life and resume her studies right away. She wants to experience life, but also do something meaningful... instead of being the "good" girl and letting life passes by her while she is studying. This decision does not please Angie's hovering mother and as a result, Angie decides to head for Virgin River to have some "me" time and figure out what she wants to do.

In Virgin River, Angie meets the youngest of the Riordan brothers, Patrick, who is also reflecting on his future. Like his brothers, Patrick has also chosen a military life and is a Navy pilot. During his last deployment, Patrick lost his best friend, Jake, who was shot down. Due to his grief, Patrick got six weeks of leave... and he is using it to re-evaluate his career, especially since he has the notion that he must take care of his best friend's widow and son.

When Angie and Patrick meet, sparks fly between the two and the attraction is too tempting to resist. Can these two mend together, knowing there's an expiration date to their relationship looming? In addition to their own lives, Angie takes it upon herself to help a little girl to get a brighter future.

My Opinion: Wow, 20th book!! How did this happen? I can still remember picking up Virgin River at the bookstore because of its cover and it being a Mira book and thinking the blurb was interesting. And then, the wild goose chase to get my hands on the Grace Valley trilogy... Time just flies LOL. Anyway, I have to admit that my enthusiasm towards the Virgin River series has dimmed a little bit in the past year. Part of it has had to do with the over-saturation of the market with small town romance books... but quite frankly, a lot of it has had to do with underwhelming storylines as well. I still like Virgin River, but the recent characters and stories simply didn't do it for me... The last book in this series that I've truly enjoyed was Wild Man Creek, so it's been a while. I just feel the series has started growing a tad repetitive and redundant. As a result, I have yet to read the last two installments... So why did I pick up My Kind of Christmas? Because Ms Carr usually has something up her sleeve for the Christmas installment, but mainly because it featured Patrick - the last of the Riordan brothers to get his book - and also because I was on a contemporary romance binge... and despite everything I said above about being tired of the series, etc., in the end, I'm glad I picked up My Kind of Christmas because it worked out well for me :)

The reason why My Kind of Christmas worked for me was because I enjoyed Angie and Patrick and their romance. Angie and Patrick were both very likable characters and also very honest with themselves, but each other as well. The beginning of their relationship was a bit fast to my taste - they pretty much see each other, are attracted, flirt and the next thing you know, they're sleeping with each other and having a fling. However, despite the fast start, their romance was quite sweet and they had good chemistry together. I felt Angie had youth, but at the same time, she was very mature and matched Patrick well. As for Patrick, he was a really good guy. It was interesting that among the five Riordan brothers, he was the one with the sweetest nature and temperament - a nice change of pace :) He was a little bit misguided though and the idea of marrying his friend's widow to take care of her, that was really stupid. I think someone should have told him point blank in addition to the fact that the widow would have a say in it as well ^_^; To assume she would marry him, men can be so dense!. In the end though, I'm glad he chose Angie on his own, without prompting. Although I have to say, it would have been nice for Angie to fight for Patrick, instead of being so selfless. Still, overall, I just enjoyed Angie and Patrick's interactions, seeing them falling into this relationship.

As much as I complained about the series becoming a bit repetitive and redundant, it was nice though to be back in Virgin River and see some familiar faces as well as some traditions such as the tree going up :) Given that the heroine was Jack's niece and the hero, one of the Riordan brothers, it didn't bother me as much to re-visit previous characters. Some of the family intrusions were fun - especially when Patrick's mother showed up LOL. Others were a bit overbearing like Jack... but at the end of the day, it was heart-warming to see Angie and Patrick have families that love and support them :)

The only part that I didn't care that much was the storyline with Megan, the little girl who was disfigured and whom Angie decided to help out. It didn't bother me like it did with Brie, because I think Angie's interest was genuine... and as "marketing" as it sounded, it fit the Christmas miracle theme. What bothered me about it though was two things: 1) how easy the miracle unfolded - it was a bit unbelievable how fast Angie was able to manage it, even with Mel's previous work about it... and 2) the poverty. I know the people living in Virgin River are not rich, a lot of them live from day to day, month to month or/and season to season. It's one thing though to be aware and another thing to read about it ^_^; Sure, I want my books to be realistic, but there are some instances, I don't mind the idealization... It's one thing to read about a heroine/hero who is broke, because you know that usually, it'll turn around. But a community... it's harder, sadder and not something you want to read about if your purpose is to escape.

My Grade: B. My Kind of Christmas was a sweet and enjoyable read :) It hit the right spot at the right moment for me and as such, I'm glad I picked it up. It was also nice to re-visit Virgin River :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Review: The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

Finally a review!! Woohooo! I had plans for this review last week, but with the bed rest... you know how it turned out :)

Quick update about me. First, a big thank you for all the comments and encouragements! It's really heart-warming to know that there are people who care :) So, unfortunately, the dizziness is not completely gone yet. The good news is that it hasn't worsen either. I read online that some symptoms can last a few weeks after the injury... so I'm figuring that the dizziness will go away on its own eventually. I have a family doctor appointment next week, so I'll talk to her about it and if anything feels abnormal or get worse, I'm heading to the emergency right away. Although I gotta say, this morning, it felt better! Not gone, but less. I'm also taking it easy at work and going to try to limit my reading and blogging and so on. However, there's no way I'm going back to veg :( I also plan to resume curling this week. So you have it, the latest with me :)

Onto the review now!

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan
published by Hyperion in October 2012
Annabeth is terrified. Just when she's about to be reunited with Percy—after six months of being apart, thanks to Hera—it looks like Camp Jupiter is preparing for war. As Annabeth and her friends Jason, Piper, and Leo fly in on the Argo II, she can’t blame the Roman demigods for thinking the ship is a Greek weapon. With its steaming bronze dragon masthead, Leo's fantastical creation doesn't appear friendly. Annabeth hopes that the sight of their praetor Jason on deck will reassure the Romans that the visitors from Camp Half-Blood are coming in peace.

And that's only one of her worries. In her pocket Annabeth carries a gift from her mother that came with an unnerving demand: Follow the Mark of Athena. Avenge me. Annabeth already feels weighed down by the prophecy that will send seven demigods on a quest to find—and close—the Doors of Death. What more does Athena want from her?

Annabeth's biggest fear, though, is that Percy might have changed. What if he's now attached to Roman ways? Does he still need his old friends? As the daughter of the goddess of war and wisdom, Annabeth knows she was born to be a leader, but never again does she want to be without Seaweed Brain by her side.
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Series: Heroes of Olympus, Book #3/Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book #8

The Story: The Mark of Athena starts off where The Son of Neptune left off, with a delegation of Greek demigods consisting of Annabeth, Piper and Leo, as well as Jason, arriving at Camp Jupiter aboard Argo II. Both camps are still suspicious of each other, but know that Hera/Juno has gone through all this trouble for some reasons and come to a consensus on the seven demigods who will undertake the Great Prophecy/Prophecy of the Seven: Percy, Jason, Annabeth, Piper, Leo, Hazel and Frank. However, the truce comes to an abrupt end due to a misunderstanding and our seven demigods are forced to flee Camp Jupiter. Now, their journey to the ancient lands is even more critical because not only do they have to stop Gaea from waking and creating havoc, but the success of their mission will also prevent a war between the two demigods camps.

However, as usual, things are not simple. Just before making their escape, our group of demigods gets a new prophecy... and this means a detour to Rome to save Nico who's been imprisoned by the giant twins. Also, Annabeth has been tasked by her mother, Athena, to avenge her by following the Mark of Athena... A mission that countless demigods before Annabeth has failed. Our heroes also cannot count on the help of their gods because a lot of them are out of commission, busy fighting headaches brought on by their Roman and Greek personas. And as usual, they only have a few days to succeed...

My Opinion: I really enjoyed The Son of Neptune and as a result, was anxiously looking forward to The Mark of Athena. As soon as I got the book, I simply devoured it :) As you can imagine, the expectations were quite high. All in all, I do think that Mr Riordan delivered with The Mark of Athena as it was enjoyable... but I feel the book could have been more.

One of the best parts of the book for me was Annabeth. I'm actually not a big fan of Annabeth, I always felt she was a bit too "know-it-all," too stuck-up, too conservative... However, in The Mark of Athena, I found her more likable. I feel Annabeth has softened up and it suited her well :) Part of it is her maturity, but another part I believe is Percy's influence on her. It was a good change especially since we finally got Annabeth's POV for the first time and I have to say, I enjoyed it. I thought she was interesting. Still very smart, but more approachable. It also made her storyline more interesting because I was rooting for her :) I gotta say, at first, I was a bit skeptic at how much this book would focus on Annabeth. Yes, I wanted to read Annabeth's POV, but there's a big difference between wanting her POV and wanting her to be the central element of the book. In the end though, Mr Riordan did a good job at balancing out the storylines and yes, Annabeth's mission was important, but it didn't steal the show. Not only that, but Mr Riordan was very subtle with Annabeth's role throughout the book and that really fit with her character :) In any case, it was nice to see Percy and Annabeth reminisced about the past, to see how strong their relationship has become. They really complement each other very well :) The reunion between the two was very sweet and so is the ending of The Mark of Athena, in a way.

As usual, The Mark of Athena is full of clever and funny elements such as the idea of the Greek/Roman schizophrenia that some gods suffer. It's a really good idea and I loved how the gods that only had one persona (Greek or Roman) or the ones where both personas were so similar in function such as Nemesis were unaffected. One of my favorites was Bacchus/Dionysus with the Pepsi/Coke relationship. It was so clever. And of course, some of the situations and how Mr Riordan mixed in the Greek and Roman mythology made the book :) Oh and I also really liked that Mr Riordan answered the Leo/Sammy question and didn't let the readers wonder and speculate too much. That would have been really annoying... although I have no idea what it means in the future for Leo, Hazel and Frank.

Also, The Mark of Athena was very action-orientated. It was really one adventure after another. That's usually how it is with this series' books... However, in The Mark of Athena, it didn't work as well in my opinion. Yes, it was still very fun and entertaining... but at the same time, it felt a bit too cartoonish. There wasn't much transitions between the adventures and that hurt the flow of the book. Especially after the first quarter of the book, it was simply non-stop. In addition, for logistical purposes I assume, Mr Riordan had to split the group of seven demigods into smaller groups for these adventures. So very rarely were the seven demigods together. And that's where I think Mr Riordan missed his chance to make The Mark of Athena more memorable. I think he should have focused more on developing a dynamic, a trusting relationship between the characters than the adventures. I wished we've seen the characters interact and bond more with each other, to overcome the Greek/Roman prejudices as well. Oh it was somewhat still achieved in the book, but it lacked something in my opinion to be totally believable. I felt the trust they were able to establish was too reluctant, in the sense of "we're in this together, I don't have a choice" instead of it being truly genuine. Also, I would have liked to see more of Jason and Percy dealing with each other, the two leaders cooperating. As I said, there was some, but more would have been better :P

Finally, my only negative about The Mark of Athena was Piper ^_^; I'm really not a fan of hers and I could have done without her POV. There was so much going on and there she was, worrying about her relationship with Jason. It didn't help that we didn't have Jason's POV in this one, but I can bet that her doubts were unjustified. Perhaps I'm being mean, but in comparison to the other characters, I felt she didn't bring much to the story.

My Grade: B. The Mark of Athena was entertaining and enjoyable :) It would have been even better if there had been more chemistry, more cohesion between the characters. Overall, I thought it was better than The Lost Hero, but not as good as The Son of Neptune... hence the in-between grade :) Looking forward to the next book! Hoping to get Nico's POV this time around!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hauling Sunday XCVII

Hi everyone!

How are you doing? How's your week-end going? Well mine sure is relax :) I'm trying my best not to cheat, but it's seriously hard. The dizziness is still not gone. Is it better? Hard to tell, but it's not worst, so that's something right? I read that sometimes the symptoms can last a few weeks after the injury and that's what I think is happening. It'll probably be just like my vertigo, just disappear one day. But I'm being careful. It helps that I work right next to the hospital emergency and also, I have an appointment with my family doctor next week. Plus this week is not so busy... So we'll see.

In the meantime, here are the books that I got, but cannot read :(


Here are my pre-orders of the week:

The Perfect Hope by Nora Roberts - It's Nora Roberts, what can I say LOL. Got to get it. I admit this is not Ms Roberts' best trilogy, but it's still enjoyable. Curious to see how the relationship between Hope and Ryder will develop :)

Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet by Darynda Jones - Ms Jones was my find last year. I really enjoy her style of writing as well as the series. I'm curious to see what will happen to Charley and Reyes! I also find the cover concept interesting :)

Lord's Fall by Thea Harrison - Well I got the print and the audiobook. I figured if I couldn't read, I could at least listen... Hmmmm. I'm not a huge fan of The Elders Race series, but like many readers, I was curious to see Ms Harrison coming back to Pia and Dragos.


I've been waiting for a while for the bookstore to have a promotion... and they finally did :) They were promoting holidays shopping, so from Thursday to Sunday, they have those "Reveal the Magic" cards where you can win 10% to 100% off your purchase. Plus, 25 lucky customers at each bookstore would get something special on Thursday evening... which turned out to be 5$ off your purchase. Yep, I was one of those 25 lucky customers :) Woohooo. So here is what I got:

Lord of Temptation by Lorraine Heath - I've really enjoyed Ms Heath's last series and I love the premises of this one. I'm kind of looking forward to reading this one, but at the same time, I have some apprehensions because of the reviews I've read. Also, haven't really been in the mood for historical romances... that's why I've held off so long before buying it.

Midnight's Daughter, Death's Mistress and Fury's Kiss by Karen Chance - This is a spin-off series from Ms Chance`s popular Cassie Palmer series. Li is a huge fan of Ms Chance and I tried the first Cassie Palmer book, but meh. Also, not a huge fan of love triangle. However, I gotta say, this spin-off series sounded interesting based on the blurb :) I mean, the first book, Midnight's Daughter, is about Dory, a dhampir, taking down her uncle... Dracula. Anyway, long story short, I decided to give this series a go because I was in the mood for some urban fantasy. I quite enjoyed all three books and therefore, decided to buy them :)

With the promotion and the 5$ off, it was as if I bought 3 books and got the 4th free :) So good shopping for me. I'm debating whether to return today or not. There are some books that I want, but I don't really need right this moment. So perhaps I can still wait for a real "Buy 3, get the 4th free" instead of getting only 20% off the books?

What about you? What good books did you get this week?

Friday, November 09, 2012

Bed Rest...

Hi everyone!

how are you doing? Hope everyone is doing well. I'm sorry for the lack of posts this week :( I had a plan, but you know how it goes with plans :( Never go accordingly, at least, not for me LOL.

Long story short, I went to see the doctor on Tuesday and turned out I had a concussion from my fall on last Friday :( Doctor said I had no neurological problems, but to get rid of the dizziness, I had to rest for a few days. Actually, I had to veg: no reading, no tv, no nothing T_T Boring!! Of course though, I cheated a little ^_^; And then, yesterday, I went to work and oh boy, the dizziness. So I'm taking today off and planning to rest the whole week-end.

So just wanted to let you know I was still alive and what was going on :) No mini-review tomorrow, but hopefully, by Sunday, I'll feel better and will be able to post a Hauling Sunday post because while I cannot read, I did buy and receive books!

Ugh, see, that's when I think if I was more organized, I should have posts sitting there and waiting to be posted. Something to really work on next year!

Have a nice day and week-end!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Review: All He Ever Needed by Shannon Stacey

All He Ever Needed by Shannon Stacey
published by Carina Press in October 2012
He won’t stay put for a woman, and she won’t chase after any man…

Mitch Kowalski lives out of a suitcase—and he likes it that way. Traveling for work has the added bonus of scaring off women who would otherwise try to tie him down. But when he’s called home to help with the family lodge, he’s intrigued by the new girl in town and her insistence that she doesn’t need a man. If there’s one thing Mitch can’t resist, it’s a challenge.

After a nomadic childhood, Paige Sullivan is finally putting down roots. Determined to stand on her own two feet, she lives by the motto “Men are a luxury, not a necessity.” But when Mr. Tall, Dark and Hot pulls up a stool in her diner and offers her six weeks of naughty fun with a built-in expiration date, she’s tempted to indulge.

They’re the perfect match for a no-strings fling. Until they realize their sexy affair has become anything but casual…
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Kowalski Family, Book #4

The Story: Mitch Kowalski is the oldest of five Kowalskis in Whitford, Maine and owns a demolition company. He doesn't mind coming home from time to time, but usually doesn't stay very long because of the lack of privacy of small towns and the fact that they still haven't forgotten his youthful indiscretions. However, this time, he's home for 6 weeks as his youngest brother, Josh, who's been taking care of the familial business, the Northern Star Lodge, broke his leg and needs assistance. 6 weeks between demolition assignments with not much to do seems the perfect stretch of time to Mitch to have a fling... And as soon as he meets Paige Sullivan, owner of the revamped diner, he's decided she was it.

Paige Sullivan has been in Whitford for two years. Her car broke down, liked the town and saw the diner for sale and decided Whitford would be perfect to put down roots. Paige had a very nomadic childhood thanks to her mom who flew wherever love was... and Paige is determined not to make the same mistake. As a result, she hasn't gone on a date for two years and it has not gone unnoticed in town. However, she's attracted to Mitch... but she's also heard all the stories... Can she do a no-strings fling?

My Opinion: I read and enjoyed previous installments in this series, but I didn't love them like the majority from whom I read reviews. And once again, I'm most probably going to be in the minority where it concerns All He Ever Needed.

Overall, the story was okay. I mean, when it came to the romance, there wasn't much we haven't seen. The hero wants a fling, the heroine succumbs, they have a good time but eventually realize what they have is more. As a secondary storyline, you have the Northern Star Lodge that is not really doing well financially which brings back another of their brother, Ryan, to check it out. While in truth, Josh is just tired of taking care of it, being the youngest, he was kind of stuck with the lodge while his older siblings got to spread their wings and do what they wanted. In that sense, I do think the older siblings were a bit selfish, just assuming Josh liked taking care of the lodge. Then again, Josh is old enough to express his opinions and could have voiced his displeasure earlier. There were a few more storylines such as the part-time lodge housekeeper's 26 years feud with a friend of her late husband... but the most interesting one involved Mitch's best friend, Drew Miller who is the sheriff. He and his wife are going through a rough patch, because Drew wants to have children and his wife doesn't. As I said, the situation is quite interesting and the arguments on both sides make sense. The problem though is what the wife doesn't understand is that Drew is not choosing hypothetical kids over their years of marriage, what he can't get past is having been lied to for his entire marriage. Definitively not a clear cut, but I can still take side :)

So what was my issue with All He Ever Needed? Basically, Mitch's behavior. There's something about his attitude that just rubbed me wrong... and I know I'm in the minority here, but please, just hear me out.  I was fine with the fact that Mitch wanted to have a fling, six weeks of pure fun and something temporary. My problem was he saw Paige, was attracted and wanted to have the fling with her. He was warned very early that Paige haven't been out with any guy for two years, and still, he set his cap on her... and when she turned him down, he still pursued her. Ultimately, it felt to me like he was  forcing his agenda on her. It's one thing if she had jumped in on the fling, but she didn't. She didn't want to get involved and he still pursued her. Why not respect her decision, her choice? Sure, they found each other attractive, but that didn't mean they had to act on it. They wanted different things... So why did he keep pursuing her? As I said, it'd be different if he wanted something more than just sex, but that was his motive. It just felt disrespectful to me. From the beginning, it felt like he's been after a conquest. He came into town knowing he'd be there for 6 weeks and decided he wanted someone warming his bed and Paige would be it. It just didn't work for me.

I know All He Ever Needed is a contemporary romance novel, so yes, the H/H have to get together for this book to work out, but deep down, I really wanted Paige to stick to her gun, turn him down and not succumb. Why do heroines, when they know full well they're not made for flings, still go for them? Does this really reflect reality? Something else that really bothered me was everyone in Paige's surroundings having an opinion about whether or not she should get with Mitch. I know this is a small town and there's no privacy and people are noisy, but still... This was taking it a bit too far for my taste.

Otherwise, Mitch and Paige's characters were okay. They liked and wanted different things, but could compromise. But really, this book just didn't do it for me and when Paige and Mitch got their HEA ending... I didn't feel like cheering. For now, I also doubt I'll be picking the subsequent books.

My Grade: C-. As I said, this book didn't work for me, but that's really because from the start, Mitch's behavior rubbed me the wrong way. However, from all the favorable reviews for All He Ever Needed I've read on blogland, I seem the only one who had this reaction. So if you had enjoyed Ms Stacey's books previously, you should give this one a try :)

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Hauling Sunday XCVI

Hi everyone!

How's your week-end going so far? I'm sooo glad we get an extra hour of sleep! Especially since I need it. I fell during the curling game on Friday evening and hit my head on the ice pretty hard :( At first, it wasn't too bad because I didn't have that much pain. Actually I still don't have that much pain nor any headaches, but yesterday, I felt nauseous the whole day :( Also, I was cold and hot the whole day too. I called the health phone line and the nurse told me being nauseous after hitting my head is normal... but if I vomit, become dizzy or have any changes in my behavior, to head to the hospital straight away :( As for the hot and cold thing, well part of it is because the weather is changing and temperature is getting colder... but it could also be me being febrile, a reaction from my nerves system. Sigh. Luckily, that's gone. As for the nausea, it's better than yesterday, but still takes me by surprise from time to time :(

Anyway, there'll be no curling recap this week. Not because I hit my head, but simply because that was also my only game. Our game on Thursday was canceled and is to be rescheduled. So I only played Friday... and 5 ends. I had some nice shots, but we were getting beaten so badly! When I left the ice, we were trailing 11-1 ^_^; Anyway, they have these head-bands for curling where it's like a little cushion for behind the head. I'm considering it. What I absolutely need though is curling shoes with proper gripper. So yeah, big bummer. I had such a high last week playing curling and this week was such a low :(

Luckily, to cheer me up, there's always books :) Here is what I got through the mail:

First Impressions by Nora Roberts - I was at the bookstore not long ago and came across First Impressions which is a reprint of Ms Roberts' two oldies: First Impressions and Blithe Images. I've been on a contemporary romance kick, plus it's Ms Roberts, so when I came home and saw it for 5.81$ on Book Depository, I pre-ordered it :) Gotta say, I love the cover :P

Seducing Mr. Knightly by Maya Rodale - I have yet to read The Tattoed Duke and I have no idea when I'll get to it. However, I couldn't resist the blurb of Seducing Mr. Knightly. Annabelle's crush for Mr. Knightly have been hinted throughout the series and you gotta support a woman who goes after what she wants!


And from Laura Florand, I received:

The Chocolate Kiss by Laura Florand - I got an email from Ms Florand asking me if I wanted a copy of The Chocolate Kiss, even though it was an uncorrected proof with mistakes in it. Of course, I said yes!! LOL. Stay tuned for a review soon-ish LOL.


So that's my week. Next week should be even better :) Well I hope LOL. What about you?

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Week-End's Minis XXXI: Paradise by Jill S. Alexander

Paradise by Jill S. Alexander
published by Macmillan (Feiwel & Friends) in July 2011
Paisley Tillery is the drummer for a country rock band. If they can make it to the stage at the Texapalooza music fest, then Paisley will be closer to her dream of a career in music and a ticket out of her small Texas town.

Drumming and music are what Paisley has always wanted. Until the band gets a new lead singer, the boy from Paradise, Texas. With Paradise in her life, what Paisley wants, and what she needs, complicate her dreams coming true.
Genre: YA, contemporary
Series: None

What do you need to know? Paisley Tillery's mom is pushy and often looks down on people. Paisley's father could have made it to the professional baseball league; however, he got injured and as a result, they had to settle for what they had. Paisley's mom wants better for her two daughters and therefore has been pushing Paisley's older sister, Lacey, to pursue a singing career, disregarding Lacey's lack of talent and ambition. She also does not approve of Paisley being a drummer. As such, Paisley has to keep her passion a secret. She, along with some friends, have formed a country rock band and plan to participate to the Texapalooza music fest, figuring that'd be her ticket to her dream and also, would convince her mother. Unfortunately, the group is missing a lead singer... and then enters the new boy in town, Gabriela Cordova Granados and his accordion.

Why this book? Ames read Paradise when it first came out and really enjoyed it. It's been on my radar ever since, but I was too cheap to get the hardcover... So I picked it up when the trade-size was finally release earlier this summer.

What did I like? Overall, I thought Paradise was a nice read. The reason the book is titled Paradise is because Gabe comes from Paradise, Texas and therefore, Paisley calls him Paradise. I liked Paisley, she was portrayed quite realistically. Her desire and determination to be a drummer, to make it work even if that meant going around her mother's back. The family dynamics also felt very realistic to me. I enjoyed the complicity between the two sisters and with their dad. He's the buffer zone between the daughters and their mother's autocratic ways. While the mother had to be a certain way for the book to work, I have to say, I did not like her at all ^_^; She was looking down on people and I didn't really get why. I mean, seriously, you are not better than them... and she was so focused on climbing to the next class level that she was blind to her daughters' wishes. It's a balance thing really. Still, that's a part of Paisley's family and Ms Alexander didn't shy away from it, didn't try to make it better or as if it didn't matter.

I think what's most commendable about Paradise is how real it felt and also, how it wasn't all pink and rosy. The ending is not tied up all nice and neat, the relationship between Paisley and Gabe was not perfect... The rock band members were friends, but not BFFs...

What didn't work for me? I think I went into Paradise with expectations that were a bit too high. All in all, Paisley and Gabe's characters were nice, but they did not stand out for me. I also expected a lot more from the ending. I was hoping for it to be more poignant... Perhaps because I knew the ending already, so it ruined it for me ^_^; One thing about Paisley and Gabe's relationship... I liked that Gabe understood the meaning of "no." Paisley wears a purity ring and part of it, is to please her mother... but she's not ready to have sex. So Gabe would stop whenever she'd tell him. However, every time, it felt like the making out was initiated by Gabe. I feel if he really understood and respected Paisley, he wouldn't...

Another thing that bothers me a bit about the whole book is that all the events felt like a dream. Because the timeline was so fast, I didn't feel the depth of their relationship. Also, throughout the book,Paisley called Gabe Paradise. The whole thing makes it feels transient, no permanence, like a dream. Perhaps it was done on purpose...

My Grade? B-. I don't regret reading Paradise and the realness of it was really nice, but I have to say I was expecting more.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Monthly Reads - September 2012

Wowzer, first of the month and I have a Monthly Reads post up!! LOL, I can't remember when is the last time it happened! Of course, this post being for September instead of October is just a small detail :) But hey, I'm catching up!! Only one month behind instead of two :)

By the way, one monthly feature I'm always prompted with is the New Releases post :) Head over to Breezing Through  to check out what books Ames, Monroe and I are looking forward to. Here's a little hint...


Now, onto business. September started out as a really good month for me. There were books by some favorite authors that I was really looking forward to... and half-way through the month, I started slipping into a reading slump. Ugh, the pain!! So here is what I managed to read:

1) Ruined by Moonlight by Emma Wildes: B+

2) Archangel's Storm by Nalini Singh: B

3) Playing to Win by Jaci Burton: C

4) More Than One Night by Sarah Mayberry
Upcoming Review.

5) Along Came a Duke by Elizabeth Boyle: C

6) Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros:

7) Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks: B

8) Delusion in Death by J.D. Robb: B

9) Speechless by Hannah Harrington: B

10) Riveted by Meljean Brook: B-
Upcoming Review.

11) Breaking Point by Pamela Clare: B
Upcoming Review.


Books bought: +10
Books read: -11
TBR pile: -1

Category Romance - 1
Contemporary Romance - 2
Historical Romance - 3
     --> (Regency - 2/Medieval - 1)
Urban Fantasy - 1
Steampunk Romance - 1
Mystery/Thriller - 1
Romantic Suspense - 1
YA - 1


All in all, September wasn't such a bad month. I still managed to have a negative balance for the TBR pile and still made it into the 2-digits for the number of reads. It is the lowest for the year though, but it didn't mark a new low as it equaled March. However, I can't help but be disappointed because September was so promising. However, now all I can remember from September is that stupid reading slump and how I struggled to read. Not a nice feeling at all.

Anyway... I know October was better LOL. Hopefully, November will be as well!