Thursday, July 25, 2013

Monthly Reads - March 2013

So, I finally managed to write-up this Monthly Reads post... Yay me! LOL. I'm so behind, it's not even funny ^_^;

Seriously, I don't really remember the month of March ^_^; There was curling, that much I know... and tubing, I think? Sigh, time just flies by so quickly. But at least, I remembered what the books I read were about... well almost all :) Take a look!

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1) Wild Invitation by Nalini Singh

Wild Invitation is a compilation of novellas that Ms Singh has written for the Psy-Changelings series over the years. It includes Beat of Temptation, Stroke of Enticement and two new novellas: Declaration of Courtship and Texture of Intimacy. As I've already read Beat of Temptation and Stroke of Enticement, I only focused on the two new novellas.

Declaration of Courtship is SnowDancer's lieutenant Cooper's love story with Grace, a submissive wolf. We are actually told a few details about Cooper and Grace pairing in Kiss of Snow and Tangle of Need, but never really got the whole story. Well now, we got it :) As much as I enjoy Ms Singh's writing... I have to say this short story didn't do much for me ^_^; Part of it is because I didn't really connect with the characters. It's hard to believe, but not every character need their own story, especially a pair that we already knew were mated. Perhaps if the story had been about a mated pair instead of how they became mated, it would have been more interesting, different. Also, Declaration of Courtship was really all about the romance between Cooper and Grace. No intrigue, no suspense... not even any development to the Psy-Changelings storyline. What makes the story stands out is the fact that Grace is a submissive wolf which we haven't seen much in the series. Otherwise, not a very memorable novella for me. C-

Texture of Intimacy is the reason why I bought Wild Invitation because it's a new novella about Lara and Walker. I love this pairing and feel they deserved their own book instead of being the secondary romance in Kiss of Snow. As such, I was really excited to read more about them... but in the end, I was still left a bit dissatisfied because I expected more, wanted more. Texture of Intimacy takes place between Kiss of Snow and Tangle of Need - i.e. after they become a couple and before they are officially married. It is basically a glimpse of what Lara and Walker's life has become together... I really love Walker's character, such a strong, quiet man. His quiet strength is just so appealing and I feel he's the glue in the Laurens family. The one who takes care of Toby and Marlee, who looks out for Sierra and on whom Judd can lean. And I'm thrilled that he has found someone who makes him happy :) However, as much as I enjoy this pairing and the characters' interactions - Walker and Lara and the kids - it would have been better if the novella had be more than just a glimpse of their lives. A conflict or an intrigue would have made Texture of Intimacy more satisfying in my opinion. C+


2) Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs: B+


3) High Risk by Vivian Arend: B-


4) A Most Improper Rumor by Emma Wildes: B-
Upcoming Review.


5) Slashback by Rob Thurman: B


6) Revenge of the Girl with a Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg

After Take A Bow, I was really looking forward to Ms Eulberg's newest release... but it seems that I only really like every other book of hers ^_^;  It's not that Revenge of the Girl with a Great Personality was bad, but just not great. There was a lot of positive to the book so let's start with that first. As usual, I enjoyed Ms Eulberg's writing - she has a nice style, very easy to read and in addition, she doesn't follow a pattern in her story-telling and therefore, her stories are different from book to book :) I also found the theme - beauty pageant - to be very interesting and liked where Ms Eulberg went with it, exploring the pressure and the financial strain it puts on a family. What didn't work so well for me was the whole Lexi's make-over story. That part, I found very predictable and stereotypical :( Which is unfortunate, coming from a book titled Revenge of the Girl with a Great Personality. I was expecting Lexi to be unique, to have a personality that really stood out instead of her falling for the suddenly "getting popular with new clothes and make-up" trope and realizing that wasn't what was important. This is what took the book a few notches down for me, especially since she kept pining after a guy that didn't seem crush-worthy and as a result, lost out on a great guy. I guess it's a good life lesson for her though. I also had higher hopes about Lexi's friendships. She had two best friends, but those relationships were already established and personally, I didn't quite see the chemistry :( Overall, some mixed feelings about Revenge of the Girl with a Great Personality, but what tipped the balance is the fact that not everything has been resolved and tied up in a neat nice bow at the end and I appreciated that, made the story more realistic :) C+


7) Thrown by a Curve by Jaci Burton

Another book I have mixed feelings about. I initially wanted this book because I read the excerpt at the end of Playing to Win and liked the plot idea where the heroine is a physical therapist and finds herself in charge of the hero's - a star pitcher - rehab. On that front, I really enjoyed Thrown by a Curve. It was refreshing to actually see the jock going through physical rehab with all the work, the fear and the frustration it entails. It was more than just the "I want to get back to the game" feeling that we usually get from injured heroes. I also liked Alicia's attitude towards Garrett. She didn't coddle him like the other physical therapists :) What didn't work as well for me was the romance :( I didn't like Alicia's wishy-washy attitude... She was clearly attracted but didn't know what to do about it. There was also the fact that it made their relationship unprofessional :( I don't know, but sleeping with your physical therapist/patient is not the smartest idea. As much as they were attracted to each other, I think that both could have waited till their working relationship was over to give in. By the way, this is getting really old :( Seriously, I love romance and I get attraction and lust... However, most of the H/H we read about are adults... So can't they act like it and be clear-minded instead of always succumbing to lust? Anyway, getting back to Thrown by a Curve, I just wished Alicia had been more decisive and once they did have sex, that both bear the consequences instead of trying to back-pedal. Finally, the last thing that bothered me was how stupid Garrett was at the end, accepting someone else's help with his rehab. Seriously?! Your girlfriend has poured all her efforts in the last few months working with you to make your arm better and as soon as rehab shows results, you're jumping to another ship accepting the help of her boss without talking to her... And by the way, her boss has not consulted her either! Really brilliant - not. I also thought Alicia's boss was very unprofessional and disrespectful. C+


8) The Last Viking by Sandra Hill

I picked this book up on a co-worker's recommendation. She told me how funny the series was and I thought I'd give it a try... I guess she and I simply have different tastes ^_^; Okay, actually, she was right... the beginning of The Last Viking was indeed funny. The story is about a viking that travel through time in an unknown fashion and finds himself in 1999. So the first part of the book is about Geirolf Ericsson adapting to this new world and to technology... Cars, computers, fridges, TV, building, tools and so on :) However, once the humor wears off, so does the enjoyment of this book. While Rolf is adapting to some aspects of modern technology, he is still very much a viking and some of his thinking doesn't evolve... So he dishes out his ancient thinking at our heroine, Meredith... and guess what? She takes it! There's also the fact that Rolf believes he needs to go back to his time to help save his family and it leaves Meredith broken-heart... and she does nothing about it. Not trying to keep him, not trying to find another solution, not wanting to go with him. In the end, I found Meredith's character to be too wishy-washy and stubborn, having no spine to go after what will make her happy and weak... I didn't really like her character and it ruined the book for me :( D+


9) Also Known As by Robin Benway

I've read one book before by Ms Benway, The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June, and therefore was interested to read Also Known As. The thing though is I didn't really know what to expect story-wise. As it turns out, our heroine, Maggie, is a 16 years old girl who grew up soaking her parents' trade: international spies. She turns out to be a genius safe-cracker and her skills are needed for the next mission in New York City. In the meantime, she needs to blend in at her private high school where for the first time in her life, she starts making friends... Roux the ex-mean, popular girl who slept with her best friend's boyfriend and therefore is now a social outcast and Jesse Oliver, a nice, popular boy and also the son of Maggie's target. Overall, Also Known As was a quick read. I enjoyed the writing and Maggie's interactions with the others. I liked that she had a close relationship with her parents, perhaps because or their situation is so particular, and felt that the sudden awkwardness between them was very realistic. I also liked Maggie's new friends, particularly Roux. I can't deny a certain pleasure at seeing a mean girl getting comeuppance, but at the same time, Roux broke my heart because it's obvious how lonely she is :( And not just because she didn't have friends, but her parents' negligence... As for Jesse, he was charming and crushy-worthy :) While Maggie had to lie to her new friends for most of the book, I'm glad that she came clean to them and let them on when it was necessary :) As much as I enjoyed reading Also Known As, I do have one complaint and that is the storyline. I think Ms Benway was aiming for something similar to Ms Carter's Gallagher Girls series; however, she missed the mark because she lacked a solid intrigue/mystery and the thrilling aspect of it. Like with The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June, I feel like Ms Benway has a good idea in mind, but isn't able to fully develop it and doesn't have a full grasp onto it. As a result, this idea which should be the foundation of the story instead becomes something secondary, almost like an afterthought. Add in the short timeline which makes everything seemed rushed and what you get is a book with great potential and missed opportunities. C+


10) Written in Red by Anne Bishop: A


11) Midnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire

After the events of Discount Armageddon, life goes on as usual for Verity... but not for very long. She's unsure of her status with Dominic and before things can be cleared up, he comes with the news that the monster-hunting Covenant of St-Georges is sending a party to start a purge, i.e. killing everything and everyone who isn't human. Verity spreads the word out to all cryptids, but not everyone can evacuate New York City and therefore, Verity must step up to the plate and protect her city.

I think Midnight Blue-Light Special was on par with Discount Armageddon. It was a nice read and passed time, but I didn't love it or feel the need to climb the curtains because I wanted the next book so much ^_^; I enjoyed the writing and the new characters introduced, especially Uncle Mike, and liked that we got to know Verity more. And those Aeslin mice? You can't help but have a huge smile on your face LOL. I was also happy that we got Sarah's POV. She was an interesting character and I was curious about her. I thought she'd be tougher though, a bit more like Verity. However, when you think about it, she's never had to really fight given her mental powers... and she was there when Verity needed her. It was a different kind of bravery. The let-down for me with Midnight Blue-Light Special was the plot, once again ^_^; It seems like I'm being picky, but I can't help it. It's simply that there was a lot of build-up for the Covenant of St-Georges and the purge and in the end, it feels like nothing really happened. Talk about anti-climatic. It seemed to me that the Covenant were more interested in Verity than the cryptids in the city... Finally, there's Verity's realizations at the end. The first is that she is in love with Dominic and vice versa and the second, that her real vocation is being a cryptiologist and not dance. Both realizations were a bit abrupt to me. Yes, they were in the works and it was logical, but I didn't see really see what made Verity come to those revelations. C


12) You Are Invited by Holly Jacobs: B-

This was a sweet and enjoyable category romance that I picked up. The story is about Mattie Keith whose best friend, Bridget, has passed away from cancer and has left her the custody of her three kids. Mattie has always been a wanderer, moving around the country from town to town and holding odd jobs; however, she steps up to the plate and is trying to do her best for Zoe, Mickey and Abbey - 11, 8 and 6 respectively. However, Bridget's brother, Finn, doesn't make it easy. A successful surgeon, Finn feels guilty for not having been there enough for his sister. He doesn't want to make the same mistake with his nieces and nephew and therefore fights Mattie for the children's custody, believing that he can provide them a better lifestyle.

So I thought Ms Jacobs did a great job the characters and their feelings. Mattie is a great woman, changing her life around to take care of Zoe, Mickey and Abbey. Everyone is still grieving for Bridget and adapting to these major changes. As much as Mattie loves them, there are moments of resentment which is totally understandable. Then, Ms Jacobs brings in Finn who needs to rebuild his relationship with Zoe, find time for his family. That part of the book was excellent and very realistic. What didn't work as well for me was the romance. For most of the book, the focus was the family and finding an arrangement for the custody... As a result, I felt the romance between Mattie and Finn was very abrupt, sudden. Their romance wasn't gradual. It went from 0, we are fighting for custody, to 60, we are in love. I would have liked more development, more romantic scenes for the two of them. Another niggle I had with You Are Invited was the custody battle. I was annoyed with Finn for his reasoning: he had money therefore he could give the kids things that Mattie couldn't. That's true; however, what's also true was that with his job, Finn had no time and couldn't put them front and center in his life like Mattie could do. If the whole battle was really about money, I don't see why Finn couldn't help Mattie financially. Why did the money seem available only if he was the guardian? That didn't make sense to me :( Finally, as much as I found You Are Invited enjoyable while reading it, I have to take the grade down from a B to a B- because the story wasn't very memorable. Just before writing this post, I looked at the title and the author's name and simply couldn't remember the story of this book... and I'm usually really good at it. So a solid story which doesn't stand out ^_^;


13) Once Tempted by Laura Moore: C+
Upcoming Review.

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Balance
Books bought: +8
Books read: -13
TBR pile: -5


Genres
Category Romance - 1
           --> (Contemporary - 1)
Contemporary Romance - 3
Historical Romance - 1
          -->(Regency - 1)
Romantic Suspense/Mystery - 1
Young Adult - 2
Paranormal - 1
Urban Fantasy - 4

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Nowadays, if I hit the double digits number of reads, I consider it a good month :) Yep, I'm that easy... or desperate LOL. But seriously, 13 is not bad at all :) Pretty much what I'm used to reading I would say. There were some really good reads which I actually did manage to review... Again, yay me! LOL. Among them, Written in Red by Anne Bishop really stood out for me. Definitively the read of the month, closely followed by Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs and Slashback by Rob Thurman. Looks like I'm still on a urban fantasy kick :) Then there were a lot of okay/good reads. Seriously though, after writing this post, I'm wondering if I'm not too picky? And I'm starting to realize that they are characters readers - those for whom the H/H are the most important element in a book - and that I'm a story reader. Of course, characters are important, especially the main ones... but to me, it's more the story, plot, mystery, suspense, conflict, etc. that I remember. And if a book can have both, winner :P So yeah, March was a nice month reading-wise. Not a great one, but not a bad one either :)

What about you? How was March? Do you remember? LOL.

11 comments:

  1. I don't think I even read during March. Lol. Wait, did I?

    Thanks for the reviews! I know which ones I won't be picking up anytime soon. As for Ms. Nalini's books. I still lover her writings and stories, but I'm not connecting with any of the characters as much as I used to. Plus the storyline(s) have gotten so complex and layered I get distracted or forget things. >_<

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  2. There's a lot of C reads there for you. But I'm glad you had some good reads. I'm kind of interested in the Psy/Changeling story about the submissive wolf. That's one series I'm actually caught up on so I think next time I'm stumped for something to read, I'll know what to pick up. :)

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  3. Interesting point about characters v. story, I think I definitely lean towards the characters side of things - I've noticed you highlight plot loopholes that I totally miss all the time!

    Li

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  4. little alys - LOL, well you were busy with the wedding :)

    No problem, that's why I write these posts :)Nod nod, I know what you mean. However, gotta ask, did you read her latest? LOL. That one, you're going to connect with the characters and I feel the story took a bit of a back seat :P

    Ames - Yep. I decided to get even tougher LOL. Actually, I think you might enjoy it, the short story :P

    Li - Most people lean towards characters I feel. However, recently, I was trying to come up with a list of favorite heroines for Brie's Heroines Week... and just couldn't come up with many. It was more series that I enjoyed and yes, the heroines were a big part of it, but I remembered more the stories... Also, I feel a lot of heroines are similar... so I guess it's more story for me :P

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  5. Lots of mini reviews!!
    and I agree with you about Eulberg's books, I like one out of every other she puts out, and for me is either really like or really hate. which is sad.

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  6. Nath - Lol, freaking weddings. Oh, I actually did read her latest and you are correct, much better! Reviews going to take a while since I am still rolling some thoughts in my head, if you know what I mean. Like, I've pretty much stopped her Guild series. Wonderful writing, but the stories just didn't do it for me. She's such an awesome writer though...

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  7. Alex - LOL yes, lots of mini-reviews! I haven't been really good at reviewing this year, so that translates into lots of minis.

    It's not that I hate this one, but in comparison to Take a Bow, this was really unimpressive.

    little alys - Actually, I think everyone is thinking about the books. I haven't seen that many reviews for it! Definitively surprised.

    Ha, you have more willpower than me. As much as I don't love her Guild series, I just can't stop :(

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  8. I enjoy reading your mini reviews! I've only read two of your March books, but we both agree they are good ones...the Anne Bishop and the Patricia Briggs.

    Interesting also about character and story. I guess I lean more toward character, but I agree lots of heroines are pretty much the same. For me the relationships between characters is important for my enjoyment of the story.

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  9. Jan - Thanks :) Oh yeah, the Anne Bishop and the Patricia Briggs are the ones that stood out in March for me :)

    I find that in paranormal and urban fantasy, heroines and heroes are all very difficult to differentiate. I mean, so many heroines are kick-ass and cynical and so many heroes are alpha males... Just hard to have them really stand out in my opinion.

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  10. Nath, in March Written in Red by Bishop is the one that also stood out for me. It is different, but I think of that book as Fantasy more than UF. That's just me for now. Let's see how the next book turns out.

    I think of the InCryptid series by McGuire as tongue-in-cheek UF, to be enjoyed for the fun, and not as the serious, doom-and-gloom UF we're used to reading. LOL! Otherwise, I would have tons of problems with it... I like it a bit more than you do for that reason.

    I need to get those new novellas by Singh! Thanks for the heads up!

    And, Slashback by Thurman was not a winner for me this time, but I'm still looking forward to the next one. Love Cal and Niko.

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  11. Hilcia - Hmmm, I think Written in Red fits both genres... I mean, Urban Fantasy is just a sub-genre of fantasy right? I put it in UF because it has werewolves and vampires which I now associate to UF more than Fantasy.

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