Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review: Calculated in Death by J.D. Robb

Calculated in Death by J.D. Robb
published by Putnam in February 2013
On Manhattan's Upper East Side a woman lies dead at the bottom of the stairs, stripped of all her valuables. Most cops might call it a mugging gone wrong, but Lieutenant Eve Dallas knows better.

A well-off accountant and a beloved wife and mother, Marta Dickenson doesn't seem the type to be on anyone's hit list. But when Eve and her partner, Peabody, find blood inside the building, the lieutenant knows Marta's murder was the work of a killer who's trained, but not professional or smart enough to remove all the evidence.

But when someone steals the files out of Marta's office, Eve must immerse herself in her billionaire husband Roarke's world of big business to figure out who's cruel and callous enough to hire a hit on an innocent woman. And as the killer's violent streak begins to escalate, Eve knows she has to draw him out, even if it means using herself as bait...
Genre: Romantic suspense, Mystery/Thriller
Series: In Death, Book #36

The Story: Well for once, the blurb is not only accurate, but says it all. Rare, but it happens :) All I'll add is that in addition to the case, our beloved characters are also preparing themselves for the premiere of The Icove Agenda, so it gives you an idea of the timeline.

My Opinion: Seriously, what can I say about Calculated in Death that has not been said already for the other installments of the series? When you pick up the 36th book in a series, you know what to expect... and so in that regard, I think that Ms Robb did a good job at delivering it. I know some fans are going to be disappointed because Calculated in Death is another installment that focuses on the case/mystery and therefore there's not much development in Eve and Roarke's relationship, but nonetheless, it was another solid book :)

Overall, I thought the case was interesting. One of the definite strengths of the In Death series is the investigative aspect of the mystery/case. I like that Ms Robb shows how much leg work Eve and her gang need to do in order to find clues, to arrest the culprits, to dot the "i" and cross the "t" in order for the charges to stick. There are hints, clues and foreshadowing... and those are elements that are missing in a lot of romantic suspense nowadays. Also, I really liked the fact that in Calculated in Death, Eve didn't zoom in right away on the culprit like in the last couple of books. She had a few suspects and it could really have been any of them. Something else about this case is that Ms Robb could have taken it in a few different directions, so it kept the readers guessing which is always good.

As usual, it was fun to revisit the gang again :) As I mentioned above, they were getting ready for the premiere of The Icove Agenda and the excitement was fun. To see Peabody enthusiastic about her dress and Feeney grumbled about the monkey suit LOL. I also think Ms Robb did a good job at not inundating the storyline with past characters, to have only those who are relevant.

The one thing that didn't work for me in Calculated in Death was Eve using herself as bait to attract the killer. This is not something new, but the timing was: during the premiere. I just thought that was a bit unbelievable. No matter how organized, prepared you are, there are so many risks involved, so many unexpected things that can happen. Furthermore, there's the number of civilians - most of them rich and famous - and the cameras present! It seemed so improbable to me that Eve's superiors would have approved of Eve's scheme. It just didn't work for me.

While I think Calculated in Death was a good installment, I do feel the books are getting repetitive ^_^; The cases are different - true, but the way the investigations are handled are not... As much as I enjoy the books, if it continues this way, it'll take a toll on the series. That's why I think it's time for Ms Robb to shake things up and add some conflicts. It could be between Roarke and Eve, Eve and Peabody or whatever... but it's time to get our beloved characters out of their rut. Or else, it's perhaps time to start wrapping up the series...

The Grade: B.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

TBR Challenge 2013: Heist Society by Ally Carter

Oups, I'm once again late for the TBR challenge ^_^; After how many times does it become a habit? LOL.  This time though it's not because I'm off my game reviewing. I think in the past couple of weeks, I've been very good at getting back into a reviewing rhythm... It's simply that I forgot that I read something that qualified  for the challenge!! I know, very sad ^_^; When I read Wendy's reminder last week, I was "Crap, I won't have time to read something!" and it's only on Wednesday, while I was planning to review Double Crossed and Heist Society that I realized Heist Society was actually a TBR read! Yay! However, the past couple of days have been quite busy, so it's only now that I have to time to write the review. I think "Better late than never" might become my  new motto LOL.

All right, let's talk about Heist Society. This book has been in my TBR pile for almost three years. I got it when I attended the RT Convention 2010 in Columbus. One of the panels I went to was the Young Adult Authors Chat. Back then, I didn't read as much YA, but I went because one of my favorite authors, Kelley Armstrong, was there. Ms Carter was one of the other authors present and I really enjoyed her answers. As a result, I wanted to give her a try­. During the chat, she spoke of her new series, Heist Society, and I thought I'd pick that one up because I really like cat burglar characters and plots. I even got an autographed copy! However, often at those conventions/conferences, you come home with so many books that you're a bit overwhelmed and a lot of them end in the TBR pile... Finally, I picked up Heist Society back in February after reading Double Crossed because I really enjoyed the novella. I was already familiar with the Gallagher Girls series and now, it was time to finally check out Heist Society :)

And here are my thoughts on the book... enjoy!

Heist Society by Ally Carter
published by Hyperion in February 2010
When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the Louvre…to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria…to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own—scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving “the life” for a normal life proves harder than she’d expected.

Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring Kat back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has a good reason: a powerful mobster has been robbed of his priceless art collection and wants to retrieve it. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat's father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.

For Kat, there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it's a spectacularly impossible job? She's got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family's history--and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.
Genre: YA, contemporary, cat burglar
Series: Heist Society, Book #1

The Story: The blurb is pretty accurate, but as usual, I like to give my own spin :) So Katarina Bishop comes from a family of burglars and she's been taught the trade. However, she wanted to live a normal life and walked away from the family business, i.e. her family, and conned her way into a prestigious boarding school. However, normal life didn't last long for Kat because W.W. Hale V, the heir to a prestigious and rich family, a born grifter and one of Kat's past associates, got her kicked out of boarding school. Turns out a very powerful mobster was robbed of his priceless art collection - 5 paintings that were lost during World War II - and he believes that Kat's father did it. Even after Kat has confirmed her father didn't do it - he was busy pulling another job - the mobster won't believe Kat... and she only has one option in front of her if she doesn't want her family to come to harm: to retrieve the paintings. Unfortunately for Kat, Visily Romani, the master thief, is cunning and has hidden them in the most secure museum in the world: the Henley. On a deadline and with her young crew, can Kat pull it off?

My Opinion: Let see, let see. So I'm a fan of cat burglar characters and plots. Don't ask me why, but I just like it. There's just something so cool about those kind of robberies - in fiction at least LOL. I think it's the cleverness and the sophistication involved which makes the whole thing so mysterious :) However, I also think it's one of the hardest plots to pull off in books because as I said, it has to be clever, but there's also the narration. In movies and TV shows, they can always play with the sequences and have stuff happened off cameras and the important scenes are revealed at the end in flashbacks, but  in books, when your plot is narrated at the first POV, well the readers have to be told what happened and it just takes out the mystery.

So how did Ms Carter fare with Heist Society? I actually think she did a great job with the plot! Everything was quite interesting :) How Kat contacted her father to see whether he was the master being the robbery or not, then the investigation and the actual theft. I like how this world is so small and everyone knows everyone. Also, if you don't have the contacts and the money to start with, you don't get far. I also enjoyed the formation of Kat's crew, the casing of the Henley, how their plans came together and how they executed it. Of course, the age makes it a bit unbelievable, but it's fiction after all and you read this for its entertaining value :) In addition, there was some good twists to the plot which made the whole thing quite clever :)

What didn't work so well for me was the characters... Actually, not so much the characters, but the lack of expansion on their background. For example, Kat and Hale. There's obviously a past between them, but we're never really shown or told. It's like we're dropped into the story and not given any explanations. Why did Kat really walk away from the family business? How do they know Simon, the boy who helped them with the security plans, and so on. I needed more information, more background to get a clear image of everything and I feel I didn't get it. I don't know if it was to amp up the mystery factor for the story, but it didn't work for me. Also, I thought Kat was a so-so heroine. I didn't really connect with her character. It's not that she was selfish or self-centered, but it felt to me that she was so focused on her feelings and what was happening that she disregarded the others' feelings. A good leader should be attuned to her team members and she wasn't. Also, I wasn't thrilled with her decision to bring a stranger boy into a crew at the end. It just seemed weird ^_^; It felt like his only purpose was to start a love triangle or a rivalry and I think it was unnecessary. Otherwise, I actually liked all the other characters - they were just a lot more fun.

All in all, Ms Carter delivered a fun book with Heist Society :) I think her ideas were more concise and it resulted in a a great plot. Also, to me, Heist Society read better than the Gallagher Girls books because of the flow and the conciseness. Unfortunately, that pertains only to the plot :( The let down of the book was the lack of background on the characters and situations, it felt like I was dropped in the middle of the story and was missing a few introductory chapters.

My Grade: B. In the end, I'm glad I picked up this book because it was fun and enjoyable.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review: Double Crossed by Ally Carter

Double Crossed by Ally Carter
published by Hyperion in January 2013
Macey McHenry—Glamorous society girl or spy-in-training?

W.W. Hale V—Heir to an American dynasty or master thief?

There are two sides to every coin. Whether these two can work together is a tossup.

Born into privilege, Macey and Hale are experts at mingling with the upper class. But even if they’ve never raised an eyebrow at the glitz, neither teenager has ever felt at home with the glamour.

When Macey and Hale meet at a society gala, the party takes a dangerous turn. Suddenly they’re at the center of a hostage situation, and it’s up to them to stop the thugs from becoming hostile. Will Macey’s spy skills and Hale’s con-man ways be enough to outsmart a ruthless gang? Or will they have to seek out the ultimate inside girl to help?
Genre: Young Adult
Series: Gallagher Girls, Book #5.5/Heist Society, Book #2.5

The Story: Double Crossed is a novella that combines both of Ms Carter's series, the Gallagher Girls and the Heist Society. Macey McHenry and W.W. Hale V are charity event with their socialite parents. They meet, flirt with each other a little and quickly recognize that the other is more than just a spoiled, bored brat born with a silver spoon. In order to keep their cover, distance seems prudent. However, when the charity event is hijacked by thieves who intend to steal the Calloway Canary diamond and escape by holding the social elite hostages, Macey and Hale need to team up. With their special set of skills and outside back-up, the thieves won't know what hit them :)

My Opinion: I was looking for a short story to bulk up my number of reads in January and thought Double Crossed was perfect. I'm really glad I picked this one up because it turned out to be a very fun and enjoyable novella.

I think the idea of combining these two series into one short story was genius on Ms Carter's part :) While the basis of the series are opposites - on one side you have girls training to become spies and on the other, a crew of cat burglers - the feels are very similar, what with the youngsters being more than what they appear to be thanks to their extra set of skills. Also, the lives they have are also very different and interesting... And really, while the end result is opposite, some of the skills they learn are very similar :) Subterfuge, languages, knowledge, stealth, etc. LOL. So I thought the combination of the two series was very natural and the story in Double Crossed kept the spirit of both series :)

It was also a very good idea to feature Macey and Hale as the protagonists because these two have a lot in common... and were more likely to be at the same place at the same time given their background LOL. But seriously, I actually find Macey more interesting than Cam because I think she has more depth and life experience. Cam has always known her path and her whole life has been focused on spy-stuff. In contrast, Macey's path hasn't been as obvious and she's just more complex personality-wise. She has her public persona, especially while her father was campaigning to become USA's vice-president, and her true self. Anyway, Macey being one of central character of this novella was one of the reasons I picked up Double Crossed and I'm really happy I did :)

As for the story, it was fun and actually exciting. It was also the perfect situation for a spy and grifter to join force because each had their strengths such as Hale knowing that the Calloway Canary diamond was false and Macey recognizing and understand the language the thieves were speaking. What was fun also was Macey and Hale recognizing the situation - knowing there was danger - but also wondering why the thieves were doing such and such. If there's a complaint from me is that I wished there's been a little bit more action ^_^; But otherwise, this was a good novella.

My Grade: B+. As I said, a very fun novella. If you're a fan of either or both series, you won't want to miss Double Crossed. Me, I had only read the Gallagher Girls series prior to reading Double Crossed, but afterwards, my curiosity sure was piqued and I went to check Heist Society. In any case, I hope that Ms Carter has plans to write more of these cross-over stories because I'd definitively pick them up :)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Review: The One That Got Away by Kelly Hunter

The One That Got Away by Kelly Hunter
published by Harlequin Kiss in February 2013
"The man who's always left her wanting more!"

Good job? "Tick." Newly purchased apartment? "Tick." Evie's life is on a pretty even keel at the moment. The only thing missing? A man with an edge to keep things interesting.

Enter Logan Black. Tortured, distant and sexy, Logan has edge written all over him. He's also the man who tipped Evie "over" the edge a few years back - she gave him everything, but he didn't know when to stop taking.

Leaving Logan was the hardest thing Evie's ever done. Until now. Because Logan's back, the chemistry is as blistering as ever and this time he's not going anywhere....
Genre: Category romance, contemporary romance
Series: None

The Story: If you've read reviews for The One That Got Away, then you probably already heard about how the cover is misleading. Contrarily to what the cover projects, The One That Got Away is not a happy-go-lucky, fun or fluffy story; instead, it is dark and intense. Hopefully, my summary will give you a better idea of what you're getting into :)

Ten years ago, Evangeline Jones and Logan Black had a week-long affair in London. Back then, Evie was only 19 years old and very malleable which suited Logan's dominant personality just fine. However, after one of their bed games went wrong and resulted in Evie being injured, Logan called it quits and disappeared from Evie's life.

Now a successful engineer, Evie and her business partner, Max Carmichael, are about to bid for their biggest project. However, in order for everything to go smoothly, Max needs to have access to his trust fund which will only happen when a) he turns 30 or b) he gets married. Therefore, Max and Evie are planning on a marriage of convenience... But the last person Evie expected to meet when Max introduces her to his family is Logan who turns out to be Max' half-brother.

Very quickly, Evie and Logan realize that their chemistry is still present and as sizzling as ever. But losing control all those years ago has scared Logan... and he knows that there's no way he can lead a normal life if Evie becomes his sister-in-law; therefore, he wants her gone. However, Evie has grown into a strong and confident woman. This time around, she won't let him call all the shots. What she wants is to explore their chemistry and see where it will lead.

My Opinion: It's funny because when you pick up a book, you can never tell whether or not you'll connect with it. If it's an author that you enjoy, chances are higher that you will... but there's still the possibility this will be the exception, the miss. Quite frankly, I didn't have high expectations when I started The One That Got Away, mainly because the last book of hers that I've read, Cracking the Dating Code, while enjoyable, was far from a wowzer. However, as soon as I started The One That Got Away, it immediately grabbed me and I could not put it down... so it doesn't come as a surprise that I ended up loving the book, right? :)

So what was it about The One That Got Away that got me hooked? The intensity. It was the intensity of what Logan and Evie were feeling for each other, almost like an obsession. In the beginning of the story, it made the sexual tension between them palpable and also just enhanced their chemistry. I'm aware that this intensity is not for everyone, but for me, it really worked :) Also, I thought it fit well with the storyline. It made it believable for me that after 10 years, they haven't forgotten and still craved each other.

Aside from the intensity, what did I enjoy? Well , pretty much everything LOL. I liked Logan and Evie's characters. Part of the intensity comes from Logan's personality in my opinion. He's very focus, determined and can be ruthless. He also has a lot of baggage which has pretty much molded his life, but he's aware of it and I was glad for that awareness.  In retrospective, he reminds me a lot of Jayne Ann Krentz and Linda Howard's businessman heroes, but with a lessen jerk factor LOL. He's really the kind of heroes I enjoy reading about in contemporary romance. In real life, I think he'd be a bit too much, but in fiction, just perfect. As for Evie, I really liked her as well. I loved how she stood her ground with Logan. She has definitively matured into a strong and confident woman since her affair with Logan and she did not hesitate to let him know which is exactly what Logan needed. Something else that I really liked about Evie was her patience with Logan when it came to their relationship. She gave him space and was understanding... and perhaps at times, too understanding and forgiving, but in the end, I think it was the perfect way to deal with Logan. Between, something else I enjoyed about Evie and Logan's relationship aside from the intensity was the communication and honesty. I feel Evie and Logan communicated more than in most contemporary romances I've read. Oh they didn't tell each other everything, but it was still more than most couple and there was no misunderstanding between them which I really appreciated.

As for the storyline, once again, it worked for me. I liked that Ms Hunter didn't drag on the false engagement  too long. I liked how it was resolved, because really, it was obvious that Max and Evie could not get married. I also really liked Max as a secondary character. He was a great friend to Evie and had her back. His romance was very surprising, but refreshing as well :) By the way, this reminds me that I need to credit Ms Hunter for the risk she took in The One That Got Away with the dominant/submissive affair Evie and Logan had 10 years ago. This topic is not very common in category romance, but seriously, I think the risk really paid of for Ms Hunter because it set The One That Got Away apart and that's a good thing in a genre that is full of stereotypes.

Of course, The One That Got Away was not perfect... but I thought the flaws were minor. I think what was most disappointing was the climax of the book. Almost all of the book was a build-up to it, but in the end, the climax was very short and seemed to have little impact. I think Ms Hunter could have expanded a little bit... but at the end, I'm still very happy with the book.

My Grade: A-. I really loved The One That Got Away, it just hit me in the right spots :) It might still be early in the year, but it's safe for me to predict that this book will be my favorite category romance read of the 2013 :)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Review: Chance of a Lifetime by Jodi Thomas

Chance of a Lifetime by Jodi Thomas
published by Berkley in January 2013
Emily, the local librarian, has started a writing group, but as the group stumbles through both the fiction and reality of their lives, they’re learning much more than how to write. But Emily suddenly has other things on her mind when a friend from her past shows up in Harmony's library. Now she must deal with a secret she’s kept for fifteen years—a secret that changed her life and threatens to shatter her future.

Meanwhile, new lawyer Rick Matheson thinks he’s in charge of his world until accidents start happening all around him. Just when he realizes someone is trying to kill him, he meets a beautiful U.S. Marshal named Trace Adam. Now that the marshal has given him an even stronger reason to go on living, he must learn to take a chance on life to dream bigger—and love better—than he ever has before...
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Harmony, Book #5

The Story: The are two storylines in Chance of a Lifetime that are kind of happening in parallel. The first is about Emily Tomlinson,  Harmony's librarian, who lives a quiet life. She grew up with Tannon Parker and they used to be best friends, until a tragic event during their high school years changed her life and torn them apart. Their distance has not stopped Tannon from keeping an eye on Emily... And when Tannon's mother's illness worsens, Emily gives him a hand and the two reconnect. Is it too late for the two of them or were they handed a second chance?

The other storyline centers on the town's new lawyer, Rick Matheson. Rick is your typical nice guy, trying to make a living in a town that doesn't really need a lawyer. One day, he falls down the stairs and injured himself severely... However, it was no accident as the step was sawed. Very soon, it becomes apparent that someone wants Rick dead and he has no idea whom he's angered so much... Thanks to a family friend, Rick gets protection from U.S. Marshal Trace Adam who needed a break from her job. Before Rick knows it, he has one more reason to stay alive.

And in the mix, we also get more of Beau Yates, Harmony's next superstar. Everyone knows Beau has a gift and he'll go to the top, but perhaps it's time for Beau to believe in himself...

My Opinion: If you've been following this blog for a while, you know that I'm a huge fan of Ms Thomas' contemporary romance and therefore, the Harmony series. I just love her writing, her voice... as I've said countless times before, there's just this gentle quality to it that makes it unique. So of course, I was looking forward for the newest installment and as soon as I came back from Europe, I headed to the bookstore to pick up Chance of a Lifetime :) Now, let see if I can write an objective review :P

Overall, I enjoyed Chance of a Lifetime. As usual, the feel, the atmosphere was gentle and worked for me. It also really suited Emily and Tannon's romance which is the storyline I enjoyed most in this book. Their storyline about two best friends being in love with each other, but were too young, who drifted apart and later came back to each other was simply sweet and touching. It really felt to me like Emily and Tannon belonged together and personally, if that event hadn't occurred, I'm sure they would have made it as a couple. Speaking of the event... I wished we'd have more details about it - the why and the who - but at the same time, I liked that Ms Thomas left it open. If they've suddenly found clues to elucidate the case, it would have seen too coincidental, like why now? Because the heroine is about to be happy? Also, while it had marked both Emily and Tannon, I think it's something that they came to term with and doesn't need to be stirred up. So in that respect, Ms Thomas took the right decision because the event really served its purpose. As for Emily and Tannon, I liked that the re-discovered each other and how they had to forget, forgive and learn to trust each other once again. In any case, a really sweet story.

As for Rick's storyline... Hmmm. There was some good and some bad about it. The good is that I liked Rick's character. He was just a nice guy, trying to make a living, figuring out what to do with his life. Also, I thought he made a nice couple with Trace. What didn't work so well about his storyline is the reason why someone would be after him. It just seemed a bit far-fetched, especially once you find out who the villain is. I know some people are imbalanced, but in this case, it seemed a bit extreme. Also, the whole feel of the case just didn't really gel with the feel of the Harmony series.

Something that I liked in Chance of a Lifetime is that it followed different characters. I love Reagan and Noah as well as Tyler, but I admit I was getting a bit fed up of reading about them in each book. Simply because it was getting a bit repetitive. So it was a nice change to read about Beau and his roommate, Border. I'm really curious what Ms Thomas has in store for Beau... everyone knows Beau is going to be a superstar in the future, but that future seems to be very far away for the moment... and I wonder how he is going to get there. I have to say though, for now, his storyline is a bit weird with the mystery girl. Wonder how Ms Thomas will turn it around. Oh and by the way, I hope Ms Thomas goes back to Ronnie's story very soon! And I hope her love interest is still the same man :)

My Grade: B. All in all, Chance of a Lifetime was an enjoyable read. Not the best book in the series, but still a very solid installment that seems to be opening the door to new characters :)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Review: The Other Side of Us by Sarah Mayberry

Guess what?! I think I'm all done with my reviews for 2012!! Woohooo!! Or at least, the one that I planned to review :) There are still a few books and I might go back one day, but for now, all I wanted to review for 2012, I did!! Yay!! Now, I can finally start focusing on 2013! Not soon enough, right? ^_^;

My last review is for The Other Side of Us by Sarah Mayberry. I feel a bit bad about this one because I requested from Netgalley back in December and actually read it in December. My plan was to review it for its publishing date, like all the other Netgalley's requests I did... but we all know how real life tends to get in the way ^_^; Even though it's two months late, I can still say that I've held up my end of the bargain, so that's something at least :)


Disclaimer: I've received The Other Side of Us as an eARC from Netgalley

The Other Side of Us by Sarah Mayberry
published by Harlequin (SuperRomance) in January 2013
The best thing between Oliver Barrett and Mackenzie Williams is a fence. Ever since Oliver's new-neighbor gestures were met with unfriendly responses, he's decided to keep his distance. After all, he's in this seaside town to get his life on track again. That doesn't include working hard to get on Mackenzie's good side—no matter how intriguing she may be. His intentions are put to the test, however, when his dog becomes infatuated with hers. The two crafty canines do their best to break down the barriers between the properties. And where the dogs go…, well, the humans must follow! It doesn't take long for a powerful attraction to build between Oliver and Mackenzie. They soon discover that the worst of first impressions can lead to the best possible outcomes….
Genre: Category romance, contemporary romance
Series: None

The Story: Oliver Barrett is going through a divorce after discovering that his wife has been cheating with her ex for almost the whole length of their marriage. Still harboring a lot of anger at the betrayal, Oliver decides he needs a break and heads to Flinders where he and his brother have inherited a house from their aunt. He plans to use his time off to clean the house and make it ready to put on the market. As he's been raised right, the first thing Oliver does after settling down is to introduce himself to his neighbor. What he finds is an incredibly rude woman with a dog who, to Oliver's displeasure, seems to have the hots for his 8-months old puppy, Strudel.

Mackenzie Williams knows she was incredibly rude to her new neighbor, but unfortunately for him, he caught her at the wrong time. Mackenzie is the TV producer of a very popular Australian soap opera and she lives for her job. A year ago, she was in in a very bad car accident and didn't survive it unscathed. She was lucky to get a sick leave from her job, but now, time is running out and she faces the real possibility of losing her job. So the last few months, she's been in Flinders focusing her energy on completing her physical therapy and getting back into shape.

Eventually, Oliver and Mackenzie get over their first meeting and impressions... and the more time they spend together, the more they enjoy each other's company. However, is either ready for something more?

My Opinion: Ms Mayberry has become one of my go-to authors when I'm in the mood for category romance. As a result, I always have an eye out for the reviews of her new releases because I know that sooner or later, I'm going to get to it :) Opinions for The Other Side of Us seemed to be mixed: some loved it and others, not as much. I really hoped to be part of the first group, but unfortunately, I fell in the latter :(

First, I want to state that Ms Mayberry's writing is as solid as ever in The Other Side of Us. That wasn't the issue here. What was was my lack of connection with the H/H, Oliver and Mackenzie. Oh, they were nice people, each with a lot of baggage, but they didn't reach me. I was sympathetic to their situations - the betrayal, the accident - but not to the characters themselves. Does that make any sense? To a certain extent, I think it's because of the strength of their personalities. They just seem so independent, individualist and focus on their baggage... Especially Mackenzie. It's hard to believe she went through all what she did without anyone by her side to give her support. I know she was hurt when her ex-husband with whom she had developed a friend-with-benefits relationship deserted her when she needed him most. And perhaps that's why she isolated herself... But that isolation, well she chose it. I think it would have helped to show us different sides of Oliver and Mackenzie if there had been secondary characters around. I don't mean a secondary romance or even baiting, but just interactions with other people.

My other issue with The Other Side of Us was with the romance, mainly the timing. I understand that there are no right moments to fall in love... but I feel there are wrong ones to start a relationship. And that's where Oliver and Mackenzie were. I felt the timing was wrong for Oliver, not because he was going through a divorce, but because there was still so much anger in him. The anger was warranted, no argument there, but was it a great state in mind to start something with Mackenzie? Was it really fair for her? I don't think so and I think that part where Mackenzie's ex-husband entered the picture was the perfect example. As for Mackenzie, I just felt like she had so much on her plate. When Mackenzie first met Oliver, the reason she was so rude was because she had just finished exercising and had pushed too hard. She slammed the door in Oliver's face so she could rush to the bathroom to puke. That scene was quite poignant, it said a lot about Mackenzie in my opinion, but more importantly, it showed that she was very far away from being 100% back. Half-way through the book, it seemed that Mackenzie's physical condition was forgotten and barely alluded to. And quite frankly, I'm not sure how much Mackenzie could have and enjoy sex in her condition. I wish that in both instances, we had seen more of their healing processes. For me, it would have made the romance more believable and better.

So yes, I had issues with The Other Side of Us, but it was still a pretty solid book. As contradictory as it may sound, I liked that the story was focused on Oliver and Mackenzie and their relationship. Have I not had a problem with the timing, this would be exactly the kind of romance I'd enjoy where the hero and heroine spend time together, get to know each other and fall in love :) Also, I have to agree with everyone, the dogs were adorable LOL.

My Grade: C.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: The Best Intentions by Candice Hern

Guess what? Yep, I have another buddy review over at Breezing Through! Seems like Ames and I are on a roll :) Speaking of roll, for it to continue, I need buddy review partners!! I've updated my sidebar with the books that I am currently reading and have read recently. If there's any books in there that you'd like to discuss, let me know! Also, I'm planning to read Written in Red by Anne Bishop and that one has been getting rave reviews, so it might be fun to talk about :)

In the meantime, you can click here to check out my buddy review of The Best Intentions by Candice Hern. Enjoy!

The Best Intentions by Candice Hern
self-published in May 2011 (first published by New American Library in June 1999)
The Earl of Strickland is a handsome widower in search of a new wife to be a mother to his two young children. Having lost his one true love, he is determined on a practical, dispassionate match with a mature woman. Young girls in their first Seasons, their heads full of romantic notions of love, are not for him. When his sister comes to visit bringing along a beautiful widow, Miles thinks he may have found the perfect match. But the widow is chaperoning her gauche, much younger sister, an artless girl who causes Miles's best intentions to go awry as he finds himself falling in love with precisely the sort of woman he sought to avoid. Set at a grand country estate in the Midlands, this sweet love story of the reserved and dignified Miles and the delightfully guileless, clumsy, outspoken Hannah is sure to charm readers.
Genre: Historical romance
Series: Country House Party, Book #2

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Monthly Reads - December 2012

Hi everyone! How are you doing? Me, I'm tired ^_^; Ugh, this whole saving daytime light is simply not working for me! Of course, going out till 3am in the morning last Friday night on the week-end we "spring forward" was not my most brilliant idea ^_^; Something that I'll have to remember for next year LOL. Aside from that, life is pretty quiet. I'm still "practicing" at work which gives me some free time which is good because there are a lot of new books I want to read! :)

Speaking of books, here is my Monthly Reads post for December ^_^; As you can see, I'm still behind... and that's why I've decided to change the format a little. Nothing major, but something that will definitively save me time and make me stop dreading these posts. So what is the change? I'm still going to continue to review some books in these Monthly Reads posts, but I won't be summarizing them anymore. As a result, what you'll get is truly mini-reviews, just my opinion :) I think it's a good decision given that I'm so far behind in my reviews ^_^; Let me know what you think!

Now, here is what I read in December:

1) Cold Days by Jim Butcher: A

2) The Weird Girls by Cecy Robson: C-

The Weird Girls is a little novella whose purpose is to launch this new urban fantasy series, The Weird Girls series, that has caught my interest. The premise is four sisters who each has unique powers thanks to a curse: Celia can change into a golden tigress and that ability is accompanied with preternatural speed and strength; Taran releases her power in the form of lightning and fire; Emma is a telekinetic and can heal; and Shayna is a blademaster with the ability to manipulate metals. They have recently move to the supernatural community found in Lake Tahoe and hope to keep a low profile due to their unusual abilities. Of course, things don't go as planned and in The Weird Girls, our four sisters get into a dispute with the local witch coven...

So I thought I'd give The Weird Girls a try and get a feel for the writing and the characters before the first book, Sealed with a Curse. However, after reading the novella, I can't tell whether it was a good idea or not, because frankly, based on what I read, I'm not sure I would have picked up Sealed with a Curse ^_^; Except lucky for the author, I had already pre-ordered the book so eventually, I'll give it a try. Overall, I can't exactly pinpoint what didn't work for me with The Weird Girls except to say that the story just didn't hook me. I actually quite liked the premise of the series - the four sisters being cursed, which is why I decided to give the series a go... but the series was underwhelming. There was a lot of set up for the world and the characters and perhaps along with the fight with the coven, it was too much. It'd have been better for Ms Robson to decide what she wanted to accomplish with this novella - introduce the series or tell a story. Also, I just didn't connect with Celia who was the narrator. I think it was the whole "everyone is attracted to my sisters because they are hot, but not me because I'm scary." She's also very protective of her sisters and self-sacrificing and in the end, sounded a bit too martyr-ish to my tastes.

The novella wasn't all that bad; however, I didn't feel the need to rush for the next book and that speaks volume right?

3) The First Prophet by Kay Hooper: C

4) Cracking the Dating Code by Kelly Hunter: C+

In the past couple of years, I've started building up a list of auto-buy authors for category romance and Ms Hunter is one of them :) I enjoyed the first book in this series, Flirting with Intent, and it was just a matter of time for me to pick up Cracking the Dating Code. The heroine of this book is Poppy West, a genius at cracking code. Good thing to because that's exactly what she needs to do in order to find out whether her eldest brother is still alive or not and what he's been up to. Since what she's about to do is ultra secret, she needs an ultra secret place to do it and her co-worker offers her the use of his island... whose currently only occupant is his brother, Sebastian Reyne. Attraction sparks between them, but Poppy is shy and socially awkward... and therefore decides to ask Sebastian to teach her how to flirt. As for Sebastian, he thought the last thing he needed at the moment was a woman, but perhaps he was wrong?

All in all, I did enjoy Cracking the Dating Code, but I thought something was missing to the story such as some intensity and some development. I felt the first half of the story that took place on the island was quite slow. Not much happened as both our H/H were absorbed by their own worries and therefore spent little time together. And when Sebastian finally admitted he was attracted to Poppy, there was the whole worry about whether his brother was also attracted to her as well. Finally, when Poppy and Sebastian got off the island, the story picked up, but it was already too late. I feel Poppy and Sebastian were given obstacles - and serious ones at that, but the way it was addressed in Cracking the Dating Code made them superficial and easily rectifiable. Otherwise, I enjoyed Poppy and Sebastian's pairing :) I find Poppy's flirting lessons were the best moments of the story because the characters were witty and spontaneous :)

5) The Navy Seal's Bride by Soraya Lane: D

I've heard a lot of good about Ms Lane's writing and I've been meaning to give it a try, but I think I chose the wrong book ^_^; In The Navy Seal's Bride, the hero, Tom Cartwright, is an ex-Navy SEAL due to an injury that has robbed part of his hearing and not surprisingly, is struggling to adjust to his new civilian life. While his brother and sister-in-law have are on their second honeymoon, Tom is baby-sitting his niece Gabby and that's how he meets Caitlin Rose, Gabby's teacher. Caitlin is attracted to Tom, but wary of his military background because she's had bad experiences in the past... and Tom's occasional spurts of anger due to this injury do nothing to reassure her.

I thought the beginning of The Navy Seal's Bride was very promising. I loved the relationship between Tom and his niece, Gabby. It was so heart-warming and cute LOL. I also admired the tight bond Tom had with his brother and sister-in-law. They had each other's back and given their line of work, that was very reassuring for each of them... But that's about all I enjoyed about the book ^_^; The romance simply didn't work for me in The Navy Seal's Bride. Tom and Caitlin didn't seem to have any chemistry together, especially since she was so wary of him. Every time he'd get angry, she'd start to reassess him and their relationship. That made it hard for me to believe the HEA ending at the end. It would have been more realistic if it's been more gradual. Something else that didn't work for me was Tom's frustration at his injury. I know it's hard for him that his career ended in that way, that he's lost a lot... but it's been done so many times that it just bored and annoyed me. Also the fact that Caitlin had a past and that it was Tom's waking call to stop being so down because of his injury just seemed too convenient. And once again, the changes in Tom's attitude were just too rapid to be believable.

All in all, the story and romance just did not work for me. I'll have to try another book to find out what's all the buzz about Ms Lane.

6) The Other Side of Us by Sarah Mayberry: C
Upcoming Review

7) The Importance of Being Wicked by Victoria Alexander: B

8) My Bluegrass Baby by Molly Harper: C

My Bluegrass Baby is a novella by Ms Harper and since I enjoyed her writing a lot, there was no doubt I'd be picking this up. Sadie Hutchins works for the Kentucky Tourism Commission and loves her job, loves advertising the quirky tourist spots in Kentucky. She's expecting to become the new director of the marketing department. That is until there's a new candidate for the position, Josh Vaughn. His plan is to promote a sophisticated, high-end image of Kentucky which is totally opposite to Sadie's vision... which is good as each will have to create a new publicity campaign to see who will become the new director.

My Bluegrass Baby was a nice, light-hearted novella. There wasn't as many LOL moments than in most of Ms Harper's book, but it was still funny and enjoyable. I thought both the story and the characters were interesting... to a certain point. I liked the setting - the Kentucky Tourism Commission - and the idea that both Sadie and Josh had to show what they are made of to earn the job, especially since the two really have contrasting styles and visions. The problem with the novella was that the whole story was a little bit passive. We were told more than we were shown and as a result, it felt a little bit draggy in the second half. I think the novella would have been better if it had been written at the 3rd person and if readers had had Josh's POV. We would have had a better sense of what was going. Not only would it have benefited the story, but also the romance. As it is, it felt like Sadie and Josh did a 180 degree on their feelings for each other. They started out despising each other, mostly because they had opposing visions of how to promote Kentucky tourism and are competing for the same position. Yes, there was a little bit of attraction, after all, they are both good-looking, and I know they got to know each other better by working together, but I'd have liked to see those interactions more instead of the office wars.

So an enjoyable novella with a different subject matter, but not the best I've read from this author.

9) Deck the Halls with Love by Lorraine Heath: C+

Readers got to meet the hero of this novella, the Marquess of Chetwyn, in Lord of Temptation, the second book of The Lost Lords of Pembrook trilogy. I really liked what I read of Chetwyn's character in Lord of Temptation - it's rare to see the jilted party so open-minded, gracious and kind - and was really hoping he'd get his own story. Well my wish came true with Deck the Halls with Love. We find out that before Chetwyn proposed to Lady Anne, his dead brother's fiancée, out of misplaced duty to his brother's memory, he was actually courting Lady Meredith Hargreaves to whom he was attracted to and the feelings were reciprocated. Now, Lady Meredith is engaged to another man because she was caught in a compromising situation - a kiss ^_^; However, Chetwyn doesn't intend to lose her twice... even if it means stealing her from another man.

To be honest, I was expecting more out of this novella. I mean, the story was cute and sweet and the characters, nice. Also, the beginning and ending were fun and clever... But all in all, I feel there was the potential for so much more in this novella and it wasn't reached because of the length. Seriously, I would have had no trouble reading a full-length novel with Chetwyn and Lady Meredith and it would have given Ms Heath the chance to flesh out the storyline a lot more. First, Chetwyn needed to grovel a bit more. Only logical after he broke Lady Meredith's heart by proposing to another woman, no? Second, I liked the direction where Ms Heath was going with Meredith's engagement. She was obliged to accept the proposal of a man she wasn't sure to love because they were caught in a kiss. Should she really risk her happiness because of a kiss? Of course, perhaps she shouldn't have allowed the kiss in the first place, but still. And then, what if the kiss and being caught had been orchestrated? I would have liked to see that part more fleshed out, but of course, it was impossible due to the length. Since what I've been wishing was impossible, I would have settled for simply more interactions between Chetwyn and Meredith, because most of it, most of their falling in love had happened prior to the story and therefore off-pages ^_^;

All in all, a cute novella, but I think Ms Heath missed a good opportunity for a great novel as she had a good story and very nice characters. Also, this is not aimed specifically at Ms Heath, but I'm really tired of heroes who propose to women they don't love because they think that taking care of someone = marriage!! Seriously, how dense can they be?

10) Amityville Horrible by Kelley Armstrong: B

11) Forbidden by Kelley Armstrong: B


Books bought: +5
Books read: -11
TBR pile: -6

Category Romance - 3
      --> (Contemporary - 3)
Contemporary Romance - 1
Historical Romance - 2
      --> (Regency - 2)
Mystery/Thriller - 1
Urban Fantasy - 4


All right, so it seems I'm not very good at writing reviews without summarizing the plots ^_^; But at least, I put less pressure on myself to do so and it seems to work :P Let see how the next Monthly Reads post goes, because I'm really dreading that one...

Anyway, looking back on December, it was an okay month. It started out with a bang with  Cold Days which was my best read in 2012 and it ended on a high note with two books from one of my favorite authors :) Middle of the month though was so-so... However, I kind of expected it. December is always a tough reading month for me, because there's almost no new releases! You'd think it'd be the perfect time for me to catch up on books I hadn't have the chance to read during the year... but it's not the case! Instead, I go into a funk because there's no new releases to buy and read, then I start worrying about my final number of books read during the year - which is why there are so many novellas. And of course, holidays season starts and I get busy with this and that and end up having not as much time to read as I expected. Oh well, maybe I'll learn something and have a better plan for this year's December LOL.

So how was your month of December? Do you even remember it? LOL.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Review: Fury's Kiss by Karen Chance

Fury's Kiss by Karen Chance
published by New American Library in October 2012
Dorina Basarab is a dhampir—half-human, half-vampire. Subject to uncontrollable rages, most dhampirs live very short, very violent lives. But so far, Dory has managed to maintain her sanity by unleashing her anger on those demons and vampires who deserve killing...

Dory is used to fighting hard and nasty. So when she wakes up in a strange scientific lab with a strange man standing over her, her first instinct is to take his head off. Luckily, the man is actually the master vampire Louis-Cesare, so he’s not an easy kill.

It turns out that Dory had been working with a Vampire Senate task force on the smuggling of magical items and weaponry out of Faerie when she was captured and brought to the lab. But when Louis-Cesare rescues her, she has no memory of what happened to her.

To find out what was done to her—and who is behind it—Dory will have to face off with fallen angels, the maddest of mad scientists, and a new breed of vampires that are far worse than undead...
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Dorina Basarab, Book #3

The Story: As usual, Ms Chance pens a complex story, so let see if I can write a coherent summary :)

Since the last book, Death's Mistress, Dory has been working for the Vampire Senate. During her last mission, she was sent out with the Senate task force to investigate on the smuggling of magical items and weaponry out of Faerie and into their world. However, something went utterly wrong and 11 first-level masters died; Dory the only survivor. Whatever happened definitively messed her up because during her rescue, she didn't even recognize her love interest, Louis-Cesare. Eventually, her memories came back, but not the ones from the ambush... In order to find out what happened, her father, Mircea, who has powerful mental abilities, needs to enter her mind and retrieve those memories... That is when Dory learns that this is not the first time Mircea has played with her mind. A very long time ago, because Dory was dying due to her vampire half over-powering her human-half, Mircea had to put a barrier in Dory's mind, separating her two consciousness... and this has cost Dory a  lot.

While trying to retrieve her memories, Mircea is attacked and injured. Obviously, something is happening... and it might just have to do with the ongoing challenges for seats on the North American Senate. It's therefore up to Dory with her unexpected allies to stop the conspiracy.

My Opinion: All right, so I tried my best with the summary - I hope it gives a clearer idea of the plot. Now, let's try for a coherent review :) Then again, it's going to be a short one as Ms Chance is a very consistent writer and whatever the strengths and weaknesses were in the first two books, Midnight's Daughter and Death's Mistress, they are the same in Fury's Kiss.

Once again, while reading Fury's Kiss, I LOLed so many times :P I enjoy the romance between Dory and Louis-Cesare because it is intense and he knows what he wants and what he wants is Dory and he's not taking a "no" for answers... However, that's not why I read this series. I read the Dorina Basarab series because of the mix of action and humor and seriously, nothing beats the interactions between Dory, Ray and Radu. It's simply sooo hilarious! LOL. Speaking of Ray, I'm really happy that Ms Chance decided to keep him in the cast and that his character is more than comedic relief. I liked how much insight Ray had on people and the vampire community, sometimes even more than Dory. Actually, when you think about it, Ray's character is very interesting... He's not as powerful as everyone and I think it gives him a different perspective... but despite not being as powerful and a bit of a coward, he still sticks to Dory's side. In truth, I'm looking forward to reading more about him :)

Aside from the humor, what I enjoyed in this installment is things are not stagnant. Things are happening, especially in regards to Dory and Mircea's father-daughter relationship. Theirs has always been strained, a carefully choreographed dance. Because of Mircea's position and personality, Dory always thought that her father didn't really care about her and wanted to manipulate her more,  but I always had the feeling she was wrong... and I was right :) I loved the memory of Dory and Mircea in Venice and Dory finally knowing the truth. I'm really glad that Ms Chance expanded on this part of the story and did not drag it on. No matter how dysfunctional their family is, there's no doubt that Dory, Mircea and Radu are a tight unit and I hope Ms Chance continues to explore this aspect.

Finally, a word on the storyline. As a whole, I think it was pretty good and I enjoyed it. Then again, I love stories that involved successions and court intrigues, and the challenges for a Senate seat was akin to it :) However, there was more such as Ms Chance shedding light on Dory's dhampir nature - I love that part! How did Dory survive being a dhampir while so many others have died before her and what's more, it made sense. Unfortunately, as usually, not everything did and I still got confused at times ^_^; I think there was less superfluous parts than in Death's Mistress which was a plus, but still, I got lost a few times. The two parts that come to mind are when Ray was explaining how he created portals and the child... What's annoying with the confusion in Ms Chance's books is that even after re-reading the parts, I still can't figure it out. Sigh. I have to say though, the ending of Fury's Kiss made up for all the confusion because it was simply so awesome! LOL.

Besides the confusion, my other little complaint about Fury's Kiss was Dory's best friend, Christine. She just annoyed me so much! I didn't mind her in the first two books, but in here, I simply couldn't stand her. Yes, she does offer some support and I think her faith in Dory is very important for Dory. What annoys me though is that at the end of the day, she doesn't truly understand Dory and keeps ignoring that part of Dory is vampire is annoying... It's self-denial! And no matter how bad Dory and Mircea's relationship is, she shouldn't interfere. She's being over-protective when I think Dory can take care of herself... and seriously, I don't think she's helping all that much ^_^;

My Grade: B. Overall, my enjoyment of Fury's Kiss fell in the middle of the two first installments, mainly because of the storyline - it was much better than Midnight's Daughter, but didn't have as much omphf as Death's Mistress. It was also a satisfying read full of laughs with good developments :) I'm really looking forward for the next book, although I think it will only come out in 2014. Ugh. Definitively going to re-read int he meantime :)

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Hauling Sunday CV

Sigh, it's been a while since I had a last Hauling Sunday post ^_^; It's not that I haven't been buying books, simply not a lot per week. As a result, I decided to wait and group my new precious into one post, especially  since I knew that end of February/beginning of March, I'd have books to buy :) Finally!!!

So here are my new books since February...

All of the books bought were new releases in the last few months from my auto-buy authors :) With the exception of this one:

The Best Intentions by Candice Hern - This book was recommended to me by Ames. Seeing her enthusiasm, I couldn't resist :) Plus, I guess Ms Hern got back the rights to this book and therefore, self-published it at a very reasonable price. Our plan is to buddy review The Best Intentions, so look forward to it at Breezing Through in the near future :)

Obviously, there are more books that I want :P But I'm trying to be a good girl - so hard! - and wait for some promotions/discounts. Hopefully, there'll be one soon!!

What about you? Have you been buying a lot of books lately?

Friday, March 08, 2013

Review: The Runaway Princess by Hester Browne

Yes, be impressed, two reviews in two days!! LOL. Only thing though is if you want to read the review, you'll have to head over to Breezing Through because it's a buddy review with Ames... which when I think about it, it's been a while too ^_^; Ames and I have a plan though for Breezing Through and hopefully, we'll follow it through :)

Anyway, you can click here to get to the review :)

Happy week-end!

The Runaway Princess by Hester Browne
published by Simon & Schuster (Pocket) in October 2012
If Amy Wilde’s new boyfriend, Leo, treats her like a queen, that’s because he’s secretly a prince himself: Leopold William Victor Wolfsburg of Nirona, the ninth most eligible royal bachelor in the world. Amy soon discovers that dating an heir to a throne has many charms—intimate alfresco dinners, glittering galas, and, for a girl who lives in jeans and wellies, a dazzling new wardrobe with tiaras to match. But there are also drawbacks: imagine the anxiety of meeting your boyfriend’s parents multiplied by a factor of “riding in a private jet,” “staying in a castle,” and “discussing the line of succession over lunch.” Not to mention the sudden press interest in your very un-royal family. When an unexpected turn of events pushes Leo closer to the throne, the Wolfsburgs decide to step up Amy’s transformation from down-to-earth gardener to perfectly polished princess-in-waiting. Amy would do anything for Leo, but is finding her Prince Charming worth the price of losing herself?
Genre: Chick-lit
Series: None

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Review: Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs

Finally a review!! Yay! I'm trying, I'm trying, but it's hard LOL. I think one reason is because I'm so behind in my reviews ^_^; Seriously, I might have to skip a month or something. Even thinking about the monthly recaps is daunting.

I wasn't sure what to review and I decided to go with Frost Burned by Ms Briggs. This is my latest read and figured it should come easily as my feelings for it was pretty clear :) And I was right. So enjoy!!

Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs
published by Berkley (Ace) in March 2013
Mercy Thompson’s life has undergone a seismic change. Becoming the mate of Adam Hauptman—the charismatic Alpha of the local werewolf pack—has made her a stepmother to his daughter Jesse, a relationship that brings moments of blissful normalcy to Mercy’s life. But on the edges of humanity, what passes for a minor mishap on an ordinary day can turn into so much more…

After an accident in bumper-to-bumper traffic, Mercy and Jesse can’t reach Adam—or anyone else in the pack for that matter. They’ve all been abducted.

Through their mating bond, all Mercy knows is that Adam is angry and in pain. With the werewolves fighting a political battle to gain acceptance from the public, Mercy fears Adam’s disappearance may be related—and that he and the pack are in serious danger. Outclassed and on her own, Mercy may be forced to seek assistance from any ally she can get, no matter how unlikely.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Mercedes Thompson, Book #7

The Story: Frost Burned takes place after the events of Fair Game during which the fae have revealed themselves and declared to be a separate and sovereign nation. After the declaration, all the fae headed to the reservations and with the aid of magic, these reservations have disappeared. And with the werewolves who had made their come out a few years ago, let just say things have been tense in the general population. However, it's not a good reason not to celebrate Thanksgiving... except Thanksgiving dinner is interrupted by the Feds who shows up to capture the Pack using a silver poison that makes werewolves sick.

Because Mercy was out with her stepdaughter, Jesse, shopping on Black Friday, the two escaped the capture. Now, Mercy has to figure out how to protect Jesse and Gabriel, her part-time employee and Jesse's almost boyfriend, how to save Adam and the pack and also check up on Kyle, one of the werewolf's lover who wasn't at dinner, but was also kidnapped. Through her mate bond with Adam, Mercy finds out that Adam is alive, angry and in pain. She also learns that the kidnappers intend to have Adam kill US Senator Campbell, one of the most vocal anti-fae, anti-werewolf politician in Congress, by holding the pack hostage. If the assassination succeeds, the fragile truce will break and spiral down to chaos.

Practically alone, Mercy needs allies. There is Stefan, her quasi-estranged vampire friend; Asil the Moor, a maniacal werewolf sent by Bran; and Tad, her mentor's half-fae, half-human son. And as the rescue mission progresses, Mercy finds out there was a lot more secrets behind the kidnapping than killing a senator...

My Opinion: Wow, two years since the last Mercy Thompson book! I want to say it's hard to believe, but unfortunately, it's not ^_^; It hits you repetitively during the story when there are references to previous events and characters and you're trying to remember them and the timeline. Really, I'm not too sure that alternating between the Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega series is a good idea because it really means a long time go by between the books... then again, it's not my decision, so I'll just have to suffer the wait :P Personally, I've always claimed to prefer the Alpha & Omega series over the Mercy Thompson series and that's still true, but at the end of the day, all I want is my fix of Ms Briggs' werewolves because Ms Briggs is really one of the best author at writing them and she proves it again in Frost Burned :)

Overall, I think that Frost Burned was a very solid book with a good plot and some interesting twists. The revelation behind the capture of the Pack really took me by surprise and was the complete opposite of what I was expecting, so kudos to Ms Briggs. I think very little people will figure it out - unless they spoil themselves, LOL. Also what I liked is that there was some foreshadowing, the right questions were raised, but without giving it away... so it didn't completely come out of the blue :) There are still a few loose ends such as the information man, but I figure those will be addressed in future books. Seriously, a very satisfying plot and well executed :)

As usual, Ms Briggs excels at writing her werewolf characters. I really enjoy seeing the hierarchy and the pack dynamics in her books. You really feel the constraints of it, the whole dominance at play and the links that tie them... and I love it. It enriches Ms Briggs' world building and confer a unique feel to her series, sets her werewolves apart and above. Also, one of the reasons Ms Briggs is the best is the consistency of the details and she never forgets to write about it. For example, in Frost Burned, Asil comes to lend a hand to Mercy. He's a very dominant wolf and a stranger... When he spent time with Ben and Adam, both times, they had to establish who was the most dominant. Every time Asil was in the presence of Adam, he tried to position himself as far as possible from Adam, etc. If you compare Ms Briggs' werewolves and Ms Singh's wolf changelings, you can feel the difference. Ms Singh talks about dominant and submissive in her series, but the concept is still a bit abstract in comparison to Ms Briggs and the pack is a lot more relax. And that is one of the reasons I enjoy Ms Briggs books so much and Frost Burned was no exception.

As for characters, if you're up to date with the series, you're all familiar with them. What was great in Frost Burned is that for once, we got Adam's POV! It was third person and I liked that, because it really differentiated from Mercy's POV. It was also refreshing and for the sake of the story, necessary. Still very clever from Ms Briggs. I also got to see my favorite secondary characters such as Ben, Kyle and Stefan. I just enjoy their personalities and their interactions with Mercy. I have to say, I'm still not so happy how Mercy keeps doubting Stefan. I understand from her thoughts why, but I don't see it. Perhaps because I like Stefan so much ^_^; It reminds me a bit of Kate's dislike for Saiman in the Kate Daniels series by Ms Andrews. I mean, no matter what Stefan and Saiman have done, at the end of the day, they always help out and are there...Anyway. I really enjoyed the crossover presence of Asil! It was interesting to see how other characters who've only known  his reputation and the rumors of his madness perceived him. Another character that I enjoyed and which surprised me was Tad. I vaguely remember him from previous book, but in this one, his presence was more noticeable. He's like Mercy's little brother and it was interesting to see the fae situation from his POV.

As much as I enjoyed Frost Burned though, there were a few things that kept it from being a wowzer. First and foremost for me was the lack of intensity in the book. This is kind of surprising given Frost Burned had a very good plot with a lot of action integrated. I don't know, I simply wasn't sitting at the edge of my seat because the book wasn't thrilling enough. I think a lot of it has to do with how some events unfolded. For example, how Adam and the pack got away from their captors. It was surprising - yes, but a bit anti-climatic. Also, at the end, when the true reasons behind the conspiracy were revealed, it was also anti-climatic because Mercy was told. Okay, she figures it out, but only when all the clues were right there in her face... Throughout the book, Mercy was always running around and she didn't have a choice, there were things to be accomplished. However, that meant she didn't really have time to investigate and before she figured things out, there was always something happened. Personally, given the storyline, I feel that Frost Burned was a bit short. I think Ms Briggs could have make it more complex and therefore, more intense. My last complaint is minor in comparison and is about the scene when Mercy is enthralled by a fae artifact. I simply question the real necessity of that part because I didn't see the impact it had on the storyline.

My Grade: B+. The wait was worth it because Ms Briggs came up with another great installment. Fans of the series will not be disappointed in my opinion :)

Monday, March 04, 2013

Macarons pyramid

Soooo, another week-end without blogging... Oups ^_^; But at least, this time, it's because I was busy, instead of lazy LOL. Since I didn't have time to read, I thought I'd share with you what I did this week-end :)

When I was in cegep (Quebec's school system which consists of last year of high school + first year of college), I met this group of friends. That was back in 2000 and through the years, the group has changed a little - some have dropped off, sisters and boyfriends have joined in - but at the core of it, it's still the same group :) And this year is a big year because the majority of us will be turning 30! So this week-end, my friend V celebrated her brithday. V is the cook and baker of the group and she decided to spoil us by organizing a feast :)

To thank her for all the sweets she has baked for us throughout the years and because V is also a huge fan of Masterchef Australia, my sister decided that her gifts for V would be a macarons tower. Yeah, you know where this is going LOL. The first challenge in this gift was to find a styrofoam cone... We did find some, but they were too small for what we had in mind. We found styrofoam cubes and I thought we could make a square tower instead... but sometimes, my sister can be very cheap LOL. Why buy two cubes - each 20$ - when you can get a sheet of styrofoam for 10$? So we bought the sheet of styrofoam and guess who was in charge of building the tower? Yes, yours truly :P There was no way I could get a cone out of the sheet so instead, I built a pyramid. The first attempt was pretty bad ^_^; However, the 2nd one worked out! Yay! So I thought my job was done, but once my sister was done baking, we realized that I perhaps had been a bit too optimistic and there was no way we had enough macarons to cover the 4 sides. Oups LOL. So I had to build another pyramid, this time down-sizing it. As you can see below, there was quite a difference in height between the two pyramids ^_^;

It's funny because no matter how early my sister starts baking, she'll always end late. I have no idea why it is, but for sure, this time around wasn't an exception. We started at 11.30am and ended at 2am ^_^; This time around, she used two different recipes to make the macaron shells.. and she had to make three batches. For the fillings, she went with green tea/white chocolate ganache - love that one - and with vanilla butter cream and raspberry jam. For the raspberry jam, we actually used Christine's recipe and it is indeed super easy!! LOL, my sister was worried about the test for gel set because she was afraid she wouldn't see the wrinkles... but seriously, it's obvious whether it has set or not. After letting the jam cool down, it actually was more like jello than jam LOL. However, that works because I was afraid the jam would be too liquid and would ooze out of the macarons, but obviously, it didn't. The only thing though is that the jam was perhaps a bit too sweet, especially when combined with the butter cream in the macarons... but it was still very yummy!

In addition to the macarons, my sister has been wanting to try to make cookie dough truffles. I figured why not do it at the same time? It's actually quite easy to make. The only long step is the dipping in chocolate and that's mainly because my sister and I kept underestimating the amount of chocolate needed and so we had to keep melting more chocolate ^_^;

Anyway, interested in seeing the final result? Tada!

And of course, my sister and I were running late. So as soon as we finished assembling the macarons pyramid, we had to rush to V's house. Let say the drive was quite a challenge LOL, but it held up! Yay!

So that's what kept me away from my computer this week-end. Let just say I feel my week-end was very, very short! LOL. What about you? What did you do?

Friday, March 01, 2013

New Releases - March 2013

I was planning to write a review, but I don't think it's going to happen today ^_^; Mainly because I procrastinated the whole week and spent the whole day yesterday getting Breezing Through' new releases post for March ready :) Click here to see what books Ames, Monroe and I are looking forward to :) And don't forget to share with us what books you are planning to get! :)