Monday, December 27, 2010

Hauling Sunday XXV

Late again ^_^; What can I say, I've become a huge procrastinator LOL.

Vacation is going well and is quite relaxing :) You know you're relaxing when you start losing your grasp on time - what day it is, what time is it? However, I have to admit that it's been a bit lonely... that's usually how it is for Christmas as everyone spends it with family. Still, it should get better since I'm going to spend the with my friends. It's our annual gift exchange and one of us is going to cook up a feast :P Then, in the next few days, my plan is to re-shelve my books :) Going to be load of fun!

Here are the new books I'll be adding to my shelves :)

Rampant and Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund - These two books have been on my radar for quite a while actually. I think the first mention I've read was from Li, as Li is quite a fan of this author... Then, last week, Ames read Rampant and loved it :) So I got Rampant and since I had a 40% off, I got Ascendant as well :P

Promise Canyon by Robyn Carr - I loved Virgin River and ever since, Ms Carr has been on my auto-buy list. I have to admit though, I'm not as enthralled with the series as I was in the beginning...

The next few books, I got from the UBS.

Stealing the Bride and It Takes a Hero by Elizabeth Boyle - I like her books, but never got the chance to read her older ones. Now, I do :P

Absolutely, Positively by Jayne Ann Krentz - LOL, I have a JAK addiction. I think it's because you know exactly what you're getting... although after a while, it does get a bit too repetitive ^_^;

The Touch of Max by Kay Hooper - LOL, very old book :) This is part of her Men of Mysteries Past series. There were 4 books in that series and two of them were combined, edited and re-released as Once a Thief and Always a Thief. One of the characters in that book is Max and his wife is mentioned and it took me a while to figure out that he had his own book. LOL, quite frankly, not sure I'm going to read it... but now if I want, I can :P

So there, my haul from last week :) I'm slowly starting to read again - woohoo!! I'm planning to get a few new books this week and hopefully, that'll help me regain my mojo LOL.

What about you? How are the holidays going? :)

PS - Did I mention I really hate my computer? Sigh.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010!!

MERRY CHRISTMAS 2010 to everyone!!!

Just want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas :) Sorry I've been quiet the past few days ^_^; I am relaxing :P However, I've been running around on errands a lot and I've slipped into a reading slump T_T Hopefully, the coming week will be better :)

Hope everyone has a good time today :)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hauling Sunday XXIV

Two days into my vacation and my to do list is half-way done LOL. Watched White Collar and really enjoyed it. I now have a crush on Matthew Bomer :P Seriously, those eyes... and the Rat Pack look. One word to sum it all up: sexy :) I've half-cleaned my room and please, don't ask me when the other half with be done LOL. I've also managed to go to the UBS today and bought some books, but those will be in next week's Hauling Sunday :) Shopping is scheduled to be tomorrow and so, all in all, I'm having a very fruitful few days. The only thing that's going so-so is my reading :( My reading mojo is taking a hike somewhere... hopefully, it'll come back very soon.

Okay, here are my new precious for the past week:

Seduced by His Touch and At the Duke's Pleasure by Tracy Anne Warren - Seriously, I'm starting to wonder if Chapters/Indigo are having a slow holidays season sale-wise this year and that's why they're trying to encourage people to buy, but in any case, I've been receiving a lot coupons by email. It's really unfortunate though that there's so very few new releases this month. Do you know how frustrating it is, to have coupons bu no books to buy?!? I was determined to be a good girl, but I got tempted... I got an email from Indigo suggesting me some books and Seduced by His Touch was in it... I've been on a historical kick in the past few weeks and it sounds like the kind of historical romance I enjoyed so much. Then, I read the blurb of At the Duke's Pleasure, and same thing... so I got both of them. I've had the first book in this series, Tempted by His Kiss, in my TBR pile for a few months now though and I have to admit, I'm having a few doubts on my purchases ^_^; There was a reason why I told myself to read the first book to see whether or not I enjoyed the writing, but it's a bit too late now ^_^; Ah well, hopefully, I didn't act too impulsively.

And that's it for me this week :) What about you?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Guess what?!? I'm on vacation!!!

Yep, I am!!! Woohoo!!! I can't really believe it LOL. Truthfully, I would have preferred another time than the holiday season, but anyway, no complaining!! :)

I've been a bit quiet this week. I didn't really have time to blog or blog hop. Been busy putting things right in the lab so my absence won't affect work. Also, been getting home pretty late - my sister has been having exams this week and her schedule's been really, really sucky ^_^; But she's done too!!! So we're both free for 2 weeks!! Woohoo!!

So I've been thinking a little and this is my plans for the holidays in no real order:

- reading, reading, reading!! of course LOL
- blogging, blog-hopping and finding new blogs
- watching White Collar. Matthew Bomer is such a cutie! :)
- shopping
- re-shelve my books

more and seriously, just enjoy it all :)

Okay, so lately, what good books have you read? Gotta start my vacation on a good book!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Re-Read: When You Call My Name by Sharon Sala

LOL, I'm trying to sneak in a review for my re-read. I actually re-read quite a few books in November/December... The problem though is that some, I've already reviewed as re-read ^_^; and others, well I've re-read and reviewed other books by the same authors. I'm trying to vary here, but yeah... there's just something about comfort reads and re-reads, ya know... In the end, I finally chose When You Call My Name by Sharon Sala.

When You Call My Name by Sharon Sala
published by Harlequin (Silhouette) in January 1996

Whenever you need me...

She had given him the most precious gift of all -- the gift of life. But something more than a mere blood transfusion linked Wyatt Hatfield to the stranger who had saved him. Something that allowed her to call out to him for help in the stillness of the night -- without ever speaking a word....

And now it was his turn to give. For the connection that linked Wyatt to Glory Dixon was the only hope he had of saving her from danger. And he had to try -- because without ever trying, Glory had become more precious to him than his own life.
Genre: category romance, contemporary romance, psychics
Series: none

The Story: Hmmm, where to start? Actually, the story is quite simple. Glory Dixon has "the sight" and have been sheltered from the normal world by her father and her brother throughout her life. One night, she wakes them up during a blizzard because she needs to be at the hospital... and that is how Wyatt Hatfield survived his injuries from a car accident. Without the blood from a stranger, he would have died.

Fast-forward a year and Wyatt is hearing a voice in his head, asking for help. Thinking that perhaps the voice is due to some brain damage caused by the car accident, Wyatt returns to the little town... where he discovers the voice actually belongs to Glory. He also finds out that Glory's father and brother have been murdered and that Glory is in danger as she was the target... and that someone won't stop till Glory is forever silent.

My Opinion:  I first discovered Ms Sala with Out of the Dark, which was an impulse buy, and became an instant fan. Out of the Dark was such an emotional, gripping read - my heart ached throughout it and I cried so much you cannot imagine. Since then, I've been trying to get my hands on every books with the name of Sharon Sala or Dinah McCall on it... So it's only natural (at least for me) that I got When You Call My Name when it was re-released a few years ago in an omnibus along with Rider on Fire. I remember thinking it was a cute story, but seriously, it didn't leave a deep impression in my mind, because I forgot that I've read it ^_^;

A few weeks ago, I read My Fiercest Heart by Sharon Sala. I was waiting for my sister and I've managed to finish the novella at the bookstore. I really enjoyed it, but because the story was half a category romance book in length,  I didn't buy it. Instead, I went to look online if I couldn't buy an e-version of it... and I came across When You Call My Name. The blurb sounded so interesting that I was really tempted! Lucky for me I don't buy ebooks as fast as I buy print books LOL, because I realized that I actually already owned and read When You Call My Name!! Since I couldn't remember anything of it though, I decided to re-read it.

While re-reading the book, details of the story came back to me. Overall, I thought that the premises had potential. I really liked the idea of two people being able to telepathically communicate after the exchange of blood and the blurb really drew my attention. However, it misled me a little bit. For some reasons, I thought the story would be more about Wyatt looking for the voice, finding Glory. Still, I was okay once I realized it wasn't... I was still engaged by the premises... In the end though, I was disappointed by When You Call My Name. I can't exactly pinpoint what it is about the book that didn't work for me. I can try to guess... one of the reasons that pops up in my mind right away is that it simply didn't measure up to some other of Ms Sala's books. It didn't have the impact, the poignancy that other works of hers have. Emotionally, it really didn't reach me and this is what Ms Sala is good at.

Also, I felt like the book was a bit superficial. Lots of things happened, some related to the murder and some not, but it never went deep inside the characters or the storyline. It's like one thing happened after another to keep the story going, keep the story rolling to the conclusion so Ms Sala didn't have to develop the romance or the characters. Perhaps it's because this was a category romance... I don't know. I thought Ms Sala had some really interesting elements such as Glory being a psychic and all; however, she didn't exploit those elements. Plus, the driving force of the plot, the reason for the murder was a bit far-fetched. Yes, I can understand it... but you still had to suspend disbelief a little.

It's really unfortunate because I liked the characters. Wyatt and Glory were so different and complement each other. The whole romance was very sweet and it was nice to see the two fall for each other. Still, at the end, I don't feel like I really knew or understood Wyatt and Glory :(

My Grade: C-. It pains me to give such a grade,but this was definitively not Ms Sala's best.

Re-read Challenge 2010: November!!

So sorry this post is late!! I've been meaning to write it up, but I haven't been in the mood ^_^; December has been far busier than I expected and it's taken a hit at my reading/blogging mojo. Grrrrr. Still, better late than never, right? :)

Only one more entry for the Re-Read Challenge after November! Seriously, can you believe a year has almost gone by? I can't. The first half of the year seems to go by so slowly, but the last few months have just zipped through! After this year, there is no doubt that I am not continuing the Re-Read Challenge. It was fun; however, blogland has quieted down as well as the participation rate to the challenge. Plus, I think I want to be challenge-free next year. Challenges are great, but at the same time, they add pressure to my reading... and seriously, the way things go, I always have difficulty keeping track of time and when to read a certain book for a challenge and when to post the review. So after today's post, there'll be one more entry for the Re-read Challenge :)

Let's see what people has re-read in November:

Miss Moonlight: Soul Deep by Lora Leigh

Did I miss any reviews?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hauling Sunday XXIII

It's been a very quiet week for me and quiet week-end as well. I've decided to just relax this week-end for several reasons... the most important was because I was tired which is an excellent reason. Not really tired physically, but my eyes were burning and I'm starting to really have dark rings under them. Another good reason is that my boss is coming back tomorrow. Sigh. Every good thing has to come to an end... At the same time though, I'm ready for him to be back. Better for him to be back than us always wondering when he's coming back :P

I also went to a funeral yesterday. One of the priests that I know passed away :( It was a shock that he went so fast - 2 months after his generalized cancer diagnostic, but at the same time a blessing that he hasn't suffered too long. It was all very sad, but at the same time, nice to see the other priests faces.

Book-wise, this week was pretty quiet. All these books were bought last Sunday :)

An Indecent Proposition by Emma Wildes - This was the only Emma Wildes book that I haven't read and I wanted to give it a try. The reason why I've put it off for so long was the blurb - a woman stepping up to be the judge in a bet between two friends on who is the best lover. After reading her books, I now had enough faith in her writing to believe she'd pull it off, even if this was her debut novel :)

Alien Tango by Gini Koch - Read and really enjoyed Touched by an Alien, so need to get the sequel :)

The Spirit Eater by Rachel Aaron - Third book in the series.  I've come to realize something though. I really like skimming through the book, Ms Aaron has a really pleasant writing style... but reading the entire book? Hmmmm ^_^;

Cold Midnight and True Vision by Joyce Lamb - I was looking for contemporary romance and these came the closest to what I was looking for, even though they're romantic suspense. What surprises me though is that these are Berkley releases and I've never seen them around on blogland...

Game Over by Taylor Keating - Okay, I'm unsure about this one... it's fantasy/sci-fi-ish... seems like the heroine is sucked into another dimension that might be part of a game? The reason I bought it was 1) I need another book to make my purchase 50$ to use a coupon, 2) it's a Tor release and 3) there's a sequel... LOL.

So there you have it, my books for this week. I was actually tempted to go to the UBS, but it's just too far away ^_^; However, as there is going to be very little romance releases before Christmas, I might treat myself to the UBS :)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Review: Notorious Bachelors trilogy by Emma Wildes

Jeez, I can't believe how time goes by so swiftly! I mean, it's already Friday - another Christmas party done, another week over LOL. In a blink of the eye, we'll be mid-way in December very soon. Seriously, how does that happen?!? Today was my last day of freedom, so I sneaked out of work early :) My boss was supposed to come back at the beginning of the month, but he's been delaying his return... Still, he has to come back one day and it seems that day will be next Monday. LOL, for some reasons, I suspect next week will go by somehow slower ^_^; If I'm lucky though, I'll be on vacation very soon :) I really, really hope my boss will granted me the vacation time... in any case, I'm keeping my fingers crossed :)

All right, enough about me. Let's talk about my favorite subject, books :) I definitively need to find a way to review faster ^_^; I'm so behind, you can't imagine. As a result, this is going to be a three for one review and I have the perfect books in mind - Emma Wildes' Notorious Bachelors trilogy. I've been reading a lot of historical romances lately and it's partly due to Ms Wildes, so what better way to thank her than to review the trilogy? :P

By the way, just a little aside before I start... Did you know that a marquess was higher ranked than an earl? I was curious and checked on wikipedia and turns out that the ranking order from high to low is: duke, marquess, earl, viscount and baron. Huh... I always thought it was something like: duke, earl, viscount, marquess and baron. I mean, you always read about dukes and earls... and it seems to me it's only recently that the marquesses have become popular... The things we learn :P

Okay, reviews ahead! :)

My Lord Scandal
published by New American Library in September 2010
A Rogue by any other name

Despite her beauty, Lady Amelia Patton has lived a sheltered life among her books. When she finds herself suddenly the toast of the ton, she is far from delighted. Her father, Lord Hathaway, wants her married off quickly, but the last person he'd choose for her husband is the son of his worst enemy...

Alexander St. James may be a thief of hearts, but he is no burglar. Nevertheless, he must recover and item belonging to his family to avoid a scandal, and so he has stolen into the home of Lord Hathaway, only to come upon the beguiling and chaste Lady Amelia in her bedroom, wearing only a lacy chemise...

From their first meeting, Alexander leaves Amelia breathless-but is it from fear or excitement? Captivated by her beauty and charmed by her intellect, he ignores the scandalous whispers as he sets out to seduce the woman of his dreams...
Genre: Historical romance
Series: Notorious Bachelors trilogy, Book #1

The Story: The blurb is pretty accurate. Alexander is asked by his grandmother to retrieve an item from Lord Hathaway's household. While infiltrating Lord Hathaway's house with his comrade in arms, Michael Hepburn, Alexander stumbles upon Amelia returning from a ball. This gives place to an unexpected, but seductive meeting on the balcony with Amelia wearing next to nothing.

From their first meeting, Alexander and Amelia are smitten for each other. This should be the perfect situation, as Amelia's father, who has always been distant, wishes to marry her off quickly... but no matter how quickly, he would never approve of Alexander as the Patton and St. James families have been feuding for two generations. However, Alexander and Amelia are not aware of the reasons and eventually, it comes a time where both have to make a choice - love or loyalty to their family... and could the item Alexander has been tasked to retrieve linked to the feud?

My Opinion: My Lord Scandal was an enjoyable read and the main reason was because the book focused on Alexander and Amelia and their relationship. I really liked both Alexander and Amelia's characters. I like their maturity and the fact that they knew what they wanted and went after it. Of course, there were some hesitations in the beginning, it's never easy to stand up to your family; however, they didn't dwell on it forever. Once they knew they were in love, that was settled and they braved the consequences together. I really liked that they had each other's back.

Something else that I enjoyed was the fact that there was no villain in this book... no baddie that we had to figure out or look out for. Sure there were some secondary characters - Amelia's aunt comes to mind - but they didn't steal the spotlight. They really were there to support our H/H :) There was also the item that Alexander had to retrieve that led to an interesting side-story. I really liked how Ms Wildes incorporated it into the book - it was crucial for the overall storyline, but at the same time it was passive.  It just blended in and really complemented the romance :)

As Ames put it in her review, it was the perfect non-angsty historical romance... and I believe we need more of those :) There are too many intrigues in our historicals books nowadays, so it's really nice to come back to something a bit more mundane, a bit more internal :)

My Grade: B. After reading My Lord Scandal, I wavered between B and B+. Overall, I thought it was a very pleasant book with likable H/H... unfortunately, it failed to leave a deep impression in my mind. After two months, I have a bit of difficulty remembering the story and so, I think B is most appropriate.

Our Wicked Mistake
published by New American Library in October 2010

A devilish business requires a devilish solution

Madeline May, the widowed Lady Brewer, is in a horrifying quandary. When blackmail turns to murder, it becomes clear that only one man can help her: Luke Daudet, the notorious Viscount Altea, who is used to dealing with men of ill repute, and whom she despises with every fiber of her being.

As a connoisseur of beautiful woman, Luke recognizes Madeline's physical allure and the danger she represents. From the very moment of their first meeting-and one unforgettable night of passion-Luke Daudet knew she was different. And when he received her fateful entreaty, he knew he would not be able to stay away...
Genre: Historical romance
Series: Notorious Bachelors trilogy, Book #2

The Story: Luke Daudet lost his newly-wedded Spanish bride during the war and is unwilling to let another woman matter as much to him. That is why after a night of passion with widowed Madeline May, Luke cut all ties with her... He is therefore very surprised when he receives Madeline's cry of help.

Madeline May's late husband, Lord Brewer, used to keep a diary where he detailed certain events of his life... including some episodes of his marriage bed. Somehow, lecherous Lord Fitch got his hands on the journal and has been harassing Madeline ever since. One night, in order to escape him, she bashes him on the head and thinks she killed him. Not knowing where to turn, she goes to Luke for help.

However, what she does not realize is that once their contact is renewed, Luke will not be able to turn his back on her once again... and she's not sure she wants to...

My Opinion: This was the book that I appealed to me the least out of all three books of the trilogy, based on the blurb and the excerpt. It was partly because Madeline was a widow and partly because the harassment described in the excerpt sounded like a blackmail plot. However, Ames kept telling me how much she enjoyed this book - more than My Lord Scandal, so I had to try it... and I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised :)

First, Luke and Madeline definitively had a great chemistry together and that made the romance engaging. Then, their respective circumstances made it interesting. I thought it was refreshing that for once, it was the hero who didn't want to get himself involved - especially with a widow in the plot :P What I liked was that from the beginning, Luke knew that Madeline might become more to him and so, took steps to avoid so. Seriously, Ms Wildes' characters are very honest and bright about their emotions! They don't wear blindfolds, that's for sure :) As for Madeline, I really admired her for her strength. Madeline is a very respectable woman and widow and even though widows have more freedom and privileges, associating with rakes is still not good for their reputation. However, Madeline embarked on the affair of her own will and face her family's reactions - bad and good :) I definitively think that Luke and Madeline was a well-matched pair :)

Other things that I liked about this book was Luke and his illegitimate sister's relationship. I wished this part would have been expanded actually! It was unusual and refreshing :) The secondary romance involving Luke's younger sister and their cousin was also very cute. There was nothing new about it - young man with no title, but promising future in love with unaware young girl. He tries hard to hide his feelings, but he suddenly kisses her and she realizes that perhaps, she has feelings for him... It was sweet and well-executed and as I said, not new... but you don't want new for the secondary romance, because you don't want it to overshadow the main romance. Also, all the characters were very likable and that's a hard thing to do :P And surprisingly, I was happy that Madeline's son did not have a big role in the book... I usually like to see adults interact with children, but at times, those interactions seem to be identical from book to book... So yeah, I thought it was a good decision to leave out the son.

What did not work for me? Well actually, everything that has to do with Luke's past... Our three notorious bachelors are good friends, but the primary link between them is that they all serve in the war together. However, that aspect/part of their lives is very unclear and has not been very developed. It wasn't very noticeable in My Lord Scandal, because it was more a detail... However, in Our Wicked Mistake, it impacts the storyline since Luke's biggest emotional hurdle comes from that time. Also, how the intrigue at the end was resolved wasn't great either. I thought it could have been much better, especially as it started off so well.

My Grade: B. Another very enjoyable addition to the trilogy. It surprised me how much I liked Luke and Madeline's relationship. Also, the book was great because it was unpredictable. Okay, perhaps not totally unpredictable, but at least, not a compilation of clichés :) However, I'm not sure it was truly better than My Lord Scandal...

His Sinful Secret
published by New American Library in November 2010
Some secrets can be shared only behind closed doors

The art of deception didn't baffle Michael Hepburn, but innocence did. His new wife is trusting, lovely, and, to his amazement, utterly bewitching.

Julianne Sutton had always known she would wed the Marquess of Longhaven, as arranged by both families years earlier. She'd assumed, however, that it would be the affable ducal heir Harry who would be her husband, not his enigmatic brother. When Harry died unexpectedly and Michael took his place as the new marquees, more than just her plans for her marriage were altered.

Michael battled a ruthless enemy in a game of espionage and deceit, but when he discovered that his new wife might have secrets of her own, he quickly learned that love had entirely different set of rules...
Genre: Historical romance
Series: Notorious Bachelors trilogy, Book #3

The Story: Life can be very ironic...While Michael was risking his life against the Frenches, he never expected his older brother Harry, the ducal heir, to die. Now, not only has Michael inherited the title, but also a bride as his grieving parents demanded that he fulfills the marriage arrangement made between the two families. However, the war might be over, but for Michael, it won't be settled till he squares things off with a certain Roget... and he won't let a young, beautiful wife sidetrack him.

From a very young age, Julianne knew she would marry Harry. His death comes as a shock and so does her marriage to Michael... but what choice does she have? What disconcerts her is how little she is acquainted with her new husband. Harry has been an easy man to know and love, but Michael is very different, very complex... still, she could fall in love with him...

My Opinion: In truth, His Sinful Secret was my favorite novel in the trilogy, mainly due to Michael and Julianne - their characters, but also their romance :) It has some vibes of "happy-go-lucky heroine thawing up stuffy hero," but it's not exactly it. Julianne might be only 19 years old, but she's not a happy-go-lucky young girl... instead, she's very mature, very observant and very lovable. I liked her determination when it came to Michael, but even more impressive was her poise. I actually read His Sinful Secret before Passions of a Wicked Earl by Lorraine Heath and I just couldn't help but compare the two brides... and I kept thinking if Claire had acted the same way as Julianne, she and Westcliffe could have avoided so much pain. The way Julianne went about it in her marriage was really the way she needed to go in order to build something meaningful with Michael. I liked that she let him know that she wanted more out their relationship without being pushy... It was really the perfect mix of push and pull :) And it was a pleasure to see Michael fall in love with Julianne and realize his feelings, despite planning not to.

In my opinion, Julianne's character is what made the book. It is she who made the romance more than what it is by the way she behaved. She acted, she took initiatives and she reached out... and thus, definitively deserves her HEA ending. As for Michael, he was a nice hero, but he doesn't leave a deep impression because his character was very reserved. He kept his emotions close to heart and there was no excessive outburst. I guess what I'm saying is that he lacked intensity... but that doesn't make him less of an hero. Actually, what sets him apart for me is that he was a very reasonable and considerate man LOL. They are actually quite rare LOL. He could be a bit high-handed at times, thinking he knew best... however, he adjusted and adapted :) I thought he had charisma and did inspire authority... but overall, he was a wee bland ^_^; and perhaps that has to do with the spy thingie. You know, how they have to blend in... I have to admit, I really enjoyed and loved the romance in His Sinful Secret, but the mystery aspect did not really work for me. It seemed a bit too convoluted for nothing and simply not very interesting.

Luckily, there was a really nice twist involving Harry's past and how it impacted Michael and Julianne's marriage. At the same time, it showcased Julianne's character very well - again her poise, but her selflessness and her concern for other people's feelings, and Julianne, Michael and his parents dynamics together. That I really enjoyed, because I think it's quite rare to see the parents. Seriously, if I had my say, I would have focused the book even more on the characters, the relationships and the twists.

Finally, there was a lot of foreshadowing of Michael's character and setting up for his book in the previous two books of the trilogy. However, when reading His Sinful Secret, I felt there was a disconnection with the other two books. Luke and Alexander barely make an appearance in His Sinful Secret and the mystery was a bit too stretched to feel real :(

My Grade: B+. Really, sometimes, grades are not logical LOL. Out of the three books, I would say that the balance between romance and side-stories was weakest in His Sinful Secret. Yet, it's the one that I enjoyed most. It's the one that I'll pull out to re-read passages again, simply because it's the one where the characters and romance marked me most :P

Before I end this post, I'd like to write a few words about Ms Wildes.  I wasn't too sure after reading  Lessons from a Scarlet Lady how I felt about this new to me author. I mean, she showed a lot of potential, but in the long run...? Now that I'm done with this trilogy though,  I've really come to appreciate Ms Wildes' writing and she's definitively on my auto-buy list :) Overall, I really enjoy her writing. It's simple and fluid, but moreover there is this feeling of gentleness about it that's really appealing and pleasant. More importantly though is the story itself. Ms Wildes brings this breeze of freshness in the historical romance world by varying the situations, the characters, the plots and so on very well. I feel her characters are breaking certain molds by being simply being mature and honest... and I simply like how she mixes it up when it comes to setting and backgrounds... Just take this trilogy for example: Alexander is a third son, Luke has already come into his title and is head of his family and Michael is now an heir. Really, she's rejuvenating the genre and it translates into enjoyable and fun books :) So if you haven't read anything by Ms Wildes yet, what are you waiting for? :P

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Review: Somewhere Along the Way by Jodi Thomas

We got our first snow of the year! I don't really like snow, because it's cold and creates traffic jam, but I won't complain too loudly... because it's nothing compared to what Kristie is getting. Apparently, Kristie's region is getting a meter of snow! For you Americans, that's 40 inches! So yeah, not going to complain :)

To fit the weather outside, I thought it'd be perfect to post up my review of Somewhere Along the Way... See the cover? That's pretty much how it looks like near my house :)

Somewhere Along the Way by Jodi Thomas
published by Berkley in November 2010

In the two years since she claimed Harmony, Texas, as her home, eighteen-year-old Reagan Truman has found herself drawn to others who have made their way there, too. Gabe Leary, for instance, whose plan to hide out in Harmony is dashed when he becomes the town hero. Then there's Liz Matheson: Vulnerable and fresh out of law school, Liz has never been needed by anyone - until an unsettling encounter with Gabe changes everything. And there's Liz's brother, volunteer fire chief Hank Matheson, who's starting to wonder where the town's sheriff, Alex McAllen, will ever set the date to marry him.

As for Reagan, who's been shaped by the loneliness she's know most of her life, she's finally found a place she belongs - and doesn't want anything to get in her way. But when her life is put in jeopardy and the whole town comes together to save her, she'll discover that trusting the love that's come into our hearts is the greatest gift of all?
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Harmony series, Book #2

The Story: The book takes place two years after Welcome to Harmony. Reagan has settled in Harmony and she loves it there... but things are changing. First, her uncle is pushing her to go to college, but she wants to remain at his side as he is aging. Then, her and Nathan - her best friend - seem to be growing apart. While she is replacing Edith at the diner, Reagan meets Gabe Leary, the reclusive man who is rumored to be a murderer...

Gabe left Harmony and enlisted in the army as soon as he could. He loved that life... till he was caught in a bombing and some people plotted to silence him. That is when he returned to Harmony and is now living a reclusive life, hiding behind his art as a comic book author/artist. However, his peaceful life is perturbed with the meeting of a woman... Liz Matheson.

Liz has always been considered the flimsy one in her family, but those days are over. With her lawyer degree in hand, Liz opens an office in town and hopes it will become successful. However, as clients are scarce, Liz becomes curious with the man - Gabe Leary - who rents the other office... and she is more intrigued than ever after meeting him...

My Opinion: I'm going to start this review by saying Somewhere Along the Way was a great read and I enjoyed it immensely. You don't know how happy I am to be able to write that LOL. It's no secret that I love Ms Thomas' contemporary writing - there is just something about it... I think it's the calmness that it brings to me... However, I was a bit disappointed with Welcome to Harmony and when I found out that Liz Matheson was "the heroine," I started to worry because I didn't know how Ms Thomas could make me like her... but I should never have had doubts ^_^;

Let's address Liz character first. Why did I say I wasn't sure I could like her character? Well it has to do with the events in Welcome to Harmony. To keep it short, there was a fire and the whole family was evacuating... Liz was in charge of her niece, Sarah, who was 5 years old and handicapped. When Liz didn't see Sarah, she assumed that Sarah caught a ride with someone else and therefore left. As a result, Sarah was left behind and almost died. All I could think about about Liz character was how irresponsible and selfish she was! Seriously, how was I going to like this character? In the end though, Ms Thomas did a great job writing it. It helped that Liz acknowledged the mistake and felt horribly about it and also that Sarah has forgiven her. It also helped that Liz admitted to being selfish... however, what I realized reading Somewhere Along the Way is that there are different kind of selfish. Yes, Liz thought a lot about her situation, wanting someone to love her, wanting her independence, but she was never narcissist or egoist. In fact, upon getting to know her character, I didn't dislike her at all. Plus, I think that after the events of Welcome to Harmony, she matured a lot. All in all, she felt real and I ended up really appreciating her :) I also really enjoyed her romance with Gabe... It was simply really sweet. Two different persons being attracted to each other and simply wanting to spend time together to get to know each other. I liked the dynamics between the two, how different they were and how Gabe was sometimes annoyed by Liz talking so much. Still, he couldn't fight his attraction and it really brought him out of his shell. I thought Gabe was a great guy as well. He did what he needed to stay alive and lived his life peacefully. Still, it didn't stop him from pursuing his dreams and becoming a comic artist. He was the quiet and strong type, the one that you can really rely on and he proved it.

Liz and Gabe were the two main additions to the Harmony cast and they were great addition. I also liked catching up with previous characters though such as Tyler. I really like Tyler's character. He is such an unusual character, but at the same time, he feels real. Also, his tenacity is admirable really. I hope he gets his lady soon, otherwise, she is a fool! The romance between Hank and Alex still doesn't do much for me, but it's undeniable that they are key people to Harmony, one as the fire chief  and the other as sheriff and as such, it was nice to see them :)

Then, there's Reagan. Somewhere along the way, Harmony has become Reagan's home :) LOL, okay, that was cheesy, but I couldn't help myself because it's the truth. I really liked Reagan because she does not take anything for granted. She's finally found a home and a family and she doesn't want anything to change... but unfortunately for her, she's at an age where things are bound to change. I was so sad to read that Reagan and Noah were not dating... then, there was the addition of Brandon. At this point, I guess the romance can go either way and we'll have to continue reading the series to find out. However, I'm definitively rooting for Reagan and Noah.

A lot happened in Somewhere Along the Way; however, the book never felt rushed or too loaded. Everything came together well and it was really a comforting book :) I think Ms Thomas did a great job with the stories and the characters, but also with balancing everything :) The Harmony series actually reminds me a little bit of the Virgin River series by Robyn Carr, but a bit less focused on the romance and a little more subdued. I think a lot of people should enjoy it :)

My Grade: A-. I really enjoyed Somewhere Along the Way and revisiting Harmony :) I love Ms Thomas writing and the feeling this book gave me, very soothing and comforting :) Definitively looking forward to the next book! :)

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Hauling Sunday XXII

Another very lazy week-end for me. It really sucks that it gets dark so early nowadays, really throws me out... especially when I wake up from a nap LOL. I was able to re-read some of my favorite authors, which is a good thing... Plus, there was some curling on TV which was lucky for me, otherwise, it would have been a very, very boring week-end.

Here are my new books for this week:

The Spirit Thief and The Spirit Rebellion by Rachel Aaron - New fantasy series that caught my eye. I started reading The Spirit Thief at the bookstore and needed to bring it home with me :) It was pretty good, the only problem is that it's going to be more than the 3 books I thought it would be. Ah well, we'll see if it's able to keep my attention :)

Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right by Kieran Kramer - This book looks fun. I still haven't read Ms Kramer's debut novel, but I intend to.

Thieves Like Us by Starr Ambrose - I enjoyed Ms Ambrose writing, so I decided to get this one. Plus, it has an ex-con/cat burglar and I like that kind of characters.

You know though what I really want? A straight contemporary novel... that's what I want to read and that's what has been keeping me from picking up books to read, sigh. Thieves Like Us seems to fit, but at the same time, it feels a bit more romantic suspense-y. I want something a bit more a la Nora... Any suggestions?

Friday, December 03, 2010

Review: Indulgence in Death by J.D. Robb

I got some really good news this week! :) While wondering when my boss would come back, I got an email from him informing me that he had to delay his trip till December 8!! Wooohooo! LOL. It totally made my week after that :)

As for the staff Christmas party, well it was okay. It's weird because we have labs from two different sites that come together once in a while... but you can see a big segregation between the two. I was at the party the whole time, because I was helping with the organization of it... And this year, the party took place at the other site. So the labs from that site all got there on time... while the people from my site were all late. The party was technically from 4 to 8 pm. The people from the other site showed up from 4.30 to 6.30... and my site, from 6 to 8.30 ^_^; Also, it was pot luck style... so the other site did not get to participate in the games at all... Just totally weird. Ah well. Next year, we're hoping we can go out. The energy to organize a potluck is just not worth it ^_^; The good news is that the game I organized was a success!!

With the Christmas party and recruiting patients for the study this morning, my review for Somewhere Along the Way by Jodi Thomas is still not complete :( However, I thought I'd review Indulgence in Death instead, because that one takes less thoughts to put the words together :) So here we go!

Indulgence in Death by J.D. Robb
published by Putnam in November 2010
First it was a limo driver shot through the neck with a crossbow. Then it was a high-priced escort found stabbed through the heart with a bayonet.

Random hits, thrill kills, murderers with a taste for the finer things in life-and death-are making NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas angry. And an angry Eve can be just as an efficient and dangerous predator as the killer.

As time runs out on another innocent victim's life, Eve's investigation will take her into the rarefied circle that her husband, Roarke, travels in-and into the perverted heart of madness...
Genre: Romantic suspense, mystery, futuristic
Series: In Death series, Book #38

The Story: Indulgence in Death starts off with Eve and Roarke enjoying a little down-time in Ireland, visiting Roarke's extensive family. As soon as Eve comes back to New York, she catches a series of murders - thrill kills really. Very quickly, Eve is able to establish a pattern: the victims are people for hire, at the top of their fields, providing exclusive services... who are killed with unusual weapons and in a flashy fashion. Eve soon figures out that this is a game played by two highly arrogant men and must quickly gather evidences before the next round begins.

My Opinion: Okay, this is going to be short and to the point, because after countless reviews of In Death books, LOL, you know how I feel about this series, right? :) I mean, the In Death series has an incredible world building, but what really makes this series so good are the characters, their dynamics and interactions and when it comes to that, Ms Roberts does a great job at being consistent :) What vary are the plots, the cases and the emotional/personal Eve-Roarke component.

So, how was Indulgence in Death? I liked how the book opened, on something a bit more relaxed. It was also great to see something a bit more personal about Eve and Roarke - it's been a while. Plus, it's always funny to see Eve outside of New York LOL. I think one day, Ms Roberts should write about Eve being off-planet :P While I did enjoy seeing Eve and Roarke on vacation, I thought that adding a little murder was a bit of an overkill. We know that Eve is a cop through and through and that's who she is... I don't think it's necessary for her to run into murders wherever she goes... although I do admit, it was well handled. The way Eve did not overstep jurisdiction and simply offered her help.

As for the case itself, hmmmm, quite frankly, I thought it was a bit weak. First, I felt that Eve figured out the culprits too quickly. The case didn't really feel very obvious, but it almost seemed like Eve got her teeth onto a particular line of the investigation and just didn't let go. I get that instinct is an important of her job, but still... As a result, most of the book was spent gathering evidences and eliminating suspects, i.e. building the case. While it works in some installments, it didn't in Indulgence in Death... mainly because the case was very, very similar to the one in Seduction in Death. I mean, the basis was the same: two deranged friends playing a game in which they each took turn killing people. In both cases, the murderers are "privileged" persons who do it to have fun. Deranged, I'm telling you :P I'm actually surprised that there wasn't a mention of the Seduction in Death's case since they were so similar.

One thing that did surprise me was that Eve and Roarke have just celebrated their 2nd wedding anniversary. I mean, they got married at the end of book 3 and we're at book 38... so 35 books have only covered 2 years?!? I know that there are plenty of time indications peppering the entire series and the passing of seasons is often mentioned, but it just never really computed in my mind. Now, having actual numbers, well it's pretty mind-boggling LOL. I actually don't really know how I feel about it. I think that I would prefer for the story timeline to be advancing a bit more rapidly, just because it'd be easier to assimilate real time with book time...

This is pretty much it when it comes to Indulgence in Death :) It is neither the best or worst book of the series. Actually, I would say it's on the weaker side of the spectrum for the reasons I stated above regarding the case. Still, I devoured this book in one sitting as soon as I got my hands on it. There is simply something fun and enjoyable when revisiting characters and a world that are so familiar. I guess it was good enough to fulfill the In Death series fix that I needed LOL.

My Grade: B-. While I still enjoy the series, I do think the last few installments have been only been okay... and that we need a wowzer very soon.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Review: Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman by Lorraine Heath

Ahhhh, I have so many posts planned (in my mind :P) for this week since it's the end of the month... but I keep falling asleep ^_^; I blame the weather and my periods - they're really kicking me in the butt this time. Sigh, the bane of being a woman.

The next few days are probably going to be quite busy. My boss is expected any other days now (booo!) and the holiday season is starting for me officially tomorrow as we're having a work Christmas party. However, I'll try my best to have some reviews up :) I really want to review some of the books I've read lately! In the meantime, enjoy this one! :)

Disclaimer: I've received Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman as an eARC from NetGalley

Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman by Lorraine Heath
published by Avon in November 2010

As the black sheep second son of an earl, Stephen Lyons has gained a reputation in the art of seduction, but when his wicked ways result in scandal, he enlists in the army to redeem himself. On the battlefield, he proves courageous...until he is seriously wounded. Returning home to recover, he discovers he can't remember the angelic beauty who arrives at his doorstep, his babe nestled in her arms.

Mercy Dawson will risk everything to protect the son of the dashing soldier she once knew and admired. When Stephen offers to do the honorable thing, she is determined that London's most notorious gentleman will desire her and no other. But Mercy fears that what began as an innocent deception could destroy her dreams and their blossoming love if Stephen ever learns the scandalous truth...
Genre: Historical romance
Series: London's Greatest Lovers, Book #2

The Story: I find the back blurb a little bit misleading so I'm going to attempt writing by own synopsis :)

Mercy Dawson was a nurse during the war and fell in love with the charming Stephen Lyons. Due to her infatuation and to repay his kindness, she took his newborn son under her wing... but what started off as duty quickly became love. When she learned of Stephen's death, she believes that sharing the last essence of Stephen with his family is the right thing to do. As John's mother, Mercy's only wish is to be able to remain by his side, perhaps as his nursemaid or governess... She never expected Stephen to still be alive!!

As the middle child, Stephen always resented his two brothers for their titles - an earl and a duke. Therefore, he set out to build himself a reputation as London's greatest lover, one that would surpass his brothers'. After some incidents however, it is time for Stephen to stop hiding from behind his mother's skirts and to make use of the commission his brothers bought for him so he could "build character." Thus, Stephen sets out for Russia where he does prove his worth. Unfortunately, a grave injury sends him back to London and he cannot remember any time he spent in the battlefield...

When Mercy shows up with John, Stephen is conflicted. What option does he really have then to marry the mother of his son... even though he cannot remember her. The biggest issue though is that he is not the same man... Not the man he was before he left for Russia and not the man he was during the war...

My Opinion: I really loved and enjoyed Passions of a Wicked Earl and could not wait to get my hands on Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman. Then I remembered seeing it over at NetGalley and so requested it. As soon as I got the ARC, I simply devoured it :) While I loved Passions of a Wicked Earl more, I still enjoyed Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman tremendously.

I knew going into Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman that my enjoyment of the book would depend greatly on Stephen's characterization. Quite frankly, Stephen wasn't very likable in Passions of a Wicked Earl and I wasn't very interested in his character. There is nothing attractive in a man that resents his brothers for things they have no control over and who indulges himself thanks to his mother's love ^_^; So I was very curious to see how he would turn out in his book... and I was pleasantly surprised. Most of it had to do with the particular position Stephen found himself due to his amnesia. It was interesting to see Stephen struggle to reconcile the man who he was before war with his new self. He might not remember the two years on the battlefield and the circumstances that have shaped him; but it inevitably marked and changed him - physically and mentally.  There was also his frustration with not remembering. Nobody likes to forget things, but in Stephen's case, it was worst because he didn't forget two years of mundane stuff. What he forgot was war: battles, deaths, fights, etc. Two years that have assuredly changed him. Of course, it might be a blessing that he couldn't remember the horrors of war, but at the same time, you want to know. I felt that all of this gave Stephen's character the depth that he was lacking previously and made him more interesting. Also the fact that his attitude was no longer cavalier made him more likable to me. In my opinion, even if Mercy and John haven't appeared in his life, Stephen would have looked for something that would ground him more...

As for Mercy, she was a great heroine. She was brave, generous and loving... but at the same time, she wasn't one of those flawless and perfect heroines. I liked her reasons for joining Miss Nightingale - not just because she could help and do some good, but because she was feeling restless. It made her more real to me :P She was also an interesting character because she wasn't the quaint, innocent lady like so many heroines in historical romances. It wasn't emphasized on, but really as a nurse, Mercy has seen it all - LOL, the naked body, but also the horrors of war. The experiences she has gone through, it made her see things differently and I think that's why she suited Stephen so well. It also translated into great chemistry between Mercy and Stephen and I felt there was a real connection linking the two. I really enjoyed their relationship, especially once they got married and Stephen realized it wasn't just lust. I felt that Stephen really trusted her and the two had something special.

Once again, Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman is a book focused on its main characters and their relationship and I liked that. I liked that Mercy and Stephen got to know each other, I liked witnessing the beginning of their lives together and I liked that it wasn't rushed. Similarly to Passions of a Wicked Earl, the sex scenes were not clandestine since Mercy and Stephen were married or about to get married and seriously, it made me enjoy the relationship even more. The passion between them simply felt more natural and there were no worries about the repercussion :P Of course, there was a conflict to make the book interesting - a kind of misunderstanding that comes between Stephen and Mercy. While very cliché, it worked for me because  Ms Heath did a good job at foreshadowing the event. It wasn't just something to add conflict because the story needed it. Instead, it was built into the story and unfolded naturally.

One thing that I really appreciated in Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman was the relationship between the three brothers. I liked that they are mending the relationship slowly and that a precarious camaraderie is developing. Seriously, it would not have been believable for them to be suddenly best friends, even after Stephen has come back from the death. You know that they care for each other and that is what matters :) It was also nice to see familiar faces. I have to admit, I would have liked to see a bit more of Westcliffe and Claire... but really, that's just because I liked their book so much :P

My only complaint about Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman is that I wished there'd been more scenes of Stephen with his son, John. There was one where John was crying and Stephen came in and ordered him to stop crying and then, took him in his arms. That scene was so cute... I wanted more and I really wanted to see more of a connection between father and son.

My Grade: B+. All in all, Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman was another great book by Ms Heath :) I really enjoyed it and loved reading the romance between Mercy and Stephen. Can't wait for Waking Up with a Duke!! :)