Saturday, September 20, 2014

Thea Harrison - Night's Honor

On the run from her former employer, Tess knows that she’s vulnerable on her own amongst the Elder Races. That’s why she decides to audition to become the human attendant of a powerful Vampyre of the Nightkind demesne. But while her position affords her the safety she seeks, her protector turns out to be more than she bargained for.
The right-hand man of the Nightkind King, Xavier del Torro is both terrifying and alluring. While his true nature frightens Tess, she can’t ignore the appeal of his innate sense of integrity and self-restraint. Thrown into Xavier’s world, Tess must quickly learn to navigate the dangers—both to her life and to her heart. But the biggest threat comes from her own past…

Comment: After the wonderful story which was the previous installment, I kept my hopes for this new book, which I pre ordered months before it was released. And I'm pleased to say it worked for me, because, honestly, I read it in one single day.

This is Tess Graham's story and how she wants to run away from an enemy, someone she can't fight back. She tries to look for a refuge in somebody else's domain and the quickest way is to attend the auction the Vampyres are doing to accept more servants. She hopes to be chosen but during the process she gets disappointed at the whole thing and changes her mind. When she thinks she won't be accepted, she is asked for a interview, but will the unknown be better than what she already knows it's bad?

I liked this story mostly because there was this sense of purpose that was very interesting to follow. The plot was basic and simplistic but it worked for me because it focused on the experiences both main characters were having with the new status in their lives and what was surrounding them.
Tess just wanted a means to escape and she was terrified of what could happen in an environment she wouldn't control, but she slowly started to understand the way of life in Del Torro's house and even got to know him. With time, her reactions seemed more believable and reasonable. I liked how she changed her point of view about several things concerning vampyres and Xavier himself. I really think the best thing in the book was how Tess discovered how to trust and fall into her feelings.

Xavier has a past he regrets and those around him always tried to make him look bigger and worse than he is. In the vampyre world that helped him but his loyalty gained him the trust of the vampyres' leader. Making Tess his employee should have routine but she intrigued him so much, his own behavior changed a bit too. What I liked best was how he didn't turn into alpha mode or even worse macho mode after meeting Tess. He kept being the kind of person others respect and look for but he didn't change his all personality over her. I liked how balanced his character was and how much more credible he felt like on the page.

The romance was ok, I was actually more interested in their personal development, but the romance as very subtle and took some time for Tess to trust him completely. I think this is better done than what an insta-love would have been.

Now, many readers complained about the plot. Sure, someone like Xavier should have seen some things and problems coming, considering how old and knowledgeable about power and control he was, but what seemed to bother them more was how Tess is escaping a situation and then she solves it on her own, with just circumstantial help from Xavier and Julian, the vampyre leader, to the point where everything was solved in two pages. In a way, i get that, I was hoping for a bigger showdown and even more, a much more intricate solution. Ok, sometimes simple is better but in this case a bit of drama wouldn't be that bad. Still, I don't think it's reason to down grade the story.

In the end, for me, this book worked well and I was very happy with the majority of scenes and developments. Sure, some things could been different, and the romance could have been more passionate at the end and the end itself could have used some more romance, but if there's a word for this novel is balance, and I think the story had the perfect amount of it.
Grade: 8/10

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Birthday

Today is my birthday.
My life isn't at a point where I feel good about the time passing by. It's not much the idea of getting older that I don't like, but the fact my life isn't where I thought it would at this stage. It's not easy to change it and there isn't just me to consider. 
Still, no matter what, books have been with me since I started to read seriously, first those juvenile books and Jules Verne until the books of today. There isn't better company in the whole world, so I just thought to share this day with you and with my love for books. I sure will be reading today!
Wish you all a great reading day too!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

TBR Challenge: Catherine Bybee - Wife By Wednesday

Blake Harrison:
Rich, titled, and charming…and in need of a wife by Wednesday. Blake turns to Sam Elliot, who isn’t the businessman he expected. Instead, Blake is faced with Samantha Elliot, beautiful and feisty with a voice men call 1-900 numbers to hear.
Samantha Elliot:
Owner of matchmaking firm Alliance and not on the marital menu…that is, until Blake offers her ten million dollars for a one-year contract. And there’s nothing indecent about this proposal. The money will really help with her family’s medical bills. All Samantha will need to do is keep her attraction to her new husband to herself and avoid his bed.
But Blake’s toe-curling kisses and sexy charm prove too difficult for Sam to resist. It was a marriage contract that planned for everything…except falling in love.

Comment: This book was recommended to me by one of my friends on GR. As this month's theme is exactly recommended reads I thought about picking up this one which seemed to be a sort of book you read fast and with a lighter tone. I was totally right and this proved to be one of those stories you read between darker or more serious ones.

This story features Samantha Elliott, she has a matchmaking firm and matches men and women looking for a wedding, for whatever reason. She plans to grow her company into the top. Her newest client is the wealthy Blake Harrison, a man who is also a British duke, so she knows publicity will be enormous should she be successful.
Blake Harrison has to be married in order not to lose the land that goes along with his dukedom. His father's will has said so clearly. Blake meets Sam and the more he thinks of her a the perfect wife, putting aside the other candidates' names. But what should be only a marriage of convenience develops into something more...

These kind of stories don't seem to be the ones most romance readers get nowadays. Still, I was curious over how the author would play this along and how it would work without looking silly or too much fantasy-like.
The main premise is a marriage of convenience which sounds pompous and unlikely to the kind of society we live in but maybe it's not that unfeasible, if one considers any circumstances that could make it the only option. Still, it's harder to accept it these days but the author uses this idea as a business deal and Sam had good reasons to accept it.
I think the author had to go the only path good enough to make this more believable and it added to part of the relationship's details, but deep down it still feels too weird on a book out of Harlequin, for instance.

Sam is a pragmatic woman and she works fairly and in order to help her younger sister Jordan, who is hospitalized. Her past makes sense and it's the explanation to her attempts to work hard and have an uncomplicated life once more. I think her past was a good tactic to shape her character but I think a deeper take into her life and emotions would suit this story a lot, I also think more pages wouldn't hurt either, for despite everything having a place to work, there's still a slight feel of rush and more pages with some more time delving into the character's path in life could accomplish a deeper meaning into everything, My opinion, of course.

Blake is powerful but he still feels he needs to follow his father's wishes because he wants to keep his estate not only for him but mostly out of his cousin's hands. I get the ideas and the reasons but one again, it's something a bit more hard to accept these days, even more so considering he was rich on his own. On the other hand, he tried to keep a tradition, something people these days don't seem to pay much attention to, so it was good to see how he wanted to keep things in a way that would respect the whole meaning of what it was like to be part of aristocracy and to maintain place he was fond of.

So, both characters were in unusual places in life, dealing with things they wanted to preserve so they joined forces to reach their goals. When one thinks about it, it can be justified so, not so unlikely as I imagined at the beginning. I guess this is me looking for clues where they weren't meant to be - did the author have this aim? - but overall, I must say, this worked for me in the end.

Sam and Blake's relationship started as a partnership but evolved into something more. I guess I would find it more romantic if they were a bit more reluctant to change the relationship, which I found was done too easily and too fast. It almost felt like this was staged all along and this was it, but I think some more surprise and sexual tension before they got together would suit this a lot, would make the romance more passionate and true. Once again, my opinion.

In the end, I gave this a good grade because I surely was entertained and I am curious to read the following story, at least. This one had many great elements, it had a satisfying conclusion and interesting details, although I confess it also has all the expected clichés in this sort of story, jealous exes, secrets and friend's advices and so on. Still, I enjoyed it and in the end that's what matters.
Grade: 8/10

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dianne Duvall - Night Unbound

For centuries, Lisette d'Alençon has been a warrior against the dark. She fights alongside her brothers and comrades. But when the dreams start coming, she can't bear to confess them to the Immortal Guardians' command. Dreams of a dark-haired man with soft eyes and brutal wounds, a man her heart aches for--and a man she knows has been declared a traitor.
Zach is an exile, a loner. He won't defend himself against false accusations or grovel to those who should have faith in him. But he'll damn sure defend the woman who kept him sane against a plague of super-vamps that seems to have appeared from nowhere. The Guardians will blame him, and that will make Lisette suspect, too. With life, death and eternity on the line, who can they really trust? 
Comment: This is the most recent installment in the Immortal Guardians series by Dianne Duvall. This is Lisette's story and it follows the happenings in the end of the previous book. In fact, this series is continuous and best read in sequence.

Zach has been following Lisette to help and save her if she needs. He doesn't feel friendly towards anyone else but there's something about her...
Lisette knows her boss and friend Seth told her to stay away from Zach but he isn't dangerous around her so they start to see each other more regularly and a new conspiracy points to Zach but Lisette is sure he isn't guilty and their attempts to prove it and even to help look for the true enemy make Zach not only a new friend to the Immortals cause for them personally as well. But who is trying to make proved friends look bad?

I liked this book quite much. It wasn't perfect because I thought the plot simple and where things were too easy or too plain to be of any importance. But the truth is, this was quite good in terms of personal development, not only for the main couple, but especially for the sense of family that seems to grow more in each book.

The best thing about this series has been the development of a friendly community between the characters and how they try to work together and share their lives with one another. I like how characters with shadier pasts or reasons can prove they're part of the Good Guys Team and their presence is significant of further possible story lines. I like how the author does this without that feeling of just filling space or following an idea that was seen countless times. The way things are done are made to be seen as expected, usual and acceptable. I can't really explain it, but I like how there's no hidden purpose in any of the good guys and how whatever motivates them isn't a secret agenda meant to betray or hurt the good guys.How relieving to read about good characters and that's it.

Lisette and Zach have common goals in trying to fight the bad guys and they start to feel attracted for each other. We get their words on how and why this is working for them, but to be honest their relationship, despite being reasonable and good, wasn't that amazing. Still, I liked to see them together, I just wasn't totally convinced why they were special for one another.

The secondary characters are one of the biggest triumphs of this series. There are always secondary characters in every book playing some kind of important role, which adds up to that feeling of community. I like seeing all those people and the interactions between them. I'm very curious about some characters - DAVID!!!! -  and how their appearances will be next time. I can't wait for the next book to see what they are all doing.
I just hope the action goals, namely concerning the vampires and Ami and the enemy are further developed because there has to be some sort of plot wrapping up, otherwise this will become just a soap opera, no matter how good or easily read.

In the end, great feelings about the majority of the book, things that could be corrected or improved, but overall, a good book and very enjoyable to read.
Grade: 8/10

Maggie Osborne - Silver Lining

Hailed as "one of the best writers in the business" by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, multi-award-winning author Maggie Osborne delivers hilarious and heartrending tales of resilient women full of grit, pride, and dignity who shine through hard times. Now meet the most irresistible and independent heroine of them all, a woman called Low Down, who never had anything good happen to her until the day she asked for the one thing that only a man could give her. . . .
As scruffy and rootless as the other prospectors searching for gold in the Rockies, Low Down wanted nothing in return for nursing a raggedy bunch through the pox. But when pressed to reveal her heart's wish, she admits, "I want a baby." Not a husband, not a forced marriage to the proud man who drew the scratched marble and became honor bound to marry her. To be sure, Max McCord was easy on the eyes, but he loved another woman and dreamed of a different life. Yet they agreed to a temporary marriage that could end only in disaster. But can this strange twist of fate lead to the silver lining that both have been searching for?

Comment: This book has been on my radar for a long time but it never seemed time to get to it, amazingly unbelievable as it might seem. This month I went for it because September is my birthday month and I like to reserve good books - or those I think might be good books - for this month, or if I can't, at least one or two I will. Anyway, I talked about this book to a friend and we decided to do a buddy reading just to compare notes at the end.

This is Low Down story, she's a hardworking woman trying to find gold just like the the men around her. The story starts with Low Down taking care of several men with the pox. She helps, cleans, feeds and encourages them to hang on and to fight to live. When the worst is over the men decide to offer a reward to Low Down and she can ask for whatever she wants. And what she wants the most is a baby. Of course, the town's reverend won't advocate any man to help her with that without marriage and the men decide to do it lucky way, meaning the man taking the different marble out of a bag will marry Low Down.
The lucky winner if Max McCord, someone already promised to marry another woman. But Max feels this is right and it's his duty because they did promise Low Don and one respects their promises. But how will things be when there's no love and nothing in common between them?

Before saying all the great things about the book, I'll say right now why this wasn't perfect, which for some can be just a minor thing, but for me at the time I read the book seemed rather lacking and could have been done in a different, better way.
In this book there aren't any villains who act badly just because they are evil. Most actions from the unlikable characters come from jealousy, boredom, superior behavior and arrogance. So, although no one is pure evil, we still like when they don't get rewards or are punished somehow, if not to just balance the super deserving HEA the main couple gets. In this book the villain, let's say so, isn't punished the most deserving way because there's a hint of forgiveness and second chance in the air and although we all should be human and preach for forgiveness, in romances we still want justice and believable repentance, which wasn't so here...

Ok, so the best parts were the relationship between Low Down and Max and the path they take from reluctant couple to beloved pair. I really liked how their relationship seemed to go further along step by step, and each step was filled with meaning and some sort of lesson which helped secure and strengthen the relationship. None of them acts with certainty but the little things accomplish a lot because they allow them to know the other better, I really liked the tone and pace of the development of their relationship and how things seemed too hard at first but Low Down is the perfect heroine, acting for what's best. I loved the scenes where she tries to do everything to make her life worth the time she has. And her reasons seem reasonable and suited for her personality. She is smart, objective and caring and she isn't afraid of hard work. Loved seeing her through others eyes because it added layers to her, which she wouldn't see herself.
Max took some more time to come to terms with the whole thing but he too started seeing what was in front of his eyes. I especially liked how much dignity and respect he had for others and how he tried to do the right thing, same as Low Down. It was also wonderful to see him respect and appreciate the little things that together shaped his new life and the new feelings for his wife. 

This story is very powerful and written with purpose where each word has a meaning. Loved the scenes with the little things and details which completed thoughts and actions. Really loved the end when Max recognized the deep meaning of two objects that are the key to his and Low Down's happiness.
This book left me feeling happy and in a good place. It's almost a grade up but still, any words would be too little because the best part is to read how two different people shouldn't find it in themselves to be happy, but they do it and it has meaning and feelings. Wonderful.
Grade: 8/10

Monday, September 15, 2014

Linnea Sinclair - Rebels and Lovers

It's been two years since Devin Guthrie last saw Captain Makaiden Griggs. But time has done little to dampen his ardor for the beautiful take-charge pilot who used to fly yachts for his wealthy family. While Devin's soul still burns for Kaidee, she isn't the kind of woman a Guthrie is allowed to marry--especially in a time of intergalactic upheaval, with the family's political position made precarious by Devin's brother Philip, now in open revolt against the Empire. And when Devin's nineteen-year-old nephew, Trip, inexplicably goes missing after his bodyguard is murdered, this most dutiful of Guthrie sons finds every ounce of family loyalty put to the test. Only by joining forces with Kaidee can Devin complete the mission to bring Trip back alive. And only by breaking every rule can these two renegades redeem the promise of a passion they were never permitted to explore. At risk? A political empire, a personal fortune, and both their hearts and lives.

Comment: This is the last story in the Dock Five universe, created by Linnea Sinclair. I've had this book to read for some months and decided to read it before buying more books by the author.

This is the story of David, he's the youngest brother of Phillip, the hero from the previous installment.
David is the youngest son but his life is about to be as well used for the family name as everyone else's has been. However, David's oldest nephew is seen leaving his room and his bodyguard is found dead after. The mystery about who did it and why amounts to an adventure for David, the butler, the nephew and the woman David never forgot despite knowing she was forbidden, for she was married. But now it's a run against time to understand who wants to hurt the Guthrie family and why.

Overall, I can't say this was a bad book, because it filled all the expected spaces in terms of romance, storytelling, writing style, goals and HEA. I just found this book to be less exciting than the others and the romance, despite there and despite the HEA, wasn't as powerfully exploited or heartfelt for me.

My biggest issue was the development and conclusion of the romance. Although I enjoyed the angst and the dilemmas David faced over his feelings for Kaidee, someone who worked for his family and who was married, I still wasn't totally convinced over the end of the story for them. The beginning of their meeting again, situation and finances apart, was very promising because we had two characters with different experiences in life and I wanted to see them finding common ground. David has had a crush on Kaidee since she was an employee and his honor stopped from saying anything, both due to professional and personal reasons. Of course i expected him to want to be with her and close to her in the adventure thy saw themselves in.
Kaidee, however, apparently didn't feel the same in those past years, although we know she respected and admired him, as a person. Throughout the novel, we see their feelings change and grow but honestly I wasn't convinced Kaidee was actually falling in love, it always seemed that things were almost like retribution from her. I know she says differently in the book, but it was the feeling I always had.
This sort of shaped my idea of them as a couple so I never bought their love relationship too deeply. Then the HEA comes in the end of the book and once again, it felt flat. I wish the author had taken he time to build up something bigger about their lives, even more so if this was the final book. Hints and possibilities didn't seem enough.

There are good parts too, mainly plot related, but I do confess the resolution felt a bit rushed and with too much drama...authors do like to take their worlds to the edge.
The best thing, as always, is the world building, the imagination and creativity we can see in every page, because we can picture the world and how things must be to work the way she describes here.
I think the writing style, plot details and world building seem as effortlessly done as anything despite the reality surely be the opposite.

This conclusion to the series was a good enough effort, but I couldn't help thinking it could have been so much better. There are many plot related issues, Kaidee's experiences, David's mind and thought processes, the mystery, the situations which show up the character's potential, many things to bring this to life. But, for me, what should have been the best, wasn't. Fr that I feel this wasn't as wonderful as it could be, despite the good and fascinating writing.
Grade: 6/10

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Kerrelyn Sparks - How to Seduce a Vampire

Vampire Zoltan Czakvar is on the hunt for the truth about his father's death. He's been searching for a very long time—since 1241, in fact. And he is not about to give up, even when he's attacked by a woman with striking blue eyes and a hell of a right hook!
Neona is also on the hunt. She's looking for a mate, and she thinks muscled Zoltan will work just fine. After all, men are good for only one thing. Soon, though, she realizes there's more to this handsome vampire than just sexual prowess. But she's keeping a secret from Zoltan, something so big that it will rock the vampire world.
Can their newfound love survive . . . even if their passion means the destruction of her world?

Comment: This book is the most recent installment int he Love at Stake series by the author and it was released back in April but only last week did I read it. Too many books, not enough time, that is the question!
This book continues the adventures of the good vampires (and other beings) in the fight against bad vampires and, now, demons.

This is Zoltan's story, a recurrent character from many books ago. Zoltan is fighting the enemies that showed up in recent books. Then clues about his late mother give him the first hints about who she was and where did she came from make him travel to uncover that mystery. 
Neona is the woman he meets while he's looking for more clues and he feels connected to her. The more he knows about hr, the more he feels she is destined to him. And when he finds out her secret, her origins and the role she plays in the upcoming battle against one of their enemies, what everyone finds out is too unbelievable t be true.

This is another book full of advenure and the author's trademark funny moments and situations. Still, I have to say the latest books have a much more serious tone that wasn't there in the first books of the series. Maybe it's a natural evolution or simply the way the stories need to be told, but frankly I liked it because it adds a bit more drama to the series which I think is helping. Not that funnier books aren't bad, it's just that this darker tone gives more substance to the world, in my opinion.

What I'd change is the constant sex descriptions. I get it that it's part of the whole set up but more than the amount of sex scenes is how they are shown, which after a while can become repetitive. I don't mind that the characters have the time or the inclination to have sex but maybe with less description wouldn't be bad.

This story continues the fighting the Chinese enemy we've met some books ago. There is always something new to learn, to deal with and to wonder about in every new book. This one isn't an exception and there are findings that will give a turnabout to the whole vampire world...I am curious to see how far the author will go with these new elements and how much importance they might get in the overall idea.

The plot has enough elements, scenes and moments to keep the reading interesting and progressed. The main character's relationship isn't as brilliant but it does have its moments although the descriptive sex could be avoided a bit more and of course, the fastness of the love feelings showing up could also be played differently so it wouldn't feel as rushed. I think Neona's character is fresh enough to incite interest but not completely amazing to be a huge surprise, something I think these types of stories need.

All in all, i enjoyed the story and kept turning the page, which is something every reader adores and finds compelling. I'm curious already about the next book and what might be in it that will give me that elements of surprise again. As for this one, I think it filled all the needed spaces to be successful, but it sure needs something more (or less, depending on what) to be much better and even perfect.
Grade: 7/10

Beverly Jenkins - Wild Sweet Love

Teresa July has led a hard life, but now she has a chance to put her train robbing past behind her. Armed with a new job as a cook to one of Philadelphia's elite families, Teresa is determined to start her life anew, and nothing––not even her boss's stuck–up (and far too handsome) son––is going to stand in her way.
Madison Nance is sick of his mother taking in women from the wrong side of the tracks, just to see them turn on her generosity. That's why it's up to him to keep a close eye on Teresa's every move. At least, that's the only logical explanation for why he can't get the young woman out of his mind.
But when a woman from Madison's past threatens Teresa's future, the two reluctant lovers must join forces is they're ever going to have a chance at happiness.

Comment: I got interested in this book after this review at Phyl's blog last year. I added the book to my list and bought it last month. Last week it was the first read of September. I had never read anything by the author, but her simple style seemed to work well for me, because I liked he book.

This is the story of Teresa July, a convict who got a second chance at a lady's house. She is to learn how to be a lady herself and if after a while her behavior is changed, she will be free of charges. Terese goes to ms Nance's house and she is immediately taken by the lady and her own will to be responsible and caring for her.
Madison Nance is the banker son of ms Nance. He doesn't trust Teresa because there have been other women whose staying didn't went too well. At first he thinks Teresa will be the same but after a while he not only sees she's different, but he feels attracted to her too...

I liked this story. It's my first by the author and what pops up to mind is how simple her style seems but that doesn't mean this isn't a complex story with interesting themes included. There seems to be lacking some sort of "click" for this to become excellent, but after all things considered, the simpler style suit the type of story perfectly.

The story revolves around Teresa's redemption. She's a fascinating character, strong willed and confidant but with some vulnerability when it comes to what she thinks she could be, for she's not certain she could be a real lady but she will try to please ms Nance, a woman she recognizes as fair and serious in wanting to help her. I think this is the best way to understand Teresa, she thinks she knows her strengths but deep down she also wants recognition and to prove her value as someone worthy and not as a criminal.
Teresa's relationship with Madison starts slow and with some dislike on both parts, but with time they start to appreciate the other, to be cordial and feelings start to develop. 

Madison is a more serious character but we learn about his not always shiny past, which adds a bit of spice to him. I liked how he felt protective of his mother and how he tries to help those he feels are being unfairly prejudiced because of the color of their skin.
Madison is closely immersed in the race issues addressed in the novel, and we get a simple bu straight idea of the message the author wants to convey and how things were at the time where the action takes place. It doesn't feel an history lesson but it adds the enough support to the plot's development, so I think it was done well.

Teresa and Madison' relationship gets more serious as time goes by and the setting changes too. When we see Teresa in a more familiar environment, she feels more alive and even her vision of Madison seems to become stronger. Due to plot's evolution, the end isn't that unpredictable but I kind of wanted to see how things would work if Madison were to solve the issues which arose in the middle of the plot, related to his bank. Oh well, there's a HEA and that matters.

In the end, a cute story, very interesting elements to read about and a very sweet HEA full of possibilities to smile about. Some things could be better, but overall, a very satisfying book.
Grade: 7/10