Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Amy Harmon - Making Faces

Ambrose Young was beautiful. He was tall and muscular, with hair that touched his shoulders and eyes that burned right through you. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She'd been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have...until he wasn't beautiful anymore.
Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl's love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior's love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast, where we discover that there is a little beauty and a little beast in all of us.

Comment: I knew about this book because of one of my book clubs. This was th book chosen for this month and despite not being something I usually go to, it has YA parts included, I still decided to honor the commitment and give it a try. I'm glad I did because the story is very good.

Ambrose Young has it all, he's gorgeous, friendly, successful and popular in his high school. After 9/11 and a fright he wasn't counting on, he looks at his life and thinks he must do something, so when school ends, he convinces his 4 best friends to join the army. But the outcome isn't perfect at all.
Fern Taylor has had a crush on Ambrose since he helped her and her cousin to bury a spider. But when she tries to help a friend to conquer him through an old fashioned letter exchange, she couldn't imagine the lessons and struggles she would face for him and with him...

I really liked this story, much more than what I imagined. It has some YA parts but thankfully those aren't about love ever after. I have a hard time believing the forever kind of love in young adults who don't always - if ever - weight in what true love and dedication entails. Anyway, that didn't happen here, although there's a start up base to the rest of the story which we see in the beginning.

The majority of the story is what everyone now says is new adult. Ambrose and Fern are young when their story happens, but I have to say there are mitigating reasons for why their story feels mature and well thought, opposed so many YA novels out there.

Fern has always took care of her cousin Bailey, who was born with a disease that makes it impossible to walk or to even move his arms. She has an old view of the world with reality so obvious in her life. The fact she isn't beautiful like most people also helped her to construct an idea of herself which stopped her from being vacant and self absorbed. So, in a way, she's mature for her age. And she likes o read, so...
Ambrose has a loving father, who isn't his biological father but that doesn't stop him from recognizing the good man he is and how lucky he is to have him and to have his support. Of course, this shaped his view of the world but he isn't an angry, impulsive guy. He tries to be fair and do the right thing. I think he felt a bit too perfect at times, but his impulsive action made things so uncomfortable and wrong that it's almost like he is paying for the time he didn't think things all the way. Although this can be debated, after all, serving one's nation is seen as something worthy.

It's obvious there's a lot of tears on this book's path and be prepared for it. I think the author was very clever because she dosed the emotion and the negativity very well, in a way that wasn't over the top and too hard to overcome. Things hurt and things are bad here and there, but there's this sense of optimism and the reader kind of gets ready to see it happen because the plot makes it happen that way. So, despite the huge avalanche of emotion, it's not unbearable because of the good things we see happening and being told a lot of the time.

There are some ideas about beauty and worth and how one can be what one needs instead of just being what other think. I liked the ideas inserted in to the plot quite a lot, and also how they were dealt with.

The romance is cute. It starts innocent, letters exchanging, sort of, and their personality complement each other When it has to, the support they both take from the other helps them appreciate what they were given, especially Ambrose. I think the HEA was believable and the focus was mostly on the sweetness and the friendship. The epilogue is full of hope and the stamp of approval for their relationship. But the actual story isn't rushed or too sugary.

I liked the story and despite my tears and personal little ideas about what to change, I can't say the author didn't do a good job, because she did. I feel humbled when I get a book I thought I wouldn't enjoy much, but end up liking a lot after all, even more so when it has elements I usually can't stand (like YA). This happened here and I'm quite glad to have read it. The writing feels a bit young at times, but I guess it's part of the whole deal. In the end, it had strength and a purpose, it worked out really well. Very good story!
Grade: 9/10

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Rhys Ford - Fish and Ghosts

When his Uncle Mortimer died and left him Hoxne Grange, the family’s Gilded Age estate, Tristan Pryce knew he wasn’t going to have an easy time of it. He was to be the second generation of Pryces to serve as a caretaker for the estate, a way station for spirits on their final steps to the afterlife. The ghosts were the simple part. He’d been seeing boo-wigglies since he was a child. No, the difficult part was his own family. Determined to establish Tristan’s insanity, his loving relatives hire Dr. Wolf Kincaid and his paranormal researchers, Hellsinger Investigations, to prove the Grange is not haunted.
Skeptic Wolf Kincaid has made it his life’s work to debunk the supernatural. After years of cons and fakes, he can’t wait to reveal the Grange’s ghostly activity is just badly leveled floorboards and a drafty old house. The Grange has more than a few surprises for him, including its prickly, reclusive owner. Tristan Pryce is much less insane and much more attractive than Wolf wants to admit and when his Hellsinger team unwittingly release a ghostly serial killer on the Grange, Wolf is torn between his skepticism and protecting the man he’d been sent to discredit.

Comment: I got this book a few months ago based on the promising blurb. I had hopes this would be a fascinating and romantic story. If there is one thing I look for in m/m books is the romance and relationship element and for that, one needs the writer's talent.

This is Wolf and Tristan's story.
Wolf and his team of paranormal researchers try to prove many supernatural manifestations are purely schemes aiming for profit. When they are asked to prove Tristan is a crazy unbalanced young men, they go to the property where Tristan works and try to prove the place is not haunted as people say.
Tristan not only believes in ghosts but he wants to help them any way he can and the Grange, left by his uncle seems to be a place where ghosts come to when they are ready to leave. He agrees to the team's presence there to assure his family ghosts exist o they can leave him alone. But Wold is a surprise for Tristan, on all levels...

I won't be long with this comment. I was disappointed with this book. It didn't work for me for several reasons, being the two main ones the following:

- The romance felt flat. I didn't believe their emotions that much. I assume the author has a specific vision about how things were happening but I wasn't sod on them. At first yes, the reluctant attraction (one of my favorite things in romances) was interesting enough, but from then on, their slow paced relationship got too indifferent. They just didn't seem to click as a couple and I never felt much sexual chemistry between them, even when in more intimate moments.
Tristan is a very likable character but he also had a sort of too innocent take and although I can understand why for the story's development and vibe, I still think he got a bit whinny at some point. He just stopped being endearing to me.
Wold was more the type of character I like in these romances, more assertive, confidant and almost alpha, but he didn't push Tristan right away and things started slowly. Still, despite his personality being captivating, together they didn't seem to work that much. Then Wolf's past and origins got in the way and the story started to feel like too much was going on.

- The plot seemed interesting at first but after a while so many things were the focus, the paranormal activity, Wolf's family, the bad ghost, the tactics to stop the bad ghost from further harm, the main character's relationship... so may things that well paced and structured could make this really special. But, for me, it was just so confusing, I had some trouble concentrating on the story and on what was happening.

It's not that I didn't like it per se, but so many elements just didn't seem to match together. I can see how many lied the story and how the author's style can be interesting, but for me things didn't work. I could discount the plot if the romance was a winner, but unfortunately, neither convinced me.
I think the good parts, mostly about the ghosts presence and the why of things weren't enough to distract me from the things I believe could have been better. Some times, some books can be good but not work for someone in particular and this happened to me here.
Grade: 4/10

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Caris Roane - Obsidian Flame

For a hundred years, Marguerite has been imprisoned and used for her powerful psychic abilities. Her only relief comes from her regular visits with Thorne, her vampire lover.  His every touch leaves her hungry for more..and aching for their next encounter. When Marguerite is finally set free, she returns to Mortal Earth to begin a new life for herself.  She dyes her hair white-blonde, paints her nails blood-red, and seduces a sexy-hot stranger. Why can’t she stop thinking about Thorne?
Now that Marguerite is gone, Thorne craves her more than ever..and follows her to Mortal Earth.  Unfortunately, he is not the only vampire who wants her. As one of three powerful women with obsidian flame abilities, Marguerite is a valuable treasure—and a dangerous weapon. For Thorne, she is a soulmate he must protect at any cost…even his own life.

Comment: This is another of the books in the Ascension series by the author. The series focus on a world where vampires ascend to another plane, where life is similar to ours on Earth, but where ascenders have wings and special abilities and powers. The main action revolves around a war between good and evil, of course, and how each faction grows an army to the final battle which I assume will happen in the last - and following - book.

This is Theron's story. He's the leader of the Warriors of the Blood, a group of special and more powerful fighters who combat the enemy all over the world. Recently all the warriors have met and fell in love their mate, with the exception, so far, of only three. Theron has been in love with Marguerite but their relationship is complicated. But now she is free from the sort of prison she has been and only wants her freedom. But Theron isn't able t let go, so he takes a break from his duty to pursue his heart's desire. However, things aren't as simple as that and the fate of many against the fate of two can really be a fair math? How will Theron convince Marguerite to be with him always?

This series' plot has been increasing in action and momentum, obviously ready to come to a point because the series will end. Or, at least, it will come to the end of the arc if one can say so, because accordingly to the author more stories were planned until the publisher decided to finish it will the remaining book. The author will self publish the last three warrior's stories afterwards, eventually.

Despite these facts, one thing is clear. The author wanted to take things to a new level and set up the jump into another arc or series. Maybe. Now I don't know because of the publishing issue. Anyway, this story is a goos continuation of the things happening in the previous books and manages to set up things in a very intriguing way in what we think will be a sort of epic finale, at least in terms of action.

The characters all play some sort of role here. The ones we know continue to be important and there are several new appearances to fulfill the plot development. There are new discoveries and actions that can be surprising and once again, despite one can read this as s tad alone story, I think it's one of those cases it would only ruin it because so many things are linked, it actually best to read in order, not only to best understand the characters, world and plot, but mainly to be able to understand the whys of so many decisions.

I liked the way things moved and the best part is actually the plot and character's conversations.
However, the romance really annoyed me. I don't like Marguerite, and the way the author kid of reformed her at the end wasn't enough. I think Thorne deserved someone strong yes, but different. Honestly I can't empathize with a character that only wants sex and as many partners as she can find. I understand the reasons she has and how her personality works, but sincerely, I didn't like her and felt sad Thorne, as one of the key players, had to be saddled up with her.
I liked they had a HEA but Marguerite will never be someone I care about. I just can't accept her choices although I can understand them.

I was so annoyed at this, the sex scenes I skipped, because they didn't mean anything to me, as I always felt Marguerite wasn't cherishing them as they should, in a way. They are mates, destined ones based on the details of the world, and she still wanted something different. Ok, but then it wasn't fair to Theron...I think in a way it was interesting to have this POV in a character, but still, not a favorite and not enjoyable to me.

I'm curious over the next and final story but this one wasn't as amazing as I hoped for, considering Theron and his role as leader and ho things are, in general terms of world structure. Still, enjoyable enough but never special or fantastic.
Grade: 6/10

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

TBR Challenge: Jill Sorenson - Crash Into Me

Though he’d gone into virtual seclusion, Ben Fortune was still the world’s most famous surfer, known as much for his good looks as for his skill. He’s also a suspect in a series of brutal murders that may have begun with his late wife. 
Now FBI Special Agent Sonora “Sonny” Vasquez has been sent undercover to the elite beach community of La Jolla to make friends with Fortune. With her fierce beauty and take-no-prisoners attitude, she’s more than equipped for the job, and soon she and Ben have collided in an affair that is both intense and irresistible. But for the first—and worst—time in Sonny’s career, her emotions are threatening to get the better of her. 
Could this sensual, wounded man, who is genuinely anguished over his troubled daughter, really be a killer? And could falling in love blind Sonny to the greatest danger of all?

Comment: I've had this book in my TBR since April. I've read another book by the author and I liked so I've decided to try more of her work, this being the one that, by blurb alone, seemed the most intriguing one. I was quite pleased it would fit this month's theme for the TBR challenge.

This is Sonny Vasquez story and how, being her a FBI agent, she was charged of the investigation of Ben Fortune, a suspect of killing women in his residence area, all because of the gossip about his wife's murder years before. Sonny takes a new identity and starts to get closer but she didn't count on all the drama around Ben's life, her own and the fact there's a strong attraction between them.
Ben just wants his surfing and to take care of his daughter. But Sonny brings him feelings again, along with a huge amount of problems. But is he really guilty as evidence makes him look?

This book is very deceptive. Only author's fans or previous readers know this is filled with drama and situations that are hard to solve magically, as it happens in so many contemporaries. And I don't mean the crime, I'm referring to the character's lives and what they are making out of it.

The main issue is the solving of a series of crimes committed around La Jolla beach. Ben Fortune is a former professional surfer and he lives nearby. His fame carries on, even more so because his wife was murdered and he was the one who found her. Of course, he was a suspect but his innocence was proved although suspicion follows him still.
However, his main problem is to deal with his teenager daughter, who has issues of her own, and who seems to be changing as all teens do at some point.
Sonny comes in and starts to change his way of seeing life, of thinking about himself. I liked the ay they started to matter to each other and how what they were before meeting was simple and objective, but their perception of things changed along with their feelings. This could be done rather obvious to better pop up to the reader, but there are so many things surrounding their lives that I think there's a constant layer of drama just waiting for confrontation.

As aways, there's a secondary focus, in this book is Carly and her new boyfriend who isn't just any random guy. There are a lot of personal links in this book and some are real surprises, at least they were to me.
In this book, there are many things to bear in mind, and many issues societies nowadays seem to overlook for the sake of their own problems. Other people's challenges are their own. I think the author presented some very crude visions of what it's like to live with guilt, insecurity, fears and weights that carry one's head down. I still think there was a slightly darker vibe around the story and that can put off some readers I suppose and to be honest I wish the author could have dosed the good things a bit more. I understand the fact this book is as it is but a lighter mood here and there would have been nice.

The romance ended up with a HEA which has a good amount of sweetness but not overly done. I liked how Ben and Sonny talked a bit, how some of their issues were dealt throughout the book.
This story is meant to be serious and accomplished that well. All the subjects addressed are things we all should pay attention to, so in terms of building up a good environment to the story, the author did well.

The crime isn't the most ingenious in the world and the villain becomes almost obvious from a certain point on and I wasn't surprised by who it was. Still, all things surrounding it aren't as easy and obvious to deal with and the path all characters had to take to reach  sort of positive end was hard and with plenty of lessons to be learned.

In the end, this was a good book, many interesting subjects, a good and hot romance, two sweet but impulsive teenagers, lots of drama and situations that seem unreal so much work did they cause. But I like the author's style, despite the things I would remove if I could. I do plan to read more by her.
Grade: 7/10


One more year, one more anniversary.
I can't believe it has been another year and I'm still feeling ok with this diary of my reading I share here. Hopefully, this will remain for a long time for I don't think there's anything better than reading books, to look and find more books and to know there are books waiting to be read.
Thank you for stopping by in all this time too.
Have a great time reading and have a great year of books and blogging too, if you feel like it!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Jennifer Ashley - Rules for a Proper Governess

Scottish barrister Sinclair McBride can face the most sinister criminals in London - but the widower’s two unruly children are a different matter. Little Caitlin and Andrew go through a governess a week, sending the ladies fleeing in tears.
Roberta “Bertie” Frasier enters Sinclair’s life by stealing his watch - and then stealing a kiss. Intrigued by the handsome highlander, Bertie winds up saving his children from a dangerous situation and returns them to their father. Impressed with how they listen to her, Sinclair asks the lively beauty to be their governess, never guessing that the unconventional lady will teach him a lesson or two in love.

Comment: This book arrived in the mail last Friday and I couldn't wait to read it as soon as possible. It's in one of those series I can't wait to get my mind on, because the author does such a great job in making the characters alive and fascinating and in creating a story that has so many special moments and situations I feel it's only a matter of time before I think it's exactly as it should.

This is Sinclair's story. He's one of Ainsley's brothers we've heard about since her book, the third in the series.
Sinclair is a widow and has two children to raise but they can't seem to behave properly so he employs governesses to help and teach them, but they never seem to last long.
One day Sinclair meets Bertie because he defended one of her friend's from being sent to prison over a crime she didn't commit.
Bertie is fascinated by Sinclair and who he is. By saving his children one day she gets to be their governess and even Sinclair is taken with her, something he hasn't felt since his beloved wife died...

I don't have much to say about the book except that I liked it a lot.
There's a certain mystery to solve which adds more to the story, well, this happens in all the books, there's always something to investigate, a sort of action development to move the plot along and not supported only by the romance, but in my opinion, all that could go away because the romance is the true beauty in these novels.

I love how the author picks two main characters, gives them personality, purpose and charisma and makes them alive on the page. I really cheered for this couple, like I did with all the others and I was immensely happy with their HEA.
The fact Sinclair is someone with means and with connections and a vision of life where things go well in terms of his profession and possibilities doesn't make him arrogant. He's confidant and still reachable.
Bertie comes form the poorer section of town, she knows what is to live with almost nothing and she is a pick pocket. But her heart id in the right place and she doesn't mind learning and charming others with her personality and god moods.

I liked the romance and how slowly it developed. I think it was both sweet and cathartic how Sinclair accepted Bertie and was as much of her rock as she was for him when the moments required so. Sure, their relationship wasn't perfect but the way the author inserted sexual tension and little details between them only made their actual romance much better and real.

I liked Bertie's relationship with the children. I think it worked out almost too well, but beggars can't be choosers. Bertie is special and despite the bad things sh saw and went through because of where she lives and how things are for those less fortunate, she still had a sunny disposition and everyone felt it when around her. I really think she's the best character in the book.

I also think there wasn't enough processing of things from the past. But I also admit it was clever of the author to do things the way she did, otherwise the story would go from romance to drama and that would ruin the overall impressions one might have. It's complicated to judge things like these based on what we feel should happen, but for story's development and HEA's purpose, I don't mind how everything went.
In the end, another great book and I can't wait to read more by the author.
Grade: 8/10

Elisabeth Naughton - Bound

Obsessed. Her touch is like a drug. From the moment he met her, Titus knew she was different. Even dangerous. Yet though his guardian brethren are convinced Natasa is working for Hades, Titus can’t stop thinking about her. Can’t stop fantasizing about her. Can’t stop craving the one thing he knows could lead to the downfall of his world.
Possessed. Faced with stopping Natasa or joining in her quest, Titus falls to temptation and is thrust into a world of lust, deception, and deadly treachery designed by the gods. Her touch—only hers—frees him from his bonds, but desire may just condemn him. Because before the end he’ll have to decide which is more important: duty and honor to those he took an oath to defend, or a woman who could very well be the biggest curse to them all.

Comment: This is the 6th installment in the Eternal Guardians series by the author. This series focuses on the Argonauts myth and the characters all come from the ancient Greek mythology and it's amusing and curious to wait for who might show up next.

Bound is Titus' story. Like his fellow guardians, he's a descendant from one of the original argonauts and uses his abilities to help in the fight against daemons and other enemies.
In the previous book, Titus has seen a woman and now can't forget about her or what she could be doing, looking for something.
The woman, Natasa, is looking for someone but not with harmful intent, she wants information that's all. Her life is a mess and if she just finds the right clue about where someone else is hidden, maybe she can make things right at last. But she didn't count on her feelings for Titus or with the sense of family she would see in being with him.

I think one of the tricks with books like these, meaning full of adventure and focus on relationships that start with a special feeling/bond/spark/connection, etc, is how we see it as a whole. Sure, a romance like this is hard to swallow for any realistic, contemporary mind. But I like to think that this borders on fantasy, so anything is possible. Paranormal romances are fantasies, period. So, I try to keep an open mind about the insta-romances. But I don't believe the fact it's so fast that is the problem. For me, if the author does it right, he insta-romance can be as well done as any other. In this case, I kind of didn't mind it, because the characters have seen each other before in the previous book, so that adds a bit of illusion about time passing by. Then the circumstances allow for that possibility. But like I said, I think it's mostly author's talent and in this case, I think ms Naughton did good.

The story has many mythological references. I enjoy the character's connections to the gods and the beings we've recognize from History lessons and books. I think it's funny to see how each other works those stories into their own. The myths also help in the development of the plot and in the building up. Many situations happen due to myth's importance and influences. Once again, it was clever to use this as a support tool to engross and strengthen the story. Plus it's funny to read more and find out who or what might show up next.

The romance between Natasa and Titus has all the little difficulties we see in any relationship. How to trust the other, how to know their feelings are right, are they going to be worthy of he other, will there be disappointment, what will others around them think, so many things that add some sort of normalcy to things we all know are out of the ordinary. But I liked how they were important for each other and in the end, they worked for their relationship.

I think in terms of plot, things are moving along well. There's a goal in all this and things seem to get closer to an end. The next story is out, but if the author plans to write every Argonaut's story, there's two more, so... not sure how long this will drag, but if the author keeps the good work, I don't think any other subject arising in the plot would be badly done and might be as significant. I'm keeping my hopes up about the end of this series, which I hope will be nicely done even with more books to come.

In the end, this one worked for me. Sure, it could have different things to appeal even more to me and to what I think it should be done, but this happens more often than simple perfection, so... But all in all, not bad.
Grade: 8/10

Monday, October 13, 2014

Susan Wiggs - Halfway To Heaven

At a glittering White House gala, Abigail Cabot discovers the man of her dreams. Only, he's not interested...yet. So the gifted lady astronomer, whose passion for measuring stars has left her woefully lacking in social graces, seeks someone to educate her...someone who is a master at the art of seduction.
Jamie Calhoun's handsome looks and easy charm have made him as popular on the Senate floor as he is with the capital's most attractive women. But secretly he loathes the cynical, manipulative man he's become. Initially, he befriends Abigail as a means to a political end. But somewhere along the way the plan goes awry.
First laughter and then love take them completely by surprise in this wildly romantic story. For a man convinced he's incapable of love and a woman who believes she can reach the stars, could this be a match made in heaven?

Comment: This is the third story in the Calhoun series by the author. I've read the previous two months ago and decided I wanted to finish the series within the year, so the remaining 3 books are spread over the last three months of 2014. This month it was Jamie and Abigail's story.

The story focuses on Jamie and how he decided to become a congressman to change politics and a law about railroads which would affect his late brother's land in Virginia. In honor to him, Jamie will do anything to stop the railroads appeal to government funding. He will do anything even getting close to the daughter of one of the senators who might have influence over the possible law.
Abigail Cabot isn't known for her beauty and grace. She prefers to watch the sky than to go to a ball, even more so because of her physical limitations. But when she sees the man of her dreams, she joins forces with Jamie so a mutual relationship can help them both. But what will happen if they fall in love on the way?

First of all, I didn't remember Jamie from the previous books. Thankfully, this is one of those stories where there's plenty of mentioning of family members, meaning the main couple isn't an oyster living on their own like it happens in so many books.
The story has several classic tropes and we can recognize them throughout the story. I don't think this diminishes the story's appeal or worthiness, it was just a way for the author to simplify her goal, I think. Honestly it didn't bother me.

I liked how the main couple seemed wrong but they had a lot of common after all. I liked how both took steps to undertsand the other, they went out of their way to help and to be supportive. I think Jamie had some notions about himself which were hard to accept, sometimes I wished he would just get over it. But in reality, there isn't any amount of time to just get over a tragedy and guilt like Jamie went through. My impatience was for show, but if one thinks about it, it wasn't so out there.
Jamie has a lot to think about, to deal with and Abigail is someone who understands, who is there for him. Abigail also has issues about herself and what she believes are true feelings for someone she exchanges letters with. There's a lot of mixed and wrong assumptions in this book, but of course all is solved after some angst ad heartfelt confessions.

The romance was good. I think it was balanced because they both gained a lot from being together, both her issues, some were worse than others, but on their own way, both had to go through truth and acceptances and th fact they fell in love was obvious. I liked how things went in the end.
There are some parts where is so romantic to watch them, others where they could have been more assertive. I think their night together was done with the right mood and attention but seemed to be there just because and afterwards the meaning didn't seem as strong as that, but all things considered, it was still perfectly acceptable.

There are some secondary characters who will have an important role in the following books. Still, their presence was key to this story too and I kind of liked how they mattered and weren't there just to fill up the place. I'm curious over Helena's story.

The story has many subjects to read between the lines, ideas and characterization which adds up emotion to the book. I think the author did a good job in  exploiting so many themes and how that affected the characters and their actions. In my opinion, it was a successful job and I'm still curious over the rest of the series and other work by her.
Grade: 8/10