Sunday, August 2, 2015

100 Things I Love

I saw on Christine's blog, a long time ago, that she posted her 100 favorite things and invited her readers to do the same and I thought it was a great idea. I do hope Christine blogs more...she has many amazing posts and ideas.
In the past months I've kept a draft in my blog about such a post and I've been thinking about it even more recently so...here it is...it's very late in the game but it's done.
The following are some of my favorite things, both objects and ideas.

1-10
Books
Reading
Summer
Rainy days with nothing to do
Chocolates
Joy
Peaches
Cod with cream
My parents
My house

11-20
my warm bed
Driving
to feel at ease
to have things under control
White things
Darker colors in my nail polish
to buy books
to surf the net at will
spring flowered trees
sunny days

21-30
gardens
pictures of lakes
pictures of castles
listen to music before going to sleep
open my bedroom's door and see my books
watch tv and eat peanuts
Go home after a day at the beach
to feel closure over things
friendship
laughing

31-40
happy endings
a good romance
to browse books
libraries
bookshops
postcards
to try new recipes
my family
my cat
daydreaming

41-50
warm milk when I have a cold
stay in bed when it's raining
have lunch with my best friend
picturing a train travel in Austria
hot milk and coffee in the winter
cold milk and coffee on summer
Happy songs to feel good
beautiful designs on boxes
dolphins
to sit on a chair in my backyard reading a book

51-60
breathe the air after it rains
choose a perfume
think about positive things
sweets
walks in spring
feel peaceful after a god day at work
friendly people
be calm
mango
to have my shoes lined up

61-70
colored pens in my desk
say good morning to people
go to bed early when I want
Sleep until later reading a book
looking for books to offer
wrapping up presents
entering my local library when it's mostly empty 
eat an ice cream
find a good discount on something
listen to the sound of a wind chime

71-80
to see others respecting nature and people
talking to my best friend
sending handwritten letters 
to have a tasty meal when I'm hungry
to deeply inhale after curing a cold
eat a raw carrot
petting my cat
help someone when they need
listen to may parents talk outside when I'm at home
seeing my grandmother's smile when I visit her

81-90
finish a book even if I didn't like it
learning weird facts
to imagine my family will be eternal
to know I did a good deed
drawing (if not that well, though) 
finding new songs to like
hopeful things
think I'll be successful at something
landscapes' paintings or images
dream wars in the world could end easily if only people wanted it for real

91-100
yogurts
comfortable pillows
to wish I won the lottery
having a routine I can follow
plan an adventure despite that
watch the stars at night
to think about things others might not
having a kiss from my small cousins when they visit
watch my soccer club winning everything
Planning on being happy

Bonus 101
Trying to be the best person I can when it comes to things that matter.

Share yours if you can!
****

1000 posts!

This is post #1000 in my blog. :)
I never thought I would get this far, but now I can't seem to not think or care about my little corner. I know I'm very basic and mainstream in my comments and in content, but... it's the way I feel it's right for me and for what I want.
So, congrats on my humble blog!

Yay!


Saturday, August 1, 2015

WA Hoffman - Treasure

Gay buccaneer historical adventure/romance. The third novel in a series chronicling the adventures of Will, a disenchanted English Lord, and his beloved matelot/partner, Gaston, an exiled Frenchman, set among the buccaneers of Port Royal, Jamaica, in the 1660s. In this volume, the men ponder the true definition of sanity and the necessity of compromise in the name of love while contending with the arrival of Gaston's father, their potential inheritances, the political machinations of Will's father, Henry Morgan's ambition, a bounty upon their heads, unwanted brides, and an unexpected child.

Comment: This is the third volume of the Raised By Wolves story written by WA Hoffman. The story is divided into four volumes so readers can have it easy but this is not a series, it's just a huge story divided into four parts where each part, in a way, focus on some elements. I've loved the first volume and I couldn't let the rest of the story out, so...
 
In this third volume, the main issues are Gaston's father who came to visit and talk to his son and how the guys find out how much Will's father is aware of his steps in Jamaica and what he's been doing.
Of course there's a lot more going on, especially with other characters, but Will and Gaston keep on being the focus and the ones whose actions matter the most. Can they hold on to each other, their lives and friends and still battle those against them?
 
As it happened with the previous volumes, this one also met my expectations overall, but I do have to say this one seemed slightly weaker in terms of making the story enjoyable. I liked it yes, but there were some passages, some action moments where I had some more trouble focusing on it.
Obviously every reader has a preference and in this book's case, I have to confess I preferred the scenes where they had to deal with people, with their families, their friends...the last part of the book was set on the roving days and honestly I wasn't as engaged in that.
 
I keep on being marveled by how ingenious and clever the author was in creating those characters. She includes again a lengthy list of bibliography used to create the world on the page and I keep on being amazed by how much detail and facts were actually real. Even if one sets aside all romanticized scenes, the rest of the book would still be great just because of the atmosphere the author inserted.
 
The writing is to the point and always focused on what is happening, on what characters say. This is great because it doesn't give the idea the story is boring - even despite the not as fascinating moments.
But of course the best part is actually the way Will and Gaston make such a united couple. Despite their differences, their personal issues, they still talk and discuss things between them. I think this is the key to the success of their relationship, something other couples don't have. Or even if they did, just Will and Gaston being themselves is enough to make them different and more special than others, so any interaction they have has to be unique as well.
I really loved how they discussed things, how they thought about the other when dealing with trouble or problems. If nothing else mattered, I still thing their love would always be enough to carry them further.
 
The plot issues continue to happen in ways not always predictable. I mean of course we imagine some confrontation to Will's father has to happen at some point but some actions aren't as obvious as that in the whole process.
I think the author is using  a much more positive approach to everything, considering the laws and ways of life in the 17th century, but every fictional book is part imagination and fantasy, so... nevertheless, some things improve the story for its difference but there are other elements I find a bit too much in terms of drama. I guess we always need balance and that these books have been, but there are always things we'd do different or wish were different.
 
All in all, another great volume, I loved many scenes and things that happened. I do have high hopes for the fourth and last volume and I do hope they get a believable but still romantic HEA at the end.
As for this one, it's a nice continuation of what we've seen and it does give the reader a nice setting for what is to come.
I do recommend the whole story to anyone who likes gay stories and detailed historical settings.
Grade: 8/10

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Alphabet Soup Challenge: Sarah Addison Allen - Lost Lake

It happens one morning - Kate finally wakes up from the slumber she's been in since her husband's death a year ago. Feeling a fresh sense of desire to take control of her and her young daughter's life, she decides to visit Suley, Georgia - home to Lost Lake. It's where Kate spent one of the happiest summers of her life as a child. She's not sure what she expects to find there, but it's not a rundown place full of ghosts and other curious oddities. Kate's Aunt Eby, Lost Lake's owner, wants to sell the old place and move on. Lost Lake's magic is gone. As Kate discovers that time has a way of standing still at Lost Lake, can she bring the cottages - as well as her heart and the hearts of all the guests - back to life? Because sometimes lost loves aren't really lost. They're just waiting for you to find them again.

Comment: This is one of the books I picked for the alphabet soup challenge. It's the letter L and I chose it because it was written by an author I know whose work would be something I'd appreciate. Although some of her books felt weaker to me than others, I still think of her stories as little jewels to be appreciated.
 
This is the story of Kate and her daughter Devin and how they are changing their lives one year after the loss of Matt, Kate's husband.
Kate feels her mourning has changed and now she can see clearly again. After finding an old postcard from her aunt Eby, Kate takes Devin for a vacation but what she finds is a group of people with dreams, with things to deal with, memories and her aunt's desire to sell Lost Lake, the piece of land where her business is.
Through the lives of most characters we uncover an old story that kept going until now and that needs to be told so everyone has a chance at forgiveness and peace...
 
I liked this story. I think the author does a good job in creating special characters and giving them a sort of aura that makes them unique. Her books are labeled magical realism because she writes contemporary settings but there's always some magical element that can't be fully explained, although if we look at some things through a metaphoric explanation, it wouldn't be so hard.
Anyway, all her books present us special people that have secrets, little details that turn them into people who have touching, special lives.
 
In this book that magic can be seen mostly in Selma, a character that has charms to catch a man she wants. The charm has rules but in this idea we see how believing in something can motivate you enough to do things. Some details are difficult to believe in, but that's part of the appeal too.
Kate's daughter also has the sight of a child, so her take on everything is seen as magical in some aspects. The main subject of the book is found because Devin helps finding it. The explanation for some things seems too unlikely but it's there so it's up to the reader to follow the explanations and believe...or not. The magical realism can be explained like that, the idea is there but the way we see it can turn it into something believable or just randomly whimsical.
 
The best part about the story is the characters. The narrative is in the third person but we have the POV of several characters and we can know many aspects of their lives and personality. Of course this helps us to bond, to relate to this or that person. I like knowing the characters, why they behave the way they do, why they are like that. I think the author has a lot of imagination but she always writes politely and polished. It almost feels she takes care with everything she says and not only because she has a good editor.
 
Romance per se we don' actually have here, but we have scenes that give that impression. This story is more about the redemption and the promise of the future. We learn a lot and we hope a lot when it comes to the character's HEA.
 
All in all, the story is good, full of special and unique elements. I think it's slightly weaker than some of the other books by her, mainly because there isn't any central focus on anyone or anything and it's more complicated to expect closure or a decisive conclusion when it is so. I also felt a bit loss at times because some scenes weren't as engaging or fascinating.
Still, I consider this a good story, perfect for one to get lost in.
Grade: 7/10

Friday, July 24, 2015

Jenny Colgan - The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris

As dawn breaks over the Pont Neuf, and the cobbled alleyways of Paris come to life, Anna Trent is already awake and at work; mixing and stirring the finest, smoothest, richest chocolate; made entirely by hand, it is sold to the grandes dames of Paris.
It's a huge shift from the chocolate factory she worked in at home in the north of England. But when an accident changed everything, Anna was thrown back in touch with her French teacher, Claire, who offered her the chance of a lifetime - to work in Paris with her former sweetheart, Thierry, a master chocolatier.
With old wounds about to be uncovered and healed, Anna is set to discover more about real chocolate - and herself - than she ever dreamed.
  

Comment: I purchased this book last year and it took me more than one year to read it. Still, this one actually held on for less time than many other titles in my TBR list.
Added to my initial will to read it, I suggested it to one of my book clubs and someone else is reading it, so I couldn't put it aside like I have to about other books I had scheduled for this month.  Unfortunately for me, it has been a crazy month for reading.
 
This is the story of Anna Trent, an Englishwoman who suffers an accident during her job and how she must deal with the consequences. In the hospital she meets again her old French teacher who encourages her to go to France to work at the chocolate shop of someone she knew there when she was younger.
Anna decides to take the chance and while in France there's a lot for her to discover and to learn, especially why the shop's owner, Thierry used to be so important for her teacher. But it's not just the people and the work that change Anna. She has a lot to deal with while still helping others...
 
Overall, I liked this story and I liked Anna. I can't help but notice all the details about British culture though, and some of them rather annoy me. I'm talking about the clubbing, the drinking. All novels I read that feature English people shows them drinking or talking about drinking so often. Even movies... I don't know but I can't help but notice these things. Although this doesn't actually affect any of Anna's behavior or her personality, I can't just ignore it...
 
Apart from the little details that catch my attention, I liked the main story. The book is centered around Anna and when we have her perspective, the narrator is herself, but we do have some passages from someone else's POV, usually third person. There's also those flashback scenes where we follow her old teacher, Claire, and Thierry when they were young. I don't mind these passages but sometimes I'd skim them because I don't think they are so important when we know what happens to them through other's conversations.
 
The plot is very interesting and I connected to Anna's difficulty to relate to a new place, a new way of living, new people and expectations...all this happened to her when she goes to France. I wanted her to succeed immediately, to be one of those people who can adapt easily, but we see how the beginning was complicated, even if without all the details and heaviness something like that must entail.
I liked how she worked hard and how she never changed her personality, even when we see her change in terms of believing in herself, in understanding her abilities. There's a lot of talk about chocolate which is good, considering the work she is doing, but it's not tiring to the point we can't stand reading about it.
 
There's romance. We see many references about Thierry and Claire's relationship and why things didn't work out. Anna and Laurent, Thierry's son, start to talk and deal with each other, mostly because of his father and they have a relationship. I think the love interest between Anna and Laurent wasn't as powerful as it could because despite happening in a sweet, almost believable way, it's not the focus of the story all the time, so it almost feels like it's not that important and that distracts from the romance of it.
 
All in all, I think this is a story with many interesting elements but some of them aren't used to the maximum of their capacity, it feels like some things were just skimmed, just there and not as complex and deep as they could.
But it's an interesting story. The book comes with recipes...I haven't tried but they sure help with the mood.
Grade: 8/10

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Lena Diaz - Exit Strategy

When Sabrina Hightower awakens to the sound of an intruder, she figures he's there to rob her, murder her— or worse. She doesn't expect to be carried off by a muscle-bound stud with male-model good looks... or that he came to rescue her.
Mason Hunt became an enforcer with EXIT Inc. to eliminate the bad guys—terrorists, militia groups, all those who would do America harm. But his latest target is innocent. If EXIT could lie about sultry, strong-willed Sabrina, what darker truths might they be concealing?
Going rogue in the rugged North Carolina mountains, Mason risks everything to keep Sabrina close, especially now that EXIT's lethal assassins are chasing them down. The heat is on... but it's nothing compared to the slow burn of seduction.


Comment: This is one of the books I've read because of book clubs. It isn't my personal choice but it's the book scheduled for this month. I didn't have much expectations about it, apart from hopes it would be entertaining. It's the first installment in a new suspense series, recently released.
 
This is the story of Sabrina Hightower, a young woman who is kidnapped from her house by a man who claims he's an assassin and that supposedly was told to kill her. After some mixed up orders, Mason, the killer, decides to help Sabrina instead.
Sabrina is suing a certain company that provides adventures and radical experiences for their clients. Sabrina's parents died while doing zip line and Sabrina is convinced the accident wasn't so. Could her kidnapping be connected to her parents' death?
Could Mason be more than just a paid assassin?
 
I had a good time reading this book. Most of the action was interesting enough to compel me to read and it offered several action scenes which helped the story move along.
Still, I can't help but being picky. I think suspense or action stories in romance are hard to properly develop because anything related to romance seems rather unlikely in such peculiar action circumstances. It seems any love story developing isn't as believable as that.
I think this happened with this book.
 
Of course the romance is one of the elements that makes the story feel more interesting. In this case, the hero and heroine meet as soon as the action begins so the first stages of their relationship are doubtful, they are wary of each other and apart from physical attraction they don't have much in common. After they start talking, obviously things change but I always wonder how reliable is any connection done under stress and in a situation that demands much of their attention and focus. I don't think it's the best way to learn about someone, to get to know the real people. It's clear this fast paced plot makes it possible for the couple to have to work together, to trust the other sooner and to be forced to face the other person closely. But from that usual insta-attraction to real long life feelings... I do have my doubts and usually I'm never fully convinced of love existing, unless the author is really talented and I can "buy it".
 
The personalities of Mason and Sabrina seem to match each other, surely to ease the connection that needs to exist between them. Overall, I liked them as protagonists but after the book ended and their HEA happened - although not settled despite the I-love-yous - I couldn't help but feel something wasn't completely right, I just didn't find the power of their bond in a way that convinced me they had to belong to each other. I don't know, but the romance never fully convinced me.
 
The action of course offers us the possibility to know a lot about secondary characters, some character connections and relationships. The plot is engaging for most of the time but personally, because this book didn't feel as special as other well structured "worlds", I was happy enough with the way things happened and got solved but I can't say I was dazzled positively by it.
Sure, it has interesting elements, the villain did bad things but his reasons started as not that bad and I confess I'm curious about the next protagonist.
Nevertheless, the fact I need to wait for the book to come out next year and all this wait doesn't bother me at all, I'm not dying to get my hands on it, which tells a lot about my real feelings about this "world".
 
I still recommend this action story but the suspense part seems slightly exaggerated to me. It was entertaining but just that.
Grade: 7/10

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Susan Elizabeth Phillips - Natural Born Charmer

It wasn't every day a guy saw a headless beaver marching down the side of a road, not even in Chicago Stars quarterback Dean Robillard's larger-than-life world. He slammed on the brakes of his brand-new Aston Martin Vanquish and pulled over in front of her.
The beaver marched right past, her big, flat tail bouncing in the gravel, and her small, sharp nose stuck up in the air. Way up. The beaver looked highly pissed . . .
She was definitely a girl beaver because her beaver head was missing, revealing sweaty, dark hair pulled into a scraggly ponytail. He'd been praying for a little distraction from his own depressing company, so he threw open the door and stepped out onto the shoulder of the Colorado road . . .
Funny, sexy, and touching—Natural Born Charmer is the unforgettable love story of a golden boy who might be losing his luster and a spirited woman who's learned never to depend on anyone but herself.
  

Comment: This is the last book I've read. It's also the last one of the Chicago Stars series by author Susan Elizabeth Phillips.
Nevertheless, it's a series I've taken a lot of enjoyment from and this book, somehow, seemed to be generally more balanced than some of the others in terms of romance.
 
This is the story of Dean Robillard, a character we've met in the previous book as a jock without much humility. While traveling to his farm which has been renovated, he sees a woman in a beaver costume walking on the road without the costume's head. Her name is Blue and at first he only wanted her to amuse him.
Because of circumstances, Dean takes Blue to his farm and they start to get to know each other better. Along with the farm, Dean finds his mother, someone he didn't want to talk to anymore. Then his half sister shows up. Then his distant father. Dean's personal life is a mess but with Blue by his side and all the things they learn together about the past and forgiveness, could this mean life has more to offer than simply money and fame?
 
I had a great time reading this book. The author's style is very appealing because even when more dramatic situations happen or when characters have more difficult challenges to deal with, we know there will be a flawless HEA at the end and that, globally, the story will be a successful one.
 
This series has been a very good one. Despite that, I never considered any of them close to perfection because there were some details that stopped me from considering them so.
In this book case, I think everything worked out much better or, at least it felt so to me, because the main couple's relationship felt more realistic in its development and solidity.
Usually the couple's meet, things happen and they fall in love without saying for a while, then one says it first, the other takes more time but things end well.
With Blue and Dean, I think since they get intimate until their happy epilogue, things seem more balanced between them. I can't explain it very well, it's actually more a feeling I got while reading, but it seemed to me that because they both had similar issues with their parents, the way they bonded seemed more realistic. And their path to happiness felt more believable too.
Of course this is fiction. I don't see this kind of "reality" near me or in the lives of real people, but if one considers the way the romance is shaped and develops, the way Dean and Blue develop a relationship based on mutual elements, these things make it seem stronger.
 
The relationship being the strongest element of this book, it is even better because of its balance. I always felt Blue and Dean weren't on different stages in life despite their differences, nor did I feel one was at a better place emotionally than the other. They had a good balance between them and I enjoyed seeing the journey they did.
Something that contributed to this were the secondary relationships they had with other family members and people they met. I think that by having to deal with others, that helped them to put in some perspective what was happening to them, what their past experiences meant and how they sort of prepared them to who they were now, where in life they were and how important it would be to have someone you could depend on, just like they found out it could happen between them.
It does help the reader to compare a character's state of mind when we have interactions with others. The key is to do it well, and ms. Phillips does it beautifully.
 
I also like the feel of the story, and with this I mean the natural following of happenings that make me want to keep reading and finding out what comes after. Again, this also requires talent. Many authors seem to want to finish so badly it becomes obvious to the reader. In this case, the words and sentences felt perfect to the type of story that was happening.
 
All in all, a very good example of how a romance should be like. I'm very pleased to know I have more books and another series by this author to read and later on this year I'll definitely try something else by her.
As for this one, considering all the series and how balanced and well structured it felt, to finish with a book that, for me, felt even better is the cherry on top.
Grade: 9/10