Friday, April 29, 2016

Patricia Gaffney - Flight Lessons

Anna has studiously avoided her Aunt Rose—the woman she once loved more than anyone else in the world—ever since the night Rose betrayed Anna and her mother, Rose's own fatally ill sister. In the sixteen years that have passed, Anna has built another life for herself far from her hometown on Maryland's eastern shore, but she can't forgive or forget.
Now another betrayal, by a faithless lover, has brought Anna back to her family's restaurant, where Rose needs her estranged niece's help—and trust—more than ever before. Determined to leave as soon as the struggling business is back on its feet and her own hurt is healed, Anna joins Rose in the kitchen of the Bella Sorella, resolved to remain unaffected by Rose's longing to undo the past. But Anna's resistance could blind her to a true and unexpected love that's reaching out to grab her by the heart.

Comment: This another one of the books by mrs Gaffney I had around... this is a contemporary story, more within woman's fiction, and something different from her historicals, which was what give her her name. I liked this story more than the previous contemporary I had read by her.

This is the story of Anna, a woman in her thirties that recently caught her boyfriend sleeping with her boss and she decides to change scenery even if, for that, she needs to return home to the family restaurant, now managed by her aunt Rose, someone she can't stand since she figured out she and her father were cheating on her dying mother.
Anna tries to act all grown-up, being cool about everything but she still feels a lot of anger and she warns her aunt she will only be there for a while... in the meantime, new people enter her life, people to challenge her own limitative views on happiness and expectations and there's even someone she didn't plan on being friends with, much less a lover, but that's what happens.
At some point, though, things have to be dealt with? Can Anna do it or will she run again?

All things considered I liked this novel more than the previous contemporary because this one has a plot I could follow better and were more interested in.
However, the biggest issue here for me was Anna herself. She acts like the world owns something to her and despite her reaction to what she saw she never tried to understand, no matter how much that could have hurt. I get why she feels cheated too and part of me has to be on her side and accepts why she behaved so badly, I can't imagine something like that in RL. But we, as the reader, have access to some knowledge she doesn't... and when she does, her opinions are already colored. I think showing understanding and mature notions about what is right and wrong between people that should be the symbol of your youth isn't easy... but with time Anna should have been able to weight all perspectives into her head...and that didn't happen, so she became someone very close to her youthful experiences, which certainly didn't help her in dealing with the people around her now.

Despite Anna's struggles with acceptance and understanding, she still is an interesting character and I liked her personality when she was dealing with Frankie, the new sous-chef at the restaurant and with Mason, the man she comes to fall in love with.
In fact, this was my favorite part, the romance. I got to see a part of Anna that isn't obvious when she's being too polite or mad at her aunt and the way they slowly started to be friends and confiding in each other to become lovers was sweet and well done, I think. I kept on reading because I wanted to have more time with them.

The book, being woman's fiction, obviously gives us several perspectives into what makes a woman think and feel, several types of relationships and reactions to things... I confess I felt sad over a certain issue that happened and how that also affected some of the other characters. But in a way, it helped for the main characters to come to a compromise and finally an understanding!
Because this is woman's fiction, several other problems and situations are discussed here...we get to see the reactions of possible outcomes of problems in real life... it's interesting but in a way, woman's fiction can be slightly too depressing...I prefer books to offer some fantasy even if believable in reality.

All in all, this was an interesting read but I would have liked things to develop in a different way when it came to Anna and some of her behavior and attitudes.. I think that, for such interesting themes, some of the development wasn't as smooth or well explained as it should have been. But yes, this was a better book in terms of romance than the other woman's fiction by the author I've read. And that helped me think more positively of this book.
Grade: 7/10

Thursday, April 28, 2016

JR Ward - The Beast

Nothing is as it used to be for the Black Dagger Brotherhood. After avoiding war with the Shadows, alliances have shifted and lines have been drawn. The slayers of the Lessening Society are stronger than ever, preying on human weakness to acquire more money, more weapons, more power. But as the Brotherhood readies for an all-out attack on them, one of their own fights a battle within himself…
For Rhage, the Brother with the biggest appetites, but also the biggest heart, life was supposed to be perfect—or at the very least, perfectly enjoyable. Mary, his beloved shellan, is by his side and his King and his brothers are thriving. But Rhage can’t understand—or control—the panic and insecurity that plague him…
And that terrifies him—as well as distances him from his mate. After suffering mortal injury in battle, Rhage must reassess his priorities—and the answer, when it comes to him, rocks his world...and Mary’s. But Mary is on a journey of her own, one that will either bring them closer together or cause a split that neither will recover from..

Comment: This series has been one of my favorites ever since I've started reading PNR. I still look for each new installment because the world the author created is so special and vibrant to me, I often feel like I could belong there somehow.
Yes, some plot themes aren't as interesting or well developed, but overall I still feel in love with the BDB world building and character bonds.

In this novel, we keep following the several sub plots on going but there's a focus on couple Rhage and Mary and some new facts about themselves they need to sort out and deal with. There are many situations to challenge not only their relationship but also their separate personalities..can the two of them work things out?
What about the impact any change can have in their lives?
At the same time war against certain people and the Lesser Society keeps escalating and all the Brothers must act and decide what is the best course of action...

I'm afraid I won't have much to say about this book. In a way, this was positive for me in ways the previous one wasn't (as many other readers must agree with) and it sort of restored my faith in the series. I can't tell if this was the way it was supposed to or if the author felt the need to present us with a book more in the lines of what readers expect, considering the mixed opinions of The Shadows. Anyway, for me this one worked well.

I think the best way for me to summarize my opinion if to say what I liked and disliked, in a list format. These things are the ones that caught reader's attention the most, I think, therefore it's what one can remember more and obviously caused the biggest impact in terms of plot development.
So, positive things:
a) Rhage and Mary's relationship is set in stone. I'm glad the author didn't add some weird twist to this and their main cause of problems was easily solved. I'm very happy with the way things went, but it wasn't such a big surprise, considering the tidbits from long ago pointing towards this direction of events. I'm even more relieved because they are the best example of how a couple can communicate and be happy and in sync with each other and it wasn't necessary to "play" with their relationship and bond. Some readers certainly thought everything was too easy, too predictable, too convenient but from the POV of someone who only wants them happy and has been invested in the community/family I consider them all to be, this was great.
b) again, the connections and relationships between all the characters. I'm a fan of this multi POV scheme of novels, because I love to feel everyone is part of a loving family, of a's good to see so many of them helping each other, trying to be there for others, whether to give a hand or to have a laugh with...we saw this in this book and it surely helped to give the readers another sense of them, after the more depressive previous book.
c) now, this would fall into spoiler category, but in a general idea, I liked how things are moving along with Layla and Xcor...apparently their story is next and I fully expect a HEA at the end of it all, even more so now that some wonderful news happened related to Layla and her pregnancy... and there was quite the huge surprise about Xcor's parents... I can't wait to read the next book!
We also learn a lot about Jo, a human character that has played a part in this book, someone unknown to us but that in the end was revealed to be quite important after all!
I'm proud of Assail as a character, and I really hope the step he took in this book to change to better will be achieved...I suppose he has a long road of challenges in front of him, but I'll keep the faith for him and his  - possible - HEA too...
d) Little scenes with our beloved characters have led me to think good things can happen or, at least, make me dream about it...namely V and Jane, Lassiter and even Saxton...

Of course not all was perfect... two things bothered me a lot and while I can understand the rational part of it because of the world and the settings and everything, I was still bothered when V and another character did something to Assail which I abhor. Eventually they helped him later on, but still...
I also didn't particularly like the path the character of Scribe Virgin is taking... after all, why was she necessary in the first place if she's losing so much importance? A bit weird this....

I guess one needs to be a fan to accept certain things without much fuss. I can understand how some things might look dismissive, easy fixes or silly to some, but overall, this still works for me.
I had a great time reading this book and wanted to keep having glimpses of the characters...I guess I'm fully invested in them and in seeing their lives and world develop. I'm very happy this was one of the "good" books by the author!
Grade: 9/10

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Sandy James - Saving Grace

Grace Riley is on the run—from her past and from her fears. The victim of a violent rape at the hands
of a rich politician’s son, she must “disappear” to escape his constant attempts to recapture her. Moving from cattle drive to cattle drive as a cook, she avoids her tormentor for nearly twenty years. When she discovers that the brother she gave up for adoption after their mother died in childbirth was orphaned at an early age, she is frantic to verify that he’s safe. She tracks him to a cattle ranch in Montana.
Widower Adam Morgan owns the Twin Springs ranch, but finds himself falling into a life of loneliness. Although he enjoys spending time with his grown daughter and the two men he rescued when they were living on the streets, he longs to meet a woman he can love. Living in the Montana territory where men greatly outnumber women makes finding a new wife difficult. Weary of working cattle, he is ready to make some changes in his life.
Grace falls ill on her journey, but she manages to make it to the Twin Springs ranch where her brother is supposed to be living. Adam takes her in, concerned for her health and the reason she’s searching for one of his adopted sons. Their chemistry is immediate and intense, but can Grace heal from her past of pain and fear? When her secrets are finally revealed, can Adam forgive her deceptions and learn to love again? 

Comment: This is the first book by this author that I tried and it's the first in the Safe Havens trilogy. It has been in my TBR list for a while, I got it sometime ago and this month I added it to my reading list. Reviews are mixed so I tried not to read anything and make my own mind about it. It was an interesting read alright but it had some details I think didn't help the book, which could have helped it to be much better than what it is.

In this book we meet Grace Riley, a woman of 34, sort of, that has been running from a man that ruined her life but still needed his help to find the son she gave up many years ago. She only wants to know how he is and finally meet him so somehow she tracks him down to the Twin Springs ranch, where he used to work. There she meets Adam, the owner, and his daughter Victoria and they help her recover from illness and fatigue.
However, Grace isn't alone, her brother Matthew arrives after her, he's been the one who has always helped to protect her. Together they try to run from the man that caused all their troubles but now they found a place where both can find some happiness. Can they do it?

This story has a lot of elements for us to think about. In a way, it can get confusing because too many things happen for us to pay attention to and, that is also distracting and makes us loose focus on what matters...which, for me, would be Grace and Adam's relationship. 
How interesting to see an historical where the main couple is over 34... I was very interested in seeing the relationship develop but it wasn't as magical as I hoped.

First, they meet when she's obviously in a delicate position, she's sick. I thought this would be the way for them to slowly get to know each other, for Grace to start trusting Adam and while this happened, it was much faster than what I anticipated.
Secondly, Grace doesn't trust men and according to the book, she hasn't been with anyone since the man she's running from raped her and made her need to run in the first place. But then she meets Adam ans suddenly she can't help but liking and wanting to be with him, even if it took some time for that to happen. I can understand love at first sight, but full trust and acceptance?
So, basically they were attracted, took some time before admitting a relationship but it certainly wasn't the emotional and romantic journey I expected.

There's a second romance in here, Adam's daughter Victoria and Grace's brother Matthew have feelings for each other, but they take their time admitting and working on them. But when they do it's so cliché and with moving forward and getting back again repetitively that I think part of this strategy only makes us lose interest.

The villain isn't anything special, he's mostly mean and vain and I still can't understand why he felt he had to go through so much effort to be with Grace...sure he thought, in his twisted mind, that she was like "propriety" for him but when we learn the beginning of their story and why Grace is running, it's actually pretty basic and not up to the sort of behavior he has.
I got the feeling he was just a handy excuse for Grace to have met Adam.

Throughout the story I also got the feeling we should rush and move ahead for what is suppose to happen next. I got the feeling the narrative/writing wasn't focused on the things we were reading but in what we were supposed to look for.
But the reality is the writing isn't very exciting and many scenes seem fake or repetition of things we've seen before because they don't really help us knowing the characters better. I just think the narrative wasn't very appealing. Somehow things are too ordinary for me to consider them special and the characters weren't acting like their personalities' description makes us believe.
I think the book has qualities, it's readable and I finished it well enough but it isn't amazing nor vibrant as I hoped for such an interesting theme and possibilities.

In the end, all ends well for both couples and their friends, their lives move forward quite well... there's a sequel which I plan to read one day but right now it isn't a priority.
The writing just didn't win me over.
Grade: 6/10

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Elizabeth Haynes - Human Remains

How well do you know your neighbours? Would you notice if they lived or died? Police analyst Annabel wouldn’t describe herself as lonely. Her work keeps her busy and the needs of her ageing mother and her cat are more than enough to fill her time when she’s on her own. But Annabel is shocked when she discovers her neighbour’s decomposing body in the house next door, and appalled to think that no one, including herself, noticed her absence. Back at work she sets out to investigate, despite her police officer colleagues’ lack of interest, and finds data showing that such cases are frighteningly common in her own home town. A chilling thriller and a hymn to all the lonely people, whose individual voices haunt the pages, Elizabeth Haynes’ new novel is a deeply disturbing and powerful thriller that preys on our darkest fears, showing how vulnerable we are when we live alone, and how easily ordinary lives can fall apart when no one is watching.

Comment: Since I've read Into the Darkest Corner, another book by the author, and liked it, I looked at her other titles and this one caught my attention. I was very curious about it and if it would have the same psychological effect as the other one, which was quite the suspense and thriller. In a way this was better in some things but not as much in others, simply different.

This book starts with Annabel, a woman who works in the police station as an analyst and who takes care of her mother, while living a very lonely life too. She isn't the most popular person at work and is slightly overweight which makes her someone overlooked and dismissed.
The story starts when Annabel discovers the decomposing body of her neighbor and she never guessed she was missing, much less dead. After some research, she finds out the number of people found dead at home has increased a lot in the city, much more than in anywhere else. Could something be going on? Are all those people just dead of natural causes? And what about neighbors, family, how can so many people die without someone else giving the alert?

This is a very clever book but then again, the author has proved she has a mind for details, logic and a structured plot.
There are differences to the other book I've read by her. This one I felt was less oppressive, not as suggestive but the villain was a quiet one at it. This book doesn't have a romance interest either, which made it less thrilling in that aspect. I think I could stomach this one better in terms of reading but the theme is surely a lot more twisted.

The way I saw it, there are two main ideas to make us think in this book.
1) depression exists and has an impact on people and
2) getting to know the people around might not be nosiness but care and concern.
The truly incisive issue in the book is an alert to us, because we live our busy lives without much attention to what surrounds us and to our neighbors. In small places maybe that wouldn't happen as easily, but in big cities, anonymity is a way of life but also a problem if psychopaths are around. Because we can't know for sure what someone else is thinking and how can we survive if someone preys on us. The solution isn't to call each neighbor in out street every day, but to keep an eye on people who live alone, be alert in case strange people are in the area...that won't stop a mad person from doing harm, but it will be a step to try to help.

Another issue is depression. This book deals with it, how easy it is to forget those ill people because so many of us - and society itself - won't acknowledge how problematic and dangerous that illness can be. Being depressive isn't a state of being, is an illness that affects you and changes you and makes you believe in wrong things. I haven't read many romance novels with this theme but in this thriller, the author does a great job portraying the extreme side effects of it.

So, basically, this novel has a villain that uses techniques - proved somehow - to convince depressive people they are better dead, we learn this very early in the story. The whys or hows of this are quite the interesting theme but yes, they can have some morbidity involved some readers might think too much.
The we have Annabel, someone with the symptoms of depression as well, someone who fits the pattern and someone who will be key to show us it is possible to overcome that but if we have help, if we have people who care about us, all will be easier. Any burden is always easier if we can trust in someone who will help us. I think this is a good lesson, if not always as easy to practice.

The book is told from Annabel and Colin's POV, heroine and villain. We also have some POVs of the victims, which helps to explain why they got to the point where Colin was able to convince them the end was better than any fighting.
And here's the twist: some of the villain's arguments to why his actions have merit are actually reasonable. This is how a psychopath's mind works, it convinces you that what they do isn't totally wrong. Of course, the point here is, if we do have the ability or possibility to help, then we should do it and not influence people to do something they shouldn't.

With time we learn about how everything is possible, how twisted the villain's mind is it possible that some people can think like that, how can it be possible that some individuals have brains that degenerate like that? This is the truly sick part of all this, that people who look and act normal might be hiding someone as awful and clinical as this villain.
The end is positive for Annabel, but I wished her life would have a stronger purpose, namely with the help of a romance...but it didn't happen. The last chapter is a sad reality, unless dead, a psychopath is always plotting...

I think this is a great book, it gives you food for thought. The police procedures seem realistic, the plot structure too and Annabel's personality fitting today's society that pushes aside anyone away from the so called norm. But among all the problems and challenges indifference puts in out way, there are still beacons of hope and in a way, this book can be one to let us be aware that positivism can exist and help can be there if one needs it.
I'll look forward to read more things by this author.
Grade: 8/10

Saturday, April 23, 2016

World Book Day 2016

Today the world celebrates Book Day!
I hope all of you readers out there can spare a few moments (or hours!) to read a book or browse libraries or bookshops!
If not for having to work, I'd love to be in a place like the one in this image:

So, happy reading everyone!
Enjoy World Book Day!!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Sophie Kinsella - Twenties Girl

Lara has always had an overactive imagination. Now she wonders if she is losing her mind. Normal twenty-something girls just don't get visited by ghosts! But inexplicably, the spirit of Lara's great aunt Sadie - in the form of a bold, demanding Charleston-dancing girl - has appeared to make one last request: Lara must track down a missing necklace Sadie simply can't rest without.
Lara's got enough problems of her own. Her start-up company is floundering, her best friend and business partner has run off to Goa, and she's just been dumped by the love of her life.
But as Lara spends time with Sadie, life becomes more glamorous and their treasure hunt turns into something intriguing and romantic. Could Sadie's ghost be the answer to Lara's problems and can two girls from different times end up learning something special from each other?

Comment: I bought this book along some others last year in a used books bookstore because despite my pet peeves with this author's work, I still appreciate the time I spend with her characters, so I added this one to my TBR list. This month I gave it a go.

This is the story of Lara Lington, a young woman who works at a job she doesn't understand, has a family she can't impress and at her grand-aunt's funeral she starts seeing ghosts, namely the young version of the deceased talking to her, asking about a necklace.
Lara can't help bust listen and that will put her in positions where others think she's weird and where she ends up making a fool out of herself... in trying to help Sadie, the ghost, and trying to get together with her ex, Lara also meets Ed and gets to know the history of a famous painting...somehow all this will be important to help Sadie. And what about the family secrets?
Will Lara be able to do something to make the past right?

This is quite the story, a woman helping the ghost of her great aunt so she can find peace and all in a comic sort of style. The author is known for her funny books, funny heroines and completely unlikely situations which somehow translates into a quirky book with a HEA at the end.
Usually I feel entertained enough by this author's books because there's always a certain spark of seriousness, of human emotions in a scene, a moment, which make me think and "feel" for while and that's the key points for me. But oh, to suffer through some of the silliest situations ever to get to that...

I understand it's probably the thing that appeals the most to readers. I mean, if one can't stand this anyway, the book wouldn't be read, but often, to me, it's too much.
Some situations are too unlikely, too exaggerated to be credible, even in a fictional/comic book. And the fact it happens so many times in one book...
Yes, this is the author's style and I expect it so, but at the same tie I keep hoping the next book will be more balanced, not as silly, with less caricatures of British seems difficult to accept people could actually behave like that in real life, even if in a controlled way.

The plot is interesting, although Sadie the ghost could be annoying at times. Lara is a good person and we get to understand her softer, more romantic side as the book moves along. I liked how she grew to realize it was important to Sadie to find a special necklace and from then on, the best part of the story developed, when Lara started to think seriously about it and the plot gained a new, more polished, life. Like I said, it is a good plot, even more so with the Lington family secrets arising as the book went towards it's finale, too bad about the ridiculous parts which never seem funny to me anyway.

Lara is trying to reconnect with her ex and she can't seem to "see" reality, and when she finally does, it's so quickly done...I mean, I know she had to, so she could be prepared later on to accept she could develop true feelings for someone else, but still...
The good romance is between Lara and Ed, someone she only goes after because Sadie thinks he's attractive. I liked their personalities and how calm they seemed to be together. Most times, in the single title books by the author, we get the notion they will have a HEA but there's never epilogues showing us that, so I liked it enough when things work out well and we can imagine how things could develop out of the page.

Lara is a special person. I liked her, especially in the end when she finds the truth behind a famous painting, its history, and also how that is connected to Sadie and her uncle Bill, who the world knows a  renowned coffee entrepreneur. There's a certain layer of interest int his book which gives it points and I liked that. Good was also how Lara realized some things and did what she could to make her life happier. This is the best message int he author's books: we have the tools to make out life happier but that may mean we have to overcome hurdles that aren't easy for us to deal with. But the result can be amazing, we just have to believe in ourselves. (And having someone believing with us helps too).

After finishing the book, I was glad I read it, I liked the romance, Lara, Sadie after all... but I can't put aside the ridiculous scenes and how totally unapproachable they are to relate to our real lives. It removes some of the appeal for me but I can understand why it meets expectations of many.
Grade: 7/10

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Robin Sloan - Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone - and serendipity, coupled with sheer curiosity, has landed him a new job working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead they simply borrow impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he's embarked on a complex analysis of the customers' behaviour and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what's going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore... 

Comment: This book has had quite the fame since it was released but mostly around the time it hit shelves. I added it to my TBR list because it was set on a bookstore and after my personal library and public libraries, bookstores are probably the best place to be in, so..I felt interested. Plus, all the reviews were positive for the most part and this month I just had to read it, even more so because it's not such a voluminous book.

In this book we meet Clay Jannon, an unemployed young man who accepts a job during the night in a 24 hour bookstore because he needs money to pay the rent and because a boring job is always better than not having a job at all. There aren't many costumers but the bookstore still manages to pay him a salary... and there are many rules, strange things happening when certain people do come in...many times Clay is left wondering what is really going on and why a certain section of the bookstore is only accessible to some people.
With the help of some friends, however, Clay decides to try to figure out some patters and ideas and what he discovers surprises not only his bookstore boss but puts them on a road to something bigger and unbelievable but that will change them all...or not?

This book is divided into three parts, to summarize, about the bookstore, a hidden library and a tower; all things connected in ways we don't always understand but which explain the weirdness of many things.
My favorite part was certainly the first, when we are living things through Clay's eyes in the bookstore, how strange many things are, why certain rules exist, when we follow Clay's attempts to bring more costumers to the store, how that will help him decode certain mysteries in the future... there's precisely this air of mystery around which I found impressive. Then we get to know some more characters through Clay's descriptions, and there's a wide range of ideas, concepts, notions, from Google to 3D reconstruction, among several others. All this added some technical feel to the story which, on one hand made it look "smarter" and, on the other, gave it more food for thought, even for people not always used to hear about it.
I read this first part very fast because everything was compiling to turn this into a clever, witty story. Yes, some stereotypes included, but that is to be expected, I guess.

Then we get to the other parts.
Basically, the whole story is to try to decode something to help the bookstore's owner, Mr Penumbra, to maintain his bookstore open and discover the mystery, the message hidden in the code which many people in a cult are looking for in the not-accessible-to-all books.
The second part is about an experiment and the result of t and the last part is about another explanation and final resolutions. We also have an epilogue where we learn what happens in all main character's lives.
Honestly I felt lost after the second part because what used to be mysterious but addictive turned into weirdness and confusion. I really didn't get the whole cult idea and why they had to make such a big deal out of something that is mostly private and centered on a writer or two and not such a big reveal as we are led to believe... sure, any book lover would love to find hidden messages from authors or other people in books, but as an explanation for this book and why it justified some actions and plot developments I simply didn't think it is that credible.
Perhaps I just didn't get the idea and there's a part of fantasy in all this too, but I was really invested in Clay, his inner thoughts and the people around him that had specific skills and devices that could help him and Mr Penumbra and everything went towards a path I didn't feel was as interesting or mysterious. Things turned too technical and the big goal everyone was after, what led everyone to try to reach a conclusion turned out to be something rather meh in terms of storyline, even if it gets some interest to our reader minds.

I suppose part of what makes this book amazing to many is Clay and his unique way of looking at things. Surely, I agree with that, but I think part of the story lost points to me when it turned too mystical and not as captivating as I hoped. I liked the mix of modern and ancient knowledge when it comes to books and our interpretation of them, of how we can analyze and decode them but then the human part of all this lacked something because I never felt that the characters were real people, despite the descriptions we have. In the beginning everything was interesting but then turned not so great in the whole scheme of things.

All things considered, this is a good story, not original, but with many elements that can attract book lovers to it, however, some things, namely the development, the excess of clichés when it comes to characters and the lack of impact in the end made me lower a very good grade to something more average but, as it happens to any story, it's a matter of perspective.
Grade: 6/10

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

TBR Challenge: Nancy Herkness - Country Roads

When sheltered artist Julia Castillo flees her family home, she has just one goal: to prove to her overbearing family once and for all that she can make it on her own. In Sanctuary, West Virginia, her horse paintings promise to take the art world by storm. Yet Julia finds her courage tested as never before—by her love for a handsome country lawyer, by her bond with a dangerous black stallion, and by the secret she is so desperate to keep…
Paul Taggart abandoned his high-powered legal career to return to Sanctuary, giving up his own dreams to care for his troubled brother. But the day he rescues Julia Castillo from the side of the highway, his staid, responsible life changes forever. Irresistibly drawn to the fiery but unworldly artist, Paul will do anything to protect her—even sacrifice his own happiness to guarantee hers. Dramatic and emotional, Country Roads is a heartwarming tale of two people struggling to balance the bonds of family with a passionate love of their own.

Comment: This is another TBR Challenge read. This month the theme is Contemporary and I picked this book because of that and also because I wanted to read more about the characters I've met in the first book in this Whisper Horse trilogy. The books are set in Virginia and revolve around the idea of people needing a whisper horse to lay their issues and problems down and the horse's presence will help them come to terms to any decision or step they would need to take. However, I think this is only a secondary element, to be honest.

We first met Paul Taggart in the first book and he's a gentleman although part of his life seems to be constricted somehow. One day he helps Julia Castillo, someone we also know from the first book because she's a famous artist, with her car and somehow he becomes her lawyer too.
But Julia is running from a situation she feels she can't control and Paul and her newfound whisper horse will help her come to realize what she wants to do with her life.
Paul and Julia start off as friends but their relationship quickly changes to something more... but can the two of them let go of all the things bringing them down to take a step towards not only happiness but self worth?

I enjoyed reading this book. I think the author has a good control over her story, she writes well and the narrative is fluid and polished, carefully presented and executed.
All seems perfect except... it's too perfect. I think the plot was thought about and prepared but it lacks more passion or closeness to what one would expect of a small town and romantic characters...
I also had this issue, sort of, with the first book. I had a good time but I didn't feel I was being dazzled by everything that was happening, it was more like being led through well staged scenes. It doesn't mean there are no feelings expressed here or more intense scenes showing us the characters' wishes and thoughts, but... too easy to read.

I mean, there's nothing wrong with the writing. I can understand what's happening, what we are supposed to believe in or wonder about when it comes to the character's, but something is definitely lacking and I can't think of the right word.

The two main characters, Paul and Julia, face personal issues that influence their decisions and choices in life and it can get frustrating to read about. But if we think about it a bit more, in real life, how difficult it is to do radical changes in our lives, to makes ourselves believe we can do it... things do work out in the end because this is a romance novel, but there's food for though for us too.
Their relationship progresses well, rather quickly to be honest, I think I would have liked a little less polite agreement and a bit more fighting their feelings so the book could have more strength, more vibrancy or something... everything is too perfect with them.
Sure, part of t is their personalities...I liked Paul more, I think his character is better developed, especially with little references here and thereto his thoughts, to what other think of him, how he feels about it...
Julia is someone we just met, I do have to say she sounds a bit whiny even if she has reasons for it! And she does, but it's my impression.
Still, they get a HEA, again too convenient and perfect and not as romantic as I imagined despite the interesting scene where Paul tells her he loves her...

The plot has some interesting elements. I liked knowing more about art and expectations artists face, I liked seeing how two people can rationalize even when they face difficult challenges in heir personal lives, I enjoyed seeing friends offer a hand and how Paul and Julia found comfort in their friendship and intimacy...
But then the main characters, despite their notions about reality and what should be done, still took too long to act in certain situations. I've said it's something expected in real life but in a story it would have been great to see them be braver or be decisive sooner.
I know it sounds complicated but what endeared me to the story can also be seen from a different, less "magical" perspective.

All in all, Paul's life as lawyer and falling in love and Julia's change of art inspiration and falling in love are wonderful themes to develop a romance plot, but all things considered, the narrative was  a little bit too perfect, too polished to make this as captivating as I hoped. It's enjoyable, fluid but I wanted a bit more out of it...
I'm still curious about book #3 and will read it soon.
Grade: 7/10

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Jennifer Ashley - Tiger Magic

He doesn’t have a name. He doesn’t have a clan. The humans who held him prisoner for forty years have taken them away. He knew nothing but captivity until nearly a year ago, when he was released into the light. Now Tiger lives in the Austin Shiftertown, where he struggles to belong and searches for an identity.
Carly Randal thinks her fabulous life is complete—until her car breaks down on the side of the road, and a wild-looking Shifter is the only one to help her. Tiger takes one look at Carly and knows instantly—she will be his mate. As Carly is drawn into his Shifter world, she risks everything she has for that forbidden something she still wants: passionate love.

Comment: This is installment #5 in the Shifters Unbound series by Jennifer Ashley. I'm behind on this series but I'll try to read the more recent books so I can catch-up. Because this series has so many novellas in between full length stories and often featuring known characters, it's more difficult to keep up.

In this book we have Tiger's story. He is a character that first showed up in the previous book and was rescued from a secret location. Because he's a Shifter he was welcomed in Austin, in the Shiftertown ruled by Liam Morrissey (from book #1), and he has been living a pretty quiet life, learning to be human and follow rules...until the day he helps a woman with her broken car. He immediately recognizes her as his mate and despite all the others telling him he can't know, he's a different Shifter, more primal, and knows it as truth.
But there are people after him and the secrets he might have about his existence... can Tiger help his mate, help his new friends and find happiness?

I liked this book, mostly because of the scenes featuring many known characters, which gives this story a sense of family, of connection between the characters.
But the main plot, dedicated to Tiger and Carly wasn't as interesting as I hoped. Their bond is important yes, but the way they got to be close to one another was too easy...

Tiger is a special Shifter, he was created in a lab and not in a shifter community and we all know the setting is part of the stimuli that helps us shape out personality, our sense of self and who we are in a group... so I can understand why his behavior and personality were quieter, more suspicious, not always playing along... but then his general behavior wasn't always captivating to em, even when I rationalize that he couldn't help it if he didn't have an example growing up.

Carly is his mate. She finds out she has been cheated on by her supposed fiancé and Tiger is there to help her, but then things get out of control and she is the one who needs o help him. From then on she gets to know more people from Shiftertown and still running from the guy that wants Tiger for an experiment. I assume this is too much to handle but Carly is always positive, accepts things very easily, including her reaction and attraction to Tiger. Well, I can debate that insta-love is almost the thing to look for in shifter stories with the "mate" vibe or something, but it looks like such an easy path, that I wasn't overly impressed.
Then their personalities weren't my favorites...and I feel the author could add a bit more structure to the romances...they all look very similar, even with different characters.

The plot was basic, we knew the good guys would win and to be honest I wasn't terribly interested in it... I preferred to focus on the characters' interactions, which is the thing I love the most in see former and future characters interact, being part of a family or a society I want to see being happy and strong.
I loved seeing Tiger with the children, the children characters are some of the most interesting characters of them all, the simplicity but the way they allow grown ups to have softer scenes... I like the way all this makes the stories feel cohesive, focused on what is important to the Shifters, which is family and safety for them all.

The book has many interesting things but the most important thing,t he main romance wasn't as spectacular as that. I didn't feel their relationship was particularly balanced, especially because Tiger didn't get some of the society nuances and Carly was too much a happy camper or following along too easily.
Then, the end. Many people don't think it was up to the plot, but I didn't mind it much because the family bonds is what interests me the most. Still, I get it that the end could have been a let down, after all the explanation behind Tiger's existence and why it was vital for the bad guy to catch him were moot points after such a turnabout. Like someone said, things happen too fast, both in plot pace and in romance development to be considered more romantic or polished.

All in all, a good enough romance, several things worked out for me, but some others didn' I feel happy enough with this book but I wasn't impressed. I hope the following ones are better.
Grade: 6/10