Wednesday, November 19, 2014

TBR Challenge: Jeannie Lin - The Lotus Palace

It is a time of celebration in the Pingkang Li, where imperial scholars and bureaucrats mingle with beautiful courtesans. At the center is the Lotus Palace, home of the most exquisite courtesans in China...
Maidservant Yue-ying is not one of those beauties. Street-smart and practical, she's content to live in the shadow of her infamous mistress—until she meets the aristocratic playboy Bai Huang.
Bai Huang lives in a privileged world Yue-ying can barely imagine, yet alone share, but as they are thrown together in an attempt to solve a deadly mystery, they both start to dream of a different life. Yet Bai Huang's position means that all she could ever be to him is his concubine—will she sacrifice her pride to follow her heart?

Comment: This month the TBR Challenge theme is historical romance. I do confess to have countless of titles that fit the bill. But as I schedule books for each month, I looked at the titles for November and several could be chosen but I decided to go with this one because it's different from what we usually see in historicals. Personally I've never read about set in China, a romance that is. I've seen movies but books not really, so I thought this would be a good choice.

The Lotus Palace is the story of Yue-ying, a maidservant to one of the most beautiful courtesans in China. She knows her place and what her life will always be like but she is content to help Mingyu, the person she owes it all to.
But as a guest of the Lotus Palace, Bai Huang keeps tracking her down. And he isn't just looking for sex as she first thought, despite his possible choice of several other women much prettier and accomplished than her. What Bai Huang wants is her help to find a mysterious person who is guilty of several crimes, including murder. Someone who frequents the Lotus Palace...
While looking for clues and maneuvering social etiquette, Yue-ying will have to weight in her own feelings and her expectations about her life so she can find happiness....or not.

I was really surprised by this book. Nothing like I ever read in the genre, but I saw its praising in some blogs and review sites and decided to try it. I got this book back in May, but now was the time I picked to start it.
I've seen movies set in Asia and some have moved me amazingly. «Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon» was an amazing movie and it portrayed romance and tragedy and all the impossibilities we might have found in an Asian society heavily based on honor and duty and rules. I loved the movie even though I cried a lot, but I found this Lotus Palace to be a book very similar in subject and ideas, but with obviously if different story and situations.

The book shows us characters very different in society's eyes. Yue-ying is poor, a maidservant and a former prostitute. She was rescued by her current mistress and she is faithful to her and is content to live this way for she hated being a prostitute. She didn't have much choice though, and not only because a birthmark on her cheek stopped her from being a more respected courtesan. Yue-ying just never got a chance since she was a young child. She is every cynical abut the world, about how things happen but of course there's nothing she can do and often during the book we see her say exactly that when faced with any situation. There are many secrets about her existence but what made me notice her the most was how little she allowed herself to dream. I think this is one of the biggest differences I saw in this book when compared to an historical set on other places, like England. Despite the difficulties there's always the idea dreams can happen somehow, but Yue-ying lived in a place where that wasn't even possible because society is so peculiar.
Bai Huang was a good counterpart because he seemed more flexible but he had a responsibility too and both his sides, the funnier and the serious ones fit together properly.

The cultural differences to what I was used to slowed me down a bit. The characters are very faithful to that idea that passion and exuberance are to be hidden or non existent, something we might see in other novels, and here I had a bit of a hard time picturing the main characters happiness even when they talked about good things. It just seemed doomed all the time. I think there's a clear negative vibe throughout the book. Some things are so unfair and illogical to be true, but I know the author must have been very faithful to how society was during that time.

The romance showed this as well. It seemed things couldn't only go one way and no matter what the characters did, doom was the only path. They could be happy but there would be a price to pay and that could be both their honor, their dedication to each other and although acceptable by law I can understand how and why that wouldn't do. A HEA happens and I'm glad but it was gotten by miracle almost. Not totally innovative but after such heavy trouble before it almost seemed the HEA was a consolation prize and not a necessity. Just my feel about it.

The mystery solution was done well, the intensity of what was happening,, the reasons why some characters took action had a special an powerful meaning and were understood quite well. I think the author did a great job in setting the action, the atmosphere to better understand all the details a society like that and why the murderer go away with it for a while. The guilty had their deserving end too.
The study one can o on these characters is quite interesting. The author made them all alive somehow and gave them souls and minds to fit the plot and a complexity we can't help but see. Each one acts a certain way and almost walks all the emotions of a human being. I can't explain it well, but I felt their actions and the weight of their lives in their actions and words. I think this isn't easy to do and the author managed it well.

All in all, a brilliant character development, an intriguing plot but for me the most interesting thing, almost the bittersweet one, was the characterization of everyone in this book. I get it but it still made me down a bit sometimes, over the helplessness of things and despite the great work, the negativity of some things just made me feel sad and thus a not perfect grade.
Still, this is a recommended read for sure.
Grade: 7/10

Monday, November 17, 2014

Eresse - In Fine Form

A bastard of unknown parentage, Yandro Vaidon was born saddled with a huge disadvantage. The nigh
rigid class structure of the dual-gendered realm of Ylandre relegated him to the bottom rungs of the social ladder and promised a dim future. Worse, the endeavor to win respectability was arduous—most claimed it was impossible. But by dint of hard work, perseverance and instances of plain good luck, Yandro rises higher than even he had hoped. However, he quickly learns there are hurdles to overcome even at these heights. Not least is his inconvenient attraction to a colleague deemed way beyond his reach.
Scion of House Essendri, the reigning dynasty of Ylandre, Jareth Hadrana is gifted with more than his fair share of beauty and wit. The kingdom’s preeminent ambassador, he has surpassed what is usually expected of a fief-lord’s second son. But while his high birth and family wealth opened doors for him, Jareth’s success stemmed from his own efforts to make something of himself other than the idle fop or swaggering rakehell that was the lot of many younger sons.
A coincidence of interest drew Jareth and Yandro to the same profession, but a king’s intervention throws them together in an association that soon turns into mutual desire. However, prejudices have largely kept the aristocratic True Bloods and lower caste Half Bloods on opposite sides of the social and romantic divide. In addition, reticence born of distrust and a secret like no other hamper their attempts to span the chasm between them. It will take more than their shared passion to convince them to lower their protective walls and risk their hearts in full.

Comment: This is the most recent installment in the Chronicles of Ylandre series by the author. In this book we have a couple that has been working together for long but never acted on their attraction. This series shows us a fantasy world where genders evolved and now only the hermaphrodites Deir exist. This is a world full of imagination and details but still focusing a lot on human feelings and experiences.

This book shows Yandro, a man coming from doubtful origins, he is an orphan who got something out of life sue to his own worth and work. He feels attracted to his new boss as soon as he meets him but he has a work code he respects so he never acted on his feelings or planed on revealing them.
Jareth comes from the ruling royal family tree and his wealth and influences would make sure he didn't have to work but he isn't one to just exist, he wants to do something valuable so he works where he knows his abilities will be more needed. Yandro is the only one of his aids who never tried to gain his good graces intimately so he respects him and can't help but feeling something for him too, something that evolves to love. But their roles and origins can be on the way if they don't admit they love each other...

I liked this story a lot. I think it was well done and the relationship between the two main characters was portrayed quite well too.
This book also has a lot of politics but I'll be honest, I didn't pay much attention to those parts. Not that those aren't important, after all they provide plot development and help explain how many things work, it helps to contextualize everything. But for me these books have their strength in the relationships and the society workings. I think the author does a great job in imagining so many details about how such a society would work, the rules which have a lot of what we know of reality and historical times. The characters have depth and their reactions and feelings seem real.

The main point in this book is Yandro and Jareth' relationship. They come from different sides of the society and Yandro feels the prejudice because of his origins. Some things are expected of him because of that be he always tried to be more while keeping his honor and willingness to work and prove his worth. I think his character just proves people with humbler origins can be as important and hardworking as any one and that doesn't affect his personality. He has a good grip on how things work but he still has dreams.
Jareth is rich, comes from an important family but he isn't lazy or wastes his time. He found a work that he is good at but he still keeps his secrets. I liked how he shared important things about himself with Yandro and how he trusted him.
Communication is key in a romantic relationship and these to have had their issues because of a lack of it. But I never got the feeling this was silly misunderstandings as it happens often in romances, they had expectations about their roles and while they never judged the other because of what they thought the other should be like or be with, they still had their personal doubts and like anyone else in the world, they wanted to be worthy of the one they loved.

I think the emotional situations provided in this book were well approached and dealt with. Jareth and Yandro had issues to solve before admitting to a relationship and I felt for them in their journey to acceptance. No that they didn't say they had feelings, but sometimes people just need to speak. I liked the pace of the story and how all the things we would want to see took its time but were done well.

Some political parts were a bit boring and there was this character that, although I understood its presence due to plot issues, I still would have done something different, and these are the reasons why the grade isn't higher.
Still, the goos things made me read the book fast and it was hard to put it down.

I liked the end a lot. It's always so good to have an epilogue that works, that doesn't feel like a duty just because and that helps proving the good guys deserve happiness.
I think the issues about relationships addressed in this story were dealt with fine for the most part and in terms of romance and writing, it was done very well.
I hope there are more stories to come in this world.
Grade: 8/10

Kimberly Raye - Dead End Dating

A vivacious vampire with a flair for accessorizing, Lil Marchette is unlike most of her kind. She prefers lively shades of pink to dismal black (soo not her color), plus she's a hopeless romantic. In need of a steady paycheck to support a compulsive cosmetics habit, Lil starts Dead End Dating (DED), a Manhattan-based matchmaking service that helps smart, sophisticated singles like herself find eternity mates-and may even help her stake a claim to her very own Count Right!
When Lil meets geeky vampire Francis Deville, she knows he's the perfect first client. If she can hook up Francis-after a little revamping, of course-she will prove her skills to the vampire community and turn DED into the hottest dating service in the Big Apple. But just as her business takes off, Lil meets the (literally) drop-dead gorgeous bounty hunter Ty Bonner, who is hot on the chase of a serial killer. Instantly drawn to the luscious vamp stud, Lil really wants a taste. But as a made vampire, Ty can't procreate-and Lil will settle for nothing less. Luckily, between "vampifying" Francis and helping Ty solve his murder mystery, Lil has no time for silly romantic entanglements . . . even if Ty is all that and a Bloody Mary chaser!

Comment: I've had this book to read for a long time years in the pile. One of those you get and set aside to read later and somehow time goes away and there comes a day you see it again and think, oh are you still there and then pick it up. Sometimes one hits jackpot and feels guilty over letting such a book escape for so long. Other times you just nod and do some philosophy about the time passing/tastes changing theories.

This book tells the story of Lil Marchette, a born vampire who starts a matchmaking service. Lil lives in a world where vampires are divided into those who are born that way and the ones who are made. There are humans too and other types of creatures. 
Lil wants to be more independent and prove she can be successful at something but there's a serial killer on the loose and he prays on women who use dating services like Lil's. So, when a bounty hunter comes along to ask Lil's help to find the killer, she accepts and not just because she wants to help, but also because she is attracted to Ty, the bounty hunter, who's also a made vampire. And made vampires don't mix with born vampires.

This book was quite the disappointment.
I also think it's one of those books you would have enjoyed a lot more at a certain point in your reading life and not nowadays. I've read some chick lit series, even with the vampire theme and I have liked them at the time. Today I see this isn't something I have much patience for. My taste changed and despite considering myself an eclectic reader, I prefer to read things with a more serious tone and if by chance I try funnier books I want them to be funny for a reason. This story didn't seemed that funny anyway.

There are many rules in this world, apparently. Namely social and etiquette rules. Ok, but any positive things we could welcome from this book get almost hidden behind a loud writing and nonsense plot.
I think the biggest issue for me was the way the story is told. This has a first person narrator but there was quite the lack of purpose in the plot, there was more time dedicated to Lil's thoughts and comments on anything that actual plot moving along. If one thinks well, the plot was basic, simple and fast. I wasn't actually interesting in reading, just wanted to get it over quickly so I could start a new book instead.
I liked how the author tried to insert interesting things, usually when related to secondary characters, so we could see how that shows Lil's personality, she isn't vacant, she cares for others and tries to help. But the attempted funny tone didn't strike me as easy, it sounded fake and rushed and that distracted me from any good thing on Lil's characterization.

The secondary characters have a thing or two that could be seen as important to the story, showing off another aspects in contrast with Lil and her family (all snobs?). I just didn't warm up with anyone, not even Lil, to feel interested in knowing more about them.

The romance didn't happen, was just hinted at and I guess this was because this is first in a series. I do not plan to read more tough.
Like I said, the writing wasn't well done for me, too many distracting tools, main characters always thinking more than acting and the main plot wasn't subtle or funny for real nor didn't even matter much. The serial killer was caught easily and most things were dealt in the most basic way.
This book wasn't for me, but I can't say I feel bad about it after such a disjointed story and execution.
Grade: 3/10

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Susan Wiggs - Enchanted Afternoon

The wife of an ambitious senator, Helena Cabot is the perfect accessory for a man whose hunger for power knows no bounds. But she married for all the wrong reasons and now she is trapped with a dangerous man. Fearing for her safety, Helena ends her marriage and flees to a safe haven. But she soon understands that it's impossible to outrun the past, so she turns to Michael Rowan for help. Michael broke her young heart years before, but Helena must learn to trust him again so that together they can face the dangers that lie ahead.

Comment: In the sequence of my reading of Susan Wiggs' Calhoun Chronicles, here's another one of the installments. I've enjoyed all the books so far, but I have to say of them all, this one is probably the one I've liked the least. Not that is bad, but when comparing them all so far, this one didn't seem as magical as any of the previous ones.

This is Helena's story, the older sister of Abigail, from the previous book. We know Helena has an image he shows to everyone but deep own she is like any other young woman, she wanted happiness and love.This book starts ten years after the happenings in Halfway to Heaven and presents us an Helena with some issues to deal with and for that she asks for Professor Rowan's help, despite the way they parted ways. But now a new fear makes Helena bolder and willing to take charge.
When things didn't go well, will Professor Rowan still have the effect he once had on her?

Like I said, this wasn't my favorite book but it still had many elements to make it a good read. Only, as everything in life, we usually focus more on the negative aspects because they tend to be more obvious, overall. Again, this is just a general idea, nothing that affects the reading of this book by other readers. But for me, the things that could have been better seemed more obvious than the good things that exist, which still make this a good story with strong scenes.

My issue with this book is how the main characters, who were in love but never admitted to each other, after ten years apart now meet again when she asks for his help but it doesn't seem they deal with it in the most emotional way. One can say lack of emotion is a reaction on itself, but I was hoping to see them deal with things in a more aggressive way, I guess. I wanted them to experience further the years of separation, the issues that put them apart and I wanted them to learn to deal with their new relationship in a much more alive way too.
I think the way the story developed made them close together again but it wasn't really the emotional journey I thought would happen, basically because all their interactions seemed distant, and when physical attraction was mentioned things didn't change much.
All in all, their connection never seemed perfect, although I was glad they had an HEA.

The plot had many elements to almost camouflage the main couple's relationship. Some things, namely Helena's new found purposes and inner strength were wonderful to watch, as was the interaction with many secondary character that fill this book. But despite Helena's ties with the characters from the previous book, the main characters from that story barely showed up here. I get it, in terms of plot needs, but's really weird when people who are known to be close practically never make an appearance after...

There are some secrets to uncover in this book. Some seemed a real surprise and they played the role they had to in order to move the plot along. Others were more predictable, but still interesting to see develop. There are some scenes and subjects addressed here that can be very pertinent to see and to think about. 

In the end, this was a successful book, but not as engrossing as I hoped for and compared to the previous ones, not as beautiful.
Still, it was entertaining and had enough elements to make me enjoy it overall.
Grade: 7/10

Friday, November 14, 2014

Nora Roberts - High Noon

Police Lieutenant Phoebe MacNamara found her calling at an early age when an unstable man broke into her family's home, trapping and terrorizing them for hours. Now she's Savannah's top hostage negotiator, defusing powderkeg situations with a talent for knowing when to give in-and when to jump in and take action. It's satisfying work-and sometimes those skills come in handy at home dealing with her agoraphobic mother, still traumatized by the break-in after all these years, and her precocious seven-year-old, Carly.
It's exactly that heady combination of steely courage and sensitivity that first attracts Duncan Swift to Phoebe. After observing her coax one of his employees down from a roof ledge, he is committed to keeping this intriguing, take-charge woman in his life. She's used to working solo, but Phoebe's discovering that no amount of negotiation can keep Duncan at arm's length.
And when she's grabbed by a man who throws a hood over her head and brutally assaults her-in her own precinct house-Phoebe can't help but be deeply shaken. Then threatening messages show up on her doorstep, and she's not just alarmed but frustrated. How do you go face-to-face with an opponent who refuses to look you in the eye?
Now, with Duncan backing her up every step of the way, she must establish contact with the faceless tormentor who is determined to make her a hostage to fear . . . before she becomes the final showdown.

Comment: This is another of the several books by Nora Roberts I have had in my TBR. This one has been in there since the year it was released...7 years then. Sometimes I can't believe some books wait this long, but...I'm like the cautious ant, saving for rainy days. But there comes a time where I like to dive into the pile and just enjoy myself.

This story features Phoebe, a hostage negotiator. Phoebe has several issues to deal with in her daily life but she has a content life. The day she saves a man from jumping a building she is a hero in Duncan Swift's eyes and he can't forget her. But as her personal life seems to go on a surprisingly positive track, her professional one faces obstacles and challenges she didn't see coming. Who is the person behind all her troubles and why?

There are some very interesting elements in this book. There are also a few little things that are so predictable in a NR story that sometimes I wish she would do something radical or if not, to simply return to plain romance without the mystery in there too. Yes, I admit I miss those old Harlequin stories because I think this is an author who did them so well, so wonderfully for stories of that page count and following those lines. Yes, I really miss those and the romance trilogies where it wasn't so obvious how everyone is perfect all the time. Anyway...

The things I liked the most in this book are: Phoebe has an interesting job and although she is perfect in it, the whole research the author must have done to write about it isn't over the top or an information dump. I think it's minimalist enough to make us follow her actions but not be bored by explanations and situations arising from it.

Also interesting was Essie and her phobia. It's so easy to put things like on the story and solve them miraculously just to suit the romancelandia fervor. But I applaud the fact things were hard, things weren't likely to change soon but there was a vibe of hope in the air nevertheless. Still, I liked how things weren't done as easy as that and it was interesting to see how the small part of that family's life had to work out when one element has a phobia like Essie had. I imagine most people don't have such an easy system but it was quite the reference anyway.

Some things weren't as polished. The end, for instance, could have used a bit more details or explanations because I had the feeling some things were missing, namely what was happening to everyone after the big showdown. I know we infer a HEA but a bit more details about secondary characters would have been nice.

The romance between Phoebe and Duncan was a bit fast happening but it had its sweet and serious moments. I liked how they didn't just fit their places quietly, there are things to talk about, to wonder and for the most part we see them act on their stuff instead of just ignoring the subject. Phoebe is strong woman and I liked her. although sometimes I wish she could be a bit more mad, especially considering what happens during the book. Duncan is a wonder because of how he is portrayed. Together they are good but a bit more work in the relationship, in particular in the beginning would have helped too.

The villain was a surprise on all counts. I won't go into details but it was good to me that the villain wasn't someone close to Phoebe, someone part if her circle of friends. Those kind of plots suck sometimes, so well done with this book.
In the end, a solid story, not her best in my opinion, but still captivating and easy to follow and read.
Grade: 8/10 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dorothy Love - Beauty for Ashes

After losing her husband in the Civil War, Carrie Daly is scared she will never have the family she longs for. Eligible bachelors are scarce in Hickory Ridge, Tennessee, but Carrie has found love. Not the weak-in-the-knees kind, but something practical. Still, she isn't quite ready to set a wedding date with Nate Chastain.
Griff Rutledge is a former member of Charleston society, but has been estranged from his family for years. He's determined to remain unattached, never settling in one place for too long. But when asked to train a Thoroughbred for an upcoming race in Hickory Ridge, he decides to stay awhile.
Despite objections from the townsfolk, and her fear that true happiness has eluded her, Carrie is drawn to Griff's kindness and charm. It will take a leap of faith for them to open their hearts and claim God's promise to give beauty for ashes.

Comment: This is the second book in the Hickory Ridge trilogy by the author. I've read the first book, Beyond All Measure, a long time ago, and honestly only some impressions and the main characters name remained with me, although my opinion of it at the time was positive.
Now, a little bit over two years after, I've returned to this trilogy because I've had the books and it will be one more series to finish at last.

This is Carry Daly's story. She's a young widow, with a fiancé, who has a very simple but busy life taking care of her farm along with her brother and being part of the small community in Hickory Ridge. The book starts with her older brother's wedding preparations and how someone pushes her away from a  horse while she was shopping for the party. From that moment on, we see Carry's life unfold and slow down to a place I felt really confused about.

This is a Christian fiction story, so a lot of moral lessons are to be expected. Usually this doesn't bother me because I know what I'm going into. But still, I always wish for some sort of recognition b«from the characters that, no matter their faith and beliefs, some things have to happen because of their own actions and not just belief. In this novel, Carrie does try to act, to make decisions and to be really honest, the mentioning of God didn't seem over the top and it always came up in context, or in conversation and in a way any religious person thinks of Him. 

My issues with this novel aren't the religious side or any preaching that might happen because I felt drowned in so much despair and depression that the God presence in the text wasn't as obvious as that. In fact, for such a down book, the talking and mentioning of God's will wasn't excessive or pointed out all the time. This can be good or unlikely, but the challenges Carry faces are really a lot.

I won't list Carry's problems throughout the novel not only because they are quite a few but also not to spoil this in case someone might want to read. But let me tell you Carry is constantly having to deal with setbacks and problems, not always caused by herself, but to which she can't say no - and not always because one must care for the others - Carry is someone who honors her commitments even if she has her less than compassionate moments.

I actually liked how Carry wasn't a prim and prudish woman, she knew God was with her but she didn't follow His rules, let's call them that, all the time. Deep down she's human and she has human flaws like everyone else. Still, she tries to be a good person even if those things seem too much. Often she would say, in her mind, how what was being asked of her is unfair, for instance is someone accuses her of not doing enough, she would reply in her head "really?" or "is that so?". So she acts usually polite but her thoughts are her own without a doubt. This show spine and I liked that about her.

Of course there's some judgment as in any Christian book where this theme has to be addressed to better show how people shouldn't do it. Carry feels attracted to the newcomer Griff but of course nothing ever happens between them, it's just what other say about them being friends that is full of prejudice. Carry even might lose friendships over this. Obviously nowadays we know this is too much, why should it matter, but I think it was well portrayed for the time, although Carry never dismissed Griff's friendship.

In the end there's a HEA but I wasn't very keen on it because of the feel of the rest of the book. I don't mind reading about struggling or poor or down on their luck heroines, but in this book there was hardly any convincing good moments to balance the scale. It was really depressing to read about Carry's problems. I guess one could say this is the lesson to learn, but I wouldn't have minded a bit more positivism throughout the book.

I still plan to read the final book, which I hope is a bit more focused on the romance than this one and a bit more optimistic too. This one has a very down vibe but it does have some good points to explore. Still, it could have been so much better, I think.
Grade: 5/10

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

KJ Charles - Think of England

England, 1904. Two years ago, Captain Archie Curtis lost his friends, fingers, and future to a terrible military accident. Alone, purposeless and angry, Curtis is determined to discover if he and his comrades were the victims of fate, or of sabotage.
Curtis’s search takes him to an isolated, ultra-modern country house, where he meets and instantly clashes with fellow guest Daniel da Silva. Effete, decadent, foreign, and all-too-obviously queer, the sophisticated poet is everything the straightforward British officer fears and distrusts.
As events unfold, Curtis realizes that Daniel has his own secret intentions. And there’s something else they share—a mounting sexual tension that leaves Curtis reeling.
As the house party’s elegant facade cracks to reveal treachery, blackmail and murder, Curtis finds himself needing clever, dark-eyed Daniel as he has never needed a man before…

Comment: I got this book after seeing so many good opinions about it and considering it's a book with several elements I like to read about, I had no doubts about being interested in reading them.
This is the first book I've read by the author but I have the feeling it won't be the last.

This story features Archie Curtis, a former captain in the military who suffered an accident, along with some of his men. He lost his job and three fingers and is looking for the responsible for the defective weapons that caused so much misfortune. The chance to do so comes with the invitation to a country house where he hopes to confirm some facts..or prove them wrong.
In that country house Curtis meets Daniel Da Silva, someone very different from himself and a person he dislikes immediately. But Da Silva has secrets and a hidden side Curtis feels very interested in...

I think this book has several elements that work out really well. I liked how the plot and the characters were adjusted to all the little connecting details that make this a solid story line.
The story was well thought and planned. Curtis is suspicious of a man who might be the responsible for his accident and even deaths of British soldiers due to malfunctioning weaponry. He is going to investigate the subject at a country house where Sir Hubert welcomes him respectfully, even more so because of Curtis' family. There are many guest to the country house and the beginning seems innocent and almost nonsensical enough but after a while we get the idea something else is going on.
I think the plot side of this novel was really clever and with some ingenious ideas in there. I was really curious bout what would happen next.

Mixed witht he plot is Da Silva's character, someone portrayed a certain way, with a certain purpose but clearly hides something, I wasn't totally surprised to find out what Da Silva was doing at a party where the others didn't seem to care for him much, but it turned out his presence meant a lot more than we imagined. I was really interested in seeing how his interactions with Curtis would play out considering Curtis first impressions of Da Silva's behavior. I liked that this wasn't insta-love or basic lust right away.

The relationship was quite well balanced although I would have liked a little more assertiveness towards the end. Still, if one thinks about it, the clues are there, I just wish there could be more a couple more visual aids to prove the meaning of their feelings for each other.
This isn't a romance following the expected rules. They, Curtis in particular, think a lot about what is going, what is about to happen between them in the future. Curtis seemed to strict at first but he is a man who honors his own mind, his feelings and he cares about what Da Silva is going through as well. He respects him and plans to honor that. The final scene is really cute.
Da Silva is  harder to read because the story's POV is on Curtis. But I get the feeling Da Silva is a man who expects derision from others even if he recognizes his own worth and rightness of duty. He's not afraid to show what he is feeling but like everyone he wants approval and when Curtis understands his actions and his thoughts through his poetry, I could see he was already close to be in love. I really liked the romance in the story.

The end of the story has many surprises, both about the guests' roles at the country house and what it means to the main plot. The secondary characters hide lots of secrets and the conclusion to what Curtis is looking for is predictable but not the way it happens. I was really surprised things went that path.

In the end, what a nice read by this author. The character development is engaging and I wanted to know more about them and their thoughts. It was fascinating to keep waiting for what would happen between them, considering their animosity in the first pages. I really love a well done opposites attract or enemies to lovers trope. This story won me and I will read more by the author in the future.
Grade: 8/10

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Cora Carmack - Losing It

As far as Bliss Edwards can tell, she's the last virgin standing, certainly amongst her friends. And she's determined to deal with the 'problem' as quickly and simply as possible.
But her plan for a no-strings one night stand turns out to be anything but simple. Especially when she arrives for her first class and recognises her hot new British professor.
She'd left him naked in her bed just 8 hours earlier...

Comment: I got this book recently. I'm not that big a fan of the Teacher/Student romance but I was curious, after seeing the blurb, of how this would play out. The fact this is new adult - apparently, a new name for YA with a couple more years or so on them - put me off a bit because, again, it's hard to believe in the HEA when people seem so young for today's standards. Anyway...

This is Bliss' story. She is a 22 year old, finishing college, still a virgin. The night she decides to get it over with, she actually meets a guy she finds interesting and hot enough to want to be with him, after so many other guys who could have been the guy and weren't because she never felt ready.
Garrick is a young teacher who recently moved to Texas to work and one night, while trying not to be alone, he met Bliss, they started talking and got together. Amazingly, they live in close buildings but at the last moment, Bliss runs away. They don't meet again until the very next morning, when they see their connection isn't over yet.

Well, my opinion about this isn't that exciting. I liked the book for the most part, it was interesting to read about but it didn't rock my reading world, no. I guess overall, I can't say it was bad, it had the necessary elements to work but it didn't make me feel super interested in art or theater and much less in knowing more about the following stories.

Bliss is studying arts, majoring in theater for what I could tell. The plays conversations and references were fine actually. But the rest of the story was so unattractive in general terms that while it was readable and enjoyable for a while, it won't stay with me. Still, rather looking like an hypocrite, I still liked spending time with's hard to label and grade.

The story felt really simple and it seemed to me it only went through the basics. Public target goals or just the way it was? I can't tell, but I had the feeling it had all the basic requirements in this type of book but never went past the expected.
The romance had its moments but it seems really weird no one made any comments about the main character's relationship and how unsuitable it was. The HEA happened after their professional relationship was over but still, I have my doubts about its credibility.
The secondary characters played their parts, quite apropos, but I never really connected to any of them, so I think it's another one of those things that seemed there just to put the type of story in evidence.

About Bliss' virginity. the thee interested me because I think the idea most young women have these days isn't that far from what Bliss thinks at the beginning, that virginity is a think to get over with as soon as possible. I can't speak for everyone, but in my opinion, people should just do what feels right when it feels right. If it doesn't, why should there be a rule virgins are out, or that they have some sort of problem? I wish the author could have used this theme to address the subject more seriously or in a way that would actually have meaning, instead of just using as a way to start the plot. In a way, I guess t could have added that extra something which could make this book more meaningful.

All things considered, this isn't my usual kind of book, but despite my personal preferences, I managed to entertain myself and as an almost chick lit this would definitely work out well too.
Good grade due to effort and some scenes. But just barely.
Grade: 7/10