Thursday, July 24, 2014

Catherine Anderson - Walking on Air

Random, Colorado, is just another stop on the road for solitary gunslinger Gabriel Valance. Known for his drinking, gambling, and womanizing, he prefers to remain a stranger to anyone who crosses his path. But when an upstart gunslinger catches Gabe off guard and shoots him down, he regrets his empty, lonely life with his dying breath....
Golden-haired beauty Nancy Hoffman settled in Random after fleeing an abusive past. Caring for her younger sister and working in a hat shop help her to forge ahead, though she remains fearful and mistrustful of men—and marriage....
Their paths will cross when Gabe gets a second chance at life and a divine mission: to sweep Nancy off her feet, gain her trust, and convince her to believe in his love. And in doing so, the once-hardened cowboy may save himself....   

Comment: This is the most recent book by ms Anderson, released in the beginning of the year. Usually a book by this author is certified to be enjoyable and that it was why I pre ordered but only this month I was able to get to it. How that happens is always a mystery to me...

This story features new characters, apparently the start of a new series. Gabriel Valance is a gunslinger and gets killed but two angels tell them how his soul can be saved if only he accomplishes a certain task by helping another person.
Nancy Hoffman run away from a past she feels guilty about and that drives her away from what she knew as a home, along with her younger sister, who she looks after. But despite Nancy's success with her hat shop, she is still a shy and reserved person, afraid of taking a chance on life. Gabriel Valance doesn't seem the kind of man she should trust but some things are a better surprise than anyone can imagine and Nancy will see it for herself.

Well, so far I've enjoyed a lot of the books I've read so far by the author. Only one or two seemed a bit weaker than those I like the most. Therefore, I was very curious over a new series but I have to say I ended up feeling this was only a meh story for me. I saw many readers loved it and gave it 5 starts and in a way I can understand why, but the thing I love the most in the author's writing wasn't here, at least not in a way that made me feel amazed by how good it was.

My favorite thing in ms Anderson's novels is how she deals with intimacy between the main characters. Her heroes and heroines usually have gone through very difficult experiences and they have some trouble dealing with their intimacy, mostly the women. I think it's already a trademark of this author how the heroines have to trust and accept the love of the man they fall for before intimacy - and sex - start to become more than a duty or a expectation. I love how usually romantic things happen until the couple's more in sync with each other.

In this book this wasn't so. Or, should I say, it wasn't as romantic and amazing as I imagined it would and despite Nancy having to trust Gabriel and he did wait for her and the relationship was slow and step by step, I still think this felt more like an automatic stage before the end. I didn't think this was as romantic as it could be, considering the details and the way the story took shape. It felt like something that had to happen, the path towards intimacy, not the sex itself which as bland, by the way, and it made the book feel a bit like a task done and not a romantic story developing.

Of course this is all me, obviously everyone things differently...
As for the rest of the elements in the book, everything seemed rather so so, from the characters which weren't as interesting as they looked in the beginning, going a bit plain and usual to the end. Even the secondary ones filled their roles well but weren't surprising as that.

Then there's the slightly tones paranormal element with the angels playing a part. I think their role could be achieved with a simple dream, sort of, or the story could have had a different take from the start because I wasn't convinced about the angels and the mission they had for Gabriel. The lesson is cute to learn, we should do our best in everything because our time is short in life, but the overall impression wasn't as special as that to me.

In the end, it was relatively good story, good elements not explored in their best outcome, in my opinion. Still, an average mark for an average story, with possibilities to be better but apparently the goal is as it was.
Grade: 6/10

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

TBR Challenge: Susan Elizabeth Phillips - It Had To Be You

What if a woman who knows nothing about sports inherits a professional football team? The Windy City definitely isn't ready for Phoebe Somerville, the outrageous York knockout who’s taking over their home town team. And Phoebe is definitely not prepared for the Stars' head coach Dan Calebow, a sexist jock taskmaster with a one-track mind. This is the book that began it all. The Chicago Stars are about to take the field... and they’re not the only ones playing for keeps.

Comment: Here's the challenge read of July. The theme was something RITA related, whether a winner or a nominee. I've picked this book by SEP not only because it fit the theme because it won a RITA in the 90s but also because it has been on my TBR for a lot of time, so one down.
Unfortunately I liked it very much and now I want to buy the other 6 books, which will add up to said TBR list even more. But is it really a loss? Only a reader would answer that as a no.

This is a book so many readers have read but I never got to it before no reason why, it just was there. It's Phoebe Somerville's story and how she went from a reluctant football team owner to a successful woman to be respected. The story is developed mainly while Phoebe has to follow her father's will to own the team and she will only keep it if they win at the end. Phoebe is unique and presents a glamorous facade but deep down she's lovely and quieter than people think.
Dan is the coach of the team and he thinks she's a bimbo set on getting on his nerves. As time goes by he gets to know her and to understand sometimes what you see isn't what really matters.

As I said, I liked this story a lot, mainly because Phoebe had awful experiences a child and she tried to cope and to be better anyway. Reading about her childhood was sad and even more about her days of depression and self hate. Although this was told in a very loose way, I still felt a bit emotional. But it also help the reader to move forward quicker, I mean, Phoebe's life experiences until the place where she is now aren't so extensive this turns into a soap opera or a drama, but it's enough to the reader to feel sympathy towards her.

This brings me to the author's writing style, considering this is my first book by her, I was expectant about how I'd enjoy the book, and I liked how the pace seemed to move forward but not in a boring or redundant way. It was nice to savor the story without having the feeling the author herself was bored. I can't explain it, it's only a personal feeling I've had with some authors here and there. Ms Phillips wrote her story and despite the change in POV in the middle of a chapter without any graphic hint, I still liked it although that hint could have been useful even if it was over very small POV changes.

Dan was an interesting character, he seemed rude and overbearing often but he had a softer side that made him more realistic. My main dislike about him was how he was divided at some point for two women and despite we know how he was just deceiving himself it still bears a note.
I liked how he understood Phoebe when it mattered and how he was there for her in the crucial times, especially when she needed to tell her story. The epilogue was very sweet.

Overall, the book was intriguing and full of very special characters, for all the reasons they were on the page. But this is also about football and people have said the author was very realistic in her football descriptions..I'll take their word for it because I still was left in the dark and I guess for any reader not familiar with football it was the same. In a way the explanations weren't enough for me to follow the football references but I have to confess more of that and it would be boring. We don't have this kind of football in my country nor is it something we see much on tv, so I was even more in the dark than Phoebe. However, this didn't ruin my enjoyment of the story and I could see it was important to the characters, which made it easier to read about.

In the end, a great romance, very interesting topics and even better, a couple with little things enough to match and to suit. The bad guys had their fate, the good guys learned their lessons and the HEA was perfect. The cover though...I think there would be better ways to give the sports and glamor idea..I don't like this cover but it was the one I got... not that it matters to the plot or the book itself, but it's a bit annoying.
I really had a good time with this one and sometimes you don't have to analyze it all to make it a good book, sometimes you just enjoy.
Can't wait to read the others now, I'll have to buy them soon.
Grade: 8/10

Tessa Dare - A Lady by Midnight

After years of fending for herself, Kate Taylor found friendship and acceptance in Spindle Cove—but she never stopped yearning for love. The very last place she'd look for it is in the arms of Corporal Thorne. The militia commander is as stone cold as he is brutally handsome. But when mysterious strangers come searching for Kate, Thorne steps forward as her fiancé. He claims to have only Kate's safety in mind. So why is there smoldering passion in his kiss?
Long ago, Samuel Thorne devoted his life to guarding Kate's happiness. He wants what's best for her, and he knows it's not marriage to a man like him. To outlast their temporary engagement, he must keep his hands off her tempting body and lock her warm smiles out of his withered heart. It's the toughest battle of this hardened warrior's life . . . and the first he seems destined to lose.

Comment: Here's another story in the Spindle Cove series by the author. This time it's Kate Taylor on the spotlight. I was quite curious to know her story considering the hero was someone so reserved...but I wasn't as impressed as that in the end.

Kate is an orphan and she doesn't remember her childhood before going to the orphanage but she always wanted to now about her parents and why they abandoned her.
Corporal Thorne is part of the militia that arrived with Bram, the hero from book #1, and he only wants peace and quiet. He recognized Kate by her birthmark and knows exactly where she comes from. When a family from the aristocracy finds Kate and tells her she's their lost cousin, Thorne believes they're lying but the truth is deeper than they all think...

I was a bit disappointed with the story. Although it followed all the elements a story like this should have and after a wonderful beginning where I felt for Kate's fate and her thoughts of being unwanted and miserable while seeing she had lost the last transport home, I couldn't help but feeling a bit bored with the way things progressed from there.
The plot had its positive aspects but I was less and less surprised as time went by and the romance didn't help because at first it was slow paced and beautiful and then it went to a point where Thorne, despite his reasonable motivations, kept saying he wasn't for her but at the same time he faked a betrothal to was all so confusing that not even the author's style, which had my applause in the first two books, was enough to save this one.

Kate and Thorne seemed perfect for each other at first and they were wonderful together in the end. What happens in between didn't seem as well accomplished as that, though. The intimacy between them wasn't the problem, I just think it didn't seem as romantic at times and it was all mixed with Kate's past and everyone's expectations of what become of her. Their romance kept developing but there times where I wasn't sure about them and worse, I wasn't really that interested. Thankfully it all got solved.

The plot's main issue was Kate's past and if she was really a lady. The explanations weren't that much convincing to me, or maybe the problem was how we were told about what happened since ate was left an orphan. I just didn't see the beauty of the writing on those pages and those justifications. It didn't seem well explained somehow.

In the end, the story was ok, it had some positive things, I was curious about seeing everyone again, but there's this vibe about this novel that left me a bit disappointed and after two amazing books, I can't help thinking this one was a let down.
Grade: 6/10

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Nalini Singh - Shield of Winter

Assassin. Soldier. Arrow. That is who Vasic is, who he will always be. His soul drenched in blood, his conscience heavy with the weight of all he's done, he exists in the shadows, far from the hope his people can almost touch - if only they do not first drown in the murderous insanity of a lethal contagion. To stop the wave of death, Vasic must complete the simplest and most difficult mission of his life.
For if the Psy race is to survive, the empaths must wake . . .
Having rebuilt her life after medical 'treatment' that violated her mind and sought to stifle her abilities, Ivy should have run from the black-clad Arrow with eyes of winter frost. But Ivy Jane has never done what she should. Now, she'll fight for her people, and for this Arrow who stands as her living shield, yet believes he is beyond redemption.
But as the world turns to screaming crimson, even Ivy's fierce will may not be enough to save Vasic from the cold darkness . . .

Comment: I've started reading this book as soon as the mail man gave me the package where it was in. It's one of those series I just can't put on hold. I started that same day and once more I was taken to this amazing world with lager than life characters.

This is Vasic and Ivy Jane's story. Vasic has been a recurrent character, he's  a psy known for his special abilities and his heavy Silence.
Ivy Jane is a new character who is given protagonism after the things that happened in the previous book with the fall of Silence. These two are put together with a mission to study the impact of a new discovery to the psy race and the hope they won't die of the infection that seems to be killing more and more psy everywhere...

I liked the story. I liked the tone in particular, which is always a positive for me with this author. Even the stories which I don't like as much are still well structured and told in a way that feels very familiar and well paced, we know what to expect, there isn't sudden changes of the author's "voice". It's noted how consistent the author is since the beginning and that must be part of the series' success.

Some fans may say the author is repeating herself but for me it doesn't feel so because each book features different characters, with different takes on how to behave and even within the psy race, people with severe control on emotions and attitudes, there still are differences and personalities totally unique under the mask they wear. This story has two psy protagonists and their challenges and takes on how t approach life where shaped by different things and those things affected them in a way very opposite the way other psy characters faced their own trials. So, there is always something new, different although the core idea is the same, meaning psy have to learn how to deal with emotions and feelings..

Vasic and Ivy seem to be a good couple, again, author's talent in presenting and developing them. They learn a lot together and each personal challenge and trouble is faced with a new light because they are together. This is the perfect base for a solid romance, where the couple becomes better together because each one has something to add, to offer, to learn. I liked them.

I also liked the presence of known characters and the small tidbits about previous couples. It's always so nice to see love does conquer it all. Being the abundance of scenes with previous characters one of the negative things in the previous stories, I think it wasn't so with this one and it was quite balanced. Oh and the clues about next characters to have a story are tantalizing.

The plot is following an interesting path. Silence is over but anarchy isn't the solution. I'm curious to see where this is going and what will happen with all the others considering who's in line for a book...but this one is full of interesting ideas and concepts about the waking up after Silence and what could happen. I was happy with the way things were done.
Of course there's always things that could have been improved, but overall, a wonderful effort and delivery.
Grade: 8/10

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Kat Murray / Hurri Cosmo

Prince Joron of Blade Rain was kissed by a man he had no idea was King Aric of Claymoor Doom. Of
course King Aric had no idea the one he kissed was even a man since Joron was dressed as a woman. Disguised in order to escape the newly crowned king of Blade Rain who just happens to be Joron's brother, Joron is swept off his feet by Aric when he is rescued by him from an assault. Aric is also swept off his feet by the beauty of the "woman" and that one amazing kiss. Aric, who is led to believe the beautiful woman he kissed is actually the princess, immediately goes to the king of Blade Rain and offers for the princess’s hand in marriage and his offer is accepted. Unfortunately, King Aric is now betrothed to Liarta, Joron’s sister. But an emergency has King Aric racing home without finding out the mistake he has made and now Joron must ride to Claymoor Doom to renegotiate the offer since Liarta is in love with someone else and does not want to marry King Aric.
Imagine Aric’s surprise when he discovers the Prince is the one he thought was the Princess! So Aric does the only thing he can think of. He will release Liarta from her obligation of marriage, but only if Joron takes her place... in the marriage bed.

But there are other forces at work as well and those forces are out for Joron’s life. At the death of his father, the former king of Blade Rain, Joron is suddenly the powerful new owner of the Ice Dragon Pass, the only safe route through the Norborne Mountains. There are those who would kill for that kind of power. And they have killed for it before…

Comment: This story was really a disappointment. I lied the idea of misunderstood identities but I didn't like any of the characters all that much and their motivations didn't alway add up to their actions which I think was meant to be the opposite. The protagonists didn't seem to suit that well, one being too domineering and treating the other like a possession and the youngest one so smart and dedicated for one thing and TSTL when it came to his personal relationship. It was also annoying practically everyone felt lust for the younger guy, come on. I think the world had promise and could be interesting to explore but things didn't work for me so I won't read more. There's a cliffhanger which many people hated but to me it's pointless to be annoyed because so many things before seemed worse for me. Taste is different for everyone and this story didn't work that much for me.
Grade: 4/10

*  *  *

Trace Muldoon can handle anything...As long as it has four legs, a mane wild as the wind, and a penchant for chewing hay. But when life tries to throw him off, that's when the rodeo star is at his best. 
Jo Tallen knows what she wants... And it's not a picket fence. She had a hard childhood, but now she's the boss of the town's best watering hole, she's got her friends and her neighbors, and there are plenty of eager ranchers around. She might have a thing for Trace--but there are too many complications. And the most dangerous is that whenever the hot cowboy bellies up to her bar, she just can't keep her hands to herself...

Comment: This is the second book in the Roped and Wrangled series. I liked Tracy in the previous book and I was hoping for a really romantic story for him. While the plot was interesting and mostly addictive to read, I still think the romance between the main characters was a bit lacking. Their relationship started slow but the change to something more serious didn't seem to go through a believable stage. Also the way the book ended was a bit more realistic if one thinks about real life, but in terms of romantic environments, I think it was a bit of a let down. I liked the protagonists' personal traits and how they tried to build something for themselves and how they valued certain things, like family and work. The story was good, the foundations too, I just would change the execution on the romance.
Grade: 7/10

CE Murphy - Shaman Rises

For over a year, Joanne has been fighting the Master—the world's most abiding evil entity. She's sacrificed family, friendships, even watched potential futures fade away…and now the Master is bringing the final battle to Joanne's beloved Seattle.
Lives will be lost as the repercussions of all Joanne's final transformation into her full Shamanic abilities come to her doorstep. Before the end, she'll mourn, rejoice—and surrender everything for the hope of the world's survival. She'll be a warrior and a healer. Because she is finally a Shaman Rising. 

Comment: Here it is the final installment of the Walker Papers series which I have been reading for years. At first I wasn't very motivated but ket going and a couple of books were really special and addictive. The plot was riveting even if the execution sometimes left me thinking of what could be different. Anyway, I kept going, had a wonderful time with some books and a more boring one with others. Unfortunately, with this last book I was a bit more bored than surprised.

Joanne has reached the end of her self discovery as shaman. She knows what's she's doing most of the time now but she still has the Master to defeat, the enemy that has making things bad for her and her friends since the beginning. Joanne starts the ultimate fight on the day after her fried Gary telling something that should be impossible, but with Joanne nothing is truly impossible. But will Joanne accomplish her win without losses?

Like I said, I was bored with this book and I wasn't expecting that for the last installment of the series. Throughout all the books this aspect has been evident because the author made Joanne the first person narrator so we have to always follow what she's doing and thinking and when she is fighting in other plans or having doubts or even self learning we have to go with her every time. The same thing happens here, and maybe it's my way of seeing things but I had the feeling it was a bit more than in some of the other books. 
Joanne is fighting a bad being so there's lots of fighting, not physically all the time, mostly in the  shaman planes but it's action and it's like the reader can't stop to breathe. Joanne is always on the move and if not fighting, doing something else, or helping or talking or thinking. There's no time out unless something bad really happens, in which case we have to suffer her loss or her disappointment.

I can't say it's only negative things, after all I've been following the series for quite a while, but this last book was boring, I had a hard time concentrating on the words and in not putting the book aside.And even the little good scenes, or more easy ones seemed to be less, probably because of the huge task Joanne had to achieve. But in terms of reading, it was tiring to keep with action all the time.

Then there's the negative things, like death. I suppose it would have been too much to ask for Joanne to keep her friends with her and everyone who mattered. At least Morrison is still on the picture a is Gary. But there's death and disappointments and the final scene with it's hopeful vibe wasn't enough for me.
I guess I can't complain because it's the way the author writes and has always presented a book at least in this series, but personally I hoped for more than all the challenges to overcome and the unhappy solutions to some of those problems.
Still, a positive mark because it's solid. But I hoped for better.
Grade: 6/10

Friday, July 11, 2014

Alissa Johnson - Practically Wicked

As the illegitimate daughter of a scandalous woman, Miss Anna Rees is almost as well known for having been raised in the hedonistic demimonde as she is for her quiet nature. Anna longs to leave behind her mother’s world of courtesans…until she unexpectedly meets the handsome, charming and decidedly wicked Lord Dane.  If only she could convince him to join her in search of respectability. . .
Viscount Maximilian Dane is perfectly content being a rake. After years of obeying the dictates of proper society--with disastrous results--he stopped following the ton’s ridiculous rules, and he sees no reason to begin courting respectability anew. Except that it may be the only way for him to win the lovely and fascinating Miss Anna Rees—if only he could convince her that the grass is greener on the wicked side of the fence. . . 

Comment: I've had this book to read since last year and at the time I bought it I wasn't aware it was the third in a series!! Now that I have read and enjoyed this one, the debate is should I read the previous ones or to jump straight to the author's other works? Decisions, decisions.

This is Anna Rees' story, she is a shy, sheltered lady, practically closed in her mother's house for quite selfish purposes, but Anna has found joy in books and in learning. One night, by chance, she started talking to a guest of one of her mother's scandalous parties and she and a slightly drunk Max Dane seemed to get along quite well. He promised to call on her but he never did.
Four years past and now Anna is in possession of the identity of her father, something her mother never told her. Anna takes a chance on a dream away from her mother's house and influence but on the way she has to deal with meeting Max again, and this time they do have time to know each other very well...

I liked this story a lot. It's told from a very simple but straightforward POV and without any artifices or the current sexual content which I think it's very over the top in some cases where the books aren't erotica. Anyway, this book has a story to tell, it tells it and that's it. The reader doesn't feel like it's a soap opera or just chapters crafter together. Te plot has a meaning, the characters have simple but powerful drives and motivations and their interactions are meant to be purposeful and there didn't seem to have any scenes just to set thing or to fill up space. I was very impressed by how "clean" the story is. Editor's work or author's neatness, whichever or both of them, it worked.

I liked Anna's character and her troubles while growing up despite never having lack of anything except love and caring from her mother. But Anna is a sensible woman, she isn't exaggerated in her actions or her actions. I liked her so much because she is quiet and has a good sense of herself, she has simple dreams and just wants a bit of independence without stepping over others. One of my favorite historical heroines ever, probably.

Max was intriguing and more than meets the eye, at least we get to know more of him and step by step we learn to like and respect him. His relationship with Anna has a very dramatic start but the way they talk about what happened and how -by talking! - solve their issues, it's a romance wonder in fact, and from then their paths cross because there's attraction but there's empathy and things in common and a certain acceptance of what the other needs and wishes to be heard and understood. I liked how they were good together and liked how their romance slowly but strongly developed.

I was really pleased by how much I liked this, the author did a wonderful job with the characterization, the plot sequences, the way things were organized and how everything seemed to go from an apparent simple feeling or action but the way the reader saw it happen, it got to be much more important and intense, but still subtle. I do think this is much of an author's talent showing.
The only thing I'd change was how the sexual side of things worked out, I thought it could have been more romantic, considering the character's story until that point.
I look forward to read more wonderfully written stories by ms Johnson.
Grade: 8/10

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Kendall Mckenna - Strength of the Mate

Adam Madison is in Iraq, driving supply trucks for the Marines, but he still can't outrun his personal ghosts. Outside the wire, insurgents are a relentless threat. Inside, renegade werewolves are a constant danger.
Dawson Rivers is on a mission for the True Alpha---bring the rampaging shifters under control. Adam proves to be invaluable to his task. Their intense mutual attraction explodes into a powerful physical, and emotional connection.
Their future together is in peril, when Adam's convoy is ambushed.Can they learn to rely on the strength of their bond? Adam staying alive long enough for Dawson to find him depends on it.

Comment: Here it is another installment of this series which I've been enjoying so much. I'm so glad this new book was recently released and of course, I had to devour it straight away.

 In this new story, we have as protagonists, Adam, the younger brother to Tim from the previous book, and Dawson, the omega to the True Alpha. 
Adam is driving trucks in Iraq for the military, through an international company. He doesn't have many shifter friends, only acquaintances although his brother is such an important member of the shifter hierarchy.
Dawson comes to the Iraq city where the base is to help with some shifter problems and he meets Adam again. At first things were weird but as soon as Dawson realizes Adam is attracted to him, there's nothing to stop from going after Adam.

Once again, I really loved the story. I think there's an interesting clash between the shifter side of things and the military. I also believe I've said before it's very good the way the author uses both these aspects together without one seem to overpower the other, which makes the story flow and feel very easy to read and to follow. Despite this, it's very obvious how the slight paranormal side of things is used but it doesn't remove any feel of seriousness from the overall plot. In the end I thought the last scenes were a little bit over the top, but I'm not complaining because I've become very fond of this "world" and hopefully there are ore stories to come.

Te main romance was ok, especially those first chapters where there was a lot of sexual tension. I really like how the author uses this method to develop the main characters' story and slow start of relationship. As soon as they became intimate I had the feeling things started to decrease a bit in intensity, but on the other hand, it was clever of the author to make Adam rather clueless about certain shifter things, which allowed for an extended period of doubts and "getting to know what's happening" moments. Still, it is expected that, by now, most people related to shifters would be more knowledgeable...but well, part of the fun is to see how thy react to knowing what certain things actually mean to shifters.

The two main characters were good to know, I guess. 
Dawson still remains a bit of a mystery despite this book. I think the main issues were covered, namely he's honorable and important to that base ad the pack there and we know he plays an important role in Noah's hierarchy but not much more than that.
Adam we got to know better, mainly because the story is told from his POV (but not 1st person) and throughout the novel we got to understand his issues, his fears and his feelings of not being understood or loved and his immense guilt which shaped his behavior too. He was slow to make friends but of course, shifters don't give up easily and even more so after Dawson arrives. 
Obviously, after their relationship develops, both of them get better people, in a way.

In the end, this story was very enjoyable to me, I keep rooting for them and I'm still so curious to see more, to know more about the shifters and their lives.
It's so good to know there's a shape shifters world out there that delivers and fulfills all my expectations of a shifter world! I hope the author keeps the good work!
Grade: 8/10