Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Quote!

So true!


Jodi Thomas - When a Texan Gambles

It all started when she got thrown off the wagon train. Now, a crook is dead, and Sarah Andrews has been raffled off in a "Wife Lottery." That seems bad enough—until she discovers her new groom with a knife in his back.
He just barely survives—and now if Sarah doesn't get him out of town fast, someone is going to make sure Sam Gatlin doesn't live long enough to enjoy the honeymoon. No matter what he may have done, or how many enemies he has, Sarah feels she owes him. After all, he saved her from a life in prison. But never in her wildest dreams did she imagine that this dangerously attractive Texan would steal her heart and make her want to take the biggest gamble of all.


Comment: This is the second installment of the Wife Lottery series by Jodi Thomas. I've read the first book practically a year ago and I liked it enough to keep reading.
I've purchased the remaining books and I have them for months now. A year after I decided to complete the series. This month I picked the second story.

This story features Sarah, another one of the three ladies that was put of the train and part of the allegedly murder of a man. Along with Bailee and Lacy, Sarah was given away in a wife lottery contest as a way to stay out of prison. Sarah was given to Sam Gaitlin, a man everyone knows is a bounty hunter.
Sam doesn't exactly know why he wanted a wife in the first place but she seemed so innocent and fragile he couldn't let her be. He thought only to take her to the house he has but along the way he has to keep Sarah safe, help friends and deal with his ill fame that makes everyone try to take him down. Will they reach happiness at last?

Well, after a year I have to confess I didn't remember many details from the first book but I took a look at it, especially the end so I could recall some information. Once gain, I liked the emotional end like I did when I read it but it didn't offer much information about this couple and I remembered the lottery took place in the beginning. Still I was left with the feeling I really liked the first book and I wanted to experience it again with this one.

However, I'm afraid I didn't get the same experience with this one. It's just not as romantic or captivating as the other.
Two things that obviously had to be different but still they are more lacking in my opinion happened:
First, the couple is different thus their behavior and relationship is also different.
Second, the narrative seemed more boring and dragging in this story.

I'll start with this. The plot isn't as special as the first book's. In that one, I was engrossed in the way the relationship shaped what happened because what mattered was how the couple was developing their feelings to each other and how that affected what surrounded them.
In this book the plot seemed weaker and honestly I didn't really care about Sam's need to stay alive and all the bounty hunter's job needs and issues. This narrative was heavily set on the journey Sam and Sarah had to make to reach their house but I felt the beginning was so boring that I had real trouble staying focused on what was happening.
Things dragged on and the surrounding sub plots didn't captivate me either so while this happened, the couple's relationship had to keep up the novel but I felt that it also didn't happen.

The couple of the first book was slowly falling in love and I loved their scenes together. With Sam and Sarah I never had the feeling they were falling in love. Sure we see some romantic and hero-like gestures from Sam mostly but there's not a connection I think is enough to support this romance. In my opinion they never really matched as a couple. 

Sam is a man full of secrets and hidden deeds and I got his honorable character but he didn't strike me as being special, as having some sort of trait that would make him unforgettable. I mean, there's nothing wrong with his personality or characterization, the author made him likable, but..it's not special enough.
Sarah has had a hard childhood and life. Everything that ever happened to her was duty done and I felt she never had a goal in life but going with others would make her do. I understand her need for stability and her personality was sure to be endearing to the reader. But personally I think she was too bland and not even her past which is surely meant to be emotional and heartbreaking moved me to the point where I thought the is the ultimate heroine!

So, the narrative isn't as richly done as the other book - the only other work by the author I can use as comparison - and the main couple isn't as devoted or special to make this amazing. Individually they didn't convince me and as a romantic pair it also didn't happen.
This story is a bit of a disappointment despite the trademark western elements that give some life to this story. I really hope the next one is better.
As for this one I already forgot some things and I assume it won't be one of those that remain with me for too long...
Grade: 5/10

Monday, May 25, 2015

Sylvain Reynard - Gabriel's Redemption

The third book in the wildly romantic Gabriel's Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard, following on from Gabriel's Inferno and Gabriel's Rapture.
Professor Gabriel Emerson has left his position at the University of Toronto to embark on a new life with his beloved Julianne. Together, he's confident that they can face any challenge.
But Julianne's graduate program threatens Gabriel's plans for their life together, as the pressures of being a student become all consuming. When she is given the honour of presenting an academic lecture at Oxford, several individuals from their past appear, including an old nemesis intent on humiliating Julia and exposing one of Gabriel's darkest secrets.
In an effort to confront his remaining demons, Gabriel begins a quest to discover more about his biological parents - a search that has startling repercussions for himself and for Julianne.


Comment: This is the last installment in the Gabriel's Inferno trilogy by author Sylvain Reynard. In the previous books we've met professor Emerson and his student Julianne, we saw how their relationship started, developed and stabilized. In the second book we saw how they were dealing with what was happening and how others weren't likely to leave the alone. Now, in this third book they are married and living a good life together. Well, almost.

In this final story Gabriel and Julianne are finally happily living together, away from Toronto and the problems they faced there. Their marriage is new but already meaningful and everlasting. Things seem to go smoothly except Julianne has so much to do sometimes she can't cope. But Gabriel is there to help even if there's something else in the back of his mind he can't let go of.
While looking for clues about his past and trying to help Julianne, Gabriel also faces the fear of any man, what if he loses Julianne?

I liked this story a lot. I remember I've read the first book in 2013 and that it wasn't as spectacular as I thought because it had, mostly, too detailed sentences and scenes. Then I've read the second book and it seemed better structured. It seems the author had only planned those two books, which, all things considered, I ended up liking.

However, this last book, unplanned and only in existence, apparently, by fan's requests, ends up being my absolute favorite. I really liked the place where Gabriel and Julianne are after they put all the troubles and opposition they faced in the other books. This is their HEA happening and I actually liked how the author decided to give them some stability. Even in the times where they had a fight or exchange more heated words, it was obvious it wasn't with mean intent or that it would signify the end. I liked how they talked about things, how they were considerate of the other's feelings in the end. It doesn't mean they are perfect and bubbly but I think there's a good balance in what they used to be to what they are now that can be together.

Also interesting was the secondary character's roles. In the other books it seemed they were there to be the people the protagonists had to be compared with or had to interact with but in this one it felt like the important characters were 1) part of the family connections Julianne and Gabriel needed and respected and 2) people that existed in their lives even if not close by.
I don't think this was casually done, so my thanks to the author to have done it in a way that gave consistency and maturity to the story, something else that wasn't all evident in the other books.

The conflicts here are all valid though. The things Gabriel wants and fears at the same time are well thought for the type of person he is meant to be. Things wouldn't just happen perfectly in the life of someone like him and his behavior in trying to solve it all and in reacting that way seemed something he would do. I really liked the character growth Gabriel went through during this final book.
Julianne always seemed a more quiet and dreamlike character but she acted human here and she made valid points in her need to fight for a career, despite her want of happiness too.
I think that, even if this book was never meant to be when th author thought about writing Gabriel's story, there's skill, thought, there's a mind process and careful structure in writing this. That is why I really loved it, it's a story done with care.

I couldn't put this one down. It took me no time to finish and I'm really happy to say I looked to know what would happen next all the time. I think the pace is faster here and despite the label names and detailed clothes and food they ate, something that annoyed me a bit and which I think isn't all that necessary, in this book it was almost unnoticed because the story was flowing so smoothly and the character's actions seemed more suitable for intelligent people, heartfelt feelings notwithstanding.

So, in the end I liked it and I'm sure it will be wonderful to re-read my favorite parts when I want. I know taste and opinions are always personal and I understand if others don't agree but for me this story really worked and I loved it.
Grade: 9/10

Friday, May 22, 2015

Song #26

Today hasn't been a good day.
Although this song is beautiful, its mournful tone kind of suits me now...
Still, enjoy its beauty!


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Emma Holly - Cathing Midnight

Deep in a cave in the Scottish forest live the children of midnight, shapeshifting immortals who can run as both wolves and men. Young Gillian has been rescued by their leader from certain death and transformed into one of them. She would be happy if her heart did not yearn for the world beyond.
Aimery Fitz Clare is human, second son to a noble house, and a master falconer. To him Gillian flees in the guise of a falcon, hoping to escape her immortal keepers. To her surprise, Aimery's kindness is a powerful seduction, and never mind his beauty and warmth! But does she dare embrace this forbidden love, and can it survive her jealous brethren baring their fangs?


Comment: I've had this book for a while, long since I've discovered this author's books around 6 or 7 years ago. Unlike her most known erotic works, this title belongs to one of her more paranormal worlds. Sure there's some erotic hints but the book is PNR.

This is the story of Gillian. She escapes probable death during the plague years in the 14th century by accepting to be changed by Upyrs, a sort of paranormal mix between vampire and shape shifter beings. She ends up living with upyrs who shape shift into a pack of wolves.
But Gillian never really felt part of them so when she finally has control and age she goes away to look for her destiny. She changes shape into a hawk or falcon and lets herself be caught by Aimery, a well respected knight but also the target of envy and fear.
When they all arrive at Aimery's brother ruling house, Gillian starts to find out more about humans and falls for Aimery...

I confess I didn't have much expectations about this to begin with. I just wanted a story that could offer an interesting paranormal world and a good romance.
I got to see what the book would be like from the first pages actually: something boring for the most part and with elements that I didn't thin were well fit together.

The story has a good idea but the way the story evolved was too whimsical for my taste. The setting is an historical world, not some alien world, but I think that aspect of the story wasn't maximized in the best way. The characters, mostly the upyrs didn't seem to care about the time they were in, the society rules didn't seem to matter much and the other character's reaction to that was indifferent. I mean this was how it looked like to me.
It almost felt like everything was happening on another plane of existence or something, a very weird feeling it gave me.

I was bored a lot time. I skipped the sex scenes as all the involved seemed to be bastions of perfection in that area. I skimmed some parts where the apparent enemy of the "good"? upyrs was plotting her schemes, because honestly that didn't really moved the plot forward, it just annoyed me like those bad guys who like to minutely share their plans.
As for the upyrs that we are supposed to like...well, I get that they live long lives and have different interests than humans and so on, but I felt in them a sort of lazy uncaring for anything other than sex and self benefits so I can't really say I was captivated by them.
It seems further books are about two characters we've known here and maybe one day I'll read them, but right now those stories don't seem appealing at all to me.

The romance can be described as sweet. Gillian and Aimery start their relationship with Gillian deceiving Aimery for self protection but they fall in love. Why, apart from their love for birds and freedom and caring I don't know, but it happened. Still, their relationship, despite the factual but unnecessary sex scenes - in my opinion - didn't seem to reach that level of true sharing and commitment and sharing of values and love I kind of hoped for. It felt very bland for me.

Sincerely, what interested me the most was actually the enemy's feelings for Aimery's older brother Edmund. She only wanted to use him but I kind of glimpsed interest in her part...none of the upcoming books is about them though, so I can't know if I was right in hoping for something there.
Also interesting was Claris, Edmund's indifferent and disillusioned wife who had a evil side and she was obsessed with Aimery. It seemed weird how everyone was ok with this, but the attachment between all characters seemed inexistent so... still the most interesting thing in the book was this flawed character alright.

In the end I wasn't convinced nor captivated enough to keep reading. I never felt really invested in any character and by the way the story ends, I was actually even less worried about it. Sure some interesting points exist but aren't enough to support the rest, I think.
The next two books in the series focus on known characters and then there are more whose setting is the 20th century. Right now I don't feel like reading any. 
This story wasn't the entertaining journey I thought would happen, and it feels a bit sad, but we can't help what we feel, right?
Grade: 4/10

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

TBR Challenge: Pamela Morsi - Simple Jess

The last thing widow Althea Winsloe wanted to do was remarry. Unfortunately, her meddlesome mountain neighbors had other plans. So, one autumn night they banded together and gave Althea a shocking ultimatum: She was to find herself a husband by Christmas...or the town would do it for her!
Althea knew she had her choice of any single man in Marrying Stone, Arkansas. Yet the only one she felt truly comfortable with was Simple Jess.
Sweet and gentle, Jess wasn't as smart as your average man. But his tender manner stirred Althea's heart in ways she had never dreamed possible.
It would take a miracle to find a husband in Marrying Stone. But sometimes miracles are right under your nose.


Comment: Here's another book for the TBR challenge of this year. May is the month for a Kickin' It Old School (Copyright 10 years or older) story. I confess I have lots of these in my pile because I like to save for a rainy day... The day I won't be able to buy more books I'll have plenty to keep me busy until I can do it again. I'm like a good ant. 
Anyway, this title fits the bill as it was published in 1996, so closer to 20 years than 10. Also, I've read the first in these series/trilogy so another good reason why I would pick it. 

This is the story of Simple Jess, a young man who lives in the Ozark mountains with his family and a small community. Jess is different from most man because of a problem with his birth but apart from that he does what everyone else does and he can be reliable and trustworthy. He just needs help interpreting some things and in learning things the first time. He's honest and innocent but he wants to be as respected as everyone else.
Althea Winsloe is also young, a widow with a small child to take care of. She wants to do things her own way but the community apparently can't leave her alone especially with a good farm on her hands. With another two suitors and a lot of problems, can Althea see past Jess's obvious issues to the wonderful man he is?

This isn't the first time I've read a story with a character who has difficulties and what we would call a mental impairment. I've read Tim by Colleen McCullough which, in a different way, also shows us such people can be as worthy and deserving as everyone else. (Those of you who haven't read it, you'll like it! More serious than this one though but so beautiful...)
Simple Jess is a man who is scorned, mocked and easily dismissed but he also has unique traits that make him beautiful to those who really appreciate and love him. Of course Jess' personality was the most interesting thing to look for here and I enjoyed all scenes with him.

However, one of the things I kind of expected in this book was to see how Jess would behave as a married man and I thought this would focus more on Jess' feelings and POV but regretfully that didn't happen. In my opinion too much happened with secondary characters and the development of Jess and Althea's relationship and romance was too slow and too subtle. Until the end, where Althea finally admitted her feelings, things between them weren't as obvious as I thought they should. 
Sure, Jess is different and he couldn't reply as other men most likely would have, but he had feelings for her and he had proved he could be worthy and dependable. I know it's difficult to accept someone like him easily, I understand Althea's initial setbacks but this is a romance, I wanted them to talk more about it, to share something more before those final scenes. It's not that it wasn't done well or romantically, I just hoped that, since this is about Jess mostly, he would be a more high profiled protagonist.

In general terms, this is a good book. I liked the writing, the protagonists, even when Althea did things I don't agree with, I liked the interactions between Jess and the other characters because we could see his values shine through despite any prejudice of others. Even Jess' actions with Althea's son and the way he is a grown up with him and teaches him things too, even morally speaking.
Other things annoyed me though. Eben is one of those characters we are suppose to dislike but forgive everything because he is redeemed. Sincerely I don't mind the lesson that all people who ask sincere forgiveness should be given a second chance but his behavior is inexcusable in my opinion.
I do understand plot workings and the meaning here but still...

Another thing that really made me want to scream at someone was how the people felt "enabled" to discuss and demand things from Althea's life. In a way I know this is supposed to be funny and/or exaggerated to the point where the sort of rural community has the power they shouldn't have. But it irritated me to no end how Althea couldn't make a decision without their almost bullying. Of course historical facts and times are part of the explanation, especially in small villages and remote places, but it was very hard to keep reading how Althea couldn't just make her decisions, even if the romance needs "had" to push her into a path.

So,some things stopped me from fully swooning about this novel.
It's not that it is bad because it isn't. But I just couldn't put aside my contemporary views and maybe it's my fault and maybe it's the way it's written didn't allow me to go from reality to fantasy enough.
In the end things end well for everyone of course. I'm happy for them, Jess in particular, but I feel a bit bad he didn't get to be a hero with more pump and circumstance as I think he deserved.

All in all, a good enough story. Many details the author used about rural life  - like killing hogs and farm practices which don't seem important for the romance but I liked seeing - gave atmosphere to the plot and I think in that, the book is successful.
Still, the romance, despite its good parts and charming scenes, wasn't completely perfect for my taste and for what I kind of wanted for Jess. The book does work well as far as the time period details is concerned, though. Still... could be better for me.
Grade: 7/10

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Kristen Callihan - Shadowdance

Life has been anything but kind to Mary Chase. But the Society for the Suppression of Supernaturals has given her purpose. Now she's been tasked with catching a vicious murderer dubbed the Bishop of Charing Cross. But someone is already on the case—and the last thing he relishes is a partner.
Jack Talent has been alone with his demons for many years. He never expected to have the willful Mary Chase assist him on the Bishop case. Their age-old rivalry reaches new heights—even as their desire for one another reaches a fever pitch. Though he aches to bring her close, Jack's dark secrets are a chasm between them. With dangerous enemies closing in, Jack must find the strength to face the past...or risk losing Mary forever.


Comment: I was prepared to dislike this book and curse myself for even taking the time out of potentially better books to meet up my own rules of finishing things. I really was. After the last two books which weren't as amazing as the first one, I was ready to give up the series. But promises and opinions of others about the book after this one being so good, I went with this because I already had it.

This story follows the happenings of the previous book, Winterblaze, namely the lives of Jack Talent and Mary Chase, two of the secondary characters of that book.
Both these characters have had terrible experiences in their lives, things they had to go through until they reached the status they now have. In the previous book Jack went through an awful ordeal and Mary was the one who saved him, something he couldn't' forget.
However, there's a killer in London and Mary and Jack, as Regulators are teamed up to research and solve the case. At the same time, they have to talk and deal with each other and throughout the book they not only acknowledge the feelings between them, they also join forces to finally end the villain behind every issue between them.

I liked this story which was quite the surprise for me. After the previous books that didn't deliver what I expected, I confess I was a bit put off by jumping into this one so soon. On the other hand, at least I still remembered many things.
I decided to read this one, not only because I already had it and - if I ended up not really liking it anyway - I could think it was one less story to worry about being unread, but also because I didn't have to wonder about others, my time dedicated to this world would be over without my guilt.
However, my plans were put aside because I really liked this one. I mean, it wasn't perfect but I cared about the main characters and their relationship won me over.

This story, like I said, focus on Mary and Jack's relationship while they try to solve a case together.
We get to see many details of each of their personalities and the thing they have in common is how what they went through shaped their opinions of themselves. Neither believes the ones around them, who like them should love them. In a way I liked how this detail was the element that ended being the one that made them come together. Of course by the end they accepted the lesson that they are as worthy of their feelings and love as everyone else.
This didn't come easy and they had to go past many self prejudice and wrong ideas before that, but the path towards the HEA was one I could believe and accept.

Jack is a fascinating character, very dedicated and loyal and guilt and shame consume him. I understand his need to prove himself and his feelings of not wanting to be an emotional burden to those who care about him. But I could see his growth and no matter the surprises about his origins we find out here, I still think he's one of the most humane characters in the series.

Mary as a surprise too, I had the impression she was more aloof and distant from the previous story, but she really accepted who she is here and that what she went through helped her be the person best adjusted to love Jack and to be the one equal to him. And vice versa. Their relationship was quite balanced and I also liked seeing the little details about them and who/what they are.

The villain is defeated in the end. I admit I don't really pay much attention to this side of books when they have a strong romance going on. But of course it helped move the plot along so...
I was really more focused on Mary and Jack's relationship, the sexual tension between them and the way they slowly couldn't avoid their feelings anymore. I think the pace of the story was good.
However, I can't put aside the slightly boring passages where I really wanted to see what would happen. The little scenes with clues about other beings/characters are captivating but annoying as we know we have to read more to find out.
The world seemed easier to read in this story. I think the one before really disappointed in that level, at least more than here, where I think it was balanced.
Also, the cover. It's interesting but the couple isn't what I envision both Mary and Jack to be. It doesn't have anything to do with the story, I know, but it annoys me.

In the end I think this book won me over, I mean it's not perfect no, but it restored my faith in the world, which seems to get more and more detailed with each installment, but I had the feeling this one was more well thought and executed. It does give me hope to read the next one someday.
Grade: 7/10

Monday, May 18, 2015

Belinda McBride - Blacque/Bleu

Lukas Blacque is a deeply closeted werewolf, and almost more than anything in life, he desires his neighbor, Oliver Bleu. Oliver is a vampire who is slowly dying from insomnia. More than anything, he needs Lukas Blacque and the rich blood that flows through his veins.
On the day that Blacque makes an important commitment to his family and pack, he also succumbs to temptation and agrees to a passionate weekend with the alluring vampire. At sunset on Friday, it's all about urgent lust and the drive to lose his virginity. When the sun rises on Monday, lust has shifted to love and devotion. He's not sure he can walk away, even for the commitment he's made. He's even less sure Bleu will let him go.
In Blacque's world, vampires and werewolves make uneasy bedfellows, and a gay werewolf is an impossibility. In Bleu's world, all living creatures are little more than vessels for food and sex. But in the mysterious and magical town of Arcada, the unexpected is always waiting right around the corner. Now Blacque and Bleu just need to survive long enough for Arcada's magic to work for them. 


Comment: This is a story I've been interested in since I realized it's about shape shifters. Those are my favorite types of characters in paranormal stories which, added to the fact I've read something by the author before and it was entertaining, made for good enough reasons to start this book.

This is a story about two neighbors, the vampire Bleu and the werewolf Blacque. They have been feeling attracted to each other for a while but neither acted on it because, for Blacque, that would be unacceptable mainly due to the fact he will be alpha and expected to be a father one day, so he needs to look the other way when it comes to his wishes.
But one night Blue can't avoid it any longer and they agree on a weekend together and that's it. However, despite Blacque's promise to his father about children in the future and the distant memories that now plague Blue's dreams, they can't seem to do what is expected of them and it's very difficult to stay apart...

I had some expectations about this - as I always do when it comes to shifter stories, I can't help it - but they weren't completely met. I can't really point out why this didn't make me as happy as I'd wished because the story does offer an interesting conflict, a sort of structured idea of how the world works, an enemy to dislike and wish dead and a HEA in the end.

The thing is, the romance didn't win me over that much. It wasn't the very, very slight D/s tone we have, which is so light one doesn't even have to give it importance but for me, I don't really care for that - was something I noticed and put me off when it was mentioned.
Then the development of the romance didn't seem as interesting as it should. Though I understood both Bleu and Blacque's reasons to stay away after they had their little weekend fling, I had a hard time being convinced of their feelings despite mate thoughts around.

For me, if an author writes books where sexual tension is on, that should be used properly to convey its message. In this book, we are told about their personal feelings and attraction as soon as the story starts, we know they have been feeling it for years, but from point A, knowing, to point B, seeing, doesn't go such a long distance. Personally, this writing tactic doesn't feel smooth or thoughtful, it's more handy or helpful to portray one idea without the support behind it.
Conclusion to myself: I don't really buy it. The romance feels rushed and convenient, not really heartfelt.

There's a good portion of secondary characters, which adds up life to the story. This is good and some characters have an important part but I couldn't go past the feeling they were there with a purpose, not because that community/family/society/group really was indispensable to the story. So I liked them but didn't "feel" their role was as deep as it would be otherwise.
Again, these are my personal views on the book.

The solution about everything (from romance difficulties to bad guy's disposal) was quick to happen. It wasn't perfect meaning everyone was ok with it, which would have been too sugary and lazy work, but nevertheless I didn't feel that rush of happiness about it either.
I just think I missed the emotional involvement I always hope for in books.
Despite everything, the book isn't completely bad. But, as usual, the things I consider negative points pop up more clearly and I have a hard time focusing on the positives. If this happens, then the book wasn't a success right? This certainly is law for any reader, I think.
I had a good enough time, but I really wanted more feeling.
Grade: 6/10