Saturday, May 28, 2016

More book nooks

Here I come again with suggestions for book nooks.
How I wish I could have a house with nooks like these, or similar. See if any catches your eye out of this list.

My favorite was the following:

It would be magical to be able to spend an afternoon reading in a location like this!
Maybe one day it will happen lol
Have a good weekend!

Friday, May 27, 2016

LaVyrle Spencer - The Gamble

Tough and tender sweet and sassy here is a story of honesty and humor for anyone who has ever lived and loved. 
Scott Gandy has always been a gambling man relying on his lazy Southern charm to smooth a way out of difficult situations. Hoping to make his fortune he opens a saloon in Proffitt Kansas. But he soon becomes a target of the prohibition movement led by the owner of the hat shop next door to his establishment -- the enchanting yet volatile Agatha Downing. 
The saloon keeper and the prim and proper milliner are hopeless adversaries! until the innocence of a child opens their eyes and hearts to each other.

Comment: From the backlist books I had from this author, this one caught my attention because from the blurb I got the idea the protagonists would be opponents but obviously would eventually fall in love. I was eager to read it because I know, as a rule, this author is talented to write romances.

Agatha Downing is the female protagonist in this story ans she is furious because the building next door will be a saloon, which means noise and alcohol will be abundant and not good for her quiet millinery business. She confronts the owner of the saloon, Scott Gandy, and not only does he tell her things will become even noisier but he also puts her in the muddy ground when she refuses to back down from their verbal fight.
Watching this was another women that is trying to eradicate saloons from everywhere and she convinces Agatha to join the cause. But with time and proximity, Agatha and Scott become friends and the people who work for him at the saloon her new family. Will Agatha ever feel her happiness depends on how long Scott and the others stay nearby? What if things change?

I had a great time reading this novel and it worked pretty well for me. I especially liked the idea of how Agatha and Scott would fall in love eventually but also important was how the secondary characters would play a key role in this and be a significant part of the story, not as much in terms of actions but simply their presence and meaning.
Also important was how a child arrives on scene and is the one that works as a unifying element for the main couple's relationship. It was great to see and I had many moments where I didn't want to put the book down.

The relationship between the main couple was quite well developed, it is slow paced but that allows us to identify all special moments and to understand why they behave the way they do and why does it matter to the future of their connection. It was quite good how the author introduced sexual tension in this story, it was obvious they were growing to like the other, eventually want and although nothing was done until the end, it was there, little looks and clues telling us that. How wonderful...I liked how even little things were dealt with care by the two of them as soon as they realized how the other was a friend. The evolution of their feelings to love was gradual but poignant and at some points I was even sad by some of their memories from the past. But the HEA was deserved. Too bad we didn't have an epilogue showing us how they were months or years into the future.

One important aspect was Willy, a child that both Scott and Agatha cared about and that was the reason why their attitudes towards each other changed. I don't think it would be as easy - in contemporary times definitely not - for strangers to raise a child but they do it (apart at first and then together in the end) somehow and that makes their borrowed family to grow even more. I really liked how everyone mattered and understood their feelings were important. There's also a slight secondary romance I enjoyed seeing developed.

I think one of the best parts of this author's novels is how serious and realistic some situations feel like. I especially liked Agatha's POV and how lonely she felt, how she though that life was passing by...I understand why the felt like that and the author portrayed that situation very well. I really can't find faults with the writing in this novel.
Another interesting aspect was the historical side of things, about the attempt to turn some states "dry", the women's movement towards that, even glimpses about the president's work in that level...

All things considered, this was a winning book for me. Sure, it has many details that, properly studied, would look not as well inserted or executed, but in general that isn't what makes the book be less good. I think this is a great story, Agatha and Scotty have a beautiful friendship, they fall in love, they trust each other and how good it is to simply see that.
Grade: 9/10

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Larissa Ione - Revenant

For five thousand years, Revenant believed he was alone in the world, a fallen angel beyond any redemption. Now he finds he has a twin brother who had all the light and love Revenant was denied. Caught in a tug of war between Heaven and Hell, he must weigh his thirst for revenge against his desire for a mysterious female named Blaspheme—a female whose very origins could deliver him into salvation . . . or destruction.
Blaspheme has a deadly secret: she's the forbidden offspring of an angel and a fallen angel. Hunted by both heavenly and satanic forces, she has survived only by laying low and trusting no one. When Revenant claims he can save them both, how can she possibly believe him? But the powerful angel is persistence incarnate and for Blaspheme, there's no place she can hide in Heaven or Hell where he won't find her...

Comment: I've had this book to read for more than a year. At the time I meant to read it quickly, as I usually try with recently published books from series I follow, but things happened and, among others, it got stuck in the pile.
Now, I finally remembered I still had to read it and voilá.
This is the most recent book in the Demonica series, that has brought fame to the author.
In this book we keep following the adventures of the group of characters we've met since book #1. In a way, this is sequence of narratives, all entered around the same bigger plot and I strongly advice readers to read in order, as many things might not make sense otherwise.

This book is the conclusion of all the issues on the table and there's a special focus on Revenant, someone whose importance in the story was revealed in the previous book and that now finally has his HEA.
Revenant is an angry angel, who recently found out the truth about his origin and life but he can't seem to accept how his life changed and how he should behave, he feels isolated and afraid and the only person that, apparently, understands him is Blaspheme, a False Angel he met and felt attracted to. But now that the villains are closer to gain the upper hand, can Revenant join forces with the good guys or will he seal his fate with the villains?

I liked this story. I think the author did a good job to finish this sort of arc to a satisfying conclusion and happiness of the characters we grow to like and care about.
Also good was how things were done, because after more than one year passing since I've read a book set in this "world", I could jump in right away without confusion.

This book has a very obvious theme: sometimes the real us is what really matters and makes you feel always better than any disguise or false identity we show to others. Both Blaspheme and Revenant showed one side of their personality to everyone but deep down they had the morals, the conscience and the good in them. Sure, everything was twisted because of things in their pasts, but despite some bad actions or deeds, they were still good inside and more than seeing them work things out together - which was fine and contributed to their deserved HEA - it was seeing them come to terms with who they are that really made this book shine.

Revenant is a good character, one of those people with good and bad things but what really struck me as interesting was his fears and how his attitude revealed that. But he wanted no pity so I understand his behavior towards others. His tale closer to the end, about his mother was touching and I confess I cried... I think he deserved the good things that he gets in the end, especially the welcome to the family bonds. It was nice to see him happy in the end.
Blaspheme didn't strike me as so well developed; I liked her personality, her values of conduct and her actions and she was a special kind of character but something about her wasn't as defined as Revenant in the whole scheme of things.

This is the last of the series and it shows. Several secondary characters show up, we have a glimpse or some information about their lives and that's great, it gives us the idea of continuity, of well achieved goals and that happiness can exist for those we cherished for.
Apparently a new series (or sort of arc) will feature children of the beloved characters we've met. I'll be interested in seeing those characters again.
Hopefully, more good adventures will come to this well developed world, which, by the way, is half way to have an engaging and winning series.
Grade: 8/10

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn - The Gulag Archipelago

Drawing on his own incarceration and exile, as well as on evidence from more than 200 fellow prisoners and Soviet archives, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn reveals the entire apparatus of Soviet repression -- the state within the state that ruled all-powerfully.Through truly Shakespearean portraits of its victims -- men, women, and children -- we encounter secret police operations, labor camps and prisons; the uprooting or extermination of whole populations, the welcome that awaited Russian soldiers who had been German prisoners of war. Yet we also witness the astounding moral courage of the incorruptible, who, defenseless, endured great brutality and degradation. The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 -- a grisly indictment of a regime, fashioned here into a veritable literary miracle.

Comment:  I borrowed this book in Portuguese from the same person that has lent me so many others in the past. It wasn't a choice I made, once again, it was something the person thought I'd appreciate and gave it to me to read. I truly appreciate her gesture and her thoughts and belief in my literary taste and willingness to increase my fictional reads but sometimes the titles she picks aren't things I'd choose for myself or that would be the most interesting. I prefer to read for entertainment and serious fiction reads aside, to see how a plot would engage me. Nevertheless, I feel thankful someone lends me her books, as I know it's not always an easy decision to trust our beloved books to someone else.

This book was written by a Nobel prize winner, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Friday, May 20, 2016

José Rodrigues dos Santos - A Chave de Salomão

Comment: My last read was this book (given to me on Christmas 2014) by a Portuguese author,
mostly know for it's job as a journalist and tv host. He also writes fiction (and non fiction about his work in war countries), books that are set in contemporary times, with a mix of suspense, adventure, and romance.
I'm not going to take long to leave a comment, as I know not many people would have access to his books.
The title can be loosely  translated into Solomon's Key.

This book is another adventure of Tomás Noronha, a sort of Robert Langdon but Portuguese, that has a degree in History and travels the world because of his work, therefore being able to know several subjects quite well.
There are several books featuring this character and at the same time we follow his adventures, we have glimpses of his personal life and those connected to him. Tomás Noronha is clinical, but with a moral sense of behavior that makes him handy when trying to get out of a sticky situation but not to the point of always ignoring the law.
In this adventure he is going to have to prove his innocence and show those who accuse him, he isn't a murderer.

This book was quite average for me. There are certain things about the writing that I couldn't help but notice all the time and that I don't appreciate much and the fictional side of things wasn't very fluid either, to the point where things seemed to be there just because and not for any plot motif.

What annoyed me the more was how, despite being Portuguese and writing in that language, the author included countless english expressions, usually swear words, that didn't add anything to the story. 
The writing has no grammatical mistakes obviously, but there are long sentences, paragraphs explaining the main theme, which is quantic physics and how that applies to the universe and even human existence in general. I'm certain most of the content, if not all, is precise and the reflex of the author's extensive and dedicated work of investigation. His notes at the end show us his appreciation for many people's help. However, the information we have in the book, which is given in a fictional setting, plot related of course, isn't very easy to follow because it's too much at a time. Like everything is important and we have to read it all.
Then the author chose to develop his stories very similarly to author Dan Brown, someone whose work is based on several ideas and his interpretation of them.
Here we have the same but with Portuguese characters and cities, etc., but I can't help having the feeling it's much alike.

The romance section isn't quite exact in terms of credibility. People's dialogues, situations are too easy and unlikely to happen and it's hard to imagine it happening.
The characters simply don't act like everyday people. Tomás is the most developed character and he's mostly charming but I can't connect with him. Sure, I like his ideas and behavior but emotionally I can easily keep my distance. 
The secondary characters are precisely that, secondary and often a cliché or a handy tool.

There's also a situation in this book, about Tomás' mother, who has an out-of-body experience when suffering a heart-attack and there's some plot time dedicated to it and if it's true or not. Interesting but at the end of the day it didn't add anything to the plot or the book as a whole so... interesting but pointless somehow.

The book is interesting, I like the theme and the explanations, learning more... but in general, apart from that, the story isn't that captivating or well executed. But it entertains.
Grade: 5/10

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Song #31

Music is back. I haven't been very consistent with this (supposedly) monthly post, but here and there I'll promise I'll try.

Adam Lambert is coming to Portugal to play with Queen in Rock in Rio tomorrow night. I won't be able to go and see them live but one of our cable TV is going to show it..or part of it. I think it will be interesting to see them play together.
This song by Adam is catchy, I like it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

TBR Challenge: Deborah Harkness - A Discovery of Witches

Book one of the New York Times–bestselling All Souls trilogy—"a wonderfully imaginative grown-up fantasy with all the magic of Harry Potter and Twilight” (People)
Deborah Harkness’s sparkling debut,
A Discovery of Witches, has brought her into the spotlight and galvanized fans around the world. In this tale of passion and obsession, Diana Bishop, a young scholar and a descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, deep in Oxford's Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld, which she navigates with her leading man, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont.
Harkness has created a universe to rival those of Anne Rice, Diana Gabaldon, and Elizabeth Kostova, and she adds a scholar's depth to this riveting tale of magic and suspense.

Comment: This is another read included in the TBR Challenge and this month's theme is Something Different which can mean a lot of things, depending on who is reading. The way I looked at it, I've thought about an unusual plot. For that, I picked a reader's favorite by Deborah Harkness (part of her All Souls trilogy), that mixes up paranormal and fiction, considering the amount of paranormal elements but also the history and literary references throughout the whole book. This is not we find that often in books, so there it was for me.

This story presents us Diana Bishop, a clever woman who lives in Connecticut but traveled to Oxford so she could investigate something for her work. While at the library she happens to study an unique manuscript which somehow reveals a spell. Diana, in fact, is a witch although she tries her best to overlook and ignore that.
Because of the manuscript, others start to come after her and she meets vampire Matthew Clairmont, someone who claims she will need help. The two form a special bond which ends up being something no one else would imagine as supernatural beings aren't meant to mix.
But the enemies aren't the only obstacles in Diana's path: what if she can't accept her inner self and her witch heritage?

I liked the book. I think it has enough elements to make it surprising and captivating to read. I don't think it's perfect because of the way the author chose to end it and due to some tactics to develop certain issues, but overall I had a good time reading this more than 700 pages book.

The book is a mix of genres, in a way. It has a lot of literary references, some content that can be perceived as academic and apparently with serious and proved ideas/concepts. The beauty of it all is how all this, which can be considered scientifically content is mixed with the fictional aspects and the paranormal situations and characters, which we wouldn't normally find put together.
In the end, the idea that remains the most I think is the paranormal one, based on historical data and so on, so this should be labeled a PNR I suppose. But it's clear the author had to study a lot to come up with the necessary elements to include and to support some of the ideas she introduces us to. It's also interesting how seemingly easy the academic evidences are included and inserted in the plot. Somehow it all makes sense by the way things are explained, even if we can't fully grasp its meanings.

The easist thing to follow, though, is the fictional characters' lives and actions. Of course the romance that develops between Matthew and Diana has a purpose not only to make us want to read. Both their characters come from different sides in the paranormal reality where the action is set (where witches, vampires and daemons live among humans) and that is supposed to be a no-go but they defy rules because they fall in love.
This added to the search for the a manuscript and its secrets makes it a fascinating story to read.
I think the romance lacks some sexual tension. Yes, they are attracted to each other but their relationship turns clinical and emotional in a way that makes it less thrilling to read about. I'm not talking about wanting to see sex, but to have a better notion of their attraction, because since they met until they told each other they were in love, some times went by but we saw little of how sexually connected they would be, it's not obvious and no matter how linked it can be to the old idea of emotional love instead of physical being better, I still would have liked to see them act more passionate.

Matthew is an alpha character and I confess sometimes he annoyed me. For such an old vampire and having so many experiences, his responses to his natural possessive behavior isn't up to his so called enormous knowledge and experiences of how to deal with people. 
Diana also annoyed me here and there...unlike some readers, it wasn't her lack of will to accept she's a witch that didn't ring true - if it were me I think I'd be like her - my issue is more by how easy she accepts some things, being in love included, considering how analytical she is. And Matthew too, in a way.

The plot develops at a slow pace, many descriptions, which can be a turn off to some...I liked all the details about paranormal elements, the secondary characters too. I hope the following books will include more scenes with the characters that helped the main couple and who are part of their family. I think the author did a good job of adding characters as the plot moved along and giving them interest and purpose.

In the end, this was a surprising book, something I enjoyed although it took me a long time to read. I admit there are parts where things don't run as smoothly and I wasn't eager to keep reading but then something happens and it becomes addictive again. Again, I'm against the majority because I preferred the beginning of the story when things were simple and Diana was still fighting her witch heritage and the main couple's relationship was easier and on the seducing stage.
But everything moved along in an interesting way and I'll read the following book because I want to know what happens.
This book won't appeal to everyone (see how far apart some reviews at GR are) but those who acknowledge the book's intent and fascinating content might find it a great read.
Grade: 7/10

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Lucinda Brant - Salt Redux

Jane and Salt—four years of Happily Ever After
Sir Antony Templestowe—four years of Exile
Lady Caroline—four years of Heartache
Diana St. John—four years plotting Revenge
The time has come...
How does a brother cope with life knowing his sister is a murderess? How can a nobleman have the life he has always wanted when a lurking evil consumes his thoughts and haunts his dreams? What will it take for good to triumph over evil? For readers who enjoyed Salt Bride, the story continues…

Comment: Another buddy read for me and my friend Hannah!
This book is
the sequel to another one I've read last month by author Lucinda Brant - and that I enjoyed a lot. I expected this to be another great success, although the way the previous book ended was good enough for me. What we call "loose ends" were explained enough and no one would need to read more but I expected this story to be marvelous as well.

This book starts four years after the end of the previous book. We learn how all the characters we followed before are now and we see glimpses of their happiness and life developments.
We also learn the villain, Diana, has been plotting her escape and return.
But this time, for the heroes to be certain life won't present a new and more dangerous Diana again, more extreme measures have to be done. Anthony, the protagonist of this book and Diana's brother, has to find a permanent solution that won't make him and his family as awful as Diana is but at the same time he needs to protect others from his sister's influence and plans. Can he do it?

The book starts with a prologue showing how Diana, the villain, has come up with a plan to escape the prison where she's been at and how she accomplishes that. Her characters, I have to say, is what truly captives people to read this. At the same time I was wishing for the good guys to understand her plans and find a way to stop her, I was being led to believe Diana had a wit and cleverness many real people wouldn't imagine ever to possess. But I also think in this novel, things a bit more unrealistic and despite the lack of technology how could everyone in London not suspect something was wrong with her sudden reappearance?

I liked seeing the family scenes, especially the domestic aspect of Salt and Jane's lives. It does reinforce the idea happiness is possible and HEAs are goals to want to achieve and see happen.
Of course Diana wanted to destroy any happiness of others and the ways she imagined to do so are repulsive and offensive. But I also think part of her mental process was more obviously crazy than what it was in the previous book.

The main couple here is Caroline and Anthony, people we've met in the first book and whose happiness seemed set in stone but after all, we learn their lives went different routes but now they are being reunited again to finally have their HEA.
I really dislike lovers reunited books...and although Caroline and Anthony were never together like that, they do have to deal with the time they were apart and the feelings they had between them before. I found their story boring and annoying, mostly because of Caroline.

Ok, so she was angry, she was young, she was playing a game, but I really hated how she decided to get revenge (of sorts) on Anthony by letting herself be seduced so she could punish him eventually. Both acted wrong and everyone makes mistakes, but then she has a behavior I think didn't suit her previous personality and it seemed to me it was something the author invented so she could have a story to develop now. But I feel annoyed because it matters. Because now that she and Anthony are together again and willing to play for keeps and finally admitting what was obvious to anyone - themselves included which is more than annoying - they no longer can be the same people they were and, to me, that's not a positive thing, despite the growing up they both had in the meantime.

Anthony was more assertive now but he also went through a bad experience that frightened him and now he's a different person. He learned he was a drunk and is trying his best to not give in anymore. Interesting methods to achieve that. I liked how he took the reins of deciding important things and how good he was to Caroline, how understandable. I also understand how normal it was for men like him to have mistresses and so on but that practice is so vile, even if there are warm feelings between the couple. But I digress...
I liked Anthony for the most part, i just don't think he and Caroline were a good couple anymore and their scenes seemed childish and not up to what they changed. Besides their scenes were boring and I saw myself skipping some here and there.

In this book there's a final destiny to Diana and her evil behavior. I totally understand why and it's deserved but the way it happened, I think I'd change...
Anthony and Caroline end up happy but I don't care much about them. I preferred to see Salt and Jane happy and with their family close together. It's so good to see HEAs matter even after the characters are done with their story.
Some little things weren't as easy to swallow now as they were int he other book like when a character helped Diana without knowing and we, as a reader, couldn't do anything to stop...I felt like putting common sense in the character's head. But I suppose this is more personal taste than author's fault.
All in all, a good portray of a villain, of a happy family but bad new romance development.
Grade: 7/10

Friday, May 13, 2016

Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock - When All The World Sleeps

Daniel Whitlock is terrified of going to sleep. And rightly so: he sleepwalks, with no awareness or memory of his actions. Including burning down Kenny Cooper’s house—with Kenny inside it—after Kenny brutally beat him for being gay. Back in the tiny town of Logan after serving his prison sentence, Daniel isolates himself in a cabin in the woods and chains himself to his bed at night.
Like the rest of Logan, local cop Joe Belman doesn’t believe Daniel’s absurd defense. But when Bel saves Daniel from a retaliatory fire, he discovers that Daniel might not be what everyone thinks: killer, liar, tweaker, freak. Bel agrees to control Daniel at night—for the sake of the other townsfolk. Daniel’s fascinating, but Bel’s not going there.
Yet as he’s drawn further into Daniel’s dark world, Bel finds that he likes being in charge. And submitting to Bel gives Daniel the only peace he’s ever known. But Daniel’s demons won’t leave him alone, and he’ll need Bel’s help to slay them once and for all—assuming Bel is willing to risk everything to stand by him.

Comment: This was the May book selected for my book club. It's the first book I've read by the authors and I confess I got it mostly because it was the chosen title, otherwise it might not have caught my attention.

In this book we meet Daniel Whitlock, someone tormented by somnambulism. When he's asleep he has no memory of his actions or of what happens around him. But Daniel is severely ill in a way because he killed someone while in his somnambulistic state. 
Joe "Bel" Bellman is a cop and after Daniel makes up some trouble in a bar, he decides to monitor him in case he does something more dangerous. But Bel comes to realize Daniel is a victim and even his crime wasn't completely his fault. But the rest of the town where both of them grew up isn't as quick to understand and forgive and Daniel lives in fear of losing control of himself again. 
Can Bel help Daniel having a grip on his problem or will Daniel have to keep finding orthodox ways to not be dangerous to others?

Overall, I enjoyed reading this story. I think one of the best things about it is the narrative's atmosphere: we can tell how desolate and difficult it is for Daniel to withstand others' glares, depreciative comments and how ill at ease he is in social events, such as going to the coffee shop. Besides being labeled a killer, Daniel is also gay in a small town. These two factors, added to the difficulty of dealing with his own family and loss of his dreams, makes him terribly vulnerable. The way the authors did write about Daniel and his problems and how that affected his life was quite good because it gave some heaviness to the story but also the idea that things had to improve.

Daniel is a fascinating character. He has a sweet side but rarely shows it because of what happened to him. He has served time, he is sorry things happened like that but he is still scared he will loose control in his sleep and do something terrible again.
I really liked his character, I understood his problems and fears and why he chose to isolate himself so much. I was sorry his family didn't have the will to support or defend him. It's complicated when everything point out to one's guilt. The atmosphere was heavy and suffocating. I really felt Daniel's despair and desire to change and control things but deep down, his fear of causing more damage to people. He was terribly lonely and so I can accept why he would feel better in the positions he put himself into by having a sort of submissive lifestyle.
But BDSM isn't my thing and I would have preferred Daniel not to have given in to it. Yes, it might have helped him in the past, but now it's not helping and the way his relationship progressed with Bel with some elements from this lifestyle in the mix was the thing I liked the least.

Bel is a good man, he grows to understand Daniel, he tries his best to defend and help him, to protect him from his own fears. But in the beginning of their relationship he starts to embrace the bdsm ideas  - never totally, they never get to the point of being a dom/sub completely, they simply use part of that reality for a while - so he could make Daniel feel easier and at the same time he started to like how that made him feel. Sure, I get the point and the purpose but it's something that simply doesn't appeal to me. No matter how much talk they have about how good they feel or how plain they make the rules, for me it's always an unbalanced relationship and I don't enjoy story lines with such a theme.
However, it was interesting to see that it wasn't the sole focus of their alone time and they could grow up together separately from their sexual relationship. It was good to see Bel weight in his commitments and his need to be who he thought others saw in him with his love for Daniel.

The book ends in a way I liked, with both guys moving forward with their lives, still in love, still confident they could become better together.
Daniel learned how to improve, Bel proved he is a wonderful partner and I finished the book happy about their future.
The plot had some conflicts which were expected, but Bel was there for Daniel. There's a certain issue that wasn't solved the way I imagined and I think something different would have helped is what it is.
Daniel's problem isn't miraculous solved, but he is learning to not let it control him or his life and having someone by his side like Bel, someone who trusts and cares for him is half way to being a bit more in control of his fears.
It was a nice read, despite the darker issues and moments. But Daniel's despairing moments and thoughts in his lowest moments stay with us. How good to think there's always hope even if not an easy path ahead. Interesting book to read.
Oh and a gorgeous cover, by the way. Very suggestive and matching the tone of the story.
Grade: 7/10