Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Susan Elizabeth Phillips - Breathing Room

Dr. Isabel Favor, author of Four Cornerstones for a Favorable Life, has sacrificed everything to build her self-help empire. Then, in a matter of weeks, it all comes crashing down. She loses her money to an unscrupulous accountant, her fiancé to a frumpy older woman, and her reputation to headlines denouncing her as a fraud. America's diva of self-help soon discovers she can fix everyone's life but her own. Broke, heartsick, and soul-weary, she heads for Italy in search of a little breathing room.
Lorenzo Gage makes his living killing people... on the silver screen, that is. He's viciously handsome and sublimely talented. But as he begins his vacation in Italy, he's also vaguely dissatisfied. Being a villain with a face to die for has its rewards, but he hates the feeling that everything he's neglected in life is catching up with him. Then he spots Isabel sipping a glass of wine in a sidewalk café. A good guy wouldn't think of seducing such a tidy-looking woman... but he'd never seen the fun in playing the hero.
It doesn't take long for Isabel to realize she's escaped one kind of chaos only to be plunged into another. Even the shelter of a simple stone farmhouse nestled in a Tuscan olive grove can't provide her with the refuge she needs -- not when the townspeople are scheming to drive her away, and her plan to restore her reputation has come up empty. And especially not when the man who deceived her refuses to leave her in peace.

Comment: Now that I've gotten a taste for ms Phillips' books, I'm trying to get to her backlist - something I'll eventually go through - and this title caught my attention and I was even more interested in the blurb after reading it.
I think the author's style is very appealing and I couldn't wait to read.
In this book we meet Isabel favor, a self help coach who worked hard her all life and a true believer in her lessons about self worth, hard work, healthy relationships and positive thinking. The story begins with Isabel finding out that her account stole her money, people are cancelling attendance to her presentations and her fiancé tells her he loves someone else and he's going to be a father.
It's a now penniless, depressed and single Isabel that goes to Tuscany to spend some time at a friend's villa and to think about her future.
It's in Italy that Isabel meets Ren Gage, an actor who got famous playing the villain in action movies. But there's mot than meets the eye when it comes to Ren and his and Isabel's paths are going to cross after they realize they share the same space for a while. But aren't they looking for more than just acceptance in their lives.
I enjoyed this book. As always, the author creates an interesting cast of characters and places them in situations where they have no other option but to evolve, to become better, to find the things they didn't even know they were looking for. Sometimes that happens because they fall in love and they see through others' eyes how special they can be.
I always think it's fascinating how the author finds situations not always very realistic and makes them somehow believable. Isabel and Ren's lives are possible yes, but surely still in the realm of hopeful dreams that anyone would want to try for some reason. I liked how they seemed unapproachable at first but deep down their choices and hardships were as common as anyone else's.
People have issues in their lives and I was glad things just didn't solve themselves for Ren and Isabel, despite a little exaggerated scene towards the end which I think was avoidable.
The lesson to learn is that we make our own paths and sometimes little decisions can be the solution to bigger problems, who knows...
The romance was interesting because Ren and Isabel were so different, had different expectations and thought differently about life and how to live it. Of course opposite people would complement each other and it was sweet to see the practical and calm Isabel help others and giving advice to Ren the way he needed. And Ren was more impulsive but made Isabel take risks, feel things get out of the tight control she had that almost stopped her from living.
Their relationship felt balanced and it wasn't picture perfect, they had to talk and learn from each other to find happiness.
The secondary characters are funny, have an interesting part in developing the story and I liked how they mattered to the story and to the development of the main couple's relationship. Sure, some things seemed rather avoidable, not that they were badly done, only that I think they weren't helping anything, such as the problem many inhabitants had after Isabel moved and why.
Some secondary characters were interesting and I genuinely liked them, like Tracy, Harry and their children. All of them helped Isabel and Ren somehow.
In the end of it, I had fun with this book, I liked spending time with the characters and learn about their lives and see how a HEA can make someone feel better. I have good hopes for the author's other books too.
Grade: 8/10

Friday, October 9, 2015

Two novellas by Jennifer Ashley

Ellison Rowe, a Lupine Shifter, makes it his goal to protect Maria, once held captive by ferals, from male Shifters looking for mates. He likes Maria's resilience and fire, but she's been broken, and Ellison wants more than anything to heal her. When a new danger threatens Shiftertown's cubs, Maria partners with Ellison to stop a cold-blooded criminal.

Cormac has been moving from one Shiftertown to the next in search of a mate. Now he's in southern Nevada, where a beautiful, unmated bear Shifter greets him...with a shotgun in her hands.
Nell is a hot-tempered mother of two cubs, and she doesn't take kindly to new Shifters showing up in town without her consent - even one with a sexy smile and brilliant blue eyes. But when her sons are endangered and she desperately needs help protecting them, Cormac proves he's worthy of her trust as well as her desire.

Comment: Two novellas by Jennifer Ashley in her Shifters Unbound series.
I thought each one was average, I liked them and the characters but somehow neither was super amazing and in some parts I actually had to tell myself to keep reading.
Perfect Mate is bear Nell's story. She's a recurrent character in the series and we know she raised her children alone but she's the alpha bear in her Shiftertown. The story centers around Cormac, a bear that transferred to Nell's town because he's looking for a mate. In fact, the only one available is...Nell. Although reluctant, Nell lets him be around, even replacing her kitchen cabinets. Then one of her sons is kidnapped and Nell accepts any help she can to save her cub.
The story was ok, it was good to see the interaction between characters and what was happening to some of the others. In terms of world progress it was enough information not to make the story feel too isolated. The romance I got it, it was handy, but I never really felt they had to be destined for each other. It just didn't sound as perfect as that. And considering the amount of time the author had, it seems slightly unbalanced when one compares to other relationships in the world. Not that it wasn't be well done, only that I think it lacked something.
Lone Wolf is Ellison's story and follows the previous one right away.
Ellison is very protective of Maria, a human woman who's been rescued from a place run by illegal and feral shifters, along with many other women and cubs. Maria only wants to win her independence, work and be free of shifters - or so she thinks. One guy in the bar where she works tries to provoke Maria but she's immediately helped by Liam and the other shifters that were there, including Ellison. With time Maria starts to accept Ellison's help and protection, especially when the group fights a human man who kidnaps shifters to sell as pets.
This story was also interesting but again I wasn't much convinced about the depth of feelings between Maria and Ellison. They seemed to be a good couple but the affection between them felt rather rushed to fit the relationship. As for the rest of the plot, it was good, we got to see how some characters were too; this is a good thing from the author, she includes many characters and it makes her community look more complete, important, happy. All in all, good but could be better.
I still think both novellas were interesting addictions to the world, a good way to tell a character's story without having to dedicate a whole book to them and thankfully these stories are big novellas, so the development usually works out, even if, in my opinion, the romances could all be better.
In the end, points for plot, not so many for romance.
Grade (of both novellas): 6/10

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Several authors - Premiere: Romance Writers of America anthology

From Romance Writers of America® comes a never-before-published collection of tales that showcases the breadth and complexity of the world's most popular genre of fiction!
New York Times bestselling authors Cindy Gerard and Allison Brennan bring the thrills in their tales of romantic suspense.
New York Times bestselling authors Sabrina Jeffries and Courtney Milan take you on a trip back in time with lush stories of historical romance.
New York Times bestselling authors Vicki Lewis Thompson and Joan Johnston show the wonder of contemporary romance, while New York Times bestselling authors Monica Murphy and Laura Kaye's New Adult romances delve into the evolving Millennial perspective.
And editor and #1 New York Times bestselling author Sylvia Day's tale of angels and sizzling desire takes readers to the edge with paranormal romance.
From the first love of Young Adult romance to tales of second chances, LGBT romance to the realms of the supernatural, contemporary to historical, suspense to inspirational, the genre of romance has a story for every reader and this blockbuster inaugural collection from Romance Writers of America showcases it all!

Comment: This is one of the most recent books I've read. I got the anthology a few months ago and thought it would be a good summer read but as always it ended being pushed and only a few days ago I picked it at last.
The anthology has the idea of "wrong number", meaning all stories somehow had to include the idea of a wrong number being key to whatever situation described in the plot. As always, some author seemed to have done it very well, others not so much.
The stories are 18 and some were new authors to me. I'm including the links to their sites below, in my comments.
The ones I've read are in one of my other lists.
The problem with short stories is precisely the limitation we have because of page count; in some stories I think it was obvious the author would need more space to develop the characters, the plot...some ideas would make great full length books, in my opinion.
The thing is, any reader has different opinions. I liked 3 stories best, others were average and 2 I think weren't up to my taste. Everything is relative, it depends on someone's mood, the target audience, our genre preferences, etc... it doesn't mean those authors did a bad job but in the same limited amount of time, some authors convinced me and others didn't.
This is a good way to know more authors and some here I will look at their back lists, but many will be forgettable for me.
As a whole I'd say this is an average read because my favorites and least favorites aren't in the majority.
I've graded each story individually and then divided them and I got a sort of average number.
I won't write much about each one, but will leave my overall impression.
RAVISHED BY THE GEEK by Vicki Lewis Thompson, Contemporary 6/10
This is about a man getting a wrong email because of a #2 at the end of his email account but then he has the chance to fulfill the fantasies of the woman he has a crush on. I liked it but the pages dedicated to describe the sex would have been better used to develop their feelings.
UNDER A WICKED MOON by Lila Bell, PNR 3/10
Two former orphans who shared a foster house meet again, she uses magic on him (wrong number of ingredients in the spell), he feels she's his mate. It passed me by and I didn't find much interest in it even though I like shape shifter stories because their connection wasn't very likable, I didn't feel interested in them as a couple.  
A RIGHT HONORABLE GENTLEMAN by Courtney Milan, Historical 8/10
One of may favorites about a 39 year old governess who's leaving her post because the boy she's been educating is going to Eton and how his father, someone important finally decides to pursue her (at a wrong number address) and make them both happy. I was happy too because ms Milan writes wonderfully and her story seemed bigger and better.
STATION 12 by Amber Lin, Contemporary 5/10
A woman tries to leave her ex things in his cubicle at the fire station but gets the wrong station and meets another man. There's a connection between them but she only looks for him after she feels he might be special and brave while seeing him in the news helping someone from a fire. It was cute but too easy for me. More pages would have helped, considering what she was going through emotionally.
WRONG NUMBER, RIGHT GIRL by Monica Murphy, New Adult 4/10
Ehh...player guy is facing a purpose crises or something, tries to seduce someone, the girl gives him her cousin's number, the cousin and him start to chat, they meet...they get along. Not interested in him, in her, or in their relationship. Typical NA plot but easily put aside by me.
A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS by Regina Scott, Inspirational 5/10
A woman meets her crush again after he comes back from the military post where he's been, they meet again, reconnect, realize they can love each other. Sweet but nothing special, I felt it fit the idea but not much more than that. Forgot the number reference to be honest.
COMING HOME by Joan Johnston, Contemporary 8/10
I'd love to see this developed because it was good, a FBI agent goes on a double date (with a wrong number dress size) with her cousin, cousin's boyfriend and Luke, an ex con, wrongly accused. They were getting along, they dismissed prejudices and tried to respect the other...it was really great to read and it's another one of my favorite stories here.
THE POET by T.L. Costa, YA 7/10
Surprised by this sweet story about a boy with a crush who sends her a poem by mistake. He tries to stop her from reading, joins a zumba class somehow and ends up knowing she feels the same and was waiting for him to say something. I liked there was no sexual content and everything was cute. Usually not fond of YAs at all, this was one of the best stories, I think.
DEAD WRONG by Cindy Gerard, Romantic Suspense 6/10
A woman was wrongly accused of murdering her husband, she is acquitted and goes home where she meets Jed again, her teenage years sweetheart. They hit it off again, face her ex father in law who believes he killed his son and she and Jed save the day and end up happy ever after. Meh, it had some interestingly emotional issues I wish would have been better used, but overall I wasn't too convinced and the lovers reunited theme rarely wins me over. Forgot number reference.
THE FALLOUT by Harper St. George, NA 5/10
A good idea about a young couple getting back together before the divorce whose deadline would be in a different day than the one scheduled. I didn't enjoy the fact there was more focus in sexually address the issue than to better prepare the emotional setbacks of their lives. This was the story I forgot more about after finishing the anthology.
HARD TO BREATHE by Sylvia Day, PNR 7/10
It was good on its own, two angels, different hierarchies battling their feelings, he's an alpha type, all good except the part where concessions have to be made for them to be together. Why complicate was my thought about something that was on the way to perfection then felt short to me. Forgot the number reference.
ALL I WANT by Erica Ridley, Historical 5/10
I had a hard time thinking about this as an historical somehow. The sweethearts reunited didn't ring true in this story about a good family girl still loving the wrong boy who went to war. They eventually get their HEA because of a game of cards. Not very appealing to my tastes. Forgot the number reference.
COVERING HER SKIN by Laura Kaye, Contemporary/NA? 7/10
This was good overall, a woman wants to get rid of a numbered tattoo by covering it with another, the tattoo artist knew about the treason she suffered, they now feel attracted. I liked the guy, I felt sorry for the girl, but too many clichés to justify this and it felt rushed. Good but a different page count would have helped.
THE LONG WAY HOME by Katy Regnery, NA 5/10
Many liked this one but it felt flat to me, older girl than the guy usually is not my cup of tea, then mixed with older sparks reunited, ehh...it was only positive for me because of the emotional aspect which had space to be improved. But the rest is forgettable to me. Number reference about the only one seat to be taken at the bus home.
THEIR NIGHT OFF by Allison Brennan, Romantic Suspense 6/10
Too much talk about sex. I get it but it distracted me from the plot, which I never got very interested in anyway. A FBI agent has an eureka moment about a case, her cop boyfriend helps her. I wanted to know more about their relationship but the way it was presented seemed it wasn't as strong as it could have been.
I liked this one, but it also had the problem of not enough pages to tell what could have been a great story. Too much time dedicated to sex when things more subtle could have worked out and left space to improve the personal characterization of the guys. Mail delivered to wrong number address.
AN APRIL FOOL'S FORBIDDEN AFFAIR by Sabrina Jeffries, Historical 5/10
A man is in love with his deceased wife's sister, he fights it but everyone noticed it except her, who also moons about him. By trying to show a lesson to the woman's younger brother, they set up a prank in a wrong address and eventually face the reality of their feelings. Rushed, confusing story filled with clichés and sincerely, not very appealing characters.
WRONG ADDRESS, RIGHT GUY by Diane Kelly, Contemporary 9/10
My favorite!! Guy comes to have a date, neighbor with the address next to the woman takes her place after the other woman leaves for another date, the two of them talk, have a great time, behave like grown ups and we are left with the idea of true happiness in the air. Loved it, I'd like to see it bigger but it was the one that felt more completed and structured and they had never met before. Wonderful read!
A thing I've noticed about the majority of the stories is how easy it is to use the lovers reunited trope and adaptations to it, or the meeting again to make the character's connection feel stronger and more realistic in such a short amount of time. I get it but it was hard to stomach that because I tend not to like those much.
I'll try to look at the authors besides ms Milan that I've liked and see if some other woks by them captivate me.
This anthology was good, interesting common theme but overall, it was average and good to pass the time...
Grade: 6/10

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Kerrelyn Sparks - Crouching Tiger, Forbidden Vampire

Russell wakes from a coma to find he's become a vampire. Now he has a thirst for revenge. Determined to hunt down the master vampire who turned him, he's used to working alone . . . until he meets Jia. She is after the same vampire for murdering her parents and insists she can help Russell on this mission. Reluctantly, he agrees, and sets up some ground rules:
Rule #1: Their partnership is strictly business. If he holds her a little too close . . . if she looks at him with those exotic eyes . . . well, that has to stop.
Rule #2: He's in charge. Jia isn't used to taking orders and questions every move he makes. So he stops her the only way he knows how.
Rule #3: Don't fall in love. But the kiss that was supposed to quiet her awakens something else in him . . . something forbidden. Because Jia is engaged. To someone else.

Comment: I've been following this series for a long time. As it happens with most long lived series, some books captivated me more than others, I liked some characters better and now it seems this is to be the last one, at least with the set of characters we've known for some time being protagonists. I think the author took the right decision, she is ending a series while it's still not completely obsolete and it laying down the path for any spin off or something to come back one day without the readers feeling it's a "oh no". As for this last book, I liked the plot parts, not as much the romance.
In this book we finally have Russell' story. He's the vampire changed by Master Han and has wanted revenge ever since he realized his new condition and how much time has gone and that his family is all gone now too.
In his aim to end Master Han, Russell lives like a hermit and doesn't allow himself to dream about a future. Then he meets Jia, a young woman who ruins one of his best chances to kill Master Han because she too wants to be the one doing it, after all the harm he caused to her family. Jia and Russell join forces but a revelation is going to shock everyone...
For the most part, I liked this story. The plot developed interestingly and even presented a twist I surely did not see coming, which added some drama to the whole thing. I assume some readers missed the more humorous side of the books, but to me this part worked out quite well.
Towards the end, some characters go to Hell to rescue someone and it's a new way to show off a reunion scene. I think it was a bit too much, but well...
There's a revelation that seemed really surprising and I don't think any reader would have seen it coming. Good that the author had some surprises to deliver yet.
Throughout the books we've seen many heroes and villains and in this last installment we can sort of remember all that, considering the amount of appearances we see or hear about. I assume this is something many authors do and it's a sort of good bye. I think the effect wasn't as smooth as the author would have preferred, but the intention was there.
If one thinks about this as the final installment, of course expectations come up. I always thought the final scenes would have more than half the cast showing up and it happened...it wouldn't be easy to dedicate much time to every couple and I liked the glimpses of some of them but at the same time I wanted more. It's hard to say good bye even when some books didn't quite meet my expectations.
As for the romance, I wasn't as sold on that. In my opinion Russell had a lot to go through emotionally, some things we only learn in this story and his relationship with Jia felt rushed, just another thing to get out of the list of things to do. I did like Jia but their courtship and relationship filled too many clichés in a way. I think I'd have liked to see something different, although I'm actually glad theirs wasn't one of those too heavy on the humor stories because his background and emotional scars were difficult to overcome.
It doesn't mean Jia didn't have her issues, but to me this will always be Russell's book. It was great they found happiness and some hope for the future, of course I liked there was an HEA and plans for their lives but maybe if some relationship details had been addressed differently...
All in all, this was a good enough installment. Not my favorite, either for the sequence of vents or as the final book, but all things considered, it wasn't as bad as I feared.
I really wish the romance had been smoother, more thoughtful.
I'll cherish this adventure though and thankfully it never went downhill with too many things complicating an already substantially full world.
Let's hope for greatness again from the author.
Grade: 7/10

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Penelope Douglas - Bully

My name is Tate. He doesn't call me that, though. He would never refer to me so informally, if he referred to me at all.
We're neighbors, and once, we were best friends. But then, one summer, he turned on me and has made it his mission to screw up my life at every opportunity. I've been humiliated, shut out, and gossiped about all through high school. His pranks and rumors got more sadistic as time wore on, and I made myself sick trying to hide from him. I worried about what was around every corner and behind every door.
So I left.
I spent a year studying abroad and bathed in the freedom of life without Jared. Now I'm back to finish up high school and get the hell out of here forever. I'm hoping that after a year of breathing room, he's moved on and forgotten all about me.
But even if he hasn't changed, I have. I'm not interested in avoiding him or turning the other cheek anymore. We're going to go head to head, because neither of us wants to back down.

Comment: I got this book because of the captivating blurb and the possibilities. I totally imagined a serious story where the protagonists would deal with bullying somehow but then would overcome that and find a HEA because love can help mend many wounds. I had this vision the author would deliver a wonderful and unique story and focus on the emotional side of things which, I'm sure, is a lot when people are bullied. Sadly, the story didn't look like that to me.

This is Tate and Jared's story. They used to be friends, actually are neighbours but suddenly their relationship changed and Jared started to be mean to Tate and to mock her and even bullying her. The book starts with Tate going one year abroad to study and then she comes back to her senior year before college. She returns more confident and decided to fight for herself ad that impresses many people. She and Jared go head to head in some situations and we soon find out why they stopped being friends. But can they get over the past and live happier lives?
Well, I keep pushing and pushing, thinking the next YA book or NA or whatever they want to call it can be better but I think I'll have to resign myself to the fact all YAs are the same in a way and I'm not the best reader for them nor do I feel I can be fair in judging a YA story because they always annoy me somehow.
This book was disappointing. I keep hoping the authors can give an emotionally mature story but I guess that goes against the YA purpose, maybe. So many situations made me want to say "really?" out loud and to not read anymore. Not that the book is badly written, because it isn't, it's actually easy to go through, the author's writing talent shows and even the amount of effort she surely put in. Obviously she likes to write about these characters, that shows as well. But the way things happen, I couldn't enjoy that and several scenes I thought to myself, why is he/she doing this, this is not believable. Maybe it's cultural and people the author knows act like when they're 17, but more than an age thing, is a bullied person issue.
This story focus on bullying, it has to if the title is what it is. I fully expected to see a story where the heroine suffers bullying and sure, gets better, learns to be stronger, but the bullying is part of her. I thought we would see the effects of that for a while before she changed. I guess that part would be annoying so we see some scenes but the focus is clearly about the love/hate relationship and how cool Tate is after being away and not the bully itself or how that made Tate feel.
After finishing the book, I don't think the title is correct and it's actually misleading because Tate never really acts like a bullied person. Those people don't act bravely like she does all the time, they don't go to popular people's parties, even with friends, and then jump into pools like she did, they don't act like that, or if they do it takes a long time and I never saw Tate "suffer" to change. What was done to her in terms of bullying was something we knew about and what we saw seemed mild.
Maybe the idea is to present things in a way where teenagers being bullied can more easily overcome their issues and see it's possible to not be a victim. If so, kudos for the author. But then I'm not the right target audience for this story because everything felt unlikely and then the sex part was unnecessary, even if realistic.
But if Tate suffered so much, if she didn't understand Jared why bother, why wouldn't she heal that part of herself too? No bullied person would want to be that close to the person that hurt her the most.
Sure I can't speak about every bullied person in the world, but I was bullied in high school and the last thing I'd want is to have sex with the guy next door that called me names and mocked me every time. I mean, maybe it's just me.
Ok, so this is fiction, so Jared and Tate are imaginary people that can have the freedom to act miracously different from any possible real people. Despite that, I feel their behavior wasn't up to what I imagined they would be like. Maybe it's me, maybe it's cultural but I thought the story would focus on different issues based on the blurb and title. I was expecting something different.
Like I said, Tate didn't always act like I imagine a bullied girl would. It just felt weird that for someone as smart, she acted a lot more braver than what I think people who have been put down all the time, who would have been afraid of facing their peers, would.
Then the hook ups that happen romantically through the book seemed so immature and pointless. Thank God I'm not a teenager anymore nor do I have to face their dramas.
All in all, this was an average read for me, I recognize the writing, the goal, the tactics, but I still can't say I enjoyed this much. It was read fast and with the author's efforts that shouldn't reflect my prejudices, I'd grade this positively, but here's to hope the next YA that falls on my lap won't be as misleading. This is a sure winner for many readers but for me it just didn't feel right.
Grade: 5/10

Friday, October 2, 2015

Alexandra Ivy - My Lord Vampire

In the first of a mesmerizing trilogy, Alexandra Ivy, author of the Guardians of Eternity series, introduces the Immortal Rogues--three vampires duty-bound to protect their own kind even as they fall prey to mortal desires. . .
Centuries have passed since Gideon Ravel dwelled among humans. Now he must infiltrate the cream of London society to earn the trust of one woman. Simone, Lady Gilbert, possesses an amulet of unimaginable power, and no concept of the threat that surrounds her. The ton's gossip prepared him for her beauty and wit. But he is blindsided by her barely disguised sensuality and his growing need to possess her. . .
None of the idle aristocrats who vie for Simone's attentions know about her past. To them, she is the sophisticated, worldly widow known as the "Wicked Temptress." The truth would ruin her, and she has never been tempted to reveal it until now. Yet beneath Gideon's bold, black-eyed stare is a hunger that demands satisfaction and complete surrender. . .and a secret far more dangerous than her own. . .

Comment: This book as a birthday gift and because it wasn't too big, I decided to get to it right away instead of my usual MO of letting books languish in the pile. I've read the author before so I knew what writing style to expect but the reviews on goodreads didn't seem very hopeful...
This is the first book of an historical trilogy (Immortal Rogues) where three vampires come from The Veil (a sort of different dimension, that ms Ivy's readers recognize from her other series) where older vampires live in peace, without the effect of mundane things like hunger or anger. But mad vampires have run from The Veil and three others have the task to get them back and protect three human ladies who own a medallion that would switch powers to the evil vampires. Of course, each good vampire will protect one lady and in this first book, Gideon has to find a way to make Simone, lady Gilbert, to trust him and not fall prey to Tristan, the evil vampire after her.
But Simone has secrets and she is reluctant to be seduced by Gideon, but how long can she pretend she's not interested?
Overall, this story had all the ingredients to be another great paranormal, even more so with the historical setting. I confess I appreciated some scenes and ideas, namely the way Gideon and Simone seemed to be at odds in the beginning but were falling in love and that there was no rush into sex as it happens with many vampire books. But apart from little details, I can't say this was a show of amazingness.
In my opinion, the book felt like a bunch of clichés and ideas put together. Sure, the story worked out and delivered a good enough romance, but there's nothing about it that can make me think this is amazing or new. In fact, all the ideas have been used countless times in several books. I don't know how the author thought about this trilogy, but I recognize the usual ideas and perhaps her goal was to find formulaic concepts in romance and use them for this trilogy, I don't know. But three good vampires, a warrior, a rake, a scholar paired up with three ladies seems like the basics of any romance trilogy out there. I'm actually interested in the second pairing so I might keep going with this trilogy one day.
Gideon and Simone seem to be a good couple, they felt the other was simply a task to go through, to endure but it was fun to watch them bicker, although Gideon's expectation he could go to her house whenever he wanted started to annoy the contemporary girl in me.
Their romance was more subtle than what I imagined it would, we se them fall in love but because the story read almost automatically, I never felt I was truly invested in them, so although I liked they found happiness, I didn't bit my lip in a nervous expectation to see it happen.
The plot isn't very difficult to solve, which is another clue of how easy, in a way, this whole concept is. I assume the other stories will develop very similarly. I didn't like the bad vampire's POVs, but then again, I never do.
In the end, I think the two words that best define this book are "easy" and "predictable". It does deliver but it's nothing truly special. I think something unique and different could have turned this into something wonderful, but it wasn't so. It's not easy to find great historical paranormals. It didn't leave much of an impression in my head even if the next story seems to be more intriguing for me, personally.
In the end, the romance and the plot development weren't strong enough to make me feel this was above average, but the author is talented and can hold on for a series and its steadiness, so in a way I wanted more from this story. It's not bad, but it's not special either and I predict I won't remember much of it in the following months.
Nevertheless, I think t's a good introduction to vampire stories and even those set in historical times.
Grade: 6/10

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Steven Brust & Emma Bull - Freedom and Necessity

It is 1849. Across Europe, the high tide of revolution has crested, leaving recrimination and betrayal in its wake. From the high councils of Prussia to the corridors of Parliament, the powers-that-be breathe sighs of relief. But the powers-that-be are hardly unified among themselves. Far from it . . .
On the south coast of England, London man-about-town James Cobham comes to himself in a country inn, with no idea how he got there. Corresponding with his brother, he discovers he has been presumed drowned in a boating accident. Together they decide that he should stay put for the moment, while they investigate what may have transpired. For James Cobham is a wanted man--wanted by conspiring factions of the government and the Chartists alike, and also targeted by a magical conspiracy inside his own family.
And so the adventure of Freedom and Necessity begins… leading the reader through every corner of mid-nineteenth-century Britain, from the parlors of the elite to the dens of the underclass. Steven Brust and Emma Bull have crafted a masterful mix of fantasy and historical fiction. Not since Wilkie Collins or Conan Doyle has there been such a profusion of guns, swordfights, family intrigues, women disguised as men, occult societies, philosophical discussions, and, of course, passionate romance.

Comment: I got this book because I was immensely curious about it after reading this review by a blogger I follow and I bought the book not too long after reading that and it has awaited in the pile all this time. This month I decided to start it and I was very eager to do so. I had high expectations...so I have to confess that, despite not thinking this is a bad book, I imagined I'd like it much more.
This story is told in epistolary mode, and we know about the facts by following the letter's exchange between the four main characters and even by reading some of their personal journal's entries. There are three main parts where we can see how the plot will move along.
The focus is James Cobham, someone who was presumed dead but who resurfaces after a while. James is known to be involved in the Chartist movement so that could be reason someone tried to kill him. But what if the reason is more personal? Who could be the real culprit? Can James and his cousins Richard, Kitty and Susan uncover the secrets that are behind everything?
I admit this story had many elements to work out. And I do love romances and stories in the epistolary format. But this book didn't grab me the way I envisioned and wished for. I was bored in several occasions and felt rather lost in the middle of so many distracting information. I've read a reviewer say that's the veracity of this because normal people ramble in their letters, but from a  reader's POV, I'd have liked some editing and a bit more objectivity because there were moments where I didn't know what I was reading about and that surely makes me lose interest.
There were times where I didn't know the plot, to be honest, especially in the beginning. Things got much easier in the second part where the four cousins - not all related by direct parentage - started to investigate James's almost drowning and what could have caused the problems and the threats against him. From that point on, I though things got more interesting and some scenes were actually engrossing to read. I suppose I can say the historical aspects of the book are predominant and well researched, the authors included so much information I felt at times I was reading about real people. For that, it certainly helped Engels was a character (and references of Marx!) throughout the book.
The more philosophic side of things passed me by because I kept trying to focus on the romance details, the relationships and the things happening to the main characters and the actions they were doing to accomplish the find of the truth. I did have a good time trying to see through every letter, every meaning but there were passages I felt were too long to go through, to get to what mattered. That is distracting because I couldn't always maintain my focus on the important things.
I understand it's the author's style and aim, but I guess I'm not one of those who read this like a masterpiece...
There are many interesting details in the story, some hidden meanings and secrets that really change the whole sense of the story if one thinks about a certain perspective, so I admit I was surprised by some things. The end was ok, the authors did  a good job portraying determined situations and in developing the characters, in terms of writing everything was perfect. Only the content didn't woe me all the time. The way the book ends is acceptable, understandable, well justified, but I still would have liked to change some things. The romantic in me would make the end a bit more sugary, actually. I mean everyone ends up happy as they deserve but...oh well.
In the end, this was a good book, several good things about it, but too distracting, not enough clear information, at least not in a way we, the reader, can see things. I get it, but I still disliked it a bit. Nevertheless, a good enough plot and story, but quite boring at times...
Grade: 6/10

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Nicholas Sparks - Safe Haven

When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.
But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her . . . a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo’s empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards . . . and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.

Comment: I purchased this book last year not only because I had read the author before, so I knew his style and what to expect, but also because this particular title was recommended to me due to the heroine's reluctance to embark on a romance. I was really curious to see someone fall in love despite not wanting to and I like those types of stories.
In this book we meet Katie, a young woman with a mysterious past and who wants to be left alone, earn her money and stay out of the spotlight. But Katie is pretty and she needs things for the house she's renting, so she meets Alex, a widower who owns the shop where Katie goes to. Alex starts to just be polite to Katie but when she helps with his daughter, Alex starts thinking about her differently.
They start to become friends, then attracted to each other, then they fall in love... all is well but Katie's past comes to bother her again and will put in jeopardy the peace she so painstakingly won...
This story is very different from the usual books by the author. It's not as lame and intentionally sad as some other titles and I liked how simple the story was when we consider the details used. I don't think this is a perfect story because there are two little things I couldn't put aside that I think were badly done. Not that they ruined the story, only that the way they were inserted made some things look like they were going into exaggerated territory and that was distracting, in my opinion.
I felt very engrossed in the story. This is more thriller oriented although it's not heavy or focused on that as a normal thriller would be. I liked how the author picked a known subject and didn't introduce too many flashback scenes as one would think, preferring to focus on Katie's life now and how she was coping to what happened to her and how she deals with things now. I appreciated it that Katie only wanted to life a quiet life, she didn't completely change her personality and she took her time telling herself she could fall in love. Sure, her relationship to Alex was slow paced but I liked that.
The romance is one of the author's writing best characteristics. We always know a love story will happen and in this case I liked how quiet and subtle it begun. I don't think it's easy for any woman in Katie's shoes or who's went through a similar experience to trust a man again and to be certain of his intentions. It was good Katie took her time and we could see many scenes with them before anything happened. I liked how they fell in love with each other.
Alex is a wonderful hero, of course, and I had no problem picturing him in my head.
The plot has some issues that surely would be very difficult to happen in real life, namely Katie's tactics to be out of the radar. I wonder how easy it could actually be? I mean, it's hard to imagine situations like those described, not about what led her to run but how she run. It seems so far fetched. But if someone feels trapped and without options... despite that, I think the author did a good job in portraying her need to escape and her wish to start again somewhere else.
My doubts are mostly about one of Katie's friends, someone she meets and who helps her to just talk, let it out of her chest but then we know of that person's real intent. I think it was too weird and it didn't feel as smooth as the rest of the story. Like the author thought about it just to add some drama, which I totally think was unnecessary. I won't go into spoilers but that friend didn't have to exist the way she did, I think things could have been done differently.
At the end of the book, something bad happens. Thankfully, no one important dies - what a relief! - but something happens that affects Katie and Alex's lives and although I understand the added drama again, it's still something avoidable and without much importance to everything anyway.
After all things considered, I think this was a good story, I enjoyed reading it, I think the good parts were much better than the things I'd exclude and honestly, I'm surprised the author can deliver such simple but emotional stories without all the exaggeration he sometimes puts in his books.
The HEA didn't felt as detailed as I wished and maybe an epilogue or a bit more closure in the final scenes would have been interesting, but I'm not very worried about it because I had a good time overall, and liked the book.
Grade: 8/10