Saturday, July 21, 2018

Updating...

I've been a little less active lately because this is high season where I work, I don't have as much free time as I used to and at home, I've been going through summer cleaning.
I hope things get quieter from next week on but... who knows.

I hope you're enjoying great books!

If you're in holidays, then have fun and happy reading!



Image from here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

TBR Challenge: SEP - Heroes Are My Weakness

He's a reclusive writer whose imagination creates chilling horror novels. She's a down-on-her-luck actress reduced to staging kids' puppet shows. He knows a dozen ways to kill his characters with his bare hands. She knows a dozen ways to kill an audience with laughs. But she's not laughing now.
Annie Hewitt has arrived on Peregrine Island in the middle of a snowstorm and at the end of her resources. She's broke, dispirited, but not quite ready to give up. Her red suitcases hold the puppets she uses to make her living: sensible Dilly, spunky Scamp, and Leo, the baddest of bad guys. Her puppets, the romantic novels she loves, and a little bit of courage are all she has left.
Annie couldn't be more ill prepared for what she finds when she reaches Moonraker Cottage or for the man who dwells in Harp House, the mysterious mansion that hovers above the cottage. When she was a teenager, he betrayed her in a way she can never forget or forgive. Now they're trapped together on a frozen island along with a lonely widow, a mute little girl, and townspeople who don't know how to mind their own business.
Is he the villain she remembers, or has he changed? Her head says no. Her heart says yes.


Comment: July in the TBR Challenge is dedicated to Favorite Trope. I must say I don't have one single type of trope I consider much better than any other but this is by author SEP, whose work I've come to enjoy and added to that this would feature a somewhat reluctant couple to admit their feelings (as usually happens in SEP's books) so I expected all sorts of situations that would look like catnip to my reading preferences. Thus, there I went!

In this stand alone story, we have Annie Hewitt as the heroine while, down on her luck, she goes back to Peregrine Island, a place she thought she would never need to return to. But after a huge amount of debt and some depressing thoughts, she decided to go there anyway, to try to discover some legacy left by her recently late mother.
What she didn't count on was to find Theo Harp, the boy she had a crush on while they were teenagers but who was also the author of seriously bad pranks, to the point of Annie fearing for her life. Now they are both back to the island and although Annie tries to stay away, something seems to be happening between them again and it's not just a return to teenage hormones...

Yes, this was all I expected from the author and it hit pretty much all the buttons I needed to be entertained and proven right about what I'd like to get from this author. Any fan or reader of the author would immediately recognize the usual trademarks, the somewhat in dire straits heroine who finds herself and love on the way to the end of the book and the reluctance to accept a situation but eventually it being too hard to ignore, for instance.
I know it can be a repetitive formula but it does work for me.

This is a romance but I liked it how the author compared the tone, which felt a little darker due to a certain mystery going on and some complicated situations the heroine seems to go through, with the fact the hero Theo is a horror writer who uses his work as a escapism tool to deal with his inner guilt and dilemmas. I suppose this is one of the reasons why this title seems to be one of the lowest rated by this author in sites like GR. But I still thought we had enough character development, we still have a good romance, filled with quirky scenes and situations we don't usually find in real life. Even the intimacy between the characters didn't run too far from the usual.
And, as I imagined, the HEA is cute and the epilogue even more so. Perhaps what's missing is the usual second romance, which was not included here and the focus is on Annie herself and in her relationship with Theo.

I liked seeing them together. I especially liked how the romance developed slowly but in a consistent way with the way both thought about the other at first and I think the pace was believable too. It was also good to see how their reluctance to fall in love or to acknowledge their feelings was just an attempt to protect themselves. They seemed to balance each other well in the end and that counted a lot for me. It's comforting to know what you want to see will happen, despite surprises here and there.

I guess the plot had some flaws, some things that weren't as well done but to be honest, I was focusing on the main couple and could out that aside. Although Annie's work with her puppets felt rather silly and - yes, I admit, rather disturbing in a weird horror movie potential way -  I still think it was quite imaginative. Some psychological issues addressed also felt a bit simplified and I'd have preferred different situations to have been included to discuss them.

The end of the book has some silly scenes playing out. But..this also happened in all the author's books and many readers loved those. Taste is always relative, even with steady, reliable authors like SEP.
For me, this book worked out. I still think about the epilogue and how fun it is to imagine those characters' lives. I always seem to be well entertained by her stories so, for me, this was another successful book, despite the flaws.
I think I'll keep on being a fan of the author and considering her work to be included in favorite tropes or scenarios.
Grade: 8/10

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Anne Stuart - Ruthless

Desire always wins...Among a secret society where exiled aristocrats gather to indulge their carnal desires, few can match the insatiable appetite and dark misdeeds of their chief provocateur, the mysterious Viscount Rohan. Pursuit of physical pleasure is his preferred pastime - until he encounters a woman who fascinates him and won't be swayed. Rohan's dark seduction appals the pure and impoverished Elinor Harriman, but unwittingly her own desire is slowly being unleashed...


Comment: I purchased this book a long time ago and it has been waiting for all this time basically because I wasn't too eager to read about a hero described as too manipulative and part of a so called "secret society" where people behaved  anyway they wanted, with no care for rules nor respect for others. When I got the book I just assumed it wouldn't be so, that this would be just another historical with opposed attracted characters. Now that I finished, it wasn't as bad as I imagined but nowhere near my favorite historicals, no...

In this book we meet Elinor Harriman, a young woman whose family is in dire circumstances and everything gets even worse when her ill mother steals he last of the family's money and runs off to the mansion of Francis, Viscount Rohan, an exiled British man in Paris, who seems to control the secret society. Elinor decides to follow her mother, not only to stop her from acting in a way that the family couldn't recover from, but also to get the money back, something Elinor, her sister Lydia, their mother and two servants who are more family than helpers, desperately need.
However, when Elinor gets to the depravity mansion, she can't help but show her discontentment to the viscount, even if he has the money and the influence to seduce and destroy her...

This book didn't start that well for me. I was not fond of the situation in which the hero was living in.
I understand the writer has a tendency to create situations in her stories in which readers might not always be comfortable with, or at least there will be situations not easily appreciated by all. I thought this would change and the turnabout would be magnificent or there was a secret agenda we weren't aware of at first but no. This is indeed a story about a man who has had terrible circumstances forcing his exile and this is how he copes with it.

Since this is a romance, some of my hopes were obviously on how the relationship would develop.  Again, I was not very eager to read about them together because in this case, the differences between them were more obvious on the moral side rather than the financial (although that too).
After finishing the story, I can understand why Francis was such a cynical person, why he felt he had to... wait, what am I saying? No, actually I don't understand. Why did he behave like that? He felt guilty, he missed his country, he had some other issues but why is that an excuse to have low morals, low  beliefs? I'd rather him begin a martyr, in that case I'd appreciate his efforts to change a lot more.
The way things evolved, he wasn't sorry and I guess this is why he is sometimes labeled as "anti-hero" but his treatment of Elinor, despite never past the point of redemption annoyed me at times.

The romance took a long time to be obvious for the two of them. I don't mind it felt like a slow burn romance but the reasons why Francis put Elinor aside felt very silly and not those of an intelligent man. Just grow up, was what I often thought about how he chose to "scream" his forced freedom and his treatment of others.
As for Elinor, I did feel pity for her, for what she went through. I do like heroines down on her luck who somehow get back on their feet, proving if you are a good person, you can achieve something.I was really eager to see her triumph, to see how her life would change for the better eventually so I feel a little sad her character wasn't better explored.
It was nice Francis didn't rush her and that he actually avenged her when he knew about those who have hurt her in the past but...

Only in the last two or three pages do we have confirmation of their feelings. It felt like too little too late! I guess I can follow this need for drama, for a darker tone in the romance but the whole thing felt staged and easily put aside for better explanations and changes. I was not impressed.
There's a secondary romance that was obviously there just to counter balance the main one.
There's also a villain that plays a part too vague to even be worth existing but, oh well.
I won't go back to this author so soon, even though I have another book by her in the pile.
Grade: 5/10

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Jody Hedlund - Love Unexpected

All Emma Chambers ever wanted was a home, but when her steamboat sinks just outside Presque Isle, she's left destitute and with no place to stay.
An unlikely solution arises when the lighthouse keeper arrives in town. He's just lost his wife and is having a difficult time caring for his child. So a traveling preacher gets the idea that the keeper and Emma might be the answer to each other's dilemma. After a hasty marriage, she finds herself heading to the lighthouse with this handsome but quiet stranger. Nothing in her aimless life, though, has prepared her for parenting a rambunctious toddler, as well as managing a household.
Emma soon suspects Patrick may be hiding something from her, and then she hears a disturbing rumor about the circumstances surrounding his late wife's death. It seems as if her wish for a home and family of her own could end up leading her once more into turbulent waters.


Comment: I got interested in this book around 3 years ago but I can't remember why... considering the plot, it probably had something to do with a marriage of convenience of sorts. I'm always eager to see how an author plays this trope out and how romantic or realistic it can be. At the time, however, I hadn't realized this would be an inspirational so of course one might call this a clean romance, with only one or two kisses between the characters. Knowing this, I didn't mind, because clean doesn't mean romantic or engaging. However, it wasn't much so, no.

In this story we meet Emma Chambers and her brother Ryan as they are trying to flee a burning ship after it was robbed by pirates. Emma and Ryan's money was also stolen so they are stuck in Presque Isle, Michigan until Ryan gets enough money again for them to go somewhere else. 
In the meantime, Emma is asked to marry Patrick, one of the men who rescued the survivors and who works in the lighthouse. He has a small son, his wife died recently and the reverend tels them they could be a good couple and help each other at the same time.
Emma and Patrick marry but since they are strangers to one another, it takes time for them to trust the other too. However, secrets from Patrick's past might destroy everything this new family has done already to find happiness...

I thought this story had a lot to be successful to me when I started reading. The ship's problems, the pirates, the rescue...I thought the foundations were great t start with but for me, the potential wasn't as well done as I imagined because the focus instead of being the community and the couple's relationship was how problems always follow someone and how Patrick's past was a dark cloud in their horizon.
I get it, this fits perfectly the inspirational side of the novel in which we are supposed to learn adversity must be fought with faith and prayer. But... I thought the story ended up annoying and boring here and there because of the lack of more optimism.

The plot had interesting elements and one can see the author put on an effort to teach us something, namely about how a lighthouse worked, how some details had to be used in order for ships to be guided.
I also think the descriptions were interesting and help the reader have an idea about what the characters are going through, especially the descriptions about struggles and actions.
However, for me, the atmosphere was a little too  dark toned, meaning, there was this sort of cloud of negativity and problems and difficulties which weren't very well balanced. It made the story feel a bit gloomy and not always captivating to read about.

Since this is an inspirational story, we don't have a lot of focus on the romance, only many references to how they wished to kiss the other and how they should trust and so on. Despite the obvious, inspirational romances can still be cute and sweet but I think this one lacked some chemistry and if this isn't evident to the reader it can get to a point where any character would do, and why bother with this couple in particular? I want to care for them and like them and not just because they are both goo people and deserving of good things or because they are believers. I think there are times where the aim to show them as having faith God is more important than their own feelings. One of the issues of inspirational and why only certain authors manage that perfect balance between every element in one.

All in all, this was sweet, had good moments but I think the atmosphere wasn't well balanced, the romance was bland at most and even the plot could have been done better.
Grade: 5/10

Friday, July 13, 2018

Jana DeLeon - Unseen

Madison Avery is a young woman with a huge problem. From her penthouse apartment, she witnessed a murder in the building across the street, but by the time the police arrived, the crime scene had been wiped clean. Unfortunately, Madison suffers from prosopagnosia—face blindness—so even though she had a clear view of the murder, she can’t describe the victim or the killer. With no forensic evidence that a crime was committed and no description of the victim to match to a body, the police have no choice but to close the file.
But Shaye Archer doesn’t have the same limitations.
When Shaye hears Madison’s story, she believes the young woman saw exactly what she claims, and even though Shaye knows finding the killer will be next to impossible, she can’t turn down the distraught woman. Especially when she finds out that the killer saw Madison. Soon, the killer turns his attention to Madison, taunting her to heighten her fear, and Shaye is afraid his sights are set on his next victim. 


Comment: This is the fifth installment in the Shaye Archer series by author Jana DeLeon. So far, despite the tone of the series being a little too trivial to follow considering the themes, I'm having a great time with the stories. I liked how the protagonist is savvy and determined and smart enough to consider others' feelings and their help when needed.

In this adventure, the focus is on Madison, a young woman, marginalized by her wealthy family because of a mental condition called Prosopagnosia, which means those who have it can't memorize faces or recognize people's faces, including closer family and friends. Madison lives in high located apartment for the view and because of that, she sees a murder taking place in a lower house but in her rush to call the police, she turns on the lights in her apartment, making her an easy target for the killer. However, because Madison can't remember the killer's face, he sets his sight on her.
Madison then asks Shaye to investigate for her so they can catch the guy but of course not before he terrorizes Madison and almost kills her too. Will Shaye save the day again?

First of all, I thought it was great that the author chose quite a theme to start up her story. I had never heard of the situation Madison is supposed to have but after investigating, it's very real and can, of course, lead to a huge amount of self doubt and instability for those who have it and stress for those who can't deal with it, even by proxy. I thought the idea was new enough to make the story more interesting because, after all, Madison couldn't be a reliable witness of the crime and that was the starting point for the whole "trying to find the bad guy" action. If nothing else, it was good to learn something new or becoming aware of it.

As for the story itself, as one can expect, the crime and the investigation are the focus of the whole story. If one starts to compare the investigation to other books with similar situations, then I must say this one is rather simple. We read about what they do, we see characters acting but nothing is too explicit, too detailed nor is it explained to the minimal element. This means that, overall, the feel one gets is of superficiality, meaning we get the important parts, we get what matters the most but it's all pretty basic and to the point.
I can't say it's such a bad thing and, personally, I appreciate it. But then, the same thing applies to the characters' personal lives and in this case, too little or too minimal details can give the impression of not strong enough, not enough emotions and I'd like this aspect to be different.

Another interesting element in these stories is the personal life of Shaye and her attitude in relation to what happened to her. She has suffered many things no one would wish on an enemy but she is a healthy young woman now, very driven, very focused and for me the best part is that although her past does shape some of her attitude and influences her choices, it didn't define her personality. I really like her as a character for that (even if in real life, coping can't be as easy).
As always, we have scenes of her interacting with her mother, friends and it's nice. She also has a developing romance with Jackson, a cop, and it's sweet even if quite a slow burn. It's book #5 and they only kiss and say they love one another. Well, it's also believable considering the abuse she suffered too.

The resolution of this plot was rather simplistic. I liked there wasn't a big mess, that this is never too complicated or, at least, that it's not difficult to solve but the motivation of the bad guy escalated very quickly and I don't think we were given enough psychological context for it to be realistic.
Once again, some things were left in air about Shaye's past... I'm still interesting in reading more and it's always a good thing to know what to expect in terms of style from this series.
Grade: 8/10

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Jojo Moyes - After You

Lou Clark has lots of questions.
Like how it is she's ended up working in an airport bar, spending every shift watching other people jet off to new places.
Or why the flat she's owned for a year still doesn't feel like home.
Whether her close-knit family can forgive her for what she did eighteen months ago.
And will she ever get over the love of her life.
What Lou does know for certain is that something has to change.
Then, one night, it does.
But does the stranger on her doorstep hold the answers Lou is searching for - or just more questions?
Close the door and life continues: simple, ordered, safe.
Open it and she risks everything.
But Lou once made a promise to live. And if she's going to keep it, she has to invite them in . . .


Comment: As many other readers, I've had quite an experience reading Me Before You, a successful novel by this author and probably what gave her more recognition. The theme was hard, the story richly developed but with many sad layers and readers liked it.
Considering the way it ends, it was no surprise to know readers dreamed about what would happen next to one character and although I can't really say, this story was probably the result of a lot pressure because the other book was well sold. However, now that I read it, I must say I agree with those readers who have the opinion this book was not necessary.

In this sequel, Lou is found working in a bar at the airport and after a long time, she still hasn't moved on completely. Her life is pretty much a depressing one, she still hears the whispers of people who know what she was a part of and she still mourns. 
Everything changes the day Will's daughter Lily shows up at her door and somehow invades her life. Lou can't help but feel protective of Lily, even if she - and Will - have never heard of her existence. But nothing is simple and Lou isn't certain she feels ready to take on such a responsibility even if lily's mother claims her daughter isn't trustworthy. 
Lou also tries to move by joining a group where people discuss their mourning and their feelings and that's how she also comes to know Sam, the uncle of a teenager there. With so much to think about, can Lou really be ready to deal with so many new things?

To be honest, the best element of this novel has to be the mourning process. It's not the same for everyone and in this case, especially after a strong and heavily emotional first story, this sequel had to mention certain issues. 
I liked some passages where Lou talks about or even thinks about it. I think my favorite passage is when she is talking on the phone with Nathan, who was also in the first book, and she asks him if this whole situation is out of proportion in her head, if she only imagined her feelings were that real. This did touch me because it felt very realistic, very well thought and something anyone suffering would think about, only to make it easy to go another day.

However, apart from some passages, some original situations, most of the book is a collection of unnecessary things and annoying ones.
I can understand the need for closure that readers (and even the publisher's coffers) needed to get over the intensity of the first book but...I don't think it was necessary, no. In fact, this story almost felt like the characters weren't the same and I don't think the change was positive. It just would be highly unlikely that this would delivery the same impact as the other and, frankly, that wouldn't be something I'd personally like. The other story was perfect on its own.

I suppose the biggest issue here was how the author chose to keep up with Lou and Will's storyline by bringing up a daughter he didn't know he had. Lily wasn't very appealing to read about even if one can understand her dilemmas. I just think Lily didn't have to be as needy nor as rebellious. I see how the plot moved along in a certain way because of this but I didn't like Lily and that made reading this a little annoying for me. Plus Lou is a great character but she does take on things not her responsibility and the plot felt rather over the top.

I still liked Lou for the most part. She isn't the same as she was in the first book, it's impossible not to compare, and one can understand: who doesn't change if in mourning? I just think the situations she saw herself in were very unbalanced, from her series of doubts on accepting a job, to her dealings with Lily, to how she starts a new relationship... all this is meant to show her face things but I wasn't a fan of her throughout this process even if empathizing with her feelings.
The story ends on a new adventure, but not before Lou faces a very complicated situation with boyfriend Sam (it felt like just a way to increase drama) and a goodbye party to her mourning group which was cute but too sugary to fit the overall story.

I'm not certain about reading the third book... I do feel curious - that's why I also got this one - but I fear I'll loose my likeness for this and I don't want to let go of the emotional high Me Before You left...although i don't think I can read that one again in the near future.
Grade: 6/10

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Lilah Pace - His Royal Favorite

James, Prince of Wales, is making history. He's decided to come out to his subjects—and the world. However, telling the truth means exposing his relationship with lone-wolf reporter Benjamin Dahan. Although Ben never wanted commitment, the unexpected depth of his feelings leads him to join James in the media's harsh spotlight.
When the news story explodes across the globe, Ben can endure the mockery and dirty jokes. But after his tragic past is cruelly revealed, his life begins to implode. Can even his love for James be worth this?
James has it no easier. His revelation divides the country and sparks turmoil within the royal family. He must struggle to defend not only himself and Ben, but also his younger sister, who hovers on the brink of a breakdown that could endanger her life.
Is Ben strong enough to survive the onslaught and stand by James' side? And will James have to make a choice between Ben and the crown?


Comment: This is the second and final installment in the duology about an alternate reality where the prince of Wales would be gay and how he would have found love and the courage to come out to his country. I was quite eager to see how this story would play out.

In this second story, the prince tells the nation he is gay and that he has a partner, Ben. However, things are not easy for them, especially for Ben, not as used to the life in the public eye. But despite the adversity and the possible outcomes of James' coming out, the two guys find courage and resilience in their feelings and they face what is thrown at them. Will James still become king one day despite what his did? Will Ben be strong enough to keep on loving James despite feeling he's stuck in a situation he can't control?

I was really happy to start this story. It only took me longer to finish because, sadly, real life got in the way and I got very busy during the weekend, otherwise I'd have finished a lot sooner. I was really glad the story moved along the lines I expected but never went towards silly ways nor to exaggerated scenes just to make things more crazy or dramatic. I really liked how the author used a tone in this story that felt very appealing to me.

Thankfully, this story os pretty much focused on James and Ben as they deal with James' coming out. I think this was portrayed in a very adult and well thought manner, as I'd like to see in real life, were something similar to happen (even if with other public people). Both James and ben behaved well, neither acted silly about this, nor were they put into situations where drama would follow. I think the author did a good job creating scenarios that feel believable with all the protocols that must exist but at the same time, we still had access to the guys' feelings and their emotions and this dichotomy - public vs personal attitude was well balanced.

I was curious to see how such a decision would affect Ben. Of course his life was the one that changed the most but this isn't too different from any commoner who would join any royal family. I believed the way things progressed in his life. I expected a bit more angst but I'm even more glad the author decided to add it in small amounts which means the characters talked, discussed things, never assumed or thought for the other person and that can be summarized as a stable and well meant relationship. I also think the end makes more sense thanks to the fact Ben and James didn't have an easy path but didn't let drama get them.

There are some specific situations both have to deal with but again, I liked where this went. I can understand why the story felt boring to some readers, this is more the validation of something than an adventure of novelties but to be honest, for me it worked, because I liked we got to see their daily lives, their goals come to life. It was also romantic, we keep on having scenes of their personal time and that is both sweet and hot at times.
There were parts I liked less, that I feel weren't as interesting but overall, this was a good story, well paced and well presented.
If one can put aside the unrealistic things, this is quite believable as a whole. For those who like royal stories but not the fluff and fairytale side of it but appreciate twists and solid writing, I think this is a must.
Grade: 8/10

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Alissa Johnson - Nearly a Lady

Lord Gideon Haverston wanted to right his family's wrongs. So when he promises young Winnefred Blythe the money that his stepmother had cheated her out of over the years, he expects to be greeted as a hero. But the situation is much more complicated than Gideon had expected-and the task of taming the untrusting Winnefred much more alluring.

Comment: Around four years ago, I got Practically Wicked by author Alissa Johnson and really liked it. Since it was the first book I tried by the author, I wasn't aware it was the third in a series and now that the opportunity came forth, I've started the first one, this Nearly a Lady, which I hoped would be as engaging.

The story begins with Lord Gideon traveling to an estate of his family because he was told by his brother, the marquess, that a ward of him lived there. Upon arrival, he is practically attacked and realizes his attackers are two young ladies, one of them his brother's ward and the other he comes to understand, is the young woman his bother fell in love twelve years ago but never forgot even thinking has had married.
While trying to untangle all the secrets, Gideon lives with the young women for a while, he even got servants for the house after realizing the women haven't been living with the money they were supposed to have gotten. Convincing them to go to London to be presented to society proved quite difficult, especially  because Winnifred, his brother's ward, happens to be a serious but free girl who is witty and friendly but finds no interest in the sort of subjects young ladies do. How will things be between them in London, will they still be friends?

I liked the other book I've read by this author. I found the writing easy and captivating and the story was entertaining. Of course I'd expect the same in this novel and generally speaking, the same expectations were met.
However, the plots are different, even if the characters are connected (although here one wouldn't see how this and the third are connected) and that obviously interferes with the way readers might like or not the stories. I think that this one had a lot of potential and for a while that was met but not the whole story felt as constant for me.

The beginning of the story was very good: the characters meet in an almost funny setting, both parties (Winnifred and Lilly vs Lord Gideon) think something about the other which later proves to be incorrect and there's a genuine feel of respect and friendship between them. I really liked how they met, how they started to interact with one another and of course, as this is a romance, how Gideon and Winnifred butted heads at the same time they seemed to feel good in each others' company. I suppose that, if the story had going more along these lines, this would have been perfect. But at some point, plot reasons make the characters go to London, where they meet other people and see themselves in completely different scenes and situations.

The story started to lose speed when Winnifred saw herself in a situation she couldn't control. There are many ways of dealing with this but I confess I struggled to find the will to keep on reading about her difficulties and actions. It just didn't ring interesting. Then, of course, her relationship with Gideon took a turn into cliché mode and that alone would have brought my grading down, no matter what. The constant indecision, changing of mind, following analytical POVs of what "is expected" and not their real feelings (and attention, no reason why they couldn't admit their feelings or be together except for Gideon's personal views on certain issues) for one another, all that bored me a little bit. In the end, the romance wasn't as smooth as I hoped for after the first pages. The HEA is cute, yes, but I don't think this feels as memorable for me.

Many people seem to criticize the attitudes and quirkiness of the characters, namely Winnifred because they don't resemblance real people from that time. I don't mind this aspect as I thought it gave the story something different to focus on and it wasn't not that exaggerated that would ruin the story. But I agree this was not always a very well thought plot overall and if not for the easy way one can read this and several fun scenes, this wouldn't be as positive for me.
Grade: 7/10

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Barbara Bretton - Casting Spells

Magic. Knitting. Love. A new series and a delightful departure by the USA Today bestselling author of Just Desserts. 
Sugar Maple looks like any Vermont town, but it's inhabited with warlocks, sprites, vampires, witches and an ancient secret. And Chloe Hobbs, owner of Sticks & String, a popular knitting shop, has a big secret too. She's a sorcerer's daughter in search of Mr. Right and she's found him in Luke MacKenzie, a cop investigating Sugar Maple's very first murder. Bad news is he's 100% human, which could spell disaster for a normal future with a paranormal woman like her.

Comment: I've heard about this book a long time ago, especially because the Portuguese published has chosen amazing covers for them, something that has never been really obvious but now I feel publishers are betting more and more in attracting readers to romances with cute and colorful covers. However, I was told the story wasn't great nor that well done and I never felt like being seduced by the cover until I saw it months ago with a huge discount and purchased it for 5€. With this price I felt like trying at last.

In this story we have Chloe Hobbs as protagonist and she lives in a small town in Vermont, as the last woman in a line of witches. Her ancestors have created and kept a spell that protects the city from harm and from being discovered by humans, which means the majority of the population is out of this world and fantastical.
The catch is that the spell can only be kept by women from that family line and Chloe should have found someone to love which would kick in the spell's longevity. Since that has been difficult to accomplish, many are complaining about the spell losing "power" and the last evidence of that is the murder of a human woman in the town.
For some reason, the police officer with the task to uncover the mystery is Luke Mackenzie and sparks seem to fly between him and Chloe. The problem is that she shouldn't fall in love with him because he is human and pairings between witches and humans rarely work out...

Small town stories are usually filled with sweet, adorable scenes or situations or quirky characters we practically "adopt", especially if there's a series on the go. This is the first book in the Sugar Marple series and on the surface, it has many ingredients to make it a cute series to follow:
- it has weird but funny acting characters;
-it has a different heroine we are supposed to root for;
-it has people interested in knitting, which is always a symbol of coziness;
-it has a love story which the couple knows it might lead nowhere but that they are helpless to fight;
-it has a plot that barely makes sense but where the HEA is guaranteed.

Considering the above, I had full expectation of being well entertained and I must confess it only took me one morning to read this! (It's both easy and short in pages to allow it.)
Sadly, the story isn't that well thought. One could appreciate the different characters, the attempt to create "enemies" and a bone of contention between good and bad guys, there's also a mystery to solve and a handsome foreigner who will win over the heart of the heroine. I just think the author has interesting ideas but mixed them all too much and didn't add complexity nor depth to any. So the story is easy but pretty superficial so when some issues seem to be talked over and over it just seems...boring.

There are ways and ways of telling a story. I think this one was told in a very simplistic way and the plot was affected by it. Many situations had potential (like the possible angst about Chloe not being confident enough to feel the pressure caused by owning the spell or how magic should have been an extra and not the only thing everyone used/felt like - this means every character except Luke seemed to do things the easy way, so why bother at all?) but there is always an easy fix for things and not enough personality in the characters or complexity to their choices.
Even the bad guys were too superficial and meaningless.

There are cute scenes in the middle of all this. But I feel we missed a lot on having more developed situations, a clearer plot and segments and not even the romance was that "romantic".
Chloe resembles someone we might want to be friends with at times but not always.
Luke I liked and he seemed to have hidden depths but that got lost in the weirdness. 
Oh well.
I don't think I'll read the other installments...
Grade: 5/10

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Martha Woodroof - Small Blessings

Tom Putnam has resigned himself to a quiet and half-fulfilled life. An English professor in a sleepy college town, he spends his days browsing the Shakespeare shelves at the campus bookstore, managing his department's oddball faculty, and caring for his wife Marjory, a fragile shut-in with unrelenting neuroses, a condition exacerbated by her discovery of Tom's brief affair with a visiting poetess a decade earlier.
Then, one evening at the bookstore, Tom and Marjory meet Rose Callahan, the shop's charming new hire, and Marjory invites Rose to their home for dinner. Her first social interaction since her breakdown, Tom wonders if it's a sign that change is on the horizon—a feeling confirmed when he receives a letter from his former paramour, informing him he'd fathered a son who is heading Tom's way on a train. His mind races at the possibility of having a family after so many years of loneliness. And it becomes clear change is coming whether Tom's ready or not.
A heartwarming story with a charmingly imperfect cast of characters to cheer for, Small Blessings's wonderfully optimistic heart reminds us that sometimes, when it feels like life has veered irrevocably off track, the track shifts in ways we never can have imagined.


Comment: I impulsively bought this book at a fair where I found it with a half price discount. Since it was a translated work, I thought that would be quite a bargain and from the blurb I imagined something romantic. However, I'll stop being seduced by promising blurbs because had I checked the grading on this online, I probably would have thought twice before buying it...

In this book we meet Tom Putnam, a middle aged college professor whose wife has serious issues but he is such a decent person he never left her and has been holding on to a one sided marriage. However, when the story starts, his wife dies and that leaves him free to start again, especially since his mother-in-law, who lived with them to help, approves of that. 
There is also a new employee at the university's library and Tom feels quite attracted to her but he fears he might not be what women would of him. Nevertheless, his life takes quite a turn because he gets a letter informing him the only affair he had years ago and which he regrets has given him a son he never knew about. The child is coming to meet him, he is falling for someone and his friends at the university are acting weird. What else could happen?

This story is labeled at contemporary fiction and romance. I know labels shouldn't matter but they do help in making us decide if we want to read something or not. This means I was expecting something romantic and what I got was something more.... weird.
I think the author has many, many ideas but they weren't well mixed together and for me the plot didn't flow well. I can understand the focus on Tom's problems and how the characters of Iris and Russel (his co workers at the university) might happen to connect with him but honestly, it was all so confusing and pointless I feel as if that wasn't necessary at all.

Tom does seem to be quite a decent guy, he only had an affair out of loneliness because his wife has mental issues but he never had the courage to just leave her, so although wrong, I can understand. He apparently has a son but we soon realize the boy couldn't be his. Tom still welcomes the child, still tries his best to protect him and care for him. Of course I liked this, it was a nice side to Tom's personality and I guess it justified the book's title. But the situation wasn't explored in a way that would turn this story into something incredible. There's no flow in the story and we often have random additions and scenes that have no interest whatsoever to what the goal should be.

The romance is with Rose, the new library worker. I think this story could have gained from focusing more on this but because the characters weren't well characterized, I don't think I felt as interested or invested in them as I could have. I liked they had an HEA, it was cute how the last two pages were described but...everything was both superficially done and too vague to fully grab the reader. I got this impression but perhaps others thought different.

I think the author had many ideas but didn't think of how they would be portrayed together. For instance, the child Tom recognizes as his son brings with him a lot of money. There are many passages just mentioning the man who will solve this issue for them. I thought this was too distracting and avoidable... then, two characters are described a certain rude way and their problems seem to be key to...what? Why does it matter since they aren't protagonists? Actually one of these has a complete turnover in his personality towards the end and that felt really silly, as if the author didn't have a better plan to force the characters into a "final" decision on what they would do to grab their HEA...

All things considered, this was not a bad read, but I don't think it will be memorable. It's sweet, easy and has many elements, too bad about the execution... I've read the Portuguese edition but I did like the cover I'm including here.
Grade: 5/10

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Happy weekend!

The image below, which I found on Pinterest,  does resemble a type of home library I wouldn't mind having nor would it be such a hardship to be in it, reading all day...
If you can, enjoy the weekend and read a lot, even if only dreaming you would be in a library like this one.
Happy reading!