Sunday, January 18, 2009

My January Reads (Part 2)

Well, here we are, almost three weeks into the new year. Where has it all gone? I swear, just the other day I was still running around trying to finish up last minute Christmas shopping.....


Anyway, here is my list/review of the books I've read this past week (January 10th to January 18th). Again, hope you enjoy!

P.S: Hope that it doesn't mess up my spacing when I publish this post like it did with last weeks'. If it does, again, I'm sorry! I'm trying to work on fixing it and making sure it doesn't happen again... But, well, there is only so much control a person can hold over a computer, right? :)

Title: The Great Scot
Author: Donna Kauffman
My Rating: 4 stars
Location coordinator Erin McGregor has finally found the perfect setting for her romance reality show, Your Prince Charming. The Chisholm clan stronghold in the Scottish Highlands has it all-romantic moors, windswept cliffs, misty lochs, a four-hundred-year-old castle, and possibly the most gorgeous man she's ever laid eyes on in chieftain Dylan Chisholm.
His three youngest brothers spoken for, Dylan Chisholm is at the top of his village's matchmaking list. Now they've sent some impish, forthright American lass up to tempt him into a devil's bargain: a foolish romance show for the money his village so desperately needs. It took a tragic loss to get Dylan to embrace his heritage. He can't turn away from such a promising offer. But keeping his thoughts off Erin McGregor is another matter. She's everything he never wanted in a woman, and suddenly, she's everything he craves in every way possible.
My Review:
When I first picked up this book in the store (about a year ago), I thought it was a historical. That's what I get for not turning it over and looking at it. I just saw a good looking man on a book cover, staring up at me, and then saw the magical word “SCOT” as in Scottish/Scotland, and I was hooked. Unfortunately, it wasn't a historical, I would come to find, but a contemporary, not usually my sort of romance novel, but hey, I did buy it, and it was set in Scotland, so that had to make up for something, right?

Well, it wasn't horrible, but I have to say, it wasn't my favorite book either. Though the story line wasn't too bad, it wasn't spectacular. The characters were there, but they didn't seem like they had a lot to them-- they seemed more 2D than 3D, something that I do not particularly like in my books. If the characters can't hold up, then how can the story stand on it's own two feet?
Maybe it's partially to blame on the fact that I'm not fond of contemporaries. But then again, I've heard a few other reviews say that out of the four books in Kauffman's series (The Great Scot was the last one), it was also the weakest. The reviews I am referring to also gave this book 4 stars. Really, 4/5 stars is not the end of the world, and while I may not recommend that everyone run out and buy this book ASAP, I won't say DONT buy it either. It's not a bad book, very light, like most contemporaries are, and it does have a few really good parts in it. Or you might want to check out the previous books to get a feel for her work and see if what the others say are true, that the others were better.
Either way, I don't regret reading TGS, I just wish that it would have had a bit more substance to it. Something was lacking, but I can't put my finger on what exactly it is. I may read one of the other books in the series some day, both to see how the work compares and to see what his (that is, Dylan) other brothers are like since this one only touched on them briefly.

Title: Double Enchantment
Author: Kathryne Kennedy
My Rating: 3.5 stars
Summary: Lady Jasmina was in a world of trouble. A simple spell had gone disastrously haywire and now there was a woman running around London who looked exactly like her--a woman with no sense of propriety whatsoever. All Society was whispering, and a baronet she'd never met was suddenly acting like he knew a most intimate way. To find her double and set things right, they'd have to work together--braving the fog-shrouded streets, a mysterious group called the Brotherhood, and a passion stronger than any magic.My Review: I originally received this book from a contest I entered last year. My prize was a signed copy of Distracting the Duchess (by a different author) along with a signed copy of Double Enchantment. I was excited, not only for winning, but for reading the books. DE looked especially interesting, both because of the magical theme and the intriguing cover art. It pains me to say that the expectations I had when I started the book were never fully reached, even when I finally finished it.

The author created a new world, that while set in the some of the same areas that we have on our planet, where filled with magic and set in a historical setting. Really, just with that back drop alone, any story writing there should be plenty of potential, right? But this one, I am sorry to say, fell short of that potential, at least for me.

It started out okay, but it never really got into the specifics of the setting, what the different magical people could do, etc. There was plenty of opportunity, but still, nothing. I could have been fine with that, if the romance and plot made up for it, but even they seemed a bit rushed, not fully developed. The connection between Jasmine and the Baron (I can't remember his name right now, sorry!) seemed fake, and it didn't really make me want to continue the story, though I did. Again, there was plenty of potential and opportunity-- he was a shapeshifter, one of the lower 'ranks' in their magical society, and while she didn't snub him like most others, she didn't exactly jump in an defend him from the others either.

Kennedy could have played more on the shapeshifter area, gave us more information. The one thing that kind of bugged me about him being a shapeshifter was the specific kind of shifter he was: he turned into a stallion. A stallion! Now, I'm usually crazy for shapeshifters as heroes, but for some reason every time it would describe him changing, and her riding on him in a few scenes (Not that kind of riding either! Dirty mind...LOL), I almost wanted to laugh. It just seemed sort of comical instead of 'WOW!'. I'm not against a lighter side to my romances, but this didn't really help the over all story, in my opinion. His brother was a wolf, I believe, or some other kind of wild dog, but he took after his father. Well, one thing is for certain: the women could call him a 'stallion' and they wouldn't be lying!

Again, it could have been worse, but it definitely could have been a lot better, too. Again, it's some where in the middle; not at the top of a recommendation list, but not at the top of a 'DONT' read list either. It's up the potential reader, I guess, whether or not this sounds like something they'd enjoy. I will probably try her next book in the series, see if it's any better, one because I want to see if we find out anything more about some of the other characters and the mystery behind the 13 Relics, and also because I believe in giving a new author more than one try before I completely throw them out.

Title: Nothing but the Truth
Author: Avi
My Rating: 4 stars
Patriotism or practical joke?

Harrison, NH -- Ninth-grade student Philip Malloy was suspended from school for singing along to The Star-Spangled Banner in his homeroom, causing what his teacher, Margaret Narwin, called "a disturbance." But was he standing up for his patriotic ideals, only to be squelched by the school system? Was Ms. Narwin simply trying to be a good teacher? Or could it all be just a misunderstanding gone bad -- very bad? What is the truth here? Can it ever be known?

Heroism, hoax, or mistake, what happened at Harrison High changes everything for everyone in ways no one -- least of all Philip -- could have ever predicted.My Review: In between all the romances and fantasy books, I do read a fair amount of YA books, (especially teen fiction) along with the occasional other book (classics, mystery, non-fiction, etc). This fits into the YA category, but instead of being a fantasy one, which I normally go for, it's just a plain old fiction one. I remember (vaguely) reading it back in High School, but I saw it in the library the other day and thought 'What the heck' and next thing I knew, I was reading it.

It's a very short book, only 200 or so pages, and I finished it in a day. Though it started out a bit slow, yes even boring at times, it did get better towards the middle and end. And while I was a bit annoyed, at first, about the format of the book (writing entirely through letters, memos, journal entries and conversations like you'd find in a script for a play) it soon slipped my mind and I realized that it was necessary to do it that way, made it easier to keep up with the story and since it was a young boy as the main character, well, their writing isn't anything like the way that the author would write.

The plot was pretty good, and showed how something small can turn into something bigger simply be not telling the truth, over exaggerating, not getting the whole story, and, oh yeah, telling the press. Also, it reminded me of when I was in school, and how some students will try to blame their failure on the teacher (“She/he hates me, that's why I get such bad grades!” As if teachers give a grade based on their feelings towards the students!). I hated when they'd say that, and I'd always try to defend the teachers (both because I knew that their 'reasons' for hating school were stupid and maybe a little bit because of the fact that I would like to teach English someday), but kids are kids, and they don't easily change their ways.

All in all, a good book that proves a point, great for young adults, but can also be enjoyed by adults too. Plus, like I said before, it's a quick read, which means even if you don't love it, it's not a huge waste of time and effort.

Title: Reason to Believe
Author: Jessica Inclan
My Rating: 4 stars
Meet Rufus Valasay. As a member of Les Croyants des Trois, a powerful clan of telepaths and healers, he is sworn to protect the ordinary world of the Moyenne. But now, with his memory gone and danger approaching, Rufus has nothing to go on but his passionate feelings for the only person he can trust...

When he wakes, he finds himself in the cold streets of Edinburgh, with no name, no memory, nothing but the strong, hard fear that he has made a terrible mistake and left someone in danger. He shouldn’t trust anyone. So why does the stranger with the blue eyes and blonde hair who offers him a warm place to stay seem so trustworthy, so warm, so incredibly right? She says her name is Fabia Fair, and fair she is, from her quick smile to her lush curves. The way she tends to his wounds, the kindness in her voice, stirs a hunger he can’t ignore. He hasn’t forgotten how a woman’s body feels against his, the softness of her skin. He hasn’t forgotten how to bring her exquisite pleasure. One thing’s for certain: he’s never kissed this woman before, because if he had, he’d never have forgotten it. Even more alarming, he is able to read her deepest thoughts -- and those thoughts are very interesting, indeed.. With each caress and soulful kiss, his memory returns, making him wish he could forget again. For he is no ordinary mortal, but a Croyant, a magic man, and the danger he faces is very real. Someone is coming for him, someone who will harm anyone to get to him and his kind. But he doesn’t intend to make the same mistake twice, or let go of his only reason to believe...
My Review:
The beginning of the book was great, very strong, very funny, and it gave the book personality. I thought, 'Wow, this sounds like it's going to be really good book! The author has all the right elements for a great story, she has wit and charm in there too, plus it's a paranormal romance, one of my favorites, so what could possible go wrong?!'.
Well, it wasn't long after that that it seemed like everything I had been eager to read about went downhill. Rufus (Wait, hold up, what kind of name is that?! No offense, but it doesn't really float my boat, especially not in a romance novel..) can't remember anything in the beginning. He's a perfect example of a tortured hero (Which I am a sucker for, when it's done nicely.) and I was optimistic. I found myself laughing more than a few times, but I also felt a bit heartbroken whenever he would act particularly lost and confused and,well, tortured. Everything was great....
.....And then he got his memory back, and from that exact page in the book on, I felt like the rest of the story was lost. The plot didn't seem to hold my attention as much anymore, and I got tired of trying to keep some of their words for various magical things, etc, straight. But I stuck with it, because while it was no longer as amazing as it started out as, it wasn't horribly boring either. Plus, I figured that the romance element of the book would flare up nicely and pull the rest of the book through..... But I was even dissapointed there.
Even though they both had pyschic power (Hello, with just that alone, there is TONS of potential for the author to write about how close the two are, how connected they are. It's very intimate, and let me tell you, at times, I would die to have this power!), I didn't feel like they matched really well, and instead of their love stepping outside of the pages and hitting the reader with it's pure potency, it fell short. It was only 'okay' instead of 'spectacular', like I had hoped.
Again, this one falls in the middle. Not horrible, but not amazing. I'll probably try her other books in the series, for the same reasons as the previous two books I've posted on here.
Title: Blood Brothers
Author: Nora Roberts
My Rating: 4.5 stars
Summary: In the small village of Hawkins Hollow, three best friends who share the same birthday sneak off into the woods for a sleepover the evening before turning 10. But a night of pre-pubescent celebration turns into a night of horror as their blood brother oath unleashes a three-hundred year curse.

Twenty-one years later, Cal Hawkins and his friends have seen their town plagued by a week of unexplainable evil events two more times - every seven years. With the clock winding down on the third set of seven years, someone else has taken an interest in the town's folklore. Quinn is a well known scholar of local legends, and despite Cal's protests, insists on delving in the mystery. But when the first signs of evil appear months early, it's not only the town Cal tries to protect, but also his heart.
My Review: I've been a fan of Nora Roberts ever since I was handed one of her books almost 10 years ago. I was still in highschool, and my aunt gave me a copy of her Irish Born Trilogy (Born in Fire, Born in Ice, and Born in Shame). I feel in love right then and there, and I quickly snatched up all of her books that I could get my hands on. Some of them I liked more than others, but for the most part, I loved all of them: contemporary, historicals (there aren't many in this category...) and her paranormal and magical ones. I'm not usually into contemporaries, like I've said before, but I make a few exceptions, and NR is one of them!
I've heard some fans say that her latest books have fallen a bit short on their lists lately, that her old charm and wonderful writing skills are not as great in the new books. I have to disagree, especially after reading her newest series, which starts with Blood Brothers. It had everything: suspense, action, fighting, humor, and some pretty steamy sex scenes along with some pretty tender love scenes. In my book, all those things together equals, well, a great book! I was hooked from page one, drawn into the story about how the three boys accidently released an ancient demon that was bound below the stone. The story has plenty of action, it keeps twisting and turning, keep the reader on their toes, and the paranormal theme to it was pretty well done, woven in nicely with the contemporary setting. I read it very quickly, in less than a day, and then I rushed back home to grab my copy of the second one, The Hollow.
Easily one of her best (new) books in a long time, Blood Brothers is the beginning to a wonderful new series. It was so good, I could easily go back and give it a full five stars instead of the 4.5 that I gave it. Honestly, I can't even remember why I took off half a star!

Title: Atonement
Author: Ian McEwan
My Rating: 3 stars
Summary: On a summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives and her precocious imagination bring about a crime that will change all their lives, a crime whose repercussions Atonement follows through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century.My Review: I've already mentioned that I'm not huge on non-fantasy, non-romance books, but I do like to try all genres. This was a Christmas gift from a cousin a year or so ago, and I finally got around to reading it (Mainly because I put it on my 999 Challenge on LT.) I saw the previews for the movie when it first went to theaters, and I thought it looked kind of interesting. However, after I got into the book, I soon found myself skipping pages here and there, trying to find either the end of the book or a captivating part, which ever came first. I have to say, for the most part, the end came first.
While the writing may be listed as some of best, especially in this day and age, I guess I just can't see it. Maybe it is, again, because of my obsession with fantasy worlds and sweep-you-off-your-feet romances, but this story, while touching and thought provocking at times, couldn't hold my attention for too long. For one thing, this 300 page books took me over TWO WEEKS to finish, when a book that size should take me two days tops. I read slower when a book fails to pull me in, such as this one.
McEwan did like to use very vivid words and sentences to not only tell the story but pain a picture for the reader, for which I will give him a few points for. The story covered some of the hard aspects of war, another thing that earned some points from me. But it ended there. The rest of it was only so-so. It would start to get pretty interesting, and suddenly the scene would stop and he would switch to another character, or even another time in the story, without even warning us or explaining it to us too well. I was lost a few times.
I know that some people out there love this kind of a book, but this one wasn't for me. Maybe next time....

Title: The Hollow
Author: Nora Roberts
My Rating: 4.5 stars
Summary: Otherworldly intrigue. Pulse-pounding suspense. Electrifying passion. It all adds up to the continuing Sign of Seven Trilogy.Hawkins Hollow, Maryland, an idyllic town where three boys share not only a birthday- July 7, 1977 - but an innocent ritual of friendship that changes the course of their lives and everything else in Hawkins Hollow. . . . Now those boys are men who must find a way to defeat the evil threatening all they know and love.

Nora Roberts is the New York Times bestselling author of more than one hundred novels. She has been given the Romance Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award and has been inducted into their Hall of Fame. Roberts' work has been optioned and made into films, excerpted in national magazines and translated in over twenty-five countries.
My Review: Again, I loved this book. It continues the story that was started in Blood Brothers, and the suspense and action in this one only adds to the plot. This time it's Fox and Layla's love story, and it's fun watching them fall for each other. Again, NR adds in more than a few laughs along the way, but they really learn how to connect. And the fact that they are both psychic only adds to the spice between them, especially during one particular love scene. WOW. That's all I can say. :)
I really don't know what more I can say about this book that I didn't already say in my review for Blood Brothers. The whole series is just one big amazing story, broken up into three novels. I'm going to be starting on the final one, Gage and Cybil's story, The Pagan Stone, tonight or tomorrow, and I can't wait. If I haven't managed to convince you so far that you should read this series, I doubt I'll ever be able to.
If you've read her books before and loved them, I promise that you will enjoy these ones too. If you've never tried her work before, I hope that you pick one up soon and see just what you've been missing!
And there you have it: all the books I finished within the last week or so.
Until next time!


Anonymous said...

I had a really hard time with McEwan's Atonement, too -- in fact, I stopped reading it about 60 pages in! I absolutely loved the movie (though that may have more to do with my obsession with actor James McAvoy, honestly...) but couldn't get into the novel. I did read McEwan's On Chesil Beach recently and really loved it! He definitely has a distinct voice!

The_Book_Queen said...

I really had to push myself to finish the book. Really, the only reason I even put fourth the effort was because it's part of one of my reading challenges on LT this year.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I want to. :) Cant blame you though-- nothing wrong with James McAvoy! LOL.

I might try one of his other books later on. I hate reading only one book from a new (to me) author and then labeling his/her work as crap. I like to at least give them two strikes before they're out.

Erotic Horizon said...

Busy week.

The Nora Roberts sound good - not a big fan of hers, but like a good curse mystery so might give that a go.


The_Book_Queen said...

I understand--here work gets both kinds of reviews, from two thumbs up to two thumbs down. If I had to suggest any of her books to read, I would say that the Sign of Seven Trilogy would be a very good bet. I think her paranormal/suspense mystery ones are better written and more interesting than her regular contemporaries, personally.