Saturday, November 30, 2013

Review: Forged in the Desert Heat by Maisey Yates

I used to be something of a book snob, the sort who would roll my eyes at the words "romance" or "Harlequin".  Now though, I will hurt someone if they dare to take away my Maisey Yates' Harlequin Presents.  In the past year, I've read five or six of them and have enjoyed them quite a bit.

She creates these likable, complex characters and interesting couples.  These books provide the perfect escape and have become my go-to when I need a book that I can dive into immediately.

What I especially like about these books is that unlike some “millionaire/billionaire” books, these aren’t stories of rich men seducing helpless, young poor girls who need someone to take care of them. Most of these women are doing just fine on their own, at least with regard to careers and finances.  Suffice it to say that I don’t feel as if I’m handing in my feminist card when I read these books.  In most cases, the women wield as much power as the men.  And emotionally, they seem to be equally damaged.

In Forged in the Desert Heat, Ana comes from a wealthy background.  She was educated at nice boarding schools, she’s now getting ready to marry a Sheik.  But during a pre-wedding trip, she’s abducted, and then rescued by another Sheik from a neighboring kingdom.  (I said these books were enjoyable, not that they were realistic; I don’t read for realism.)  Zafar takes her to stay in his palace until he can figure out how to get her back to her fiancĂ© without causing a war.  This is where the story took a very distinct Beauty and the Beast twist (oh, and I love Beauty and the Beast).  A palace that seems frozen in time, a man who has been alone for so long, he's forgotten how to behave in civilized company.  I liked it a lot.
As Ana waits to return home, she has plenty of time to rethink some decisions she'd made in her life - or rather the lack of decisions.  She's always done what she was told to do, what she thought would make her father happy, exactly what was expected of her.  She now realizes she's on the verge of marrying a man she thinks she loves because she's supposed to love him.  But after a kiss from Zafar, she realizes that the love she thought she felt was devoid of passion.  How can she go back to that life?  Another thing I like about the books I've read by Yates, is we see her characters fall for each other.  The attraction may be instant, but it takes a while before they develop an emotional connection, as it should be. 
I enjoyed reading about Ana taking control of her life, making decisions that were best for her and being willing to deal with the consequences, even if her choices weren't what were expected of her.  And, of course, this had all the steamy romance that can be expected from these books.  Overall, I really liked this book. 
I read this while traveling over the Thanksgiving break and it worked perfectly for keeping my mind off the dreariness of waiting in airports and riding in small planes and other "fun" holiday-ness.
I received a review copy via NetGalley. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Review: Mine to Hold by Cynthia Eden

Mine to Hold is the third book in Cynthia Eden’s Mine series.  This book is about a different couple, Claire and Noah, who met in the second book, Mine to Keep.  I started reading this right after I finished Mine to Keep because I really enjoyed that book a lot.

I loved the suspense and mystery in this story.  Like the other books in this series, the reader is kept guessing the entire time.  By now I’ve learned to stop assuming I know who is guilty because things will change.  I didn’t want to put this book down.  Reading this series reminded me of how much I love a good mystery/crime/suspense story.  With regard to books, mysteries were my first love. That used to be all I read.  In the past few years, I’ve made an effort to read a wider variety of books, and have moved away from exclusively reading mysteries.  But these books brought back the thrill I used to get from reading a suspenseful book.

Also, the book was pretty steamy, so that along with the suspense made for a fun read. 

However, I didn’t find the romance to be all that compelling.  The first meeting between Claire and Noah in New York City – when she goes to him to interview for a job, he informs her that he wants her in his bed.  Yes, they met in Chicago, under some extreme circumstances, but they hardly had a chance to get to know each other.  Maybe he was drawn to her because she was a victim and had been through a lot of horrible things – but that isn’t very romantic.  I usually like more of a build up, a chance to see why the two people fell in love with each other.  With the previous couple – Skye and Trace – they’d known each other for years, so their obsession with each other made sense.  But Noah just sort of decided he wanted Claire.  Maybe I would have been more convinced if he’d fallen for her after he’d gone to bed with her, but for him to be so certain she was the one without knowing her at all seemed odd.  There was never any explanation as to why he wanted her, what it was about her that made her so special to him. 

But as I said in the beginning, I enjoyed the suspense in this story enough that I wasn’t all that bothered by what I considered to be an unconvincing romance.   I still really liked the book and will continue reading any books in this series.  I definitely plan to read more by this author. 

I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Goodreads Choice Awards and reading challenge

Sometimes when I look at these "best of lists" I get annoyed because I feel like I read a lot and yet, I haven't read anything on the list.  On Amazon's editors top 100, I'd not read a single one.  But I've read 64 books this year.  Most of them new books.  A few of amazon's picks are on my to-read list, but none have been read.

However, I was pleased to see that several of my favorite books from this year have been nominated for Goodreads Choice Awards.

My four favorite books from this year were written by two different authors.  Susanna Kearsley's Winter Sea and its sequel, Firebird, and Jojo Moyes' Girl You Left Behind and Me Before You.  If anyone asks for a book rec, I mention those four.  I read Winter Sea and Firebird one right after the other, so in a way, they're one big story in my head.  But I'm told it's possible to read Firebird as a stand-alone, but why would you want to do that?  Both books are great.  Winter Sea is set in Scotland, while Firebird takes place in Russia.  Wonderful settings, interesting history and so very romantic.  Firebird is nominated for best fantasy.  I would think of it as more historical, but I do understand the fantasy label.  Two people in present time are using their psychic abilities to see what happened in the past.  I'm not describing it well, but trust me, it's a great story, even if you aren't all that into paranormal or fantasy type books.  For me, I just sort of accept that psychic abilities are a real thing, so it didn't seem all that "fantastical" maybe.  But point being, you should read Winter Sea and Firebird.

Also, Me Before You is nominated for Best Fiction.  Easily my choice.  Though in the first round of voting, Girl You Left Behind was also nominated.  I loved both books and they're very different books.  Girl You Left Behind is about a painting, and part of the story takes place in France, so as an artist who loves all things French, I was a little partial to that.  But even I voted for Me Before You.  That book is amazing.  It left me an emotionally drained mess who couldn't stop crying when it was over, but nonetheless, amazing.

Other books I've read and liked that are nominated for Goodreads Choice Awards:  Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald is nominated for Best Historical Fiction.  I think any fan of the Fitzgeralds would enjoy this.  And in the humor category - Wallbanger by Alice Clayton.  Such a cute, funny story.  I loved it. 

So I was able to vote in four categories this year, made me feel somewhat accomplished.  I did find it odd that I'd not read any of the paranormal or romance books - since that's mostly what I read these days.  But oh well. 

And in other reading news, I'm one book away from reading my goal of reading 65 books this year.  Clearly, I will surpass it.  Last year I read 63 books.  I sort of feel like I've cheated because several of the books were short novellas.  But at the same time, quite a few of the books were around 800 or more pages.  My page count has by far exceeded last year's page count.

A few of the books were re-reads.  I listened the Handmaid's Tale, narrated by Claire Danes - it's a great version if you're into audio books.  I've read the book a few times, but was nice to have it read to me.  I also re-read Discovery of Witches, my third time to read that.  I was doing a real-time read, following along the same days as the characters.  Doing the same with Shadow of Night now, but won't finish that until next year.  I also finally started reading the Outlander series, or rather listening to the audio versions of those.  I'm on the fifth book.  Don't like it nearly as much as the first two books, but it keeps me entertained on my commute to and from work each day.  I finally finished listening to Great Expectations, and wasn't all that impressed.  And I listened to the entire Beautiful Creatures series.  I'm becoming quite a fan of audio books.

Well, closer to the end of the year, I'll put together my best of list, just because.  Looking over the list of books I've read, I'm seeing a lot of favorites.

I'm sort of thinking after Thanksgiving this year, I'm going to read nothing but Christmas-themed novels and novellas and anthologies.  Because I want my brain to turn to candy?  I don't know.  I don't have a real Christmas, so I have to immerse myself in fictional ones.  Same reason I watch so many Hallmark holiday movies. 

Review: Mine to Keep by Cynthia Eden

Mine to Keep is the continuation of Trace and Sky’s story, which began in Mine to Take.  (I recommend reading Mine to Take first, it's a shorter book, but very good.)  In Mine to Take, the couple was reunited after being apart for ten years, when Skye goes to her Trace, the owner of a big security company, asking for help when she felt she was being stalked.

The two met in a foster home as teenagers, but went their separate ways when Skye moved to New York to pursue a career in dance and Trace joined the military.  Now, Sky’s back in Chicago to open a dance studio, her career as a dancer over after a car accident, and Trace is a wealthy business owner, having used his military experience and connections to create a successful security company. 

The first book was about the two of them reuniting, and then hunting down who was after Skye.  Now, they’re finally together again, engaged and ready to spend their life together, but Trace’s past has returned to haunt them both. 

People from Trace’s past keep dying, brutal murders, and whoever is doing it is trying to frame Trace.  And a man like Trace has made a lot of enemies and has a lot of secrets.  As if trying to discover the identity of a murderer roaming the streets of Chicago isn’t enough, Trace is also trying to salvage his relationship with Skye.  Skye is tired of his secrets and wants Trace to be completely honest with her, but Trace is afraid he’ll lose her if she knows the whole truth.

Much like Mine to Take, this book kept me guessing.  As soon as I thought I knew who was guilty, something else would happen to change my mind.  That’s what I really enjoy about these books.  The mystery kept me hooked.  I wanted to set this book down last night because I could feel my cold medicine kicking in, but I couldn’t stop reading.  I think it was almost 4 a.m. when I finally finished the book.

I like this couple so much.  They have scorching hot chemistry and are so completely in love with each other.  I felt like Skye’s emotional conflict regarding Trace’s secrets was handled well, her desire to just ignore it all or force him to be honest with her. 

This book has everything I want for an enjoyable escape read – danger, suspense, emotional angst and lots of hot sex.  I liked it quite a bit and will continue reading more by this author.  In fact, I’ve already started reading the third book in this series, Mine to Hold, which is about a different couple who met during this book.
I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Review: Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson

I assumed Daylight Gate would be a quick read, but once I started it, felt like it went on forever.  I had to force myself to keep returning to the story.  And yet, I felt like not much information was provided about what was happening in the story. 
I didn’t enjoy this story because I was never clear on what exactly was happening.  Some people were accused of witchcraft.  Alice Nutter is trying to help them, but then she’s also accused.  And she’s trying to save her lover who everyone seems to be after.
It all just seemed kind of jumbled together.  Alice is trying to explain that these woman are simply ignorant and poor, but then we see that they are attempting to practice magic.  But their magic doesn’t seem to be powerful enough to save them. 
Alice has a connection to these women, one of them having been a former lover.  So it seems that Alice also has some connection to magic and that she's been given a special anti-aging cream from John Dee.
I felt very confused by the story, as if I were only being given bits and pieces of what was happening, as if the real story was still concealed. 
I’m usually a big fan of stories about witches, but I didn’t find this very interesting.
I received a review copy via NetGalley.