Monthly Recap: November 2015

Is it just me, or did November fly by with the blink of an eye? Life continues to be hectic as I attempt to juggle working two jobs; which is why my reading time has decreased so much, and in accordance with that, my time to write reviews and blog. As always I remain hopeful that things will pick up for me in the coming weeks.

I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday preparations  🙂  Seasons greetings from me!

24106033Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith – 4.5 out of 5 stars
I’d honestly say that the main focus of this book is character development, as the reader learns more about the respective pasts of Strike and Robin, and how events made them into the people they are who make the decisions they do. As someone who loves character development, I appreciated that aspect of this book immensely.
As for the mystery and the killer: while reading I often equated this story with something that Lisbeth Salander would come across, in the sense that there is deep misogyny and violence against women. I did not guess correctly, though in retrospect I can see the clues were there all along.
Do I recommend this? YES. I love this series, and the writing continues to suck me into this world with ease. The ending is particularly cruel, so onwards I go, waiting for the next installment.

Princess in Waiting by Meg Cabot – 2 out of 5 stars
Mia obsesses over whether Michael loves her, or is in love with her.
At first it seems like an immature worry, but it is important to remember she is fourteen, experiencing her first relationship… and that we all probably did wonder the same when experiencing similar circumstances.
(I listened to the audiobook; Anne Hathaway’s narration was missed)

Since the Surrender by Julie Anne Long – 3 out of 5 stars
After an absence of five years, Rosalind March returns to the life of Chase Eversea with a plea for help. Her youngest sister was arrested for petty theft, and after being sighted in prison, awaiting trial, she disappeared…
Thus this historical romance took the course of a mystery! Truth be told, those guilty for the disappearance and the motivations behind why were easy to see from the get go. But Chase and Rosalind were likable enough characters to read about.
In my opinion, the real star of the book is a young street boy named Liam. He reminded me so much of two other characters from two favorite series of mine. I could have followed him around forever.

23160039A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn – 3.5 out of 5 stars
I had to debate my rating of this one for a bit; 3.5 stars, or 4?
There are many excellent things about this book, such as Deanna Raybourn’s writing and her ability to create appealing characters. In many ways Veronica reminded me of Amelia Peabody, for their eccentricities and the ease into which I could hear their voices. But if I am to discuss Amelia, then I must also mention how Veronica’s first book mirrors my disappointment of Amelia’s: the mystery in both are weak. Murder happens, and then it takes significant time for an investigation to occur.
The real star of this story is the dynamic between Veronica and Stoker. Theirs is a slow burning relationship that I liked and want to see more of! This book could have easily been a standalone… But it is not, and I can only hope the questions left unanswered become compelling lines of continuity throughout the series and not villainy that drags on.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin – 5 out of 5 stars
Dunk and Egg short stories are EVERYTHING. I love both characters and the ability to be in the time when the Dragons ruled Westeros. Fans of the book series will happily devour this; it also goes very well with a certain section in The World of Ice and Fire book, if you have that.
These stories make me hungry for more prequel stories. Still waiting to hear about that notorious tournament at Harrenhall, George!
(Also, the illustrations in this book are stunning, with how they capture moments from the story and the expressions and body language — especially Egg’s! — of characters)

Winter by Marissa Meyer – 4 out of 5 stars

16060716Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray – 3 out of 5 stars
I might be a bit generous giving this three stars. After all, the villain was no where near as creepy as Naughty John, and there was the problem of only two characters — Henry and Ling — being directly connected to the dream plot for a majority of the book. This is an issue when there are so many characters in the story, which offer many unmoored point of views and cause the story to drag. These characters have something in common and need to band together to accomplish things.
Also, I would appreciate less Evie, because I continue to find her selfish and annoying.
On the positive side there is the emergence of the series’ Big Bad to keep me wondering along with the promise of the Diviners joining forces to confront him. The dream plot and the connection to the American Dream of the 1920s was also an interesting perspective to play with and gives me hope that the truth of Project Buffalo will be as good. Just…less Evie, please, I’m begging you.

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Review: Marrying Christopher

25292540Title: Marrying Christopher (A Hearthfire Romance #3)

Author: Michele Paige Holmes

Rating: ★★

Provided Synopsis: Having seen both his sisters Grace and Helen happily married, Christopher Thatcher is free to pursue his dream of life in America. With adventure in his heart and mind, he boards one of the first steamships set to cross the Atlantic in the record breaking time of only twenty-five days.

Within the first two of those, his resolve—to avoid women and the complications they often bring to a man’s life—falters when he meets Marsali Abbott, a young woman with a past even more troubling than his own. Whether from years of habit protecting his sisters, or simply because he feels drawn to Marsali, Christopher chooses to help her and becomes her friend.

As the truth about what awaits Marsali in America becomes evident, he is faced with a more difficult choice, one that will impact their lives far beyond four weeks together at sea.

Review: With his sisters happily settled in marriage, Christopher decides to take her restless spirit off to America, where he hopes to be able to make a name for himself that he is proud of. On the steam ship passage across the Atlantic, he becomes acquainted with, forms a friendship, and falls in love with Marsali Abbot, who is leaving a life of servitude in the home of her aunt for four years as an indentured servant on Virginian soil. With circumstances in her life being as they had been, Marsali’s decision to leave England behind made sense in my mind; Christopher’s did not, and unfortunately this disconnect between character and reader continued.

Saving Grace — the first book of this series — is my favorite because of the way I was able to relate to Grace instantaneously and because the relationship between she and Nicolas developed over a period of time that the reader is witness to. Marrying Christopher did not accomplish what the story of his eldest sister did. I did not feel anything in regards to the relationship between Christopher and Marsali. The two of them could be lost so often to introspection and that did not work for me either. Make me feel that you love each other, don’t tell me.

In this story’s favor, however, is the way the author managed to take what you believe is to happen, then twist the paths of the two main characters in the middle of the story. The twist was good! As was the initial conflict it created. The problem was that far too soon the obstacles in the way of the characters began to drag out. Sooner rather than later the point is reached where you will want the story to reach the conclusion it must and then end.

(I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Review: Only A Promise

Title: Only A Promise (The Survivor’s Club #5) 23274098

Author: Mary Balogh

Rating: ★★★★

Provided Synopsis: Ralph Stockwood prides himself on being a leader, but when he convinced his friends to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, he never envisioned being the sole survivor. Racked with guilt over their deaths, Ralph must move on . . . and find a wife to secure an heir to his family’s title and fortune.

Since her Seasons in London ended in disaster, Chloe Muirhead is resigned to spinsterhood. Driven by the need to escape her family, she takes refuge at the home of her mother’s godmother, where she meets Ralph. He needs a wife. She wants a husband. So Chloe makes the outrageous suggestion to strike a bargain and get married. One condition: Ralph has to promise that he will never take her back to London. But circumstances change. And to Ralph, it was only a promise.

Review: One of my favorite Mary Balogh books in recent memory. And if I could impart any wisdom on those interested in reading this book, then it would be to not pay attention to the synopsis. I did not read the back of this book to learn what it would be about; all I needed to know is that it was the latest in the Survivor’s Club series. Due to this decision, I did not know what to expect and was pleasantly surprised by the paths the story took. The changes the characters must face are swift, and in this way the development was constantly pushed forward. The twists seemed to defy the usual conventions of the genre. I will say nothing about what happened in this book because I want you to experience it the way I did.

As for the romance? I think it is one of the best I have encountered in a long time. Ralph and Chloe must come to gradual terms with one another. It was done over time, in a way that made it feel authentic and that came across to me, the reader, so that I could feel with them. Another noteworthy aspect of the story is how the repercussions of war are dealt with. There is much talk about war and the effect it has on those on the battlefield, those who choose to remain home, those left at home, and those who return home. To read each of the characters’ thoughts on this subject was a surprise to me, for I was actually moved by some of the things that were said. All in all, this was just an incredibly well done book, and I recommend it.

Review: The Scoundrel and the Debutante

Title: The Scoundrel and the Debutante (The Cabot Sisters #3) 23280203

Author: Julia London

Rating: ★★

Provided Synopsis: The dust of the Cabot sisters’ shocking plans to rescue their family from certain ruin may have settled, but Prudence Cabot is left standing in the rubble of scandal. Now regarded as an unsuitable bride, she’s tainted among the ton. Yet this unwilling wallflower is ripe for her own adventure. And when an irresistibly sexy American stranger on a desperate mission enlists her help, she simply can’t deny the temptation.

The fate of Roan Matheson’s family depends on how quickly he can find his runaway sister and persuade her to return to her betrothed. Scouring the rustic English countryside with the sensually wicked Prudence at his side—and in his bed—he’s out of his element. But once Roan has a taste of the sizzling passion that can lead to forever, he must choose between his heart’s obligations and its forbidden desires.

Review: Four years ago, Honor and Grace Cabot became embroiled in scandals, the consequences of which have been passed down to their two younger sisters. Prudence is aggravated; rather than achieve the marriage and happiness her sisters have, Pru cannot receive an offer because of Honor and Grace’s previous behavior. So, when given the opportunity, she takes an adventure by purchasing passage on a stagecoach due to the handsomeness of an American in search of his sister.

Typically, I love when historical romance stories take an adventure, but this one was did not match my tastes. For one, Prudence’s need for an adventure came out of nowhere, and she somehow thought this was a pass for all of her bad decisions and the consequences they would bring. I was easily able to follow along with the book, though it is noteworthy that I never really felt much of a connection to it.

At least Roan Matheson, the American of Prudence’s desires, was an improvement from the other males I have recently come across in my romance readings. He was not a jerk; in fact, he was kind, and witty, and sensual. I could see why Prudence liked him. As for the conflict in this book? It was very minimal in my opinion, and unfortunately did nothing to make me feel the supposedly great love between hero and heroine. To sum it up, I liked the hero, but the rest of the book needed more adventure and perhaps characters who actually had to show some responsibility for their choices rather than get away with everything. This would have given the story some much needed tension.

Review: Four Nights With the Duke

21877190Title: Four Nights With the Duke (Desperate Duchesses by the Numbers #2)

Author: Eloisa James

Rating: ★★

Provided Synopsis: As a young girl, Emilia Gwendolyn Carrington told the annoying future Duke of Pindar that she would marry any man in the world before him—so years later she is horrified to realize that she has nowhere else to turn.

Evander Septimus Brody has his own reasons for agreeing to Mia’s audacious proposal, but there’s one thing he won’t give his inconvenient wife: himself.

Instead, he offers Mia a devil’s bargain…he will spend four nights a year with her. Four nights, and nothing more. And those only when she begs for them.

Which Mia will never do.

Now Vander faces the most crucial challenge of his life: he must seduce his own wife in order to win her heart—and no matter what it takes, this is the one battle he can’t afford to lose.

Review: When she was fifteen years old, Mia was in love with Vander. Because of the close relationship between his mother and her father, tensions between the two teenagers are already high. It is, however, when Vander receives a piece of poetry that Mia wrote in his honor that the unforgivable occurs: he and his friends pick apart her choice of words and insult her; she is within the room to hear. From that moment on, Mia swears that her love for Vander is dead, and even tells him to his face that she would never marry him even if he were the last man in England.

But more than a decade later she is at his door, prepared to blackmail him into accepting her hand.

I absolutely loved the prologue chapter, and thought that it was to go on to be the creation of one of my favorite Eloisa James’ stories. But this was not to be. Even though I understood the reasons, Mia’s blackmail and his initial and lewd reaction to it were not the start of a love story I wanted to read. Matters were only made worse as the hero, Vander, continued to speak, often saying the most hurtful things about her in concerns to her behavior and her appearance. I cheered for her as she would stand up to him and point out that she deserved to find a man who did not think of her the way he did, because it was completely true. He said too many cruel things and treated her as an object — with constant thoughts of how she was his wife, his duchess, his, his, his — to be forgiven in my eyes. The attempt to redeem him within the last five pages also did not work for me, because I did not understand his rationale behind possessiveness being his love nor did I believe in the presented keepsake. Vander did not work for me, thus this book came off as a very large disappointment. I wish Mia had left.

As for what I did like? The supporting characters (Thorn and India need a sequel! Especially since it was mentioned they still write letters to each other!), Mia’s fiction, and the horse.

Review: Loving Helen

Female youth standing alone in victorian dress
Title:
Loving Helen (A Hearthfire Romance #2)

Author: Michele Paige Holmes

Rating: ★★1/2

Provided Synopsis: Eighteen-year-old Helen Thatcher grew up under the protection of her older siblings, Grace and Christopher. Living in their shadows and keeping to herself suited Helen just fine—until she met widower Samuel Preston. Watching Mr. Preston care for his young daughter and seeing his concern extend to her own family, Helen felt her reserve slipping away, as she learned first to trust him and then realized she had fallen in love with him. But instead of returning—or even noticing her affection—Mr. Preston developed his own tender, and unrequited feelings, for Grace.

In the midst of each silently nursing their broken hearts, Helen and Samuel are faced with a daunting task—reuniting Grace with her fiancé, Nicholas Sutherland. Now it is Helen who must look out for her sister and sacrifice her own fragile heart, as she and Samuel pretend to be engaged. Helen finds the role surprisingly easy to play, allowing herself to imagine that Samuel’s loving remarks are sincere. As the time for their charade to end draws near Helen must summon her courage and tell Samuel the truth of her feelings, or risk losing him forever.

Review: In this companion novel to Saving Grace, the reader now follows Grace Thatcher’s younger sister, Helen, as she falls in love with Samuel Preston. Due to the events of this book happening at the same time as those in Grace’s book, I could not, unfortunately, help but feel under whelmed by this installment. Helen is a likable character, yet there is not much to her beyond her kindness. Some readers will certainly be endeared to her, but I am the type to like my heroines to be a bit more adventurous. I could read along while this story unfolded, but I in no way felt attached to the characters or the romance between them. To be honest, I liked Samuel Preston much more as he appeared in Grace’s book because I found there to be more chemistry.

In addition, this book also has a conflict that did not develop as I had hoped it would. Said conflict could have added some adventure or danger to Helen’s tale if something more had come about. As it stood, it simply served as an unnecessary plot device to push the characters together, and to create pointless and briefly experienced angst. The conclusion of the story could just as easily have reached the same point, so why bother to include it at all?

If you are the type of reader who likes clean romances with a kind and gentle character then this will be the book for you. Helen makes a good fit for the family she has become a part of, and it was nice to see her begin to experience moments of life rather than be so timid. However, if you prefer a heroine who is bold while her hero is rough around the edges, then I would recommend sticking with Grace’s story only.

(I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Review: The Devil Takes a Bride

18812476
Title:
The Devil Takes a Bride (The Cabot Sisters #2)

Author: Julia London

Rating: ★★

Provided Synopsis: A plan born of desperation…

Once the toast of society, Grace Cabot and her sisters now await the shame of losing high status and fine luxuries upon the death of the Earl of Beckington. The dire circumstances are inevitable unless, of course, Grace’s wicked plot to seduce a wealthy viscount into marriage goes off without a single hitch. But once a stolen embrace with the wrong man leads her to be discovered in the arms of Jeffrey, the Earl of Merryton, her plan takes a most unexpected—and scorching—twist.

…and altered by passion.

Governed by routine and ruled by duty, Jeffrey had no desire for a wife before he succumbed to Grace’s temptation. Though his golden-haired, in-name-only bride is the definition of disorder, he can’t resist wanting her in every way. But once her secrets meet his, society might consider their lives to be ruined beyond repair…while Jeffrey might just see it as a new beginning.

Review: Grace Cabot must take action. Her mother is rapidly descending into madness, and if her condition is known it will ruin the marriage prospects of her and her three sisters. Unlike her sister, Honor, however, Grace does attempt to ruin others happiness in pursuit of safety; instead, Grace knowingly lures a man into a meeting that if timed properly will lead them to be discovered. A scandal means a marriage must occur, but Grace has the misfortune to trap the wrong man.

Jeffrey Donovan is the earl of a family that strides to be above censure. A scandalous marriage to Grace is the last thing he wants yet he is left no choice. When the newlywed couple journey home to begin their life together the trouble makes itself known. For Jeffrey suffers from OCD, along with some highly sexual thoughts (the connection between the two is never explained, so the reader has to suspend belief). He fears hurting his wife and dragging her into sexual deviancy with him.

The end?

I hate to say it, but that pretty must sums up this book. Other than learning about each other both emotionally and physically there is not much more for Grace and Jeffrey to do in this story. The author tried to add more towards the end with a scandal from Jeffrey’s brother, but not even that went much of anywhere. It is clear the journey the characters must travel is towards the realization that perfection is not everything; unfortunately the lesson did not hit the mark to be as heartfelt as I am sure was the intent. I read this book mindlessly with no attachment and I can see the same fate befalling others.

The best I can say is this book was better than it’s predecessor (The Trouble with Honor), because Grace was at least likeable.