Thursday, 25 July 2013

Vacation & Janet Evanovich: Stephanie Plum Series Review

I have been MIA over the last few days.  My monkeys and I hitched a ride to Oklahoma with my mom and have been enjoying some lazy days together.  I didn't bring my laptop and internet has been hit and miss. 

My last "Open Book" cover featured Two For The Dough (#2 in the Stephanie Plum series) by Janet Evanovich.  I then got caught up in the series and have been reading in pit stops, stretches of smooth Interstate, and between running around and entertaining the boys.  I'll review the series (thus far) as a whole, rather than an in-depth review of each title.   I just finished Hard Eight, so they are pretty quick stories to get through. 

My Review:

This series by Janet Evanovich follows the antics and misadventures of Jersey fugitive apprehension agent (AKA bounty hunter) Stephanie Plum as she attempts to bring in her man.  The books are full of slightly screwball humour, the characters are off the wall, her family is lovably dysfunctional, and there's always a bit of romance. 

Stephanie Plum might be the worst bounty hunter in history and is constantly finding herself in trouble. Her grandma is crazy, her cars fall prey to catastrophic incidents (my favourite to date is the garbage truck!), she hates her gun, loves her hamster, and has the luck to always apprehend her target with the occasional accidental death.  

The series are rife with mischief, adventure, fun & sexy backup characters.  The zany situations she encounters will make you giggle, and you can't help but relate to some of her outlook on life & pastries.

I enjoy this series as a light (not hard to get into) read and I enjoy the quirkiness of the novels. Some titles are hit and miss, but as a whole, the series is amusing.  Evanovich does include controversial themes and characters, so probably not for the straight & narrow crowd.  They also contain swearing so if crude language offends you, give it a pass.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Review: The Forgotten Castles Series by Jamie Carie

From The Author's Website:

The Forgotten Castles Series is a three book series that follows amateur sleuth, Lady Alexandria Featherstone, as she travels to Ireland (book one – The Guardian Duke), Iceland (book two – The Forgiven Duke), and Italy (book three – A Duke’s Promise) in search of her missing parents. Full of adventure, romance and mystery the three books sweep readers across Europe in pursuit of a famed invention. Along the way, Alexandria develops feelings for her guardian – the brooding Duke of St. Easton, who has recently suffered a physical blow that is changing his life. Gabriel thinks of his new charge as an unwanted complication in a time when his life is coming apart at the seams but soon comes to cherish her letters and admire her faith. Their journey will be fraught with danger as they come ever closer to God’s plan for their lives.

My Review:

I have a love-hate relationship with Christian fiction.  That sounds awful, but it's true.  The books have so very much promise, but usually end up falling flat.  I though this series might be an exception to the rule.  

The first novel in the trilogy, The Guardian Duke, was a re-read for me.  I thoroughly enjoyed it the first time around, but while reading it this time, realised that it's skimpy on the romance - it's more adventure - and I really had my heart on a historical romance without any heat.    I found it a little disappointing the second time around, but I did want to see how the fledgling relationship(s) played out and what truly happened with her parents.

In the first novel, I was intrigued by Alex.  She had charisma, na├»vety, she was impetuous, and had her share of flaws, yet she managed to come across charming. Likewise, I loved the moody Duke, struggling with his faith and personal troubles. The supporting characters made me smile.  Overall, this book was the best of the three.

I will state that I find the endings in this series feel incomplete - you have to read the next novel for any sense of closure - and I truly dislike that in a book.  I want to read the next novel because the first was so well written that I've been entirely entranced by the characters and premise. 

The second & third novels, The Forgiven Duke & The Duke's Promise, didn't hold my attention as well.  The second novel expounded on the romance between Alex & the Duke.  It contains mishaps and mystery.  The third novel follows their adventures, still rife with conflict, danger, and the undertone of romance - all in the guise of a wedding trip to see the continent.  

Alls well that ends well - albeit with somewhat predictably.  I also found the last two novels "preachier", I suppose as a result of the protagonists trying to find their faith and battling their doubts and disbeliefs.  The last two novels in this series were more difficult to read - I had to trudge through them and breathed a sigh of relief when done.  I needed to know the end of the story... but found the road to get there was very slow-going.  

Ms. Carie is a wonderful author - these are not the first of her books I've read. Unfortunately, The Forgotten Castles Series just didn't quite live up to it's potential.  Give it a go if you truly enjoy Christian historical and have the time to invest in the series.  Pass if you like your stories with a little more movement.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Review: Secrets of the Realm by Bev Stout

From Goodreads:

Blamed for her uncle's death, fifteen-year-old Annie is on the run. Knowing the perils she will face on the streets of eighteenth century London, she disguises herself as a boy. Her life on the streets is cut short when she becomes Captain Hawke’s cabin boy. 

Not only must Annie work alongside the Realm’s motley crew of outcasts and gentlemen, she must also keep her superstitious shipmates from discovering she is a girl. 

Annie vows she will never leave the Realm, where dreams are chased, shattered lives can mend, and secrets are stowed like keepsakes in an old desk drawer. But when her past catches up with her, can she return to the Realm? More importantly, will she have a choice?

My Review:

First, I must disclose that I received a copy of Secrets of the Realm by Bev Stout from the author herself in exchange for an honest review.  I added it to my to-read short list and was curious about the title, but wasn't expecting to love it. 

Bev Stout has a winner on her hands with this novel.  It's a historical "adventure" written for a young adult audience, but as an adult reader of all genres, this one still captured me completely.  I laughed, cried, and wanted more - the characters felt like long lost friends and the writing was descriptive.  

I fell in love with the heroine.  Annie is absolutely captivating and you can't help but find her charming.  She's brave, tenacious, and absolutely lovable.  She's strong and fragile all rolled into one.  In the midst of rescuing herself from an abusive situation, she finds adventure and heartbreak, and discovers friendships and a place of acceptance - a place of her own.   The supporting characters will also pull you in.

I highly recommend this for any young reader who enjoys a taste of history and loves to live vicariously through the pages of a book.  There are no inappropriate scenes or language, and the romance is mild (more of an unrequited crush or deep friendship).  It touches more on the heroine and the individuals she encounters and enchants amidst her search for freedom.  It's a very quick and easy book to read.   The author could easily write for adults - this novel in particular could become an adult historical - there was ample opportunity to expand upon certain scenes or throw in some more mature content.  That being said, I found it perfect for a safe and entertaining read for it's intended audience.  

Thanks to the author for the chance to read and review!  It's a wonderful story.

Edit:  Updated cover image 02-02-14

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Review: James Patterson/Maxine Paetro - Women's Murder Club 8, 10, 11 & 12

From James Patterson's website:

Lindsay Boxer, Cindy Thomas, Claire Washburn and Jill Bernhardt, the stars of 1st to Die and 2nd Chance, are the founding members of the Women's Murder Club. Later, in 4th of July, Yuki Castellano joins the Club. Together, they solve crimes in their home city of San Francisco, and often meet up to talk about clues and life over Mexican food and drinks at Susie's.

My Review(s):

I just went through a James Patterson overload.  I read (4) of the Women's Murder Club series in a row.   I haven't read from this series in a few summers and couldn't quite remember where I left off.  I started my re-read with #8 - The 8th Confession.   Most of it was familiar, but I got sucked in again and remembered why I loved this series.  The characters are quirky and imperfect, I love the mystery, and the books are a quick and easy read.

I skipped The 9th Judgement as I recognized it within the first chapter and remembered it wasn't one of my favourites. 

I then jumped in to 10th Anniversary with both feet - my kids were gone for a few days and I had some time to spare.  I enjoyed this one.  I felt involved with the characters.  I wanted to shake the teenage mother.  I got caught up in the drama and mystery.   As soon as I finished, I had to load the next title to my tablet. 

11th Hour made me sad.  I didn't like the Joe & Lindsay drama.  I also found the titles in this series when Lindsay was pregnant slightly unrealistic.  I don't think she'd be solving crimes quite so actively... but hey, this is fiction, so who says it has to be true to life?  It was still an enjoyable read. 

Next up was the most recent title in the series:
12th of Never.  This one didn't grab me quite as much.  I felt like the flow between personal lives and the actual crime solving/criminal prosecuting/newspaper reporting wasn't very smooth.  I do realise the lead character (Lindsay Boxer) was going through personal crises and was feeling disjointed herself - maybe the novel as a whole just reflected that.  It was a little more disjointed than I've seen before.  I had my suspicions regarding some of the elements put into play immediately (and was right.)  I was a little disappointed at the conclusion... not enough to give up on the series, just enough to think maybe it's run it's course.

If you enjoy a quick contemporary murder mystery/legal thriller, give this series a go.  Each novel is a quick read and there's a reason Patterson is a best-selling author.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Review: Two of a Kind by Susan Mallery

New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery welcomes readers back to Fool's Gold,
where a one-time fling could become the real thing...

Felicia Swift never dreamed she'd hear a deep, sexy voice from her past in tiny Fool's Gold, California. The last time Gideon Boylan whispered in her ear was half a world away...on the morning after the hottest night of her life. Her freaky smarts have limited her close friendships, and romance, but she came to Fool's Gold looking for ordinary. Gorgeous, brooding Gideon is anything but that. 

Black Ops taught Gideon that love could be deadly. Now he pretends to fit in while keeping everyone at arm's length. Felicia wants more than he can give-a home, family, love-but she has a lot to learn about men...and Gideon needs to be the man to teach her. 

As these two misfits discover that passion isn't the only thing they have in common, they just might figure out that two of a kind should never be split apart.

My Review:

I finally took the time to read Two of a Kind by Susan Mallery (while recovering on the couch from too much sun and not enough water.)  I love Susan Mallery's novels.  I sometimes feel as if my Goodreads ratings don't actually reflect this.  I only give the 3 stars because they're still just fluffy romance that don't require a lot of thought or investment - they're a nice quick escape.  They follow a predictable plot line, generally without any huge surprises.  Two of a Kind followed this successful formula to a T.  If I could grant half stars in my ratings I would.  When you only have 5 stars to deal with, you're protective of the 4 & 5 star ratings.  This does not mean that I don't love her books.  She is, by far, one of my most favourite authors. 

Two of a Kind is the eleventh title in the Fool's Gold series.  Fool's Gold is a charming little town where everyone finds love and happiness.  The characters are lovable and the setting is sweet.  In Two of a Kind, we get to know Felicia better.  I believe she was introduced as a background character in the last book.  She's a slightly sexier version of Dr. Brennan of Bones fame.  She's smart - genius smart - and wants to find a place of her own while overcoming her social oddities.  She's absolutely loveable, intimidatingly intelligent, and stunningly beautiful all at once.   You can't hold it against her though, as she's not perfect, and you realise she hasn't lived a fairy-tale life.

Once upon a time, she had a one-night stand with Gideon, the mysterious voice we hear over the air waves as the late night radio host.  He was introduced earlier in the series as well.   He's ex-military and has had to face his own demons.  He's broody, handsome, and doesn't do long term relationships.  He doesn't want roots. 

Mallery throws in a twist that equals instant roots.  (Sorry, I try not to offer spoilers!)  The characters must wade their way through, risk their hearts, overcome their fears, and in the end, find the place to call home.  It's a nicely told novel of two not-quite-normal neighbours who find that they are loved and accepted for who they are, quirks and all.

It was a sweet, simple romance, perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.  Give it a go if you want a light read and enjoy Mallery's predictability (which I believe is what makes her books so darn lovable.)  Pass if you find sex scenes offensive - I think this might be one of her steamier tales. 

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Review: Princess Charming by Nicole Jordan

From Goodreads:

In Nicole Jordan's dazzling new Regency series, the scandalous Wilde cousins seek true love by imitating history's legendary lovers... beginning with Ashton Wilde, Marquis of Beaufort, who takes on the daunting role of Prince Charming to an unlikely Cinderella.

My Review:

I'm not sure if I'm just not feeling historical romances this week or if I'm just lucking out on my selections, but Princess Charming by Nicole Jordan fell flat for me.  I almost returned it without reading, but trudged through just because I feel guilty giving up on a book.

This novel had potential.  It's a typical historical romance as a whole. The intimate scenes were awkward.  The romance was not very romantic at all.  He didn't seem to woo her.  I like to be wooed.  Basically, I liked the hero and heroine, but they needed a little more dimension. The story was okay, but it was missing something crucial.  I just didn't fall in love and I wasn't intrigued.  On a positive note, the prologue pulled some heartstrings and the Wilde family as a whole were absolutely loveable. I also enjoyed how much the heroine cared about her stepsisters and vice versa - no wickedness there.

In my humble opinion, if you're bored and can get a copy from the library, it wouldn't hurt to read - maybe I just missed the appeal.  Needless to say, I won't be continuing this series unless the remaining titles on my wishlist are unavailable.

Review: Still Waters by Tami Hoag

First, let me say that I was all set to read Susan Mallery's Two of a Kind this weekend, but I noticed a couple books on my Overdrive shelf about to expire and return to the library unread.  Can't have that now, can we?   So I squeezed in Tami Hoag:  Still Waters & Nicole Jordan:  Princess Charming.  

From Goodreads:

The deepest waters hide the darkest secrets....

When the body of a murdered man literally falls at Elizabeth Stuart's feet, she's able to wash away the blood--but not the terror. Unwelcome newcomers to Still Creek, Minnesota, she and her troubled teenage son are treated with suspicion by the locals, including the sheriff. Yet nothing will stop her from digging beneath the town's placid surface for the truth—except the killer.

My Review:

I typically enjoy Tami Hoag's novels as they perfectly combine elements of mystery, suspense, romance, and drama.  Still Waters was no exception.   I read the eBook version.  I won't rehash the plot & premise of the book, because honestly, if you read the publisher's blurb, you get the point anyhow.  

I enjoyed the feisty attitude of the female protagonist.  Although she was frustrated with her lot in life, but willing to do what it takes to start over.  She was deeply flawed, but had me cheering for her.  Unfortunately, the male protagonist was only so-so - he lacked "something" that kept me from falling in love. The cast of supporting characters had just enough depth to them to add layers to the plot without overtaking the story and confusing us to no end.  There are some dark & scandalous neighbours in this town.  

As to the storyline itself, I had suspicions regarding the "whodunnit," but was kept guessing through out.  Hoag threw in a couple twists that weren't entirely unexpected, but worked to keep things moving and keep you from getting comfortable in your assumptions.  

As this was originally written in 1992 (I was only 11!), the lack of modern technology stands out like the proverbial "sore thumb."  I always find older novels entertaining that way... the descriptors and such are so different from those of today. 

I recommend this as a quick read if you enjoy an easy mystery/romance combo.  Take a pass if you find coarse language and sexual themes offensive.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Review: Surrender by Amanda Quick

From Amazon:

From the dazzling ballrooms of glittering London society to magnificent, cursed estate in the distant wilds of Yorkshire, comes the deliciously wicked story of a thoroughly unconventional courtship—and a thrilling midnight rendezvous that could only lead to love... At four and twenty Victoria Huntington thought herself quite adept at fending off fortune hunters... until she came under siege from Lucas Colebrook, the darkly disturbing new Earl of Stonevale. Amidst the brightly plumed birds of the town, Lucas was a hawk. And when he held out the lure of moonlit rides and wild, reckless midnight escapades, Victoria found herself powerless to resist. But becoming Stonevale's companion in adventure was far more dangerous undertaking than Victoria could ever imagine. For the attractive Earl would use her every weakness to woo her, to win her, and ultimately to wed her. And soon the amber-eyed lady would find herself ensconced in a crumbling mansion deep in the English countryside... where the real reason for her hasty marriage becomes all too apparent...and where the ghosts of her dark-stained past are waiting to rise up in a terrifying plot that will threaten her life, her honor, and the only man she could ever love.

My Review:

This afternoon I finished Surrender by Amanda Quick.  I'm an avid fan of historical novels and don't mind the steamy, scandalous tales or the tamer variety that merely highlight the glitter, glamour and romance.  Surrender, however, fell short for me on both counts.  I struggled through it.  I generally enjoy Amanda Quick, but this one just didn't hold my attention.  

The story was predictable and the mystery wasn't very mysterious.  The hero & heroine didn't have a lot of depth.  I didn't dislike them, but I didn't love them either.  The plot and premise was much like other dime-a-dozen novels  (heroine needs money, seeks an heiress, heiress is curious & unconventional, heroine tries to woo and/or seduce her, seduction ends in scandal, someone is out to get one or the other, mystery resolves itself, they live happily ever after.)  The intimate scenes weren't necessary or romantic.   I don't mind intimate scenes, but these fell flat and, in my opinion, felt like they were added because it's expected.  I skimmed them, flipped ahead, and it had no bearing on the story as a whole.

I like my historicals fluffy enough for a quick escape or so multi-dimensional you have to immerse yourself in it.   Surrender should have been fluffy, but was actually a bit of a bore.  Seriously,  I fell asleep while reading the last chapters this afternoon while the boys were entertained with their LEGO Scholastic Readers.  I'm thrilled it was a borrowed library e-book.

I very much wish my first review on this blog was positive and happy.  Unfortunately, I wouldn't recommend this novel unless you're a huge Amanda Quick fan.  If you don't have access to anything better, give it a go; otherwise, just leave it on the shelf.

New Downloads: To-Read

Last week, Kobo started emailing coupons to me because they "..used to see (me) all the time."  The discount?  90%.   Unfortunately, the fine print seriously limited the selection and I couldn't apply the coupon to certain publishers (Hatchette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Wiley, Zondervan, and all their subsidiaries).  This exclusionary clause meant I couldn't just pull titles off my to-read shelf and download.  There was a lot of trial and error while attempting to check out.   Fun times.  All worthwhile considering I didn't want to shell out actual money to read them.  Did I mention I had a $25 Kobo gift card from Santa that I've been hoarding since Christmas?  Free books... and I can read them at my leisure.

Here, in no particular order, are the titles I chose to download:
I'm not sure how I got so lucky, but any extra books on the bookshelf is a win.  Watch for reviews soon!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Books Are The Air I Breathe

Welcome to NovelTeaseReview!  In case you wondered, that's a little play on words.  Ah, words... a wonderful thing.  Combined in a book, the air I breathe!  For me, a day without reading is a day without the sun, a hug, a smile.  Reading is my addiction, my escape, my safe place, my solace, my hobby, a frivolous novelty that I often refuse to feel guilty about.  Thank God libraries exist or I'd be broke.

Here I will share reviews and opinions on my current reads, create a bookshelf of titles I've inhaled, share quotes favourite passages, link to favourite authors, and in general, post content related to all things biblio.

My disclaimer?  I read for pleasure.  I read fluff.  I read hot and steamy, mysterious and otherworldly, Christian, historical, young adult, chick lit, and everything in between.   History, small towns, intimate scenes, blood, romance, murder, mayhem, heartbreak, hope - I'm okay with it all.  You will not see a single pretentious review and will probably shake your heads at some of the titles I read, insights I share, and how absolutely excited I can find myself in the midst of it all.  My tastes and opinions are not for everyone... and that's okay, because I read for me, and I love it!

I'm a mom of 2 active boys (active:  read loud and rough) so books are my quiet place and I will fit in a read wherever I can - I've been known to stir the soup on the stove with a book in hand.  I'm in my young thirties.  I work from home.  I would rather read than watch a movie.  I used to fall asleep with a light under my covers, book flat on my face.  I have a love-hate relationship with digital books.  We're working on that.  I love the smell of a library, a used bookstore, and have a soft spot for a pretty cover or illustration.   My all time favourite book?  Little Women.  It's a classic for a reason!

Pour a tea, find a blanket, get cozy!  Let's be friends:  you, me, and this wonderful world of books.

~ LB