Thursday, August 28, 2014

Slipped Through the Cracks Review: Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews

A review, yay! LOL, I'm looking forward to a time when I won't be celebrating every time I put up a review anymore ^_^; Hopefully, that time will come soon :)

As you can see from the title of the post, I'm trying a new feature. I realized that because of my blogging blues, I didn't review a lot of books from my favorite series and authors, books that I really wanted to review. So I'm going to try to play catch up a little bit. I'm still trying to think up of a fun format, so it's different from my usual reviews... if you have any suggestion, feel free! For now though, here's what I came up with :)


Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews
published by Berkley (Ace) in July 2013
Atlanta is a city plagued by magical problems. Kate Daniels will fight to solve them—no matter the cost.

Mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate, Curran, the Beast Lord, are struggling to solve a heartbreaking crisis. Unable to control their beasts, many of the Pack’s shapeshifting children fail to survive to adulthood. While there is a medicine that can help, the secret to its making is closely guarded by the European packs, and there’s little available in Atlanta.

Kate can’t bear to watch innocents suffer, but the solution she and Curran have found threatens to be even more painful. The European shapeshifters who once outmaneuvered the Beast Lord have asked him to arbitrate a dispute—and they’ll pay him in medicine. With the young people’s survival and the Pack’s future at stake, Kate and Curran know they must accept the offer—but they have little doubt that they’re heading straight into a trap…
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Kate Daniels, Book #6

If you didn't know yet...

... panacea is a herbal mixture produced by European shapeshifters that can reduce chances of loupism          at birth and reverse midtransformation in 1/3 of teenagers, thus saving Pack children.

... the Pack is offered panacea if Curran is willing to arbitrate a dispute between three European packs. Basically, Desandra is the daughter of a powerful Alpha who used her as a pawn and married her to two different men of different packs. She is currently pregnant with twins from different fathers - her husband and ex-husband. Desandra's father has once promised a profitable mountain pass to his first grandchild, but now wants to renegade on the deal. Curran's job is to protect Desandra's life and witness the birth of the firstborn. Things get interesting and complicated when one of the babies appear to be more than just a wolf shapeshifter.

... knowing it's a trap, Curran and Kate still agree to go because 1) they need the panacea and 2) ever since the events of Magic Strikes and Magic Bleeds, Kate has tipped her hand and thus, revealed her true identity to some. As such, it wouldn't hurt to take a leave of absence from Atlanta for a while. Going with them are 11 other shapeshifters and Saiman who is providing transportation.

... the person Kate wanted to avoid most by leaving Atlanta was Hugh. Of course, that won't be happening as he turns out to be their host.

... and conflict arises between the Beast Lord and his Consort as both are being courted: Curran by the daughter of an Alaskan pack Alpha and Kate, Hugh.

My Two Cents...

When I picked up Magic Rises, I really had high expectations. First, because the series has been going strong for me ever since Magic Strikes and second, the two-year gap between Magic Slays and Magic Rises. And while I did enjoy Magic Rises a lot... it wasn't the wowzer I wanted it to be :(

I thought the setting and premise of the book were really interesting, especially since it promised everything I enjoy in this series: good storyline, lots of action and politics with the bonus of seeing more of the world Ms Andrews has created. I really liked the idea of getting away from Atlanta as it added a wave of freshness to the series. It was also fun to see how Curran and Kate handled themselves, knowing they were walking in a trap... Hugh being their host was such a good twist too! LOL. Not only because it was ironic since he was the person Kate wanted to avoid, but it showed that no matter how prepared you are, you can't be ready for everything :) His presence also offered some balance in the storyline in the sense that it turned out not to be only a shapeshifter matter, but involved Kate more in the storyline. The political aspect of Magic Rises was also really well-executed. I always find the Pack's politics interesting because it's quite unique. To me, it has a different kind of intricacy because the shapeshifter world Ms Andrews has created involves more savagery. So to see this on a larger scale was interesting :) The whole mythology aspect of the story also worked for me. It just fit and added a layer of complexity to the storyline :) Oh and as usual, the action was top-notched :)

Few things that worked, but didn't  at the same time for me. Overall, I thought the pacing of Magic Rises was good... but in the last third of the book, it got a bit uneven. Personally, I thought the reprieve Curran and Kate got was a bit weird. I know it served a purpose, several actually, but the transitioning was off and that part of the story simply seemed to not fit and be a bit illogical. I mean, Kate disappears and the only person going after her is Curran? And when she shows up with Curran,  nobody seems to have been concerned? Also, the final scene for me was rushed. I don't know if there was another way out, but everything escalated too fast. By the way, what happened to the other packs? Did they all die? Finally, there was Chris, the new, utlra-intriguing character that Kate has taken under her wing. I liked that in Magic Rises, there were some casualties and ones that we, as fans of the series, feel deeply. It's never easy when it happens and I understand that we don't want those losses to be for nothing... but it was too convenient to have Chris save the day. Again, was there another option?

While I had some issues, most of them were minor and I could have ignored them easily. What really knocked down my enjoyment of Magic Rises though was the whole conflict between Curran and Kate involving Lorelei. Curran justifies it, but to me, it doesn't fly. I really hated that part of the storyline because I felt it was sooo unnecessary. Although I admit it did fit Curran's high-handedness - to take on the problem on his own without consulting Kate - the resulting behavior was annoying and I really despised it. To me, it was a blatant display of lack of trust :( Also, Kate has been working so hard to fit, to be Pack and he undermined everything. Sure, the shapeshipfters were all close friends to Kate, but still unacceptable with me. Apparently, Mr. Andrews is going to write Curran's POV of this Lorelei episode and all I feel is meh. I think the worst as well was that Kate couldn't have a showdown with Lorelei and be vindicated.

Final Say... B. All in all, I did enjoy Magic Rises; however, the expectations were soooo high  ^_^; Add in the relationship issue between Curran and Kate, and I feel Magic Rises fell a bit flat.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What's in a name?

All right... Still not a review, but this is a post I've been meaning to write for a while. The subject? Authors' names and pen names. But first, a little disclaimer: I didn't do any thorough research or anything. This is a feeling/opinion I've had for a while and wanted to voice. Just wondered if it was just me who had this feeling or if it was shared.

Who here checks the copyright page of their books and the name next to "Copyright @"? I don't systematically do it, but from time to time, I'll stumble across it... and it's always fun to find out the true name of authors :) It's also surprisingly easy when you think about it!

Just for fun, try to guess who are the following authors: Linda Howington, Loretta Chekani, Susan Macias Redmond, Julie Koca, Jodi Koumalats, P.F. Besley, Cheryl Griffin and Katherine Smith.

It's no secret that many authors choose to go with a pen name and there are many reasons to do so. On top of my head, there's privacy... but also clearly, marketing. Making your name sound more American/generic, choosing a pen name to fit a genre specifically, hiding your gender... Also, how many authors we've heard of who write multiple fiction genres or sub-genres and therefore need different pen names: Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb, J.R. Ward and Jessica Bird, Sylvia Day and S.J. Day and Livia Dare. Or authors who need a start fresh?



For whatever reasons the authors do it, it's valid and all very interesting :) And I bet a lot of thoughts go into it choosing a pen name... So what's my issue? Why am I writing this post? Well... Is it me or recently, there's been a lot of similar names popping up? It's as if new authors are purposely choosing pen names that are similar to established authors to confuse the readers :( I'll see posts on blogs and forums and be like: "Oh, I didn't know this author had a new book out" and turns out I read the author's names too quickly. I'm sure that for some authors, they want to use as close as their real name as possible... so I'm not ranting at all the Jennifers or Susans since I know they are popular names. But in some case, I wonder. For example, this morning, I came across Holly Kinsella. Of course, it reminded me of Sophie Kinsella. Was that the purpose? If you had the chance to choose your pen name, wouldn't you try to pick something as unique as possible? It's already hard to keep titles and covers straight, but now, authors' names too?! And it seems more prominent because of all the self-publishing going on...

Perhaps I'm making a big deal out of nothing, but it's something I noticed lately and it's been on my mind. So I thought I'd share and see what were your thoughts :) Agree, disagree, no opinion? How do you feel about that?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Review: Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Slowly, but surely, I'm getting back in :) I have a buddy review up over at Breezing Through with Rowena :) Speaking of buddy reviews, I'm going to try to update my sidebar and Goodreads as frequently as possible... If you see any books you'd be interested to discuss, you know where to find me! I'm in to buddy review any books :) Anyway, back on the subject. The buddy review is for Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson and you can click here to find it :)


Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
published by Simon & Schuster in May 2014
It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just...disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list.

On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back?

Apple picking at night?
Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn?
Sure. Why not?

Kiss a stranger?
Um...

Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane's list. Who knows what she'll find?

Go skinny-dipping?
Wait...what?
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Series: None

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Busy week-end!

Hi everyone!

Wassup? As usual, I had plans to blog... but you know what happens to plans :) Out the window, most of the time ^_^: I knew I had a busy week-end, which is why I took Friday and Monday off... but it turned out a lot busier than I expected. Anyway, since I don't have any reviews, I thought I'd share some pictures :)

Saturday was the annual BBQ. You know which one I'm taking about :) Before one can BBQ though, one must buy food, drinks and stuff. And that's how I spent my Friday. I kid you not, I was grocery shopping the whole day on Friday... and I wasn't even in charge of the meat! Had some bad luck, but eventually pulled it off :)









As usual, we had lots of food and lots of leftovers :) But I prefer that than running out of something. The weather was also perfect for a BBQ and we had lots of fun! One tiny little issue was wasps. I noticed last week that we had a lot of wasps under the awning... After inspection, turns out that we had a hidden nest! Not a bit one, but nobody wants to mess with wasps. Especially after what happened to our mayor :( Last month, our mayor died after being attacked by wasps after she had stepped on their nest! So that's why instead of being on the patio, we were in the yard. It was good though since we were in the shade and there was a lot more space! :) I think that's where we'll be from now on... Unless it rains.

In case you're wondering about the wasps, we called an exterminator on Monday. We had a nest in the attic when I was in high school... It started poking holes in the walls and was coming in my parents' room. Back then, my dad took care of it, but got stung several times... So my sister and I called the exterminator because we were not taking any chance. Hopefully, it's all taken care of now... The only issue is that it's a hidden nest, so they couldn't remove it. We'll keep an eye on it for now.

On Sunday, a friend organized a pontoon boat party. I wasn't sure if I wanted to be on a boat because of my vertigo, but it turned out to be a lot of fun! It was a very long day though because we were at Mont Tremblant and that's 1.5 hour drive... and had to be there for 10am. We had the boat from 11am to 3pm and the weather was gorgeous. Really looking forward to the next time :)




One of our friends has recently bought a selfie stick and she had the chance to test it out :)





 I'd say it was a success ;)

So really, on Monday, I was pooped and so happy I had the day off!! And now, hopefully, back to blogging :)

How was your week-end?



Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Review: For the Longest Time by Kendra Leigh Castle

Hi everyone!

As I said, here I am! LOL. I'm jumping straight in with a review. It's been a while and I'm a bit rusty, so hopefully, the review isn't awful ^_^; I'm still trying to figure out things and there's a chance some stuff will change... but for now, here we go :)


For the Longest Time by Kendra Leigh Castle
published by New American Library (Signet) in July 2014
For Samantha Henry, it took a ten-year absence to appreciate the close-knit New England town with an appeal all its own...

After a perfect storm of events leaves Sam high, dry, and jobless, she has to head home to Harvest Cove to regroup. Growing up, she was the town misfit, and a brief high school romance that resulted in heartbreak made her realize she was never going to fit in. But now with the support of her mother and an unexpected circle of allies, Sam starts to wonder if she’s misjudged the town all these years.

Life’s been good to Jake Smith. He transitioned from popular jock to town veterinarian without any trouble. But Sam’s homecoming makes him question his choices. The sharp-tongued beauty was never a good fit for the small community, but he’s never forgotten her—or how good they were together. While she makes it clear she’s not about to repeat the past, Jake’s determined to convince her to give him—and Harvest Cove—a second chance.
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Harvest Cove, Book #1

The Story: I don't think I can do a better job than the blurb as it is pretty accurate. All I'm going to add is: 1) Sam is an artist and 2) what Sam and Jake had in high school wasn't really a romance. It was definitively the start of something until Jake denied his acquaintance with Sam in front of his friends from the popular clique.

My Opinion: In the past year, I've complained a lot about small-town romances and how I'm tired and over them. Yet, I keep picking them up, especially new authors and series ^_^; For the Longest Time is the perfect example of why... because every time, I hope this one will be different, that it'll wow me. And that's exactly what happened with For the Longest Time :)

At first glance, the premises of For the Longest Time is not so different from most small-town romances. You have a heroine who is down on her luck, coming back to her hometown. The first person she runs into is of course the last one she wants to see: the guy who broke her heart in high school. She hasn't been able to erase him from her memory and he's attracted to her and wants to reconnect... However, the way Ms Castle executed it made For the Longest Time very refreshing :) First, the story was focused on Sam and Jake and their romance. Even though this was the first book in the series, there was no information dump, no introduction of a funny cast of characters and very little sequel baiting. Instead, almost everything in the story was relevant to Sam, Jake and their romance. Of course, it's a bit plus that Sam and Jake were very likable and enjoyable characters. They were simply regular people, but I have to say very mature... and that's what made this book for me. They were able to see things with an open mind... For example, Sam left Harvest Cove because she didn't fit in. It was nice to see the woman Sam grew into and it's really no wonder Jake was attracted. Anyway, Sam gave Harvest Cove a chance and once She realized she liked it, she didn't get stubborn about leaving like so many other heroes/heroines. It's little things, but those made the differences when comparing For the Longest Time with other small-town contemporary romances.

The most refreshing part of For the Longest Time for me was that Jake, who had stayed in Harvest Cove, is the one who grew the most, who had a revelation. Usually, it's the other way around... the person who returns has the big revelation which makes it convenient to change his/her mind and settle down. I liked seeing Jake realized that his life was lacking and that his group of friends was insular. I don't want to give too much details, but it was nice. Usually, these books are all about old friendships, reconnecting with old friends and how good it is. But For the Longest Time shows us the other side of the coin which is as true and realistic. It was a bit sad and made me a bit uncomfortable because it hit a bit close to home for me, but in the end, it was nice to see Jake grow. It's also comforting to know that he still has good friends there for him.

Another part I enjoyed a lot was the atmosphere of the story. It was relaxed and quiet. There was no pressure, no obsession... Sam's goal wasn't to get out of Harvest Cove ASAP by any means possible. Instead, it was really the perfect place for Sam to go and re-assess her life. There were no stressful relationships either. I actually loved that Sam had a good relationship with her family. It was nice to see a normal mother-daughter relationship... but more importantly, it was good to see a loving and understandable mother that let her daughter figures things out by herself and in her own times. I enjoyed Sam rediscovering her town and the new friendships she made. I actually liked Sam's new boss, Zoe, a lot and am looking forward to her book.

Of course, For the Longest Time wasn't perfect. For one, I didn't get why Sam was so hard on herself when she came back home. Sam acted like she was an utter failure, as if she lost everything... and perhaps it's me who is not understanding enough, not having been in her shoes... but it felt to me, not that bad. And while the romance was very sweet and I liked Sam and Jake as a couple, I wished there's been more scenes of them together, more interactions. I also felt that the ending was a bit abrupt and fast. In the end though, these were all minor flaws that I easily disregarded because I felt the story was very refreshing :)

My Grade: B+. I was curious about Ms Castle's transition from paranormal to contemporary romance and I'm happy to say she pulled it off admirably :) For the Longest Time doesn't pack a punch, but in its quiet way, it made a way to my heart. I really enjoyed this book and I'm looking forward to the next book in the series, Every Little Kiss. March seems too far away!

Friday, August 01, 2014

BT: New Releases - August 2014

Hi everyone!!

Sorry for the radio silence for the past month and plus... I guess I needed a break to recharge. The good news is that my reading has picked up and I had a great month of July :)

I'm working on a personal project at the moment that hopefully, I'll wrap up this week-end. As soon as it's taken care of, I'll come back to blogging. I've been itching for it the past few days, especially now that Kristie is back :P Oh the pressure on both of us LOL.

In the meantime, Ames and I have our monthly new releases post over at Breezing Through. Click here to check out what books we're looking forward to!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Review: Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

Finally, a review! Yay!

I've been going through a reading slump and was lamenting about it to Ames and Brie yesterday... If I don't read, I'm not doing much in the evenings and that's just sad. This morning, I finally figured what I could do: review, of course! Hopefully, I'll keep it up ^_^;

Today's review is one that I've wanted to write for a long, long time... After all, I've read this book back in February ^_^; Hopefully, it makes sense and you enjoy :)


Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg
published by Scholastic Press in February 2014
For Macallan and Levi, it was friends at first sight. Everyone says guys and girls can't be just friends, but these two are. They hang out after school, share tons of inside jokes, their families are super close, and Levi even starts dating one of Macallan's friends. They are platonic and happy that way.

Eventually they realize they're best friends -- which wouldn't be so bad if they didn't keep getting in each other's way. Guys won't ask Macallan out because they think she's with Levi, and Levi spends too much time joking around with Macallan, and maybe not enough time with his date. They can't help but wonder... are they more than friends or are they better off without making it even more complicated?
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Series: None

The Story: I like the blurb because it sums up Better Off Friends quite well. Basically, on their first day of school of 7th grade, Macallan is asked to show Levi around. Both have apprehension starting this new school year... Macallan has recently lost her mother in a car accident and needs something to distract her from her grief. As for Levi, his family has just moved from California to Wisconsin and while everything was good in California, nobody turns down the opportunity of a fresh start. When the two discover a common love for a TV show, they quickly bond and become best friends.

What Macallan and Levi learn in the next few years is that friendship is hard to maintain, especially as you grow... and it is perhaps even harder when it's between a girl and a boy. Having love interests is challenging... but what happens when you develop feelings for your best friend?

My Opinion: I have read all of Ms Eulberg's books in order of publication... and it seems that I've developed a pattern: I enjoy one, doesn't like the next, love again the one after and so on. As a result, I was really looking forward to Better Off Friends because according to the pattern, it'd be one that I would enjoy a lot... and so far, the pattern holds true LOL.

One of the things I liked best about Better Off Friends was the writing style :) I liked the alternating POVs between Macallan and Levi, but also that the story wasn't continuous. Instead, Ms Eulberg decided to show us the important moments of Macallan and Levi's friendship throughout the five years that the book spans. In that regard, this book reminded me a lot of Take a Bow, but perhaps even better because there's only two main characters. I liked this style because we got to know Macallan and Levi really well, but also it allowed us to explore their relationship more deeply.

Speaking of relationship, I think Ms Eulberg did a great job building this one. I liked that Macallan and Levi became friends at 11 years old instead of younger... It makes the dynamic different because they don't know all of each other's secret and also, but also because they're on the verge of big changes in their lives... and it was great to see their friendship endure and blossom :) I enjoyed seeing the ups and downs our two main characters went through  and I thought it was very realistic. What added to the realistic feel is how well Ms Eulberg captured the confusion of Macallan and Levi and their maturity/immaturity.

All in all, Macallan and Levi were very likable characters :) I enjoyed reading their story and see how growth affected their friendship. I also liked seeing them falling in love with each other. So much in a romance is about timing and Better Off Friends was a good example.

My Grade: B+. I really enjoyed Better Off Friends and I think Ms Eulberg is at her best when she writes slices-of-life storylines :)