Thursday, January 05, 2012

Book Blog Thursday

This is a great time for me to update you on what I've been reading! I've been reading a lot lately (or at least a lot for me) and had some stellar reads towards the end of 2011.

BEFORE THE SCANDAL by Suzanne Enoch

I loved it! This is the first I've read by this author, but I already have the other 2 in the trilogy in my amazon cart! Totally likeable characters, both on the "outside" due to scandals. I liked how they were old friends, each with their own external conflicts. Many times solving one problem would only create a bigger problem for the other, so the solution wouldn't work. And it was so easy to see that Alyse and Phin belonged together because they were good friends and not just lovers. I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out how it was all going to play out, and it wasn't predictable.

One of my favourite books of the year. I wish it hadn't sat on my tbr shelf for so long!

SUITE FRANCAISE by Irene Nemirovsky

I confess I bought this book for the cover - the moment I saw it I was intrigued, and doubly so because it is set during the German occupation of France.

Did I like it? I'm not sure. It certainly unromanticizes the period with stark reality and a dark side to "French manners" as the back cover copy mentions. The first part of the book was getting to know the characters, though several are introduced and I ended up wondering why when several of them disappeared for one reason or another.

I think my problem was this: the book is more of a statement than a plot. The language is beautiful and evocative, and yes, the book made me think....but in the hands of not just a wordsmith but a storyteller it could have been very different. What would have made this far better for me was if each of the independent characters might have seemed unrelated but in the end had a crucial part to play as things come to a head. To be honest - as the book comes to a close there is FINALLY some tension and high stakes...Lucile must choose love or loyalty, people may get caught, Russia has finally entered the war.... I wanted to see her choice and what would happen.

And what happens? It ends. After 338 pages, I was left thinking "but it was finally getting good!".
It's the kind of book that will have me thinking for a long time, but not entertained. And honestly- I like to be both.

AN O'BRIEN FAMILY CHRISTMAS by Sherryl Woods

Really enjoyed this one - the O'Briens take a family trip to Ireland for Christmas, where Nell meets an old flame and Matthew and Laila get their HEA.

Only bad thing? I missed books in between last year's holiday story and this year's, so I have to go back and fill in the gaps in the series. :-)

A CHESAPEAKE SHORES CHRISTMAS by Sherryl Woods

Ah, Mick and Meg! I've looked forward to seeing their reunion marriage, and visiting Chesapeake Shores again. It was good but honestly...Mick got on my nerves. He is SOOOOO bossy. It is a good thing Meg is strong-willed to match him in a way she wasn't when they were younger. I wanted to throttle him more often than not. Their daughter Abby had chats with her mom that were geared to make us perhaps see a different side to Mick's bossiness, but...

I found myself comparing this series to Nora's McGregor series. Daniel MacGregor was definitely head of the family and a first class meddler, but he never got on my nerves like Mick O'Brien. That being said, he and Anna always had a good marriage while Meg and Mick had split and so putting them front and center to work out their problems is different than Daniel and Anna being secondaries and in a supporting role.

Overall though I liked the book and especially the Connor storyline...and I adore the Chesapeake Shores setting. I'm looking forward to reading more in the series (especially Mack and Suzi!)!


SEDUCED BY THE HIGHLANDER by Julianne MacLean

The last in the Highlander trilogy by Julianne MacLean, and wow, was it hot!

Oddly enough, through most of the book the hero has vowed to be celibate because of a curse put on him at the beginning of the story. But the attraction between Lachlan and Catherine is so sizzling that it really heats things up as he tries to help her discover who she is AND get the curse lifted. Sometimes all that restraint is quite sexy!

Catherine has lost her memory, but it didn't take me long to figure out how things were going to unfold and her "place" in the family. What did surprise me was the past that she forgot. When it finally comes back to her...I wasn't expecting THAT. It was a nice twist.

I'm a sucker for highlander romance and Julianne's trilogy was marvelous! I'm a bit sad it's over, but looking forward to her next trilogy coming out in 2012 - and it has the polish of royalty about it!


BRING ME HOME FOR CHRISTMAS by Robyn Carr

The Christmas-themed reading continues.... yesterday I was craving a reading day and mother nature obliged by whipping up a big storm and leaving us without power for over 5 hours. I read this is pretty much one sitting.

The very beginning was slightly confusing - there was some shifting back and forth with time and POV for backstory, but after about the 40th page or so it settled into place and I couldn't put it down. Becca was a little annoying at first, but she really "grew up" as the book went on, especially when she realized that she hadn't been there for Denny when he needed her years earlier. Her caring nature really started to shine through, and the Virgin River townspeople are as charming as ever. Denny is a fantastic hero! It didn't take long for me to see that all other men would pale in comparison to him. And as he and Becca reunited I really rooted for them! The ending was simply beautiful and completely sighworthy. It was a fantastic way to spend an unexpected day off!


THE FIRST LOVE COOKIE CLUB by Lori Wilde

This book was given out at RWA Nationals and I saved it for closer to the holidays to read. I really enjoyed it - loved the characters and how layer by layer we got to see them grow. I really liked how the heroine, Sarah, got stronger by the end and really put herself out there for the family and man she loved. It's a real feel-good Christmas story with the magic of a close-knit, small town and chock full of traditions.

HOTLY BEDDED, CONVENIENTLY WEDDED by Kate Hardy

One of the great things about Christmas break is more reading time, and on Boxing Day I settled in with a glass of pinot noir and one of Kate's backlist - Hotly Bedded, Conveniently Wedded. It was ten o'clock, I figured I'd get a start on it and and finish it on the 27th.

Instead I turned the last page at just a hair past midnight, only breaking to refill my glass.


Alex and Bel are some of the most likeable characters I've ever had the pleasure to "meet". It's very hard to make a marriage of convenience plausible in this day and age and so Kate bolstered the initial reason with family involvement - both families were very behind the marriage and with Alex's mom being ill, neither of them wanted to disappoint everyone by confessing it wasn't "real".

Alex's reasons for not wanting to fall in love aren't perhaps the strongest - but the reader doesn't care so much because it's so obvious that despite his assurances, Alex is ready to settle down and start a family. He's a workaholic who's getting clucky and it's pretty adorable - and he's also pretty good to Bel, too. He treats her so well - they don't just say they are best friends but they ACT like best friends. They share interests, and their professions were different enough that it gave the book a very fresh feel and made it interesting.

Bel's reasons for being afraid are much stronger and I really felt for her...at first it's easy to believe that she's focused on her work because she's dedicated but as the layers are peeled back we see how wrecked she is every time she sees babies and happy families. When Alex promises to try to give her everything she dreams of, that was it. I think *I* wanted to marry him. And when he ends up starting his new job and working late and travelling, I really felt Bel's loneliness, because at this point she knows she loves him and is fairly sure he'll never be in love with her the same way.

Without giving more spoilers, I will say that the black moment had me in tears but Alex showed what a good man he was and the ending was lovely.

If you're looking for a sexy, feel-good, emotional read that's like a breath of fresh air - snag this one for your e-reader (or find a rare print copy online).

I'll be back early February with a January roundup!

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