The Book Gourmet

Book reviews à la bookworm...The good, the bad, and everything in between.

 

 

Professional Reader Reviews Published

My reading habits...

1. Do you have a certain place in your home for reading? No.

 

2. Bookmark or random piece of paper? Bookmark.

 

3. Can you  just stop reading or do you have to stop read after a chapter / certain number of pages? I usually stop at the end of a chapter. (I mostly stop at the end of the book. ^_^)

 

4. Do you eat or drink while read? No.

 

5. Multitasking: music or TV while reading? Not necessarily.

 

6. One book at a time or several at once? One book at a time.

 

7. Reading at home or everywhere? Everywhere.

 

8. Reading out loud or silently in your head? Silently in my head.

 

9. Do you read ahead or even skip pages? Not unless the story is really bad.

 

10. Barking the spine or keeping it like new? Trying to keep it as new.

 

11. Do you write in your books? Never!

Dangerous Territory by Emmy Curtis

Dangerous Territory - Emmy Curtis

Grace Grainger has spent the last four years of her life between the Four Seasons hotel in D.C. and Afghanistan. Now, on her fourth deployment as an embedded reporter with the American troops, she’s come to know danger up close as their convoy is attacked, she doesn’t make it to the rescue helicopter, and is suddenly huddled in a cave in the middle of nowhere with Air Force Master Sergeant Josh Travers...The man she spent the last three years thinking and dreaming about.


It’s always a good feeling when an impulse buy pays off. And this one payed off magnificently. Yes, it was short, but it packed quite a punch with wonderful, well-developed characters, a perfect-for-the-big-screen (or book, in this case) romance, just the right amount of drama, tension and danger, and some scorching hot sex (both in a cave and a hut in a remote Afghan village).

As said, both Grace and Josh were great characters, realistic, multi-dimensional, and very nicely layered, and their interactions together spanned the emotional spectrum from hot to cold, from happy to sad and everything in between, but with that unmistakable layer of bitter-sweet underneath it all. I wished for them to actually talk things through, her telling him the truth about her writing and true purpose for being in Afghanistan for him to finally get over his animosity toward her as a reporter, and I was disappointed it didn’t actually happened, and the author chose the “easier” fix of him reading one of her articles.
And I kept hoping for a HEA, and I must admit, although this is a romance novel, Ms Curtis had me doubting things for a moment toward the end...The end that could’ve been cheesy, but strangely wasn’t. It was a rather “easy” ending, but with such a feel-good vibe, it brought a smile to my face.

This story was just up my alley. Nicely structured, well-paced, with great characters, and a romance that truly shone through. Loved it.

"It is my duty as a pararescueman to save lives and to aid the injured. I will be prepared at all times to perform my assigned duties quickly and efficiently, placing these duties before personal desires and comforts. These things I do, that others may live."

Uneasy Alliance by Jayne Ann Krentz

Uneasy Alliance - Jayne Ann Krentz

Some people have complained that this story hasn’t aged well. But, beside the “archaic” dialogue or two, I would politely disagree. Yes, the hero, Torr, was a jackass. Overbearing, dominant, possessive, didn’t take no for an answer when he knew what he wanted or thought he knew what was right. A very Alpha hero. If this story was written twenty or thirty years later as a paranormal, no one would even arch an eyebrow. But I guess, as long as the hero is some ancient immortal being (be it vampire or Alpha shapeshifter), his overbearing nature is oh-so hot and oh-so right. But if it’s a romance written in the eighties, the hero suddenly becomes a Neanderthal and whatever he does to the heroine is borderline rape.

I’d say it was the contrast with the heroine’s character, that made Torr out worse than he actually was. She was a doormat most of the time, letting him do whatever he pleased despite all her protestations about disliking overbearing men. It was her character, contrasting so starkly with his, that made me want to smack him with a cast-iron pan. A good two-handed grip and let loose.
But once the story started rolling, and especially in the end, when it became clear Abby had clear TSTL tendencies, I actually apologized to Torr (in my mind) for wanting to bash him with that pan. No wonder he was the way he was, asserting his will all over the place, telling her what to do and how to do it, determined to protect her no matter what...Because she didn’t know better. She was a flake, all over the place with her vitamins and her I-know-better, I’m-a-woman-and-won’t-be-dictated-to attitude. In the end, I actually felt sorry for the guy.

So, no, the rating has little to do with the hero, quite a lot to do with the heroine (she annoyed me more and more as the story progressed), but mostly the low rating is because the story itself is redundant. The blackmailing scheme could be solved with one simple phone call.
Idiotic premise, redundant story, stilted pacing, annoying heroine, jackass hero...Did I miss anything?

The Devil's Submission by Nicola Davidson

The Devil's Submission - Nicola Davidson

After the first book in the series, this one was quite a disappointment for me. I simply hate miscommunication stories, because they're a cheap way of creating conflict, and everything can be resolved by a mere conversation.

In this one, six months of estrangement, and two people feeling inferior and inadequate could be solved by the same two people actually talking to each other...And when they finally did, it was almost too late, and still not enough, since the heroine had to go to a third party to actually find out how to please her husband. An idiotic husband that feared revulsion and ostracism because of his sexual preferences and practices...Hello? Aren't you the owner of one third of the most scandalous and talked-about sex club in London? In the regency period? And you're afraid, people will shun you because you want your wife to hurt you during bed play?

And the entire story stood on this wobbly and weak premise. Is it any wonder I was disappointed?

Vows of Silence by Debra Webb

Vows Of Silence (Signature Select) - Debra Webb

Blah.

Every single character acted like an idiot...If you don't want people to suspect, don't act like you have something to hide. Simple. If you want to know who of your friends (BTW, with such friends, who needs enemies?) killed the guy, ask, don't just assume, and do find out who did it, before you go stupid and dispose of the body. And if a sexy cop, who you know has been crushing on you since high-school, offers his help, take it.
But no, let's all act like idiots, let's suspect each other, which will only get us killed one by one.

I have no idea how I made it through this mess of a story. The only redeeming quality was the suspense, and even that one was ruined by the end of it with the killer not actually being the killer, and the real killer not actually meaning to kill.

It was all over the place. And I hated it.

Secret Star by Nora Roberts

Secret Star  - Nora Roberts

Grace Fontaine is dead, tumbled face-first on her coffee table, and Seth Buchanan is determined to find out who did it and why. He suspects the why has a lot to do with the three blue diamonds, the Stars of Mithra, someone is determined to acquire at all cost, it's the "someone" that's elusive...The Grace Fontaine suddenly appears in her house, alive and well, pointing a gun at him, and Seth knows, he just knows, he's in trouble...


I'm sorry to say, this was the weakest of the bunch. Not bad, far from it, in fact, just not as good as the first two stories in the trilogy. Mostly because of the two leads, neither of whom I particularly liked. She was a mystery, playing different parts, wearing different masks depending on the occasion, but I didn't like the mask she wore when she met Buchanan for the second time, and it festered, I think. On the other hand, he was too aloof, too "uptight", and too closed-off for me. There was just something off-putting about his character...And hers for that matter.
Thanks to all this, it was tough buying the romance, despite the fact it was better done that in the previous two books. Better in the sense that the two of them didn't just take it at face value, they tried to put the breaks on, think it through, instead of just accepting it and everything else be damned.
But this aspect of the romance, as much as I liked the pragmatism of it, the suspicion and the doubt, was also the worst of it, because it created unnecessary conflict, and made me dislike both of them even more. I'm fickle, what can I say.

Also, the mystery and suspense that we've been teased with since the start of this trilogy, was too easily resolved, and the slight paranormal angle, instead of smoothing things over, offering a "plausible" explanation, came across as an easy fix, as if wanting to sweep things under the rug and be done with it. Too quick and much too easy.

The rest was top-notch as always, but unfortunately the trilogy didn't end on a bang as it started. Pity.

Hidden Star by Nora Roberts

Hidden Star  - Nora Roberts

P.I. Cade Parris has finally met the woman of his life. She's gorgeous, frightened out of her mind, carrying a bag full of cash, a gun, and a huge diamond, and has no idea who she is. The only clue to her identity is a piece of paper with the name Bailey on it.

Now, since she's the woman of his life, and he's finally found her, Cade has no intention of letting her down, but as the two start piecing together clues to Bailey's identity and the reasons behind her strange fear of lightning, it soon becomes obvious, she's seen something she shouldn't have...


I loved it.

The premise with the amnesiac heroine, her penchant of thinking the worst about herself, and the hero determined to do anything in his power to discover who she is and what she's embroiled in, was great. The plot and story were tight, intense, and intriguing, with a flawless pacing, and a great voice and narrative style.

But, as it's usual with NR's stories, what I loved most were the characters.
Although her past is a mystery, Bailey's present was wonderfully done, her character, her nature and her true intentions shown through even the murkiest of suspicions, and her hero, Cade, was NR at her best. Funny, quirky, steadfast, determined, and just the right amount of stubborn to persevere in everything life and Bailey threw in his way. I loved how he simply accepted his feelings for her without qualm, without reservations, his love for her was a simple fact for him, and he was okay with it. I also loved how he stubbornly refused to let her go, no matter what nonsense she uttered, and how determined he was to keep her no matter what.

This first story in this trilogy was pretty light on the suspense, and high on mystery, but the three little glimpses of the main villain we got were intriguing, and the scene introducing the next story, delivered quite a promise.

Can't wait to dig in.

Captive Star by Nora Roberts

Captive Star  - Nora Roberts

M.J. O'Leary is an easy target for an expert bounty hunter like Jack Dakota. She's not even trying to hide, waltzing around town with apparently no worry on her mind. Well, she's about to see that skipping a bond should be a worry.

Unfortunately for both of them, M.J. didn't skip bond, but it's obvious someone's getting pretty desperate to get their hands on her for forging enough papers and siccing a bounty hunter on her. Or maybe they just want the blue diamond, worth a fortune on its own and priceless when it's combined with the other two, in her purse, sent to her by her best friend. A best friend that's suddenly missing, her apartment ransacked, and yet another friend AWOL.

So what's a girl to do when she's saddled with a diamond she doesn't particularly want, but needs to keep safe, and cuffed to a rough-around-the-edges, captivatingly handsome bounty hunter? Well, brace herself and enjoy the ride.


This was nothing like Hidden Star, the first book in this trilogy. For one, everything happened even faster than in the previous one (going from kicking each other's asses to I-love-yous in about a day), and the main leads were nothing like Bailey and Cade. M.J. was tough-as-nails, didn't listen to orders, knew exactly who she was and what she wanted, and didn't trust easily, while Jack was simply Jack, rough, tough, gruff, didn't care what means he used to get what he wanted, but there was a tender core underneath the steely exterior, a core he showed only to the woman who captured his heart.

Did I think the romance was rushed? Depends on how you look at it. If we go by the timeline (a weekend at best), yes, but then, the first book in the trilogy also happened in the same weekend, and could also be deemed unrealistic and rushed. But if we look at it from the point of view of what and how much happened in this short amount of time, everything seemed longer, and there are those heightened sense of imminent danger and high amount of stressful situations to take into account.
Yes, as far as the romance happening with the speed it did, there was a huge amount of disbelief to be suspended, but we're talking about fiction here. And fiction of entertaining sort, so I was happy to suspend anything that needed to be.

Because the story worked. It was rushed, it was hectic, it was dangerous (more so than the first book), but it was fun, exciting, and hot, and I loved every single sentence of it.
The pacing was spot-on, the plot tight, the characters wonderful and perfect for each other, the mystery kept on being mysterious (who is the guy pulling all the strings, I wonder), what needed to be solved was solved, and now I only have one more book to go. And I can hardly wait to read the conclusion to this amazing trilogy.

Public Secrets by Nora Roberts

Public Secrets - Nora Roberts

Although this story spans 23 years, telling the life of the heroine, Emma McAvoy, from just before her third birthday to the beginning of the nineties, from the moment she met her father, through her adolescence, her first crush, through a disastrous marriage, to the moment she discovers the truth about a tragic incident in her youth, I didn't understand the woman. Maybe I didn't because I couldn't connect or empathize with her due to the fact I didn't live such a life, or maybe I couldn't because she (and the life she and the other lived) was so messed up.

For the first three years of her life, Emma lived in an abusive household with a mother that saw her only as a ticket out of her life. Then she met her father who literally bought her from her mother to keep her safe, took her home with him, provided a good, gentle mother, a loving family, and a little brother. Then the little brother is killed in a botched up kidnapping attempt, and everything comes crashing down around Emma and her family. Yet, her father and stepmother still loved her, everybody (her larger family in the form of her father's band) loved her, it was she who blamed herself for her brother's death (because she suppressed the memories of that night, but she was just a child), and thought no one did despite the evidence to the contrary.
So she married a poor, abusive copy of her father in her quest for love, stayed with him for over a year (which is an utter and complete mystery to me!), and finally set herself free with a little help from the man who was, beside her father and his band, the only constant in her life, Michael Kesselring, son of the detective who worked her brother's case, and the man who she loved from her teenage years without knowing (and who, incidentally, loved her back). Michael, who, because of her and his father, was also determined to close the cold case that was her brother's murder.

She finally (twenty years later) decides to discover just what's hidden in her memories, but only because she's plagued by the nightmares of that night, but before she can remember, the villains make their move and show themselves with a motive so pitifully laughable, I thought it was a plot twist. But it wasn't.
Anyway, the secret is discovered, and everybody who's still alive lives happily ever after.

If this were a suspense or a thriller, it would've been too short. A couple of pages from beginning to end, so there were the filler chapters (the book has 54 chapters!) where we spent mundane days with a toddler Emma, a teenage Emma, a college-aged Emma, there were some chapters about her father and his band members, a chapter of two of Emma meeting Michael over and over again over the years, then we held Emma's hand through her disastrous marriage (and wanted to shake her silly for being the way she was), then some more chapters of her shaking it off and finally going for it with Michael, then finally came the couple of chapters with a suspenseful undertones, and then the story ended.

Because most of it was filler, the pacing suffered tremendously. The writing was good, as always, but it lacked the grip and intensity of later Nora Roberts works. It was too long, too winding, too all over the place, and too light on suspense and mystery.

Witness Seduction by Elle Kennedy

Witness Seduction - Elle Kennedy

Marley Kincaid is done with men after her fiancé of five months turned out to be a murderous drug dealer. Now she’s semi-hiding in her house, under suspicion of the police, and under surveillance by the DEA.

The one doing the surveilling Marley is utterly unaware about, is Caleb Ford. And after a week of watching the sexy nurse doing yoga, he’s a little hot and bothered. Then, he has no choice but show himself, under false pretenses, of course, and things go a little out of control.

All that stands in the way of their happiness is Marley’s obsessive ex...And the pesky tidbit of Caleb’s true identity.


A short, sweet, and very hot read with a very rom-com premise and plot, two very likeable main characters, a conflict that doesn’t drag for too long, a nicely crazy villain, and very light (unfortunately) on suspense.

A great way to spend an hour or so.

Cold Midnight by Joyce Lamb

Cold Midnight - Joyce Lamb

Ten years ago, two strangers broke her knee, her knees, and her life, prompting Kylie McKay to run across the country, leaving Chase Manning, the only man she’s ever loved, in her wake.

Now she’s back, determined to build a tennis center in her hometown, but someone doesn’t want her back in Florida. Someone’s been sabotaging the building site, and one of her contractors had unearthed a baseball bat eerily similar to the one used on her ten years ago. And to make matters worse, the Detective assigned to the case is none other than Chase Manning...


This could’ve been a great book. The pacing was spot-on, the writing excellent, the characters well-developed and nicely layered with realistic issues and depths, the suspense and mystery were intriguing, the villain an utter and welcome surprise, although the motive had much to be desired...

It could’ve been a great book if it weren’t for the heroine. She was too much of a bitch for too long for me to warm up to her in the later chapters. An emotional cripple without apparent reason (at least I didn’t glean one), she kept bottling up her feelings, pushing people away, and running at the first sign of trouble, because apparently it was easier. I didn’t get her reasoning, I couldn’t stand her, and I couldn’t stomach the way she treated the hero, Chase. A bitch through and through, again with no apparent reason but for the fact it was apparently easier. I kept hoping for someone to kill her and put us all out of our misery.
When the turn point finally came, it was too late, and too trope-ish with the near-death experience changing her outlook on things.

Yet another book where the heroine ruined everything.

Silent Watch by Elle Kennedy

Silent Watch (Silhouette Intimate Moments, #1574) - Elle Kennedy

A killer is plaguing Chicago. Nicknamed Rose Killer, for leaving scars in shape of roses on his victims' bodies, he's already taken three lives, but left two survivors. Samantha Dawson has been in witness protection, her death faked by the FBI, for the past six months. Hiding in fear, she has no intention of getting out of her safe house, until Special Agent Blake Corwin comes knocking, wanting her to talk to the latest survivor to maybe get some important details the woman refuses to discuss with the investigators...


This was a rather good read with well-developed characters (although the hero was a bit annoying in his guilt-tripping), and some seriously good suspense. Although I missed more scenes from the villain's point of view (that the length of the story didn't permit), I found the creep fascinating, and his motive, revealed at the last possible moment, was plausible and adequately creepy.

The romance was a bit rushed, IMO, with everything happening in the course of just a couple of days, but still, this was a solid (romantic) suspense.

Carnal Innocence by Nora Roberts

Carnal Innocence - Nora Roberts

World renowned violinist Caroline Waverly has come to Innocence, Mississippi to recuperate, lick her wounds, and hide. But a small town, with its nosy inhabitants, isn’t an appropriate place to hide. Especially if that small town is home to Tucker Longstreet, the charming, affable, seductive and tenacious playboy that doesn’t take no for an answer...

But Innocence is plagued by a sick killer. His target so far had been three women rather generous with their affections...All three had one thing in common—Tucker Longstreet.



Despite its “age”, this was a great little read. Yes, there weren’t any cell-phones or e-mail, the FBI still used fax machines, and everybody smoked (which was a little bit annoying, to tell the truth), but it didn’t seem outdated, which pretty much comes down to the story’s appeal and the narrative ability of the author.
And yes, some have complained about the racial discrimination in it, but I believe such things are still very much present and alive in the small rural towns in the South.

The story was great, not a slow moment, despite its “laidback setting”, it flowed naturally, the pacing organic. I loved the vivid pictures Nora Roberts painted of the sleepy little town of Innocence and its inhabitants, where everybody knew everybody else’s business, gossip was abundant, and everybody was just so darn neighborly. The charming southern drawl was dripping off each page, and I loved every single minute of it.

The reader can easily “empathize” with the heroine, Caroline, the outsider in this small town, looking around with her eyes wide open in wonder at everything that goes on around her. And, just like Caroline, the reader slowly, yet surely, becomes accustomed to the atmosphere and the slower pace of the country...And cannot help but be charmed and seduced by Tucker Longstreet, the perfect hero for such a book.
He was just like his surroundings...Slow and easy, downright lazy when occasion called for it, but deep down, as with everything, there was a core of steel and determination, until the reader alongside Caroline, realizes the Tucker Longstreet he shows to the world is just a mask, a façade he presents, because it’s expected of him...And much easier to deal with.
The guy literally stole the show from the heroine, from the town, from the supporting cast, from the suspense, and from the villain.

Not to say, the rest was bad, far from it. Yes, I remained a bit aloof where the heroine was concerned, but I guess that’s my problem, but the rest of the cast was wonderful, especially Cousin Lulu (she was a hoot), alongside the setting creating a perfect backdrop for the story.
The suspense sub-plot was wonderful, intense, and gripping, keeping us wondering just who the villain is and what are his motives, offering us occasional suspects and red herrings, yet keeping that final reveal just out of our reach until the very end. Very suspenseful indeed.

The only problem I really had with this story was the annoying stick-in-the-mud FBI agent, and I missed one final scene with him having to admit how wrong he’s been...But, again, that’s just me.

Otherwise, this was a great story.

Genuine Lies by Nora Roberts

Genuine Lies - Nora Roberts

Hollywood star Eve Benedict decides that, after fifty years in the spotlight, it’s time for an autobiography. And she wants celebrity biographer Julia Summers to write it. But there are some secrets people are willing to kill to keep off the page...


This one was a huge disappointment for me.

The suspense was the only good thing in this book, with its many side plots, suspects, motives, secrets...

The rest of it was just “meh”.

First of all it was the length, making the story drag its feet. Maybe a 100 pages shorter, and with less “filler” scenes it would’ve worked better.

Then there were the characters. I didn’t particularly connect with any of them, especially Julia or Paul, hence the whole romance angle threw me for a loop. Not to mention it feeling rushed. The only character that appealed to me was Eve, and even her I could barely stand in some scenes.
And the whole connection between Eve and Julia was predictable and cliché-ish.

Cinderella's Cowboy by Roxanne Snopek

Cinderella's Cowboy - Roxanne Snopek

***copy provided by publisher through NetGalley***

The premise was good, the execution, unfortunately less so.

We only got bare-bones glimpses of the backstory that was at the "heart" of the heroine's stutter whenever the hero was around and his strange fascination with her, never really delving into their "issues" that were also at the heart of their day-to-day interactions with pretty much everybody.
The characters themselves were one-dimensional at best, with everybody and their cat (literally) chomping off "air-time" of the two leads...At least the step-sisters could've been evil and given a little oomph to the proceedings.

Instead, we got a sweet, feel-good, bouncy little story with no real bite, and no real story.

Midnight Bayou by Nora Roberts

Midnight Bayou - Nora Roberts

On a whim, Declan Fitzgerald had bought a rundown plantation house on the outskirts of New Orleans. Something drew him to it, and now that he has it, he's determined to restore it to its former glory.

But soon the house and the possibility of it being haunted, isn't the only thing occupying Dec's mind. A woman has taken root in there, a woman as indelibly connected to the old house as Declan himself.


A nice, entertaining, gripping, bitter-sweet read of lost love, hatred, murder, betrayal, reincarnation, and forgiveness.

I loved Declan, I love all Nora Roberts's heroes, really, there's just something about them, but I didn't really connect to Lena; she remained a mystery to me until the very end, I simply didn't get her and her motivations. There was humor, there was drama, there was fear and the slight after taste of danger, there were friends and family, a couple of ghosts, and a love in need of forgiveness spanning a century.
Yes, the added paranormal element was an added bonus that kept things lively and interesting as the romance fizzled out on me.

Also, I saw the TV-movie version of this book and kept waiting for the big final showdown between good and evil in that nighmarish attic...And when it didn't come, and I got the mellow, meh-ish ending instead, I was rather disappointed.