Friday, October 31

Review: Salvation in Death by J.D. Robb

For today's review, I have the pleasure to have Kristie from Rambling on Romance, Etcetera, Etcetera as my buddy reviewer :) I'm really glad that she accepted to my partner, because I love Kristie a huge deal and she's one of the first blogger I've ever met - online and in real life :P Knowing that she's a fan of the series and already received her copy, I e-mailed her :)

So, what did we think of this book?

***Spoilers warning: I think this review is spoilers-free; however, do read at your own risks :P ***

Salvation in Death by J.D. Robb aka Nora Roberts
published by Putnam in November 2008

In the year 2060, sophisticated investigative tools can help catch a killer. But there are some questions even the most advanced technologies cannot answer.

Salvation in Death opens with a priest at a Catholic funeral mass brings the chalice to his lips—and falls over dead.

When Detective Lieutenant Eve Dallas confirms that the consecrated wine contained potassium cyanide, she’s determined to solve the murder of Father Miguel Flores, despite her discomfort with her surroundings. It’s not the bodegas and pawnshops of East Harlem that bother her, though the neighborhood is a long way from the stone mansion she shares with her billionaire husband, Roarke. It’s all that holiness flying around at St. Christobal’s that makes her uneasy.

A search of the victim’s sparsely furnished room reveals little— except for a carefully hidden religious medal with a mysterious inscription, and a couple of underlined Bible passages. The autopsy reveals more: faint scars of knife wounds, a removed tattoo—and evidence of plastic surgery, suggesting that “Father Flores” may not have been the man his parishioners had thought. Now, as Eve pieces together clues that hint at gang connections and a deeply personal act of revenge, she believes she’s making progress on the case. Until a second murder—in front of an even larger crowd of worshippers—knocks the whole investigation sideways. And Eve is left to figure out who committed these unholy acts—and why.

Genre: Romantic Suspense, futuristic
Series: In Death, book #31 (I think)

Nath: So, Kristie, what did you think of the latest installment in the series? I thought it was a good and interesting case. It was quite clever and very well thought out. I'm glad that this book focused a bit more on Roarke and Eve. I mean, yes, the author brings back the other characters, but not as much and not in so much details. So I thought that was a plus :) I'm also glad that Charles and Louise's wedding did not occur in this book.

Kristie: Actually, unlike you *g* I didn't feel it did focus much on the relationship between Eve and Roarke, although I see what you mean. We didn't see that much of the other characters did we, except for Peabody? I was a bit disappointed in that. However, I did like that Eve was pretty excepting of Roarke's past - and even used his insight as a con man himself without judging him for it.

I think the In Death books fall into two categories - the first where the mystery is the number one focus and the second where relationships takes a larger role and move the characters forward. I didn't see that happening in this one; it was more mystery focused. We didn't learn any more secrets from either Roarke or Eve's past.

Nath: Yes, you're right. The book did not focus on their relationship... although there were those dreams Eve had… I guess I meant it focused on Eve and Roarke. We just got to see them more, hear them more than usual... as opposed for them being surrounded and invaded by secondary characters' relationships, problems or cops.

I'm actually happy that we didn't get to see too many secondary characters. I know that readers like to see past them, catch up and see what they are up to. For that, Ms Robert does it like no others. She knows how much of them to include and every time, Eve and Roarke are still the main characters... However, no matter how well she does, it's fun from time to time not to have them too much. We got an update from everyone and it was enough.

Kristie:I like seeing past characters too, but I agree - it is refreshing when 'relationship' time is just spent with Eve and Roarke. We did get enough of the 'gang' to see how they all were doing though. And I'm an odd one. I was always slightly uncomfortable with Charles and Louise's relationship - not unlike Eve *g*. So it didn't bother me that although their upcoming nuptials were mentioned, they weren't this book.

I do feel like some of it is getting a bit old though - like Nadine bringing in donuts etc. What about you?

Nath: Yes, things are getting a bit old... but it's to Ms Robert's credit that we only feel it's old now after more than 30 books in the series. In which case, how can it be avoided? At least, Eve doesn't have her car destroyed in every book :P I don't know how Ms Robert could go around that though...

LOL, also, unlike you, I’m fine with Charles and Louise’s relationship. He’s given up his profession for marriage, so I think the biggest hurdle is out for them.

What did you think of the case? Like you said, this one was definitively mystery-focused. It seems to me it's been a while since Eve has been handling more than one case at the same time. I think it’s good to see her in action again.

I thought the case was very interesting. I have to say I was disappointed that Lino turned out to be such a nasty character... I was actually hoping for him to be noble, especially at the beginning. Deceiving people for a good cause you know?

Kristie: I know I'm approaching *spoiler* territory here, but I'm the opposite. I appreciated the fact that the more we got to see of Lino, the worse he got. So often the murdered victims are such nice people that I feel so bad that they met whatever end they did. I'm thinking particularly of the teacher in Innocent in Death. I felt so bad for his widow. In Salvation in Death, I felt sorrier for those who were deceived then I did for the victim.

Nath: It seems that at the beginning, he wasn’t such a bad guy. However, I don't see how Lino think he was making up for his bad action in the past... remember, he discussed with the other father how his bad actions from the past should be balanced by his good actions in the present? Well if your good actions are only done with a purpose, it defies the whole thing... I guess I was hoping Lino was redeeming himself. Those kind of characters are always interesting and attractive :P

Kristie: The more we got to know about Lino, the less I got the feeling he cared two hoots about trying to 'make good.' At first I kind of felt sorry for him but as more and more was uncovered, I didn't. He got nastier as a character.

I did like that this wasn't a 'gruesome' mystery with a high body count. While it's not going to stop me from reading this series; I love it just as much with this book as I did Naked in Death - if not more still *g* it was a nice change that good and decent people didn't meet a grizzly and tortured end.

Nath: True, true. In addition, it was interesting to see the “ethics” of this case. Perhaps ethics is not the right word, but I liked that it involved conscience. Loved the ending where Eve nailed the "real" culprit :) In addition, one thing that I liked is Ms Robert didn't go overboard with religion which was one of my initial worries when I read the blurb. I thought it was refreshing that Eve didn't push Father Lopez to get an answer... which was a bit surprising to tell the truth :P

Kristie: I was also impressed that JD Robb handled the religious aspect with, I thought, a good deal of carefulness. I'm not Catholic but I was wondering when I first started reading it, what those who are would think. But I think the author dealt with it very well and I don't think anyone will be offended. Even though she disagreed with Father Lopez, she still respected his stance. And I can't help but thinking he might be a character that we see more of - I hope so anyway, I really liked his character.

Nath: You know what, it’s very possible! I bet he’s going to marry Charles and Louise! LOL :)

I’m giving this book a B. Salvation in Death was definitively a solid and interesting case, but without the book being a wowzer.

Kristie: I agree. I thought it was good without being a Wowzer too. So while I normally give numbers, I'll convert this one to a grade and give it a B. I enjoyed the mystery angle but since the thing I enjoy most about the In Death books is the relationship building and there wasn't much, I can't give it higher. But if mystery is the hook that other readers enjoy more, they might grade it higher.

Thursday, October 9

Review: Mr. Cavendish, I presume? by Julia Quinn

Obviously, another book that has been getting a buzz is Mr. Cavendish, I presume? by Julia Quinn, also known as the other side of the coin of The Lost Duke of Wyndham. The Lost Duke of Wyndham was definitively a wonderful book and as a result, Mr. Cavendish, I presume? was one of the most anticipated book of the fall...

So here is our take of the book...

Mr. Cavendish, I presume? by Julia Quinn
published by Avon in September 2008

Amelia Willoughby has been engaged to the Duke of Wyndham for as long as she can remember. Literally. A mere six months old when the contracts were signed, she has spent the rest of her life waiting. And waiting. And waiting... for Thomas Cavendish, the oh-so-lofty duke, to finally get around to marrying her. But as she watches him from afar, she has a sneaking suspicion that he never thinks about her at all...

It's true. He doesn't. Thomas rather likes having a fiancée — all the better to keep the husband-hunters at bay — and he does intend to marry her... eventually. But just when he begins to realize that his bride might be something more than convenient, Thomas's world is rocked by the arrival of his long-lost cousin, who may or may not be the true Duke of Wyndham. And if Thomas is not the duke, then he's not engaged to Amelia. Which is the cruelest joke of all, because this arrogant and illustrious duke has made the mistake of falling in love... with his own fiancée!

Genre: historical romance
Series: The Duke of Wyndham, Book #2

The Story: LOL, most of you know of it already. If you don't know the story yet, the back blurb is quite a good synopsis... However, I would strongly suggest that readers read The Lost Duke of Wyndham before reading Mr. Cavendish, I presume?

Nath: So ladies, what did you think of Mr. Cavendish, I presume?

Chantal: It was very weird to be reading many of the same scenes from the previous book, but in a different POV. Too often I felt like I was reading The Lost Duke again. That should be okay, because I loved that book, but the repetitions just made for a boring read of Mr. Cavendish.

Ames: I didn’t find the book too repetitive. I really enjoyed reading it from Thomas and Amelia’s point of view. I would have liked to have seen more from Amelia, but I enjoyed Mr. Cavendish overall.

Nath: I think that it’s pretty divided out there, Chantal. Many think like you. Personally, I thought the book was okay. I liked the idea/concept, but I think there must have been a better way to publish the two sides of the story…

Chantal: What I would have liked to have seen happen was Mr. Cavendish start where Lost Duke ended. Perhaps with a prologue of a key scene or two from Lost Duke. All those repeated scenes from the previous book just got on my nerves.

Nath: True, those scenes were tedious at time. Ms Quinn could really have salvaged the book by adding “after” scenes … I actually expected to see more of Thomas and Amelia’s relationship after Thomas lost his dukedom, so I was disappointed when the book ended. I would also like to see how the society reacted to Thomas’ loss of a title and how different his life was. That’s the really interesting part of this kind of story.

Ames: I feel like I’m the only one who didn’t find it tedious! LOL I really didn’t. I do have to agree with Nath though, I did feel like it was missing something and I definitely would have wished to see more “after” as well.

Nath: What did you think of the characters? I liked Amelia and Thomas, they were nice. I did think that Thomas was stupid... so stupid not to have gotten to know Amelia earlier, not to have married her earlier. I'd have liked to see Thomas grovel a little bit more at the end.

Chantal: I don't have much of an opinion of the players. Amelia didn't do anything for me, and I admit to liking Thomas better in the first book. However, I much enjoyed the part where Amelia finds Thomas drunk, and they spent that time together. It was indeed nice to see Thomas let go during that part. Some other parts of it were cute. Like when she tells him that she loves him, then drops the letter, and starts back peddling what she said.

Nath: Yes, that was cute…

Ames: I enjoyed that drunken part too. I liked Amelia. I like how JQ wrote that she “woke up.” Because she did. She was just going along with what everyone had planned for her but then when things changed, so did she. And she went after what she wanted. I always admire a heroine for doing that. As for Thomas, he woke up too. He took Amelia for granted and when he thought her lost her, he was still honorable enough to do what he thought was the right thing. Although I wanted to pound him on the head as much as Amelia did, he was a character with great integrity. And that had nothing to do with the title but with himself.

Nath: You’re right, Ames. I like how both characters “woke up.” It was nice to see Amelia fed up with Thomas treatment and shake it up. I have to admit that I liked Thomas’ integrity… However, I felt like he missed the point when he forced Jack to marry Amelia because she has expected to be a duchess for her whole life. Luckily for them, they both “woke up” in time and not tragically late.

You know, thinking back, the problem with this book, aside from the repeated scenes, is that everything went too fast between Amelia and Thomas. Yes, there were new scenes where we saw them interact and get to know each other better, but it wasn’t enough. Where the timeline was perfect for Jack and Grace because they were under the same roof and had more opportunities to be together and have private conversations, it was too short for Thomas and Amelia to really connect. Especially to make up for 20 years. Perhaps if they had more opportunity to be together alone, it would have been better… Like I said previously, Thomas should have groveled a lot more to win Amelia. Even the love scene at the end felt rushed.

Ames: I agree, it did feel a bit rushed between Amelia and Thomas.

Chantal: The love scene was too rushed for me. I understand the urgency for the couple, but it didn't read through very well.

Nath: You're right, the love scene didn't read through very well... However, I smiled at Amelia's boldness LOL :) That was very cute.

What did you think of the ending? I liked it :) It was a good ending.

Chantal: Yeah, I liked the ending. It was nice to see Thomas get a title back.

Ames: I thought the ending was cute.

Chantal: The story was just... border-line okay. I did some skimming, and once I finished I went back to re read the parts I skimmed. I didn't miss much. I have never not liked a Julia Quinn book. I feel kinda sick about this. :(

Nath: Don’t feel bad Chantal. Ms Quinn took a huge risk when writing these two books and it paid off with some readers and not with others. That’s life.

Ames: It paid off with me. LOL

Chantal: You're right, the author did take a big risk. I wish it had worked for me, though. It's a C- for me. It wasn't interesting or at all appealing to know things from a different POV. The book as a whole didn't do anything for me. I won’t recommend it to anyone, and I won’t ever re read it.

Ames: I'm giving it a B. Whereas Jack's book made me cry, this one didn't.

Nath: I think I'm going to go with you Ames... a B. The book just left us wanting more and although I enjoyed the characters, it just wasn’t enough.

Monday, October 6

Review: Seduce Me at Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas

Surprise, surprise! Yes, a buddy review. It's been a while and I'm sorry. If you're reading my own blog, you'll know that I've been busy with work :( However, I hope to be able to write more buddy reviews and on a regular basis.

So today, my buddy partner is Lori from Living in the House of Testosterone, Let's Gab and I Just Finished Reading... LOL, what a prolific blogger :P Wonder if she'll become a regular buddy partner, hmmmm... So a big thanks to Lori for responding to my add :P

*Warning: Spoilers ahead! Read at your own risk!*

Seduce Me at Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas
published by St. Martin's Press in September 2008

Kev Merripen has longed for the beautiful, well-bred Winnifred Hathaway ever since her family rescued him from the brink of death when he was just a boy. But this handsome Gypsy is a man of mysterious origins--and he fears that the darkness of his past could crush delicate, luminous Win. So Kev refuses to submit to temptation...and before long Win is torn from him by a devastating twist of fate.

Then, Win returns to England...only to find that Kev has hardened into a man who will deny love at all costs. Meantime, an attractive, seductive suitor has set his sights on Win. It's now or never for Kev to make his move. But first, he must confront a dangerous secret about his destiny--or risk losing the only woman he has lived for...

Genre: Historical romance
Series: The Hathaway siblings, Book #2

Nath: Wow, you read SMaS in half a day! That was quick!! :) Must I take it you LOVED it?

Lori: LOVED it is strong. Yeah, I loved it, but there were some things I can say I didn't love so much.

Nath: Really? I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling this way. Personally, I thought this book was okay to good. I enjoyed the storyline and liked most of the characters. I did think Ms Kleypas perhaps overdid it with Merripen’s - hmmm, how to put it... - bad temper LOL :)

Lori: I definitely don't agree with some out there that he's the best hero she ever wrote. Certainly one of the most "angsty", though. And yes, bad temper pretty much sums it up, LOL.

Nath: I agree with you, Merripen is definitively not the best hero written by Ms Kleypas ... A man like Merripen is not my ideal man and certainly wouldn’t make me swooned. Yes, there's plenty of angst and he's all tortured in a way, but most of it, he did it himself. Also, I think most heroines would feel the same way as me… Merripen’s personality only worked in my opinion because he and Win knew each other from childhood. Personally, I prefer hero with a bit more balance and for those reason, I enjoyed Cam or even Leo a lot better than him :)

So what didn’t you like of the book?

Lori: I thought it was good - really good and I love that Merripen had that soft spot for Win. But the whole "I'm not good for you" thing needed to stop sooner. I understood it once Cam explained his motivation better, but still... enough!

Nath: Again, I’m in total agreement with you. The whole "I'm not good for you" got tiring fast. I'm disappointed that he wouldn’t fight for her... and I totally agree with Leo's speech.

"Do you understand what you are in, Merripen? A prison of your making. And even after you're out of here, you'll still be trapped. Your entire life will be a prison"

I'm glad Leo called it as he saw it, that Merripen was a coward.

Lori: Though, Ms Kleypas did pull off some really great lines between Merripen and Win. For example:

"Your heart is mine", he thought savagely. "It belongs to me."

And when Win tells him that he doesn't have it in him to love her as a woman...

"All the fires of hell could burn for a thousand years and it wouldn't equal what I feel for you in one minute of the day."

Yum. But she should have stopped there, cause the rest of that little speech kind of creeped me out.

"I love you so much there is no pleasure in it. (huh?) Nothing but torment. Because if I could dilute what I feel for you to the millionth part, it would still be enough to kill you.(WHAT?!) And even if it drives me mad, I would rather see you live in the arms of that cold soulless bastard than die in mine."

Them strong feelings, but just a tad on the creepy side.

Nath: LOL. To tell the truth, so much passion bores me ^_^; It's like, could we get on with the story, please?

Hmmm, what else didn’t I like? I have to say it's weird of me, but I found myself more entertained by everything else than Win and Merripen's relationship. I thought their relationship was too much for me. Also, I think the whole part about Win lying about being able to carry babies was superfluous, because in the end, it never really mattered and it sure didn't change anything.

Lori: Yeah, and then he was willing to throw the whole thing away after he'd already slept with her because of it. Oy, enough already! I'm finding I need my HEA, and I need it now.

Also, I like that Merripen and Cam ended up being brothers, but didn't like so much that they ended up aristocracy. I could have done without Merripen ending up as an earl. What was that about? I thought there would have been enough motivation for the Irish family to want to kill them simply because they were Rom. Making them aristocrats was too much for me.

Nath: True that. I enjoyed the whole mystery behind Cam and Merripen’s origins; however, Merripen annoyed me so much with the whole "don't call me that" whenever Cam would call him ‘phral’ and even when it turned out to be right!!! Ugh.

And you know why Ms Kleypas made them aristocrats right? So they would be accepted by the peers. I think that was unnecessary since none of the Hathaways cared. Sigh.

Okay, so far, it seems that we didn’t really enjoy the book, which is not true. Therefore, time to discuss what, in my opinion, saved SMaS. First, Win.

Lori: I thought Win was a really great heroine, though. And I usually really hate the heroines.

Nath: Strong statement from you then, to say she was a great heroine. I liked Win as well. I think the reason why she stands out from other heroines is that she's already very sure of her feelings towards Merripen. She even tries to seduce him repetitively; she wants to be his woman. She was conscious of her actions and that makes it refreshing. She had lot of guts and strength...

However, I did think she was a bit too naive and it was stupid of her to defend Dr. Harrow. Like the part where she accused Merripen of spreading rumors because he didn't want her to be with Dr Harrow. I think she should have more faith in Merripen's character. The man is traightforward... he wouldn't just lie for that.

Lori: I agree. But you have to cut her a little slack - the man did save her life, after all. And I loved that she set him on fire when push came to shove. Too funny! And Leo's reaction to it was priceless. An annual "Set the manse on fire day". Cracked me up.

Nath: Speaking of Leo, I enjoyed seeing all of the Hathaway siblings and their family dynamics – present and past (when Merripen thinks back of how the Hathaway had welcomed him into the family). However, I’d have done without the other characters (even mentioning them) from the Wallflower series. I believe that the Hathaway's series should stand on its on, but I guess it’s too late. I also think that Amelia, Cam and Leo – especially Leo, stole the show from Merripen and Win a bit.

Lori: I agree - I even forgot that they all 'kind of' knew each other. Also, I loved seeing Amelia and Cam, I didn't mind them in there. I really loved Leo. I knew in Mine Til Midnight he would be a tortured hero, and in one scene we see that he still isn't completely over Laura. Just can't wait for him to get a book. He had some of the best lines in the whole book! For example, when he accused Merripen of taking the easy way out, and leaving him to suffer if Merripen would have killed himself if Win had died of the scarlet fever? Wow, just wow.

Nath: I’m with you. I can’t wait for Leo’s book either! I hope it’s the next one! He's really an interesting character with lots of depth already. I like his whole personality. Now, I'm not sure if I like Ms Marks as his heroine, but I'm sure Ms Kleypas will find a way to work it out :)

Also, what I liked best about this book is how Ms Kleypas used humor to balance Merripen and Win’s relationship. All those funny parts kept me reading :) I LOLed quite a bit in this book which doesn't often happen in historicals... one of my favorite parts is when Merripen is outraged that Leo accused him of not writing and Leo reveals the content of the letter. Or when Beatrix tells Leo he has to go stop Merripen from killing Dr Harrow. Or when Leo tells the constable to give him 5 minutes lead before releasing Merripen. LOL, those were good :)

Lori: That made me laugh so hard - a 5 minute lead :) I love it when there is humor in a book. She needed it here to break all of Merripen's tension, for sure.

Nath: So what grade would you give it, Lori?

Lori: I don't usually grade books. I liked it, I didn't like it... I know you guys all love to grade them, though. I'd probably go with A-/B++. Cause I really did love it. Just not enough to marry it *g*.

Nath: From me, Seduce Me at Sunrise gets a B. I really enjoyed the Hathaway's dynamics and the storyline about Cam and Merripen’s origins. The reason I can’t give this book a higher grade is because Win and Merripen’s relationship did not appeal to me too much, even if I like Win as a heroine. I thought it was too angsty, too passionate and Merripen could be so stupid sometimes ^_^;

Lori: LOL on the stupid :)