Thursday, 31 March 2011

March Flashback


Oh my it has been 5 months since I did a monthly flashback! Things always sped up at the end of the months, but I will try to get back to these summary posts, I promise.

I won't even try to cover everything that has happened since, so let's just concentrate what took place in March at Ex Libris:

Books read:
  1. Just the Sexiest Man Alive by Julie James
  2. Billionaire's Contract Engagement by Maya Banks
  3. Magick Charm by Jennifer Wells (DNF)
  4. Alien Tango by Gini Koch (Book #2 in the Kitty Katt series) *
  5. Minder by Kate Kaynak
  6. Lady Doctor Wyre by Joely Sue Burkhart
  7. Management Skills by January Rowe
  8. Once upon a Scandal by Delilah Marvelle
  9. Awakened by a Kiss by Lila DiPasqua (currently reading)
  10. Burning Up by Susan Andersen
  11. All I Ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins *
  12. Expecting Royal Twins by Melissa McClone
  13. Her Sinful Long Legs by Cassandra Dayne
  14. A Creed in Stone Creek by Linda Lael Miller
  15. Master and Apprentice by Sonya Bateman *

Books reviewed:
  1. Seducing the Governess by Margo Maguire
  2. Billionaire's Contract Engagement by Maya Banks
  3. Anything You Want by Erin Nicholas
  4. Magick Charm by Jennifer Wells (DNF)
  5. Act Like We're in Love by Christi Barth
  6. A Creed in Stone Creek by Linda Lael Miller
  7. Minder by Kate Kaynak

Book I liked the best this month: 

Master and Apprentice  All I Ever Wanted (Hqn)  Alien Tango

Master and Apprentice by Sonya Bateman, All I Ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins and Alien Tango, but since it is a given that all Kitty Katt books are amazing, I'd like to highlight All I Ever Wanted and Master and Apprentice.

When reading All I Ever Wanted, I instantly fell in love with Kristan Higgins' unequalled writing. You laugh, you cry but you are smiling even through your tears when you read a Kristan Higgins novel. So I can't wait to revisit this experience and read more of her books!

And those who have been following Ex Libris know how much I loved Master of None (book #1 in the Gavyn Donatti series) by Sonya Bateman (you can read my review here), but the expectations with a sequel are always high, and sometimes very difficult to meet them. Well there was no such problem with Master and Apprentice, it met and highly exceeded all my expectations! It was amazing: it is incredibly well written and the laugh out loud witty humour is still present! Yay!

Sonya stopped by for a virtual book signing and you can win a copy of either Book#1 Master of None or Book#2 Master and Apprentice here.


Book I liked the least this month: Without a doubt Magick Charm by Jennifer Wells. Read my review if you want to know why.


Events:

Book Bloggers Anonymous

I was the host for the March discussion and the novel and series we discovered were The Darkest Night by Gena Showalter from the Lords of the Underworld series. You can find the event posts here.
  

Giveaways:

There were quite a few giveaways in March and these are the still ongoing ones. Enter them before it's too late:

Kindle Wireless Reading Device, Wi-Fi, Graphite, 6" Display with New E Ink Pearl Technology

Win a Kindle 3 - ends March 31 - open worldwide


Anything You Want

Win Anything You Want by Erin Nicholas - ends April 2 - open worldwide


No Cure for the Broken Hearted

Win No Cure for the Broken Hearted by Kenneth Rosenberg - ends April 8 - open worldwide


Master of None   Master and Apprentice

Win Master of None or Master and Apprentice by Sonya Bateman - ends april 9 - open worldwide


So this is what happened at Ex Libris in a nutshell :-)

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Book Review: A Creed in Stone Creek by Linda Lael Miller

A Creed in Stone Creek (Hqn)
Title: A Creed in Stone Creek
Author: Linda Lael Miller
Number of pages: 384 pages 
Publisher: Harlequin Books
Release Date: 22 February 2011
Source: review copy received from publisher (and through NetGalley too)
Series: Montana Creed series
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author's Website, Amazon, Kindle store, Book Depository


Grade: 2 stars

Novellus malus!
Goodreads appetizer: When single attorney Steven Creed becomes guardian of an orphaned five-year-old boy, he trades his big-city law firm for a ranch near his McKettrick kin in the close-knit community of Stone Creek, Arizona. Taking care of little Matt and fixing up his run-down ranch house with its old barn loosens something tightly wound inside him. But when Steven takes on the pro bono defense of a local teen, he meets his match in the opposing counsel—beautiful, by-the-book county prosecutor Melissa O'Ballivan.

It'll take one grieving little boy, a sweet adopted dog and a woman who never expected to win any man's heart to make this Creed in Stone Creek know he's truly found home.

My Thoughts: I'm not an expert when it comes to Western romances, so far I have only read about half a dozen of this genre, but I enjoyed those a lot, so I was looking forward to A Creed in Stone Creek, especially given its single-dad-raising-an-orphaned-little-boy premise and that as a junior lawyer I like reading novels where the hero and heroines are law practioners. Unfortunately A Creed in Stone Creek left me lukewarm.

A Creed in Stone Creek takes place in nowadays' Arizona, but it feels dated, as if the reader is back in the '50s and that made me lose my grip on the story and its reality a couple of times.

Though there is a blatant black and white categorization: happy women living in Stone Creek are married, pregnant, great cooks and happy housewives, it wasn't even this that I took offense with. It was the fact that Linda Lael Miller tries hard to portray Melissa, our heroine as feminist and independent, but it rings hollow as Melissa is like a Stepford housewife from the '50s in mentality (except for the cooking) (which don't get me wrong I don't have a problem with, if it isn't stated every chapter how modern and independent she is). Melissa, after completing years of law studies, exams and having worked hard to be a prosecutor is having some sort of crisis not being happy with her work and personal life. I can understand her needing a change from law but at the end of the novel she takes a 180° turn and it's as if she becomes just one of the many streotypical small town women, shedding her personality and individuality.

Though I like my heroine and hero to discover each other and for their affection and love to grow gradually and develop realistically, I can understand that sometimes love can be more instinctive and overwhelming. However the romance between Steven and Melissa was completely unrealistic: two intelligent grown up people always experiencing the Earth moving, tilting on its axis every time the other is around? The very first time they glimpse each other only the lightning is missing, because it sure is described as if they have been struck with such a powerful attraction and blossoming love (without knowing anything about the other..).

Her smile nearly knocked Steven over. [...] Holy crap. Steven thought, because the ground shook under his feet and the sky tilted at such a strange angle that his equilibrum was skewed.

Their romance was instantenous and unfounded, and the hot and cold hesitation of Melissa felt very naive and immature. One minute she is:

Steven Creed. The man was a sin sundae, and she was so tempted to dig in.
Then the next she is acting all timid and virginal. I couldn't really know what to do of her hot and cold behaviour, which didn't fit the bill of her pantsuit, independent persona which was projected.

The love conflict/difficulties between the hero/heroine were forced and artificial; and Melissa despite being a mature 30 year old adult threw such irrational, stubborn hissy fits that Steven wasn't the only one not understanding what the hell was up.

The highlight of the novel were definitely the scenes about Steven's parenting and Matt's cute one liners:

"Is she anybody's mommy?" Matt wanted to know.
Steven swallowed. Just when he thought he has a handle on the single-dad thing, the kid would throw him a curve. "I don't know, Tex," he answered. "Why do you ask?"
"I like her," Matt said. Simple as that. I like her. "I like the way she smiles, and the way she smells."
Me too, Steven thought. "She seems nice enough."
"So if she's not already somebody's mommy, she might want to be mine," Matt speculated.
Steven's eyes burned. How was he supposed to answer that one?
"And she's going to make a parade," Matt enthused.

"I want Dad to marry Melissa," Matt said with so much enthusiasm that more people than just his grandparents heard the statement and turned to grin as they registered it. "But I'm not getting anywhere with it."

Matt mumbled something as Steven set him in the car seat and began buckling him in but, true to form, he didn't wake up.
"He's terrific," she said softly.
"I agree," Steven told her, after Matt was secured. They stood facing each other now, on that darkened sidewalk. "Of course it would be a real plus if he'd stop proposing to women." 

My other main problem despite the romance lacking credibility and gradual progress was that although A Creed in Stone Creek is the first book in Linda Lael Miller's new Creed Cowboys contemporary western romance trilogy, it is too interwoven with her previous novels. I had a hard time reading and following the plot as a standalone. This I bet is something longtime fans might enjoy, but as a newbie Linda Lael Miller reader I was lost with the constant name dropping of dozens of secondary characters who were mostly just props in this story. Those who have read Linda Lael Miller's previous novels might have been familiar characters, but I just felt like the new kid at school exluded from the happenings because the characters just kept to themselves and closed their ranks.

Besides my feeling left out I also felt confused a couple of times when some characters were first mentioned this way, then a couple of sentences later differently, see for yourself:
"Looks like Tanner and Olivia are here," Tessa said, with obvious relief.
Melissa had gotten out of Steven's rig to speak to them. The two women were embracing, while Tanner took the stairs two at a time.
Steven nodded to him and stepped back and Quinn pulled Tessa in for a quick brotherly hug.
It took me two re-reads to realize that Quinn and Tanner were the very same person since there was noone else on the porch besides Tessa and Steven... But don't ask me why he has two names, it is never mentioned in the novel whether one of them is his surname or what.

Despite dozens of supporting characters being mentioned I seriously missed being introduced in more details to a few secondary characters, they seemed to act merely as props, which knowing that they had their own novel in the past I can understand, but greatly affected my enjoyment of the novel, since (again) as a new reader I couldn't place these characters.

There is a suspense subplot which in my opinion was completely unnecessary to the story.

Verdict: All in all A Creed in Stone Creek is not a novel I will re-read, but it might be enjoyed more by those who have read Linda Lael Miller's previous series and know already some of the characters.

Plot: 5/10
Characters: 5/10
Ending: 2/10
Writing: 5/10
Cover: 9/10

Buy it:


The BookDepository


Tuesday, 29 March 2011

A Slightly Schizophrenic Interview with Sonya Bateman - Release Day Celebrations + Giveaway

Welcome everyone!

Today is a very special day. No it is not Mothers' Day and no it isn't International Peanut Lovers' Day. It is better, it's the release day of Master and Apprentice by Sonya Bateman!

Master and Apprentice

*take a deep breath* *tone down the squeeing* *take a deep breath* Ok.. here it goes.

If I have to tell you again what a completely insane and obsessed fan I am of this series, then you just stumbled upon this blog, because otherwise you would already roll your eyes and cover your ears, because like a broken disc I keep repeating myself. :-)

Master of NoneBut it's true. Master of None deserves all the praise! If you don't believe me, read this or this or this.

It was a book I fell in love with in May 2010 and I'm still on Cloud 9 whenever I think about it, so of course you can imagine the excitement as I was counting back the days to today!!

Finally the wait is over and Master and Apprentice is released into the world!

And I am even happier because today as part of the Release Day Celebrations, Sonya Bateman, the fantastic author and creator of this series stopped by Ex Libris! Read on to get a first taste of Sonya's humour and I'll guarantee you will want more :-))

Please give the warmest welcome to Sonya Bateman


A Slightly Schizophrenic Interview with Sonya Bateman


First, I’d like to thank Stella for having me back on Ex Libris. I’m happy to be here!

My new novel, Master and Apprentice, has just been released for sale. And since bookstore signings have been dying out for a while, and there appear to be a few less bookstores around than there used to be, I won’t have any book signings scheduled for this release.

But since book signings can be interesting, I thought I’d bring part of the experience to the Internet. Following is a presentation of frequently asked questions at bookstore signings, and how I usually answer them.

Here I am, sitting behind a table stacked with copies of Master and Apprentice. The occasional random person wanders by with questions like these:

Q: Did you write this book?

A: No. I just like the cover, so I took all the copies over here to this table that I happened to have in the trunk of my car. I’m going to build a tower out of them. Wanna help?

Q: What’s this book about?

A: Genies and stuff. And there’s a princess. I forget the rest.

Q: Where do you get your ideas?

A: Zuul, Lord of the Underworld, whispers them directly into my brain.

Q: Where’s the vampire section? I need a new copy of Twilight.

A: *bursts into tears*

Q: Why is there a dog on the cover?

A: That’s Killer. He belongs to the cover artist, and I had to let him include the dog or he was going to put Donatti in a yellow dress with daisies on it.

Q: I loved your first book. When’s the next one coming out?

A: [Incoherent stammering assures that reader will no longer look for the next one because author is a dribbling moron]

Q: Where’s the bathroom?

A: Head toward the Starbucks, hang a left at the Sci-Fi section, then straight past the magazines. Careful – the toilet in the second stall doesn’t flush right.

Q: I’ve always wanted to meet a famous author. Do you think I could have your autograph?

A: Sure. Thanks, Mom.

----------------------------

And there you have it: a typical bookstore signing. How I’ll miss them.

To be honest, I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault that book signings usually turn out this way. It’s awkward for both readers and authors to try and talk to a person they’ve never met before about a subject they may or may not be familiar with. Face-to-face conversations with strangers are intimidating for a lot of people.

That’s why I love the Internet. So, if you have any typical book signing questions for me – or any kind of question – feel free to leave a comment, and I’ll answer. I’ll even tell you where the bathroom is.


GIVEAWAY RULES:

I love this series so much that I want you to discover it too, so I'll give away a copy of either Book#1 Master of None or Book#2 Master and Apprentice (winner's choice) to a lucky commentator.

Master of None   Master and Apprentice

All you have to do is:

1) be a GFC follower or e-mail subscriber of Ex Libris
2) leave a question/comment for Sonya
3) leave me a way to contact you if you win (e-mail address, blog address, Twitter handle, etc.)

You MUST do all 3 to be eligible to be entered in the giveaway!

Giveaway is international (anywhere the Book Depository ships) and ends Saturday 9 April 2011.


ps. And no I was in no way bribed, paid or under any influence while writing this exuberant post, it is just the high reading a Sonya Bateman novel causes. You should try it, it definitely works for me ;-p

Book Bloggers and Publishers Online Conference - April 13-17 - What is it?

Dear Bloggers!

Old or new, I would like to tell you about an upcoming event you shouldn't miss.

Book Bloggers and Publishers Online Conference - April 13-17

I have to say, last year when I started blogging I've heard of it, but never having been to such a conference didn't really know what to make of it. Later I heard plenty of bloggers, newbie bloggers as well as blogger veterans say what an informative, fun and invaluable conference it was and how much it helped them with some crucial blogging questions.

So this year when I heard it will take place again, I knew I shouldn't miss it, and neither should you!

Here is a first introduction to the event, and as we get nearer to the conference I'll post some more detailed info posts regarding the schedule, panels, participants, etc. Until then, familiarize yourself with the concept, and who better to introduce the conference than Terry Kate, one of the masterminds and chief organizers of the event!


Book Bloggers and Publishers Online Conference - April 13-17
 
What is it? Oh and if you came last year why join us again?

ANSWERS: The biggest online gathering of publishers and bloggers, getting together to talk about changes in the industry, blogging, and working together. Cause we do. Lets face it - we LOVE books, but that does not mean that we all know very much about the process that brings the book too us. Heck a lot of authors do not understand it totally either.


How does it work?

ANSWER: You log in to the Conference's online network then there are chat rooms, forums, and best of all AUDIO PANELS. Truth: go to a physical conference and you get to watch the panelists as they talk. BUT do you really need to see them? No - they do not have audio visual components to their presentations. The sit there and talk while you are in an uncomfortable seat and you listen. So instead with this you get to sit at home and listen. Plus everything is recorded - if you can not make it live NO BIG DEAL. - you have two months after the Conference to catch up!


Why Come? - cause it ain't free.

ANSWER: Learn about blogging - talk to publishers, network - oh and you will get more then the cost of admittance in free books, as well as making the contacts to potentially get you even more review copies of titles in the future. PS. it is really - really fun.


Who Comes?

ANSWER: We welcome all bloggers, reviewers, readers, authors, and publishers. There are no panels on writing craft for your novel. There are panels on writing reviews. Using your blog and the technology available to you. I will confess - that bloggers of all genres are welcome, but our attendees and guests are heavily Fiction. We also lean towards genre fiction - romance - scifi - urban fantasy - fantasy - horror - thriller - suspense - women's fiction. But blogger time management - commenting - approaching authors and publishers - those are the items that are focused on and they apply to all book blogging.

We are finalizing the panels and publisher list, but already there are 25 publishers attending and 5 days of online panels. Remember EVERYTHING is recorded so that you have access to it even if you can not be there live.

You will have 2 months to catch up on panels forums, and participate with other bloggers.

You can find out more at - BOOK BLOGGERS AND PUBLISHERS ONLINE CONFERENCE - http://bbpcon.blogspot.com/




Monday, 28 March 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? (#30)


It's Monday, What are you reading this week? is a weekly event hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books to list the books completed last week, the books currently being read and the books to be finished this week.

The weekend was busy with playing with my 2 year old goddaughter so I haven't been able to read much as you can see:


Books I completed this week

A Western romance I wasn't very impressed with. You can read my review over at Book Lovers Inc. today.


Books I am currently reading

Master and Apprentice

Book #2 in the Gavyn Donatti series

Fantastic! Just as good as I remembered the first novel was, and if I didn't have to work I would read this nonstop until I'd gobble it up! I repeat myself, but: If you haven't read Sonya Bateman's debut novel Master of None yet, DO! It is phenomenal!


Exit the Actress: A Novel
Exit the Actress by Priya Parmar

Now that this highly awaited novel arrived I can't wait to start reading it! The cover looks somptuous and does a wonderful job of conveyeng the athmosphere and time period. *sighs* Why can't I be home able to read all day?!


The Jane Austen Handbook
The Jane Austen Handbook by Margaret C. Sullivan

I keep reading one or two chapters at night. It is such a delightful little handbook, looks beautiful and the illustrations are adorable, and as a die hard Austen fan I love learning some interesting facts (about the London Season, how much Mr. Darcy's 10.000 pounds per year is worth today, etc.).


Books I can't wait to start soon

Alien in the Family
Alien in the Family by Gini Koch

Yay! The newest Kitty Katt book is here and as you might have heard a wedding is to take place, yippiee! :-D


My One and Only (Hqn)

As you know I discovered Kristan Higgins' writing about two weeks ago when I read All I Ever Wanted, and I instantly fell in love with Kristan's unequalled writing. You laugh, you cry but you are smiling even through your tears when you read a Kristan Higgins novel. So I can't wait to revisit this experience and read My One and Only!

And what are you reading this week?

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