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Ramblings by Category

Ramblings by Year

Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart

Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart (Love by Numbers, #3)
by Sarah Maclean

There is no telling where a scandal might lead…

She lives for passion.

Bold, impulsive, and a magnet for trouble, Juliana Fiori is no simpering English miss. She refuses to play by society’s rules: she speaks her mind, cares nothing for the approval of the ton, and can throw a punch with remarkable accuracy. Her scandalous nature makes her a favorite subject of London’s most practiced gossips…and precisely the kind of woman the Duke of Leighton wants far far away from him.

He swears by reputation.

Scandal is the last thing Simon Pearson has room for in his well-ordered world. The Duke of Disdain is too focused on keeping his title untainted and his secrets unknown. But when he discovers Juliana hiding in his carriage late one evening–risking everything he holds dear–he swears to teach the reckless beauty a lesson in propriety.

She has other plans, however; she wants two weeks to prove that even an unflappable duke is not above passion. (goodreads.com)

I am not a romance fan. I have read the occasional romance novel though, but only by trusted authors and Sarah MacLean is one of those. I don’t know why I picked up this particular novel right after I finished The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow because it’s completely different. Maybe that’s what I needed? I read both books in one day on a rainy weekend and they are total opposite ends of the literary spectrum.

As much as I enjoyed the first two books in this little series (Nine Rules to Break, and Ten Ways to be Adored) I am disappointed to say that I didn’t enjoy this book much at all.

I did not like Juliana at all. I don’t think I had much of an opinion of her in the other two books because she wasn’t at the centre of the stories. I felt no connection between Juliana and the Duke of Leighton. I actually thought the love stories in the first two books were sweet and I enjoyed the witty banter and silly things the leading ladies would do to either land or avoid their respective men. In Eleven Scandals I felt little to no connection to either of the main characters and I was more annoyed by Juliana’s actions than endeared by them.

I found the humour I loved so much in the first two books to be rather lacking this time around, but I stuck it out through the story because I felt committed to this family and their romantic lives. Why? I don’t know. I mean, I don’t LIKE romance novels! Ha! But I sort of wanted everyone to have a happy ending. And eventually, Juliana does find one and I felt a little more sympathy for her once her mother waltzed back into their lives. I was very happy when she was told off. What a shrew!

I have had this book in my TBR for ages, since I’m pretty sure Kristi (The Story Siren) sent it to me as a Christmas gift in 2011! I figured it was about time to move it from one pile to another. 🙂 One thing I am trying to accomplish this year is to read mostly my OWN books. I have so many around the house, I fear what would happen if I had to move into a smaller home. I might have to choose between books and my husband. (Never between books and the dogs, of course. ;)) I wouldn’t be too happy about that, I mean, we will be married 8 years in July and I’m not quite ready to give him up yet. heh

The Mane Squeeze

The Mane Squeeze (Pride, #4)
by Shelly Laurenston

Growing up on the tough Philly streets, Gwen O’Neill has learned how to fend for herself. But what is she supposed to do with a nice, suburban Jersey boy in the form of a massive Grizzly shifter? Especially one with a rather unhealthy fetish for honey, moose, and . . . uh . . . well, her. Yet despite his menacing ursine growl and four-inch claws, Gwen finds Lachlan “Lock” MacRyrie cute and really sweet. He actually watches out for her, protects her, and unlike the rest of her out-of-control family manages not to morbidly embarrass her. Too bad cats don’t believe in forever.
At nearly seven feet tall, Lock is used to people responding to him in two ways: screaming and running away. Gwen-half lioness, half tigress, all kick-ass-does neither. She’s sexy beyond belief and smart as hell, but she’s a born protector. Watching out for the family and friends closest to her but missing the fact that she’s being stalked by a murderous enemy who doesn’t like hybrids . . . and absolutely hates Gwen. Lock probably shouldn’t get involved, but he will. Why? Because this is Gwen-and no matter what the hissing, roaring, drape destroying feline says about not being ready to settle down, Lock knows he can’t simply walk away. Not when she’s come to mean absolutely everything to him. (goodreads.com)

Curse my obsessive compulsive need to chronicle all books that I read and to have the exact cover photo of the book in my post. Seriously. Because if I could not admit to reading this or showing that insanely embarrassing cover on this blog I would. Thing is if I did that it would bother me so much I’d be obsessing about it and not sleeping. I kid you not. Yes, I know I have issues. Shush.

The covers AND the titles of this series are just so, so, eye-roll worthy. I suppose I could handle the titles if the covers were better, but together they just make me cringe.

This is a new-to-me series and I know I started at the 4th book. A friend of mine told me to ignore the cover and try the series. She then lent me the book she thought was the best so far. I took one look at the cover when she passed it over to me and immedieately put it back in the bag. Questionable Cover Alert! Gah! The nun in me ran far, far away. I didn’t know where to put my HANDS when I was reading this book. The worst part? The half-naked guy was on the BACK cover, too! I had no escape from him. And it ruined my normal habit of placing the book face-down when I was in the bedroom or bathroom. I don’t like the people on covers of books staring at me while I’m getting dressed, etc. (We already established I have issues, ok? Move on.) Only when I did that, THERE HE WAS STARING AT ME from the back cover! Pervy book model guy.

So what did I think of the book? Well, I gave it props for only getting to the sex until about 200 pages in. I was happily surprised by that. I got to know Gwen and Lock much more before they jumped in the sack and proceeded to have the worst written love scenes in the world. Normally I blush and feel all uncomfortable about the scenes and skim as much as possible (you’re reading the blog of a girl who couldn’t even look at the anatomy chapter of her highschool biology book because UNMENTIONABLE BOY PARTS were shown.) This was the most unsexy sexy-times I have ever read. The author has some sort of gross obsession with writing about bodily secretions. I KNOW! I was more grossed out than anything and it was so bad that I would read parts of it out to my husband and we’d laugh. LAUGH!  At one point Lock is talking about a near searing of his boy part when placed in the girl part. All I could think of was “If there was that bad of a burning sensation I think they should talk about getting tested for STDs because THAT IS NOT NORMAL! That means ALERT! DOCTOR NEEDED! PRESCRIPTIONS NECESSARY!”

Bad love scenes aside (and once they happened, they happened more than I would have liked) I did like the two main (mane… ha!) characters in this novel.  I think jumping in at the 4th book added to some confusion I had about seemingly random tangents with other characters that never really appeared again. These random tangents were also frustratingly vague so I didn’t know who was being talked about from one transition to another. Plus they were short little paragraphs inserted into the flow of the story which had me very confused on more than one occasion. I am thinking that the mystery arc of the story continues through the books in more depth, so I am not all that unhappy with my not getting things. Though I will say that writing in a vague manner was common throughout the story. There were way too many he/she pronouns thrown about which made me have to reread passages to see who the hell was being talked about.

As for the characters in the story, I liked the idea of shifters rather than were-things. I liked that each creature was said to have the characteristics of the animal they shifted into. This made reading about Lock very amusing with his love of honey and berries and his natural curiosity. I have to say the author lost me when she threw in his constant “playing with his toes” to relax himself. A visual of a 7-foot tall man, naked, on his back with his legs in the air playing with his toes and rolling around was NOT a visual I needed. Ugh.

The book is humourous though and the character dialogue is fun. I hesitate to suggest that this book didn’t add much to the forwarding of the paranormal mystery plot though, because that was barely touched upon. For all I know all the books are like this. I will give the series the benefit of the doubt though because I did jump in at book 4. 😉

Will I read the other books now? I am leaving that decision up to my friend. If she drops off another in the series, I will give it a try. I already know there are characters in the series that I instantly didn’t like and the other books have them as a larger focus. Maybe reading about them in larger doses will make me rethink my opinions of them. There were also other characters that I loved so reading more about them in other books would be fun.

This wasn’t a horrible read, except for some parts, and it’s pretty light and fluffy (at least this book was). I still feel really sheepish to admit I read something with this cover and title though. =P

Pride series

  1. The Mane Event
  2. The Beast in Him
  3. The Mane Attraction
  4. The Mane Squeeze
  5. Beast Behaving Badly
  6. Big Bad Beast
  7. Bear Meets Girl – 2012

Ten Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord

Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord
by Sarah MacLean

Since being named one of London’s “Lords to Land” by a popular ladies’ magazine, Nicholas St. John has been relentlessly pursued by every matrimony-minded female in the ton. So when an opportunity to escape fashionable society presents itself, he eagerly jumps—only to land in the path of the most determined, damnably delicious woman he’s ever met!

The daughter of a titled wastrel, Lady Isabel Townsend has too many secrets and too little money. Though used to taking care of herself quite handily, her father’s recent passing has left Isabel at sea and in need of outside help to protect her young brother’s birthright. The sinfully handsome, eminently eligible Lord Nicholas could be the very salvation she seeks.

But the lady must be wary and not do anything reckless…like falling madly, passionately in love. (goodreads.com)


Truly, I tell you, (channeling my inner Biblical writing here) this book is not all soft sighs and helpless swooning women. Yes, there is a romance, but in my eyes it’s just sort of there in the back ground. What Sarah MacLean is really great at doing is writing smart, witty and strong characters with FANTASTIC dialogue.

There were even less “improper” moments in this book than in the first! This book is just plain fun and not over the top with wanting and words like “throbbing” or “thrusting”. Just perfect for my prudish nature, I didn’t have to close my eyes as often in this book. Heh.

Whereas I did not laugh out loud nearly as much as I did while reading Nine Rules…, this book still put a smile on my face as I read about Isabel and her friends at Minerva House. There is a ton of humour in MacLean’s writings and it’s like this for each of her books (she’s also the author of the YA novel The Season which I read recently and adored).

I refused to take this book out in public though. When I bought it I was rambling on and on about how it’s more than what the cover makes it look like to my friend as he rang up the purchase. I got made fun of in the store as making excuses for reading smut. Ha ha. So the book did not travel back and forth to work with me. There was NO way I was reading this on the bus! Luckily, I have to soak in a scalding hot bath for an hour after my highland dance class lest I never be able to walk again, so this book has been my companion as I down two extra-strength Advil and take a bath full of scented Epsom salts to return the mobility to my legs.

This is actually the only book I have even completed or kept on reading this month. Here we are halfway through the month and I have ONE book on my “Read” list. So sad. I have just not been feeling the reading lately. Seems to happen to me every year at this time. I think it must have to do with the season change and lack of light. This book got read because I wanted something small for the bath so it was easy to hold and I would have less chance of dropping it. Luckily it was amusing enough to keep my interest for the last 4 weeks. I actually finished it a week ago and had to force myself to write up the review before I forgot about it.

I do think I preferred Nine Rules to this one though. I loved Callie and Ralston slightly more than Isabel and St. John but both had wonderful personalities and sharp wit. I can’t wait to see what the Eleventh brings us! Eleven Ways to Do Something-or-Other with Something and Stuff. (I am sure that will be the title!)*

*Err… or maybe it will be Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart. Your guess is as good as mine.

The Search

The Search
by Nora Roberts

To most people, Fiona Bristow seems to have an idyllic life-a quaint house on an island off Seattle’s coast, a thriving dog-training school, and a challenging volunteer job performing canine search and rescues. Not to mention her three intensely loyal Labs. But Fiona got to this point by surviving a nightmare…

Several years ago, Fiona was the only survivor of the Red Scarf serial killer, who shot and killed Fiona’s cop fiancé and his K-9 partner.

On Orcas Island, Fiona found the peace and solitude she needed to rebuild her life. But all that changes on the day Simon Doyle barrels up her drive, desperate for her help. He’s the reluctant owner of an out-of-control puppy, foisted upon him by his mother. Jaws has eaten through Simon’s house, and he’s at his wit’s end.

To Fiona, Jaws is nothing she can’t handle. Simon, however, is another matter. A newcomer to Orcas, he’s a rugged and in-tensely private artist, known for the exquisite furniture he creates from wood. Simon never wanted a puppy-and he most definitely doesn’t want a woman. Besides, the lanky redhead is not his type. But tell that to his hormones.

As Fiona embarks on training Jaws, and Simon begins to appreciate both dog and trainer, the past tears back into Fiona’s life. A copycat killer has emerged out of the shadows, a man whose bloodlust has been channeled by a master with one motive: to reclaim the woman who slipped out of his hands… (goodreads.com)

I do not read Nora Roberts. Or, rather, will not admit to it. This would actually make my 4th ever book by Nora Roberts under her real name (is it her real name?). I am an extreme J.D. Robb fan, but those books are more serial killer and mystery than romance and I hate romance books. Hate.

So when I was cc’d on an email from Penguin Group Canada about this book I almost deleted it automatically but there was a line about a puppy and dog training and a serial killer. I wrote back to my rep and said “puppies and serial killers! I cannot resist those two things (though not together)!” and agreed to receive a review copy of the book.

The one thing this woman can do is write a good character. A character so real and fun you want to have them over for tea and be BFFs with. The J.D. Robb books have the same characters in all books and the one Nora Roberts trilogy I was “forced” to read was just as brilliant in characterization. So I thought this book would at least have enjoyable characters and then there would be dogs and a serial killer and it would be fine.

Sadly, no.

I started reading the book in the morning and thought immediately, “This reads like an Iris Johansen book and I think I’ve read this book before”. Sure it had awesome puppy-related dialogue but the feel of the story and the pacing of said dialogue and the dialogue itself seemed so familiar. I kept reading and the Iris Johansen-ness of the story just lept out at me and so I checked amazon to make sure my memory was correct and yes, not only is this a very similar story to one of Johansen’s it also has the same name. I used to be a huge Johansen fan until all of her books started to sound alike and plot alike. And sadly, this Nora Roberts book falls into that category. I almost feel like Roberts read the Johansen book in 2001 and thought, “Hmm, this is an interesting idea” and then proceeded to change location, names and number of dogs to sort of make it her own.

And I hate to say something like that because even though I hate romance books I have come to love and respect Roberts’ writing style. She writes a meaty, meaningful story normally. Whether mystery or romance. But it just didn’t catch with The Search. This book felt empty and disappointing and very un-Roberts. And it was LONG. This hard cover clocks in at 485 pages and there was no need for the story to be that long except to build up a relationship with the characters which I have seen her do in a normal 300 page story. Sure the first part of the book was all cute puppy antics and successful search & rescue missions and a battle between independent dog-trainer lady and “gruff, sexy wood craftsman” guy but their dialogue was  nothing like I have come to know from Roberts and everything I have come to expect from Johansen (whose books I have stopped reading by the way).

I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. It had it’s moments, but it didn’t quite reach the level of awesome that I expect from Nora Roberts – under any name. I think a lot of people will like it though. It’s light, it’s funny and it is suspenseful all at the same time. There’s romance and sex scenes (unnecessary to this prude ;)) and there’s the typical “I hate you, no! I love you!” push and pull between the protagonists. I loved the scenes with Simon and his puppy Jaws more than I liked any with Fiona, but I’m always going to prioritize dogs over people anyhow. I thought Simon and Jaws were well written together and I think the dog training bits were ok even if slightly preachy (it was like the book went from romantic thriller to Cesar Millan Dog Whisperer quotes at times) but I thought it was helpful and might try some of those things with my own dogs. (ha!)

I’ll say again, I truly think many people will love this book as it has a little of everything in it, I just wasn’t as impressed with the writing myself.

Oh, also, I’m supposed to be writing this review under a pen name so I don’t have to admit to reading a Nora Roberts book. So, um, Cat didn’t write this, ok?

— NotCat

* Thank you to Penguin Group Canada for this opportunity to have someone other than Cat (because she doesn’t read Nora Roberts) review this book. 😉

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake
by Sarah MacLean

a dissolute or profligate person, esp. a man who is licentious; roué.

Origin: 1645–55; see rakehell

libertine, profligate, lecher, womanizer

I will admit, I had to look up “rake”. In fact I just saw my first opera this past winter (Opera McGill production) which was called The Rake’s Progress. I thought it was going to be about gardening. (HA! Ok, not really, but when I first heard the title, I did). Aside from a gardening tool, I had no idea what “rake” meant. I had my suspicions, but this book finally made me get off my lazy bottom and look it up.

But enough about me and my lack of vocabulary knowledge, let’s talk about how brilliantly fantastic this book was. If you know me, you know I do not like romance novels. The one time a friend “bullied” me into reading a Nora Roberts’ romance trilogy I was ashamed and hid the books from view as I read them. There is no way I ever would have picked up this book had I not seen the reviews on fellow bloggers’ blogs. Each review mentioned how funny and great the book was and I was intrigued. It helped that I already had Sarah MacLean’s YA novel (The Season) on my wishlist. I have not bought that one yet as I wasn’t 100% sure that I would like it and so I decided to wait for the paperback version to come out (which it will in a couple of weeks).

So, I saw this here Nine Rules book in the store and always one to enjoy a book full of humour, I picked it up. I was very wary as I opened up the book to the first page. “This is romance,” I said to myself. “And it’s a historical romance at that! Why did I ever think I would like this?” I was nervous. Very nervous. But I was also desperate to read something different from everything else I have to read. No paranormal. No serial killers. Just different.

I laughed out loud at least three times just in the first chapter. I kept laughing out loud all the way through the book. This isn’t goofy-funny, it’s clever and witty and romantic. Finally a Victorian-era (is it?) woman who felt exactly the way I would feel about things had I been around back then. Having to bow down to the male’s whim and being married off at a young age just for name and wealth! Gah! Why would that have ever seemed romantic and proper? Can you imagine having to wear a corset every day? And go on outings just to see and be seen? Nah, so not for me.

Callie is a female character that I will forever adore. She’s smart and strong-willed and yet still innocent and sweet. Her romance with the notorious rake Ralston is both amusing and exhilarating. I loved ever single character in this book. I think this is one of the best (almost) 400 pages of story I have read this year.

Do you know what this romance book had that most other books, especially paranormal ones, don’t? Tasteful sex-scenes. Ok, well, I guess as tasteful as they can be. I am one of the biggest prudes you’ll ever meet, and although I did avert my eyes a few times during the more racy scenes, I found they were very well written. It wasn’t all “sex-mound-cock” like a few other books I have read. It was romantic. ROMANTIC! How’s that for a catch! I didn’t feel instantly dirty or grossed out. Mind you I would have been happier if they weren’t as many pages as they were, but at the same time, they fit into the story and weren’t gratuitous in any way. Well done, Sarah! Thank you for thinking of me and my prudish ways! (I can’t even watch soap or diaper commercials, people.)

I am most certainly going to be picking up The Season as soon as it hits the shelf at the bookstore near me. I can’t wait to read more of Sarah MacLean’s work. This book even got 5 stars from me on LibraryThing/Goodreads. That’s rare. 😉