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I won't read a book that doesn't contain a romance plot of one kind or another...

Spider’s Revenge (Elemental Assassin, #5) - Jennifer Estep,  Lauren Fortgang Yes, the plot is fast paced and interesting as always. Yes Gin is a likable heroine, even with her cold, cynical attitude. Yes, Owen is always a hottie. But listening to this, reminded me why I'd taken more than a year to pick it up from my TBR pile: Editing ladies, this needs serious editing! The number of repetitions is astounding: "Primrose, the rune for beauty, my little sister's rune", "Me, Gin Blonco, Jeanevieve Snow, the Spider", the number of times we hear of how Mab killed Gin's family, how she melted Gin's rune inside her palms, what the spider rune means, how evil Mab is, pretty sweet Bria is. I wonder if the author gets paid by the number of words or pages, because I can think of no other reason she kept repeating these facts and I just can't believe she didn't remember she'd mentioned it again in the previous chapter. Or the previous books. Or sometimes, only a couple of pages earlier.

I can't subject myself anymore to this torture I'm afraid. This is the end of the series for me, and I'm happy it coincides with the end of a cicle in Gin's life. Farewell Gin, it was fun meeting you!
Just Listen - Sarah Dessen I didn't think I could read this so fast, considering my hectic schedule lately, but I just couldn't put it down. Just Listen more than a YA book, is a book that makes you think on many things: family relationships, honesty vs white lies, keeping it all hidden or waving it in the open... An endless array of issues that affect more or less all families. And while we all know more or less that keeping everything under a lid is not a good policy, even if it takes the heroine a while to realise this, it's the reason she did it in the first place that rocked my world: She didn't want to upset her mother. The mother who had more or less collapsed at some point of her life. And while it's humane, and not unheard of, and it happens, it made me think that children are -most times- not mature enough to handle a vulnerable/collapsed parent; a parent who needs nurturing instead of being the one who nurtures. And as a young mother, I suddenly feel that responsibility so very keanly and hope I'll always have the strength to keep acting like the adult, responsible one.

Personal musings aside, Just Listen was full of messages but never boring, or preaching. It was fluid, beautiful, well paced, interesting and handled the transitions between the past and present scenes in an excellent, non-confusing way. I loved Dessen's writing and her characters, main and secondary, with their flaws and quirks, and I'm looking forward to reading more of her books.
Epic Fail - Claire LaZebnik A fun and light remake of Pride and Prejudice in YA form. Excellent passtime:)
When She Said I Do - Celeste Bradley Plot summary:
Callie (Calliope) and Ren (Lawrence) Porter, get caught in a compromising position by the heroine's brother, when the carriage of Callie's family falls into the river and they seek refuge in Ren's house. Forced to marry, the hero makes an agreement to give Callie one pearl for every night they spend together if she does as he demands, and she'll be free to go once the pearls are all in her possession. Ren who is heavily scarred all over his body, goes around the house in a hooded cape waiting for his time to die, until Callie comes and brings light in the dark house he lives in. He finds that despite her feisty nature she's quite submissive in the bedchamber (hooray for adding that in a conventional HR!) which suits him very well indeed:) But however responsive his wife is in bed (or the dining room/hall/kitchen), will she still want him once she sees his ugly face? Unfortunately, even as Ren starts feeling his heart thawing at last and Callie begins thinking that this marriage deal is the best she's ever made, someone is trying to hurt Callie and they must find him before they start planning for any future together.

Realism: 0/5
Heat: 4/5
Humor: 3/5
Emotion: 3/5
Heroes' likability: 5/5

A fun, easy romance with just enough emotional depth to keep it from being fluffy or superficial. Equally suited to a moody, downcast weekend or a sunny beach, if you can ignore the absurdity of the plot, you're definitely gonna enjoy it.

Dance With Me - Heidi Cullinan I was enjoying this extremely until RL intruded and made this seem too dark and angsty even for me. Still, a very good read that could become a keeper if I was in a better mood while reading it. Not for fans of lighter romance, this is a story of two broken men and their journey to finally heal themselves, braced by the strength of love and acceptance they found in each other. Beautiful.
A Gentleman Undone (Blackshear Family, #2) - Cecilia Grant 2.5 stars
I finished this book yesterday and still can't settle between a 2 and a 3 stars' rating. The first half was noticeably better than the second IMO, even though there was little to no romance there. Still, the writing was very good and both main characters were likeable until that point. However, when the heroes let go of blackjack and 21 lessons, and start indulging in their passion and need, the book surprisingly took a turn for the worse for me. The hero who was nice until then, if a little maudlin, became a self-righteous martyr without compare. He's an honorable gentleman with no room for mistakes, caring and selfless to boot; at least that's what he thinks. Instead, he makes one stupid action after the other, dragging the heroine through the mud in the process while trying to 'help' her. Well, the motto 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions' certainly applies in his case.

The heroine was more likable than the hero and much more practical too. However, she treats sex as a weapon to control men and through all their sex scenes (I refuse to call them love scenes), she didn't seem able to change that. Thus, their sex scenes became unerotic, almost repulsive for me, in their lack of emotion.

All in all, a strange book with a definitely original plot and execution (the heroine is another man's mistress for the most part and we even read their sex scenes together and how she enjoyes them). Emotionally though it didn't touch me and I blame the focus on the card games and the lack of emotion in the sex scenes for that. I'm intrigued enough to read another book by the same author, but I have to make sure the plot is to my taste first.
Unveiled  - Courtney Milan Author's writing style:

-One line of dialogue

-One paragraph of hero's inner thoughts

-Second paragraph of hero's inner thoughts

-One paragraph of heroine's inner thoughts

-Reply to initial line of dialogue

Too slow and wordy by half for me. DNF at 105 pages.
Collision Course - K.A. Mitchell 3.5 stars. Could be a four stars' book, but Aaron was more often an ass than not. Loved Joey though; he made this book a pleasure to read for me.
The Luxe - Anna Godbersen Great story, great writing and descriptions. Unfortunately, it is as far from a stand alone as it gets.
All the Queen's Men - Linda Howard 2.5 stars
Run of the mill romantic suspense, where the hero falls in love with the heroine outside of the book script:( So, we have to read for the rest of the book if the heroine will respond to his feelings or not. Just not my cup of tea I'm afraid, and along with the fact that I almost liked the bad guy more than the hero or heroine, made me feel sorry for him for being duped, so I was not eager to see him framed. Another case where everyone loves a book but me...
Lover at Last - J.R. Ward I'm so glad to say that after the less than stellar recent BDB books, this time Ward delivered all she's promised and more in this last installment. The long awaited book of Qhuinn and Blay may not be perfect in some respects, but it manages to stir the reader's emotions deeply, in the way only the first books in the series did for me, and on top of that, completely avoid the silly or even pointless secondary plots that plagued John's and Payne's books.

In truth, besides the much awaited romance between Qhuinn and Blay, the secondary plots here are what made the book a winner for me; they not only had much to do with the main story, but provided us with some very interesting characters, namely Assail and the burglar, Sola. To say I can't wait to find out what will happen to them is a gross understatement. In fact, they're my new fave characters right now, and what's rare for me in the BDB series, I came to care for the heroine as much as I cared for the hero.

The other highlight of this book, is the introduction of lessers version 2.0. The new lessers have finally become serious adversaries that can fight back, and are not just playthings for the brotherhood to practice with. But what shocked me to my core, is the new Layla. Layla which I used to despise for her whinny, weak, selfish attitude is here no more; she's strong, assertive, kind and caring for others besides herself *gasp*. I doubt she'll ever become a fave heroine of mine, much as Jane never will, but I certainly do not dislike her anymore. And her love story promises to be very interesting indeed, which adds to her appeal.

As for Qhuinn and Blay, their romance was all that I hoped for. Qhuinn's POV of his relationship with Blay is heartbreaking and emotional and powerful enough to make up for the lack of some really hot sex scenes. As Ward is mainly an f/m writer, I can't hold that against her, especially as the feelings between them more than satisfied my need to see the two of them together at last. Add to that a couple of really 'WOW' scenes in the beginning that left me misty eyed, and this 5 stars' book found a place in my keepers shelf. Yeap, I can't wait to re-read it. Still not sure I want to go on with the series, but though I had given them up for good before reading this, now I'm much tempted to continue, if only to read Assail's story.
Heartbreak Creek - Kaki Warner An amazing story about two lonely people who start on a marriage of convenience, each for his/her own reasons, and end up finding so much more than they ever hoped for. Edwina, the proper Southern belle, makes an extraordinary heroine with spank, brains, courage galore, where silent, taciturn Declan may be slow to open up, but when he does we see him for the honorable, gentle, caring man he is. From funny antics between Edwina and her half-sister, or Edwina and Declan's kids, to emotional scenes between Edwina and Declan, this is a story that creates all gamuts of emotions and I really enjoyed reading every single page of it. Edwina makes one of the finest heroines I've read and strong, steady Declan was more than worthy of her. And to think he only got married to get a mother for his unruly children...
I was so glad for both of them in the end, because they totally deserved their happy ending. I almost felt sorry when their story came to an end.

Warning to smut lovers: No love scenes included, just a vaguely described one.
The Last Renegade - Jo Goodman 4.5 stars

When the hero decides to fulfil a dying man's mission, to help a town defend against a family that won't stop at anything until they get what they want, he doesn't suspect how much his life is going to change in the process. Upon meeting the 'Widder Berry', the woman who hired Nat Church to protect the town from the Burdicks, he's impressed by her looks, her strength and her mind. She on the other hand, is not impressed by the man who took over Church's job and asks him to leave.

I loved everything about this book: the plot which had me guessing and changing my mind about the villain more than once, the witty, humorous dialogues that had me laughing out loud more than once and the perfect accord between the hero and the heroine. Those two understood each other from the start which didn't mean that they were all cheesy words and love declarations: they disagreed, they bickered, they teased, but they never, ever turned mean or tried to hurt one another. Both were smart people and actually acted as such for the entire length of the story; no silly misunderstandings, fear or distrust, no going back on their words or trying to save the day -and the city- by sneaking out in the dark to fight all the bad guys alone. And still, it was not a sweet-cheesy-peachy story; there was anxiety, their was tension, there were issues to be solved and secrets to be told that kept the story moving at a fast pace. Add in the twists that half of them I never saw coming, the clever dialogues and excellent writing, the entirely likable but not perfect characters from the main heroes to the secondary one, and you have an excellent book on your hands.

Highly recommended!
Lover Unleashed (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 9) - J.R. Ward What I still like about the BDB books:
-Quinn and Blay. I just can't read enough about them. In fact, I'm skipping Tohr's book and heading straight to their story
-The woman can obviously create elaborate plots and twists with the ease other people scratch their nose. Now if only some of them were not so absurd...

What I'm coming to hate since John's book:
-The plot twists get more and more absurd (heroines who glow when the hero's near, mates who find it ok for they loved ones to go and get whipped by their best buddies while they stay behind, blinding similarities that nobody seems to notice except when Ward declares it's time, are just a few of them)
-There is no difference at all between her male heroes anymore: every single one, from ancient king and warrior, to modern cop or doctor, talk and think the exact same way (with the single exception of V who may talk like everyone else, but is distinguishable because he keeps adding 'true' to the end of his sentences). In short, they all talk like they've lived in a ghetto all of their lives (well duh), and their relationship mentality could be described in a single line: "she's MY female, but I have to give her up because I'm not worthy of her". Like Mel in her review mentioned, if you open the book in a random page and pick a line without reading above to see who's speaking, it's impossible to guess to whom this 'voice' belongs, as they all sound the same. Sad, very sad that such an amazing series has come to this.

Quinn and Blay, ready or not, here I come!!!

MacRieve - Kresley Cole 4.5 stars
Started great but his hate/distrust for Chloe lasted more than I liked. However, Chloe is one of the best heroines I've ever read, hence this is rounding up to 5 stars.
Stone Cold Revenge - Jess Macallan 3.5 stars
Headed to 4 stars because of the suspense and action and plot twists, but when everyone started encouraging the heroine to do something that they all deemed 'bad' and 'not recommended' a couple of chapters earlier, I had to take a star down. That and the heroine refusing to do what everyone asks of her 'because she didn't have enough time' when people's lives depended on her or 'because it would make it all real', seriously grated on my nerves.

Needs some better editing IMO, else the plot and character development is very interesting. Will read the next one for sure.