Stalker in the Shadows

Stalker in the Shadows by Camy TangStalker in the Shadows by Camy Tang
Publisher: Harlequin
Number of pages: 224
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle Store

“Consider this a warning.”

Lately, nurse Monica Grant feels she’s being watched. Followed. And then she receives a threatening letter—accompanied by a dead snake. If she doesn’t stop her plans to open a free children’s clinic, she’ll end up dead, too. Terrified, Monica turns to former lawman Shaun O’Neill—who believes the same madman murdered his own sister five years before. She understands how much it means to the handsome, heart-guarding man to save her—and her dream. Even if he has to lure a deadly stalker out of the shadows—straight toward himself.

* * *

It’s been a while since I read a Camy book, and honestly, I didn’t even know she had another book in the Grant sisters’ stories. It wasn’t until after I finished reading Protection for Hire that I found out, and I immediately got the book for my Kindle.

In the third installment of Camy Tang’s Love Inspired series, Stalker in the Shadows we meet the third Grant sister, Monica, a nurse with a heart for social work. With her trusty nurses shoes, she plans to open a free children’s clinic in their town, and she knows it wouldn’t be easy but it shouldn’t bethat hard either. Until she starts receiving threatening letters and “gifts” from someone who tells her that if she doesn’t stop her plans, she would end up dead too. Scared out of her wits, Monica seeks help from Shaun O’Neill, who believes that the same person threatening Monica was the one who caused his sister’s death. As the threats come and the stakes get higher, Monica wonders if maybe she should quit, while Shaun is constantly haunted by the thought of failing to protect Monica the way he felt he failed to protect his sister.

I haven’t read a lot of suspense or mystery novels lately so it took me a while to get inside Camy’s world in Stalker in the Shadows. I liked Monica right from the start, maybe even more than how I liked Rachel or Naomi. She was a level-headed and determined character, always putting someone else first before herself — her father, her investors, and even the children who will benefit with the clinic. I also liked her dynamics with Shaun, and I liked how Camy wrote him as a “heart-guarding man”. It’s not often we find heroes like that in fiction. :) There wasn’t much surprises in the romance (except, as always, for the first kiss!), but it wasn’t too predictable, either.

This book is probably the least preachy of all – and by that, I mean that the Christian aspect was shown more instead of being told. There were some God talk, of course…I don’t know how exactly to describe it, but it felt more natural when Monica realized things and Shaun realized things and they felt God more in their own realizations and with the things that happened to them. The climax felt a little bit too CSI-esque, but it was exciting enough for me to really fear for the main characters.

The mystery was pretty…well, mysterious, for the lack of better terms. I had several hunches about the culprit, and even one hunch that I was so sure was correct…and it wasn’t. Oh well. But that makes for a good mystery, don’t you think? Overall,  Stalker in the Shadows is a very good installment to the Grant sisters’ stories, and I was glad at where Monica (and Shaun) ended up. :)

Rating:

Reviews of Camy’s other Love-Inspired Suspense books:
Deadly Intent
Formula for Danger

The Reread Factor (2): May Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic

The Reread Factor

The Reread Factor is a semi-regular blog feature that is all about the reread. I pick some of my best reads from the past and reread them to see if I like it as much as as the first time and see if they could be a book for the favorites shelf. :)

I realized that I never wrote a review about this book I’m featuring for The Reread Factor, but since it’s a reread and it’s on my favorites shelf, I figure it fits the requirement for this feature. Besides, I need one for this again, since I don’t really have a lot of time doing some rereads lately.

And besides, this book fits Lent and Holy Week well.

May Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic by Liz KellyMay Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic by Liz Kelly
Publisher: Loyola Press
Number of pages: 288
My copy:
paperback, ordered from Amazon

In May Crowning, Mass, and Merton, Liz Kelly, a thirty-something writer and jazz singer, eagerly shares her ardent love for the Catholic faith. While the beliefs of the church are important to Kelly, her passion is really ignited by the holy people and places, the beloved rituals, and the rich spiritual traditions of this living faith. She celebrates them here, with wit, affection, and candor.

Kelly has realized that “the litany of reasons to love being Catholic is extraordinary.” These include every­thing from the crucifix, kneelers, and Ash Wednesday to Flannery O’Connor, the Swiss Guard, and Tenebrae. Though she writes that, “Mine is not an extraordinary faith, so much as a faith growing a little messy, a little rough and subversive around the edges,” it is a rich, inspiring faith, celebrated by a fresh, young Catholic voice.

* * *

An interesting fact about this book: I got this because of a tweet from one of the Twitter accounts I follow that tweets first lines of books from Amazon. I got this purely because it was a Catholic book and it seemed interesting. I was also trying to learn more about my Catholic faith, and so I thought this book would be a good place to start. I read this first during Holy Week of 2008, and that time I wasn’t exactly at the best place of my faith. I remember loving this book because it made me appreciate being Catholic, although that didn’t necessarily mean that I really got what it means to be one.

Fast forward to three years later, I got to attend my first World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain. Now if there was any way for a young Catholic to celebrate and appreciate their faith, the World Youth Day is that event. Seeing people — Catholics — all over the world coming together in one place to celebrate and learn about their faith (and meet the Pope) is an event that every Catholic should experience, regardless of age. Suffice to say that it was that event that pretty much defined a lot of my searching in the past years since I first read this book. When Lent came around this year, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this book again.

I thought of writing a review for this book with 50 things about the book, but I realized that 50 is a bit of a big number. So instead, let me just write five:

  1. I like that it is Catholic. Maybe I just kind of suck with looking for books written by Catholics, but I remember being very thrilled when I discovered this because I felt that it was written for me. I know it’s not, but it just felt like that. :P
  2. I like that it’s very personal. Liz Kelly wrote the entries in the book with enough personal anecdotes to make it feel like she’s just sharing the stories over coffee, or she’s a speaker for a community event. She gives enough reference to the Bible, related books, history and to the Catechism of the Catholic Church so readers know that she isn’t just pulling things from thin air, but not so much that it overshadows her personality.
  3. I like that it covers the ones we Catholics are asked the most about: the rosary, Mary, the Communion of Saints, Confession, the Eucharist. In a way, it’s almost like an Apologetics session because readers would understand why we do what we do but with less of the feeling that it is one.
  4. I liked discovering new things about Catholicism that I never knew before. May favorite is the Rosary of the Holy Wounds, which I didn’t even know existed before. I only knew of the rosary, but this one is new to me and seems like a good devotion to start. Another example is the chapter on the Hour of Divine Mercy, which has been a staple in the household since I was a kid because of the 3 o’clock prayer shown on TV everyday. I never really understood much of it until it was explained in the simplest form in Liz Kelly’s book.
  5. There were some entries that didn’t feel like I could really and truly relate, perhaps because of our differences in culture. Liz Kelly talks about her reasons to love being Catholic as an American. I’m not one, obviously, so there were some things that she wrote that I couldn’t really relate to and some that I was looking for but didn’t find because they were aspects of Catholicsm that is unique to the Filipinos. However, though, I think the book isn’t really meant to be a guide on what constitutes being a Catholic anyway, but a book that helps us appreciate what we have in this beautiful Universal Church. :)

I think new and old Catholics alike would enjoy May Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic, and maybe even some non-Catholics who are simply curious about it. It’s far from preachy, and like I said, it’s very personal so it’s up to you if you’d research more on the subjects Liz Kelly wrote about or if you would just leave it be. Suffice to say that I really liked it still even after the second read. As proof: I ended up marking even more pages now than when I first read it:

To end this review, I thought I’d share my own ten reasons why I love being Catholic (just ten because I don’t think I can get to 50 yet — maybe when I get a little bit older :D). Some may have already appeared in the book, while others are my additions. In no particular order, and no more explanations because it would take a bit of time to write — I’ll post about them soon (promise!) in my personal blog if you are interested. :)

  1. Universal Church.
  2. The Mass.
  3. Mary.
  4. The Rosary.
  5. Pope (Blessed) John Paul II.
  6. The Eucharist.
  7. Ash Wednesday and Holy Week.
  8. Simbang Gabi (Dawn Mass/Advent novena mass)
  9. Confession.
  10. The saints.

I am glad I reread this book and I’m glad I reread it at this time. Still a favorite for sure. :)

Rating:

Required Reading: April

Look, the first quarter of 2012 is over. I cannot believe it. (And goodbye, favorite month! Till next year!)

March was all sorts of busy and fun, mostly because of work and the birthday. But this busy status and all the days/nights out was taxing to my reading and I was still oh-so-slow. I am currently behind my reading challenge by 4-5 books, and a part of me is crazily scrambling to catch up. But I can’t seem to.

Even so, the bigger part of me didn’t really mind the slowness because I think I was able to read a lot of good books in the past month. It was more of quality over quantity and it’s a nice way to spend my favorite month knowing you read good books. :D So, a recap:

There were some fun reads and some great reads in the past month too, and like I said, it was quite a nice reading month, even if I was so slow.

Now what’s in store for April?

Required Reading: April

Continue Reading →

Smitten

SmittenSmitten by Kristin Billerbeck, Colleen Coble, Diann Hunt and Denise Hunter
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Number of pages: 432
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

Welcome to Smitten, Vermont. With the help of four friends, it’s about to become the most romantic town in America. The proposed closing of the lumber mill comes as unwelcome news for the citizens of Smitten. How will the town survive without its main employer? A close-knit group of women think they’ll be smitten too.

* * *

In a town called Smitten, their main source of income is their lumber mill. With the lumber mill comes the men, who’s used to providing for their families, content with the life of being men despite the fact that their town had a very…well, feminine name. What happens then, when the town’s only source of income closes? The women come to the rescue, of course. Taking advantage of the town’s name, a group of friends planned to turn their town into a romantic tourist spot. Armed with lots of ideas and a whole lot of faith, Natalie, Julia, Shelby and Reese work with the rest of the town to and pray that their ideas would take off and put Smitten on the map — and maybe, along the way, they would find someone to be smitten too as well.

I love short stories and anthologies for the simple fact that they’re so easy to read and digest. I got Smitten from Netgalley because of that, followed by the fact that one of the authors in this book, Kristin BIllerbeck, is a favorite. I was in the mood for a cozy romance last month (being February and all) while I was in the middle of some (sort of gross) zombie books, so I picked up Smitten ready to be, well, smitten. Interestingly, the authors of this book are all friends with each other in real life, and they even had a note at the start of the book to share their story of their friendship. Like I said, the only author I have read there is Kristin Billerbeck, so I was looking forward to reading what she wrote there, and I was also curious with how the other authors write. Maybe this would convince me to get some of their books too.

The best thing about this book IMHO is the setting. The town of Smitten came alive to me from the first page, and I was rooting for the girls’ ideas to come to fruition in the town. Smitten seemed like such a picturesque town that needed some feminine touch, and I looked forward to reading how the town improved towards the romantic direction in each story. It may seem a little too much of a perfect town at some point, and maybe if I thought of it a little further as a too nice town it would be a bit creepy. But I want to be there, and I want to spend some time in their town even if I wasn’t a part of a couple.

The stories were pretty entertaining, too, although I can’t say I liked all of them. This is a collection of stories but I realized that it’s not really an anthology because the stories are all connected to each other and you can’t read the next without reading the one that precedes that because you’d get spoiled. Think of it as a series of spin-offs in a book. The thing with short romance stories, though, is they don’t have as much time to develop the romantic relationship from the ground up. By this, I mean, the stories can’t really start from the two characters getting to know each other for the first time and then their relationship developing from something because it would need a longer length to make the relationship feel more realistic to avoid the risk of it being another insta-love story. Unless of course that is the real intention. But anyway, with this in mind, the love stories in Smitten were all about the girls and their old time friends or old acquaintances in the town that they never really paid attention to, or have pined for but has been unrequited for some time until this. To be perfectly honest I had a hard time adjusting to that because I was used to reading full-length novels with the romance starting from the very start. The idea of old-time friends suddenly turning into lovers took some time getting used to1. But once I got used to it, I got all the nice tingles when the stories developed.

But as nice it was for the romantic relationships to start from friendships in Smitten, I felt that the shortness of the stories kind of hindered the book from delivering a bigger “oomph”. For some stories, I was just getting used to the two characters dancing around each other and (wholesomely) flirting when suddenly, they’re on their first date or someone’s confessing their love or someone is stealing a kiss from someone. Before I got used to that, the couples are fighting, or having an argument or dealing with old issues. The only story that didn’t feel too abrupt at some point was the last (my favorite among the four), and it even had some kind of foreshadowing from the previous story, which made it exciting for me because it felt like a spin-off (and you know how I love spin-offs). I’m sure the word count limit is an important factor and it’s one of the things that made the stories so and we can’t really do anything about it as a reader. I just really wish that the stories were just a little bit longer.

Despite those nitpicks, Smitten is still a pretty good book. It was exactly what I expected it to be: a nice and cozy, fluffy, romantic read. Granted, there could have been more swoony moments, but overall, it’s a nice (and clean!) book about romance and faith. My favorite story is Reese’s, but like I said up there, don’t skip the stories! Reading the first three makes Reese’s story the most satisfying of them all. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Vic’s Media Room
These Pretty Words
Reading in Winter

  1. You know this just shows how I think of the friend zone, LOL. But let’s not talk about that here. []

Hallowed

Hallowed by Cynthia Hand
Unearthly # 2
Publisher: HarperCollins
Number of pages: 416
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

For months part-angel Clara Gardner trained to face the raging forest fire from her visions and rescue the alluring and mysterious Christian Prescott from the blaze. But nothing could prepare her for the fateful decisions she would be forced to make that day, or the startling revelation that her purpose—the task she was put on earth to accomplish—is not as straightforward as she thought. Now, torn between her increasingly complicated feelings for Christian and her love for her boyfriend, Tucker, Clara struggles to make sense of what she was supposed to do the day of the fire. And, as she is drawn further into the world of part angels and the growing conflict between White Wings and Black Wings, Clara learns of the terrifying new reality that she must face: Someone close to her will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.

* * *

One of the books that absolutely surprised me last year was Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly. I can’t keep stressing it enough, but you know, when a book surprised you, you would have the tendency not to stop talking about it. And this is for a paranormal romance novel friends. That is really something. With that premise in this review, it was obvious that I was one of the squealing readers who well…squealed, when I saw that the next book, Hallowed was available in Netgalley. I was supposed to read it as a reward for finishing NaNoWriMo, but resistance was futile and I ended up reading it even as I was writing.

Spoiler warning for Unearthly in the next few paragraphs — stay away if you haven’t read it yet.

Hallowed picks up from where Unearthly left off, where Clara was still reeling from the events that happened in the fire and how she messed up her purpose by saving Tucker instead of Christian. There was also that fact that Christian was actually an angel, and how she can’t deny the attraction between them, even if her heart belongs to Tucker. But there are other things that require her more immediate attention, like her angel training with her friend and the fact that the Black Wing could return, and finally, there was her dream. Her dream that tells her that someone important to her is going to die, soon. And there is only so much she can do without falling apart.

This book was…well, it’s a lot to digest. On one hand, there’s Clara, who’s still a very entertaining character. Her voice still sounds authentic despite the different challenges she had to face, and she never wavered one bit. Her relationship with Tucker was still as sweet as ever, and sometimes I kind of want to stop reading because they got too sweet. :P The great addition in this book, IMHO, was Christian. Love triangles are kind of an old thing in YA, particularly in paranormal romance, but I think the love triangle in Hallowed was exceptionally done. I liked how there was never really a clear answer on who Clara would and should choose, and how the two guys seem to have equal footing in her life. I’m still a huge fan of Tucker, though, but I would like to see how Clara having Christian in her life would play out.

I also really loved that there were more revelations to Clara’s angel heritage, and her powers as well. The high points in the book is really with knowing all these things like Clara’s powers and the rest of her family. The revelation is done gradually so we never get too much information, and there were some truly surprising parts. As with Unearthly, I thought the mythology here was also well done, and yet there still seemed to be more that could be revealed in the later books.

But you see, Hallowed isn’t really a book that is centered on the romance, or even on Clara’s angel powers. This book is really about family and loved ones and yes, loss. Saying anything more would be spoilery, but it’s probably the thing that could make or break the novel for other people (although I use the term “break” loosely). Hallowed has the capacity to punch you in the gut — hard — and leave you reeling with different emotions. That is what makes this book so different. And good.

Rating:

Other reviews:
The Midnight Garden
Makeshift Bookmark
Smitten Over Books