Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 A YEAR IN READING





In the past, when posting an overview of my reading for the year I’d mention the number of books I had read (175 this year) and my top 10, or there-abouts, favourite titles. This year I’m going with a different approach since a lot changed in my reading in the past twelve months.

2012 was the first year during which I received books specifically for review and, if I’m honest, I have to admit that maybe I went a bit over the top with the amount of books I requested. Of the 175 books I read 101 were for the two review-sites I receive copies from. While this did give me the opportunity to discover titles and authors I might otherwise never have picked up, it also meant that I was often in a rush to get a certain book read and reviewed by a certain date. Most of the time this was not a problem but I did find myself feeling slightly guilty whenever it took me “too long” to get a certain review up and that did not make for a more pleasurable reading experience. But, we learn as we go along, and it is my intention to show a bit more restraint when it comes to requesting review titles next year.

2012 was also the year during which I re-discovered erotic fiction. I had read books in that genre in my late teens and early twenties but then it stopped. Not so much because I didn’t want to read those books anymore but more because I didn’t come across them anywhere and had enough other books I wanted to read to not go actively looking for them. I have to blame/thank the FiftyShades of Grey phenomena for reacquainting me with the genre. My reviews of those books will tell you everything you need to know about what I thought about them. All I want to say about them here is that I am glad that curiosity made me read them and subsequently encouraged me to find out what else was available and worth reading in that genre. Of course my voyage of (re)discovery showed me that in erotic fiction, as in any other genre, there are a few very worthwhile titles as well as lots that are entertaining and some that are rubbish. I’m just grateful to have discovered one or two authors of erotica that have impressed me so much that they are now on my “must read” list.

Below I will mention a few titles and authors that impressed me last year. Most of the books listed are by authors I newly discovered in 2012. These are not necessarily the books that scored the highest ratings but rather stories that will stay with me for one reason or another, characters that touched me as well as books that I know I will be returning to at some point in the future:

Mysteries:



 Bury your Dead and A Trick of the Light two mysteries by Louise Penny who always manages to completely engage me with her characters, setting and plots.
 
 





Broken Harbour by Tana French in which a good mystery is combined with a heartbreaking and very contemporary plot.



 

  
  The Holy Thief and The Bloody Meadow by William Ryan. Two mysteries set in Stalin’s Soviet Union by an author I discovered this year.









Historical Fiction:

 
Bring Up the Bodies by Hillary Mantel is the second part in her well written and fascinating trilogy about Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII.

 


 
 An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears; the last book I read this year. This historical mystery completely blew my mind and will stay with me for a very long time.




Young-Adult Fiction:


The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: The master of the YA genre delivered a book that managed to be both heart-breaking and uplifting.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. This book about the Second World War managed to take me completely by surprise and made me delighted that I had once again broken my vow to never read about that period again.






Dystopian/Alternative history/Urban Fiction:



When She Woke by Hillary Jordan. A shocking, thought-provoking and fascinating story that had me thinking for days.



The Company of the Dead by David J. Kowalski was a very interesting story about an alternative future and the attempts to correct past mistakes.




 Fated and Cursed by Benedict Jacka; urban fiction with a huge nod toward Jim Butcher.





 
Erotica:





Slave and Need by Sherri Hayes: The first two titles in a quartet with a BDSM theme and very little sexual content. Heartbreaking and thought-provoking reads.





The Siren, The Angel and The Priest by Tiffany Reisz. These are extremely well written, explicit and very clever books about characters I couldn’t help getting attached to. In fact I would pay good money to spend a day in the company of these characters.




I can only hope that 2013 will be as good a reading year for me as 2012 was.

AN INSTANCE OF THE FINGERPOST



TITLE: AN INSTANCE OF THE FINGERPOST
AUTHOR: IAIN PEARS
Pages: 692
Date: 31/12/2012
Grade: 5+
Library

“When in a Search of any Nature the Understanding stands suspended, then Instances of the Fingerpost show the true and inviolable Way in which the Question is to be decided. These Instances afford great Light, so that the Course of the Investigation will sometimes be terminated by them. Sometimes, indeed these Instances are found amongst that Evidence already set down.” – Francis Bacon.

I almost always write my own summaries of the books I read. I’ve decided to make an exception for this book though; I just don’t think I can do the contents of this book justice without giving away too much of the plot. So here’s a copy of the blurb as it appears on the inside sleeve of the copy I read:

“We are in Oxford in the 1660’s, a time and place, of great intellectual, scientific, religious and political ferment. Robert Grove, a fellow of New College, is found dead in suspicious circumstances. A young woman is accused of his murder. We hear about events surrounding his death from four witnesses: Marco da Cola, a Venetian Catholic intent on claiming credit for the invention of blood-transfusion; Jack Prestcott, the son of a supposed traitor to the Royalist cause, determined to vindicate his father; John Wallis, chief cryptographer to both Cromwell and Charles II, a mathematician, theologian and inveterate plotter; and Anthony Wood, the famous Oxford antiquary. Each witness tells their version of what happened. Only one reveals the extraordinary truth.”

In November, when I finished “The Prince” by Tiffany Reisz I tweeted about my frustration about the monumental cliff-hanger the book ended on. I was delighted as well as surprised to have her reply to my tweet and admit that she is the queen of the “mind-fuck”. Although I won’t know the exact extend to which she fucked with her readers’ minds in that book and its two prequels until I read The Mistress, the fourth and final title in this part of her “Original Sinners” series, I am inclined to take her word for it. When asked, she recommended “An Instance of the Fingerpost” as one of the ultimate “mind-fuck” books she had ever read. This comment, of course, meant that curiosity got the better of me and I requested the book from my library. All I can say now that I have finished the book is WOW! This is indeed a book in which the reader is taken for a ride, given one impression only to have it demolished in a later part of the book. This book is a work of genius. The reader is presented with a mystery and subsequently given four different accounts of the events that lead up to and followed it. The four parts are told by four different narrators all of whom play a pivotal role in the proceedings. The four men sharing their stories all share from their own perspective and with their own interests colouring what they do and don’t share. And all four men come up with different answers and conclusions. Since only one of our narrators actually has all available information, only one of them shares the full story of what exactly has happened and why, and the reader is held in suspense until the very last page of the book.

What makes this book so incredibly clever is that the author plays a completely fair game with the reader. He doesn’t cheat and confront the reader with a lot of new, yet essential, information in the last few pages of the book. Most of the clues as to what is happening can be found in the first three accounts. I would defy anybody though to only read those parts and try to come up with all the right answers for I don’t think it is possible. This book plays with the reader at every turn and does this in such a way that the book gets ever more intriguing with each subsequent page; that which appears straight-forward turns out to be anything but.

As a mystery this book is intriguing, well plotted and completely engrossing. As a work of historical fiction it is fascinating as well as plausible, not in the least because most of the characters encountered in the book did really live at the time the story takes place.
Of course the second half of the 17th century is a fascinating time to read about even without the mystery this book provides. England is a country trying to find a balance that will prevent it from descending into civil war once again and modern science is starting to emerge in a time when every new discovery still had to be attributed to the greater glory of God and superstition was still rife. It makes for a wonderful mix of progress and repression and it was with wonder and an occasional smile that I read about obviously very clever people with ideas and discoveries that were nothing sort of genius falling back on their faith to explain what they had produced through their own intelligence.

I could go on raving about this well written, well plotted and well executed book, but I will stop myself. I just want to say two more things:

-          Read this book if you haven’t already done so! And,
-          Thank you Miss Reisz for pointing me in the direction of this fabulous book!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

THE LITTLE PRINCE



TITLE: THE LITTLE PRINCE
AUTHOR: ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPÉRY
Pages: 91
Date: 29/12/2012
Grade: 5
Library

“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”

This is a story told by a man who discovered the truth quoted above as a child and who continued to view adults as unimaginative creatures even when he was a grown-up himself.

The narrator of this story drew a rather clever picture when he was six, a picture that the adults around him unfortunately didn’t understand. Instead he was advised to give up on his art and concentrate on more practical skills – on “matters of consequence”-, because that is what grown-ups are interested in. Years later, after he crashes his plane in the dessert he meets with The Little Prince who has arrived on earth after leaving his own asteroid and travelling to other planets. On his travels the Prince met all sorts of adults preoccupied with things that appear important to them but have no real relevance when you really think about it; a king, a conceited man, a tippler, a business man, a lamplighter – the first person who doesn’t appear ridiculous because he is thinking of something else besides himself. Once the Little Prince arrives on Earth he really starts learning lessons about friendship and about what makes certain things and people unique, even if they look just like thousands of other things and people:

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

This is a story about the innocence, wonder and honesty of children and how we lose that when we grow up and become obsessed with hard facts. It is a fable telling us to hang on to that innocence, to continue to look at the world with wonder, to never stop believing in the impossible; to never stop looking at the world through the eyes of the child we once were. This story shows us that the things we think we need and treasure – power, money, knowledge – are not what really matter in life. It is the things we can’t see, the things we can only feel or believe in, that make our lives worthwhile.
 
“But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart.”

I really wish I could remember how I felt the first time I read this book. I must have been about ten (?) at the time and that is just too long ago. All I can say is that the title always stayed with me and that just hearing someone mention the book would fill me a pleasant, happy feeling not just for this book but also for my mother, who first told me to read it. And if that isn’t a good reason to occasionally re-read this book I don’t know what is.

Friday, December 28, 2012

LULU a Novella



TITLE: LULU: A Novella
AUTHOR: NANCY FRIDAY
Pages: 152
Date: 28/12/2012
Grade: 3.5
Details: Received from Argos Nevis
              Through NetGalley
Own/Kindle

“Nothing erased the bad feelings like acts of daring do.”

Lulu is the semi-autobiographical story of a young girl who moves with her mother and brother from “the dark North” to Charleston when she’s four years old. From very early on in her life Lulu struggles with her feelings and the secrets that surround her. The biggest mystery is her father, who nobody will talk about to her. From the pieces of conversation she manages to overhear she concludes that he must be crazy and locked up, which leads to her worrying that she might be like him. And the strong and dark emotions she sometimes feels seem to make that possibility quite plausible. Torn between her love for her older brother Harry and the deep jealousy that can overwhelm her when she thinks about the closeness between him and the mother who is so very distant with her, Lulu tries to teach herself to hide her dark feelings away; something she doesn’t always manage. But not everything in the girl’s life is bad; there is her mother’s half-brother who seems to love and understand her and her grandmother who is closer to her then she is to her own daughter.
Set in the 1950’s and early 60’s we see discrimination, sexual awakening with its consequences and a rapidly changing world through the eyes of a girl and young woman, desperately trying to find her own identity and place.

This is a nice coming-of-age story, but for me it was too short. We are given fragments, snap-shots of a life without ever being given the full picture. I constantly wanted to know more; more about Lulu’s feelings and the way in which they changed, more about her life and the people around her, and more answers to the questions the girl has. While I enjoyed reading about young Lulu growing up and learning more about her life, the people in it and the ways of the world, the manner in which her story was told felt choppy. It is almost as if the author wanted the reader to feel as frustrated as Lulu does. Like Lulu, the reader is never given enough information to piece the whole story together and left with unanswered questions; left feeling a bit frustrated.

Although this is a well written, easy to read and fascinating story I can’t help feeling that it would have benefitted from being a much longer novel rather than this rather short novella. Nobody can ever accuse Nancy Friday of writing badly, but I can’t help wishing that she would have used her talents to write more of this story. On the other hand, I now feel the need to go back and read “My Mother, My Self” again. It has been a very long time since I read that book and I can’t help feeling that it may contain answers to some of the questions this book left me with.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

DESTINED TO PLAY



TITLE: DESTINED TO PLAY
AUTHOR: INDIGO BLOOME
Pages: 275
Date: 27/12/2012
Grade: 4-
Details: no. 1 Avalon Trilogy
Own

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” – Anonymous

Dr. Alexandra Blake is 37 years old, married to a man she hasn’t been intimate with in years and mother to two children she adores. With her husband and children away for a week in the Tasmanian wilderness, Alex travels to Sydney to deliver a series of lectures on her latest research into visual stimulation. After the first, very successful, lecture she meets up with Dr. Jeremy Quinn, the man she had a passionate relationship with while in university and the  man who opened her eyes, heart and body to intense and exhilarating feelings and emotions. Years of being apart haven’t made Dr. Quinn any less attractive and Alex can’t deny that she still feels his pull. After a few glasses of champagne Jeremy makes Alex an extra-ordinary proposal. He wants her to submit to him for 48 hours. Two days during which she will be blindfolded and not allowed to ask any questions. Alex knows that she can trust Jeremy, and that he would never ask her to do anything she isn’t capable of, but she also realises that handing herself over to him will mean hitting and exceeding every single one of her boundaries.

It isn’t long into her 48 hours of blindness before Alex starts to realise how restrictive the limitations Jeremy has put on her really are:

“I am beginning to realise how much of human conversation is dependent on questions and visual indicators.”

But she also has to admit that Jeremy is right when he says that:

“It is really important to understand how and why you are going though these emotions. It’s all part of the process. You’ll learn so much about yourself.”

As time passes and Jeremy puts Alex through experience after experience, constantly stretching her boundaries Alex has to wonder:

“Will I continue this journey into exploring my personal darkness with him, a journey I have never been courageous enough to experience until this point in my life?”

But this is about more than just a dirty weekend for two former lovers. A lot more is at stake for both Jeremy and Alexandra, and this is only the start of their journey…

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this book. I started this book expecting nothing more and nothing less than a straight-forward work of erotica; some kinky sex, some soul-searching and some more sex. And yes, there were a lot of descriptions of sexual interactions, but somehow it didn’t feel as if that was what this story is about. In fact, this is probably the least enticing bit of erotic fiction I have ever read. The descriptions of everything Jeremy puts Alexandra through, while fascinating, didn’t make me feel anything, which can’t be a positive thing when the book you’re dealing with is marketed as erotica.

On the other hand, I was truly fascinated by the premise of the story. I can’t say too much about that because it isn’t fully revealed  until later on in the book . I also can’t judge how credible the premise of this story is, but I have to admit that I really liked the idea and would love for it to be true.

I have an issue with women (or men) having an affair behind their partner’s back. I can live with multiple partners if everybody involved agrees to such an arrangement, but I do not like illicit affairs, in real life or in fiction. And I guess I don’t see lack of an active sex-life, a past relationship or a combination of these two as valid excuses to betray your partner. And while Alexandra did spend quite a bit of time reflecting on her children, and how her behaviour might affect them, her husband didn’t seem to feature in her concerns at all. That bothered me, even after the author dealt with the issue in a rather “easy” manner near the end of the book.

Therefore, if I had to judge this book purely as a work of erotica my grade would probably have been somewhere between 2 and 3. However, since there was a lot more to this story, and the story was well written and easy to read, I graded this book higher. And, I’m sure I will read the next book in this trilogy. Between the fascinating ideas behind the story and the cliff-hanger this book ended on I feel I don’t really have a choice in that matter.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A HALF FORGOTTEN SONG



TITLE: A HALF FORGOTTEN SONG
AUTHOR: KATHERINE WEBB
Pages: 416
Date: 26/12/2012
Grade: 4.5
Details: Received from Orion Books
              Through Nudge
Own / ARC

Zach Gilchrist’s life is falling apart around his ears. His ex-wife is moving from England to America and taking their six year old daughter with her, his art gallery is failing and he can’t bring himself to sell the three pictures he has that might actually save his business. The three pictures are all by the same painter: Charles Aubrey. A painter whose life was cut short by the Second World War and whose last few months alive were shrouded in mystery. A painter who may or may not have links to Zach’s own family. When Zach is reminded of the book about Aubrey he is supposed to be writing he decides to travel to Blacknowle on the Dorset coast, the place where Aubrey spent the last three summers of his life with his mistress and their two daughters; Blacknowle where the answer to all Zach’s questions about Aubrey’s life and death may lie.

Mitzy Hatcher has lived in Blacknowle all her life. She once went on a foreign trip but that was in 1938, when she was sixteen. Since then she hasn’t left the village where she was born and spent a miserable childhood with her mother - the gypsy who never showed her any love or affection - and surrounded by people who didn’t accept her.  Happiness did visit Mitzy’s life once. When she was fourteen Charles Aubrey arrived in Blacknowle for the summer with his beautiful mistress and their two daughters. Mitzy soon becomes fast friends with Aubrey’s eldest daughter as well as a regular figure in his drawings and his family’s life. Over the course of three years Mitzy’s love for this family that accepts her just as she is, turns into something else, an obsession with the famous artist. And it is this obsession that will lead to an unspeakable act with devastating consequences and secrets that will stay hidden for almost seventy-five years. Secrets that are threatened by the arrival in Blacknowle of a very determined and curious man. And she is not the only one in the village staying quiet about certain things.

This was a fascinating story and not one that is easily categorized. Between the covers of “A Half Forgotten Song” we find a mystery, several love stories as well as ghosts, obsession and betrayal. Both the story and the way in which it is told reminded me a bit of the books by Kate Morton. Both authors present their main character and readers with a mystery, the answer to which lies buried in the past and is well guarded by those who could resolve it. And both Morton and Webb know how to surprise the reader. Just when you think you know the answer to all the questions, they manage to shock you with a revelation you never saw coming.

All these aspects make this an intriguing story and a gripping read. The tension in the story is slowly build up, almost imperceptibly, until it reaches the stage where putting the book down becomes an impossibility because the need to find out exactly what is going on has gotten too strong.

The characters in this book are vivid and multi-dimensional. Katherine Webb’s characters are not either good or bad. While it is easy to like some characters more then others there are no purely hateful or completely blameless players here, which makes the story all the more interesting. Having said that, I found it very hard to sympathise with Mitzy to the same extent that the characters in this book do. Despite her horrific childhood and other circumstances that might explain or excuse her behaviour I still felt she should and could have done better and I really didn’t understand the ease with which other characters in the story were able to forgive her. But that is the only less than completely positive comment I can make about this book.

Overall I would call this a fascinating and engrossing novel; a page-turner that will keep the reader enthralled.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

O COME ALL YE KINKY



TITLE: O COME ALL YE KINKY
AUTHOR: VARIOUS
                  Sarah Frantz (ed)
Pages: 234
Date: 23/12/2012
Grade: 4
Details: Received from Riptide Publishing
              Through NetGalley
Own/Kindle

You’d think that after about 44 years of being an avid reader I would have a pretty good idea of what I like and don’t like. This book proved to me though that, much to my delight, I’m still able to surprise myself every now and again. Had you asked me a few days ago I would have told you that I generally don’t like short stories and prefer to stay away from same-sex relationships in my books. One seasonal read later I find myself having to change my mind. The stories in this book charmed and captivated me. Of course I liked some more than others, but overall I found this to be a wonderful book of love stories. Yes, all stories are about same-sex couples and all involve power-exchange – BDSM – relationships in some way shape or form. But reading them made me realise something I should have known all along; a love story is a love story, regardless of who or what the people in the relationship are or how they prefer to express their affection. For me this was an eye-opening and warm-hearted (or should I say, hot) holiday read. Perfect for the season we’re in.

Below are short descriptions of the individual stories:

Tree Topper by Jane Davitt: Things are not going well for Martin and Stan. An insecure Dom and his subversive sub are heading for a miserable Christmas and possibly the end of their relationship. But maybe a good talk, some special Christmas presents and a new understanding can make this into the best Christmas yet.

I liked this story because for once we’re dealing with an experienced sub and a novice Dom. Most, if not all of the BDSM stories and books I’ve read so far have dealt with the opposite scenario and it was nice to see the story from the perspective of a enthusiastic but very inexperienced Dom for a change.

‘Twas the Night by Ava Marsh: Christmas day 1820 and Percival Owens is on his way to Michael Barlow’s house. It has been a few months since Percy started visiting Michael. And although he feels guilty about needing to be with the slightly older man and is confused about his need to obey Michael’s every single order, he can’t imagine living without these visits.
Michael is delighted when he hears Percival enter his house. He has been enjoying his evenings with the young, submissive man. But he wants more. Dominating Percy is a delight, but not enough. He wants Percy to voice his needs and wants instead of silently accepting every order. But will Percy be able to overcome his shame and give Michael the one thing he really wants this Christmas?

A lovely story about two men getting to know each other better made extra interesting by the fact that it is set in 1820 when their sort of relationship was still very illegal.

Fireworks by Katie Porter: Rachel and Emma have been in a long-distance relationship for two years but this New Year’s eve will be their last night together. Rachel, the Domme in their relationship is going to Japan for two years and Emma will be left behind. It breaks Emma’s heart to think that she will lose the woman who knows her, her body and her needs so well, that she will have to find a way to go on without the woman she loves. And while Rachel dreads saying goodbye to Emma her fears of commitment and abandonment are far greater than the desire to take Emma with her and start a full-time relationship. Or are they?

I didn't quite get the motivation of one of the characters in this story, but enjoyed the movement towards the happy ever after.

 Candy Caning by L.A. Witt: Stephen and Nate are getting ready for Christmas but it isn't a happy time for them. The prospect of having to visit Nate's family on Christmas Eve and submit themselves to the verbal abuse his mother routinely levels at them has both of them dreading the day. All it takes to make their mood turn festive is for Nate to make a huge decision and an enormous candy cane put to inspired use.

Charming and uplifting.

Submissive Angel by Joey W. Hill: Robert is owns a toy shop and has been single for a long time when he finds Ange behind the dumpster in his yard one night. The younger man has clearly been savagely beaten but still manages to impress Robert with the broken toy he has mended. What really gets to Robert though is Ange’s clearly submissive attitude towards him. Six months later it is coming up to Christmas. Ange has been working for Robert since the day he was found and Robert is finding it ever harder to stay away from him, despite his reservations about returning to his old life-style. When Robert at last gives in to the urge to make Ange submit to him it is an experience better than either of them could have hoped for; an experience that will bring them together in time for Christmas.

A lovely, sexy and truly romantic story with elements that could be supernatural but don’t have to be. Very clever and probably my favourite in this collection.

 Open Return by Elyan Smith: Zach returns home after fifteen years, back to the place where people knew him as Hannah before he left. Fifteen years have been a long time, but not long enough to forget Laura and Scott and the relationship Zach had with them; a relationship in which he submitted, completely, to their desires. It will take a while though to figure out whether or not fifteen years have been too long for the three of them to get back to their earlier intimacy.

This story didn’t work as well for me as the other ones did. I couldn’t quite get my head around Zach and didn’t get a real feel for the relationship between him and Scott and Laura.

Ring Out the Old and In the New by Alexa Snow: It has been two months since Evan was attacked on the tube and left with a scar on his beautiful face. Two months during with Evan has wanted nothing except hide in the house he is sharing with Richard, his partner and Master, while keeping his emotions bottled up and close. But, with Christmas coming up Richard decides it is time for Evan to start facing the world again. Evan is reluctant, sure that after what he has been through life can never be the same, or safe again. But with Richards love, patience and dominance, Evan might just find a way back to the man he used to be.

A beautiful and loving story.

Chance by Kim Dare: Drew knows he is in trouble with his Master, Kingsley. He should never have said that his Master doesn’t do romance, even if it’s true, even if he doesn’t mind. Drew also knows that tonight he is going to pay for opening his big mouth. Before the clock strikes twelve and the New Year starts, Drew may lose the Master he has fallen in love with. Kingsley has been in shock ever since he heard Drew say that he knows his Master doesn’t do love. What if Drew is with him because he wants a Master who doesn’t fall in love with his sub? Will admitting his feelings to Drew cost him his wonderful relationship or might it be the start of a bright and very happy New Year?

Romantic and sexy; a charming read.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

ANYTHING HE WANTS



TITLE: ANYTHING HE WANTS
AUTHOR: SARA FAWKES
Pages: 288
Date: 20/12/2012
Grade: 3
Details: no. 1-5 Dominated by the Billionaire
              Received from St. Martin’s Press
              Through NetGalley
Own/Kindle

Lucy Delacourt has a temporary job she doesn’t like and that barely allows her to pay her bills. The only thing she has to look forward to on her working days is the lift ride up to the floor where she works and the gorgeous man she will be able to look at during those short moments, provided she times her arrival right. When one morning only Lucy and the mystery man remain on the lift he stops its ascent, approaches her and brings her to a shocking orgasm, all without Lucy discovering who he actually is. A few days and one more heated encounter later that mystery is solved though. The mystery man in the lift is none other than Jeremiah Hamilton, billionaire CEO of Hamilton Industries and this powerful man has his sights set on Lucy. She can either become his personal assistant, with a contract stipulating that she will do “anything he wants” or lose her temp-job. Out of options, Lucy feels she doesn’t have a choice except to accept his strange job offer and finds herself, only hours later, in a private jet, on the way to France and a charity function. It is in Paris that she will learn more about her mysterious but oh so sexy boss, but it is also in the City of Light that her nightmare begins with the present of a bottle of champagne which will lead to danger and dead-threats from Jeremiah’s powerful enemies.

I’m not sure what to say about this book. I guess it was an okay read but I’m afraid it didn’t do a whole lot for me. Much of the book was too similar to other books I have read in the past. The broody, mysterious billionaire with issues, his dysfunctional family, threats against him and those closest to him and the innocent heroine from a modest background who finds herself in the middle of a world she is unfamiliar with but who manages to handle it all with unrealistic ease; it is all a case of been there, done that and would really like a more original take on the story please.

It is not that the story is hard to read. There is a lot happening on these pages and some of it is well written and captivating. Surprisingly for a work of erotic fiction it was the thriller segments of the story that worked better for me than the erotic encounters. In fact, the descriptions of intimacy between Jeremiah and Lucy became repetitive and boring rather quickly, while Lucy in serious trouble had me turning the pages frantically to see how that scene would end.

I am willing to admit though that I might have enjoyed this book more if this had been my first or second book featuring a beautiful but troubled billionaire. As it is though, this book didn’t give me anything original or exciting. I’m getting a bit fed up reading about young women who have no or very little sexual experience because they are just not attractive enough only for them to become the subject of everybody's desires as soon as the billionaire takes them under his wing. The changes Lucy goes through over the course of just a few weeks just do not make sense and make the story less relatable rather than more interesting. Yes, I do realize this is an erotic fantasy and not a work of realism; but that doesn’t mean I want to read about two dimensional characters I can’t relate to in any way, shape or form. In order to really enjoy a book I have to care about the characters and their ultimate fate and I found that just wasn’t the case were Jeremiah and Lucy were concerned.

In short I’m sorry to say that this just wasn’t the book for me right now. It will probably appeal to anyone who is looking for anything that will remind them (strongly) of Fifty Shades of Grey though.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

THE PERFECT HOPE



TITLE: THE PERFECT HOPE
AUTHOR: NORA ROBERTS
Pages: 308
Date: 18/12/2012
Grade:  5
Details: no. 3 The Inn Boonsboro Trilogy
Library

Please accept my apologies for the following gush-fest.

When Hope and Ryder first met, she got the distinct impression he didn’t like her on sight and didn’t want her to get the job as innkeeper in his family’s inn. And Hope isn’t sure she likes Ryder that much either. He’s stand-offish and sulky; definitely not an easy person to get along with. And one, rather good, kiss not withstanding, she is definitely not attracted to Riley.

The resident ghost, Lizzy, has other ideas though and forces Hope and Ryder into a situation where only another hot kiss will allow them to leave the room they happen to be in. When a rather unpleasant blast from Hope’s past pays an unwelcome visit to the Inn it is Ryder to whom Hope turns when she needs to get her point across. And kissing Ryder passionately just happens to be the best way to make herself clear.

Slowly the innkeeper and her builder slip into a “thing” neither is willing to call a relationship. But through more confrontation with Hope’s past and at last finding out exactly what happened to the love of Lizzy’s life, Ryder and Hope find that they may be completely different, they are also completely perfect for each other.

I’m starting to repeat myself but I will say it again: I love Nora Roberts’ books. I love the way she writes her stories and draws me into the world her characters live in. It only takes a few pages before I feel as if I know this world and these characters. I like that she writes strong, independent female characters who experience real emotions and are not afraid to show them. I love that she writes realistic yet oh so yummy men. And what is not to like about a ghostly character as realistic as Lizzy?

What I really appreciate in the romances by Nora Roberts is that she doesn’t resort to protracted and senseless arguments and misunderstandings. Yes, her characters may end up in some sort of fight at one point or another in the story, but they are, always, grown-ups. They fight, storm of, and maybe sulk for a while but then they deal. They talk to each other, come to understand each others point of view and get on with life and love. Roberts’ characters respect each other and treat each other as such because:

“You didn’t love and try to change.”

Too many authors of romances feel the need to create what reads like false drama or childish behaviour in an, often desperate appearing, attempt to keep the story emotionally gripping. Not so Nora Roberts. The interactions between her characters, their friends and the things going on in their lives are enough to keep the story moving and fascinating. And this is what makes her stories work for me. Because her characters are and behave like mostly reasonable human beings I don’t get upset with them, I don’t want to slap them around for making stupid decisions, and most importantly I don’t want to throw the book at the wall. I’m just glad to be able to spend time with them and watch them work their way to the inevitable happy ever after.

I love it!

Just as I love that the Inn, Boonsboro is real. The characters in these stories may be fictional, the setting isn’t. The town, the Inn and the bookstore actually exist. In my dreams I am in a position to cross the Atlantic and see this wonderful sounding place for myself. In real life I can only hope that one day it will be possible for me to stay in one of those wonderful sounding, romantically themed rooms and maybe, just maybe meet a ghost?!

Monday, December 17, 2012

NOTORIOUS NINETEEN



TITLE: NOTORIOUS NINETEEN
AUTHOR: JANET EVANOVICH
Pages: 302
Date:  17/12/2012
Grade: 4-
Details: no. 19 Stephanie Plum
              Received from Headline
              Through Nudge
Own

“And I’m still pushing boundaries, flopping around in water that’s over my head. And here’s the scary part that I wouldn’t say out loud to anyone…I’m a little addicted to it. I like my crazy job and my disaster-prone life.”

We are five pages into the book. Stephanie Plum and her friend and colleague Lula are in Stephanie’s car in a bad New Jersey neighbourhood trying to find a man who has skipped his bond when they get into an altercation with a desperate looking young man during which they get shot at. Next thing they know the man is being mown down by another car and Stephanie’s car ends up being blown up. Welcome to the madcap world of Stephanie Plum.

Things are looking a bit glum for our Stephanie in this, her nineteenth adventure. It has been a slow summer in the bounty-hunter world and she’s now a month behind on her rent and once again without a car and most of the jobs coming in for her are of the low return variety. That changes when Geoffrey Cubbin goes missing. Cubbin had been arrested after embezzling five million dollars from the residents in the retirement home where he worked. Shortly before his day in court he went into hospital for an operation only to disappear without a trace shortly after his appendix was removed. If Stephanie could find this man it would solve all her current financial problems, but her investigation doesn’t uncover any clues; not about how the man managed to disappear and neither about where he might be hiding.

Because her money problems are really starting to hurt, Stephanie accepts a job offer from the very sexy and mysterious Ranger. He needs her to accompany him to a party because a friend and former army colleague of his is being threatened, as is Ranger himself. Not entirely sure why Ranger would think she might make a good bodyguard, Stephanie accepts the job only to find herself targeted by whomever it is that wants to kill Ranger and his friend.

And this wouldn’t be a Stephanie Plum book if there wasn’t more madness in the story. From an Hawaiian artefact that appears to interfere with people's thoughts, to Lula’s insane way of viewing the world and her grandma being determined to get involved in the case of the missing Cubbin, Stephanie finds herself with her hands full and her life endangered. And of course there is the never-ending tug between the two men in her life. She may appear to be all set to consider a future with Morelli but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t still have the hots for Ranger. Life with Stephanie Plum is never, ever boring.

This is the nineteenth book in this series by Janet Evanovich and for those who are completely unfamiliar with the phenomena that is Stephanie Plum it is a bit hard to explain what exactly the books are about. These are mad, suspend your disbelief, sorts of mysteries, not to be taken seriously at all. There are lots of laugh out loud incidents as well as suspense filled moments and even the occasional emotionally touching scene. Evanovich writes sparkling, at times very funny, dialogue and her characters come alive on the page even if it is completely clear that this collection of characters could only exist inside a very vivid imagination.

Although the books in this series are always easy to read and light entertainment it has to be said that they are also a bit repetitive. There are a lot of plot lines that keep on popping up in book after book. At least one of Stephanie’s cars will blow up, she will find herself unable to choose between the two men in her life while they appear happy to live with her indecision, Lula will get up to antics a normal person wouldn’t be able to think up, Stephanie’s hamster Rex has an impossibly long life-span and her grandma will invariably find herself in the most ludicrous situations.

Having said that, this is a perfect book to read if you’re looking for some light entertainment. These stories will take you away to a world that may look a lot like ours but doesn’t quite function the same way. You will find yourself smiling while reading this book and occasionally even laughing out loud. And as predictable as some of the story elements may be, this is a hard book to put down once you start reading it. If all you are looking for in your book is an easy and fun escape from the real world you could do a lot worse than picking up Notorious Nineteen.

WISH LIST



TITLE: WISH LIST
AUTHOR: SYLVIA DAY
Pages: 40
Date: 16/12/2012
Grade: 4
Own/Kindle

Nicholas James has had a thing for his colleague Stephanie Martin for months now. She’s hot, smart and interesting and by the looks of it completely uninterested in him. When he finds a discarded note which turns out to be Stephanie’s wish list he discovers that she is far from disinterested in him. Luck turns out to be on his side when he pulls Stephanie’s name in the office Secret Santa draw; this is his opportunity to make Stephanie’s secret wishes come true while he gets closer to her.

When Stephanie opens the present from her Secret Santa during the office party she immediately knows who gave it to her and that he must have seen the wish list she wrote one day during a boring meeting. And although she can’t deny that Nick is a very attractive man she also knows that he is a player who doesn’t do serious relationships which means that he is no good for her. She’s been there, has done that and has no intention of going back there. But, one steamy encounter with her Secret Santa later she agrees to give him the opportunity to make all her secret wishes come true. For Nick this means that he has a short time to prove to Stephanie that he is serious about her and take away her doubts. Stephanie on the other hand, only sees the deal as a chance to get the sexual tension between them out of the way.

It soon becomes clear that Stephanie may have to deal with emotions she wasn’t expecting while Nick may have go further than he thought in order to convince this woman that he is serious.

This was a charming short love story. Sylvia Day managed to put a lot of story and character development in only forty pages. The reader gets a real impression of the two characters and what drives them without the story being hijacked by long descriptions. In fact, at least fifty percent of the story is about the intimacy between Nick and Stephanie which is hot and sensual as well as beautiful and touching. And while it is of course completely unrealistic that a woman like Stephanie would get over all her reservations concerning a man like Nick over the course of about four days, it does make for a wonderful, feel good Christmas story. After all, if miracles can’t happen during the Christmas period when can we hope for them?

A charming, uplifting and steamy Christmas love story for anyone looking for about an hour’s worth of romantic and sexy bliss.