I wanted to read this because I'd seen this essentially described as an X-rated version of THE WINNER'S CURSE set in China. I love THE WINNER'S CURSE and I love historical fiction about China, and this book was free for Kindle, so it seemed like a win/win.
Princess Shanyin is the sister of a depraved and insane emperor who has withdrawn into her own palace to celebrate all manners of depraved and illicit pleasures with a harem of 30 male concubines to accommodate her. One day, she sees the handsome aristocrat, Chu Yuan, at a function and conspires with her brother to use him as a slave for nine days. Nine days to seduce him and get him to perform as a concubine, before he returns to fulfill his duties. But Yuan is proud and filled with anger, and outside her palace walls, a rebellion is slowly brewing. Can she get Yuan to have sex with her before their time is up? And will they both survive it?
THE OBSESSION is a book I wanted to love, because not only does it subvert the typical "duke of slut" trope (in this case, a woman is the lecherous tyrant who is slowly won over by a hard-to-get and virtuous man), it also has a background of political intrigue and betrayals that was fascinating. Plus, I'm pretty sure that Liliana Lee is the pen name of Jeannie Lin, who is an incredible historical romance author.
My issue with THE OBSESSION is that it's basically smut with plot. Not a lot of plot, but some. What little plot there was, was excellent. That ending had my heart in my throat. But the vast majority of this book is sex, and it's extremely graphic sex written in a style that didn't really appeal to me. There are some words that I just don't like to see used in sex scenes, and this book used several of them ("slit," for example, is just...ugh, gross). It's not really consensual sex, either. Both the hero and the heroine do things that would fit neatly within most people's definitions of rape. This didn't bother me as much, but I know it's a dealbreaker for some readers.
Overall, THE OBSESSION was an interesting story, but not really for me. If there was more focus on the court intrigue and the sex scenes were spaced out, I think I would have liked it more. If you're a fan of high-brow historical erotica, though, THE OBSESSION will be an excellent pick for you. :)
So many of my friends have read this book. It was quite the sensation when it first came out, with people going, "Look at this...omg...is it for real?" A lot of books have that effect on people, but in the reviews, my friends were giving this book fairly high ratings and saying it was so much more than it seemed. "Not smut," they said, "but actually quite clever and witty."
...Witty, you say? Tell me more.
But no, you all had to be so danged secretive. Your reviews were frustratingly vague, filled with laughing gifs, but no details.
No, I had to go out and read the book for myself to get an idea of what it was really about (the audacity!). And, like so many others, I was pleasantly surprised.
This is actually a pretty clever retelling of "The Princess and the Pea" fairy tale. THE PRINCESS & THE PENIS is about a sheltered princess whose virginity is guarded by her over-protective father who wants her to stay pure so he can marry her off to a prince. One day, however, she discovers that her mattress has a lump in it of a curious shape and quality, that is intriguing and pleasant...
Her distressed parents do what they can to get rid of the lump, panicked by the thought that their chaste princess might not remain so chaste for her upcoming wedding if they can't do something about it - soon.
But what is the lump? And how did it get into the princess's bed?
Honestly, I thought this was going to be one of those silly, so-bad-it's-good erotica novels that seem to be a dime a dozen these days, but PRINCESS & THE PENIS is actually a witty, sex-positive satire that urges the importance of sex ed. and sex positivity. I also liked how it implied that men who want to date virgins only tend to be insecure jerks, and that sexual exploration should not be punished.
Plus, the princess's aunts were hilarious. Their comments were seriously A+.
Why does this book not have infinitely more ratings than it does? The quality of the writing and the characterization are better than many books gracing the best-seller lists right now, and yet NOT A MISTAKE remains obscure.
This book came to my attention because of my friend sraxe's review. I thought the premise of two priests falling in love after an unplanned pregnancy sounded interesting, especially since she said the religion aspect was handled in a really thoughtful way.
Dominic was Jordan's seminary school teacher. Both were attracted to one another, both unsuccessfully tried to fight it. On the night of her graduation, they have sex, which results in an unplanned pregnancy. After some deliberation, Jordan decides that she wants to keep the baby, although she's afraid to tell Dominic because she knows that he will absorb all of the guilt and make it completely his "fault" - which he does.
NOT A MISTAKE is how the romance between them unfolds when Dominic decides that he wants to be involved with both Jordan and his unborn child's life. They have great conversations about compatibility and what makes for a lasting marriage. They also have great conversations about their experiences with relationship mistakes and what makes for unhappy marriages.
Given that this book has a religious context, you could probably imagine that not everyone is too pleased with this couple's doings. There are more great conversations about ethics and responsibility, including a wonderful reason as to why student/teacher priest/parishioner relationships are so problematic, even if they are consensual. I also liked how the author showed the sexism that Jordan often faces as a female priest, and some of the double-standards that occur because of it.
NOT A MISTAKE is a great love story between two priests who used to be student and teacher. Fans of intelligent new adult books will like this, as will fans of priest romances, liberal-minded christian fiction, and student teacher romances. In some ways, this book was highly reminiscent of another student-teacher NA I read, called HOW NOT TO FALL, but I liked the characters in here a little better.
Alyona Miller is a famous ballerina. Zedekiah Harlow used to be a famous ballerina. Then the two of them got into a terrible accident and life as they knew it ceased. Alyona lost a baby, and her already fragile mental health. Zedekiah lost his leg and his girl. When the two meet by chance in a coffee shop after being estranged for years, they're both forced to come to terms with what happened.
And how they're going to proceed.
I don't read many second-chance romance type books. I think it's because part of the fun of reading a romance novel is seeing a couple discover themselves and their feelings for one another in a way that's shiny and brand new. Second-chance romance books are more about forgiveness and polishing or hiding the tarnish.
Aly and Zed have a lot of tarnish. I did like that they actually deal with it, though, rather than taking the passive aggressive route that many other new adult novels are so fond of. It was refreshing to see characters who got involved in one another's lives without being domineering or creepy, as well as actual, bona fide communication. Even during sex. Especially during sex. Can we talk about the sex, actually? (It was gooooood.)
The secondary characters in here are also well done. Both characters' parents appear in the book, and get involved in their children's lives (for better, or for worse). They have friends. Zed has students. Aly has a therapist and a couple contacts with whom she's remained in touch. All of these characters were extremely developed and added an extra layer of dimension to the story.
The book is also beautifully written - to the point where it is far more polished and sophisticated than comparable works being dealt out by much larger publishers. The desolate, but lyrical, prose is highly reminiscent of authors like Janet Fitch. That writing! It begs to be an embroidery sampler framed on a guest-room wall. I really look forward to seeing what other books Locke comes up with in the future, because she unquestionably has a lot of talent. I could see her doing something big, easily.
The only drawback to this story is that it feels remote. The characters have emotions but they don't quite make it to the page, which is disconcerting because of the first-person narrations. This is an emotional book, but the writing itself wasn't, and I feel like the characters did more "telling" about how they were feeling, rather than "showing." I felt removed from the characters when I wanted to connect with them, and that made it hard to really get emotionally invested in their well-being.
SECOND POSITION is still good, though. I enjoyed it - although the writing is complex enough that you're going to want to make sure that you have the time to devote to reading this in large blocks, while uninterrupted, or else it's going to be hard to follow what's going on. I'd recommend it to readers who are looking for NA with substance, or who enjoy reading realistic angst & hurt/comfort books. Plus, it's only $1.99 on Amazon (and the prequel is free)!
I remember when I first started getting into romances, I asked my friends for recommendations and Louisa recommended a couple romantic suspense authors to me, including BEG FOR MERCY by Jami Alden. The Criminal Minds comparison sold me on the story. I don't know if you've seen Criminal Minds, but that is some scary sh*t.
BEG is about Megan Flynn who is sort of dating/sort of in love with this cop named Cole Williams. When they're getting frisky, he gets a call about a murder, and Megan is shocked to recognize her own address. Without warning, Cole arrests Megan's brother, Sean. The open-shut case means her brother's death sentence, and Megan loses all credibility as everyone thinks she's crazy to insist he's innocent.
While reading this book, I kept thinking about what I would do if I was in this position. I can't even imagine what it would be like to see a family member arrested for something you know in your heart that they didn't do, but be utterly powerless to protect them from the law. It made my heart hurt.
I have to say that I didn't particularly like Megan and Cole much, though. While I could understand where Megan was coming from, I thought she was an idiot. She was always marching into the face of danger, to the point where she could have been hit with obstruction of justice charges. Did that stop her? Nooooo. She was emotionally manipulative, impulsive, and bitchy, and I did not like that at all.
Cole, on the other hand, is your typical alpha male jerk, who's just a few steps away from peeing all over the heroine's shoes to mark his territory. Every time another man so much as looks at Megan, Cole thinks about how much he'd like to punch that man in the face. The macho bro-standing got old fast, and so did his judgmental attitude. At one point he says that Megan looks like she's gotten her clothes from "Sluts R Us." Nice, Cole. Very nice.
The two of them use sex to manipulate one another and get their way, and I thought that was pretty awful, too.There's nothing really romantic about this romantic suspense, please and thank you.
The suspense aspect of this book is really well done and makes up for the crummy characters. The serial killer in this book is super creepy. What's even creepier is that you almost feel sorry for him when you find out what he went through - almost. (He's still a major psycho, though.) I was able to predict (correctly) who the killer was about 25% in because the red herring was way too obvious a choice.
BEG FOR MERCY was a fast-paced read. I'm interested in reading the sequel. From what I read in the teaser at the end of BEG, it looks like it builds upon the previous events and relationships, which I always like in a story, as it makes it way more complex and interesting.
Edited: Apparently TOO LATE is no longer free to read. :(
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the first Colleen Hoover book that I've ever actually liked.Every single other one of her books that I've read ended up getting a one-star review from me, but this...this was good. I devoured it the way I devoured the Meiji chocolate mushrooms I bought in San Francisco last week: all at once - with no regret.
Sloan is in an abusive relationship with an influential drug-dealer named Asa Jackson. She's tried to leave him before but he has a hold on her that makes this almost impossible, so she's saving up money on the sly and waiting for her chance to escape.
One day in Spanish class, she meets a guy named Carter who's everything Asa isn't - considerate, patient, kind. She feels an instant attraction for him which she unsuccessfully tries to suppress. It's more than a crush, it's a feeling of rapport.
But it turns out that Carter isn't what he seems; and to make matters worse, he's involved with Asa. So much for her chance of playing it cool and hoping she never lays eyes on him again! As Carter's and Sloan's feelings for one another grow and Asa grows increasingly jealous and insane, tension spikes, leading to what you know is going to be a major shit-storm of a climax.
Obviously, Hoover doesn't disappoint. She's become pretty infamous for her mind-fucking climaxes. TOO LATE is no exception. There were several twists and turns that definitely took me off-guard.
So why did I devour TOO LATE when all of her other books made me want to throw them out the window? The writing was better here. Bar a few typos that I chalked up to a lack of professional editing, her prose was significantly less clunky than it was in earlier works. Also, previous Hoover love interests were kind of slimy and overly familiar, whereas Carter plays it cool and - gasp! - actually respects the heroine's boundaries. There were moments when he was an utter jerk and I wanted to slap some sense into that fool, but for the most part, I liked him. Shocked? I am, too.
But don't think that the males in here are all likable, because the villain - Sloan's rapist, abuser boyfriend, Asa - is sicker than me after I've eaten a bowl of corn chowder (because I'm allergic to corn, you see - ha ha). Oh my God, his POVs made me feel like I was coated in a thick layer of slime. He's sexism personified, clad in designer pants, and everything he said made me want to punch him. Men are biologically driven to cheat. Women are biologically obligated to remain faithful in spite of this. All women are whores unless they're virgins who only sleep with one man for the rest of their lives. He gets sexually aroused by hymens. Oh yes, this guy is a real piece of work. And when he starts talking about marriage, Tim Curry's performance of "Don't Make Me Laugh" from Pebble and the Penguin started playing in my head on repeat because Asa is SO DRAKE, you guys, it isn't funny.
Not sure what else to say about this novella that doesn't veer into spoiler territory. I like this edgier, darker version of Colleen Hoover. It's practically a shoujo manga.
Reading PAPER PRINCESS is like eating a slice of gourmet cake for breakfast. You know that you probably shouldn't be doing it, but this cake is delicious - and it's not like you're eating a Ho-Ho or a Twinkie, now, is it? No, this is primo stuff, and if you're going to be bad, you're going to do it well, gosh darn it!
I was leery about picking up PAPER PRINCESS but a trusted friend recommend it to me & since she has never steered me wrong, I took a chance. Right away, I found myself getting sucked into Ella Harper's world as she's plunged into her own personal episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
Ella is an orphan and works three jobs to pay for school and rent, one of which includes stripping. Obviously. Because this is the go-to profession for any high school- or college-age-girl looking to make a few extra bucks. Working at the mall is so passe.
One day, a man comes to her school claiming that he is her new legal guardian. Ella has been around creepy men her whole life & assumes that he is a pervert and tries to flee. The man kidnaps her and while they are in the car, reveals himself to be multimillionaire, Callum Royal. Ella's absent father was his best friend, and it was his wish that he take care of her in the event of his death.
Callum has five sons, and none of them are happy about Ella's presence in their life. Especially not Reed, who has the brooding, money-can't-fix-my-problems, i-am-alpha-hear-me-bitch bad boy vibe that has everyone going crazy. Including Ella. Obviously. In her review, Khanh mentions the similarities between this book and Boys Over Flowers/Hana Yori Dango/Meteor Garden. I am totally obsessed with that franchise, so this increased my enthusiasm for reading PAPER PRINCESS tenfold. And I can definitely see the similarities (Reed is quite a bit like a less-rapey version of Doumyoji Tsukasa). PAPER PRINCESS also has elements of Lisa Kleypas's SUGAR DADDY & Meg Cabot's PRINCESS DIARIES, so if you enjoyed either of those two series, I think that PAPER PRINCESS will be a good fit for you, because it employs many of the same themes.
I enjoyed this soapy teen drama. It was smartly written, and Ella was feisty enough that I never worried too much about her getting pushed around - she could deal it, as well as take it. PAPER PRINCESS has a shoujo manga feel to it. The focus on class differences, the heroine's job at a bakery (Maid Sama, anyone?), the fact that every boy with a working wiener was attracted to her, the slut-shaming and non-stop drama...this was totally a manga that didn't know it was supposed to be a manga, and somehow ended up as a book instead. That cliffhanger, though. What do I do, now?
I don't normally go in for fluffy regencies like this, but Mary Balogh came highly recommended to me by Jenn Young, and I really liked the other Balogh story I read, so I figured, Why not?
Catherine Winters is a virtuous widow who rents a small cottage from the local "royalty", Mr. and Mrs. Adams. Mr. Adams is the twin brother of a viscount, and rather fond of Catherine, and Catherine is sometimes invited to parties at their estate whenever they have odd numbers, because of her manners and quiet charm.
One day the viscount comes to town and Catherine, mistaking him for his brother, smiles and curtsies at him. The Viscount Rawleigh, Rex, takes this as a proposition and immediately sets out trying to bed Catherine & make her his mistress until he returns home. But Catherine refuses him staunchly, which perplexes him as much as it makes him angry, and even more determined to have his way.
The attraction between Catherine and Rex is undeniable, but Catherine reacts oddly to his overtures. It's very clear that something is wrong, and that this "something" has a great deal to do with Catherine's lovely manners, her widow status, and the reason that she is so utterly, unequivocally alone.
I really wasn't expecting to like INDISCREET as much as I did. It starts off very slowly, and while I could appreciate the comedy of manners, it did start to get a bit dull. So did the constant bickering between the hero and the heroine. Rex does border on an alphahole at times, but he is self-aware in a way that many alpha-holes are not. By the end of this book, I was a Rex Fan.
Fans of slow burn romance and romance with substance will like INDISCREET, if they're willing to settle in for a bit of a wait. The sex scenes in this book are rather tame, but quite sexy, and fairly frequent. It was quite fun to see the hero and heroine fall in love slowly, empathizing with one another before exchanging vows of undying love - that's far more realistic, and all the more romantic because of it! Also, that ending was tense. I was NOT expecting that! o.o
I'm not very good at fangirling, but some books make me want to try. BURN FOR ME makes me want to try. It was so good. The heroine, the villainous antihero, the magic system, the world-building...it was all so, so good. Reading this transported me to childhood again, when I could completely immerse myself in fantasy stories and they all felt real -
Except no childhood fantasy story ever had Mad Rogan in it.
BURN FOR ME is the first in the Hidden Legacy series, which takes place in an alternate universe where a magic serum has given various human beings X-Men-like abilities. Some control the elements, some control minds. Nevada Baylor, a private investigator, has the ability to discern truth. And right now, she's hunting down a powerful pyrokinetic named Adam Pierce who seems to want to set the whole city of Houston up in flames.
Mad Rogan is a powerful tactile who can level large buildings with the same ease that he can peel splinters of a chopstick, layer by layer. (And that's not the only thing he'd like to peel layer by layer *cough*) He's after Adam, too, although when he meets Nevada, he decides that he might just be after her, as well. You know, while he's at it.
The result is a tug-of-war between the various powerful mages, called Primes, with poor Nevada bouncing around between them like a ping-pong ball, as she dodges gunfire, actual fire, mutant turf wars, and the sexual advances of a very attractive, possibly sociopathic telekinetic, all the while trying to prevent the destruction of the entire world.
One of my friends recommended this book when she found out that I love villainous heroes, and Mad Rogan definitely fit the bill in that regard. Goddamn, that man is the type of bad that inspires X-rated fanfiction. He had some amazing lines, and some super steamy scenes with Nevada. Did I maybe skim ahead a bit, looking for said scenes? No, no of course not. That would be sacrilege. (Maybe.) It's so hard to find urban fantasy novels with romance that don't put the world-building in the backseat. In BURN FOR ME, it's front and center, and instead of detracting from the romantic elements, it makes them that much more stronger and compelling.
I want to say more about this book, but to be honest, I wouldn't know where to begin. I could tell you that the secondary characters are just as colorful as the ones in a Stephanie Plum novel, and I could tell you that reading this book gave me those same "this is good fantasy" vibes as I got from His Dark Materials and Harry Potter. I could tell you that Mad Rogan has a place in my exclusive heroes hall of fame, and I could tell you that I am insanely jealous of my friends who seem to have acquired ARCs for not just book 2 (which isn't out yet) but also book 3 (which also isn't out yet). I could tell you all these things, but you should probably just read the book for yourself.
Also, for all you people saying Mad Rogan is yours? Back off, he's mine. I WILL FIGHT YOU.
This is a rerelease of an older title written by Sabrina Jeffries under the psuedonym, Deborah Martin. Usually, authors use pseudonyms when they're writing in a different genre - either to test a fresh, unbiased fanbase or to keep their books organized by genre. I'm not sure what the purpose was here, but it's interesting to think about.
STORMSWEPT is a historical romance novel set in Wales. The heroine, Juliana St. Albans is the daughter of a powerful lord who has just seized the property of a Welsh squire in a gambling debt, causing the man to commit suicide in his shame. Rhys Vaughan is the son of that squire, determined to get revenge on the St. Albans.
One day, Juliana attends a meeting of Welsh radicals in disguise with her Welsh servant, Lettice. Rhys is one of the speakers, and his intelligence and charisma rallies those assembled. He sees Juliana in the audience and is immediately attracted to her, and impulsively kisses her without knowing who she is, although others are quick to enlighten him. After a surge of anger and a brief misunderstanding, he decides he wants her instantly.
Juliana's brother, Darcy, is furious when Juliana and Rhys elope - even more so when he finds out that Lettice, whom he covets despite being married, is in love with and plans to marry another Welshman, Morgan Pennant. With the help of Juliana's brother, Overton, and a host of other people, Darcy gets Rhys and Morgan impressed in the British Navy, where they are whipped and flogged and forced to fight in battles they have no investment in. Darcy then takes on grieving Lettice as his mistress while Juliana, thinking that Rhys meant to betray her and steal back his land, eventually gives up her husband for dead and takes on a new suitor at the behest of her family (i.e. Darcy).
Everything is fine and dandy...until Rhys returns, back from the dead.
My friends loved this book, and their high praises were a huge factor in why I applied for this book on Netgalley. Now that I've read it, I can see why it was so popular with them. Juliana is a great protagonist. She doesn't take any guff, not even from the love interest. It was refreshing to see a heroine who actually stood up for herself, who was intelligent and kind, and who didn't make stupid, selfish decisions (although there was someone in this book who did make stupid, selfish decisions *cough* Rhys and Darcy *cough*). Juliana was a huge factor in my liking this book.
The quality of the writing was also quite good. I loved the writing, except for the sex scenes, which were mildly cringe-worthy. "Honeypot" should never be used in descriptions of intercourse, ever.
No, my beef with this book is actually the hero, Rhys. I hated Rhys. He was such a selfish, arrogant, stubborn jerk. The lust-at-first sight was bad enough, but then he follows her home, sneaks into her window, and pushes her into eloping by compromising her step by step. Then when he finds out she's planning on marrying someone else, he goes apesh*t. The way he treated Juliana was awful. He takes control of her estate and says she can't have it back until she sleeps with him. He accuses her of being a liar at every turn, and doesn't believe a word she says unless someone mansplains it back to him on her behalf. And, oh, yes, he keeps trying to figure out how to have sex with her without forgiving her.
I wouldn't have a problem with a jerk hero if it weren't so blatantly obvious that we're supposed to feel sorry for him, and the hero does remind us what a victim he is, whining and looking hurt (only when no one is around to see, of course), and generally sulking while expressing his fear of abandonment. Well, I'm sorry, but I felt no pity for this piece of work. Juliana sets him straight on this, and I half-wish she'd married Stephen instead of him because it takes the hero thirty pages from the end before he finally - finally - realizes he was wrong. And it literally takes a declaration from Juliana's brother, a big fat, "I DID IT!" in blinking neon lights, before he does this.
Lettice and Juliana and Morgan were awesome, but Rhys and Darcy are free to go to the devil any time.
I'm slowly trying to clean out my Kindle. Over the last year, I pretty much downloaded anything I recognized from the Kindle Store that was cheap or free, and now that poor little electronic device is bursting with romance and erotica. This is a task I have put off for years, but I've resorted to bribery: I'm not allowed to buy the next House of Rohan book until I've read at least ten books off my Kindle before the end of this week. I've knocked out two other books today already!
MECHANIC by Alexa Riley is the third Kindle book I've read today (minus the bonus short story at the end, for reasons to follow). I have friends who swear by Alexa Riley and eagerly await her (or I guess I should say 'their', since this is a two-author collab pen name) next works.
I didn't realize that when I downloaded this book, it would be a "breeding" erotica - and yes, it's exactly what it sounds like.
Penelope is the rich mayor's daughter and has to come into the auto shop to get her car fixed. Paine, the mechanic, is on duty and feels an instant attraction to/possession of her, and decides that she must be his at all costs. This is a formula typical of most alpha romances, but breeding erotica apparently necessitates that the 'hero' must act like a total psychotic creep.
Nobody who looks like her, who's dressed like that, is shy. She's a rich duchess coming into a place like this and asking for it (9%)
"I'm not sure if I could pull away if she told me she's underage. It might just be worth the prison time." (10%)
She's the type of woman who needs a firm hand (28%).
But to know I'm the first to touch her makes me want to shoot off a cannon and plant a stake beside her that reads 'This land is claimed.' (30%)
"I stopped wearing underwear years ago, getting tired of having them in the way. He always wants me, any time of day, and I just gave up trying to block him" (68%)
Further cases in point: after fixing her car, he takes her to his office, shuts the door, and closes the blinds. He then lies to her, telling her that they don't take credit cards, and tells her that he's keeping her car overnight unless she can figure out "some other way to pay him", replete with lascivious glances at her bare thighs, you know, just in case that subtlety escaped her.
After that, he decides to stalk her and then sabotages her car so that she'll have to get it towed to the nearest auto-shop - his - for repairs, so she'll be forced to see him again.
I elected not to read the "bonus" story, because it involves Penelope's brother, Law, a cop, courting (i.e. sexually harassing) one of the female mechanics, Joey. Same story, different folks.
Back to MECHANIC, the sex in this book was also crude and gross. I suppose I can see why others might find it fascinating, or even hot, but I didn't like it. Especially towards the end, where all encounters start ending in lines like "I'm going to breed you so hard." After they have sex for the first time, he actually asks her how many children she wants. I'm sorry, that's when you start running.
I respect my friends' tastes and I'm glad that they are a fan of these author(s), who, from interviews, do seem like quite nice people, but I could not jump aboard this train. I couldn't even catch it. Instead, I was left in the filthy, filthy dust as it gleefully sped away while screaming obscenities about breeding.
I bought this book recently because it was one of the few books of Heather's I don't already own. Let me preface this review by saying that I have very specific ideas of how vampire books ought to be written, and that I tend to subscribe to the pre-2000s view of vampires books: that is, back when vampire romance could also double as horror; has a moody, Gothic atmosphere; and tended to be as dark as blood, with some deep philosophical themes.
Dawn Larkin is an ordinary college student who's out at a bar with her friend Leila one night, meeting Leila's new fling. She ends up being a witness to her friend's kidnapping that same night and is later taken by the same people. She thinks they're a bunch of sexually depraved psychopaths, which is only half-true: they're a family of vampires who keep people as their "toys."
The vampire who kidnaps Dawn is named Tristan, and he kind of has a young Jim Morrison vibe going on. Dawn is attracted to him, while also repulsed and afraid of him, too, and eventually it turns into a romance - but a weird romance. A very weird romance. Like if you took TWILIGHT, made Edward a genuinely bad man, made made James an even worse man, and turned Carlisle and all the vampire siblings into gleeful killing machines, you would have an approximation of what DREAMS OF THE DEAD would be like. Plus, kinky vampire sex, which definitely was not in TWILIGHT.
For about 50-60% of the book, it was pretty much perfect. I was sure it was going to be a 5-star book. Toward the end, some things happened that I didn't really like, but that was just me being annoyed that the story didn't end exactly how I wanted it to. I can't really go into what, exactly, annoyed me, because spoilers, but you can chalk it up to a personal preference or ask me in the comments, and I'll be happy to tell you. Mostly, I loved this book. The Las Vegas setting is so colorful and adds a lot of atmosphere to the book. Tristan and Dawn's trainwreck of a relationship is so fascinating to watch. The supporting characters are equally interesting, although I wanted to learn more about Jared and Augusta and (especially) Branek. He needs his own book, okay, I'm serious now.
Also, I was into this book enough that I came up with a mini soundtrack of my own for it:
"Dreaming in the Daylight" by Harlin James and Duffy Sylvander
"Chokehold" by Adam Lambert
"A Broken Toy" by John Moukarzel
I've read five of her stories now and this is probably Heather's best, in my opinion. It's the most developed and interesting, with some truly flawed characters. Honestly, though? As long as she keeps writing vampires, I'll keep coming back again and again, because she's amazing at it. The world needs more doomy and gloomy vampire novels.
AMERICAN GIRLS was a quirky, interesting read. It's about a girl named Anna who has a massively dysfunctional family. Her mother had a midlife crisis after she came out as a lesbian, only to have yet another inseminated child. Her father is married to a woman half his age. And her sister, Delia, is off in LA somewhere, making a tenuous living as a bit actress.
After a high school prank goes terribly wrong, Anna decides she can't take anymore and it's to LA she flees, to a sister who isn't all that pleased to see her and is busy wrestling with demons of her own.
Anna is a flawed heroine in the best sense of the word - she's self-conscious, awkward, selfish, and yet, she really does try to be a good person. It just takes her a while. She's also morbid as hell, and has a dark sense of humor that made me cackle while also looking around guilty, like maybe I oughtn't to laugh.
I noticed that the UK version is titled MY FAVOURITE MANSON GIRL and this title actually makes sense, because Manson is one of Anna's morbid interests and at one point during her stay in LA, a creepy indie producer actually hires her to do some research about Manson and his gang and give him her thoughts about the girls and the cult and everything. AMERICAN GIRLS, on the other hand, seems a bit vague, and its reference in the story isn't all that crucial, whereas Manson is.
AMERICAN GIRLS actually reminds me of a book I used to love in high school. It was called BLISTER by Susan Richards Shreve, and it was also about a girl making her own way in the world after a traumatic family event. Both books deal with being a poseur, bullying, selfish parents, and travel, set against the backdrop of typical YA coming-of-age themes.
Give it a read. If nothing else, it'll make you laugh inappropriately. Thanks for the free copy, Netgalley!
Now that I've read TMOLIM, I'm not sure what to think. There were aspects of the story that I liked a lot, and there were aspects that I think could have been done better.
Things I liked:
+ The relationships between the Mackenzie brothers. It was obvious they all cared about one another, even if they had difficulty expressing that. I also liked how they never felt interchangeable.
+ Ian's Asperger's was handled very well, for the most part. He has trouble looking people in the eyes and grasping humor and metaphors. He enjoys patterns, numbers, and has obsessive interests.
+ Beth was a step up from most romance novel heroines. She doesn't stomp her foot or pout. Even though she's a widow, she's not one of those stereotypical "virgin widows" and she loved her late husband, who was - gasp! - an engaged and attentive lover and not gay/impotent/abusive (as the trope often is).
+ Isabella was an AWESOME character. I'm hoping she stays awesome, seeing as how the next book is her story and sometimes characters I liked in previous books undergo curious personality changes so that they fit the plot of the story, but in this book she was great. Wish she'd had more page time.
Things I didn't like:
- The relationship between Ian and Beth was almost entirely sex- and attraction-based. I didn't really see why they liked each other, apart from each thinking that the other had pretty eyes.
- Beth wasn't an awful character, but she didn't seem fully realized, either. I would have liked to have seen her portrayed with more complexity and compassion.
- At time, Ian's character seemed a bit cliche. He has a near-perfect memory - can recall entire discussions exactly for weeks, can play songs after hearing them once, is amazing at calculating the odds for gambling, etc. I know that there are people who are like this, but the savant trope tends to walk hand-in-hand with most representations of autism or autistic spectrum disorder, so it was a bit disappointing to see TMOLIM succumb to this cliche.
I felt ambivalent about the murder mystery. On the one hand, I never guessed whodunnit. On the other, I found the guilty person(s)'s reasons for committing the murder in the first place circumspect and lame.
TMOLIM wasn't a bad book. I wouldn't say it lived up to the hype, but it still manages to stand out in a genre that tends to be overrun with wallpaper historicals that all end up looking alike after a while. Would I read more by this author? Yes. Absolutely.
I am (part) Choctaw and this is the FIRST Choctaw romance I've ever seen ever. Thank you so much to Carmen for pointing me towards this book! I have tI am (part) Choctaw and this is the FIRST Choctaw romance I've ever seen ever. Thank you so much to Carmen for pointing me towards this book! I have to read it!...more
SEX OBJECT is an interesting book, partially because of what it contains but also partially because of how I think people are going to react to it. If you skimmed through it, you might say, "Oh, it's just another one of those self-effacing memoirs of a woman relating all of her sexual encounters." But that makes it too easy to dismiss this book - and it shouldn't be dismissed.
I know "microaggressions" is a loaded word with some people, but there really isn't a word out there that's quite as good at describing those little tiny "tells" of subconscious prejudice. SEX OBJECT shows many of the microaggressions women have to deal with on a day to day basis, from whether it's how women get the short end of the stick in most sexual encounters, to date rape, to sexual harassment, to pregnancies from hell.
SEX OBJECT is a collection of essays and as with most essays, they are uneven in quality. I think the most powerful essays are the ones where Valenti writes about her coming of age, and how young women are often the favorite targets of predatory men. I also liked the essays about abusive relationships, and how abusive doesn't always necessitate hitting - many of her ex-boyfriends found creative other ways of being abusive.
The most relatable chapter for me, however, was the last chapter, in which Valenti provides a collection of emails, tweets, and Facebook messages she's received from men who either insult her looks, threaten her with rape, or otherwise objectify or dehumanize her in an attempt to invalidate both her points and her as a person. It made me think of Buzzfeed's video, What it's like to be a woman online. It's a video I often trot out when reading books like these because it underscores what women have to deal with every day if they have an active, feminist presence online.
There are a lot of topics in SEX OBJECT that make for difficult reading: rape, rape threats, gore, sexual harassment, sexual harassment of minors, and all kinds of other infuriating things. But if you can stomach the content, you should read this book: it puts an interesting spin on what the sexual life of a woman can sometimes be reduced to, and why we should all be angry about it.
I went through a chick-lit phrase during my first two years of college, during which time I devoured any book I could find as long as it had a pink cover. One of these books was called LOLA CARLYLE REVEALS ALL by Rachel Gibson. I barely remember what the book was about, only that the experience of reading it was surreal...and not necessarily in a good way.
SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE is also surreal...and not necessarily in a good way. It actually kind of reminds me of IT HAD TO BE YOU by Susan Elizabeth Phillips in many ways, which was another sports themed chick-lit/romance crossover book from the 1990s that I read recently and had issues with.
Our heroine, Georgeanne, is a Texas belle engaged to be married to the manager of the Chinooks hockey team. No longer content to be a trophy wife to an older man, however, she jilts him at the altar and convinces a man from the wedding to spirit her away in his car. That man is John, a player on said manager's hockey team. As soon as he realizes who he has in the car, he begins freaking out, but Georgeanne browbeats him into letting her stay at his place.
Spoiler alert: they boink.
Georgeanne falls for him immediately, and is hurt when the next day after The Boink, he puts her in a car with a plane ticket back to Texas. Georgeanne doesn't want to go back to Texas, though, and stays in Washington instead. Where she gets a job working as a caterer. And, oh, yes, is pregnant.
Spoiler alert: She neglects to inform the father.
This is where I began to feel trepidation, because I do not enjoy the secret baby trope at all.
But hey, that's okay. Maybe this will be the time that I will be proven wrong.
Spoiler alert: Nope.
Georgeanne doesn't bother telling John that he has a daughter (Lexie). He gets to find out by pure coincidence. This starts a long chain of fighting that will last until the last fifty pages of the book. Custody. Whether or not they find each other attractive. Whether or not they're allowed to find other people attractive. More custody fighting. Lawyers. Whether or not their kid can have a dog.
Spoiler alert: Some people are born to dogs. Others have dogs thrust upon them.
There is so much fighting, most of it about Lexie. And while I can't really understand personally how difficult custody is, I can certainly understand the reasons behind why this is such an emotionally charged issue. That said, I felt like Georgeanne was incredibly unfair to John about his daughter, especially when she pretty much refused to let him pay for insurance and tuition out of spite. That felt so selfish, like she was taking her own feelings of insecurity and her desire to be independent out on her daughter.
For the most part, I liked the scenes of John interacting with his daughter except for one, when he says she looks like a slut. "He stared at his little girl, looking like a tart in heavy makeup..." (40%). That line just felt so unnecessary, and I couldn't like him as much after reading that.
Georgeanne's relationship with her daughter was way worse, because of how she was projecting all her insecurities in front of her daughter. For example, she is constantly calling herself fat in front of her daughter (and other people). Georgeanne is 5'10" and weighs 140 pounds (and she's curvy, because you will hear numerous times about how large her fabulous boobs and butt are). Considering how curvy Georgeanne is, that is actually quite skinny. I am 5'10" and I weigh bit more than 140 pounds. I, too, am curvy - but I'm also in ok shape, and despite my weight, would not call myself fat. So it was annoying to me to keep seeing these measurements bandied about and hear about how fat Georgeanne is, especially when it was clear that she was doing it in front of an impressionable child.
Even though John and Lexie were cute together, he's definitely borderline-alphahole with everyone else, talking about how he doesn't sleep with "skinny" women (oh boy, more body shaming), doesn't find "skinny" women attractive, that he's at least partially only interested in Georgeanne because of her body, etc. He also threatens to beat up other men, and uses "retarded," "pussy," and "sissy."
He wasn't as bad as Hugh, though - the secondary love interest for Georgeanne's friend, Mae, who acts like an aggressive pickup artist. Even Mae herself admits that the reason she went out with him in the first place was exhaustion from too many no's.
From a technical note, there was some odd formatting going on in this e-book (I have the Kindle version). There are no breaks between POV swaps, which interrupts continuity, and sometimes the same thing happens with dialogue tags. One person will be talking, there will be a description of something going on in the background, and in the same paragraph, Gibson would have someone else talking. This could make it difficult to figure out who was saying what at times.
Also, typos and random hyphens. The funniest one I saw was a misspelling of Georgeanne's name on p. 274: "Georgeajine."
SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE is dated, and I would say that for me at least, it doesn't stand the test of time. Not even ironically. As with IT HAD TO BE YOU, there were just too many issues with the book that kept me from enjoying it fully, even if it was almost compulsively readable, and it didn't help that there wasn't a single character in here who really spoke to me. I appreciated Georgeanne's struggle as a single mom and how she had dyslexia, and I thought Mae's drag queen friends were cool (although the story about her brother was sad), and I liked John's interactions with his kid. It just wasn't enough for them to feel developed and interesting.
Points for hilariously dated 90s references, like the Macarena, jelly shoes, and Bob Ross.
I'm slowly working my way through the Wallflowers series, and I have to say, this is Lisa Kleypas at her most charming. Nothing can surpass my love for The Gamblers duology, of course, but Wallflowers comes pretty darn close. It's about three sisters, and their friend, all of whom are considered wallflowers and bluestockings, and completely undesirable as wives...
Daisy Bowman is the last Wallflower, and really feeling that "forever alone" vibe now that all of her sisters and friends are married. Her expectations for what she wants in a husband are unrealistic, though, fueled by the fictional ideals in the romances she's so fond of reading, and her father has lost patience with waiting for Daisy to pair off with someone and taken matters into his owns hands. She's to marry his protege, Matthew Swift, unless Daisy can marry within two months.
At first, Daisy really annoyed me. She's spoiled and selfish and spends most of the first half of the book whining to her sisters and her friends about how much she hates Matthew. She's also hurt, because her father and Matthew (albeit in a nicer way) both imply that she's a parasite, which she is, pretty much. All she does is lounge around and take advantage of the comforts her father's wealth affords her, and she doesn't even seem particularly grateful for it.
What saves the book is Matthew. I didn't really think any hero could be better in this series than St. Vincent (I have a thing for evil rakes, I guess), but Matthew is pretty much the perfect romantic hero. He's an uptight businessman with a dry sense of humor, and he subscribes to the "I've loved you for years" trope - I'm a sucker for pining heroes, especially when they have a way with words.
Matthew actually makes Daisy into a better person, I think, because he indulges her whimsical side, while also calling her on her crap when she behaves boorishly. And she made him a better person, too, by forcing him to be less tense and making him feel loved. His backstory looms over most of the story, and I actually thought it made sense. Nothing too outlandish; it's entirely plausible.
Oh, and let's not even talk about the sex scenes. (Were the other Wallflower books this explicit? Matthew, you animal!)
Daisy may not be my favorite type of heroine, but Matthew is exactly my kind of hero.