Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Jennifer Collin

3/5
Set Me Free

Amazon.com
Amazon.UK


The cover was quaint and old-fashioned looking (1950s red dress). It was bright and assured me that I was getting chick lit. 

The title made me think the lead character was in a disastrous relationship and she wanted out.

The blurb told me about the main characters: Charlotte Evans and Craig Carmichael and I instantly think they are going to end up together, no bad thing, the fun part is reading how they manage it. I loved the line: It’s what they might lose that has Charlotte and Craig wondering what it is they really want. But I haven't a clue as to how that, and the title, connect.

Chapter one opens with dialogue and immediately had my attention: "Why are you sniffing me?"
"Just checking to see if you've washed that man out of your hair."

It's a brilliant opening where the reader is introduced to two sisters Emily and Charlotte. Charlotte is the main character and owns an art gallery, Emily is her married sister and the artist who supplies her with paintings to sell. 

Chapter two introduces us to the other lead: Craig Carmichael. He's stressed and over-worked and has the horrible job of telling the owners of an art gallery that their shop is going to be bulldozed--that shop is Charlotte's. She's jet-lagged and not thinking straight, and he's so smitten with her he fails to tell her why he's there, and instead ends up in her bed! 

This is where my sympathy of the characters slip: a young woman (in chick lit they can't be slappers!) takes a stranger back to her house and bed, and has condoms readily available in her bedside drawer (indicating she does this often). 

Her actions are blamed on her being jet-lagged and drunk but later, when she discovers the reason why Craig came into the gallery, has the nerve to call the guy all the names under the sun for sleeping with her. And no, before you think it's all one sided, I didn't like him either. He knew she was drunk, yet he still went back to her house and had sex with her. Eeeeeow.

I read on but the once-thought main story line has switched direction and now I'm not sure whose story this is: Emily, Charlotte's sister has discovered her husband's adultery, and we learn that Ben (Charlotte's best friend) has been holding a torch for Emily and is in love with her. The POV moves to these new characters, plus, Emily and Charlotte's mother, Diane, is on the scene and also has a POV. It's become confusing.


I wouldn't call this book a chick lit as the cover suggests, and it's clear that this story has a multi-story line. It's not as easy-reading as true chick lit with the many characters coming and going, but as I'm further in, it HAS become more interesting. 


Whereas before I HATED the main characters, Charlotte and Craig, I now like them. In fact, I think I'm a little bit in love with Craig. In the end, he came across as a true 'chick lit lovable-but-with-flaws' character. Vulnerable but strong. Charlotte strengthened too and I've forgiven her sluttiness in the beginning. 

Set Me Free also has a mystery element surrounding the gallery with Craig's business partner receiving backhanders, which implements Craig in its involvement. That is unfolded slowly, drip-feeding the reader until they HAVE to keep turning the pages to find out its conclusion.

Back to the title: It's clear that the title refers to the side dish of the book: Emily and her estranged husband. The blurb needs to clarify that this book isn't focused on Charlotte and Craig but rather two sisters and the men who are in love with them.

It has a few editorial and formatting problems such as typos and double spaces changing to single, and that being said I'm giving this book a very high three out of five (shame Amazon has no half marks). It's worth a read!

BLURB
Disastrous love life aside, Charlotte Evans is rather content with her life. Her quaint little art gallery is plodding along nicely, and her sister Emily’s artistic career is about to take off, thanks to her tireless promotion. She even gets to see her best friend every day and drink his delicious coffee in the café next door.

But when dastardly property developer Craig Carmichael comes along, threatening to demolish her gallery and take everything away, Charlotte has an unexpected fight on her hands. Not only is she battling to stop Craig’s development, she’s also struggling against the mysterious magnetic pull that has her on a collision course with Craig himself.

Craig Carmichael is fighting the Battle for Boundary Street on more than one front. The tenants of the building he wants to knock down are mounting a strong case against him and in a hot-headed moment he put his career on the line for a project that is threatening to fail. If the project doesn’t succeed he will lose everything, but for some reason he’s having trouble maintaining his focus.

As their worlds begin to unravel around them, anyone could win. It’s what they might lose that has Charlotte and Craig wondering what it is they really want.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Stephanie Elmas

3/5
The Room Beyond

An interesting cover: a key among raining jasmine. The key wasn't shiny or small and together with the exaggerated ROOM in the title it made me think of a house. A sinister house. The flowers added a sadness to the title. It made me think of Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews.


The blurb introduces Serena who is on her way to a job interview at Marguerite Avenue for a nannying position, and also introduces the time shift to another family from the late 1800s. It's clear the book's going to be full of mystery with supernatural going-ons. The blurb is enticing and I'm looking forward to reading.


In the 'look inside' the story begins straight away. There aren't any dedications or TOC to wade through. I like that.


The Room Beyond moves between two time periods (present day and 1892-early 1900s) but both are centred on Marguerite Avenue. It's atmospheric, but the characters were all alike, even characters from the different times, and I had problem knowing who was talking or whose POV I was reading from. Neither era stood out, although the flowery prose and the haunting way the story is told kept you suspecting something big was about to happen urged you to keep reading.

I found Serena's story easier to follow because there was just the one point of view, but I found it hard to identify with her...I still didn't know her even by the end of the book. Why did she want a nannying job? Had she been looking before she went to this interview? She wasn't qualified, so why was the job offered to her? And why did she accept the job when it's obvious the family didn't want her there?  Neither could I understand why Serena fell in love, and into bed, with Seb so fast. There was no passion between them. There were many unanswered questions, I felt.

And Beth, four-year-old Beth is unbelievable. No child of those tender years would act or speak the way she does: on Eva who was discussing which university she would get into with her grades, young Beth replied: 'What about Cambridge?' A simple question, but she is four years old. And there were lots of incidents with actions that, even though it was pointed out often that "Beth wasn't a normal child", still didn't ring true.

When the book went back to 1892 the story was almost impossible to follow because of all the characters pushing for centre stage. Many times I had to scroll back wondering if I'd missed something.

In this part of the book we have four major characters: Lucinda, Alfonso, Tristan and Miranda. Lucinda's husband has left her for another woman. Lucinda takes Tristan for a lover. Tristan is married to Miranda. I felt this story could have been a book on its own. I LOVED the character Miranda, disliked selfish and flighty Lucinda and the nasty Tristan. I really wanted a HEA with this story but the author turned the tragedy into a horrorfest.

It was a sad, tragic, tale although I wasn't sure if the paranormal activity from Tristan (after he'd died) was real or just the work of Miranda's imagination. 

True, it wasn't an easy read and some of the writing was so over-the-top I threw it down many times in disgust, but somehow I needed to keep with it to find out what happens at the end. It's probably the type of book you'd want to read again and then come away with another perspective.

The ending was a surprise, and one I didn't see, but when it came things slid into place a little better. The Victorian story HAD to end the way it did, I see that now, and I'm glad the present-day had a HEA (of a sort). 

Editing problems such as missing or wrong punctuation, over-writing (lots of it) and unneeded characters cluttered the book, which added to the problem of a disjointed story line.

Blurb
Present day: Serena arrives at the beautiful mansion on Marguerite Avenue to interview for a position as a live-in nanny to Beth, the 4-year-old granddaughter of Arabella and Edward Hartreve. Beth's teenaged mother, Eva, also lives in the house along with several other interesting characters. The job is given to Serena on the spot and when she returns for her first day of work, she's shown to her beautiful turret room "like a nest perched amidst London's rooftops" that she falls in love with immediately. Serena is perplexed as she begins to live with the strange family in that mansion -- one thing she notices right away, it seems there is an oddity with the house numbering. House 32 is occupied by the Herbert family and 36 by the Hartreves. House 34 is missing. There are some other quite strange goings on inside house 36 and at another unusual family home -- Druid Manor -- where the Hartreves go for Christmas. Does Serena sense things that others do not see? What strange connections exist between the family and whatever dark past they all share.

1892: Miranda and Tristan Whitestone live at 34 Marguerite Avenue. Imprisoned and almost invisible in a miserable marriage to a man she adores, Miranda watches as her husband takes the neighbor from 36, Mrs. Lucinda Eden, as his most recent lover. Events transpire that turn Miranda's world into a nightmare and she leaves her home and life behind, escaping with damaged cargo in the dead of night.

This twisted tale shifts between those two time periods weaving together a story of evil and destruction that centers on MargueriteAvenue. Pervasive themes of loneliness and pain linger throughout as the reader is drawn into the lives of the families that lived on this street over a hundred years apart. Serena is lured into a shadow world that exists within the houses on that street and is tormented by unanswerable questions about who these people are, what happened there, and what they want from her. 

Recommended for anyone who loves a mystery with supernatural elements.


Saturday, 30 November 2013

JJ Ward

4/5
Amazon.UK
Amazon.com

The cover stood out for its originality and blandness, but it wouldn't have tempted me to 'look inside' had I been browsing. It looked like a university student's course work.

The title 'Tales of M17' told me just that: tales e.g short  fiction tales of crime or thriller shorts. The small subtitle The Kramski Case inferred the tales would be all on one theme.

The blurb begins with a short excerpt, but it's not productive. The opening sentence is a mouthful and out of context it has no depth. It's cold. A pile of baked beans without buttered toast. The true blurb is better and straight to the point.


The look inside takes us to Cumbria where Jilly, a member of the latest music phenomenon, is climbing out of bed with a guy from a rival band. She can hear the paparazzi outside and we're lead to believe she's worried for herself (because she's been caught with her pants down, so to speak) but the  paparazzi are being assassinated and she's worried that, because of her, someone is going to die. And they do in this great beginning to M17.

When the scene switches to a prison I'm a little bereft but the setting is very visual: He sat at the table, straightened his back and flattened his hands on the Formica surface. Above him a single strip light buzzed and flickered. 'He' is Deputy Commissioner Khrantsov and he's on the point of recruiting prisoner Orlov, who's in for treason, and giving him early release. I'm presuming he's been signed to hunt for the murderers, but that's where the sample ends. Will have to buy the book to find out!

In short, the M17 have brought in three men: British, Jonathan Hartley-Brown, American, Lieutenant Detective Commander David Bronstein, and the newly-released prisoner Orlov from Russia to hunt for the killers who are spanning three countries. I'm expecting a lot of action with gun fire, helicopters and fast cars.


Jonathan Hartley-Brown is a 'posh Brit' and I find it hard to visualise him as a hardened man able to get his hands dirty, on the opposite scale Orlov is 'tough guy' Bruce Willis and I'm instantly routing for him. The American, David Bronstein, seems a lost in the great characterisation of the other two.


I became confused by chapter nine when, seemingly out of the blue, Jonathan Hartley-Brown and Jilly, from the opening chapter, fell in love. One moment he was questioning her over the shooting and next he was inviting her to meet his parents. Another problem I found was that there wasn't always any notice of scene jumps. Usually these are indicated with an asterisk or a blank line but in this Kindle version 
these were sometimes missing.

But I'm being picky, this is an excellent political thriller with a strong story. It may have had too many characters for me to keep tabs, but every character had their place. There were a few shockers, especially when one of my favourite characters died and another was indirectly linked with all the murders. There was also light relief in the eccentric Hartley-Brown family and I laughed out loud when Joy Hartley-Brown said (on discovering her son was gravely injured): "Tell the doctor we're with BUPA."

It's a mixed POV, and other than some absent scene breaks it was a very well-written political thriller and a fast read.

Blurb
“The reason you’re incredulous, gentlemen,” Ruby Parker went on, “is because you haven’t the faintest conception of how MI5, MI6 and the FBI and CIA now work. Which is good news for us, bad news for the Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki, not to mention the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure and the Bundesnachrichtendienst. We’ve managed to keep our rivals in the dark for over a decade.” 
“Bravo,” Bronstein said. “Now maybe you could fill us in on what the hell you’re talking about.” He put his hands together. “No disrespect.” 
She sat down. “I won’t bore you with the details. There is no MI5. Not any more. It merged with MI6 nearly a decade ago to create MI7, the result of an initiative to bring intelligence – in the cybernetic sense of the word – into Intelligence. We continue under the MI5, MI6 designation in public for obvious reasons. And because people seem to like it.” “Right,” Bronstein said. 
“We’ve had effective departments of spies in this country since Francis Walsingham in the sixteenth century, Lieutenant Bronstein. The author of Robinson Crusoe was a spy. There was nothing special about MI5 or MI6.” 

When someone starts assassinating paparazzi in three countries, MI7 sits up. Apparently, the killer is none other than Dmitri Vassyli Kramski, retired SVR field-operative and former Kremlin protégé. True, the Cold War is long finished, but everyone knows Vladimir Putin is as unhappy for Russia to play second fiddle on the international stage as even the most strident of his Communist predecessors. In 2010 therefore, East-West relations remain as tortuous as ever. 

Kramski’s trail leads deep into London’s émigré community, forcing his pursuers into conflict with an unknown organisation bent on protecting him. Bit by bit, he begins to look less like a professional assassin and more like someone plotting to scupper the foundations of Western democracy itself. To compound matters, the Russians are as baffled by him as anyone.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Ellen Harger

3/5

The cover was plain but in the typical cartoon style of 'chick lit', the title was nice and large as was the author name. I liked the title. It was simple, yet appealed. I was put off by 'a midwest novel' tag on the microphone but only because being from the UK I felt I might feel excluded from urban slang and so forth (I wasn't).

In the blurb I'm introduced to the main character, Whitney, who is average in just about everything. But she wants to change. She's tired of being average. What I liked about the blurb is that there wasn't any mention of 'she wants a man'.

The 'look inside' was disappointing. I like to get to the hub of the book to see if it's something I can read and hopefully download, but first I had to scroll through the three pages of TOC, then the blurb again, then the introduction and prologue (which wasn't very interesting).

The book (finally) opens introducing the alter ego of Whitney - DJ Kelly Carter. Kelly is bright, outgoing and full of energy. Whitney prefers to fade into the background. Already it's different to the normal 'chick lit' novels and I feel this is going to be an interesting read...

The chapter titles were song titles and very apt for Whitney's profession. Clever, I thought. Whitney is a nervy lady but her alter-ego (the DJ)  is not. She has a nice set of friends in Sadi, Leah and Marc. There was good characterisation with the characters but Whitney should have been centre-stage for most of the time. She's wasn't, and at times I wondered whose story I was reading.

Strong Enough takes you through the dynamics of friendships, and the humour is subtle but Whitney as a character is someone you'd want to slap. She's so suspicious of everyone's intentions and beyond. I did sometimes wonder how she managed to keep such a strong friendship going with the feisty Sadi.

Over all, the book focuses on the loves and lives of several women: Whitney, Sadi and Leah with a few others not too central to the book, it's a fun read. Not too heavy and with many laughs dotted around. It has some clever shocks where the author lures you into thinking you know a character but then that character turns out to be a nasty piece of work.

I wasn't drawn into the book though, and I couldn't put my finger on the problem. There was no editing issues, and the storyline was all there. The characters didn't always gel together and maybe that was the issue. They seemed, at times, to be unlikely friends.

I awarded it a high three out of five. 

Blurb

Starting over is hard. And sometimes, you have to burn a few bridges to do it.


Whitney Brown is average--average height, weight, and personality--but she wants to be someone new. To kick-start her rebirth, she wears formal mourning, a black veil and vintage dress, to a wedding in her hometown, Woods Cross, a community that treasures family values. Is it an attack on marriage or has she just gone bonkers?


Emboldened but lacking a plan, she forces her foot in the door of a radio station in Sundown. A small metropolis of nearly 150,000, Sundown is a notch of urban flair along the Midwest's Bible Belt.


Getting in proves to be the easy part and the anonymity of being a DJ suits her well. But off air (and in person), Whitney must stand up to Sadi, an angry feminist and the bane of her college years while an old friendship with her former roommate, Leah, devolves around a guy. 


It's 2002 and the Midwest radio scene is changing. Just as Whitney hits her groove, the radio station undergoes its own identity crisis. But what rocks Whitney to her core is the moment the condom breaks. Her abstinence only background leaves her embarrassed and facing a difficult choice.

Friday, 15 November 2013

James Patrick

The Invincibles
2/5


The cover of this book was dark and 'horror' looking with the full moon, sinister house and strange figures lingering outside. The title made me think of superheroes and the font sent the message that it was a children's book. The cover has great imagery and really striking. It instantly held my attention.

The blurb was fast-moving and told me the genre was YA. It sounded English with its boarding schools, and I couldn't help but think of Harry Potter. Not a bad thing, but it meant I had high expectations.

The sample was straight to the story and we're introduced to Jack. The writing, though, wasn't top-notch and I'm disappointed: Jack squirmed lower in his seat as he peered through the battling... 'squirmed lower' and 'peered' don't match and it's impossible to do both simultaneously. This will confuse the reader. Another was Jack's mum slammed her foot down hard and their brand new BMW X5 4*4... what does that tell you? It told me she'd stopped the car, but instead the car 'roared up the driveway'. These small discrepancies matter. A reader is building a picture but if they have to keep redrawing that picture they aren't going to enjoy the book.

That aside the first chapter had intrigue, secrets and fear as Jack was driven to a boarding school he didn't want to attend. He has a 'plan', which we're not informed of yet, and was nicely slipped into the story to further hook the reader.

The final sentence of chapter one was somewhat a shocker: If he is found guilty David Crawford will be hauled out of his cell and led into a small courtyard to be executed by firing squad. --but compelling.

As twelve year-old Jack Crawford settles into the boarding school, I, unfortunately find my attention wandering. The POV is all over the place, and even though grammar and spelling is OK, it's over-written and the author has no sense of punctuation. Also, you can 'hear' the author's voice (an adult) and not twelve year old Jack. That's the bad news, but there are some fantastic one-liners: Jack smirked as Mr. Keeling wilted like a chocolate bunny in a microwave.-- is just one of them.

The idea behind this book seems brilliant, but I could only get as far as chapter eight before I gave up on it. The author has a good story, an awesome cover and an eye-catching blurb so I wonder why he stopped at an editor? It's a shame.

Blurb
Only gifted hacker 12 year old Jack Crawford can save his father from death row. But for his own protection Jack has been sent to a remote Scottish boarding school with no internet connection. Jack needs help but everybody seems to hate him... even the teachers. Somehow he must motivate a bunch of rich, spoiled, lazy, resentful misfits to work together and risk everything to help him save his dad’s life. 

To succeed, Jack must forge The Invincibles into a crack team of daring escapologists, whip-smart cryptoanalysts, cunning App programmers and robotic engineers. Racing against the clock, The Invincibles must learn to work as a team, overcome their worst fears, crack a secret code, unmask a traitor, evade a killer, seize control of their school and......

...learn to talk to girls.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Steve Holak

4/5

The Winds of Heaven and Earth



Amazon.com
Amazon.UK

Both the title and cover of this book was beautiful but I couldn't gage anything from it. The lone man on the cliff top, was he about to jump? Admiring the view? Disposing of a body? It could be a love story, thriller, romance or possibly a fantasy.

The blurb straightens out the genre: fantasy, so now the title takes on a whole new meaning. One thing that did confuse me a little was the line: What he discovers about his adopted wife's hidden past. Having read the book, I now understand that line but at first, I felt it was a typo - he'd adopted his wife?

The sample didn't hook me straight away, I must admit. It opened like a run-of-the-mill crime story, and the newspaper stories were dull. It wasn't until chapter one that my interest was piqued. 

I loved the opening line Demons chased Jordan Parish down the beach and as the book opens, I learn that Melanie, Jordan's pregnant wife has gone missing. Jordan's anger is apparent (he's feeling helpless, lost and confused) but I get no grief or sadness from him and that makes him a little cold.

The Winds of Heaven and Earth took off for me when Jordan travelled to Hawaii after his missing wife's necklace was found on Big Island. There, the magic and fantasy began, and with a cynic like Jordan, it was interesting to see how his character would come to terms with the supernatural elements of the story. 

I discover that, as a child, Melanie was found wandering without knowing how she got there and without memory of her past. 
It’s fascinating to be there with Jordan as is dawns on him that Melanie’s stepbrother, Chase (his close friend) knows the mystery to her disappearance, and that it’s no coincidence that his grandmother, Lena, was also “found” as a child and without a memory of her past. The two people who he trusts the most seem to be conspiring against him, but before he demands answers dark forces whisk Jordan and Chase away. They are separated and Jordan thinks Chase is dead.

Jordan ends up seemingly back in the past (it made me think of Merlin and King Arthur), where he learns his wife is a princess and her father, High Lord Namana, believes her to be dead. He also thinks Jordan is her murderer. It takes a lot for Namana to believe that not only is she alive, she grew up, married Jordan and is expecting his grandchild.

In this new world Jordan discovers Lena, his wife's grandmother and Chase were the keepers of his wife’s secret and know of the prophecy that she, or rather her baby, has to fulfil. It's a very visual read, and as you can probably tell from my review, heavy at times.

It has a strong storyline with excellent characterisation that you have affinity for. The main character, Jordan, seemed like a real flesh and blood person lost in a fantasy novel. He's potty-mouthed, aggressive and impulsive, and at times I wanted to throttle him but it made the story REAL.

It is a complex story with many twists and turns and with characters, which I think, will come into their own in the follow up to The Winds of Heaven and Earth. It's not a stand-alone read, but the ending isn't too much of a cliffhanger. 

The chapters opened with quotes from famous poets or authors like Merwin and Arthur C Clarke, which had a nice touch.

No editing issues.

Blurb

How far would you go to save your wife and child?



To another world?

When Jordan Parish's wife Melanie disappears shortly after the couple announce their pregnancy, everyone assumes the motive is ransom.

But six months pass with no demand, and when the FBI discovers the only clue to her disappearance, a missing family heirloom worn by Melanie the day she vanished--with Jordan's blood on it--the investigation turns to the temperamental and volatile Jordan.

Desperate to find his wife and clear his name, Jordan mounts an investigation of his own. What he discovers about his adopted wife's hidden past plunges him plunges him into the world of mystery and magic surrounding their families. And when Jordan and Melanie's brother Chase pursue strange assailants into a mysterious storm, Jordan is cast into a realm where he finds his child at the center of a struggle for power surrounding the culmination of a centuries-old prophecy.

The Winds of Heaven and Earth launches a new fantasy trilogy, blending epic and contemporary genres in the tradition of Stephen R. Donaldson's Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever and Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber

Monday, 21 October 2013

Lisa Becker

4/5
Amazon.com
Amazon.UK

The cover was bland and sort of faded into the background as an icon on Amazon, and had I seen in on a page in between all the other brightly coloured chick lit books (instead of being directed straight for it) I'd not have noticed it. 

The author's name was a tiny scrawl that I couldn't read unless I clicked 'look inside'. But the title, a single word, immediately spoke modern or technical and intrigued me enough to glance at the blurb.

Through the blurb I found out Click An Online Love Story is a romance told in a series of emails and I'm immediately put off: I'm hit with the thought that other people's messages are without character, meaningless and, well, boring. 

Reluctantly, I have a look at the sample and I am awash with names yet I'm still on page one! Renee, Mark, Ralphie, Shelly, Mel... I just can't see how a story can be cultivated from a series of email conversations, but the reviews of this book urge me to keep with it and so I keep reading.

We have a group of friends: Renee, Mark, Ashley, Shelley and Lisa. Renee is the main character and her 30th is looming. She's single and not happy about it (a chick lit cliché!) Mark convinces her she should join with him and sign up to an online a dating agency. There were some genuine laugh out-loud moments (or emails) as Renee went about meeting one bad guy after another.


There were a few 'text words' that sailed over my head, but not many, just enough to make it look authentic, so kudos to the author for that.

Renee and Shelley were lovely as characters, and I could visualise their BFF relationship. At first I thought Click had character over-load but I began to get to know them and they all had their own distinctive voice.

I didn't see the ending coming. It was a 'of course, should've spotted that!' moment, so very well done again to the author on that score.

Over all, the reviews were right, it was a fun read. It took me a while to get into the reading the style, and I don't think I relaxed until almost a third into the book. If you want a challenge give this little gem a try.

No editing issues.

Blurb


Fast approaching her 30th birthday and finding herself not married, not dating, and without even a prospect or a house full of cats, Renee Greene, the heroine of Click: An Online Love Story, reluctantly joins her best guy pal on a journey to find love online in Los Angeles. The story unfolds through a series of emails between Renee and her best friends (anal-compulsive Mark, the overly-judgmental Ashley and the over-sexed Shelley) as well as the gentlemen suitors she meets online. From the guy who starts every story with "My buddies and I were out drinking one night," to the egotistical "B" celebrity looking for someone to stroke his ego, Renee endures her share of hilarious and heinous cyber dates. Fraught with BCC's, FWD's and inadvertent Reply to All's, readers will root for Renee to "click" with the right man.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Nicola S Dorrington

3/5
Amazon.com
Amazon.UK


I was convinced I wouldn't like this book. The cover was pleasant enough with Stonehenge on a sunset background, but it didn't appeal to me on a personal level only because it screamed 'historical' and that genre isn't my bag. 

The title was deep: The Last Knight. It made me think that I could be reading a tear-jerker. Maybe the ending wasn't going to be a HEA.


I move to the blurb and it talks of foreseeing the future and past legends, then I read then everything she thought was myth and legend is actually true and now I'm not sure if the book is a historical. I'm still not convinced I'll like the book when I look at the sample. 


The sample surprises me because it's set in modern times, and that's something I didn't expectCara Page, the protagonist, is visiting her mother in hospital. The mother is suffering dementia and it's Cara's 17th birthday. I immediately connect with her youth My trainers squeaked on the tiled floor and then her sadness 'It's me, Mum. It's Cara.' (she has to explain to her mum who she is).

The sample was fast and told me enough to connect with the characters, and I'm happy to purchase the book. It was only 77p ($1.24) at the time of purchase.


The book opens with Cara Page and her father who are both struggling to cope with her mother's diagnosis, and Cara is worried she is going to suffer the same fate as her dreams are becoming more and more strange, and worse, they are coming true. In her waking life she also hears voices and the result is her work is suffering at school and she (and everyone else) thinks she's going mad like her mother.


Cara meets a boy called Lance, who takes a shine to her. She thinks it's an ordinary boy girl thing, but he's from the past sent to find her. She's his key to righting a wrong and even though he needs her more, she, unknowingly, needs him just as much. He and his friends (Wyn and Percy) coerce her to go with them, and the voice in her head says she shouldn't resist, so slightly thrilled and a little frightened she gets into a car with three men in the dead of night... sounds crazy but by then the voice in Cara's head is recognised from the one in her dreams. She doesn't think things could get any worse, I guess, and there's the promise that she'll discover the reason for her dreams.

Up until now, I'm with the author all the way, but I didn't like the way Cara's dad was pushed to one side. In the beginning there were some wonderful heart-rendering moments between father and daughter so I was surprised that he became forgotten.

There was also a lot of travelling by car: Cornwall, Wales, London... back to Cornwall, then Wiltshire... then I was surprised that Cara, having had only a few driving lessons and not even passed her test, decided to take over the driving and was able to drive all the way from Cornwall to London, find the Tower of London, park, and drive to Wales all in the same day (the book would have you believe it took minutes!).

But the book wasn't slow and the author knew her legends and brought Sir Lancelot  King Author, Merlin and the like alive. Dragons, Griffins, Wraiths all featured beautifully bringing mystical creatures and magic to the forefront of this book. A very high 3 out of five.

The is fundamentally a YA book, which verged into adult as the sexual tension between Lance and Cara sizzled. The ending was satisfactory but left room for the sequel. An excellent escapism read, I just wish Cara treated her poor dad a little better.

There were a few editing issues.


Blurb

Like any teenage girl, Cara Page dreams of the future, the difference is, every day those dreams come true.


Now she's dreaming of a boy, and a future that can't be real. Because if it is, then everything she thought was myth and legend is actually true, and there is an evil coming that will tear the country apart.

Lance Filwer is a boy with secrets of his own, and a past full of mistakes he can't undo. Cara is his second chance, his chance to succeed where he failed before - if only she'll trust him enough to let him help her.

Cara needs to know what's happening, but the answer lies in a long forgotten past, and an ancient legend. To find it Cara will have to travel into the depths of Wales, and the heart of ancient Britain.

With Wraiths, creatures from the darkest of myths, dogging her every move, Cara knows it's only a matter of time before they catch up with her. And myth or not, they will kill her.

Her only hope is Lance, and the birth right she must claim, if she is to prevent the future she has foreseen.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Karen Duvall


4/5
Amazon.UK
Amazon.com

This is an attractive looking cover. A romance, obviously, and set in or around the desert. It looks modern and a bit gothish (notice the piercings the man has in his ears). The title, again, speaks romance and from that I'm thinking it's about an alpha male looking after a, maybe ditzy, woman. Maybe she's in the wrong place at the wrong time...


The blurb opens with the protagonist who receives a suicide letter from her brother, Jake, so I'm a little surprised that the book begins with the other leading character, Sam, but what a hook it was: What a perfect night for a kidnapping.


In the beginning, Desert Guardian was a little Mills and Boony with it's endless sickly sweet description of 'peach shaped bottom' etc, which I found annoying but I'm glad I stuck with it because, after the slow start, it zipped nicely along and I was able to dismiss the flowery descriptions.

The book has a mixed POV mainly between the leading characters Kelly and Sam but also with the secondary and the 'baddies' of the book. Sam and Kelly both had a past, which was gradually fed into the story, making them real fleshed out characters.

At the opening Kelly had already arrived at the cult. She's there to bring Jake, her young brother, home after he ran away due to an argument with their father but she has no idea of the danger they are in, neither has she realised the cult has begun its brainwashing on her already.

Sam 'The Arrow' has been sent by her father to get her out. He does, but she still wants to find her brother and so hires Sam knowing she hasn't any money to pay him. He is smitten with her and decides to help her (he was once a member of the cult and so has 'unfinished' business with them). They are both attracted to one another but have no 'I hate you/let's have sex' going on which, considering it's opening, I was very certain was about to happen.

Sam and Kelly work together to rescue Jake, and Sam's newly discovered little girl (I did say he had unfinished business in the cult, didn't I?). It isn't a quick rescue and Sam isn't a superhero. He doesn't fling Kelly over his shoulder and shoot guns with his free hands. He's very human and has limits, and when things so wrong with the rescue, things go wrong big time! And I must admit I was turning the pages quickly to find out how it would be resolved.

Of course it ended happily, it was a romance, after all. But the ending wasn't one I saw coming. I hadn't a clue how Sam and Kelly were going to rescue Jake and Sam's daughter, and then Jake went missing... But all ends were tied with a nice satisfactory conclusion.

A nice little gem of a story, and worth a read. 

No editing issues that I noticed.

Blurb: 
When Kelly Bancroft receives a suicide letter from her brother, she knows the star-worshipping cult he belongs to is to blame. She travels to the California desert to try talking him into leaving the deadly Star Mother cult, but he's nowhere to be found.

Cult intervention specialist—and ex-cultist—Sam Reed, aka The Arrow, has his work cut out for him when he teams up with Kelly to rescue her brother. Sam has good reason to avoid the cult that killed his mother, but he's made it his mission to save those who have fallen under Star Mother's spell.

Deluded by their fantasy beliefs, the cult's followers await a starship that will deliver them to utopia on another planet. The caveat? All passengers must leave their bodies behind.

Will Sam’s and Kelly’s romantic relationship help or hinder them in their struggle to stop a mass suicide? Or will they themselves fall victim to the cult’s fatal madness?


Monday, 9 September 2013

Marie Flanigan

5/5
One Big Beautiful Thing

Amazon.UK
Amazon.com

They say never judge a book by its cover, well people do, and with this book I'd walk on by. It's dull with a capital D. A pot of paintbrushes on a dirty blue background. Very unappealing.

It doesn't really say anything about the book, either. Maybe the main character is an artist? Even so, I wouldn't care. As for the genre, I couldn't say. It could be a thriller, crime, romance... anything but a horror or an erotic read. Two things I got from it (other than boring) was gentle or religious.

The title and the author's name are far to too small. Insignificant was the word that came to mind. The title didn't excite me and the author's name was almost an apology (after reading the book I get that the author was trying to make the cover look like a hanging painting. But it still needs more work). It's a book that wouldn't get noticed in the sea of other books on Amazon, and you what, now I've read it, that's a huge shame.

Within the first paragraph in the 'look inside' sample I'm reassured that it's not heavy on religion (the main character 'couldn't remember the last time she'd gone to church') and I'm relieved. The writing style is chatty and contemporary. It's also fast and in typical 'chick lit' style, and I find I have read the sample in no time at all. 

The protagonist is called Kate (Mary Katherine to her mum) and she has come home to grieve after the death of her boyfriend, Robert. And while her mother is away nursing her sick grandmother Kate has volunteered to step into her mum's shoes at the catholic school where she teaches art.

The relationship between Kate and her mother (Anne) is very volatile and at first I thought she gave her mother a hard time but as the story progressed I realised why they had this love/hate relationship. It was fed to me very expertly and gently until there was some genuine heart-felt moments between the two.

Kate meets Aiden and feels an instant connection. He's has a few problems of his own in the name of an ex with mental health issues, and feels he needs to 'protect Kate' from her wrath by keeping their relationship light and away from common knowledge. At first, Kate is happy with this because she's feeling guilty about moving on after Robert's death and wants to keep Aiden casual anyway.

Kate is an artist, a very good one, and Marie Flanigan was very confident in getting that across. She had either research it very well or is an artist herself.

I loved this book, and felt the story was well told. It had a few laugh-out loud moments, but over all the book was heart-rendering. I especially cried a few tears when Kate ran away to her boyfriend's grave and subsequently went to find his grieving mother, where, it was discovered, never approved of her relationship with her son. Very nicely done.

The book ended not with a complete happy-ever-after but with an ending where you suspect things would turn out well for all concerned and I liked that. Kate, her mother and Aiden all had issues and it would have been too unrealistic to have a warm, cheesy ending with all of them hugging and ending happily.

A great début novel, which I'd be happy to recommend. It had no real significant editing issues either. A double whammy!

Blurb:

In this touching début novel, artist Kate Abernethy is trying to put her life back together after the death of her boyfriend. At first, moving back in with her mother seems like a good way to sort out her finances and re-evaluate her life—instead it proves to be a minefield of doubt and recrimination. Floundering, she pushes herself to take new opportunities so she can rebuild her life and have a second chance at happiness.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Marylu Zuk

4/5
Whose A&& Is That?

Amazon.com
Amazon.UK

The cover
 of a large-bottomed female, struggling with her shopping hooked me before I saw the title. It was bright, nicely illustrated and resonated with me straight away. 


The title is clever and eye catching. It made me stop and laugh but I thought that, and especially the author name, could be bigger. There's a lot of white space not being made use of.

The price of this short eBook did make me wince, and I think it'd put off  some potential readers. Also, because of it's lack of length there wasn't a 'look inside' to view and again, another fail. Who'd want to buy a 56 paged book costing $5.03/£3.27 without having a look inside? But saying that, these are the types of books you see in card shops, or on the counter of books stores to tempt you as gift ideas.

The book was a short story told in rhyme. It was delightful, funny and cute. The illustrations are excellent and fun, and helped tell the story of a woman shocked by the largeness of her derrière to eventually come to terms and learned to live with it. 

The rhymes roll off the tongue and are fun even though possibly true for some of us: It's obvious I seem obsessed with the bountiful gluteus maximus of which I have been generously blessed.

Basically, it is a fun look at how women perceive themselves, and through this book we are able to laugh at ourselves.

Whose A&& Is This? is described as a gift book and I can see this cute little book being bought as birthday present or as a Christmas stocking filler, but it's a book to buy in real form. It doesn't quite work as an eBook unless you have a state-of-the-ark eReader.

*AuthorMarylu will be interviewed on WWBB 10th September. If you have any questions for her use the contact button top left of the screen and I'll put them to her.

Blurb:
Filled with whimsical illustrations and witty rhyme, Whose A&& Is That? encourages women to laugh at our collective selves. Author Marylu Zuk reassures us that we are indeed perfect regardless of the size or shape of our buns. Whose A&& Is That? permits every woman to relax her abs, exhale, and laugh at what we rarely see - our own backsides! This quick read is a delightful gift for your female tribe - sisters, aunts, coworkers, and friends.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

K.C. Ball

Amazon.com
Amazon.UK
Lifting up Veronica

I loved this cover it drew me in utterly. It was beautifully illustrated and spoke contemporary yet intrigue too. The title only enforced this belief, so when the blurb tells me it's suspense set in the 60s I'm a little surprised. But I can't take my eyes off that cover! Love it. I'd advise the author to have her name a little larger though because it's completely obscure.

The opening line in the blurb is powerful: The smaller the town, the bigger the drama. A great promo line for Twitter! I think the blurb is almost spot-on for pulling in readers, but this line Mix in an assistant looking for fame and a beautiful woman who longs to become a mother, and it's a recipe for disaster... is contemporary ie 'chatty'. What am I about to read?


The opening in the look inside bit was disappointing. An epilogue is usually obscure, but it IS meant to intrigue a reader and draw them in. I wasn't drawn, at all.  Chapter one was better and I began to get to know the characters and the mean lead, Michael Kovac. He's come to West Virginia to film a documentary about a Christian sect and their handling of venomous snakes in their sermons. On this basis, I bought the book.

It's very atmospheric with the era wonderfully drawn. I could visualize myself in 1960 West Virginia, such was the strength of the writing, but, and it's a big 'but' Lifting up Veronica has a lot of characters and many with their own POV. It becomes even more confusing when the author uses their first and then the last name to identify them--and then there are the nicknames. 

Michael and Irene's attraction seemed a little sudden, but maybe I missed a bit. I'm finding I'm skipping pages to get the main points in the book. It's a slow burner, for sure, and might appeal more to fans of literary fiction.

I'm afraid I only got as far as chapter six. I didn't find any of the characters appealing enough to make me want to stay with them. It's a shame, and I don't think it has anything to do with the writing it's just one of those things because the genre isn't for me.

I haven't starred the book because I haven't read the book fully.

Blurb:
The smaller the town, the bigger the drama. In the summer of 1960, sociologist Michael Kovac travels to an old acquaintance's hometown in rural West Virginia to shoot footage for a documentary about Signs Followers — a Christian sect best known for their practice of handling venomous snakes. When money changes hands and the church elders are divided, Michael's involvement could lead to jail or worse. Mix in an assistant looking for fame and a beautiful woman who longs to become a mother, and it's a recipe for disaster...

Saturday, 3 August 2013

K. D Mclean

The Story of Rachel
Book 1, Tales of Pandora
3/5

Amazon.UK
Amazon.com

The title is boring and tells me nothing other that this is a story about a woman called Rachel. The cover is raunchy and because of the blindfold I'm thinking erotica. Eeek! 


I've not read an erotic book before so this could be interesting. I found the cover sexy and I'm expecting lots of hot stuff inside.


I move to the blurb. It's long-winded and could easily be cut--the first two paragraphs, in fact. B
ut I realise this book will have more depth than 'just a story about sex'. If I were a type of reader who wanted pure titillation I may have been put off.

The 'look inside' introduces me to the main lead, Rachel, as she waits for her blind date. It's a disastrous one, and slightly humorous.  There was an awful back story where Rachel had a conversation with her reflection over her lack of luck with men, which seemed to be there just in order to get the information 
out.

From the first chapter I learn that Rachel is a journalist for Canada Weekly and she's been assigned to write about an erotic artist and heads to the gallery to see his work for her article. Michael Evens, keen in BDSM, is there viewing and they meet, chat and feel a spark for one another.


You'd think it'd be pure sex from here on, but it's a story of romance, as well. Michael takes Rachel under his wing and tells her all there is to know about BDSM for her article. It's obvious to Rachel that he's heavily into BDSM himself, but this only excites her.


Fetishes aside, Michael seems a nice, well-rounded character and very well drawn. I realise that the title is a little misleading because I felt the book was as much his story as it was Rachel's. I was surprised by both their ages, though (Rachel was 36, and Michael 42). Rachel, especially, seemed very naive and immature.

Michael becomes Rachel's 'dom' (dominex) and Rachel finds she enjoys being his submissive. It's all very tasteful and romantic in a kinky sort of way. Nothing hardcore, although the Pandora club, where Michael takes Rachel is pretty steamy (Rachel and Michael are just spectators).

Their relationships builds and seems too good to be true, and for Rachel it is because due to past issues Michael is scared of falling in love and puts a stop on their budding romance. This is where the story falls down, in my opinion, there are a lot of tedious chapters with both him and Rachel moping about until Michael realises he can't live without her and then his past problems are just swept under the rug as they declare undying love and live happily ever after.

I do wonder if the continuing books (this book has no cliffhanger, and therefore can be read as a stand-alone read) will be about Rachel and Michael's adventures into the Pandora club (where the BDSM takes place) and become hotter still.

Editing wise, the book had a few problems. Mainly the classic 'I said': 'Please let me go.' She said. And also a lot of over-writing, but apart from that, clean.

If you're new to erotica this book may be the one to ease you in. I would be interested in reading the next instalment and seeing what becomes of Rachel and Michael.

Blurb
Rachel Collins is praying. And not for world peace. Thirty six years old and single, her prayer is self-centered. "Kill me now, Lord," she pleads during her latest attempt to meet Mr. Right via the internet.

She’s not hoping for a billionaire or even a millionaire, just a guy who can strike a spark to her tinder! Is she asking too much? She's a great gal! Just ask her parents! She might be a bit naive about some things, but capable enough- she's a correspondent for a major magazine, after all. So there! 

On assignment she meets Michael, 42 years old, also a writer. The attraction is immediate and intense. Rachel, who sees vanilla as only a baking ingredient, enchants him. Michael can whip up some pretty hot delights himself, outside of the kitchen. He introduces a curious Rachel to powerful experiences of sensuality. Her sense of propriety engages in a running battle with her now sparked desires. 

Michael is an excellent cook and knows how to turn up the heat. Sampling the flavors offered, Rachel experiences humorous hiccups. On a date, Michael ramps up the risque, resulting in a memorable skirt swirling salsa dance. Rachel's "What the hell, I ain't getting any younger" attitude spurs Michael to take her to the exclusive, adults only club Pandora's. Here, Rachel witnesses even more variations of earthly delights, and begins a lifelong friendship with another guest. 

Michael is a realist, convinced that within 90 days, his affair with Rachel will be but another painful memory of loss. He is neither willing nor able to yell 'Geronimo' and fall for her. He can't, and that's that. 

Maybe he should just get a damn dog. 

This modern, urban, grown up love story is a recipe –three cups romance and one cup of slapdash humor. Blend in spices of eroticism, and beat until smooth.