Showing posts with label Personal Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Personal Reviews. Show all posts

Saturday, April 2, 2022

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The Letter from Briarton Park, Sarah Ladd

This was a sweet novel that I finished reading about a week ago or so. I didn't have too many expectations going in and at first, I was honestly wondering why I had requested it -- I have this stupid idea that I'm somehow 'over' this type of novels due to my age. 

But this one was a nice surprise after all. I liked the warm tone of voice of the author, I very much enjoyed the female heroine, and also how she interacted with the people around her. 

I found her story to be relatively sad, but I will admit that every now and then, I would be a little annoyed by the fact that she put so much accent on her breeding and family and how unlucky she was because she didn't know her parents up to a point in her life. 

The sweet love story that blooms in this book was super enjoyable! The male character is pretty much everything you might ever want in a man. He is dependable, loyal, trustworthy, and he cares for his family, and overall he's just a good guy that wants to help Cassandra as much as possible. 

There was another male character that I didn't like at all, which made me think that the author did an excellent job of making him detestable, especially after the second half of the book.  

What I liked about it

The story in itself was interesting and I liked that the pace wasn't slow at all. There were things happening in every chapter, whether because we got to meet new characters (or some that we had heard about but whose actions we didn't previously know).

I'd say that this book is very easy to read, but the pace and the background might make it time-consuming, to some extent. 

I think I read it in a bit over a week, which might be a lot for me, at least since the beginning of the year. 

Perhaps the thing that I liked the most was Cassandra's character. She was a really down-to-earth woman that didn't want to focus on her emotions or frivolous things that might have interested other females of her time -- such as making an advantageous marriage as soon as possible. 

The overall decency of most of the characters in this book was surprising to me. I thought that Cassandra's friend would have some ulterior motive for befriending her, but that was not true in the end. 

Furthermore, I truly enjoyed the description of the views on life and society that most people had in those times -- especially since many were prejudiced against individuals that weren't in the same class as they themselves were. 

I realize this is perhaps a dated topic, but I think that reading historical novels, even historical romance, can help us better understand how people thought at a specific time. So, I think that The Letter from Briarton Park is a winner in this respect. 

And finally, what I really liked about this book was the lack of 'steam'. In the past years, I've realized that authors that focus on the intense and often times insane and instantaneous chemistry between two characters somewhat can't focus on the rest of the story, so that was not an issue I had to handle with this one. 

What I didn't like about it

I think I would have liked a faster pace, although it was moderate. 

This book left me a little frustrated at times even though the conflicts I read about resolved in the end. But the prejudice that some of the characters had against others was very challenging for me to handle -- although I understand that that's how things were back then. 

All in all, I think that this is a sweet and clean historical romance (although I wouldn't consider it 'romance' in the traditional sense of the word) that would make the perfect read for teenage girls, for example. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for giving me an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Support this blog by buying it through my affiliate link: The Letter from Briarton Park, Sarah Ladd 

Continue reading The Letter from Briarton Park, Sarah Ladd

Monday, February 28, 2022

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I'll Be Seeing You, Robin Lee Hatcher (Review)


Thank you to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this novel! 

Yet another 5-star read from this amazing publishing house. I honestly wasn't expecting to like this book as much as I did and the reason for that is that it started a little weird. I'll first include the blurb that can be found anywhere on the Internet so that you know what it's about and then I'll express my opinion on the characters, story, and other things that I liked (or disliked) about it.

Generations of secrets unfold as a young college student learns the truth about her great-grandmother’s World War II heartbreak and love. For fans of Francine Rivers and Karen Kingsbury.

Brianna Hastings’s life seems dull and full of disappointment until a handsome young man visits her church. She’s instantly smitten by the charming Greg, who leads an exciting, independent life—the kind of life she longs for. But when a college history assignment forces Brianna to interview her great-grandmother about life during World War II, she can’t believe it when Daisy presses her with questions about Greg’s character. “What sort of man is he? Who is he at his core?”

What could her great-grandmother possibly know about love at first sight?

The questions take both women back to Boise, Idaho, in the early 1940s, when war emphasized how fragile life could be. Daisy and her older sister pine for the same handsome bomber pilot—until one night of terrible judgment reveals their true characters and drives them apart. Trying to protect the people she loves the most, Daisy condemns herself to live a lie.

In the years that follow, as Daisy grapples with the consequences, she receives unexpected grace from a man she’s known her whole life but never looked at twice. Could what she learned about love save Brianna from heartache three generations later?

Now that I got that out of the way, let me just say that I'm not a huge fan of this 'recounting' and going back and forth through time (not in a time-travel-y way) trope and that I was pleasantly surprised by this book!  


I've been avoiding WW2 stories in the past couple of years and that's because I had a period a while ago where I read so much about it (both fiction and non-fiction) that I kind of... got over it. Obviously, it's a world event that's important and everyone should get as informed about it as possible, but after reading so much WW2 fiction, you do risk reaching a point where all of it seems the same. 

First of all, although it's clear that the author did a lot of research about WW2 especially in terms of how Americans went into the war and handled everything military-wise, I have to note that this book is not heavy in historical information.

This makes it very easy to digest. If it were packed in heavy history, perhaps reading it would have taken me more time or perhaps I would have found it heavier also in a sentimental way. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the story, but I did like the 'past' more than I did the 'present', and that's because I found it very difficult to relate to Brianna. 

This is a Christian novel, so it was clean. No steam was involved, so I recommend it to anyone and everyone. 


Daisy and Todd were my top favorite characters of all, which means that most of my favorite parts and story moments were in the past, where I got to see everything about Brianna's grandmother.

I'm not going to give any spoilers, but Daisy does a lot of growing and basically becomes an adult toward the end of her story as a young adult. She also realizes that judging people based on their appearance or charm is incorrect and that they might be completely different than what they seem to be. 

I did not like Daisy's sister, Lillian, just like I wasn't crazy about Brianna. 

What I liked about it

The story itself, the setting, and the way the characters (or most of them, anyway) behaved (in a very natural way) are my favorite things about this book. 

I could go into some more detail but I really am afraid that I might go into spoiler territory. 

What I would also like to add, though, is that the author has an amazing way of telling us how the characters are without telling us how they are. What I mean by this is that she lets their actions speak more about them rather than being didactic and clearly specifying their personality features. 

For some of them, for example, she describes the experiences they've gone through so that we ourselves can draw the conclusion of how they might have influenced them. I really enjoyed that. 

The reason I don't like Colleen Hoover's writing, for instance, a very well-known romance author (and one that I personally do not appreciate) is that she is extremely didactic to the point of being ridiculous or boring. 

That's not the case for this book!

What I didn't like about it

The only thing that I didn't really like about this novel was Brianna. Unfortunately, I could tell pretty early that I wasn't going to be a fan of her's, and the reason for that is that not only does she resemble Lillian's temperament, being overwhelmed by her parents and bored of living at home and wanting adventure to the point that she might risk place herself in potential danger... but she's also very weird as a character.

I don't think she was actually fleshed out like a 'real person' and the point of characters in books is that they have to be more or less realistic so that we fall into the author's trap and get drawn in by the story. 

Brianna was more like an imitation of a girl rather than a girl, and I realize that this is a fictional character I'm writing about... but there was always something a little off about her. 

Whenever I got back to the 1940s, I could tell that the narrator re-became comfortable and could describe everything about those characters much easier and better. 

(You might also like: Meet Me in the Margins by Melissa Ferguson - Review)

Perhaps this is the reason I liked the past more than the present. Plus, even though both of the main female characters are part of Christian communities, I suppose I appreciated Daisy's younger version because back in the time, people used to be even more traditional/conservative and I have to say that that's how I am these days. 

All in all, it was a great story and the way it was written made it thoroughly enjoyable. I'd also like to note that I was relieved when we stopped getting Brandan's point of view, too, because I was getting a little too confused with so many characters and so many time shifts. 

Rating? 5/5 even with the things that I didn't like. I loved Daisy and Todd's story way too much to give this book a 4-star rating. 

Support this blog by getting it here (#ad): I'll Be Seeing You by Robin Lee Hatcher

Continue reading I'll Be Seeing You, Robin Lee Hatcher (Review)

Saturday, February 12, 2022

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Meet Me in the Margins by Melissa Ferguson (Review)

I’ve had a really great reading year up until now (having read 17 books by now - it’s February 12th as I am writing this).

I even tried reading the first chapter of three books to pick one or two tops out of them, but my choices were Remainder by Thomas McCarthy, The Couple at the Table by Sophie Hannah, and Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover.

One evening, I tried reading Ugly Love and it seemed quite interesting at first. But when I got to the moment (and I don’t think this is a spoiler since every romance reader wants the two main protagonists to end up together) where our girl feels attracted to Miles, a guy who not only grabbed her by the ankle the evening prior, but also tried to forcefully enter her and her brother’s apartment… I said that I am done.

I hate this trope of turning bad guys into good guys. Since when are women supposed to fall in love with their abusers (or even find them attractive)? Hello?

So that evening I was considering not reading anything more at all because I obviously DNF-ed Ugly Love (and at this point I don’t think I’m ever going to read anything by Colleen Hoover again).

But since I’m aggressively getting back into reading, I had asked for a couple of books on NetGalley and had the amazing surprise of having my request approved by Thomas Nelson for this novel – Meet Me in the Margins, by Melissa Ferguson.

I finished it last night and I have to say…

Well! Now that is a great book and a great romance novel!

I’m not going to give any spoilers, but I will note here some of the things that I absolutely adored about this book. It actually had me squeaking out of excitement and joy a couple of times, which never happens to me.

Quick summary

Savannah Cade is an assistant editor at Pennington, a publishing house that mostly deals with non-fiction. She has written a romance novel and is looking to send it to an editor, but in a series of (mildly unfortunate and very, very funny) events, she ends up hiding it in a secret place in her work building.

When she comes back to retrieve it, she notices that a small part of the manuscript was edited by a mystery editor, who added comments to the margins of the pages… Who is the mystery editor and why are they helping her?

So, my favorite things about Meet Me in the Margins were the following:
  • The absence of steamy scenes

I read enough steamy scenes to last me a lifetime and I read so many books where they appear time and again that I now consider them an author’s cheap way of getting out of creating a unique story with unique characters.

I don’t have anything against sexual tension but when it’s too much and when it’s too straightforward, I feel like that’s pretty much everything the story is about.

And any author worth their salt should be aware of how much extra steaminess can ruin a story!

Fortunately, that is not something I had to deal with in this book. After I started reading it, I did a little research on Thomas Nelson and found out that they mostly publish Christian books (I’m a devout Catholic myself) and if that’s so, I guess I now am a Christian romance book reader.

Melissa Ferguson had an amazing way of getting the two main characters together without getting them together, if you know what I mean.

We get to learn their quirks and their personalities even before the idea of them being a couple appears in our minds.

There’s no actual slow burn in this case, at least not in my opinion, and that’s because there are some other things that are important in this book - Savannah herself, her relationship with her family and friends, what she wants to do as a career (working on her manuscript), how she interacts with people at work (wink wink), and so on.

And we get so wrapped up in all of this that there is no need for any type of sexual tension whatsoever. This novel is clean and beautiful and I feel that steamy scenes would have ruined the charm, at least for me.

So, I really loved it!

  • The incredible banter

There are a lot of funny scenes in this book and once again, I can’t give too much detail here.

I like how the characters interact with one another and I love Savannah’s clumsiness and spontaneity and the way that she can’t sometimes shut up even when she’s spilling the beans on her co-workers.

She is quite refreshing, but there are plenty of other funny characters here. Her best friend, her best friend’s hobbies (and what Savannah does to help her with that), and Sav’s boss who’s a mix of ultimate seriousness and charming personality (the second being available for times outside of work hours).

The only people that I do not find funny in this book are Savannah’s family members, but you know how it is. There needs to be a way to balance things out by adding some less charming and hilarious characters.

So yeah, the banter in this book is absolutely amazing!

Perhaps it vibed with my sense of humor and that’s why I liked it so much or maybe it’s just good humor in general. Either way, it’s one of the things that make this book great!

  • The realistic characters

These people (I already see them as people, not characters) behave like normal individuals.

They have their hardships, their frustrations, their routines, and they’re also ordinary in the way they struggle with their work, deadlines, conferences, and whatever else they have to do.

They aren’t perfect in any way, so the reader automatically resonates with and can identify with them.

Besides one particular character who strives for perfection, everybody is flawed here. I love that about them.

  • The grumpy/sunshine trope (but in a different way)

We’re not talking about a grumpy/sunshine trope where the male character is just grumpy without any specific reason.

He is supposed to be like that because that’s literally his job.

I don’t like those books where there’s this stupid and unexplained tension between the two main characters where one is behaving really bad and the other is almost being abused by the first.

That is not the case here.

Even Savannah has her bad days and can’t keep up being positive when she sees how things are going around her, when she knows that there are risks to what she is doing, and when everything in her future depends on an email.

I’m sure the male character is much more complex than what we see in the book, but that’s the catch – we know that he has a great personality and that there’s more to him than what we see, even though we don’t get his POV.

He’s not just being grumpy for the sake of being grumpy. He’s authentic and attentive and he wants to make a difference in his professional and personal life. This guy is great! Sure he’s supposed to be serious, but he’s not a bad guy who turns into a good one (a trope I personally hate and that I’ve seen in so many books).

  • The story itself

The good thing is that I went into this book not really knowing too much about the story.

As per the blurb on NetGalley, Meet Me in the Margins is about a girl, Savannah, who has been working on her romance novel for a while and who has to send her manuscript to an editor she met at a conference in a limited amount of time.

I didn’t even get any info on whether there’s a love story or not… but I did look at the cover and there were two people holding books there! So that seemed promising…

First of all, I loved the pacing of this book. It was a very quick read for me because I got so curious and wanted to find out what happened in the next, and then in the next chapter, that I ended up reading until 1:30am.


The fact that it takes place in Nashville is something I also loved because I don’t really get the chance to read a lot of books set in the South of the United States.

I think what I loved the most about this story was not just the romance and the actual plot, but also the fact that Savannah discovers herself throughout it.

She realizes that she’s the most important person in her life or at least the one that will always be with her for the time she’s alive. So she starts trusting herself!

I also loved the story because it is so hopeful, besides being really funny and charming. It makes you feel that even if you are not okay, nobody is – everyone’s faking it. But what this story does is tell you that you have to put yourself and your strongest desires first, at least sometimes.

  • The setting

I don’t think I had ever read a novel where the action took place in a publishing house before.

And although Pennington is a fairly small publishing house, it is one nonetheless.

Besides the editors, I didn’t know what jobs people had in this type of office, so I was curious to find out everything about pretty much all the characters I encountered.

Besides that, the actual editing work that takes place in this book was so incredibly interesting! It was fascinating what some people (I don’t want to give spoilers here!) had to say about possible or impossible situations in Savannah’s novel.

There’s this moment when even Savannah herself, who doesn’t take criticism very well, even when it’s constructive criticism, realizes how cringey a moment in her book is. And I loved that. That made everything a lot more realistic.

I do believe this is going to be the best romance book I’ll read this year and I don’t say that lightly, because I know there are many other amazing titles being released this year.
I thoroughly recommend checking it out when it’s published – Meet Me in the Margins by Melissa Ferguson.

I’ll definitely be reading everything that this author publishes in the future and I will clearly be getting the physical copy of this book!

My favorite quote:

Life is (...) about making a bath and spending so much time reading in it the water gets all cold and my fingers go pruny. Yes, there should be fundraisers and shoebox drives and hard work, too, but it’s all about slowing down. Truly being present.

It’s about appreciating the miraculous gift that is existence. It’s about loving on others as much as you can. And yes, it’s also about appreciating what organically makes you happy and where reasonable, finding it.

*Thank you to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for giving me the chance to read this book!

Continue reading Meet Me in the Margins by Melissa Ferguson (Review)

Monday, September 30, 2019

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Submission by Michel Houellebecq {Review}

After reading silly books for almost two years, I finally got back to reading something more serious. I am barely getting back on track after recovering a bout of depression and burnout. My yearly challenge is to read 20 books in 2019, which I know is pretty low for me, but it is enough. This year, I've read:

  • A is for Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup
  • All Cats Are Introverts by Francesco Marciuliano
  • The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen (which I LOVED!)
  • Submission by Michel Houellebecq
  • Arheologia iubirii by Catalin Pavel (this is a great book by a Romanian archeologist and novelist)
  • The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
  • Updates on the Communist Manifesto by Slavoj Zizek
  • Hollywood by Charles Bukowski
  • Un joc fara reguli by Lucian Boia (this is a pretty awesome book by a Romanian historian)
  • Requiem for the American Dream by Noam Chomsky
  • (I finally finished) Come, Tell Me How you Live by Agatha Christie 
  • Murder in the Mews by Agatha Christie
  • The Storyteller's Secret by Carmine Gallo (which I hated and I'm done for non-fiction for a long while, I hope)
  • The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell
I'd like to write about Submission today because it was one of those books that impressed me the most. As you can see, I'm trying to do a bit of reading on social issues as I'm beginning to be more and more interested in how people live and how we can improve welfare for everyone. 

The story

The action takes place in 2022 in France. There are regular episodes of violence in the streets, and they are all kept secret by the media. The new Muslim Party is becoming more and more popular. In a second general election, Mohammed Ben Abbes (the Muslim Party's candidate) beats Marine Le Pen. On the next day, women are to abandon the Western fashion. They start to wear long smocks over their trousers.

The main character teaches a course at a university and is surprised to see that he gets an offer to retire. After all, both men and women who used to teach Western and generally modern (and useless) courses were of no use to the Muslim education. Women get the same pension offer - they basically receive the same amount of money they'd get if they were to work, but they do so without going to work. Naturally, they start leaving their jobs, probably also because they feel a little intimated by the fact that the faculty is now mostly composed of men.

People start converting and men begin to marry more wives. Although I originally thought of the main character as the typical misunderstood {late} teenager that's now in his 40s, what happens at the end of the book was a complete surprise to me.

Before you jump into any wrong conclusions, let me tell you that anything related to the Muslim culture is not depicted in this book in a negative way. It's just a dystopian novel about a probable political (and religious and social) situation in 2022 in France. There is a lot of talk in this book about religion, and about how the Western world has lost its connection to it. In a way, you get the feeling that most adults have lost their purpose and can't find any meaning in their lives any longer. That's where Islam comes in and offers it to them.

Is it worth reading?

Did I like the book? Well, yes, very much. Not necessarily because of what happened in it, in the sense that taking the power was pretty easy for the intelligent Muslims, and it seemed to me like the Western civilization didn't have any regrets. That's probably because we've lost our traditional values, in a way that will probably never happen with Muslims. 

They care a lot about their ways while we don't. We're acceptant of pretty much anything and anyone, and the well-known saying 'agree to disagree' has definitely influenced the way we think about the world. 

While they might have more radical views compared to Westerners, Muslims care about what happens with their communities. We seem to have lost empathy for the people around us, and we don't necessarily make a goal out of helping them, if they need any help.

I totally get why some people might be bothered by the story, especially those that care about the Western 'values'. I felt a little weird while reading the novel, partly because I related to the main character. I, too, have often asked myself what point there is to life, and that's very likely to not have happened had I been interested in social issues or religion, or had I been a part of a tight-knit community.

So, while it might be a little challenging to read or to digest, this is a very interesting book. Plus, it's short - I think it has less than 200 pages but I can't say for sure since I read it on my Kindle. I suggest you challenge your views and give it a go!

Continue reading Submission by Michel Houellebecq {Review}

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

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Chasing His Puma by Golden Angel (Personal Review)

Review -- Chasing His Puma, Golden Angel

To be honest, I'm kind of ashamed I'm starting to review books by the amazing Golden Angel beginning with this particular title. If you've checked out my website before, you know I am a huge fan of erotica because it relaxes me like no other genre. Sure, in many cases, the books from this genre are predictable, and if the writers don't have a lot of experience behind them, they can be poorly written.

But that is definitely not the case with Golden Angel's books. She is an amazing writer and I came to read one of her works by accident. I stumbled upon a freebie on Instafreebie and it's called Stripping the Sub. It was one of the most unique books I ever read that deals with BDSM, and I, of course, went on to read all of those that are part of the Stronghold Doms series, which I won't be able to forget too soon. I'm eagerly waiting for the next release, Hot Vanilla, which is said to come out somewhere in the month of October of this year (2018).

Seeing how I loved her writing so much, I came to the conclusion that I should give her other books a try, too. That's how I ended up getting the entire Bridal Discipline series for my Kindle (I have a Voyage I am totally in love with). Since it's mostly about BDSM, too (even though the action is set somewhere at the end of the 19th century, if my memory isn't playing tricks on me), I ended up loving that series, as well.

I then moved on to an entirely different genre - paranormal romance. I love my shifters, especially werebears, and I donate to a bear protection program within the WWF (so yeah, I definitely have a thing for them), but I've never been particularly keen on the other types of shifters. Wolves are too high maintenance, felines are too lonesome, and maybe dragons are the other kind of shifters that I might like, since they're so hot - literally.

So when the opportunity to read Golden Angel's paranormal romance books arised, I said hell to the yeah and ordered them from Amazon. I liked the first, 'meh'ed the second,and now I'm writing about the third in the Big Bad Bunnies series.

What's it about?

If you end up reading the third book in the series first, you won't have lost anything in particular. Sure, the first two are great, too, but this one can be read as a standalone.

The Bunson family is one of a kind. They were kidnapped when they were kids and experimented on by a crazy doctor who managed to turn them into shifters. All of the brothers and sisters initially thought they were regular humans, but since they had shifter genes (they had had turtles, bears, and bunnies in their ancestry), they were a successful experiment. The only problem is that all of them turned out to be a mix of these three types of animals - they're huge and have claws and sharp teeth (ergo bear-like), they're fluffy and have big ears (ergo bunny-like), and they have a shell underneath their skin (ergo turtle-like).

To cut things short, I'm going to say that one of the main characters in this book is one of the Bunson brothers, Brock. Brock is a quiet type of individual who's looking to get revenge on Dr. Montgomery, the one who experimented on him and the rest of his family. Doc is a puma shifter who is a doctor and who tries to help Brock both physically and mentally. She's extraordinarily upbeat and optimistic even though she doesn't have the best past, either. But Brock doesn't know that, and so he tries to bring her down just a bit, every time they have a conversation.

Long story short, there's a lot of taunting and a bucket of sexual tension in this book. They end up going on a mission together, and they have to save themselves from a group of shifters who are on their tails (quite literally, since Doc has a pretty one). One thing leads to another.. and all that taunting might mean something else, not just that they're having a hard time working with each other.

Did I like it?

Well yes, of course I liked it. After all, that's why I'm reviewing it! I liked it a lot better compared to the second book in the series. I know we need a lot of information regarding the organization that Dr. Montgomery was a part of to be able to understand why it's still running and who the leader is. But honestly, Chasing His Squirrel was too long for me. Probably the shortest one in the series is the first, Chasing His Bunny, which I liked, as well. That one's pretty hot, too.

Simply put, this is a pretty good book if you're into paranormal romance, especially shifter romance. I don't consider myself a huge fan of the genre, but you might find me reading one once in a while.
On to the next books by Golden Angel, then! And I can't wait to review all of those in the Stronghold Dom Series.

So, definitely check it out if you're into this kind of thing.

Continue reading Chasing His Puma by Golden Angel (Personal Review)

Monday, April 2, 2018

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The Villain & The Dove by Victoria Vale - Personal Review

Review :: The Villain & The Dove by Victoria Vale 

Let me just take a second to take a breath and understand what I'm about to write. I finished The Dove, the 2nd book in the duology yesterday evening and I cannot stop thinking about the two main characters, the plot, everything in these two novels! I haven't been this excited about an erotica book since... wait for it... never! Well, maybe since I read the Mercy Trilogy by Lucian Bane. That one was also dark enough to make my skin tingle.

Oh, I can't tell you enough how much I enjoyed these two books. Ironically, if the first one hadn't been on sale on Amazon, I would've never found out about Victoria Vale. Now I am hooked and want to read all of her books! Yes, they were that good.

I'm going to make an effort to keep this review as composed as possible, but I can't make any guarantees. I am just too excited about this duology to stop myself from fangirling about them.

What are they about?

So, first off, these two are categorized as Regency Romance, so the action takes place somewhere between the end of the 1700s and the beginning of the 19th century, aka 1800s. I had to specify this detail because you'll get the main picture (historical background, how people used to behave/dress/talk etc). The action takes place in the United Kingdom - partly in Scotland and partly in London.

I enjoyed the way the first book, The Villain, began. Daphne is horseriding in the rain and in the middle of the night toward a destination we have no idea about. She is going to seek out a man, Lord Hartmoor, who lives in a palace, Dunnottar. (which, by the way, actually exists! I looked it up on Google, and it's there!)

Daphne wants to know why Lord Hartmoor has been after her family for some time and why eventually, his efforts ended up with her relatives being close to bankruptcy. As you probably imagine, it was really important for people back then to be financially potent, especially for women. If a lady didn't have a dowry, it was practically impossible for her to get a suitable marriage.

Adam (Lord Hartmoor) convinces Daphne to make a deal with him and give herself to him for thirty days and thirty nights in exchange for the answers she seeks so desperately. Needless to say, she had left the home of her parents without their knowledge, so she basically ran off to Scotland to demand answers from a (HOT) Scottish lord. The gesture was rather irrational, for a woman at that time, but Daphne wasn't known to abide by all of the rules of her society.

I can't give you any other details because I don't want to spoil the duology, but MAN! The things that Adam does to Daphne and how their story evolves over the course of the two books - I literally can't say anything other than OMG.  I can't even!

These two are like water and oil. One's pure, innocent, but highly corruptible, and the other's dark, vengeful, and tired of living with a burden for five years. While they don't seem to get along at the beginning, their bizarre relationship grows over time. They become accustomed to each other, and Daphne learns A LOT about herself and her physical needs. And yes, in case you were wondering, that deal I was mentioning earlier on also includes her having to give Adam her virginity. Which, as you know, was the 'get out of jail free card' of that time, meaning that ladies could get married only if they were pure - sexually.

What did I like about these two books?

I really enjoyed the characters and the way they were described. As a reader, I was actually capable of telling how Daphne and Adam looked like, so much so that I managed to picture them in my head (that rarely happens if the characters aren't interesting).

These two are at one another with a force that I haven't seen in other 'couples.' They both try to think they're in control, when in fact, none of them is. Sure, Adam is stronger than Daphne on all accounts, but in the second book, we get to see another side of him. He isn't the ruthless lord constantly seeking retribution anymore. In fact, he's pretty confused as to what he's feeling for Daphne and isn't willing to admit that he has other types of feelings for her. However, he might at times wish that she wasn't a member of the Fairchild family.

I also enjoyed the backstory, how the things that happened five years ahead of Daphne meeting Adam were explained, and the reasons that he is so hell-bent on getting his revenge. Nothing is what it seems in this duology, and I loved that a lot! It's very rarely that a novel manages to surprise me, and this one did! Sorry, but I read a lot of fluff erotica this year and last year and I've pretty much had it with the 'billionaire meets virgin who's willing to try BDSM' plots. Those are stupid.

But this book is intelligent, well-written, and it has you hooked so much that I finished both books over the course of one week - and I work full-time, and I'm pretty tired at the end of a working day.

Finally, I couldn't avoid telling you about the SEX they have. Sweet Cheeses! This guy... if only he existed in reality, really! Sure, there might be some rough scenes that not every erotica fan might enjoy, but he basically tries out all of his kinkiness on Daphne, and she adores it. Her body craves it and wants more of it although her mind is not willing to surrender. But when it comes to giving up her power sexually, she does it because she can't help herself. And Adam is especially good at convincing her. Really good. Believe me and read the book!

I'm sorry if this seemed like a big ole ramble, but I couldn't help myself. I am going to read everything that Victoria Vale ever publishes - she's won me as a reader forever.

*The featured image is Dunnottar Castle in Scotland. (via Pixabay)

Get the books here, if you want'em.
Continue reading The Villain & The Dove by Victoria Vale - Personal Review

Saturday, March 3, 2018

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Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies (Excerpts)

1. The function of suspense is to put the reader in danger of an overfull bladder.

2. Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader, not the fact that it’s raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.

3. Tension produces instantaneous anxiety, and the reader finds it delicious. (:D)

4. There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. (Amen!)

5. What can a newcomer do in a first paragraph? A lot. The following is the 1st paragraph from a novel by a student in my advanced fiction seminar, who is writing about a painter. “Shoshana stormed through the silent apartment. Mason, you son of a bitch! Where are you? Instinct told her: Mason had fled. You gutless coward, she raged. Returning to her studio, Shoshana stabbed the brush she carried into a jar of turpentine. Just try to get in one hour’s ego-affirming work of one’s own. No way!” The writer, Anne Mudgett, is using action to characterize. She is also setting up conflict between the narrator and Mason, and involving the reader in Shoshana’s emotional state.

6. In the example that follows, surprise is used by a student, Steve Talsky, whose work is yet to be published: “I am the way, the answer and the light, through me all things are possible. He had written this once as a joke on the headboard of his bed.” The reader gets an impression of a character who is unusual and about whom one wants to know more. Not least, one has the sense that this author’s work has resonance. The value of a well-written opening is that it makes the reader ready to give himself to the writer’s imagined people for the duration.

7. It should be clear by now that the unusual is a factor in arousing the reader’s interest. And so is action and conflict. So many writers fight an uphill battle trying to interest their readers in matters that have no inherent conflict. The worst possible way to start a story is with something like “They were a wonderful couple. He loved her and she loved him. They never argued.” The result is instant boredom. Boredom is the greatest enemy of both reader and writer. Do we gaze in wonder at the nice, average, normal-looking people we pass in the street? Our attention is arrested by the seven-footer and the midget, the oldster with the mechanical waddle, the child who bounces as she walks. Recall how people react to the sound of metal crunching metal, announcing an accident. They hasten to see what happened. Highways get choked when drivers slow down to gawk at the remains of a collision. To the student of literature it should come as no surprise that news programs concentrate on bad news first, on events filled with conflict.

8. Think of the novels you have loved most. Do you remember a character you lived with page after page, perhaps hoping the book would never end? What do you remember most clearly? The characters or the plot? Now think of the movies you’ve seen that affected you the most. Do you remember the actors or the plot? There’s a book called Characters Make Your Story that you don’t have to read because the title says it all: Characters make your story. If the people come alive, what they do becomes the story.

9. During all the many years in which I was an editor and publisher, what did I hope for when I picked up a manuscript? I wanted to fall in love, to be swept up as quickly as possible into the life of a character so interesting that I couldn’t bear to shut the manuscript in a desk overnight. It went home with me so that I could continue reading it.

10. We know what love is, we think of the other person at odd moments, we wonder where they are, what they are doing, we seem a bit crazy to the rest of the world. That’s exactly the feeling I have about the characters I fall in love with in books.

11. We were to improvise a scene for which there was no script. I was to play the part of the headmaster of the Dalton School, a private establishment in New York for the privileged young. Rona Jaffe was to be the mother of a boy who had been expelled by the headmaster. That’s what the audience knew. Then Kazan took me aside, out of everyone’s earshot, and told me that the mother of the expelled boy was coming to my office, undoubtedly to try to get the boy reinstated. This incorrigible boy had disrupted every class he was in, did not respond to the warnings of his teachers, and under no condition was I to take him back. After this briefing, which took half a minute, I returned to the makeshift stage and Kazan then took Rona Jaffe aside. What do you think he told her? (...) He told her that she was the mother of a bright, well-behaved boy, a first-class student, that the headmaster was prejudiced against him, had treated him disgracefully, and that Rona had to insist that the headmaster take the boy back into the school immediately. Rona Jaffe and I were turned loose on the stage to improvise a scene in front of the audience. Within seconds we were quarreling, our voices raised. We both got red in the face and yelled at each other. The audience loved it. We were battling because each of us had been given a different script! That’s what happens in life. Each of us enters into conversation with another person with a script that is different from the other person’s script. The frequent result is disagreement and conflict -- disagreeable in life and invaluable in writing, for conflict is the ingredient that makes action dramatic.

12. A long time ago I took an oath never to write anything inoffensive. In working with literally hundreds of authors over a period of many years I concluded that the single characteristic that most makes a difference in the success of an article or nonfiction book is the author’s courage in revealing normally unspoken things about himself or his society. It takes guts to be a writer. A writer’s job is to tell the truth in an interesting way.

13. A prevalent way of describing the difference is calling the successful commercial book ‘a good read’, whereas the other is likely to be referred to as ‘a good book.’ the implication is that one confers a transient experience on the reader, whereas the other may be durable, deserving the permanence of a hardcover binding and a place on a bookshelf, to remind one of the experience, or be reread. I wanted to clarify the distinction for a practical reason. In the end, you write what you read. If you read literary fiction with pleasure, that’s what you will attempt to write. If you read thrillers or romances, you will in all likelihood end up writing for the audience of which you are a part. The same is true for nonfiction -- not merely the field of interest, but the quality of language and insight you require of your books, read or written.

More books by Sol Stein

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Continue reading Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies (Excerpts)

Monday, February 26, 2018

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Claimed by the Mountain Man by Amelia Smarts (Personal Review)

I don't know exactly how I came to be in the possession of this ebook, but as you've probably noticed if you took the time to read some of my other posts, I like a good deal when I see it. So, this book must have been under five dollars at the time I purchased it from Amazon.

I decided to write a review of 'Claimed by the Mountain Man' because it wasn't the ordinary smut I read in 2017/I still read in 2018. In fact, I liked the 1800s setting and the characters, and some other aspects I'll try to do my best at detailing below.

What's it about?

Right off the bat, we become acquainted with what we believe to be the main character, Nettie. The action takes place sometime in the 1800s, but we're unsure when. However, the time isn't particularly important as most of the story happens in the woods. Nettie is poor and desperate, and she finds herself living in a cave and stealing the chickens of a rugged mountain man who goes by the name of 'Trapper Jack.'

Nettie must have heard some awful things about this Jack character, because one night during a storm when she tries to steal another chicken and finds herself captured in one of Jack's traps, she thinks that those will be the last minutes of her life and that he could only hurt her upon having discovered the identity of the thief.

In a nutshell, that's the beginning of the book. I can't go on too much into the real story because I'll spoil it for you. It's romantic and much later on, sexy, but I also liked how Nettie constantly tried to prove to herself that she could do without a man. Because her story is a bit more complex (and, perhaps, unpleasant) compared to that of other women living in the 1800s, she worries about Jack's opinion once he would learn about her predicament and her past line of work.

What did I like about it?

Amelia Smarts has a really neat way of presenting the life and experience of her characters. I'm not a judgmental person whatsoever, and so I didn't find it hard to relate to Nettie and her backstory. I was a bit worried myself about how Jack would react once he discovered that she was the one who kept stealing his chickens. But he's a good guy, after all, and the chemistry between these two is incredible.

Another thing I liked about the book is that it's a vivid example of how writing can be good even with less research. I'm not saying that Smarts didn't do her homework. But I do have to note that the fact that most of the action takes place in the woods was great because I didn't find any inconsistencies in terms of history and whatever must have happened. We know that Nettie's husband, as well as Jack, fought in the Civil War, but we're unsure when the action really takes place. Nevertheless, that's not a detail that we, as readers, really need in order to follow whatever's happening with these two.

I also liked the fact that the number of characters (although there are more mentioned throughout the book, there are just two that the reader needs to focus on) made it possible for me to concentrate as best as possible on them alone. It's often that I get to read excellent romance, but at the end of a 600-page novel, I'm barely capable of remembering what the other names of the characters were (aside from those that really matter, of course). In a way, I genuinely liked the so-called intimacy provided by/of the two characters and  I also enjoyed the fact I didn't have to make an effort to recall various names and character traits aside from those of Nettie and Jack.

Besides, I have to make a note regarding one of Jack's features I specifically enjoyed. There's a point in the novel where we find out that Jack used to be prejudiced and that he used to have a poor opinion about certain types of women. He grew a lot from this viewpoint when he went to fight in the war, and he regretted his relationship with someone he cared about because he wasn't capable of moving past his prejudices. His current maturity allows him to be a good judge of character as he interacts with and understands Nettie -- he would've been incapable of offering her the same amount of kindness several years before.

Is the book worth reading?

In my opinion, it is. I'd say that it definitely can score high with those who love romance, a little bit of sexiness, and mountain men, too. And it just so happens I'm one of those people! I might even re-read it in the following weeks -- I liked it that much.

*the book cover could use a bit of a change, though -- at least in my opinion. I know Trapper Jack's supposed to be hot and all, but I hardly think he would run around in the woods half naked, with all of those potentially dangerous animals around him.

Check out what other readers have had to say about this book here.

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Continue reading Claimed by the Mountain Man by Amelia Smarts (Personal Review)

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

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Cheap books (I liked) I got for my Kindle

These romance books are cheap, but fun!

2017 was, without a doubt, a very interesting year for me. I overworked myself to the point that I am now starting to understand that I matter more than my job. On the other hand, 2017 was the year that I discovered erotica. I have to be honest and say that I've never had a good opinion about romance novels, in general, and erotica in particular.

And I still have part of that opinion in the sense that there are many writers who do not invest enough time in proofreading their works -- nothing's more frustrating than coming across typos when you've spent your hard-earned cash on a book.

I've talked about the ways I get free books before. Recently, I discovered Instafreebie and I've started using BookBub a lot more. So I got the following books either when they were free to download for my Kindle, or when they cost under $5. I'm sorry, but a $15 price for a digital copy seems entirely unacceptable, at least in my eyes, because there have been no trees ruined in the process. It's not like I'm saying the same amount of work wasn't put into writing a digital book as it was into writing a physical one. But come on, Kindle books used to be a lot cheaper, so I basically hunt down all of the sales I can.

I've been a Kindle user for a little over ten years now. I started with a Kindle 4 and upgraded to the point that I now own and use a Kindle Voyage (which I totally adore, by the way!). I'll try to make a post about my Kindles in the future.

Without further ado, here are some books you should consider if you like erotica and you want to spend as little money as possible. Oh, and another thing -- don't forget to check out BookBub and Instafreebie. These 2 sites are goldmines for cheapos like me. ;) And they both have a system where they send you emails weekly or daily to let you know what books on sale! I love that.

Before I get into the books, I'll tell you that I'll try to make a post like this one every week -- I think I read over 100 sexy books in 2017 and over 40 since the beginning of 2018 (it's February 20 right now). So I have plenty of material.

Seducing the Bride by Michelle McMaster

I liked everything about this book! It's a sexy Regency romance. On top of that, it's written beautifully, and the two main characters aren't idiots -- which is a breath of fresh air, I have to say. In fact, they are quite intelligent, both Becket and Isobel. Other things I liked about the book were the plot and Becket's friend, Lord Alfred, who I understand is the main character of the next book in the series, Taming The Bride.

What happens is that these two friends stumble upon a lady who's lost her conscience and is lying in the bushes while they are going home from the club. Becket is in a somewhat unfortunate position in his life, because he is on the point of losing his fortune and inheritance. He was engaged to someone but that someone left him when she heard about his financial troubles. Anyway, I liked this book a lot - it's smart, it's sexy, and the plot takes us to exotic lands.

Something that did bother me, however, was the fact that Isobel and Becket have a bit too many adventures, some of which are life-threatening and they miraculously survive all of them. I understand that it is a HEA romance, but still. I felt like their ability to remain alive was downright supernatural.
Nonetheless, I do warmly recommend the book as it had most of what I liked in a good old Regency romance.

Bear Season: A Christmas MPreg by Kaleidoscope MM

There's something about gay erotica that gets my pants on fire! I know I'm weird, especially because I'm a woman, but I honestly find this genre extremely sexy. Something I do find a bit bizarre, however, is MPreg. In case you don't know what that means, it's when guys are capable of getting pregnant by other guys. You need a bit of imagination to believe that men are capable of impregnating other men -- but it's really not that bad, in the end.

This was a short read (just 77 pages) detailing the love story of Brody and Cole. Cole is a bear shifter who broke it off with Brody without an explanation, and he basically left him feeling brokenhearted.  I really can't go into too much detail other than that, and that's because it's too short a read for me to describe the plot. But I do recommend it.

Bought by Lauren Landish & Willow Winters

This is another of those books where the guy is a billionaire and a BDSM practitioner and buys himself a sub from an auction. I have to say, this one was very well-written, and there are many twists to the plot that got me hanging on the edge of the couch.

Both Lucian and Dahlia are genuinely interesting and have back stories that might make them incapable of being committed to a serious relationship. He's the alpha male who doesn't trust women because he's had a disastrous marriage and is now in a never-ending lawsuit against his ex-wife.  Dahlia is vulnerable due to a traumatic experience she has had to overcome - something bad happened to her when she was younger. So they're both damaged, to some extent, and they help each other a lot.

But the thing is that Lucian buys Dahlia for a month and makes her experiment a lot of kinky things, which of course makes the book a lot more fun to read! Upon reading this book, I went on to read all of those in the Highest Bidder series and I enjoyed each and every one of them.

The Cabin by Alice Ward

Oh my God, Mrs. Ward! This writer creates some of the best erotica I've ever read. Of course, most of those I've tried have heaps of alpha males in them, but I suppose that's my thing. I have a soft spot for disfigured/disabled characters and loners who want to leave the civilized world and never have to interact with another person ever again.

There were some things that might not necessarily be appreciated by the readers... and let's go through them together, shall we? One of the things that might bother you is that the two main character have sex. Like a lot. Like all the time. Like they almost never stop (giggle). Another problem is that, when she gets to the cabin, Zoe has a concussion, so she's frail... and yet this guy, Gray, does her still. Isn't that a little weird?

But still, I liked the book on the whole and I recommend it. Sure, it had some problems, but I can understand that writing erotica needs to be similar to writing content for Internet websites - it makes too little money to be profitable unless you publish a new book every month or so. I somehow believe that Ward will either edit or rewrite some of the parts in this novel, at least if she has the time, what with her writing new ones all the time. 
Continue reading Cheap books (I liked) I got for my Kindle