For the sake of my sanity, my memory and my goal of reviewing every book I read, I am doing a bunch of mini reviews today in order to clear my backlog (and my desk) before I totally forget what I thought of them. These books are ones I read as far back as February but haven’t had the time to review properly; I still want to discuss them and share them with you, but I can’t remember enough about the plot or details I enjoyed etc., to be able to write a full review. Hence, this bundle of mini-reviews. I’ve left out a few titles that I still hope (or need) to review properly; my reading tally this year has been scarily low so this won’t be a long list.
The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand
Amour et Chocolat #1
Summary from Goodreads:
Breathtakingly beautiful, the City of Light seduces the senses, its cobbled streets thrumming with possibility. For American Cade Corey, it’s a dream come true, if only she can get one infuriating French chocolatier to sign on the dotted line…
Melting, yielding yet firm, exotic, its secrets are intimately known to Sylvain Marquis. But turn them over to a brash American waving a fistful of dollars? Jamais. Not unless there’s something much more delectable on the table…
Whether confections taken from a locked shop or kisses in the dark, is there anything sweeter?
I have Angie at Angieville to thank for getting me to read this – it is SO MUCH FUN!! Funny, sexy, exciting, engrossing… It’s hard to go wrong when you combine chocolate with Paris with love and chemistry, isn’t it? And boy is there some sizzling chemistry going on here! If nothing else, read it for the sheer joy of Sylvain’s reaction when he discovers Cade broke into his chocolate shop and ate his chocolates – he follows her path through bins and trays of delicate chocolates like someone tracking an animal. His reaction is not what you’d expect. I just loved this, it’s the perfect read when you want cheering up, or a pleasurable distraction, or simply because you enjoy reading good books.
Read in February 2014
The Undead Next Door by Kerrelyn Sparks
Love at Stake #4
Mass Market Paperback
Summary from Goodreads: Three signs that something is very different with your new man:
1. He sleeps all day…which would be annoying except he’s so attentive at night.
2. He’s attacked by sword-wielding assailants, yet insists he can handle it on his own.
3. He never seems to age.
Heather Westfield has always lived a quiet life, but that all changes when she helps a very handsome, very mysterious stranger. There’s something not quite right about Jean-Luc, but still, she’s never been with a man so charming, so attractive…so wonderful. Now if only a murderous villain wasn’t after them, they might get their happily-ever-after.
I really enjoy this series. They’re warm, funny, they focus a lot on building chemistry and genuine love between the main characters as well as touching on the practicalities and logistics of mortals having relationships with vampires (Shanna and Roman from book 1 are often handy for providing insight to the newest female mortal on how a relationship could actually work). Plus the idea of “good Vamps” surviving on synthetic bottled blood is a better solution than Lynsay Sand’s “bagged blood” from blood banks – that’s always bothered me a bit because of how hard it is to get people to donate blood in real life, and so the idea that so much of it would get sidelined for vampires to drink has never really sat well with me. You know what they say: even fantasy must be believable, plausible, realistic (within the realms of said fantasy). Okay so “they” don’t say it but I do.
Heather and Jean-Luc were an engaging pair and well suited. Plus in this book the first were-animal is revealed, and Ian finds a way to physically age so he no longer looks like a teenager despite being over five hundred years old. There’s a lot of tension and excitement in this one; a very good addition to the series.
Read in June 2014.
Slave to Love: Erotic Stories of Bondage and Desire edited by Alison Tyler
Cleis Press 2011 (2006)
Erotica; Anthology; Short Stories
Summary from Goodreads: The right kind of punishment can be a powerful turn on. Restraint can release hidden desires. A simple leather strap, a shiny pair of handcuffs, a delicate silk scarf, a dominant’s stern gaze. The yearning for a partner who will take control can grip one as powerfully as the most intricate, indecipherable rope knot. In Slave to Love, Alison Tyler gathers the most popular — and often most taboo — fantasies of sexual control and erotic restraint. Featuring such popular erotica writers as Marilyn Jaye Lewis, Saskia Walker and Rachel Kramer Bussel, Slave to Love is luscious, naughty, and infinitely sexy.
This book took me forever to read – I started it about eight months or so before finally finishing it – and while short story anthologies do lend themselves to being read slowly over time, that wasn’t my aim. I simply didn’t enjoy this volume. I think I may have reached my limits, or discovered my limits, something like that. I didn’t find these stories sexy, which certainly puts them firmly in the “erotica” category – if you haven’t read any, erotica is not romantic, it can be quite stifling and heavy and uncomfortable. The stories here were often dark, or a bit strange, or simply uninteresting.
This is the third anthology like this that I’ve read, and each one I like less than the one before. Think I’ll have to stop here.
Finished in May 2014.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Penguin 2013 (2012)
Summary from Goodreads: Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.
Several years ago I read Looking for Alaska and was more annoyed than impressed. Didn’t stop me from reading this one, though. While it was much less annoying and depicted believable characters in heartbreaking situations – I can’t imagine what it would be like to know that you’ve got such limited time left (it’s the knowing that is especially awful, aside from the diminished able-body-ness that the narrator, Hazel, must accept on a daily basis) – it still didn’t wow me the way it has many other readers. I was mostly afraid it would be self-indulgent, sentimental and emotionally manipulative. It isn’t, not much anyway. Hazel’s first-person narration is part of the success of the novel, and it can’t have been easy to get inside the head of a young girl slowly dying of cancer. Green manages to bring her to life and let her breathe (ooh ouch the irony) on her own.
It’s a story about living life to the fullest and what that actually means for quiet, ordinary people like Hazel. It was easy to forget that she was dying, or ill, even. She’s a brave soul and that just makes it harder: you so want her to live. It’s not just her story, though: it’s also Augustus’, and his is even more tragic. Predictable, but no less tragic for it.
To be honest, I just don’t have much to say about this book. It’s got humour and intelligence, but oddly enough (considering how readily this happens), it didn’t make me cry. There’s just something missing in Green’s writing that would enable me to connect better with his characters. It’s like … it’s a little too … polished, a little too … neat and tidy. Hard to put my finger on it. It’s been a couple of months or so since I read it and it isn’t sticking in my mind like good books usually do. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, or didn’t care about the characters – I certainly did. It’s just that, as a novel, it didn’t work magic for me, and that’s that special quality that readers are always looking for, aren’t we?
Read in May 2014.
John Dreamer by Elise Celine
John Dreamer #1
Elise Celine 2014
YA Speculative Fiction
Summary from Goodreads: Andy wasn’t usually sure about much, but she was absolutely certain this was the weirdest day of her life as she stood stranded in the middle of a great white room with six strangers. Well, they were mostly strangers. She could have sworn she’d seen the guy with the green eyes before, and maybe that was why he kept staring at her.
When a man calling himself the Guardian appeared and said they had come to make their deepest dreams come true, they embark on an adventure none of them ever imagined, and the consequences of their actions would change them forever.
This was a nice, quick read, quite engrossing and interesting. The format reminds me of some other story – a book or a film – but I can’t think what and it’s really bugging me. I don’t mean that it’s derivative, only that I think it might be inspired by an older tale, if only I could what it is! Oh wait, am I thinking of the film Brazil maybe? Dreams within dreams? I feel like I’m getting warmer.
The characters are a bunch of misfits, except perhaps for the main character and John. The mystery, then, was why they were there and what their connection was. The story follows a pattern that you think is going to get repetitive and boring but isn’t because the “real” world, the dream space (the white room) gets incorporated into the scenarios. Though the characters are surprisingly slow at realising this.
It moves swiftly and keeps the momentum up, but to do so Celine had to sacrifice some much-needed character development. The characters are fairly thin sketches, a bit stereotypical, though they hint at greater depths. This is the first book in a series and while I’m not sure where the story goes from here (same characters??), it makes for fun, interesting reading.
Read in May 2014. My thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book via Netgalley.
All I Want for Christmas is a Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks
Love at Stake #5
Mass Market Paperback
Summary from Goodreads: Toni Davis’s Christmas wish list:
1. Springing my best friend from the psych ward.
2. Living somewhere that doesn’t have coffins in the basement. Occupied coffins.
3. Finding Mr. Right. Please make him tall, dark, handsome, and alive.
This Christmas isn’t so merry for Toni. Her best friend’s been locked up in a mental hospital ever since she told the police she was attacked by vampires, and the only way for Toni to get her out is to prove that bloodsuckers really do exist. So she’s taken a job as a bodyguard for the Undead, but she gets more than she bargained for, especially when she meets Ian MacPhie, a Scottish rascal looking for Ms. Right.
Although Ian’s nearly five centuries old, he looks and acts like a twenty-seven-year-old hunk.
How can a dead man be so damn sexy? Could Mr. Wrong be Mr. Right? One forbidden kiss could lead to an eternity of passion—and all it takes is one moment under the mistletoe . . .
Hugely enjoyable, this one was. Really, I’m so glad I gave this series another try after starting with book 3 (Be Still My Vampire Heart) and disliking it so much, because all the other books I’ve read (eight so far) have been so much fun and not at all annoying. Toni is a solid heroine, hired as a day guard by the “good Vamps” to watch over them while they sleep because her fighting skills impressed Connor so much when he rescued her from a group of Malcontents.
There are several storylines going here, including Ian’s search for a nice Vamp lady to marry that results in some rather hilarious (and rather sad) dating fiascos, and Toni’s neighbour Carlos’ big secret. Lots of action and some attempt on the part of the bad guys (the Malcontents) to use some brain cells and come up with a plan of attack. Plus there’s some delightful chemistry between Toni and Ian and we get to see young Constantine work his magic. Literally.
Read in July 2014