Book Review: CM Spencer’s Good Intentions

good intentions Title: Good Intentions
Author: CM Spencer
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: No
Rating: 3 out of 5
My Copy: Complimentary copy won via LibraryThing’s Member Giveaway

Victoria Larke vows never to marry a naval officer. She has nothing against them, it’s just that her father was one and was always way from home. Her mother wants her married and settled and her father takes the family to Bath in hopes of her finding a husband. There she meets two gentlemen, David and James. Both are smitten with her, but it’s James that pays the most attention to her; however, business calls him away and he bids Victoria goodbye. Upon his return to Bath he’s shocked to learn Victoria has married his good friend and he proceeds to hide his true feelings from her. Victoria wants James to be happy and makes it her mission to find someone worthy of his love. What ensues is a series of misunderstandings and lets James realize early on what type of woman he’d be happy with.

The writing is good and doesn’t sound too modern. In terms of characterization, it’s well done, but Spencer focused primarily on Victoria and James. At no point could I figure out why David won her heart. David was a patient man especially when a lot of the set ups ended up disastrous. One thing that doesn’t sit well and it is an incident involving Victoria and James. I won’t say what it is because it can be viewed as a spoiler. I did enjoy Victoria’s set ups and remind me a bit of Jane Austen’s Emma where she’s involved in all sorts of matchmaking and yet fails terribly. In each failed incident, I felt bad for James because I thought for sure he’d find his love and when it didn’t quite happen, I felt his disappointment. In this day and age we have the luxury of waiting around and dating until we find our significant other, but in the Regency period you were limited to what you could and couldn’t do. If you were lucky to find someone immediately then good for you and Spencer does a good job detailing the perils of trying to find someone in a period where it was pretty much hit or miss. Often times you could marry someone you thought was a good fit and turns out it isn’t. She did a great job showcasing that and I appreciate it.

In the end, Good Intentions falls flat. I understand the reason to focus primarily on Victoria’s attempt to set up James, but I wanted that “aha” moment. The moment the two protagonists fall in love and live happily ever after and we don’t that get that moment. For a good 60% of the novel, it’s about Victoria and James with Jemma in the background. When we finally get Jemma into the picture, she doesn’t play a major role in her own romance. I still can’t figure out when exactly James fell for her.

If you’re a fan of Jane Austen’s books, you might be interested in reading Good Intentions.

Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway-Jessa Russo’s Ever

everTitle: Ever
Author: Jessa Russo
Genre: YA / Paranormal
Series: Yes / Book 1 of 3
Rating: 3 out of 5
My Copy: Review copy via Author

Seventeen-year old Ever Van Ruysdael has a secret: she’s been in love with her childhood best friend, Frankie, for years and never got the chance to tell him. Two years ago, Frankie and Ever were involved in a car accident and Frankie died. He helped Ever stay alive by guiding her to safety and Frankie became ghost following his death. He’s been living with Ever and her family since that night. Although she knows they can never be together she longs for a boyfriend or to experience the feelings of falling in love. When Frankie’s father sells his house, she quickly catches the eye of the new neighbor’s son, Toby. Soon her and Toby are spending time together and she has to grapple with her new feelings for him while keeping him a secret from Frankie. Things are not what they seem and when Ever finds out Toby’s true motivates, she has to deal with the death of a beloved family member and the reality that Frankie may be back.

Jessa Russo does a good job of engaging the reader immediately and Ever is well written. In terms of characterization, I really liked Ever’s best friend, Jessie. Your heart aches for what she goes through regarding her family life. Putting myself into Ever’s shoes and if my best friend had a life like her’s, I would do everything I can to be there for her. In that one scene with Jessie’s mother and her boyfriend, I’m glad Jessie had the support of Ever’s parents.

There are a lot of unanswered questions. The first one is regarding Frankie and how easily he just adjusted to being a ghost and living with Ever’s family. I wish Russo would have explained a little more of her family’s reaction to having him around. Also, why did he focus on Ever and not his own family? I believe a lot of the heartache his parents experienced could have been avoided, but alas in order to have this plot, he needed to be with Ever. There’s also a line that had me scratching my head. When Ever’s mother is standing next to Ariadne, Ever makes note that both of them look alike. That unsettled me a bit because it’s never explored and there’s mention of Ever having a sister dying before she was born. Furthermore, there’s an incident involving Ever’s father and Toby says it was an accident and it wasn’t supposed to happen. Why the change in plans?

I debated heavily with the rating and often bordered on a three / four rating. Ultimately, I went with the three because of some unanswered questions and for the first quarter of the novel. Ever started strong, but it just fell flat with the constant feelings Ever had regarding Toby. It picked up once Ariadne made an appearance and even though she felt like a caricature at times, she was the second intriguing character. Frankie for me stole the show and I wish we had more of his perspective. He’s the first to warn Ever about Toby and says he’s not a good guy. Why is that Frankie? Did Frankie have an idea of Toby’s employment? What was his reaction towards Ariadne when was he given the choice of what ultimately becomes Ariadne’s gift to Ever?

Ever ends on a cliffhanger, which I won’t reveal, but I’m looking forward to reading book 2, Evade, because I’d love to know what happens to Ever and Frankie. The premise is interesting and if you’re a fan of the paranormal genre, then I recommend this book.

EVER Review Tour Banner Click on the banner for the full review tour schedule

Jessa is giving away 1 signed copy of Ever and Evade (when it’s available) to one lucky winner. Click here to enter.

Book Review: Ashlyn Macnamara’s A Most Scandalous Proposal

prop Title: A Most Scandalous Proposal
Author: Ashlyn Macnamara
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Yes / Book 1
Rating: 3 out of 5
My Copy: Advance Reader Copy via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers Program

Julia St. Claire doesn’t believe in falling in love because nothing good can come of it. She’s witnessed firsthand the heartache and destruction that accompanies unrequited love. Her sister, Sophia, on the other hand, has spent the past five years pining for Earl of Clivesden, but he only has eyes for one of the St. Claire sisters. When Benedict Revelstoke, a long time friend of the St. Claire family, learns of Clivesden’s true intentions towards Julia, Benedict makes every effort to keep her away from Clivesden and in the process discovers that he loves her. Julia rejects Benedict until she’s betrayed by her father and suddenly she makes him an offer he can’t refuse.

The story is interesting, but lacks in depth characterization. Julia is a bit one sided and I was trying to understand her, but couldn’t. Sophia is a bit more interesting and the one I cared about the most. As for the men, Highgate’s personal history was interesting and you could feel the pain of his past. George Upperton, Benedict’s best friend, was personally one of my favorite characters and every time he made an appearance on the page, I smiled. In terms of Benedict, it would have been nice to read his gradual interest in Julia turn into love. Instead it happens overnight and there’s no hint of him having had these feelings prior nor are we given the exact moment he realizes he loves her. That “aha” moment is crucial to any romance plot because readers are on the same journey as our protagonists and if we don’t have it, then I feel we miss out on something that’s expected.

The writing is good and there are some funny moments. I particularly liked the scene between Highgate and Sophia discussing Pride and Prejudice. I loved how both of them were able to describe people they knew as characters. At one point, Sophia tells Highgate his sister, Lady Wexford, resembles Lady Catherine de Bourgh because she looks down on Sophia and her family. My favorite quote describing Highgate’s personal thoughts regarding his sister is: “He’d always thought their father would have made a sound investment in buying her a commission-preferably in India.”

Ultimately what makes this a three and not a solid four, are the different narratives that made my head spin and in the end, we didn’t get the one that really counted, that of Clivesden. What drives him to seek Julia instead of Sophia? While Julia assumes it’s because she’s perceived as a cold fish, I wanted to know more about him. We aren’t given much in terms of his personal history other than how he came into the title and he’s known to sleep around. In hindsight, I can see why he picks Julia because she is not attracted to him. Although Sophia’s heart is engaged, in the end, he would have made her life miserable, I doubt she would have grown to realize this had he showed any interest in her. Knowing Clivesden’s history, I doubt he would have cared for Sophia’s feelings and he’s not the chivalrous sort. Ultimately, Macnamara does a good job handling the shift in narratives, but wish she would have them drawn them out more. In the end, we have two romances taking place and despite the fact Sophia’s is secondary, her romance was the strongest. I wish Macnamara had focused on Sophia and Highgate’s romance primarily because it outshined that of Julia and Benedict.

Ashlyn Macnamara’s A Most Scandalous Proposal is a good debut and despite a few hiccups, I’m looking forward to reading more of her work. If you’re looking to try a new author, I recommend Macnamara.

Book Review: Kat Rosenfield’s Amelia Anne is Dead & Gone

11737266Title: Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone
Author: Kat Rosenfield
Genre: Mystery / YA
Series: No
Rating: 3 out of 5
My Copy: Purchased

Those of us who grew up in a small town can relate to the feeling of watching your peers leave full of hope and then returning, finding themselves trapped with no way out. On the night of her high school graduation, Becca Williams is dumped by her boyfriend James. She doesn’t know while she was left heartbroken, another woman, Amelia Ann Richardson, took her last breath. In many ways Becca fears being trapped in Bridgeton and in the end Amelia Anne is forever stuck there.

As far as character development goes, there’s not much there. I learned more about Amelia Anne from herself than those around her. In terms of our main character, Becca, I could relate to her and the dread of knowing she might never leave the town grew up in, but who exactly is she? She’s really bland and I found it hard to like her. When we’re told by other characters she’s stuck up, show me. Then we have her boyfriend, James and it’s pretty apparent her parents disapprove of him because he’s a dropout. He harbors a secret that is later revealed and I have to wonder about his personality. What drew Becca to him? Rosenfield also missed an opportunity to expand on Becca’s father as a character. We’re told he’s the town judge and in a murder investigation he’s kept abreast regarding the status. He’s virtually nonexistent and provides a few details that Becca takes away from, but overall there’s much there. I think back to the rest of the supporting cast and walk away with the same feeling. There’s so much that could have been expanded on, but wasn’t. I wonder for the most part if it’s because Rosenfield was trying to remain mysterious by not giving us in-depth characters.

A few readers have mentioned difficulty in the narration with alternating point of views. I found no problem with the set up and in many ways we needed the differing narratives. This also isn’t your typical mystery with a running thread and trying to figure out the events that lead to Amelia Anne’s death. Instead Rosenfield utilizes alternating POVs from First to Third to take us on the journey based in the future that parallels with the events in the past. We’re also presented with three suspects early on and it is pretty easy to narrow it down to one. At times I really wanted ____ to be the murder then realized I didn’t, because what would that mean for Becca? I then decided if ___ really was the murder, then Becca had the excuse to leave without looking back. I’ll keep tight-lipped regarding the ending, but it was fairly obvious early on who the suspect was. For me this isn’t the typical formula followed by most mystery writers, but it works.

Despite a few flaws there’s no mistaking Rosenfield’s beautiful writing. It’s evocative and haunting. Several times I found myself just rereading sentences because of the prose.

Becca describes people coming back to town and the inability to leave, “I’d seen it happen, how hard it was to get out. Every year, one or two kids would visit from college for a long October weekend and simply never leave. They came home, cocooned themselves in the familiar radius of the town limits, and never broke free again. Years later, you’d see them working in the kitchen at the pizza place, or sitting at the bar in the East Bank Tavern. Shoulders hunched, jaw set, skin slack. And in the waning light of their eyes, the barest sensation that once upon a time, they been somewhere else… or maybe it was only a dream.”

On the discovery of Amelia Anne’s body, “She was dry, dry inside like a ten-thousand-year-old tomb, with the last of her life barely dampening the dirt underneath.”

Finally, describing how plans are put to a stop by outside forces, “That girl, dead and gone, her spirit trapped forever just inside town limits—she’d come from someplace, was going somewhere. Until destiny had stepped into the road in front of her, stopped her forward motion, drawn a killing claw against the white, fluttering swell of her future. Whispering, ‘Oh no, you don’t.’

When you made plans, the saboteurs came out to play.”

I had a difficult time deciding what I should rate Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone. In my eyes, it’s a 3; meaning it’s good and not quite up to 4. Ultimately what makes it a 3 is the character development and the timeline. We start off at Becca’s graduation then all of sudden we are in July and at the end of August with no real sense of time passing or being told. Furthermore, the author in several places mentions a past event occurring in the town and never finishes what she’s saying. Later she picks up right where she left off, but never mentions she’s talking about the past event and it’s up to the reader to recognize it’s the past she’s discussing. I also have a slight problem with the ending (I still have questions surrounding a few key pieces) and it all seemed rushed.

Overall Kat Rosenfield’s Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone is a strong debut and she has a bright future ahead of her. I, for one, can’t wait to see her future work.

Book Review: Cathy Maxwell’s The Earl Claims His Wife

the earl claims his wifeTitle: The Earl Claims His Wife
Author: Cathy Maxwell
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Yes / Book 2 of 5
Rating: 3 out of 5
My Copy: Borrowed from the library

I like Cathy Maxwell and it’s been awhile since I’ve picked up a book of hers. The Earl Claims His Wife is book 2 in her Scandals and Seductions series. I haven’t read the first book and don’t see a problem reading the series out of order; however, if you’re the type that doesn’t like to be spoiled then start with book 1 (A Seduction at Christmas).

I should start out by saying that I enjoy the abandoned wife plot in historical romance. Maxwell does a good job with a simple plot. After spending four years under Wellington’s command and fighting Napoleon, Brian, the Earl of Wright, returns to London; reluctantly he honors his father’s demands of returning and only because his two older brothers are now dead. Upon returning to London he quickly finds out his wife, Gillian, is not under his father’s roof, but instead has left to manage her cousin’s household. He writes demanding her return, but headstrong Gillian does not comply and he’s left to fetch her only to discover she’s in love with another man.

Gillian, in many ways, had the right to leave her father-in-law’s household. She spent four years being oppressed without a house of her own, whereas Brian’s mistress, Jess, had her own house. Gillian’s resentment towards Brian is justified and it doesn’t help Brian confesses he only married her because he was told to (yes dear reader he tells her about Jess). While spending time at her cousin’s estate, she meets a Spanish nobleman, Andres, and realizes he’s the man she wants to be with. Her aunt tries to knock some sense into her, but Gillian won’t listen and is prepared to take Andres as her lover and things were going according to plan until Brian shows up. Brian threatens a duel with Andres if she doesn’t return with him, Gillian agrees to return only to save the life of the man she loves. Little by little during their journey to London, Gillian sees glimpses of the man she fell in love with. Brian informs her that he needs her and he’s willing to give their marriage another chance. She agrees, but upon arriving in London she’s greeted by the sight of a child and she’s heartbroken for believing in her husband’s lies. Brian for his part tries everything to convince her to stay.

The heart of the novel is Brian’s father, the Marquess of Atherstone. Atherstone likes to control people and when they defy him, he goes out of his way to make them regret their decision. Brian very much defies him at every turn and only returned to London when he was forced. Atherstone has a position in mind for Brian, but Brian has a different idea. The question here is how powerful is Athersone? The answer, dear reader, is simple: very. Maxwell presents us with a worthy character who has a network of spies. I won’t say anymore because it does ruin the experience of reading.

A few people I’ve spoken with believe Gillian was fickle especially since she was so quick to discard Andres. I don’t believe that, but rather she never stopped loving her husband. She tells her aunt, she knew Brian was the one the moment she set eyes on him and when she realizes she still has feelings for him, she does the right thing and that is to inform Andres. As for Brian and his feelings for his mistress…I truly believe he knew deep in down Gillian’s character, but was so blinded by youthful infatuation he couldn’t see anything other than Jess. How many times have we held onto that perfect memory only to experience it again and have it shatter our soul because it was all a lie? Brian experienced what we all do and he comes to his senses. He knows he has a rare treasure of a woman and that’s his wife. The one thing truly missing from this book is a good grovel scene.

If you’re looking for a quick historical romance to read and have a few hours to spare then I recommend it. Just don’t look for in-depth characterization. It’s a fast paced read that will leave you satisfied with the ending.

Book Review: Charlotte Abel’s Enchantment

11878534Title: Enchantment
Author: Charlotte Abel
Genre: YA / Paranormal
Series: Yes / Book 1 of 3 (if you count the prequel)
Rating: 3 out 5
My Copy: Review Copy via Author

Enchantment is first book in the Channie series and currently there is a sequel (Taken) and a prequel (part of a YA anthology, Midnight Surrender). It’s not necessary to read the prequel before Enchantment since it was written after the first book.

Channie Kearns isn’t your typical sixteen year old girl and she’s use to living in seclusion. When the family is forced to flee the Ozark Mountains, they move to Colorado where they must hide the fact they are witches. What ensues is a journey about a young teenage girl falling in love and finding herself.

Imagine for a moment having a name and it’s tied to your personality. You’re probably asking yourself, how can a name be tied to a personality? Let’s say your name is Charity, you might be inclined to do charitable work. The concept of a power-name is unique and thoroughly explored. Channie warned her parents several times that they couldn’t just change her name with another spell without consequences. Channie finds herself fighting to stay as Enchantment while possessing Chasity’s power and it frightens her. The reason they change her name has to do with her sister, Abundance, and their belief Channie will end up just like her. This worries them more because they are living around Empties (those not magically gifted).

On the night Channie’s power-name is changed, she decides to see what type of effect her new name has on men. She meets Joshua Abrim at the local park where he’s hanging with his friend and sure enough her new name affects men the way her parents had anticipated. Over time Channie and Joshua fall in love. Channie has strong sexual feelings towards Joshua and no doubt had there not been a magic barrier, I’m sure they would have consummated their relationship. Alas there is that obstacle and Joshua understands. There’s a hilarious scene involving a spell gone awry and girls reacting to Joshua as if he were a member of a popular boy band. Joshua also is a bit unsure if he believes what Channie tells him about magic and witches. At first he’s inclined not to believe her, but overtime he comes to terms with it. The way he accepts Channie is lovely and although he wants to protect her, he’s at a complete loss at how to do it. I respect Abel for handling the reality of teenagers and sex. I believe the plot could have gone either way, but instead she emphasizes the importance of an emotional connection. The only boy Channie felt a mild attraction to before meeting Joshua was Hunter. Even she admitted to herself that it wasn’t love, but lust and that her parents hadn’t warned her that females could feel it too.

A few people have suggested Channie is a bully and has no remorse using her new found powers as Chastity to get what she wants, but I disagree. One simply has to look at her parents and you understand how and why she takes situations into her own hands. They just order her around and punish her for Abundance’s mistake; heck they punish her for their own mistakes. I love the fact that the voice of reason in the family is aptly named, Aunt Wisdom. Channie is in many ways naive about the world and very much is still able to be controlled by her parents. Changing her name also changes her, something her parents did not anticipate. There were moments I felt Channie was a bit too childish especially towards her relationship with Joshua, but I had to step back for a moment and put myself in her shoes.

Joshua’s real identity isn’t known until the end and upon my first read I couldn’t connect the dots as some have pointed out. After a second reading it became clear and even though the ending is predictable, I admit to being surprised. There’s a few unanswered questions that I’m sure are addressed in Taken. Overall, it was an enjoyable read. I really liked the spells and the chaos that ensues.

People who like to read YA novels, will read this and give it a five rating. I couldn’t because I didn’t love it enough for a five rating, but I did enjoy it and to be honest I have Taken and just need to find a moment to read it. If you’re a fan of fantasy or paranormal books this might appeal to you.

Book Review: Sophie Morgan’s Diary of a Submissive

15744239Title: Diary of a Submissive: A Modern True Tale of Sexual Awakening
Author: Sophie Morgan
Genre: Memoir / Erotica
Series: Yes / Book 1 of 2
Rating: 3 out of 5
My Copy: Review Copy via Publisher

Sophie Morgan’s book opens up with a prologue that many of us no doubt have witnessed before. A man and a woman are outside; the man tugs on her hair forcibly and we hear him call her a slut and whore. We look into her eyes and see fury behind them as she restrains herself and the man’s hand tangles tighter into her hair as we, the outsider watch. Immediately our thoughts range from calling for help to intervening, but as Morgan describes the scene, it plays out as that of a D/s (Dominance and submission) relationship. It’s an uncomfortable read as you realize what she describes could be any couple located anywhere, but at the same time she plays it off as part of the lifestyle. We the reader/outsider are left to wonder if the woman is in trouble and as they walk away, one can’t help question if we should have intervened. That scene is disturbing because abuse is not something to take lightly, but as she points out how can we tell what a relationship is? She craves the experience and is sexually aroused by it, while we, the outsider, can’t tell what’s going on. This is how our journey with Morgan beings; a mad, bad, and dangerous journey into the BDSM lifestyle.

I sometimes wonder how someone develops a fetish or a particular kink. Morgan doesn’t delve into that, but rather how she came into the lifestyle. She touches upon the normal childhood she had growing up in England; mentions her family was a typical middle class, but received no corporal punishment and was just sent up to her room when she misbehaved. This is important because her first experience involving anything remotely close to a BDSM experience was with an American she met while at university. Ryan turns out to be her first foray into the world of kink. Morgan explains how excited she was to get to know his sexual preferences and how to please him. While she says she had a good imagination, the use of a hairbrush as her first official spanking shocked her. Yes the spanking hurt and was nothing like she had imagined; yet she found the sensation pleasurable to the point of arousing her. She credits Ryan with her “first taste of playing with someone who was a dominant foil to my submissiveness, who didn’t judge me for what turned me on,” and we see how her life is forever changed.

What does Morgan teach us about being a submissive and those in the lifestyle? First of all, our misconceptions regarding those into BDSM are challenged. She shows us this through the introduction of three distinct men in her life. These men are different from each other in looks and in their choice of career. All three show her what she wants in a relationship and how much of a submissive she is. Morgan calls herself a feminist several times and yet she calls certain behaviors demeaning to her. I found these sections to be contradictory to her nature. Wouldn’t a feminist put a stop to these behaviors? Or is she using the excuse of pleasure her significant other clearly gets as way to justify the demeaning behavior? Is she hiding behind the mask of arousal to justify his behavior? Yes her limits are pushed and it’s clear that we as readers begin to separate exactly what we wouldn’t find acceptable in the bedroom, yet we have to remind ourselves this is her story and her life. While we may not agree with the behavior (yes I found it to be contradictory to her descriptions), she fully explains it’s her choice. She reminds us about this when she’s talking to one of three men, James. James is trying to come to terms with a sexual encounter between the two of them and she says, “Yes, you hurt me. But you do it with my permission. I beg you to do it, literally sometimes. Hurting me isn’t a bad thing in this context. The fact that you’re you – kind, intelligent, polite, lovely James – is what makes me feel confident and safe enough for you to do that. I wouldn’t give any old person that power over me. I give it to you. In fact, I’ve never given any other person the level of power over me that I’ve given you, not even Thomas. And I give you this power because of the vanilla you. If you were as merciless and harsh all the time as you are when you’re choking me then I wouldn’t want to play with you.” Suddenly it all makes sense. The level of trust she gives to another and giving up control is what she wants. She shows us that she’s educated, holds down a hectic job, and just like everyone else suffers from the same angst. There’s nothing deviant about her because she likes to be a submissive. Sure there are scenes that are hard to stomach, but then they just serve as a reminder what my hard limits would be and honestly, I’d be calling out my safe word.

While reading Diary of a Submissive, I agreed with a lot of what Morgan said. To the point I began to question myself and wondered if perhaps I’m secretly one of them. When I began to talk to others about this book I breathed a heavy sigh of relief with others indicated they agreed with Morgan. I’m not saying being into the lifestyle is bad or something to be ashamed about. What I admire Morgan for is putting it out there. A lot of women and men have read that other book, yes, Fifty Shades of Grey. A lot of Fifty fans are being recommended Morgan’s book as a “Fifty fix” because it’s “real life BDSM,” and alas I believe that’s a wrong approach. EL James herself has stated that the BDSM in her books is background, so in many ways filler and the heart of her novels is Ana and Grey’s relationship and not the fact he’s into BDSM. So when Fifty fans are given this to read to fill the Fifty void I cringe; I cringe mostly because they come into a pretense believing Morgan’s book will give them that love story that captured their hearts. You don’t get that with Morgan. What you get is a realistic glimpse of a BDSM lifestyle and what it’s like for her. Not everyone in the lifestyle will share similar experiences. I think it’s important to keep that in mind when reading other BDSM books in the genre. Not everything Morgan describes may sit well with a reader and again I remind you that Morgan’s book is her life and lifestyle which is varies greatly from a series in fiction as well as real life. Ana and Grey have nothing on Morgan.

In October, I had the opportunity to ask Morgan a question via Twitter. I asked her what she what thought of people recommending her book to Fifty fans and if it’s healthy for women to read about BDSM in fiction or does she worry about the misconceptions. Her response was “We just need to differentiate between d/s and abuse. It’s a grey area (no pun intended) but important, obviously.”

ETA: I always research a new author before I begin a book as a way to familiarize myself with their writing style and to compile a background portfolio on them (just so I know what may or may not influence their writing). I broke this personal rule before reading Diary. I did the research after and I as an academic, feel I need to report my findings.

In 2010, Kate Marley published a book, Subtext, and there’s some confusion whether or not it was fiction or nonfiction. Sometime between 2010 and this year, Subtext was rewritten, acquired a new publisher, and published as Diary of a Submissive. Research suggests both books are identical with parts of Diary expanded and names changed. When the opportunity came to interview Sophie, I jumped at the chance to seek clarification. Sadly, the question was not answered. I admit, I personally struggled with the rating because of that unanswered question. My immediate reaction to was to bring it down, but in the end I decided to keep it and while some do believe Diary is fiction (based on Subtext), I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

Book Review: Sylvia Day’s Reflected In You

Reflected-in-You-by-Sylvia-DayTitle: Reflected In You
Author: Sylvia Day
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Yes / Book 2 of 3
Rating: 3 out of 5
My Copy: Advance Reader Copy via NetGalley

Reflected In You is the highly anticipated sequel to Sylvia Day’s Bared To You. It is part of a trilogy and book two in the Crossfire series. It can be read as a standalone, if you’re the type not to care for much back story, and if you aren’t interested to see how the series concludes. The Crossfire series will get compared to Fifty Shades of Grey, but I disagree. I believe both series are very different from each other (there is no BDSM references here ) and can be enjoyed by fans of both.

This next installment picks up right where we left off at the end of Bared To You. It’s the morning after Cary’s, Eva’s roommate, infamous orgy in the middle of their living room- what a way to end book one! Readers will remember Cary’s ominous words to Eva, “He’s a ticking time bomb,” with regards to Gideon’s nightmares. Both Eva and Gideon are trying to make their relationship work, but how can both make it work when it is very clear that they are obsessed with one another and as equally damaged? Eva, Gideon, and Cary grow as characters, each having to face the consequences of their choices; and it was interesting to see these past decisions affect their current lives. Day turns an erotic novel into a deeper therapy session, but the angst and steam were not lost in the shuffle.

Reflected is centered around Eva and her haunting past. Day gives insight regarding the abuse Eva experienced in the first book; however, in Reflected we have the return of her abuser as well as a newcomer from her past. One of them plays a more prominent role while the other is a player in the background, but we are given two justifiable reasons for both to be present. First, they provide us with a glimpse into the type of woman Eva was and how she’s evolved into this young, vibrant, and confident woman we were introduced to in Bared. The second is to showcase her feelings for Gideon and how important and life altering he has become to her. I will ask this though, how many times will Day kick Eva in the stomach? It was heartbreaking to see her reduced to this insecure woman who questions her motives and feelings for Gideon all because of her past. I was mentally high-fiving Eva when she finally got some balls, put her foot down, and said enough was enough. There was the Eva I knew and adored from Bared.

As for Gideon, Day finally reveals what happened in his youth; and as much as I want to say I had an idea, I was not prepared for the effect it had on me. Eva is devastated for him, and I have no doubt you, as a reader, will be too. We get a better understanding of why he is distanced from his family, and I can’t help the urge to want to hold Gideon and see him through it. Seeing Eva with him makes me glad he has someone there for him and understands how it feels to be a victim and to help see him through it all. For those wondering who Dr. Terry is…you will see exactly why the animosity is not lost between them, and the revelation was not what I expected. To say Eva is a snoop and stubborn is an understatement.

Reflected in You is an emotional mess wrapped in a plethora of steam. When Eva was happy, I was happy; and when she was hurting, I was too. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around Gideon and his actions, but I’m sure that was Day’s goal all along. A lot of what he does is not explained until near the end, and I still can’t understand or accept why Eva put up with it as much as she did. We have Gideon becoming more possessive, as if he is a stalker; and his constant need to “watch” her had me troubled for both of them. He keeps secret after secret, and all he can say to Eva is “trust me.” I questioned Gideon and his need to keep secrets hidden with his intentions, and I found myself struggling to trust him. Eva is left out in the cold to flounder, and all I could ask myself was how can you trust someone who can’t bring himself to tell you what is going on? When Eva would tell him to fuck off, I was cheering her on and felt the need to tell him that too.

I admit I’ve reread Reflected three times. At first I thought I missed a few key items; but by the second read, I realized that Day just didn’t elaborate on the things I wanted to know more about. I hope she touches on them in book three because I’m already left hanging as it is now. The ending isn’t a heart-stopping cliffhanger, but nevertheless, a bit shocking and left me unsettled. I’m not quite sure what it was but something just didn’t sit right, and I am interested to see the public’s reaction to it. You will know what I’m talking about after you read it, and I hope you share your feelings with me here because I really want to talk about this ending!

Some reviewers really like Reflected and feel it’s more polished. I, however, feel that Bared to You is more polished and fleshed out; and at times Reflected felt rushed in some areas. That being said I still enjoyed it, and I am looking forward to how this series concludes and to see how Day brings all of these elements together in the end. I will be sad when it’s over, but at least I have Gideon; and when things get a bit too crazy with him, I just can say to him, “Crossfire.”

Book Review: Carol Oates’ Iridescent

13614229Title: Iridescent
Author: Carol Oates
Genre: YA / Paranormal
Series: Yes / Book 2 of 2
Rating: 3 out 5
My Copy: Review Copy via Publisher

Iridescent is the second book in the Ember series and is not a standalone book. Carol Oates touches upon history featured in Ember, and all of the characters return in Iridescent. I tried to imagine coming into Iridescent without having read Ember; and honestly, I don’t believe it can be done. You, dear reader, would be scrambling trying to make sense of the world created by Oates and everyone’s relationship; therefore, I highly suggest reading Ember first for the back story.

Iridescent picks up right where Ember left off; Candra is still recovering from the death of her best friend, Ivy, while having to deal with saving the world. Late one night, she comes face to face with Lilith, a soul carrier. Lilith tricks Candra into thinking she’s Ivy, and it’s Sebastian who comes to her rescue to set things straight. As always, Sebastian is keeping secrets mainly regarding Lilith’s identity and what she has to with Ivy. Of course, that’s the question everyone is asking: Who is Lilith, and what does she have to do with restoring the Arch?

At the heart of the novel is Candra’s relationship with Sebastian, as well as his relationship with Ananchal, Draven’s twin, and very much Draven’s second in command. If you recall from book one, Candra picks Sebastian in the end, or I suppose it was Draven who gave her up and presented her to Sebastian. Ananchal, it seems, is hiding a deep, dark secret and hopes that by giving Candra back to Draven all will be okay; however, there’s no going back. Candra is still attracted to Draven and fights her attraction. Lilith wants Candra for her own nefarious activities, while Sebastian has to devise a plan to keep Candra safe, but with Ananchal involved, we all know things won’t go quite as smooth. The question then lies regarding Lilith and her involvement. I won’t say much because I do believe you have to read to understand, but Lilith has with her a creation blade. This object is folklore among the fallen/watchers. Some believe the blade can help restore everyone back to the way things were with the Arch and go home while others believe it’s a lost cause.

Oates does make you question your beliefs. For example, Sebastian, Draven, and even Ananchal all want to go home, but is it worth still believing in the Arch? The Arch, in case you’re wondering, is God. Oates does a beautiful job portraying the feelings of those who continue to believe compared to those who have stopped believing. There are a few heartbreaking scenes when belief is brought up, but the scene between Ananchal and Draven left me broken. Here is a perfect example of someone who has stopped believing all the while the believer must deal with the consequences. In the end who is right and who is wrong, and do they both have the right to judge each other’s actions?

Our climatic showdown between Candra and Lilith is not as action packed as I had hoped nor really drawn out; however, Oates delivers a satisfying ending. Hoping to fix the mistakes of the past, Sebastian keeps Draven and Gabriel in the dark regarding his plans. It’s not until everyone has sought the safety of shelter that we find out Sebastian’s plans. The culminating scene is heartbreaking as we see Sebastian return, triumphant with the creation blade, only to fall victim to his wounds sustained by fighting Lilith’s army. Up until Sebastian’s death I had no idea where Oates was going with the story. I kept wondering if we’d have a third book in the series because I had so many unanswered questions. Alas, those questions remain unanswered, but Candra’s purpose and destiny is fulfilled; and we know the fate of the world and everyone in it.

My only complaint has to do with the missing information. At times I felt Oates was giving us all this information; and yet, I felt completely lost thinking I had missed something. A back story with the holes filled in would have been nice. I know some people do enjoy a dark brooding hero (hey, I admit I do); Sebastian, though at times, was a little too moody. I found myself asking who was the teenager, him or Candra? But I realize that his feelings for Candra were very much new to him, and he didn’t quite know how to handle them. I can forgive him for that.

Now Candra…oh, dear Candra, what can I say about you? I know she had her reasons for keeping her plans quiet; but at times, I wanted to shake some sense into her and urge her to go talk to someone about her plans and feelings. If the fate of everyone on Earth was left to me, I’d have everyone locked in a room demanding answers. Everything was bottled up, and I don’t know if the author did this to add a sense of mystery or if it was planned that way. Other than that, Iridescent was an interesting read.

Book Review: M. Leighton’s Down To You

16001893Title: Down To You
Author: M. Leighton
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Yes / Book 1
Rating: 3 out 5
My Copy: Review Copy via Author

It’s difficult for any author to write a love triangle because each reader is different and we get divided up into teams. Afterwards we have our own idea regarding who the heroine should have picked (especially if she picks the wrong one). I admit I was a bit worried about how this would turn out. The reason? From the premise, Olivia Townsend, is attracted to brothers. Normally this isn’t a problem as we’ve seen it played out before because one brother turns out to be the villain and makes it easy for her to figure out which one she wants, but the problem here lies with twin brothers. Twin identical brothers: Cash & Nash Davenport. If you’re saying to yourself, “Cash & Nash?” no worries-Olivia thought the same thing.

On the one hand we have Cash. He’s oozes sexuality and Olivia is attracted to him on sight, however; he’s not what Olivia wants. She immediately puts him in the bad boy category and she’s done with that type. Then we have Nash and he’s everything Olivia wants in man. He’s intelligent, hard working, financially stable and not to mention responsible. It should be a pretty easy choice right? Wrong! While Nash has it all he’s also in a relationship. Since we know Nash is taken then her choice should be Cash right? Leighton doesn’t let us off that easy and throws us a curve ball weren’t expecting.

Leighton writes an intriguing tale that will have you grinning ear to ear and maybe tossing and turning as you attempt to sleep. Olivia first meets Cash at a bachelorette party for her good friend Ginger. A little misunderstanding ensues and let me just say Olivia gets up close and personal with Cash. When the misunderstanding is cleared up she’s immediately embarrassed, but moves on. The next day she meets Nash and finds out he’s dating her cousin Marissa. Upon seeing Nash in Marissa’s kitchen (Olivia is roommates with her) she’s immediately outraged. How can this man be here in her kitchen pretending he doesn’t know who she is and what about Marissa? Her confusion is immediately cleared up when Nash explains he has a twin brother named Cash.

Needless to say Olivia spends time with both brothers and her attraction to both of them grows. While she tries to figure out why she turns to jelly around them, both brothers are hiding a secret. One evening, Olivia accompanies Nash to a work function in Marissa’s stead. He tells her about his family, but Nash doesn’t go into details and she doesn’t press him for information. Later Cash explains the predicament his family is in. Olivia doesn’t know what to do with this information and is angry at Cash for telling her something that could potentially hurt her and her family. Despite knowing this information, she still can’t quite decide which brother she wants and when her friend Ginger suggests she test drive both of them to pick the one she wants, Olivia scoffs at the idea. It’s Cash who wants her and will do anything to have her. The question is will Nash take a back seat and let Cash have what he wants too?

Leighton utilizes first person point of view (POV) and unlike some authors who only write using one POV, she gives us not only Olivia’s, but Cash and Nash’s as well. Sometimes this can backfire on an author because it disrupts the flow of the story, however; in this case no disruption whatsoever. She also identifies which POV you are reading so you aren’t confused. Again this does not disrupt the flow of the story. Leighton’s curve ball towards the end might surprise some readers. I admit I wasn’t surprised because I had an inkling of how it would end, but I still gasped when I found out the big twist. She leaves us with a cliffhanger that made me throw a book across the room because I hate having to wait. Readers will be left wanting more and I really can’t wait to see how this concludes.