Thursday, January 31, 2013


Pages: 330
Date: 31/01/2013
Grade: 4-

I have to start this review with a confession; I have never read a book by Jane Austen (I know, shame on me). I am familiar with the plots and some of the characters in most of her books but unacquainted with her writing style. My review of this book by P.D. James should be viewed in that light. I am only able to give my thoughts about this particular story without any comparisons to “Pride and Prejudice”, the original.

The year is 1803 and Elizabeth and Darcy have been happily married for six years. Now parents with two young sons they spend their time at Pemberley, looking after the estate and those who live and work there with great contentment. Their life is peaceful, predictable and fulfilling. This peace and quiet is cruelly interrupted when, on the night before a big annual ball is to take place, a chaise comes speeding towards Pemberley. In the chaise is Lydia Wickham, Elizabeth’s younger and unreliable sister, who is near hysterical and screaming that her husband has been murdered. When Darcy with two male guests investigates this claim he does indeed find a body in Pemberley’s wild woodland and Wickham kneeling next to it exclaiming that the death is his fault. Suddenly Darcy and Elizabeth find themselves caught up in a murder trial that could bring shame on the family as well as confronted with issues from the past that have never properly been dealt with.

I suppose this book can be judged using two different standards; a reviewer could compare the writing and the characters to Jane Austen’s original and/or comment on how this story works as a mystery. Since I can’t, for the reason stated above, say anything about this book’s similarities to or differences from Pride and Prejudice, I can only give my opinion about how this book works as a mystery. And, unfortunately, I have to admit that I wasn’t overly impressed with that aspect of this book. Not that the mystery in this story is bad, or the resolution unsatisfactory. It just didn’t do whole lot for me. In fact I didn’t really care who had committed the murder or why. Having said that, the solution, when it was revealed, was surprising, plausible and satisfying.

I found I was far more interested in the social conventions as described in this book. The things Darcy and Elizabeth worry about seem trivial compared to modern day concerns and their reactions to what is happening to them rather out of proportion given the circumstances. And yet, given the time the story is set in and the way society operated in those years, it is probably as true to reality as is possible. I always enjoy such intimate insights into past times, and this book was no exception.

It is easy to believe that I might have enjoyed this book more if I had read Pride and Prejudice first, although I can’t of course be sure of that. I’m sure there must be hard-core Austen fans feeling completely disgusted with this book. Especially since James – as she admits in the author’s note - has done in this story what Austen refused to do in hers: introduce guilt and misery.

Overall, for me, this as a rather quaint mystery written by an author who is obviously a well-accomplished word-smith. Personally though I do prefer her Adam Dalgliesh stories.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Pages: 435
Date: 29/01/2013
Grade: 4.5
Details: Received from Penguin
            Through Nudge for Real Readers

Set over the course of six years, this is the story of Katherine Parr. Widowed for the second time when she is only 31 years old she is summoned to the court of Henry VIII. Katherine doesn’t really like or trust the world of intrigue, secrets, back-stabbing and ambitious courtiers and would prefer to be anywhere else. It is shortly after her arrival at court that Katherine meets Thomas Seymour. Although she initially doesn’t like or trust him she soon finds herself caught up in a passionate affair with the dashing and handsome young man and hoping that maybe this time she will be allowed to marry for love.

The king has other plans though. As soon as Henry sees Katherine he lets her know that he intends to make her queen. Henry is no longer a young man; he’s grown fat, has a festering wound on his leg and a temperament that makes him completely unpredictable. Although Katherine has no ambition to be queen, is deeply in love with Seymour and would prefer a quiet life, there is no way she can refuse the king once he has made up his mind to marry her. And so start Katherine’s four years as the queen of England. She soon finds herself caught up in court intrigue with only a few people she can really trust around her. And although Thomas Seymour has been sent away from court, he is never far from her mind. When Katherine allows herself to get caught up in the reformation and makes enemies out of those who would return to the old faith she finds herself in fear of both her husband and her life.

I have, for a long time, been fascinated with Henry VIII, his six wives and the religious upheaval in those days and have read quite a few novels about this subject. Katherine Parr’s story is a fascinating addition to those previous visits to Henry’s court.

The story in this book is told from the perspective of two women; Katherine Parr and her servant Dorothy – Dot - Fownten. Because these two women have vastly different stations the reader gets to see the story from two, very different, perspectives. From Katherine we get an inside look at the scheming and plotting in court as well as the fear that accompanies having to live in an environment where everybody is interested only in what they can do to improve their own prospects. And while Katherine is mostly a sympathetic character, thrown into court intrigue against her will, she is still a product of this world. She may not like the game but she knows the rules and how to play it. Dot, on the other hand, is an innocent bystander, almost invisible to the people around her and as such provides the reader with an honest and objective perspective on what is going on.

The story in this book is very well written. This is a story about emotions and feelings and how the characters deal with them. It is a story about power and what people are prepared to do to get it and keep others from achieving it. All the intrigue at Henry’s court is toe-curling. It is hard to imagine what it must be like to live in an environment where nobody can be trusted and where almost everybody around you is willing to stab you in the back if that means advancing themselves and their families, but the author manages to convey the oppressive nature of such a live with absolute clarity. But mostly this is a book about love; the things we are willing to do for it and how it blinds us to realities that are plain to see for everybody else.

I find it fascinating that almost every character mentioned in this book, including Dot, are real historical figures. Of course the thoughts and feelings these characters have spring from the author’s imagination, but with everything and everybody else on these pages being historically accurate it is all too easy to believe that the characters must have been exactly as described.

Anybody who knows their history will be aware of how Katherine’s story ends. The magic of this book is that even armed with that knowledge the reader will find themselves caught up in the tension in this story, as unsure of what is to come as Katherine and those around her are.

This is an impressive debut and a fascinating book, sure to captivate anybody interested in historical fiction in general and Henry VIII and his court in particular.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Pages: 388
Date: 27/01/2013
Grade: 3.5
Details: Juvenile Fiction 12+
             Book Club read

Annika lives in Vienna, in the household of three professors, where’s she being raised by the two servants who found her in a church when she was just a few days old. Although she is very happy in her life and loves the professors as well as Ellie and Sigrid, the servants who found her, Annika has dreams about her mother coming, arriving at the house in Vienna to reclaim her. Annika just knows that her mother will be beautiful and someone important and that she will be delighted to have found her long lost daughter.

And then one day, Annika’s dreams come true. A rich, aristocratic lady has arrived at the professor’s house looking for the daughter she left in a church years ago. The lady seems to be everything Annika dreamt she would be and the only difficult part about her mother having found her is that Annika now has to leave the only life she has ever known and the people she loves behind to start a new life in Germany.

And life in Germany, on her family’s estate, is nothing like what Annika imagined. But Annika is an optimistic young girl and used to making the best of her circumstances. Besides, she’s made a new friend - Zed the gypsy who is looking after Rocco, an amazing horse – and she is so glad to have found her family at last that nothing, not even the dire circumstances she’s now living in, can spoil her happiness.

But all is not well in Annika’s life. And once all the secrets and lies are being unveiled it will be up to Annika’s friends and those who have loved her all her life to safe her from a horrible and potentially dangerous fate.

This was a decent story. I can’t say I loved it, but I didn’t dislike it either. The story is well written and the historical details about Vienna and Germany are fascinating, but it all fell a bit flat for me. I found the characters to be a bit too black or white, even for a children’s book. I also thought the story took a bit long to get started and got dragged out further than it needed (or even wanted) to be. I also felt that the book tried to be a bit too educational at times. While I have no problems with learning about times and places while reading a book, I want those bits of information to be incorporated in the story. In this book it felt as if I was being lectured to; as if I was being taken out of the story to learn something new before being allowed to get back to Annika and her adventures.

What I did really like were the sections in the book about the Spanish Riding School and the Lipizzaner horses. When I was young my mother had a whole series of books about these horses and I remember loving them. I have no idea what happened to those books and I really regret not having them in my possession anymore. I enjoyed the way in which this book brought back memories of hours of delightful reading.

Overall this isn’t a book I would enthusiastically recommend to anyone, but neither is it a book I would advice anybody against reading. It was an okay read, nothing more and nothing less.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Pages: 294
Date: 25/01/2013
Grade: 5-
Details:  No. 1 the Pleasure Dome Trilogy
             Received from Black Lace
             Through Nudge

Dylan Ivory is an author of erotic romances. In her next book she wants to explore a BDSM relationship but she is well aware that she doesn’t know enough about the subject to write a credible story. In order to do her work justice she sets out to interview people involved in power-exchange relationships and ends up meeting Alec Walker, a very attractive and very dominant man. It isn’t long into their first meeting that Alec issues Dylan with a challenge. Instead of telling her what it is like to be Dominant or what is involved in a BDSM relationship he will show her. Because:

“You cannot begin to describe the dynamics involved without having been there.”

He will take her in hand and train her, as the submissive he’s convinced she is. Dylan however is sure that she doesn’t have a submissive bone in her body. She has had to be in control for most of her life and likes it that way. She does accept the challenge though; on the condition that once it is clear that he has failed at “taming” her she gets the opportunity to top Alex. It soon becomes clear though that this is one power-exchange in which both participants will learn new things about themselves.

I really like this book. I like that there is no overpowering male more or less bullying the innocent young woman into something she knows nothing about. I like that Dylan went into this arrangement with her eyes wide open, willing to try even if she didn’t think being submissive would work for her. And I liked that Alec took the time to explain things to her, was happy to take it slowly even though his own need was enormous.

“It’s hard to let it all go, to hand over your power to another person. Just remember there is power in doing that. In making that choice.”

I also liked that this is a story about equals. Dylan and Alec may be in a power exchange relationship, but we’re not dealing with a strong and a weak character. Both Dylan and Alec are extremely independent, and guard that independence jealously. And that is the one and only issue in their relationship. As the experiment slowly turns into a need to be together, neither are able to deal with it or to recognise their feelings for what they are. They may have their own personal reasons for rejecting commitment and love, but their feelings on this point are equally strong for both of them.

There is real character development in this book. I really enjoyed the process Dylan went through from complete denial of certain feelings through fighting them to accepting them for what they were. And the same is true for Alex; he too has to open himself up to emotions he has denied for as long as he can remember. And I liked that the BDSM experience the two characters shared works both as a mechanism for them to get to that acceptance and a sort of metaphor for the process.

On the back cover it says that this book is “perfect for fans for E.L. James and Sylvia Day” and I completely understand why. Having said that, I would rate this book higher than the works of either of those authors. First and foremost because the characters in this book are easier to relate to than those in the “Fifty Shades” and “Crossfire” trilogies. Dylan and Alec are less extreme (in wealth, in innocence, in damage from the past and in their reactions) than the characters in those other books. I also like that in this book we got the thoughts of both main characters rather than only one of them.

A quick word of warning; as the story-line in this book suggests, this story contains a lot of sex. And while the author never sets out to shock, there may well be scenes in this book that fall outside some peoples’ comfort zones.

This book is very well written, very sensual – not to say sexy – and totally engrossing. I am already looking forward to reading the second book, “Desire’s Edge”, in the not too distant future.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Pages: 500
Date: 23/01/2013
Grade: 4-
Details: no. 2 Joona Linna

The blurb:

“On a summer’s evening a young woman’s body is discovered aboard an abandoned boat. The likely cause of death is drowning, but her clothes are completely dry.

A man is found hung in his apartment. His death looks like suicide, although there is nothing to climb on to reach the ceiling.

On the surface the deaths seem unconnected but Detective Inspector Joona Linna suspects something more sinister. He discovers that the woman is the sister of Penelope Fernandez, spokesperson for a peace organisation. The hanging man is Carl Palmcrona, General Director of a Swedish Arms committee.

A killer is at large with more targets suspected. Contracts have been broken and blood will be shed. The one certainty is that only Joona Linna can stop… The Nightmare.

Judging by the blurb this should have been a fascinating thriller. And it has all the hallmarks of one; people are being pursuit by a killer for reasons they are as unaware of as the investigators and the reader. A mysterious but innocent looking photograph seems to be the reason for all the violence, although initially nobody can figure out why. National and international politics are somehow involved in what is going on, but whether intentionally or by accident is unclear. And even when the reasons for the violence become clear it proves next to impossible to find enough proof to stop it. And, all these aspects of the story worked for me. The storyline involving the mystery, the investigation and the eventual resolution was both well plotted and intriguing.

What didn’t work as well for me is the way this book asked me to stretch my imagination a little bit further than is comfortable. Linna’s unfailing intuition, allowing him to perceive what is going on long before any evidence has been found, is a bit much to deal with anyway. But I could live with that if I didn’t also have to deal with the obscure back-stories some of the other characters carry with them. In fact, the multitude of back-stories, both for main, recurring, characters and for those who are unique to this book slowed the story down to an unnecessary extent. I don’t think we needed to know all the details we were told about Penelope’s time in Darfur, or the drama involving a musical competition in another characters’ youth. The story would have worked just as well without those details and would have moved a lot faster.

I also thought that the writing was an odd mixture between distant and intimate. We are told a lot about every single character yet it is told in a tone as if it doesn’t really matter; we learn a lot about characters without ever developing any emotions about them. And this means that even though the book ends on at least two personal cliff-hangers for Linna I find myself rather uncurious as to what will happen next.

This was in interesting thriller that would have greatly benefitted from being a good bit shorter.

Monday, January 21, 2013


Pages: 133
Date: 21/01/2013
Grade: 3+
Details: no. 1 Just One Night
            Received from Simon & Schuster
            Through NetGalley

"Kasie knows who she’s supposed to be. But one passionate night with a mysterious stranger will teach her who she wants to be."

They say that what happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas. But what if it follows you home and shows up in your workplace? That’s the “problem” Kasie Fitzgerald faces after her completely out of character one-night-stand with Robert Dade. Katie has been with her partner, Dave, for six years and is more or less engaged to him, even if she doesn’t wear his ring yet. And for all that time Dave has been exactly what Kasie needed:

“Dave was steady (…) steady seemed nice…even sexy”

But now, one reckless night in Vegas later, steady doesn’t seem so attractive anymore. Robert Dade has awakened desires in Kasie that are as hard to ignore as he is. And Robert Dade is very determined to make sure that Kasie will acknowledge and give in to her wilder side, with him. When Dade offers Kasie the career opportunity she’s been yearning for, he makes sure that she has to continue meeting him. And for some reason every meeting with this man ends up with Kasie doing exactly that which she know she shouldn’t but can’t refuse.

Torn between obligation and adventure, safety and excitement, between what she thinks she should be and what she really is Kasie ends up stringing not two but three people along. And lying to the two men in her life as well as to herself is never going to lead to anything but trouble.

I wasn’t overly endeared by this story. While I realise that a love-triangle can be very exciting this one just made me feel a bit dirty. It is hard to ignore that Kasie’s behaviour towards Dave is completely unfair. For six years he’s been dating a certain woman; someone he assumed was steady and unadventurous, just like him. And it is not his fault if Kasie has been playing that role so well that he never guessed there was another side to her. And the way in which Kasie treats Dade isn’t much better. The conflicting signals she’s sending him right from the start have him second guessing her all the time, never sure which version of Kasie will turn up the next time. And don’t get me started about Kasie herself; she is in denial to such an extent that it is hard to believe she actually has a brain to think or a heart to feel with.

Kasie’s confusion about the situation she finds herself in is played out through an internal devil and angel fighting for Kasie’s attention, which got irritating. First of all because I met their cousins before, and they annoyed me on our first encounter as well. And secondly because they seem like an easy way out for the author. There must be better, more nuanced, ways of describing the internal turmoil Kasie is experiencing. This use of devils and angels conjures up cartoonish pictures in my head, not erotic or clever ones.

While the writing in this book is smooth, I also felt it was trying to be a bit too clever at times. We only get the story from Kasie’s point of view and the way in which her thought processes worked just didn’t ring true. A third party observer might have described her thoughts and feelings as they are conveyed in this book, as first person thoughts they just didn’t work.

This book has been categorised as erotic fiction in various places. I wouldn’t go that far though. I would call this a contemporary romance. Yes, we do get some bedroom action in this story but it is rather mild and not very explicit. I can’t see the content of this book offending or shocking even the most modest reader of the romance genre.

The reasons I’ve rated this book three stars despite my objections to the story-line are that the book is well written and that I like the potential this story idea has. Executed just a little bit differently I probably would have loved this book. As it is, reading this book made me a bit angry. And that in itself is another reason for my rating; a story that evokes emotions in a reader has merit, regardless of what those emotions are. And then there is the one thing I do really like about this book: the title. Because, who exactly is the stranger? Is it Robert Dade, or is it Kasie herself? I do like it when a book makes me think as well as feel.

Summarising I would say that for me this was a book with an interesting story-idea which could have been so much more if executed in a slightly different way.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Pages: 294
Date: 19/01/2013
Grade: 4
Details: Received from Penguin UK
              Through Nudge

Lady Isabel Pelham is a 26 year old widow, happy to live the rest of her life fleeting from lover to lover and never marrying again. When the man she loved deeply and married betrayed her in ways that broke her heart she vowed she’d never make herself that vulnerable again, and she’s determined to keep her word.

Gerard Faulkner, the Marquess of Grayson is 22 year old. The woman he loves has married somebody else, and although he enjoys his flirtations and nights with various women he is tired of being looked at as profitable marriage material.

The solution seems simple. If Grayson and Pelham were to marry each other they could both continue their scandalous life-style without being bothered by people wanting more than just an affair. It seems a good plan and for the first few months after their marriage it works out fine. When a personal loss hits Grayson hard he leaves London and his new wife behind for destinations unknown.

Four years later Grayson returns to London a changed man. No longer is he looking for adventure and lust. He has grown up and wants his marriage to be real instead of the sham Isabel and he agreed upon years ago. Isabel though is convinced that this can never work. Grayson is too much like her first husband; he too will get bored with her and betray her. And there is no way she could survive such a betrayal again. With Isabel determined to keep her husband as a platonic friend and their life-style unchanged, Grayson will have to convince her that he is indeed a changed man. During what is a sensuous process of seduction, Grayson slowly manages to lower the walls surrounding Isabel’s heart. But with outside forces determined to break them and their scandalous marriage up and their own painful past experiences making them cautious, the couple is going to need to rely on and trust in each other implicitly if they want to have a chance at a future.

Set in the first half of the 19th century this is a charming and very sensual historical romance; the story about a man and a woman who are made for each other but are unable to see that clearly for themselves. I liked the way the two main characters sparked together, the way in which they were able to get the worst but also the best out of each other. The dialogue between them is clever, runs smoothly and is written in such a way that it is almost possible to actually hear their voices.

The fact that the romance between these two characters is almost exclusively conducted in the bedroom may put some readers off. Having said that, while there may be a lot of, quite vividly described, intimacy in these pages, the content of this book is never shocking nor intended to be.

I guess this story and the characters in it are a bit simplistic. Characters are either wonderful and charming or horrid and selfish. And the story has a typical romance story-arc; strong lust and a reluctance to talk about the things that matter and could avoid confusion is nothing new or original. However, when those ingredients are encountered in a well written and entertaining story they tend to add to it rather than detract, and that is certainly true in this book.

I’m not quite sure why the author felt the need to include the story about Isabel’s brother Rhys and the “unsuitable” woman he falls for. Not that their story wasn’t interesting, but it didn’t add anything to the real subject of the book. In fact, I think that story-line could easily have warranted a book of its own.

Written by the author of the Crossfire series, this is a well written, easy to read and very sensual romance; a book sure to be enjoyed by anybody who likes their historical romance a bit spicy.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Pages: 507
Date: 16/01/2013
Grade: 5
Details: A Lord John Novel

The last time Lord John Grey and Jamie Fraser saw each other they parted after a heated fight during which things were said that can’t be easily forgiven or forgotten. Since then Jamie has been working as a groom on the Helwater estate. While he is no longer a prisoner, he’s not a free man either since he can’t go anywhere else or plan his own life. Jamie isn’t too unhappy about his lot though. While he still misses his wife, Claire, terribly, even after more than ten years, and aches for his home in the Scottish Highlands, living on Helwater gives him the opportunity to be close to the son he can’t acknowledge. His life is peaceful and predictable until Tobias Quinn arrives. The Irish man, who was part of the failed Rising, is involved in plans to resurrect the Jacobite rebellion and determined to get Jamie involved.

In London, Lord John Grey has in his possession papers which reveal corruption and murder committed by a British officer. Together with his brother Hal, John decides to bring the officer in question in front of a court martial. But with their suspect residing in Ireland they have to come up with a way of getting him back to England. And since the papers also hint at a more far reaching conspiracy, the brothers need Jamie to travel with and assist John.

Soon the two men are reluctantly thrown back together and travelling to Ireland. Here they will face danger, conspiracies, murder, false accusations and divided loyalties. But it is also a journey that will give them the opportunity to overcome their old hostilities and forge a new, if complicated, friendship.

Set in 1760, this is a wonderful book. It offers solid historical fiction, great characters and a thrilling story. Really, I couldn’t find anything wrong with this book if I wanted to.

For the uninitiated, a short background to the characters in this book. Jamie Fraser is one of the two main characters in the series of books that started with "Outlander" ("Cross Stitch" in the UK).  Lord John Grey occasionally makes guest, but not unimportant, appearances in those books but has been given his own stories in a separate offshoot of the Outlander books. This is the first book in which both characters play an equal role, and it makes for fascinating reading. Jamie, the proud Scottish Highlander, former rebel and now despised prisoner and John, the English aristocrat and officer couldn’t be further apart. And yet the two men have a lot in common. Both are honourable, intelligent and cultured and both have to live with an impossible love. Jamie will never get over the wife he had to let go so she could return to her own time in safety and John, as a homosexual, can never openly admit to his preferences. The fact that he is deeply attracted to Jamie only complicates matters further. The relationship between the two men is complicated and very interesting. Even after their big fight they find it hard to sustain their animosity when they’re forced to work together and depend upon each other. The way their feelings fluctuate, and their friendship develops, gives this book depth and adds greatly to the mysterious and thrilling story-line.

Diana Gabaldon writes her stories well. With every book I read her characters become more real for me and I’m deeply invested in their lives. The historical detail in the books is fascinating, and as far as I can tell, well researched and accurate. The fact that a big part of this story took place in Ireland was a very nice added bonus for me.

The Scottish Prisoner delivers everything you might be looking for in a good read: we have a mystery that has to be solved, danger that has to be faced and overcome, fascinating settings, realistic and multi-facetted characters with issues to overcome and dialogue that flows smoothly (and boy do I love that Scottish accent).

I’ve allowed myself to fall behind in my reading of the Outlander books. Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing because it means that even if I read “A Breath of Snow and Ashes” in the near future there will be a sequel already available in the shops as soon as I finish it. Life is good!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


AUTHOR: Marc Shapiro
Pages: 176
Date: 14/01/2013
Grade: 3.5
Details: Non Fiction
              Received from Riverdale Avenue Books
              Through NetGalley

“You know erotica has truly arrived when you can buy Fifty Shades of grey and creamed corn in the same place.”

I am not entirely sure what to say about the content of this book, so I will start with a copy of the blurb:

“Discover the secrets behind the Red Room of Pain. The intricacies of making love in the backseat of an expensive sports car. The rough and tumble process of editing Fifty Shades of Grey. Find out where the name E.L. James really comes from. And finally the step by step process by which this middle-aged British mother of two came up with the international best-selling erotic romance series that has sold more copies than Harry Potter.
NY Times best-selling biographer Marc Shapiro uncovers the inspiration and secrets behind this writing sensation, explaining how she did it with exclusive interviews with her editors and early fans. Marc Shapiro is the NY Times best-selling author of J.K. Rowling: The Wizard Behind Harry Potter, Justin Bieber: The Fever! and many other best-selling celebrity biographies. He has been a free-lance entertainment journalist for more than twenty-five years, covering film, television, and music for a number of national and international newspapers and magazines.”

Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Except that it wasn’t, not really. To be honest, I do understand that it can’t be easy to write an un-authorized biography these days. With all sorts of information about virtually everybody freely available on the internet and the books' subject not participating in the work, it must be all but impossible to come up with information that isn’t already widely available in the public arena. And writing a book about a phenomenon like E.L. James and her trilogy only makes that problem bigger. The lady and her books have been written and talked about by anybody and everybody; from professional reviewers and journalists to fellow authors and enthusiastic amateurs like me. So my first observation about this book is that it didn’t contain anything that was new or surprising to me and it would astonish me if anybody else interested in this author were to find anything they didn’t already know in this book.

My second observation is that the blurb makes this book sound a bit more exciting than it actually is. For example, if you’re hoping to discover something tittalating about that “red room of pain” you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Yes, the room gets mentioned, but not in the way you might imagine or hope.

And then there are the mistakes. I came across two bits of information that I know for sure were wrong. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books are a quartet and not a trilogy as stated in this work. And “Need” by Sherri Hayes is not her second book, although it is the second title in her wonderful “Finding Anna” series. The worry of course is that if I can pick up on two mistakes this easily, there could well be a lot more misinformation here that I haven’t picked up on. I don’t know and am willing to give Mr. Shapiro the benefit of the doubt but I would say: reader beware.

And finally I want to point out one inconsistency that annoyed me. In the first part of the book, when Marc Shapiro writes about the days when James first started writing her story, he states that she wrote for her personal pleasure with no thoughts of getting published, never mind fame and fortune. By the time he gets to the end of the book though, he is suddenly telling us what a clever business woman she is and that she had been planning her marketing strategy from a very early stage. Obviously it can only be one or the other, and this book doesn’t tell us which one it is.

So, after all those complaints, why did I still rate this book 3.5 stars? First and foremost because it was an easy and smooth read. I flew through the pages and enjoyed some of the quotes I ran across:

I liked the answer James’ husband gave when asked what it was like being married to an author of erotic fiction: “Mostly it’s just like being married

And the following two from James herself:

"There are a lot of ways to describe an orgasm. But at a certain point I ran out of ways."

"I think first person point of view is much easier to write than third person point of view. So naturally I took the easy way out."

I also think this might be a nice little book for anyone who wants to have all their information on E.L. James together in one place. Marc Shapiro has taken all the bits and pieces available in the media and arranged them in a very accessible way, saving fans the trouble of having to do the work themselves. And with James having many millions of enthusiastic fans I am sure there is a good market for this book.

I also liked the extra information available after the actual biography has concluded:  discographies, of the classical albums as well as the list as blogged by James, a history of erotic fiction and a piece on Cinema Erotic.

This is a nice little book about an interesting author provided you’re not hoping to discover anything you didn’t already know.

Monday, January 14, 2013


Pages: 80
Date: 14/01/2013
Grade: 4+
Details: Authors also write as Evie Hunter

Lexi is a curvy woman aged 39 with angel wings tattooed on her back, who has more or less given up on her erotic dreams. With her marriage to a boring and cheating vanilla man behind her, she enjoys reading and fantasising about submitting to a powerful Dom, but she has no expectations of that ever really happening.

Sam is one of the Doms running Hades but hasn’t been involved with the club or the BDSM lifestyle since he married his now ex-wife. He has been admiring Lexi from a distance for a while when an unexpected session of telephone sex shows him that his dream woman is a natural submissive and provides him an opportunity to get her to visit his club.

Lexi has no idea what to expect when she enters Hades and she never dreamt that she would be seduced and pleasured by four masked Doms. Her introduction into this sensuous world is cut short when the scene is rudely interrupted by very unwelcome intruders. Embarrassed and confused Lexi flees the club and determines to have nothing to do with her anonymous Dom or his world again. Sam meanwhile is angry that his perfectly planned evening has come to nothing and is determined to get his “angel” back, even if it means pretending to the perfect vanilla boyfriend. Of course, pretending to be something you’re not always carries the risk of severe consequences when your deception is discovered. And Lexi is not one to be messed with.

This was a wonderful little novella. The story had everything a reader could wish for; realistic and interesting main characters, a captivating and believable story-line and a wonderful happy ending. Sam and Lexi go through their fair share of drama, but none of it was dragged out to the point where it gets frustrating. Both Sam and Lexi have their flaws and quirks as well as their charms and that makes them a pleasure to read about.

And talking about pleasure; the erotic scenes in this book were yummy. Whether it was the phone-sex, Lexi’s encounter with the four Doms or her drinks with Sam near the end of the book the descriptions of what they get up to and how it makes them feel would heat up an ice-cube. The BDSM in this book is of the milder variety, but with Lexi being new to the experience that makes perfect sense; anything more would have stretched the imagination too far. I know I’m going to have fun imagining where Sam might be taking his angel next.

The fact that Lexi, despite being a natural sub, is no push-over gave this book a nice added edge. I loved the way in which she managed to surprise Sam and make him think about what he was doing to her. There’s nothing quite like a strong female character submitting but not surrendering to her Master.

I really enjoyed this story. If I had a complaint it would be that it wasn’t any longer. I would have loved to read more about Lexi and Sam and the antics they get up to, especially the further exploration of Lexi’s new found sexual pleasures. I also hope that this will turn out to be the first book in a series. After all, Hades has more Doms and I’m sure they would like to find their special subs, just like Sam did. My only worry is that now that the authors, in their guise of Evie Hunter, have been offered a more main-line publishing contract, Hades and its members may end up on the backburner. I can only hope that I will be proven wrong on that point.

For more by these authors, writing as Evie Hunter,  have a look at my thoughts on The Pleasures of Winter and A Touch of Winter

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Pages: 273
Date: 13/01/2013
Grade: 5-
Details: Received from Picador
              Through Nudge

Marta and Hector have been married for years. For so long, in fact, that Marta doesn’t seem to have any memories of her life before her wedding. For over twenty years Marta’s main focus in life has been her husband, her son and the house they live in. And for all those years she has tried to live her life according to a book her mother in law gave her when she married Hector; a book titled “How to be a Good Wife”.

“Remember, always be bright and cheerful; a breath of fresh air.”

But ever since their son, Kylan, moved away to the city Marta has been feeling restless. Hector thinks she just needs to get used to the empty nest, continue to take her medication and keep herself busy, but Marta isn’t so sure. She stopped taking her medication shortly after her son left just to find out what her life would be like without it and she is starting to notice the effects. Recently she’s been having visions of a young blond girl in pyjamas. Sometimes the girl looks well and happy and at other times the girl looks dirty and underfed. The girl is vaguely familiar but Marta can’t place her in any context. It is only when Hector returns home from work early one day and reveals a secret that events start to escalate. Suddenly Marta finds herself questioning if anything in her life is what it appears to be. Are the things she has believed to be true for a long time really what they seem or is there a whole other story waiting for her to be discovered? Are her visions the result of her coming of her medication or are they something more?

This is a multi-layered and rather chilling story. What at first appears to be the story of a woman unable to deal with her life now that the centre of it, her son, has left soon turns into a creepy thriller with one central mystery; is Marta creating her own problems or is she uncovering a past crime of horrifying proportions?

I went through a wide variety of emotions while reading this book. Initially I found myself wanting to shout at Marta, tell her to take those tablets, force her to stop putting herself in dangers’ way. I could understand why she didn’t want to take them, why she wanted to feel again but at the same time I felt she was causing unnecessary pain for both her and her, apparently, caring husband. It wasn’t long though until I was hoping that she would manage to stay off her tablets so that she could find out what her visions were trying to tell her.

This is a very tightly plotted novel written in a rather sober way. There are no wasted words in this book. People, places and emotions are all described in the barest of terms yet jump of the page and grab the reader by the throat. Or maybe they are so vivid exactly because they are not described in flowery terms. An aura of menace seems to underlie every single sentence in this book and not just because of Marta’s visions and forgotten past. The whole idea of the “good wife”, the way she is expected to be and act like one by the people around her and the referenced quotes from the book by that title give this story an extra layer of horror.

This book doesn’t provide the reader with clear cut answers. By the time you finish the book the story has well and truly ended. The interpretation of what exactly has gone on before is very much up to the individual reader though. And for me that means that this is a story that will keep me thinking for quite some time to come.

This is a fascinating and chilling story about who we are if we live our life according to rules set by others and we can’t remember our earliest past.