Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Rebecca’s Lost Journals: THE CONTRACT

Pages: 40
Date: 30/04/2013
Grade: 4+
Details: Rebecca’s Lost Journals no. 2
            An Inside Out Novella

The Blurb:

In the second sultry e-short of excerpts from Rebecca’s Lost Journals, Rebecca is faced with a contract to be a submissive that she doesn’t want to sign—and her would-be Master has unusual methods of convincing her…

As the relationship between Rebecca and her rich, darkly alluring man intensifies she must decide just how deep she will go into his intensely erotic world.

This is the second Inside Out novella and should be read after the first one, “The Seduction”, just as both should be read after “If I Were You”.

After her enticing night with the man she only refers to as “Him” and “Master”, Rebecca is left conflicted about what she wants. He has sent her away with a contract; a contract which, once she signs it, would make her His submissive. The contract however is filled with conditions which are just as confusing as her reaction to them:

“In so many ways, it’s what I want. No ties. No emotions. No interference in my job and career goals. Yet he wants to own my mind, time, body and heart. It’s very confusing.”

While the rational part of her tells Rebecca to just reject the whole idea, she finds herself returning to the contract time and again, contemplating the idea of signing it and submitting to Him, rejecting it and considering it again.

“What’s even more confusing is that I’m not saying no to this.”

The rest of her life is going from strength to strength though. She loves her job in the Riptide art gallery and is delighted with the successes she achieves there. But even underneath her pride and pleasure at doing the job she loves well, is the constant push and pull of the contract. The thing and the man are never far from her mind.

And she is still having nightmares about her mother and icy water. Nightmares that leave her mother’s perfume lingering in the air, even after she wakes up.

I’m enjoying these short looks at Rebecca’s journals and her journey towards submission. I especially like that Rebecca isn’t blindly falling into a relationship she doesn’t understand. She is asking the sort of questions I would be asking if I found myself in her position. The sort of questions I imagine any sensible and independent person would ask themselves, such as:

“I don’t buy into me having all the control just because I have a safe word. I have no control where this man is concerned.”


“I can’t be special to him, or he’d want me all to himself, right?”

Once again the sex is more alluded to than described in graphic detail. And although I do enjoy a well written and enticing description of intimacy, I have to say that the way in which Lisa Renee Jones leaves a lot to the readers imagination while giving enough information to make the story truly erotic, is working very well for me.

I find myself getting very curious about who this Master might be. Reason seems to indicate that it can’t be any of the men we’ve met in If I Were You, men Rebecca meets in her work environment regularly. Yet, I can’t help feeling that there wouldn’t be any need for all this mystery surrounding his identity if he wasn’t part of the bigger story as well. I know it is going to be a while before we find out who this mysterious man actually is. And I know I’m going to enjoy every minute and every word of the journey towards that revelation.


Pages: 226
Date: 29/04/2013
Grade: 4.5
Details: No. 2 Under Mr. Nolan’s Bed
            Received from author
Own / Kindle

The Blurb:

"With the mouth, confession is made into salvation..." ~ Romans 10:10.

The shocking discovery best friends Leah and Erica have made under Mr. Nolan's bed has them down the wicked path of temptation, both girls veering far from the narrow path dictated by their strict Catholic upbringing, and their sexual transgressions have had unintended consequences.

Erica finds her life turned upside down when Leah falls for Erica's father, but just as Erica is beginning to accept their love for each other, Leah disappears. Bewildered and abandoned, Erica and Mr. Nolan are faced with sadness and confusion at their loss, but while Mr. Nolan spirals into mourning, Erica is determined to find her friend.

Erica can't possibly know why Leah has vanished, but when she enlists the help of Father Michael, her search and the real reason for Leah's disappearance intersect to uncover a multitude of shocking confessions and a secret that will shake not only the foundation of their faith, but the entire institution of the Catholic Church itself.

This was a very good book. Not at all what I expected, but very good indeed. Usually when you read a trilogy, the first book is a pretty good indication of what all three books are going to be like and about. This trilogy is a bit different. Don’t get me wrong; there is no doubt that this is the second part of the same story. There is continuity both in story-line and in character development. However, whereas the first book was a highly erotic description of sexual discovery, be it with a somewhat controversial story-line, this second book is far less erotic. The sexual scenes found in this book are fewer in number, not really all that erotic and far mostly far more shocking and controversial than those in “Temptation”. It is difficult to say a lot about exactly what is happening in this book without giving away too much of the story. What I can say is that there was a lot in this book to break my heart and make me angry. And most of my anger was due to the fact that everything described here was so believable that I had to turn to Google to find what part of the story was based on fact and which parts were purely fictional.

It is impossible to read this book and not think about the recent scandals involving the Catholic Church here in Ireland. It isn’t too long ago that the reports on the treatment of women in the “Magdalene Laundries” were published. With Leah having been sent to Magdalene House, the parallels are strong. Very strong indeed, because wouldn’t you know it, Magdalene House also contains a laundry where the girls who can’t knit or sew are put to work. Though why I thought that those places might have been uniquely Irish is beyond me. After all, the Roman Catholic Church is a worldwide organization and as such its institutions would be too.

I have to compliment Selena Kitt on the way in which she made the journeys of both Leah and Erica realistic and convincing. Separated from each other they discover the same secrets. Alone they have to go through their own personal hells, struggle with questions, secrets and devastating events. Two very young women find themselves in the clutches of a powerful institution determined to have them do as ordered, regardless of what their personal wishes might be. My only, minor, objection is that there was one secret Erica, clever as she is, should and could have figured out earlier.

I’m glad I already have the third book, "Grace", in my possession. The title of that book gives me some indication of what the book will be about, but I have no idea what sort of book to expect. Will there be a return to the erotica of the first book, is the story about to turn into a full blown thriller, could it be a combination of those two or something else again? I like it when an author keeps me guessing, and Miss Kitt certainly does that.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Pages: 320
Date: 28/04/2013
Grade: 4+
Details: Received from St. Martin’s Press
            Through NetGalley
Own / Kindle

The Blurb:

Mousy, timid, and shy to the point of agoraphobic, Em Moore is the writing half of a celebrity biography team. Her charismatic partner, Teddy, does the interviewing, the negotiating, the public schmoozing. But Em’s dependence on Teddy runs deeper than just the job—Teddy is her bridge to the world and the only source of love in her life. So when Teddy dies in a car accident, Em is devastated, alone in a world she doesn’t understand. The only way she can honor his memory and cope with his loss is to finish the interviews for their current book—an “autobiography” of renowned and reclusive film director Garrett Malcolm.

Ensconced in a small cottage near Malcolm’s Cape Cod home, Em slowly builds the courage and strength to interview Malcolm the way Teddy would have. She finds Malcolm at once friendlier, more intimidating, and far sexier than she had imagined. But Em soon senses trouble between Malcolm and one of his former stars, the washed-up Brooklyn Pierce, and she hears whispers of skeletons in the Malcolm family closet. And then the police begin looking into the accident that killed Teddy, and Em’s control on her life—tenuous at best—is threatened.

This book was my introduction to Linda Barnes and a bit of a revelation. To say this story is something of a slow burner would be a gross understatement. The story, told by Em as if she is talking to Teddy – or since he is dead by the time the story starts, his ghost – seems to be about a young and very insecure woman living an almost agoraphobic life, slowly coming out of her shell. And, since this is something she needs to do if she wants to make sure her future as a biographer doesn’t die with her partner, her venturing out into the scary world makes perfect sense. Her transformation from virtual hermit to almost “normal” young woman may seem a bit fast at times, but then she is tied to a deadline, so that makes sense as well.

There is a lot more to this story than the smooth telling of it seems to suggest though. Under the surface there is a tension that is hard to understand. The reader knows there is something not quite right with at least some of the characters in this story, but what that something may be and exactly who can’t be trusted is never clear. The reader may have their suspicions but they may well prove completely wrong by the time the book ends. Cleverly plotted and very well told this book managed to take me completely by surprise. I had not seen the revelations coming at all and that is something I love in a good thriller. On the other hand, the suspense in most of this story was a bit too covert for my liking. It really didn’t read like a thriller until the latter part of the story. Not that I disliked the earlier parts; they were fascinating but not in a thriller sort of way. It is almost as if I started reading one book – the story of a young woman finding her way in the world – to be thrown into another.

I did enjoy the references to and from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the links with that play. I can’t help wondering though if I would have gotten more out of this book if I had been better acquainted with that work. Since I’ve never read Hamlet and only know the basic story-line that is a question that will have to be answered by other reviewers.

Having said all that, I did like this book a lot. Em’s voice and story captured me from the very first page and the further I got into the story the more hooked I became. The extent to which the last few chapters of this book managed to surprise me only proofs how accomplished an author Linda Barnes is. There are times when I think that by now I must have read it all, only for a book like this to come along and show me that original and surprising stories are indeed still being written.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Pages: 446
Date: 23/04/2013
Grade: 5-
Details: no. 2 Valentina
            Received from Headline
            Through the author

“When you climax, it has been called the “little death”, and thus eroticism can actually be a celebration of life within the knowledge of our mortality.”

The first Valentina book ended with our heroine losing the man who loves her because she is unable to admit to her feelings for him. When this book starts, several months have passed and Valentina has had no contact whatsoever with Theo and no idea where he is. That doesn’t stop her from thinking about him and mourning the fact that she allowed herself to chase him away though. An opportunity to participate in a show of erotic photography in London could be just what she needs to distract herself from obsessing about the man she misses more than she could ever have expected.

Back in 1948 Maria Brzezinska leaves Venice and her two mothers for post-war London where she is to study contemporary dance. It isn’t long after arriving that Maria falls for the charming but significantly older Felix, a French filmmaker. When Felix has to return to his native Paris shortly after a rather disastrous dance performance by Maria, she begs him to take her with him. It is in Paris that Maria will discover love and passion like she never imagined, unleashing a side of her that she never knew existed.

London in 2012 will be a place filled with revelations for Valentina. Not only does she discover that the father she hasn’t seen since she was a young girl lives there, she also finds herself face to face with Theo once again. But although all the signals he sends out seem to indicate that he still has feelings for her, the fact that he is going out with Anita, a burlesque dancer, point in a totally different direction. When Theo asks Valentina to trust him, she knows that this is her opportunity to prove to him that she does love him. Putting her trust in a man who appears to be dating somebody else may well be a demand too far for Valentina and her huge issues with commitment though. But while Anita may appear to be her adversary when it comes to Theo’s affections, she is also the means through which Valentina discovers a side to her maternal grandmother she was completely unaware of.

This is a very good sequel to the first book. Often a second book in a trilogy can feel a bit like filler material; a means for getting from the start of the story to the ending without any real value of its own. Not so in this case. This book really does further the story. Through the events in this book, both in the present and in the past, the reader gets a far better understanding of Valentina and her commitment issues. Mind you, Valentina is still a hard character to like and very insecure when it comes to men and commitment, especially for a woman who is supposed to be 30-ish. But, after what we learned about her great-grandmother (in the first book) and her grand-mother (in this book) and their passionate but doomed encounters with love, it becomes easier to understand why Valentina would be distrustful of lasting love. I’ve got a feeling that the third book will give both the reader and Valentina a closer look at Valentina’s mother. Hints in this book indicate that there is a lot Valentina doesn’t know about her mother’s life as well as her own past. I’m looking forward to finding out what exactly happened to make Valentina’s mother such a distant character and if discovering the truth will be enough to bring the two women back together and help Valentina trust her own feelings.

This book is filled with clever references. There is a tenuous link between the movies Felix makes and “The Story of O”. Also Evie Blake pays a nice tribute to the original creator of her main character when Anita dresses up to look just like Valentina:

“The angular perfection of her black wig and her heavily made-up eyes make her look like a graphic novel character more than a real woman.”

The Valentina as described in these books is, of course, based on an iconic Italian graphic novel character created by Guido Crepax.

And then there are the names. Theo’s surname is Steen and we discover that Valentina’s father is called Rembrandt. Both names create a wonderful and inspired link between Valentina’s story and the important role art plays in these books. I am sure there are more clever references and links, but these are a few that stood out for me.

While this is still a very sensual and at times sexy story, sex plays a different role in this second book. Valentina is no longer trying to discover her boundaries, no longer driven to see how far she is willing to go. In this book it is Maria who is constantly pushing her sexual boundaries but although she does get adventurous, her experiences are beautiful and enticing rather than shocking. In fact, as much as sexual freedom was the theme for the first book, this second instalment seems to reverse direction. Relationships without boundaries may have been fun, but they are not without their problems as various characters discover.

I said it in my review of Valentina, and I’ll say it again here: Noelle Harrison, the author behind the name Evie Blake, is a wonderful writer. She weaves her stories rather than tell them. Her words are at times almost poetic, creating a tangible atmosphere which allows the reader to not just observe events as they take place but also experience them. In fact, I’m convinced that I wouldn’t have felt as strongly as I did about Valentina’s character if it hadn’t been for the life-like fashion in which she is portrayed on these pages.

It breaks my heart that I now have to wait until November before I find out how this story ends. Between the hints about Valentina’s mother and the cliff-hanger this book ends on, it is going to be hard to contain my curiosity. The title of the third book, “Valentina Unblocked”, makes me hopeful that it will all end on a positive note though.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Pages: 324
Date: 20/04/2013
Grade: 5-
Details: Received from Windmill Books
            Through Nudge

Anais Hendricks is only fifteen years old when she finds herself in the back of a police car on her way to the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders. She can’t remember how the blood got on her school uniform but she is almost certain that she didn’t beat a police woman into a coma, as she has been accused of doing.

To say Anais’ life hasn’t been easy would be the ultimate understatement. She has never known her mother or her father and has been in care for as long as she can remember. Moved from one bad situation to the next she is, by the age of fifteen, an expert when it comes to sex and drugs; or maybe not so much an expert as a heavy user. Anais’ past is bleak enough to break the strongest person, her present is scary and her future really doesn’t hold any positive prospects, yet Anais manages to hang on to hope. In order not to succumb to desperation Anais has created her own personal history as well as her own vision of what her future will look like.

The Panopticon is a sort of last-chance-saloon for youngsters who can’t be trusted to live anywhere else. Built in such a way that the residents can never have privacy; the place seems to confirm all of Anais’ suspicions about the world. She “knows” she is part of an experiment and that “they” are constantly watching her; every minute of every day “the experiment” is observing her, waiting for her to destroy herself. At the same time, the Panopticon is also the place where Anais finds friends, people to care about, who care about her. Of course, caring about people also means that whatever happens to them suddenly starts to matter to you. For Anais the Panopticon is a last chance before they lock her up until she is 18 and life seems determined to make sure she’ll fail this last opportunity.

This story is set in Scotland, and the use of certain Scottish expressions reminds the reader of that. I firmly believe though that Anais’ story could have been set anywhere. Anybody, regardless of where they live in this world, will have seen and heard the stories about kids who fall between the cracks in the system. This is the story of one of them; a story that will break your heart and make you smile. But most of all, a story that needs telling.

It is not always easy to establish what is real and what is imagination in this book. The lines are blurred. Anais’ use of drugs and alcohol makes her an unreliable narrator and yet the way in which she tells her story makes it very easy to believe everything she shares with the reader. I found myself admiring her for the simple fact that she is still alive, loving her for her hopes, dreams and plans and despairing about every single mistake she makes. At times it is almost impossible to believe that this character is only fifteen. So much that should never happen to anybody has already happened to her at this young age, that it seems a miracle that she is still alive to tell the tale. And yet, despite everything life has thrown at her, Anais continues to believe that a better future is possible for her. Life and “the experiment” may be out to get her; they’ll have to catch her first.

On the surface this is a very bleak story. It is very hard to read about Anais and the other youngsters in the Panopticon and not have your heart break time and again. Anais’ voice is so vibrant and real that it is almost too easy to picture her real-life equivalent trying to survive somewhere in the world. And yet, this book is as warm as it is bone-chilling. The youngsters in the institution form a family of their own; they look after each other, share what they have, feel each others pain and enjoy each other’s triumphs. In all their dysfunction they are a close-knit and loyal group of friends.

This is a very realistic book, at times painfully so. And that is hardly surprising, considering that Jenni Fagan spent her own youth in the care system. She clearly knows what she’s writing about and gives us a vivid and balanced picture of a life lived outside society’s perceived norm. So there are no magical happy-endings or sudden changes in fortune. What we do get is a spirited, brave and fragile teenager trying to survive against the odds; a girl who appears to be only one step away from destruction and yet refuses to give up on her dreams. This amazing book manages to be both a condemnation of all that is wrong in our society and the care system in particular, and a wonderful testament to a person’s will to live a better life, all at the same time. It is no surprise that Jenni Fagan was included in Granta’s list of twenty most promising British authors under the age of 40. If she can bring her clear voice and wonderful storytelling skills to future books, Jenni Fagan is one writer we will be hearing a lot more about in years to come.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Pages: 50
Date: 17/04/2013
Grade: 5
Details: an Original Sinners Short
Own / Kindle

The Blurb:

The Manhattan Mermaids: Believed to be the most beautiful women in the city, they entertain wealthy, powerful men in an exclusive club called Fathoms...and are all virgins. Derek Prince doesn't believe they really exist, until he meets the stunningly sensual Xenia. She drives him wild with desire, but giving in to temptation means losing her position at Fathoms. Derek is incredibly turned on by the thought of being Xenia's first...but will he be willing to wait for her?

I love Tiffany Reisz. I adore her books and the characters in them. In fact, if I have a reading crush, she is it. So I can’t explain how this story could have been on my Kindle, unread, for at least a few months. Mind you, I’m not complaining. It was very nice to have a new to me Tiffany Reisz story while I’m impatiently waiting for summer and the release of The Mistress Files and The Mistress. I intend to re-read every single Original Sinners book and short between now and the release dates, but still, reading something I had never read before was like finding an unexpected present.

So, this is a story featuring Kingsley Edge, although it is not really about him. The story is about Derek who tells his friends about his meeting with a mermaid a year previously. He was sitting in a club, waiting for his date, when he noticed a beautiful and completely wet young woman. When she comes over to his table and puts out the fire in his table’s centre-piece he is mesmerized, and although he almost loses her when she has to leave he follows her and discovers the club where she works. A club, with a mythical reputation and owned by Kingsley Edge. This is the club with the mermaids; young virgins entertaining men while never allowing intimacy. Once a mermaid loses her virginity she has to leave the club.

Xenia, the mermaid who has bewitched Derek, seems to be as attracted to him as he is to her but is very reluctant to leave the safety of the club that has not only offered her very well paid work but has also been her home for three years. With Xenia determined to hang on to her virginity and Derek struggling to hold himself back a happy ending appears unlikely.

Like I said above, I’m a huge fan of Tiffany Reisz so I’m not surprised that I loved this story. Neither am I surprised that she managed to tell a complete story with interesting and fully fleshed characters in only 50 pages. This story is as clever and surprising as I’ve come to expect from this author. Reisz doesn’t write predictable tales, she doesn’t rehash old refrains or fall back on the tried and tested. Her remarkable imagination means that every character Reisz introduces in each of her stories is a true original. And because Kingsley Edge does play an important role in this story it is very much connected to the Original Sinners books. And any opportunity to revisit that world is like a little bit of heaven to me. Only Tiffany Reisz could come up with mermaids in the middle of Manhattan and have it come across as completely normal and realistic. And she is the only author I can think of who would combine the heat of sexual attraction with the relative innocence of “The Little Mermaid”.

This wouldn’t be a Tiffany Reisz story if it wasn’t also incredibly sexy. Who knew that not giving in to your desires could be as hot as a fully fleshed sex scene? I didn’t, but I do now. After reading this story I can’t help thinking that there should be some sort of ritual every time a girl or woman is about to lose her virginity. Just to make the big transition as special as it should be but rarely is.

Further reading:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Pages: 386
Date: 16/04/2013
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 36 In Death

At first glance the dead woman appears to be the victim of a mugging gone wrong. With her bag and coat gone it seems that somebody tried to rob her, only for things to get out of hand. A closer look though reveals that things are probably not that simple. If robbery had been the motive, would the thief not also have taken her expensive boots, for example?

It doesn’t take Eve Dallas much more than one look to conclude that whatever the motive for this murder, it wasn’t theft. The victim was an accountant and it isn’t long before Eve finds herself up to her neck in the world of finance and audits. This is a world she knows very little about but being married to Roarke, possibly the most successful businessman in the world, does have its advantages. With a host of suspects, more murders and an attack on herself and Peabody to contend with, Eve has a complicated investigation on her hands. And when it seems that the murderer is developing an appetite for killing, the investigation becomes more urgent as well. Still, dealing with high finance, arrogant businessmen and crazy killers doesn’t faze Eve nearly as much as the prospect of the upcoming premiere and all the preparations that event is going to require.

With this being the 36th book in this series, and having read all and reviewed most of them, I’m running out of original things to say. It must be clear to anybody who has been following my reading that I love these books. I love them because of the mysteries, the setting – New York in the near future -, the humour and the original and fascinating characters. In fact, it is the opportunity to spend more time with Eve, Roarke, Peabody, McNab, Summerset and all the other regulars that has me eagerly awaiting every subsequent book in this series. I enjoy the interactions between these characters; Eve’s snarkiness, her ongoing verbal battle of wills with Summerset, her almost reluctant loyalty to her friends and, most of all, her relationship with Roarke. I’m getting a kick out of watching her develop and coming out of her self-imposed shell a little bit more with each subsequent book. And I adore the way in which she will muddle up expressions and have a good explanation as to why hers is as good as the original:

“Though modesty will prevent me from playing my own fiddle…
Tooting your own horn.
What’s the difference? They both make noise.”

As she does in most, if not all, of her books J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts) paints a crystal clear picture with her words. She introduces you to characters who come alive on the page to such an extent that you can see and hear them. Her dialogue sparkles and sounds natural. If nothing else, this author is a master storyteller, a wordsmith of the highest order. And I, like millions of other women, will always be grateful that she keeps on bringing us her wonderful stories.


AUTHOR: Victoria Dunne
Length: 816 locations
Date: 15/04/2013
Grade: 5
Details: no. 1 Sharing Pleasures
Own / Kindle

The Blurb:

“Alex has always fantasized about seeing his wife, Diane, pleasured by other men. With the purchase of a very realistic dildo, Alex is now ready to introduce Diane to the idea of taking on other lovers while he watches.

Will Diane accept this new direction in their relationship?

And what will happen when they go back to their favorite bar -- The Richmond?”

So, this author starts following my husband on Twitter and she turns out to write erotic stories. When she mentions one of her titles and that she is looking for reviewers, he informs her that he has a wife who reads and reviews (erotic) books. And once he’d done that I felt I had to go and read Sharing Pleasures, especially since I already had the title on my Kindle. I wouldn’t want to make a liar out of my husband, now would I? Boy, am I glad I did.

I have to be honest and say that my expectations weren’t too high. I like to be able to relate, in some way, shape or form, to the erotic stories I read and the idea of a husband sharing his wife with others is so far away from my reality and my fantasies that I was afraid the story and I just wouldn’t click. I’m also slightly suspicious of shorter stories since they often lack real character description and development. I shouldn’t have worried though, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

This was a wonderful novella. Not very long but very well written, with interesting and well developed characters and a fascinating story. I guess it was the characters who hooked me first. It is so nice to read a story about characters who are more or less my own age. I don’t mind reading about twenty-somethings or people in their thirties, but those years are well and truly behind me. It made a wonderful change to read about a couple who are at the same place in life as I am; happily married, with their only child in university and rediscovering life as a couple after being a full-time family for almost twenty years. I loved the way in which Alex and Diana were still able to surprise each other almost as much as I loved the care they took of each others feelings. The fact that they continued to make sure that the other was still okay with and excited by their plan made the story more realistic and very endearing.

The description of the shopping Alex does to surprise his wife, the fantasies Alex and Diana have and the dancing scenes in the Richmond were all incredibly sexy and very well written. And I haven’t even mentioned the steamy action they engaged in with Paul in their car. If I have one objection to this story it is the lack of protection once Diana engages with Paul, who is after all only a vague acquaintance.

I wasn’t even remotely interested in the scenario as suggested in this book before I started reading it and I can’t say reading it changed my mind. I have to admit though that the way it was described was not only very hot but also made it understandable that for others this may be the ultimate fantasy and experience. I do hope that Victoria Dunne decides to write more about this couple. If she does she has one guaranteed reader in me.

Monday, April 15, 2013


Pages: 202
Date: 14/04/2013
Grade: 3.5
Details: no. 1 The Prophecy Girl
             Received from author
Own / Kindle

The Blurb:

“Shy receptionist Lindsey Wade can’t believe her luck when a chance encounter with world-famous stage magician Angelito Tarrago leads to an affair. But when he tries to convince her that he possesses genuine supernatural powers – and she might too – her life changes for ever.

Pulled between her safe, comfortable life and the glamorous, erotic world of magic, Lindsey delves deeper; uncovering a secret society, long-buried lies, and sides to herself that she didn’t know existed.

Is her lover telling the truth? Could she really be the subject of an ancient prophecy? And who is the mysterious man following her around?”

Well, this was some story. It starts off innocently enough with Lindsey Wade winning a ticket to see Angelito Tarrago, world famous magician, perform his spectacular show. And we meet Lindsey as a shy, quiet and repressed young woman. That shyness disappears the moment she meets Angelito; suddenly the woman who was afraid to show her naked body to her best friend finds herself wanting and needing physical closeness and sexual attention.

“Her mind repeatedly took her to places she had never been before; sordid thoughts making her feel desires she had never known existed.”

All it takes is one night and Lindsey is captivated both by Angelito and the pleasures sex bring her. The only blemish on her new found delight is the man with yellow eyes who follows her, threatens her and tells her to stay away from Angelito. Lindsey doesn’t heed the warning though. Although she is sceptical about Angelito’s claims that they are both Magi with extra-ordinary powers she can’t stay away from him and is delighted that he appears to be feeling the same way about her.

But Lindsey is out of her depths. She has been suddenly dropped into a world she knows nothing about surrounded by powers she doesn’t understand but she seems to possess as well. She is in more danger than she could ever imagine and will have to figure out who her friends and her enemies really are before she loses everything, including her life.

This book mixes several themes; paranormal, fantasy, mystery, suspense and, of course, erotica. This is a very sex-driven story. Set in a world where magical powers seem to come with a more then healthy sexual appetite, a lot of the (inter)action in this book takes the form of sexual acts because:

“Sexual energy is always one of the first manifestations of our abilities.”

And Danielle Austen, having created this opportunity for herself, doesn’t shy away from introducing steamy and explicit scenes into nearly every encounter between characters, be they primary or secondary. And while that will delight anyone who is hoping to read a mostly erotic story it will put off those who enjoy a sex scene when it enhances the story but don’t like it when sex seems to be (most of) the story. On the other hand, in the context of the story it all makes sense since sex is a vital part of who these Magi are.

I’m a bit conflicted when it comes to this book. I have to admit that I enjoyed it. I had no trouble getting into the story and even less problems staying with it until the very last page. On the other hand I couldn’t help feeling that this book could have been a lot more; the story a lot better. Maybe with a bit more background information and a bit more character development this story would have been great rather than good. Although I’m a huge fan of erotic fiction and get a kick out of any well written sex scene I do feel that the author went a bit over the top once or twice. Especially the scene near the end of the book which was so extreme that, for me, it lost all erotic beauty and just became a blur.

Having said that, the story managed to grab me and excite me. More importantly, the book left me curious as to how things will progress. Austen left us with, not so much a cliff-hanger, as a teasing hint as to what may be happening next. A hint intriguing enough to leave me wanting more.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Pages: 312
Date: 12/04/2013
Grade: 4
Details: Finishing School Book the First
            Received from Atom
            Through Nudge

Fourteen year old Sophronia Temminnick is driving her mother to distraction. She is nothing like her sisters or other girls her age. Rather than interested in fashion, good manners and elegance she has a fascination with climbing trees and discovering how things work by dismantling them. After an unfortunate incident with a dumbwaiter Mrs. Temminnick is only too happy when her wayward daughter is invited to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing School for Young Ladies of Quality.

Sophronia dreads the idea of going to a school where she will have to dedicate her time to being truly feminine but since she isn’t given a choice she travels to the school with one of the teacher’s and another new student. What could have been a boring journey filled with apprehension turns into something far more interesting when their coach is attacked by flyway-men and it is up to Sophronia to save the day. And the school turns out to be not quite what she expected either. Not only is the school’s location rather fluid, the lessons are unexpected as well. Yes, Sophronia will have to learn how to curtsy properly, something which proves quite hard since:

“It is one thing to learn how to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time.”

Not to mention the fact that she has both a werewolf and a vampire among her teachers. And then there is the small matter of the missing prototype and the flyway-men so determined to acquire it that the whole school is being threatened.

Welcome to finishing school, where finishing comes in lots of different ways.

This book is so much fun. Sophronia is a wonderful main character; she’s feisty, clever, curious and not easily scared. Following her exploits is an exhilarating experience. There isn’t a dull paragraph in this book and almost every single page will contain at least one moment that will have the reader smile if not laugh out loud. But while the reader is taken from one exciting moment to the next and it seems like we’re on an uninterrupted adventure there is also room for character development and world building.

This book is set in a steam-punk version of Victorian England and this makes for a wonderful combination. I loved all the technical devices introduced in this story, especially Bumbersnoot, the little mechanical dog Sophronia secretly adopts. And I adore the idea of training girls to be assassins or spies while also teaching them how to be proper ladies. Everything a lady uses, wears or carries with her turns out to not only be a fashion accessory but also a potential weapon. Who knew there were so many uses for the simple fan or handkerchief?

It is hard to read this book and not draw parallels with the Harry Potter stories. The boarding school setting, the secret nature of the school and its location, the student who is an instant enemy, the unlikely friends, they are all clearly recognisable and I could probably come up with more examples. But, this story is unique enough to stand on its own two feet. Gail Carriger has created her own universe with its own quirks and charms. And while there are a lot of mysterious devices as well as supernatural creatures in this book there is no magic and that fact in itself sets the book apart from Rowling’s books.

If I have one complaint about this book it is that it wasn’t any longer. I don’t think this story would have suffered if there had been more descriptions and background information. I would have loved to read a bit more about the lessons and all the weird and wonderful skills the girls are taught. I would have liked to see all the other characters fleshed out a little bit more. As it was, all of that took a backseat to the thrill of the adventure. Mind you, this is the first book in a series, so I’m hopeful that in books to come I will find the detail I’m craving at the moment.

This book is a magical, thrill a minute sort of read that will keep the reader turning the pages with a huge grin on their face; pure enjoyment between two covers.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Pages: 194
Date: 10/04/2013
Grade: 4+
Details: Received from HarperCollins
            Through Nudge

The year is 1099 (or 4859 or 492, depending on which faith you belong to) and Jerusalem, a place where three Faiths live peacefully side by side is about to be invaded by crusaders. A man from Athens, known as the Copt, talks to the citizens of Jerusalem. He isn’t a Jew, Christian or Muslim and

“..believes only in the present moment and what he calls Moira –the unknown god, The Divine Energy, responsible for a single law, which, if ever broken, will bring about the end of the world.”

In the tradition of ancient Greece the Copt will answer questions about everyday life so that through the preservation of his words the soul of Jerusalem may be also be preserved. Every chapter starts with a simple question, as posed by one of those listening. The beauty of those questions is that they are as relevant today as they may have been in 1099 or at any other time in the future or in the past. They are the sort of questions we all ask ourselves; some regularly others infrequently or only once. Questions about fear, true enemies, defeat and struggle lead on to inquiries about the will to change, and the virtues of loyalty and solitude. Finally the questions that remain are those about beauty, sex, elegance, love, wisdom and what the future holds. And if you take your time reading the answers you will find that these are also simple; definitely profound but not complicated. Nothing much is required of us except that we live our best life and do so from a place of love. Which, of course, is nowhere near as simple as it sounds.

And so we find statements such as the following:

On defeat:

“Only he who gives up is defeated. Everyone else is victorious.”

On uselessness:

“Don’t try to be useful. Try to be yourself: that is enough, and makes all the difference.”

On beauty:

“Outer beauty is inner beauty made visible, and it manifests itself in the light that flows from our eyes.”

“And to those who believe that adventures are dangerous I say, Try Routine: that kills you far more quickly.”

On love:

“Love is an act of faith, not an exchange.”

On Sex:

In sex, relaxation and tension go hand in hand, as do pain and pleasure and shyness and the courage to go beyond one’s limits.
How can such opposite states exist in harmony together? There is only one way: by surrendering yourself.
Because the act of surrender means: ‘I trust you’.”

On success:

“People who seek only success rarely find it, because success is not an end in itself, but a consequence.”

“What is success?
It is being able to go to bed each night with your soul at peace.”

On anxiety:

“It will never disappear, but the great wisdom of life is to realise that we can be the masters of the things that try to enslave us.”

On the future:

“What the future holds for you depends entirely on your capacity for love.”

“Loving means being open to miracles, to victories and defeats, to everything that happens each day that is given us to walk upon the face of the Earth.”

On weapons:

“The most terrible of all weapons is the word, which can ruin a life without leaving a trace of blood, and whose wounds never heal.”

When night has fallen and the invasion is imminent the Copt tells those who listened to him to go out into the world and share that which they have heard, because:

“Do not think that I am come to spread peace upon the Earth. No, from this night on, we will travel the world bearing an invisible sword, so that we can fight the demons of intolerance and lack of understanding.”

Manuscript found in Accra is exactly what you expect it to be: deep, inspirational, spiritual and thought-provoking. Paulo Coelho is very good at what he set out to do when he first released ‘The Alchemist’; he sought to bring inspiration and insight to many and twenty-five years later that is exactly what he is still doing. And as with every single one of Coelho’s previous works, this isn’t the sort of book you read once, place on a shelf and never look at again. This book contains information that you will find yourself revisiting time and again. There may be times when you only re-read one particular section of the book because it is relevant to your life at that particular time. At other times you may feel the need to re-read the whole book because you need to make sense of the world as a whole. Although a lot of the wisdom and sentiments in this book are things we have read and heard before it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of them. On the other hand, not everything in this book appears familiar. There are also chapters, like the one on elegance, that explain the spirituality in places where I have never thought to look for it:

“Elegance is not an outer quality, but a part of the soul that is visible to others.”

This is a book to read slowly, allowing the words to sink in. A book to keep in an accessible place so that you can pick it up whenever you need some spiritual encouragement to get you through the day. Don’t let the ease with which this book can be read mislead you. It would be very easy to just fly through the book over the course of an afternoon, and you would probably enjoy the read as well. But, unless you take the time to savour the words and think about them, you are going to miss a lot.