Monday, September 30, 2013


Pages: 448
Date: 30/09/2013
Grade: 5
Details: Received from MIRA Harlequin
            Through NetGalley

The Blurb:

“Are you aching for more shade? 

The experts in erotic romance invite you to delve deeper into the tantalizing world of BDSM with a selection of delightfully wicked novellas that will ignite your senses. Explore your darkest fantasies with ten daring, intense stories by some of the biggest names in the genre. If you're looking for a lip-bitingly sexy escape, 10 Shades of Seduction will claim you.

You know you want it. 

Sarah McCarty, Tiffany Reisz , Alison Tyler, Lisa Renee Jones, Portia Da Costa, Saskia Walker, Anne Calhoun, Alegra Verde”


This is a book consisting of ten different stories by eight different authors and as such impossible to review as one book. In fact, I’m not even going to try. Below are my thoughts on each individual story as well as a separate rating for each of them. In the past, when reading an anthology, there would be at least one story that didn’t work for me at all; at least one that would let the rest of the collection down. How wonderful to find a collection in which every single novella worked for me. Granted, some worked better than others, but much to my delight none of them disappointed.

As the blurb suggests all of these novellas deal with Domination and submission in some form or another and all of them are explicit and sexy as my short descriptions and selected quotes will show.

Submit to Desire by Tiffany Reisz (5+)

Featuring the fabulous and oh so sexy Kingsley Edge from the “Original Sinners” books.

When Kingsley sees Charlie breathing fire in a club he makes her a proposition. He wants her to submit to him for one month during which he will train her for a client of his. New to BDSM, Charlie finds herself discovering a new world, filled with delights she never knew existed. The only problem is that by the time the month is over she has become so attached to Kingsley that submitting to another man, regardless of who he might be, seems impossible. What will Charlie do when she meets this mysterious client?

Filled with Tiffany Reisz’s trademark humour, sexiness and sparkling characters this story was exactly what I knew it would be; a pure delight and enticingly hot story.

Favourite quotes:

“What you must understand is that submissive women are not weak. They are often much stronger than the men who dominate them. They have to be strong and brave to submit without losing themselves.”

“You can be afraid all you want. Just don’t let your fear stop you.”

Second Time Around by Portia Da Costa (5)

Willa meets her ex-husband James at a school reunion after they’ve been apart for three years. Things have changed though. The push-over Willa used to order around no longer exists. This new James is confident, and in total control. This new James makes Willa feel like an insecure teenager before they’ve even exchanged a word. The new James shows Willa that life and love will be better if she’ll just give up control and submit to him…at least some of the time.

A wonderful story about two people who were meant to be together but messed it up getting and taking their second chance.

“I decide I’m never going to hold back either. I’ll try anything, do anything…at his command.”

Tempting the New Guy by Alegra Verde (3.5)

Story set in an office environment. Glory is being pursued by new guy Clement Johns while she already is having an affair with her boss, Bruce and has also been seeing Alex, a client of the company she works for. While this makes for lots of heated and steamy encounters it also made this a story I wasn’t quite sure what to make of. A well written story that didn’t really work for me.

Giving in by Alison Tyler (4.5)

Ellis is only weeks away from homelessness when her friend Sasha treats her to a trip to Venice where they will stay with Stefan, a very rich uncle of Sasha’s.
While Ellis expects a two week holiday before she has to return to her desperate situation in New York, she finds something completely different. Ellis is on a journey to a place where all her fantasies - all the sexy stories she has ever written, - are about to come true. Ellis can leave her troubles behind and enter a world filled with pleasure; a happily ever after story without an end.

What She Needs by Anne Calhoun (4.5)

When the narrator receives a phone call from Jack she drops what she’s doing and meets him. When they meet she does what Jack asks without question. Jack is in control and if the narrator follows his instructions he’ll bring her to the heights of passion. This is a wonderfully sweet yet very sexy story. The “revelation” at the end didn’t come as a surprise, but I don’t think it was supposed to. A thoroughly enjoyable read in which I really liked that Jack is a hero who doesn’t look like a stud.

“He doesn’t look like a man who can make a woman lose her mind. But he is.”

Vegas Heat by Lisa Renee Jones (4)

Dante Ricci, rich entrepreneur planning to expand his empire in Las Vegas wants Sonya Miller, a highly ambitious corporate lawyer to work with him on this project. Contract negotiations and dinner lead to a rather unexpected game during which Dante demands Sonya’s trust and submission and the independent and always in control young woman learns that submitting has its own benefits.

“Give me control. I’ll be gentle”

A charming and sexy story although I can’t help feeling it would have been better if it had been longer, maybe even a full-length novel.

A Very Personal Assistant by Portia Da Costa (5)

Miranda Austin, corporate highflyer, feels drained and fed up after an especially difficult meeting. When her personal assistant Patrick Dove suggests taking a few hours out of their day to get away from it all, Miranda knows he doesn’t mean having a cup of coffee together. An afternoon away from the office, submitting to Patrick’s demands is just what Miranda needs and what started as a one-off turns into a regular event. But can an office affair ever work? And what happens when lust turns into real feelings?

“There was strength in giving in, it was her choice, what she wanted in this moment.”

“Yes…with you, I don’t have to decide things or control things or take responsibility. I can just be.”

Tied up & Twisted by Allison Tyler (5)

An S&M love story

When Hadley McCarthy goes to the gym to interview Reed Frost she feels an instant connection; he is the man she wants to submit to. Guy does the PR at the gym and has arranged for Hadley to do the interview. He hasn’t seen her for a year but wants her back; he can’t wait to submit to her again. But Hadley has no inclination to return to Guy or her past as a Domme. And Reed Frost has steered clear of relationships for seven years and has no real urge to get involved with anyone again. Will anybody end up with who they want and need?

“I want to live in a world where everyone gets what they need, and nobody is punished for their desires.”

“Welcome to the beginning…the beginning of your happy ending.”

Letting Go by Sarah McCarthy (5)

Mark and Becky have been planning their weekend away for a month, but now that it is here Becky is afraid; afraid that she might not live up to Mark’s expectations; afraid that she may not be able to give him the submission he wants, and herself the release of control she has been craving for such a long time.

A very sexy and sweet story about a married couple taking their relationship one step further.

Forbidden Ritual by Saskia Walker (4)

Imogen is an independent and powerful woman who doesn’t think she needs a man but finds herself ever more frequently spending the time in between work and sleep with Giles, a younger Dominant man who knows how to give exactly what she needs. Now Giles wants to take Imogen beyond her comfort zone; he wants her to submit to him completely. Will Imogen be able to agree to rope bondage – shibari – or will her need to never lose control completely make her deny both herself and Giles the opportunity of being happy together?

“This, shibari, is about the next level for me. It’s a sign of ultimate commitment and trust.”

This is a wonderful collection of novellas. One that has given me hours of pure reading delight, reacquainted me with favourite authors and introduced me to what are sure to become new must read writers. A little slice of reading heaven!

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Pages: 293
Date: 28/09/2013
Grade: 4
Details: Received from Hesperus Press Ltd
            Through Nudge

Let’s start this review at the very beginning, with a look at the title. It is an incredibly smart title for a book of course. I dare any reader to stumble upon this book somewhere and not take a closer look at it out of pure curiosity. How could you possibly not investigate a book with a title like this? A title like “The Best Book in the World” warrants a closer look at the blurb at the very least. And what makes this title extra clever is that the label does describe the contents exactly. This is a book about the best book in the world.

During a literary festival two authors get drunk together. One is the young, popular, successful and charming poet Eddie X. The other, Titus Jensen is older. He has a successful career as an author of literary fiction behind him and now spends his time, mostly drunk, reading outrageous passages from obscure books at festivals. Titus is well on his way to becoming a washed-out has been. During their drunken conversation Titus comes up with the idea of writing a genre-transcending book:

“A single book that is all the other books at the same time.”

Titus Jensen knows that The Best Book in the World is his last chance. If he can’t write it he’ll be an alcoholic has been for the rest of his life. If he can’t sober up now he’ll never be a serious writer again but be condemned to making a fool of himself at festivals forever.

Despite this idea having sprung from a very intoxicated mind, Titus enlists his publishers’ assistance, and proceeds on a very strict writing regime. His life style is changed, alcohol banned and his writing monitored. And much to everybody surprise Titus makes great progress with his project about:

an overweight and charismatic detective chief inspector who has cracked an important slimming code and will change the world’s view of leadership. On top of that, he has a polished serial killer, a frightfully tasty pizza and the best artist in the world throughout the ages, his soul mate Salvador Dali.”

But, as Titus writing goes from strength to strength he can’t help worrying about Eddie X. He told the young poet about his idea and he is convinced that Eddie is not only working on a similar project but also trying to get his hands on Titus’ work in progress. And that is a very worrying prospect because:

“The best book in the world can give eternal life. But only to one of them.”

The race is on!

In many ways this is a very clever book. In order to write a book about an author who tries to write a book that encompasses several, if not all, genres Peter Stjernström had to write a book that covers several different genres. So, while we have a fascinating and at times very funny novel to enjoy here, we also get a lot of non fictional information about pizza, art, Sweden, and writing, among other topics. And for the most part the balance between story-line and other information is very well struck and fits the story perfectly. The one thing I was less happy about was the final part of the book. It is only a few pages long but manages to put everything that has gone before on its head. I can’t help feeling that Stjernström was trying to be a bit too clever there and am convinced that this book would have been as good, if not better, if that last part had been left out.

Those last few pages not withstanding, this was a very enjoyable and anything but predictable read. And while a book that holds so many different facets might sound like hard work for the reader, this is in fact a surprisingly easy to read story. The narrative flows nicely, factual insertions never take the pace out of the story and although there is an awful lot going on - there isn’t a dull moment in this book = the story-line is easy to follow, until you get to those last few pages.

There is a lot to be found in this book for those who pay attention, with a recipe for the perfect pizza as one of the highlights. The writer doesn’t shy away from kicking a few hobby horses while he’s at it. The publishing industry is given a closer look and a not too subtle dig at Paulo Coelho may well offend some of his numerous fans. And I can’t help wondering – with a big grin on my face - how many authors, like Titus in this book, have wished they could put something like the following in their foreword:

“…and now I demand of you, you pathetic clown of a reviewer, that you read this magnificent book with the most open attitude that your withered and poisoned brain is capable of. May you burn in hell if you are incapable of appreciating the magnificence of this innovative work of literature.”

This may not be the best book in the world; it definitely is a very original and enjoyable way to spend a few of your reading hours.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Pages: 376
Date: 24/09/2013
Grade: 4+
Details: Book Club Read
            Large Print Copy

The blurb:

This is when it begins

Fall, 2008.

This is where it begins

The coast of Dublin, Ireland.

This is why it begins

Bruno, an American, has come to Ireland to search for his roots. Addie, an out-of-work architect, is recovering from heartbreak while taking care of her infirm father. When their worlds collide, they experience a connection unlike any they've previously felt, but soon a tragedy will test them-and their newfound love-in ways they never imagined possible.

This is how it ends . . .


Well, I have to start this review by saying that this book managed to surprise me. This story turned out to be not at all what I thought it would be when I first started the book. While I did get the love story I was expecting, I also found an awful lot more in this book. And although I did find myself reading the last few pages of this book with tears in my eyes, I couldn’t help being pleasantly surprised by the rather unexpected way this story concluded.

While this is indeed a love story, it is not a traditional one. Our hero, Bruno is fifty years old, has two failed marriages behind him and has recently lost his job. Unable to face the upcoming elections – Obama vs. McCain - in America, he decides to travel to Ireland and research his family’s roots.

Addie is thirty-eight years old and has recently lost a baby as well as her long term partner. What is more, her work as an architect has dried up. With no real purpose in her life it is almost a blessing when her cantankerous father, Hugh, breaks both his wrists and needs her to move in to the family home to look after him. When Addie and Hugh discover that Bruno, who is a distant relative, is in Ireland to look into his family history, both of them are determined to ignore him. The last thing they need is a sentimental American disturbing the peace in their lives.

Yet, when Addie does meet Bruno she instantly knows that she is looking at the start of a love affair. What she doesn’t know is that she is also looking at the start of a complete life change. It may not be Bruno who causes all the changes in the lives of Addie and her family; he does somehow appear to be at the centre of them.  Over the course of less then a year everything will change for Addie, Hugh, Della – Addie’s sister – and Bruno. And even with tragedy facing all of them, most of those changes are far from bad.

This story was set up in a rather clever way. When the story starts both Addie and Bruno came across as somewhat pathetic. Addie seems to have lost her way in life completely. Looking after her father keeps her going but she appears lethargic and borderline depressed and lacking the will to do anything about it. Bruno’s journey to Ireland seems to be some form of a midlife crisis at first. While it makes sense that he would like to give his life some purpose now that he has lost his job, his fear of the possible outcome of the upcoming election seems completely unrealistic and over the top.

It is only as these two characters develop that the reader slowly gets an insight into what motivates them. And while I never completely got my head around Bruno’s obsession with the election, I did get a much better appreciation of what was driving Addie and her reasons for being who and what she is.

While this book is foremost about the journey Bruno and Addie make together, both Hugh and Della have some issues of their own to come to terms with. Especially Hugh having to confront his past, his reluctance to talk about it, “snobbery, pure snobbery” and his heartbreaking confrontation with karma were very well executed.

I liked that none of the characters in this book were perfect; all of them were selfish and insensitive at times although it was constantly clear that they were all trying to do the best they could within their personal limitations.

This is a book that will take the reader through a wide range of emotions. You will find yourself smiling, frowning, exasperated and crying. This is a story that resembles life; there is no such thing as a perfect happy ending. All we can do is make the best of what we are given. And that is not a bad message to send out into the world.

Overall I would call this a deceptively easy read with a far deeper meaning than you would expect when you first pick it up. Prepare to be pleasantly surprised even while your heart breaks a little bit.

Monday, September 23, 2013


Pages: 319
Date: 23/09/2013
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 3 Alex Verus

Alex Verus’ life is running as smoothly as the life of an independent mage can run. He’s running his shop and training his apprentice Luna and trying to live his life as quietly as he can but it isn’t as easy as it used to be to keep his anonymity. His recent adventures and rather unexpected victories have brought him to the attention of the wider community of mages. So, when he is invited to travel to Fountain Reach to be a supervisor during a tournament for apprentice mages he isn’t too surprised. But since the past few times when he did accept requests for help from other mages have only lead to danger and brought him close to losing his life, Alex has no doubts when he reclines the mind-mage’s offer, despite her best efforts to control his thoughts.

When he is subsequently asked to look into the unexplained and suspicious disappearances of apprentices Alex does accept the invitation. And before he knows it Alex finds that he and Luna are on their way to Fountain Reach after all, where they will have to combine their efforts with two independent and initially very hostile apprentices.

While apprentices continue to disappear, Alex finds himself in an environment where spells don’t work as well as they should, facing an unknown opponent who seems to know his every move before he makes it, facing an long time enemy determined to kill him once and for all and not finding any clear clues as to why the young mages are disappearing or who is responsible.

And once it does become clear exactly what is going on, who is behind it and why it seems that Alex may at last have found himself an opponent he won’t be able to defeat.

This is the third Alex Verus book and just like Fated and Cursed this is a face-paced, thrilling, original and at times very funny story. Alex Verus is a wonderful main character. He is very likeable but by no means perfect; he has his quirks, his weaknesses and his pride to balance his inherent goodness and inclination to help those in an even weaker position than he is. As a diviner, Verus can’t so much predict the future as determine all the possible futures ahead of him depending on what choices he makes. And because he doesn’t really have any other magical powers, this ability to stay one step ahead of those around him comes in very handy.

I love that these stories are set in a London I recognise. This is the real world into which a magical layer has been incorporated in such a way that it is almost possible to believe that it really exists. I also like that while these books are clearly inspired by Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and this particular book has one or two features that reminded me of Hogwarts, the stories are fresh and original and don’t own anything to anyone except Benedict Jacka, the author who wrote them. On the other hand, it doesn’t surprise me at all that these books come with a recommendation from Jim Butcher. If either Harry Dresden or Alex Verus would cross the Atlantic I could see these two get into all sorts of adventures together.

As this series progresses Alex is picking up some rather interesting side-kicks. There is Luna, who because of her curse has to stay well away from all direct human contact. And in this book Anne, an apprentice life mage and Variam, an apprentice with control over fire are added to his unlooked for collection of strays. I can only hope that these three youngsters will be around in future books because they really add an extra dimension to the story.

Like I said, this is the third book in the Alex Verus series. And while it is perfectly possible to read this book as a stand-alone I would advice anyone to read the two prequels first. Apart from the fact that you’ll get more out of this book if you’re familiar with the background story, the earlier books are just too much fun to miss out on.

If you’re in the mood for an urban fantasy with a healthy dose of magic and lots of heart-stopping moments you could do a lot worse than to pick up this book. I would be surprised if you didn’t find yourself getting lost in this almost real, magical world only to surface after the mystery has been solved, danger has been averted and the story has been told.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Pages: 304
Date: 19/09/2013
Grade: 5
Details: Received from Harlequin
           Through NetGalley

The Blurb:

“Their passion will consume everything—and everyone— in its path…. 

I'm on a train. 

I don't know which stop I got on at; I only know the train is going fast and the world outside becomes a blur. I should get off, but I don't. The universe is playing a cosmic joke on me. Here I had my life—a good life with everything a woman could want—and suddenly, there is something more I didn't know I could have. A chance for me to be satisfied and content and maybe even on occasion deliriously, amazingly, exuberantly fulfilled. 

So this is where I am, on a train that's out of control, and I am not just a passenger. I'm the one shoveling the furnace full of coal to keep it going fast and faster. 

If I could make myself believe it all happened by chance and I couldn't help it, that I've been swept away, that it's not my fault, that it's fate…would that be easier? The truth is, I didn't know I was looking for this until I found Will, but I must've been, all this time. And now it is not random, it is not fate, it is not being swept away.  

This is my choice.  And I don't know how to stop. 

Or even if I want to.”


I know. A lot of people are going to have issues with this book because it is the story of an affair. Don’t get me wrong; I do not approve of affairs. But this is fiction, and it is a beautiful and heartbreaking story. This story neither glorifies nor condemns the affair, it just tells the story of what it was like for Elizabeth, and it tells that story very well.

Elizabeth is 45 years old, married with two grown up daughters when she meets Will, a photographer at an exhibition. The attraction she feels for Will is instant.

“(…) the sound of his voice tiptoeing up my spine to tickle the back of my neck.”

Elizabeth tries to deny the attraction initially. After all she’s been married for a long time and while she wouldn’t call herself happily married anymore, she can’t honestly say she is deeply unhappy either, it is more that she is dissatisfied with her marriage and her husband.

“What happens is you get married, you raise your kids, they go off to school, and you look at your spouse and wonder what on earth you’re supposed to do with each other now, without all the distractions of having a family to obscure the fact that you have no idea not only who the other is, but who you are yourself.”

But, once Elizabeth does give in to the ever increasing attraction between her and Will she doesn’t hold back. They may be meeting in secret and irregularly, emotionally she is completely invested in her liaison.

“He wants to pretend this is all accidental, but for me it isn’t a game. I haven’t simply let it happen. I’m falling because I jumped, and not because I tripped. This is on purpose and I own it, even if he won’t.”

But an affair is never easy. There are more than two people involved and no matter how it plays out people are going to end up hurt. Staying apart turns out to be just as hard as being together is for Elizabeth and Will though. Sooner or later Elizabeth will have to make a choice about her future, and no matter what she decides to do, ensuring everybody’s happiness just isn’t possible.

“(…)because the kindest thing you can do for someone you love is to never tell them how much they have broken your heart.”

Like I said, while I may not be a huge fan of the premise of this story, I did end up loving this book a lot more than I thought I would. There is a raw honesty in this book that you don’t often encounter in this genre. There is no need to suspend disbelief while reading this story. The emotions described ring true as do the actions of the characters.

What I loved most about this book was the way the story ended. Of course I can’t give the ending away, and I won’t even hint at it. All I can say is that for me this was the only way the story could end. In fact, I think the ending gave the story an extra level of credibility. I’m going to have to read more books by Megan Hart because this author sure knows how to write a gripping, hot, original, honest and very readable story.

“He was my ocean, and I didn’t know if I would drown until I learned how well I could swim.”


Pages: 222
Date: 18/09/2013
Grade: 4
Details: Essays on Everything
           Received from Vintage Books
           Through Nudge

According to the introduction this book was originally going to be titled “Occasional Writings”. Which leads us to the question what “occasional writings” actually are. To quote the author:

“They are generally on topics about which the author had no specific interest. He was, instead, encouraged to write each one after being invited to contribute to a series of discussions or essays on a particular theme. It captured the author’s interest and encouraged him to reflect on something he might otherwise have ignored (…).”

As for the reason why the publisher decided to use the title of the first essay for this book instead of the author’s original idea, well those reasons should be obvious. “Inventing the Enemy” sounds a lot more intriguing than “Occasional Writings” ever could.

What we have here is a collection of 14 essays. The problem, when reviewing a collection of essays, is that there are always going to be pieces on subjects the reviewer knows little or nothing about and/or has no real interest in. That problem gets even bigger when the essays are written by a brilliant mind like Eco’s. While I can honestly say that every single word in this book was fascinating to me, I also have to be honest enough to admit that quite a few of those words went straight over my head.

I have been in awe of Umberto Eco ever since I read The Name of the Rose” and Foucault’s Pendulum”, years ago. Here we have a man with what appears to be endless knowledge about numerous subjects. A thinker able to share his thoughts, both serious and absurd, in a way that intrigues his audience, even if the audience is not always capable of following his reasoning or establishing the accuracy of his ideas and assertions.

This book contains essays on a wide variety of subjects varying from light-hearted to serious, from historical to contemporary and from philosophical to factual. Below I will share thoughts on and quotes from some of these essays. That selection is however rather arbitrary since it is very personal and limited to those pieces that struck a cord with me.

Inventing the Enemy

“Having an enemy is important not only to define our identity but also to provide us with an obstacle against which to measure our system of values and, in seeking to overcome it, to demonstrate our own worth.”

Examples ranging from Cicero to Ian Fleming, illustrate how the enemy has always been described using similar, if not identical, characteristics, regardless of who the portrayed enemy is. It seems that we cannot manage without an enemy and will create one when we find ourselves without an opponent.

Absolute and Relative

And the question whether or not there is such a thing as an absolute or relative truth.

Treasure Hunting

“The cult of the relic is to be found in every religion and culture.

Not so much philosophical as a listing of where to find which relics, which immediately makes the reader realise that certain relics can be found in more places than should logically be possible. But, of course:

“It is not the relic that makes faith, but faith that makes the relic.”

Censorship and Silence

Two forms of censorship: censorship through silence and censorship through noise.

“To avoid causing behaviour considered to be deviant, don’t talk about it, (…) To avoid talking about deviant behaviour, talk a great deal about other things.”

“Nothing is more difficult to dispose of than an irrelevant but true story.”

“In losing the condition of silence, we lost the possibility of hearing what other people are saying, which is the only basic and reliable means of communication.”

Imaginary Astronomies

From the way we saw the world and the skies in the past to the emergence of science fiction. Including the fascinating question whether, if science fiction is influenced by science, the opposite is also true?

Living by Proverbs

The idea is fascinating; creating a society in which people live their lives based on the wisdom contained in proverbs as the way to happiness. That this is of course doomed to fail is obvious, but it makes for a very interesting idea.

Ulysses: That’s All We Need

A denouement of Joyce’s Ulysses that I can’t help feeling shouldn’t be taken seriously, although I’m completely lost as to what the purpose of this essay might be if that assumption is right.

Thoughts on WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks is of course, a false scandal since everybody knew, although nobody acknowledged, that embassies had turned from representatives of their countries into information gathering operations. Furthermore, the information sent to America was not actually secret.

While modern technology makes the Big Brother scenario all too realistic – it is next to impossible to go through life unobserved – WikiLeaks has shown that this is actually a two-way street. Those in power may be able to observe us, but we, at least those of us proficient at computer hacking – can discover the secrets of that Power. 

Like most, if not all, collections of essays this is a book that is best read in bits and pieces. Reading this book from cover to cover would in all likelihood be quite exhausting. Moreover, the essays in this book are all of a rather high intellectual quality and require the reader to think along with the author, which is really only possible if they give themselves the time to absorb the information provided and the luxury of pondering it at their leisure.

What intrigued me most about this book is that while some of these essays appear to deal with subjects we completely take for granted and rarely give a second thought, Umberto Eco reflects on them from angles I had never considered and would never have considered if I hadn’t read about them here.

Overall this book provided me with a fascinating, thought-provoking and at times eye-opening reading experience. While I can’t say that every essay grabbed me to the same extent I can honestly state that they all interested me, even when – or maybe especially when – I wasn’t quite sure exactly what it was I was reading.


Pages: 582
Date: 17/09/2013
Grade: 5+

The blurb on the back of the book:


Their exquisite voices soured above the glittering world of courtiers and nobility. Those who achieved fame were showered with riches and sexual favours. But their success also had a terrible sadness.

TONIO, of noble birth, is the victim of a vengeful brother. Disinherited and forced to join the ranks of the castrati, he plans his revenge while striving to become the greatest of all singers.

GUIDO, sacrificed to the knife at an early age, composes opera and dreams of the perfect voice to give it life. He discovers Toni and becomes his teacher.

Together they reach the very pinnacle of success. Tonio is pushed to the extremes of endurance as he tries to resolve his lust for glory and for vengeance.”


“Don’t weep in front of these strangers! Cry to heaven, cry to heaven, cry to heaven.”

Oh my, what a book. Beautifully written, it tells a story filled with beauty, music and love while portraying unimaginable pain, desperation and hate. The idea of the mutilation young boys went through so that they might avoid losing their beautiful soprano voices is so cruel, so very inhumane it is hard to imagine that it really happened. But it did. Young boys gifted with promising voices, often from very poor families, were subjected to this form of mutilation to alleviate their family’s hardship and give them a chance at a more prosperous future. Young boys such as Guido in this story, who would never know what it would be like to be a man. Young boys who would grow up to look different from other men, who would be instantly recognisable as castrati, who could achieve fame and fortune but would never have been seen as “normal” people. But if the boys were young enough when the operation took place and if they were good enough to make a name for themselves, they had every opportunity to make a satisfying life for themselves with often only a vague idea of exactly what it was they had lost.

How much worse to have the mutilation inflicted upon you when you’re fifteen, when you’ve had your first glimpses of what it might mean to be a man, when you’ve started to think and dream of everything you might do and achieve in just a few more years. How much worse when you’re Tonio and the thing you love most in the world – singing – is used against you to rob you of your heritage, your family, your home and everything you thought was waiting for you in the future.

And how very well does Anne Rice share the pain of this loss with her readers. Because this is, for the most part, a story about loss. There is Guido who has to come to terms with the loss of his voice.

“It was as if his own voice had been his lover, and his lover had forsaken him.”

And while he finds his salvation in teaching others to sing and writing his masterful songs and operas, it isn’t until he hears Tonio’s voice and is given the opportunity to mentor him that he finds a new and maybe his true purpose in his life.

Guido may have lost his voice, Tonio loses everything he has ever known when he’s just fifteen years old. Exiled from his home in Venice, robbed of his manhood and his inheritance it is no wonder he falls victim to anger and despair.

“No matter how he felt, he would behave as if he did not feel it, and everything would be better.”

And even when Tonio does allow his love of singing to ease his pain, the taboos he still has to overcome are as enormous as the mountain he can see from his bedroom in Naples.

But this is also a story about love; love found in the most unexpected places. The love between Guido and Tonio, enduring, volatile but indestructible. The love of music. The love for others, strong, beautiful and engrossing but never replacing or diminishing the love between the teacher and his star pupil. This is a story about facing the hand life has dealt you and playing it the best you can, only to discover that maybe you ended up with a winner after all.

This is a story that will break your heart in a multitude of ways only to put it back together. This is a book filled with characters that will captivate you and stay in your thoughts for a long time after you finish reading. For me this was a book about a phenomenon I was barely aware of; a phenomenon I found as fascinating as I found it abhorrent.  There is a quiet beauty in this book. The writing appears distant and yet gives such a wealth of emotion and beauty.

I don’t quite have the words to describe just how much this book affected me; how strongly this story touched me. I have the emotion though; I love this book and this story.

I owe Tiffany Reisz a debt of gratitude for recommending yet another jewel of a book. Once again she has brought me to a story that has made a lasting impression on me. I will forever be grateful for the day I found a description of “The Siren” on NetGalley and decided I needed to read it. Who knew that one click on a “request” button would bring me such a wealth of literary, as well as other, delights.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Pages: 399
Date: 15/09/2013
Grade: 3.5
Details: no. 4 Sinners on Tour
            Received from Source Books
            Through NetGalley
Own / Kindle 

The Blurb:

From the moment he lays eyes on Sinners’ new front of house soundboard operator, drummer Eric Sticks knows he has to make Rebekah his. Unfortunately, she’s too busy trying to seduce guitarist Trey Mills to pay him much attention. Rebekah never planned to fall for the tall, goofy drummer with the weird sense of humor and a heart the size of the galaxy. But Eric makes her laugh and his constant attention makes her feel sexy and irresistible–exactly what she needs after the things her last lover said to her. A woman who gives as much as she takes, Rebekah makes Eric feel like a total stud–exactly what he needs after surviving a decade of watching the incredibly talented members of Sinners from the wings.


This book, while I liked it, didn’t really grab me. It somehow missed the oomph “HotTicket” and “Double Time” had. Eric and Rebekah had enough issues between them to fill multiple books, but because there were so many of them, and seemed to follow each other with unrelenting insistency, none of them felt important.  And when I say there are a multitude of issues in this book I do mean a multitude; Eric’s childhood, his eagerness in the bedroom and the resulting insecurities as well as Rebekah’s health issues, her attraction to Trey, her former boyfriend, her mother’s problems, the list goes on and on. With so many issues competing for attention I feel none of them got the amount of time they deserved and that in turn made the story feel rushed; almost as if the author was in a bigger hurry to get to the end of the story than I was.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I can concentrate on what I did love about this book. With a musician, singer-songwriter daughter and a sound-technician husband these book always feel a little bit like coming home for me. Not that either of them is involved with a hot and famous rock band, but who knows what the future might bring. I love the interaction between the band members. The way they are constantly teasing each other but would do anything for the other members when necessary, is wonderful. The jokes the members of Sinners play on each other had me smiling on numerous occasions.

I loved the idea of Rebekah, a girl, getting the opportunity to work the sound for the band. Music is still a very male operated business and it was wonderful to see that stereotype well and truly destroyed in this book.

I also loved the interactions between Rebecah and Eric. The playful interactions between these two were heartwarming and put grin on my face on numerous occasions. And talking about playful interactions; the role play these two get up to is highly imaginative, not to mention HOT! The way Rebecca and Eric tend to fall out of role play into straight lust was as enticing as it was realistic and wonderful to read. My favourite moments though came early in the story when Rebecah came up with her lessons for Eric. Those were as tender as they were hot and really made me fall for these two characters.

So, overall I have to say that this was a nice and exciting read that could probably have been a bit more if there had been less but more developed issues for the characters to deal with. On the other hand, if you ever find yourself in the mood for hot rockers, independent women, hot and imaginative sex and great fun you could do a lot worse than turn to Olivia Cunning for your next read. I know that I will be reading the remaining Sinners on Tour books in the not too distant future.