Sunday, March 31, 2013



Pages: 232
Date: 31/03/2013
Grade: 4+
Details: Received from Roman 
            Books through Nudge

Juliet’s life in England is collapsing around her ears. Sexually harassed at work and with her long term relationship with James being well past its best before date, her fear of dust and cleaning obsession are getting worse. In need of a break and encouraged by a friend she goes on a two week holiday to France where she meets Antoine. From the moment she meets him there is an attraction between Juliet and Antoine. But he is a man who works with horses, an environment that brings out Juliet’s deepest fears about dust and having to be in contact with it. And although Juliet and Antoine are getting closer there is another woman in his life. Veronique is older than Antoine and according to him they “only” have a discussion relationship, Juliet can’t decipher exactly what it is that binds the two of them together.

When Juliet goes back to England she knows she will have to leave James, who turns out to almost welcome that idea. After a few weeks of living on her own, Juliet decides to return to France and Antoine. Unable to stop thinking about him she would rather be with the man she has fallen in love with, despite any uncertainties about his intentions and his attachment to Veronique, than stay on her own in England.

But life in France isn’t easy. Antoine and Juliet move into the tiny cabin he owns together with Veronique. And although Veronique moves out she is never far away from Juliet’s life; phone calls, unexpected visits to the cabin and long and unexplained absences from Antoine fuel Juliet’s insecurities. At the same time, continued exposure to Antoine’s horses exposes her to a new passion. As time moves on and the situation, despite appearances, remains more or less unchanged it is Juliet’s quest to permanently bind Antoine to her that will lead her to new found independence and confidence.

This book is beautiful. I don’t just mean the writing and the story, but also the physical book. It has an attractive cover and a beautiful lay-out on the inside.

The language in this book is sparse. The story is told not in long narratives but more in short sketches. Not a lot of detail is revealed; descriptions are short and to the point, yet clear, and feelings are noted rather than delved into. Yet, while the story appears at first glance to just skim the surface, there is a lot of depth to it once you let the words sink in. There is as much significance in what is not said as in what is mentioned. Juliet’s moods can be judged by the amount of cleaning she needs to do, her progress by her ever increasing confidence with, and love of the horses. Because the story is only told by Juliet, and because she seems to only reluctantly share information, it is up to the reader to draw their own conclusions about the characters in this book. There are hints about what it is that binds Antoine to Veronique but no full explanation; we are given glimpses of Juliet’s thoughts and feelings but they are never spelled out for us; Veronique remains an enigma all through the story.

Because the book was written as if from a distance, as if the narrator wasn’t personally involved in what is happening - even though the story is told by Juliet - I never got really invested into what was happening to her. This lack of interest was increased by the fact that as far as I could see, Juliet was setting herself up for failure; in her job, with John and with Antoine she seemed to put herself in situations where a good ending just wasn’t on the cards.

This is a book that demands work from the reader. They will have to think about what they are reading and try to draw their own conclusions when it comes to the motivation behind the characters’ actions or lack thereof. At times I found this frustrating; found myself wanting and needing more information. On the whole however I enjoyed not having everything spelled out for me.

I liked the story, and found it an easy read. However, the book was also easy to put down because I never got caught up in the story enough. Having said that, there were times when the descriptions in this book took my breath away, like the moment when the title’s meaning is explained:

“This kiss is smooth; a cappuccino kiss”

At times almost poetic, this is a sensitive and thought provoking book that asks the reader to read beyond the words.

Saturday, March 30, 2013


          WHAT REMAINS
Author: Nicole Camden
Pages: 125 (approx)
Date: 30/03/2013
Grade: 4-
Details: No. 3 The Fetish Box
            Received from Gallery, Threshold, 
            Pocket Books through NetGalley

The Blurb:
In an attempt to seek out the source of the violence against her friends, Mary takes on a role she’d never imagined she’d play—a role that requires Mary to embrace the darkest parts of her soul. 

For the first time in her life, Mary understands who she is and where she belongs. What remains when you take away the sex and fun and adventure…is love. Love for her new friends, love for her lover, and love for the mother she never knew. She’s willing to risk anything—do anything—to keep them safe… 

And so we arrive at the final episode of Mary’s introduction to and continuation of her mother’s kinky life. Again, since this book is not so much a third title in a trilogy but rather the third part of the same novel, we start exactly where the second story, “What Escapes”; ended with Max and Mary waiting for the police to arrive after people have broken into her house, forcing Mary to flee. 

After this second attack, Mary is more determined than ever to attend the fetish party her shop is preparing for. She may be inexperienced when it comes to kink, but she is determined not to expose her new found friends to danger that is aimed at her personally. If anybody is going to put themselves at risk it should be her, and nobody else. And although her friends, and especially John who is starting to care for her more than he’s willing to admit, worry about her safety they can’t argue with the fact that it makes good business sense for her to introduce her mother’s customers to the new owner of The Fetish Box.

Deciding what clothes to wear to the party gives John and Mary plenty and highly imaginative opportunities to explore new sexual games. And although the party does turn out to be as dangerous as everybody feared, all’s well that ends well, especially since it allows Mary to discover exactly what she wants to do with her new life.

It is going to be impossible to share my thoughts on this book without repeating things I already said in my reviews for “Open All Night” and “What Escapes”. Since this is in reality one story rather than a trilogy I’m not sure that it is possible to review this book as a single entity. In fact, if anyone were to read this book without having read the first two installments first, they would probably be completely lost as to what exactly is happening and why.  So, my objections to Mike’s Irish accent and to the speed with which Mary turns from a virgin into a sexy vixen still stand. At one point in this book our heroine is actually described as being “experienced” which is a bit of a stretch taking into account that it has been a mere few weeks since she was first introduced to the pleasures of sex. 

As far as this book specifically is concerned I have two remarks to make. I found the resolution of the suspense part of the story a bit rushed. After all the build-up in the previous two installments it only took a few pages for the bad guy to come out of hiding, stage his attack and be caught. I also think I would have preferred it if there had been a twist with regard to the identity of Mary’s opponent.

But, having said all that, I have to admit that I did enjoy the story as a whole. I liked the idea behind it, I liked the characters and enjoyed the interactions (both physical and verbal) between them. In fact, I think my rating would have been a bit higher if I had read this as one book, without interruptions rather than the way I was forced to read it now. I’ve got a feeling that there may well be a sequel to this story coming and if that is true I hope Nicole Camden will consider publishing it as one book rather than a serial. I do find myself curious as to how this story and these characters will develop further but I’m not sure I want to put myself through reading-interruptus once again.

Friday, March 29, 2013



Pages: 211
Date: 29/03/2013
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 2 Hanne Wilhemsen
             Received from Corvus books
             Through Nudge

It is May and Oslo finds itself in the middle of an unseasonal heat-wave when Detective Hanne Wilhelmsen finds herself facing a disturbing scene. The abandoned shed is covered in blood, too much of it to have come from one single victim. But of such a victim there is no sign. All that can be seen are the copious amounts of blood and an eight-digit number painted on the wall with some of the blood. It is a Saturday night. Exactly a week later, Hanne is facing a similar scene. The location may be different but all the other details are exactly the same; too much blood and a – different – eight-digit number on the wall. But without a victim, the police have no idea what exactly they are investigating here.

A week later, again on a Saturday, a young student is violently raped. Although she has seen her attacker and can picture him perfectly in her mind she is unable to provide the police with a clear description of the man. And with cases piling up, and rapes being almost impossible to prove and prosecute Hanne and her team are not making any progress in finding the muscular rapist.

Then a body is found. And a link is established between the bloody numbers, the foreign woman and asylum seekers without connections. Someone is targeting these lonely and defenceless women. And a woman just like those who have already been killed is living in the same building as the student who was raped and she has gone missing.

Meanwhile the student and her father, having lost patience with the police and their lack of progress, decide to take the investigation into their own hands. Suddenly everybody is facing a race against time as the hot weather at last breaks.

Anne Holt does not write cosy stories. What she does write is realistic, well plotted and thrilling mysteries. Her detectives work in the real world where there is not enough time in the day to give every case the attention it needs. Her investigators make mistakes and find themselves scrambling to make up for them. Her characters are far from perfect but all the more real and recognisable for it.

I like the way in which the story is presented to the reader. We’re given enough information to keep up with the investigators or even be ahead of them at times but not so much that it spoils the mystery. The thoughts and emotions of the characters all come across as real; the behaviour of the rape victim is completely plausible as are the feelings of powerlessness her father experiences. The frustration and fatigue the investigators experience as a result of lack of man power and a growing mountain of unsolved cases is probably more realistic than we would want to acknowledge. It all makes for a powerful and thought-provoking read.

I also like the way in which these stories are written. This book was easy to read and very hard to put down. I like the balance between the investigations and the private lives of the characters in these books. The story and the investigation in it progress at a steady pace, with the character’s private details adding to the story rather than distracting from it.

There are times when it is obvious that we are reading a translated work, but not in an irritating way. In fact, on occasion this gives us wonderful expressions such as:

“It was so early not even the devil had managed to put on his shoes.”

And that in turn gives us a real sense that we are in a ‘different’ country, with a different language.

As with most Scandinavian mysteries I’ve read, this book provides a social commentary as well as an investigation. In this case the issues dealt with are rape and asylum seekers and neither of these come out of the book smelling of roses. Unfortunately that won’t come as a surprise to any reader, whether they are from a Scandinavian country or anywhere else in the world. These issues, however, are presented as fact and neither preached about or excused.

Anne Holt has given her readers a short but thrilling mystery that will keep them engrossed and make them think; she is very good at what she does.

Thursday, March 28, 2013



Pages: 253
Date: 28/03/2013
Grade: 4
Details: Book Club Selection

The Blurb:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

When Elizabeth Bennet first meets eligible bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, she thinks him arrogant and conceited, while he struggles to remain indifferent to her good looks and lively mind. When she later discovers that Darcy has involved himself in the troubled relationship between his friend Bingley and her beloved sister Jane, she is determined to dislike him more than ever. In the sparkling comedy of manners that follows, Jane Austen shows the folly of judging by first impressions and superbly evokes the friendships, gossip and snobberies of provincial middle-class life.

It is very hard to write something original about a story that is ‘universally’ this well known. I mean there can’t be many people in the world who haven’t read the book or seen one of the many movies and TV-shows that have been based on this story. I know that I can never think of Darcy with imagining Colin Firth with his wet shirt plastered to his chest. And that brings me to my first issue with this book, which isn’t book related at all if I’m honest. I discovered that I really don’t like reading a book (for the first time I should add) when I’m already completely aware of the story in it. What is more, I don’t like having other people’s ideas of what the characters look like in my head before I have had a chance to form my own. With this book, unfortunately, that was unavoidable and I know it influenced my enjoyment of the story.

On the other hand, I did enjoy reading Pride and Prejudice. I liked the insight it gave into life at the turn of the 19th century. I loved having a closer look at how the middle and upper classes lived and interacted. The descriptions of the interactions between those of different standing were as fascinating as it was unimaginable to this modern mind.

The way the title is reflected in the two main characters – with Darcy’s Pride running head first into Elizabeth’s Prejudice – was a joy to read and maybe not as specific to the time the story is set in as I would like to think.

And that brings me to my next observation. It is astonishing to think how little romance novels have changed over the past 200 years. In this book we find all the elements we would expect in modern novels: the misunderstandings, the dastardly villain, the broody and seemingly distant hero, the quirky and spirited heroine, the nice girl and the vixen they all make an appearance and play their role in the story. In fact, were this a modern romance I would call it predictable and uninspired so well does it cover every possible plot device. Remembering when this book was actually written I will call it clever.
Another thing that fascinated me was the social commentary Jane Austen provides in this story. The snobbery of the middle classes, the contempt of those in the higher classes for those they perceive as being less than them, and the importance of money when it comes to being able to marry someone made this story historically significant as well as an enjoyable read.

What I really appreciated in this book is the way in which Jane Austin allowed her heroine, Elizabeth Bennett, to find her own way and come to her own conclusions in a time when women were rarely alone long enough to think, never mind act, for themselves. As Colm Tóibín says in his book ‘New Ways to Kill Your Mother’ this is achieved by separating Lizzie from the family members who might influence her at crucial times in the story.

“Power instead is handed directly to the heroine and this power arises from the quality of her own intelligence. It is her own ability to be alone, to move alone, to be seen alone, to come to conclusions alone, that sets her apart.”

I also have to admit that after reading this book I’ve come to a new appreciation of P.D. James’ ‘DeathComes to Pemberley’. I’ve read enough reviews by others to realize that many readers disagree with me on this, but I find that her story gives a rather satisfying sequel to Pride and Prejudice. I may have to read that book again at some point now that I’m more intimately acquainted with all the main characters and back-stories.

Overall I have to say that this was a pleasant reading experience that I would probably have enjoyed more if I had not been as intimately aware of the story as I was.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


           Writers and Their Families
Pages: 346
Date: 26/03/2013
Grade: 4+
Details: Non-Fiction/Essays
             Received from Penguin
             Through Nudge

In this fascinating book, Colm Tóibín sets out to show how their families influenced the work of various authors. Divided into two sections he first concentrates on Irish authors: W.B. Yeats, J.M. Synge, Samuel Beckett, Brian Moore, Sebastian Barry, Roddy Doyle and Hugo Hamilton. The second part of the book, called ‘Elsewhere’ gives us glimpses of the lives and families of Thomas Mann, Jorge Luis Borges, Hart Crane, Tennessee Williams, John Cheever, James Baldwin and finally Barack Obama, a man we don’t think of as an author first and foremost. And there is one other author who returns in chapter after chapter although he isn’t given one of his own: Henry James.

Of course Henry James is a favourite subject for Tóibín. His book ‘The Master’ provides a wonderful description of James’ life and work. And having recently had the opportunity to hear him talk about the James family and their connection to Bailieborough, a town close to where I live, I fully appreciate the depth of his knowledge and his affection for his subject.

With skill and clarity Tóibín shows us how authors made use of their relationships – or lack thereof – with their families. For example, in the preface he reflects on the absent mother who, in the novels of Jane Austen and Henry James, is a vehicle to allow the main character to develop on their own, without maternal influences.

But the observations in this book are not limited to how the family influenced the work of the authors mentioned, they also reflect on their actual relationships in real life:

“Thus the two successful authors, William (Butler Yeats) and Henry James, each in his prime, had managed to kill their father rather fatally, as it were, by letting his work be published in book form.”

But the reader is given much more than the title of this book seems to promise. While connections between authors, their relationships with their families and their work are frequent, those works are discussed in detail that goes above and beyond the family relationship. So, with regard to W.B. Yeats and his (much younger) wife George we are shown:
 “…a symbol of the way writers use houses for their magic properties rather than their domestic space.”

And Sebastian Barry in his play Hinterland deals with the Father, as did a lot of plays in the early years of the twenty-first century. More specifically, he deals with the father and his short-comings, both as the head (and thus father-figure) of a nation and in his home life.

“If Ireland needed a public figure to become its disgraced father, then Charles Haughey auditioned perfectly for the role and played it with tragic dignity in a lonely exile in his Georgian mansion in North County Dublin.”

The chapter on Roddy Doyle and Hugo Hamilton provides the reader with a contrast in fathers. While father Doyle came from a republican family he had no real interest in the concept of Ireland and its language. Hamilton’s father on the other hand took such pride in his Irishness that he refused to speak English and forbade the use of that language in his house and thus managed to cruelly curtail his children’s’ childhood in the process.

In part two of this book, ‘Elsewhere’ we start with a look at Thomas Mann and his family. To say that the relationships within this family were unconventional would be putting it mildly. Covering among other things homosexuality and incest this chapter is rather gossipy in appearance and rather fascinating as a result.

With Borges however we are back in line with the title, be it that the parent being ‘killed’ is the father rather than the mother:

“It is as though an artist such as Picasso, whose father was a failed painter, or William James, whose father was a failed essayist, or V.S. Naipaul, sought to compensate for his father’s failure while at the same time using his talent as a way of killing the father off, showing his mother who was the real man in the household.”

I could give more examples of how authors deal with their families in their published work, but this book covers so much more than what is implied in the title. This book also discusses the authors’ work; sometimes staying on topic and discussing how their families and their relationship with them influenced it, but, at other times, giving a much more general description of their writings. In fact, there are some chapters in this book in which the author’s family is barely mentioned at all. Brian Moore’s story seems to be more about his absence from his native Belfast than about his relationship with his relatives for example. So I think it is fair to say that while for some of the authors mentioned their relationships with their families were hugely influential on their work, for others that was less or not at all the case. In fact, the first piece about James Baldwin doesn’t appear to be about his family at all but about his ‘relationship’ with America and the changes it was going through. The chapter James Baldwin shares with Barack Obama on the other hand is very much about their families or, more specifically, their absent fathers.

Tóibín may be writing about other authors and quoting from their work, letters and diaries – giving the reader a taste of the magnificence of those authors – his own writing is equally impressive in its thoughtfulness and fluency. It is clear that he is an expert when it comes to authors, their work and the connections between the various authors. At times this book reads as if he personally knows all these people he is writing about and is generously sharing this personal knowledge with his readers.

This is neither a quick nor an easy read. It is a fascinating book though. Ideally, I feel, it should be read in bits and pieces, a chapter started and finished when you are reading a book by or about the author in question. Especially since I found that I was far more interested in the chapters on authors and books I am familiar with than in those whose subject I had barely heard of. I know I will be revisiting certain chapters when I’m preparing for book discussions with my reading group.

Colm Tóibín provides his readers with fascinating and knowledgeable insights into authors as well as their work and in doing so also gives his readers a better understanding of those works and of what motivated the authors to write them.

Monday, March 25, 2013


Pages: 400
Date: 24/03/2013
Grade: 4.5
Details: No. 2 Beyond

The official blurb:

She refuses to be owned.

Alexa Parrino escaped a life of servitude and survived danger on the streets to become one of the most trusted, influential people in Sector Four, where the O’Kanes rule with a hedonistic but iron fist. Lex has been at the top for years, and there’s almost nothing she wouldn’t do for the gang…and for its leader. Lie, steal, kill—but she bows to no one, not even Dallas O’Kane.

He’ll settle for nothing less.

Dallas fought long and hard to carve a slice of order out of the chaos of the sectors. Dangers both large and small threaten his people, but it’s nothing he can’t handle. His liquor business is flourishing, and new opportunities fuel his ambition. Lex could help him expand his empire, something he wants almost as much as he wants her. And no one says no to the king of Sector Four.

Falling into bed is easy, but their sexual games are anything but casual. Attraction quickly turns to obsession, and their careful dance of heady dominance and sweet submission uncovers a need so deep, so strong, it could crush them both.”

In my review for Beyond Shame” I expressed my desire to find out more about the other characters mentioned in that book and especially about Dallas O’Kane and Lex. This book proves that sometimes wishes do come true because this is the story of Dallas, the King of Sector Four and Lex the fiercely independent girl who is drawn to him but refuses to submit to another person ever again. Having fled Sector Two and her destiny as a paid submissive to rich men, Lex has gone through too much to even consider anything less than honesty and equality in a relationship. Dallas, on the other hand, wants nothing less than Lex’s complete submission to him; he wants her to be the queen ruling next to him but on his terms. Terms that may just demand too much from Lex, no matter how attracted she is to the leader of the O’Kane’s.

And so commences a game of push and pull. And a very intense and sexy game it is. This is life in the Sectors, where sex is a way of life as well as a form of currency and both Lex, with her extensive training, and Dallas know exactly which buttons to push to get the desired reaction.

A lasting relationship requires more than mind blowing sex though, but finding the middle ground between that which each of them wants and that which they are willing and able to give may just prove to be one step too far for both of them. Failure however could have devastating effects for Lex and Dallas as well as Sector Four as a whole.

Once again Kit Rocha managed to pleasantly surprise me with her book. As much as I liked Beyond Shame, I loved this book more. Dallas and Lex are fully fleshed and credible characters. It is very easy to understand where each of them is coming from and the problems and heartbreak they face as a result of that. This is not the sort of book where one character appears to constantly undermine the relationship while the other just keeps on giving. These two characters are equals in every aspect of the story and that makes the story all the more captivating.

Sex plays a major part in this book because it is the way of life in the world this story is set in. And while nothing is left to the reader’s imagination and some may find the descriptions too graphic or violent, the authors are very careful to ensure that the scenes described are consensual. In fact they go out of their way to spell out that while women may submit to the men in these stories, they are never abused or taken advantage of. And as much as the book seems to be all about sex, there are some very touching romantic moments as well:

“I’ve always loved you. (…) I’ve always wanted you. They don’t have a word for how much I need you. Everything good I am, everything good I’ve ever done…it’s all you.”

More sector politics and other relationships are starting to take (further) shape in this book. It is clear that more books will be required to resolve the organisation of the Sectors as well as to bring the various other couples together. I’m especially glad that the authors give us brief glimpses of other characters while concentrating on the two main ones. In some series of books it seems as if the various couples take turns; one story doesn’t start until a previous one is concluded. Of course in real life these things happen simultaneously and it is nice that these books reflect that. My curiosity has been stimulated by glimpses of what is to come as well as satisfied by a further look at the relationship between Noelle and Jasper. On the other hand, this also means that now I can’t wait to see what will happen next to Six and Bren or Ace and Rachel. But with the next book expected to come out in autumn I guess I can wait…just about.

I also want to point out that the authors have made a bonus story “Beyond Denial” about Ace available on their website. Ideally this story should be read after reading the first two books but for those who would like a taste of Kit Rocha’s writing it provides a perfect sample.

This is a very sexy, captivating and satisfying dystopian series; a well plotted and superbly written story that will have you frantically turning the pages and thinking about the characters long after you turn the last page.

Monday, March 18, 2013


Pages: 212
Date: 18/03/2013
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 2 Wicked Play
            Received from Carina Press
            Through NetGalley
Own / Kindle

The blurb:

“When Kendra Morgan attends a party at an exclusive sex club, she's not driven by mere curiosity. Hoping to prove she's put the past behind her, Kendra must instead face up to needs she's denied for too long. Despite her lingering fears, she can't resist the temptation to play…

Deklan Winters has had his eye on his attractive neighbor for months, but only senses Kendra is no stranger to the BDSM scene when she walks into his club. And he can tell that's not her only secret. What surprises him is his own overwhelming desire to give her what she craves—and to show her a side to the Dom/sub relationship she's never known.

With Deklan's guidance, Kendra begins to accept her forbidden needs and to recognize the fine line between pleasure and pain. But when her former Master returns to reclaim her, it will take all her courage—and all of Deklan's love—to defy her past.”

This was a wonderful read. I can honestly say I loved it from the first page to the very last word and had a hard time putting it down when real life interrupted my reading. I really enjoyed “Bonds of Trust”, the first title in the Wicked Play series, when I read it but that story didn’t touch me the way this one did. In many ways this book was much more than just the story as described in the blurb. Yes, we are reading about Kendra who ran from her abuser months ago to find refuge in the same complex where Deklan lives; the way in which he recognizes both the need and the fear in her and helps her to meet the first and overcome the second, while at the same time being forced to deal with issues from his own past. And that is, I guess, a story that has been written before by other authors and will be told by others yet in the future. What made this book special for me is the way in which the author, through her characters, dealt with the issues.

The characters in this book don’t hold on to their issues for dear life, or deny that they have them. They are aware of what they are up against and while they are afraid of letting go of the walls they have built around their hearts to keep themselves from being hurt again, they are brave and real enough to allow those fortifications to slowly crumble. At the same time there were no unrealistic sudden conversions from fear to security, from distrust to trust. This was not the sort of story in which one (very sexy) scene between the two main characters solved all their problems. Kendra and Deklan both have issues to work through and they do, over time. They take it slowly, get to know each other and make mistakes before they get to the point where they’re able to acknowledge their feelings for each other, which rings true.

“And Deklan was showing her what a real Dom could be like. The kind of Dom she wanted. The kind she was slowly coming to admit she needed to keep herself sane.”

I also liked that this book made a clear distinction between Dominance-submission and sadism-masochism; these are not the same. A Sadist is not necessarily a Dom or vice versa and somebody who enjoys being on the receiving end of pain is not always also submissive. This is a distinction that I haven’t seen explained in (m)any books and since it is an important one I was delighted to see it here.

“When it’s done right, it’s all about caring and sharing. About giving each other what we both need and want. Isn’t that the very foundation of love?”

“You’re the one who taught me the difference between hurting and harming. Between play and abuse. Love and control.”

This book is well written, incredibly sexy and very easy to read. This is an uplifting love story filled with a believable story, realistic dialogue and convincing characters. As I said before: this is a wonderful read.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Date: 17/03/2013
Grade: 4
Pages: 550
Details: Received from Canongate
            Through Nudge

Ritchie Shepherd is a former rock star turned television personality with an unhealthy appetite for girls who are much too young even though he is married and has two young children. Because he is very good at lying to himself about himself he doesn’t see anything wrong with what he does:

“He’d discovered that he felt no shame about cheating on Karin until she found out…Karin’s happiness was more important to him than everything. That’s why he would do whatever he could to protect her from the knowledge that he was having sex with someone else.”

Bec Shepherd, Richie’s younger sister is a scientist specialising in defeating malaria, a goal she has halfway accomplished. Still struggling with the death of her father at the hands of terrorists in Northern Ireland when she was a young girl, Bec seems to allow life to happen to her to such an extent that she accepts a marriage proposal just because it takes her by surprise. When she changes her mind and tells newspaper editor Val Oatman that she won’t be marrying him the relatively stable lives of the Shepherds go into free-fall, even if not all of them are aware of it. Val feels betrayed and is on a mission to make the Shepherds pay for the insult he has suffered. And if he destroys the family in the process, all the better.

This is a good book, but I couldn’t call it a pleasant read. This story is intriguing in the same way as a natural disaster will capture your attention. You know that what you are watching is horrible, yet you can’t make yourself look away. Told in sentences that flow beautifully and with words that pull the reader along this is the story of human shortcomings. Pride, selfishness, self-deceit and betrayal feature in this story as normal examples of the human condition. As a result it is hard to like or sympathise with any of the characters in this book. And yet it is equally impossible to completely dislike them; they are too recognisable to be disregarded as outright villains.

This book made me feel slightly uncomfortable while I was reading it, possibly because the theme in this book hits just a little bit too close for comfort. Maybe we recognise ourselves in these people who lie to themselves and those around them in order to keep up an image of themselves that they like rather than reveal the truth of who they really are.

And that is both the problem with and the power of this book. While we would like to think that we are nothing like the characters in this story, the truth is probably that on some level we all lie to ourselves and believe what we tell ourselves. While our ‘sins’ maybe not be of the same gravity as the ones committed by some of the characters in this story, our way of justifying our actions or lack thereof is probably quite similar.

I did find this book a bit too wordy at times. Full description follows full description in this story; surroundings, moods, thoughts, motivations, everything is spelled out and illustrated. I can’t help feeling the story would have captivated me more if there had been less words in it.

Dealing both with today’s obsession with fame and the human knack for self-deception, this is a story of our times, painting a none too flattering but probably all too accurate picture of what it is that motivates us and how that leaves us morally deprived.

Monday, March 11, 2013


Pages: 373
Date: 11/03/2013
Grade: 5
Details: no. 8 Chief Inspector Armand Gamache

“They (Gregorian chants) had such a profound effect on those who sang and heard them that the ancient chants became known as “the beautiful mystery”.”

For hundreds of years the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-Les-Loups in northern Québec has been a refuge for a forgotten and thought extinct group of monks. Their existence became known when they released a collection of Gregorian chants of such extraordinary beauty that they captivated the world. But even after their songs became famous the brothers in the community managed to maintain both their isolated existence and their vows of silence. All of that changes when one of them, the prior and choirmaster, is murdered.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache travels to the secluded monastery with his trusted side-kick Jean-Guy Beauvoir and together they enter a world where songs are far more than something to enjoy listening to. Here music is a way of life, a form of prayer and the most meaningful thing in the brothers’ lives. But now the music that once united the order has become the source of strive and opposing opinions, leaving one man upset enough to commit the ultimate crime. It is up to the two investigators to uncover what caused the division in the order and who committed the murder.

But the monastery isn’t the only community under threat. The ongoing problem in Sûreté du Québec follows Gamache and Beauvoir to the remote monastery in the form of Superintendent Francoeur. And it appears that this time his efforts to undermine Gamache and divide his team may be successful.

Anybody who reads my reviews regularly knows I’m a huge fan of Louise Penny and her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Her mysteries are always well plotted and beautifully written while her main character is the sort of person you would like to be your friend. Gamache is a compassionate soul with a huge sense of justice and great loyalty to those who are close to him, both loved ones and colleagues. He isn’t however a saint. He, like all of us, has weaknesses and strengths which make him all the more likeable as a character.

As always in Louise Penny’s books the setting is as much a character as the various humans are. When I started the book and realised that it isn’t set in Three Pines and doesn’t feature any of the inhabitants of that village I was afraid the story would end up disappointing me. I’m very relieved that I’m able to state that I was anything but disappointed. I wasn’t very far into the story before the monastery and the brothers who live there became as real to me as the regular characters in the previous titles are. Just as I’m able to vividly picture Three Pines and those who live there I found myself seeing the monastery and the brothers. And, much to my surprise, I could almost hear the chants described and understand the spell they weave.

This is the 8th title featuring Armand Gamache and although I would certainly advice anybody to read all of these books – simply because every single one of them is wonderful – it isn’t necessary to have read the previous titles in order to enjoy this one.  There are some ongoing story-lines and references to earlier events but they are integrated in the story in such a way that they don’t interfere with the mystery in this book.

I really enjoyed coming across a Monty Python reference, especially since it was so very unexpected; it is true though, No one does expect the inquisition.

If I had to make one complaint about this book it would concern the ending. Although the mystery is solved in a very satisfactory way, the story does end on a bit of a cliff-hanger. I find myself more eager then ever to get my hands on the next book in this series to see how that particular story-line will develop and can only hope that it will be in a positive way.

This is a book for anyone who enjoys a well plotted mystery, featuring interesting characters, a fascinating subject and written in the most beautiful language.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Pages: 75
Date: 05/03/2013
Grade: 3.5
Details: no. 2 The Fetish Box
Own / Kindle

Warning: This is the second part in a serialised novel that will be published in three instalments. These stories should be read in order since they won’t make sense otherwise.

When the first instalment of The Fetish Box, Open All Night, ended we left Mary just after she’d been told by John to take all her clothes off. What follows is a sensual introduction into the world of intimacy and sexual vulnerability; a journey which scares Mary a bit but excites her far more and leaves her with deep feelings for John.

Mary isn’t allowed a lot of time to reflect on her night of passion though. She and John are woken up by a phone call informing them that Mary’s shop has been trashed leaving Max and Kaylee injured and on their way to hospital. Mary’s seemingly idyllic introduction to her new life is well and truly over, especially once she discovers that this is not the only threat her shop is facing. And when danger finds Mary again, but this time closer to home, she finds herself running to safety.

But even in the midst of violence and threats Mary can’t deny her sexual curiosity. And while she feels a connection with John, she can’t help being curious about the beautiful Max.

In my review of “Open All Night” I reflected on the fact that it was not a complete book; the story ended abruptly in the middle of a story-line. The fact that this instalment starts with Chapter Nine (and finishes at the end of Chapter Sixteen) confirms the fact that here we’re dealing with a novel being released in instalments. And I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. I’m quite aware of the fact that Nicole Camden is not alone in presenting her work like this and that this way of publishing is nothing new. After all Charles Dickens’ books were routinely published in instalments, to name one very famous example. On the other hand, I personally don’t much like it. When I start a story I want to be able to finish it. I don’t like having difficulties remembering who exactly all the characters in the book are or what exactly has been happening earlier on. So there is a big part of me that wants to say that this is enough for me and that I won’t continue reading this story.

But… I do enjoy this story. It seems a bit farfetched at times, especially when it comes to Mary’s sudden and rather drastic conversion from virgin in to sex-vixen, but I do like other parts of it a lot. The interaction between the characters is fun, the writing is smooth and the sex is hot. The attack on the shop adds an exciting edge to this story and ensures that it is about more than just sex. And all of that is good and all of that makes me curious about what is going to happen next.

So, where does that leave me? If there were still an undetermined amount of instalments to come I would stop reading this story right now. But since it seems that there is only one more instalment to come I am tempted to just read it in order to find out what happens next. After all, I’ve come this far and have mostly enjoyed myself so it would be a shame not to finish the story. I’ve learned a valuable lesson though; in the future I will be making very sure that the books I order are actually the complete work. I have no problems with proper trilogies but have to draw the line at receiving a story in this chopped up way.

I also feel that I’m probably not doing this story justice with my ratings; I’m fairly sure that the rating would be higher if it was based on the whole book rather than a just a few chapters. I guess the jury is still out as far as The Fetish Box is concerned.