Thursday, October 31, 2013


Pages: 316
Date: 31/10/2013
Grade: 4
Details: Cut & Run detour

The Blurb:

“Cameron Jacobs is an open book. He considers himself a common waiter with normal friends, boring hobbies, harmless dogs, and nothing even resembling a secret... except a crush on a tall, dark, devastatingly handsome man who dines alone at his restaurant on Tuesday nights. All it takes is one passionate night with Julian Cross to turn Cameron’s world on its head.

Julian's love and devotion are all Cameron could have hoped for and more. But when his ordinary life meets and clashes with Julian's extraordinary lifestyle, Cameron discovers that trust and fear can go hand in hand, and love is just a step away from danger.”


After I finished reading “Divide & Conquer”, the fourth title in the “Cut & Run” series I was told that I needed to read this book before moving on to “Armed & Dangerous”. Because the advice came from people who had already read all the available books in this series, because the authors gave the same advice and because I’m slightly obsessive about reading series’ in the right order, I obediently read “Warrior’s Cross” next.

Of course I have no way of knowing how beneficial this little detour will turn out to be when I read the next “Cut & Run” title, although I think it is a safe bet that the two characters from this book will make an appearance in “Armed & Dangerous”. And I really hope they do because while I didn’t dislike this book, I really didn’t like it enough to interrupt my reading of the Ty and Zane stories unless for very good reasons.

This book; what to say about it? I liked the premise of the story and I liked the interactions between Cameron and Julian. I enjoyed Cameron’s infatuation with the mysterious man who visits the restaurant where he works almost every Tuesday.

“Him. He of the tall, dark and handsome variety, who stuck in Cameron’s head like some sort of brooding fantasy.”

I loved the way Julian and Cameron were, with each other; the way Julian refused to let Cameron put himself down:

“That’s what you do, (…). That’s not who you are” – Julian to Cameron

Loved the way Cameron made it possible for Julian to show sides of himself nobody else got to see.

But, there were other things in this book that didn’t quite work for me. While I enjoyed the interactions between Cameron and Julian I don’t think I got to know or understand them. Cameron was too naive and innocent to be believable and Julian seemed to switch personas with such regularity that I never got any idea who he really was. Even when the book ended I still wasn’t convinced he was the man Cameron was in love with.

On the other hand, I regularly come across books in which the reasons two characters, who obviously love each other and feel they have to stay apart, seem somewhat contrived. Whatever you might say about this story, Cam’s reasons for thinking he might be better off without Julian, no matter how much he loves him, make perfect sense. But, when did love ever have anything to do with sense?

“He could very easily love this man. That was far scarier than any gun or ambiguous job.”

I’m not entirely sure what I’m trying to say here. I enjoyed the book. It was a fast, easy and intriguing read. I enjoyed the interactions between Cameron and Julian – the love story. I was probably disappointed because Cameron and Julian are no Ty and Zane. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m ready to be reunited with Ty and Zane.

“I want to know you.”- Cameron to Julian

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Pages: 320
Date: 4
Grade: 30/10/2013
Details: Received from Black Lace

The Blurb:

“Are you ready for the dark side of love…?

The moments when Ava Gregory feels her most beautiful and complete are when she is tied up and bound.

Then she meets Desmond Hale, a master in the ancient Japanese bondage art of Shibari. He takes her to the very edge of ecstasy. But having learned the beauty of surrender, dare Ava risk her heart?”


Before I start my review of the story in this book there are a few thoughts I want to get out of the way first; thoughts that are more about the way in which this book was published than the actual story.

For starters, according to the description on Amazon this book counts 320 pages. And, to be fair, it does. However the story itself is over on page 240. What follows is an interview with the author and previews of two other, yet to be published, titles by Eden Bradley.

And then there is what I referred to as “the story”. This is not so much one novel as a bundle containing two stories. The stories are connected, both through subject matter and characters that make appearances in both, but they are two different stories with two separate titles. And the blurb as shown above only refers to part one. In keeping with the way the book was published, I will review the two stories separately below, and conclude with a few comments on the whole book.

“Make it as much an inner journey as it is a physical experience, and you’ll reach the deepest levels Shibari can take you to.”

  1. Serving the Master: Desmond and Ava (128 pages)

Ava Gregory finds peace and fulfilment when she submits and is bound tightly. While her sessions with Marina have been exhilarating, they haven’t been able to bring her the peace and release she’s been longing for. Something is holding Ava back from completely surrendering to the experience, and Marina knows that she isn’t the person who will break those walls down.

“You might finally get what you’ve wanted, and that can be terrifying sometimes.”

When Marina introduces Ava to Desmond Hale, a Shibari Master, the connection between the two of them is instant. But while Ava has life-long issues with allowing herself to give in to what it is she needs, it is Desmond who can’t bring himself to commit to anyone.

“Maybe what was really bothering him was the dark suspicion that this girl was the one who could actually make him lose control for once in his life.”

And if there’s one thing Desmond fears it is losing control. If he isn’t in control he can’t keep those he loves safe. And if he can’t provide that safety, he can’t allow people to get too close to him.

While Ava finds everything she’s ever dreamt of in submitting to Desmond and his ropes, he grows more scared as his connection to Ava becomes ever stronger. In the end it will have to be the submissive who challenges her Dom to conquer his fears and face an uncertain but very promising future.

“You are stronger than I am, Ava, do you know that?”

  1. Soothing the Beast: Marina and James (105 pages)

James Cortez, a six feet plus, tattooed and dangerously handsome journalist is looking for:

“A way out of my own head, maybe.”

He needs to find a way to get a handle on the memories that haunt him; memories of the horrible scenes he has witnessed all over the world. He thinks, hopes that submitting to Marina and her ropes might take him there.

Marina Marchant is a Shibari specialist with very powerful reasons for not wanting to work with male subjects. Having lost the man she loved once she is not prepared to risk the pain again. She’ll stay in control of her life and her emotions even if that means ignoring the obvious chemistry between herself and the beautiful man asking for her help.

But, as Marina soon discovers, it is one thing to rationally know that staying away from James might save her from heartbreak in the future, it is quite another to actually ignore her feelings. Especially when it causes heartbreak in the here and now.

“Marina, there are no guarantees in life. I can’t say I won’t get hit by a truck tomorrow. But God damn it, how can you do this, manifest the loss you’re so afraid of? You’re making it happen. It’s not fair!” – James

And while James is battling darkness and numerous fears, he is smart enough to realise that the connection – love – he feels when he’s with Marina is not something he can or should walk away from.

“I never thought it could be this good, and this torturous. I never understood until I met you. Until I loved you. But I’m not stupid enough to turn away from it. To turn away from you. I can’t do it.” - James

Like I said, there are clear connections between these two novellas. It is Marina who introduces Ava to Desmond and it is Marina to whom Ava turns when she needs advice in the first story. Just as Marina turns to Desmond when she finds herself in need of someone who will listen.

“Don’t we tell submissives that they learn the most about themselves when they push their boundaries? And shouldn’t that apply to us as well?” – Desmond to Marina

And, here is another example of that continuity; two cases in which the Dom(me)s have to admit to their own weakness:

“You’re so much braver than I am.” – Marina to James

I really liked that these two stories showed that even in a D/s relationship it isn’t always the Dominant partner who has all the strength, all the power and all the wisdom. I loved the way it showed that having the need to control can be a handicap just as much as it can be a delight. Those who submit in these stories aren’t weak, just as those who dominate aren’t the stronger party in the relationship. There is a difference between the dynamic that plays out when one partner submits to the other and the feelings that such a dynamic might arouse. It was wonderful to see that so beautifully portrayed in these two stories.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Pages: 244
Date: 29/10/2013
Grade: 4
Details: Book Club selection

The Blurb:

“From the first day that the beguiling Sheba Hart joins the staff of St. George’s history teacher Barbara Covett is convinced she has found a kindred spirit.

Barbara’s loyalty to her new friend is passionate and unstinting and when Sheba is discovered to be having an illicit affair with one of her young pupils, Barbara quickly elects herself as Sheba’s chief defender. But all is not as it first seems in this dark story and, as Sheba will soon discover, a friend can be just as treacherous as any lover.”


“Insidious”. That is the word that sprang into my mind while reading this book. And although the blurb seems to indicate that this insidiousness only becomes clear near the end of the story, it is obvious to the reader almost from the very first page.

While it may appear that this is the story about an affair between a rather foolish 40-something female teacher and a fifteen year old schoolboy, this really is a story about one older spinster becoming obsessed with a younger colleague and going to great lengths to make herself indispensable in the life of her “victim”. Even at the beginning of the story it is clear that Barbara is anything but the efficient teacher and loyal friends she sees herself as. This story is told by Barbara and even as she tells the story about Sheba’s inappropriate behaviour and its consequences, even while she tries to paint a picture of herself as a wonderful person trying to help a person she loves, it is very clear that there is something wrong with her feelings and actions. It is Barbara herself who informs the reader about “misunderstandings” between herself and other teachers. It is Barbara who tells us that a former friend accused her of being “too intense” and it is she who confesses to being jealous when Sheba appears to be getting close to another of their colleagues. Barbara’s creepiness is at its clearest when she admits to having highlighted the “important” – read “most incriminating” – parts of Sheba’s story using gold stars, with the moment she finds out about the affair warranting two stars.

A good book, but not a very nice or pleasant read. While the story fascinated me in the same way a horror movie might – I didn’t really want to watch it unfold but couldn’t look away either – it failed to capture me. It all seemed just a little bit too much to me; Sheba a little bit too infatuated and silly, Barbara a little bit too sociopathic, Richard a little bit too dim, Sheba’s mother a little bit too horrible and Steven a little bit too predatory. It felt almost as if I were reading about caricatures rather than characters. In fact, I couldn’t help feeling that this story was written in a way very similar to the sensational newspaper articles Barbara professes to despair of yet appears to have read in detail.

And yet, I couldn’t put the book down either. I had to continue reading until the very end, which wasn’t really an ending if you think about it. And I’ve got a feeling that I will be thinking about everything that might or might not happen after the story ends for quite some time. In fact, I can’t wait to discuss this book with my reading group in a few days. I’ve got a feeling opinions on this one are going to be divided and that should make for a very interesting meeting. I may not have enjoyed reading this book very much, but I am thoroughly impressed with the way in which the author managed to tell such a horrific story in what were, on first impression, very innocent terms.

“There are certain people in whom you can detect the seeds of madness – seeds that have remained dormant only because the people in question have lived relatively comfortable middle-class lives”


Date: 26/10/2013
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 24.5 “In Death”
            Audio Book, 3 Discs
Narrator: Susan Erickson

The Blurb:

“When club-hopping bad girl Tiara Kent is found dead in her plush Manhattan apartment, the killing has all the earmarks of a vampire attack. The ever-practical Lieutenant Eve Dallas has to deal with superstitious cops carrying garlic and stakes, as well as the ever-hysterical press. None of the wealthy young victim’s friends seem to know much about the Dark Prince she has been secretly seeing. The chase to stop him before he kills again will lead Eve and her team into areas of the city that not even the most intrepid cop wants to visit, and into the very heart of darkness.”


I may have to create a new grading system for audio books; one in which I give one rating to the story and, when necessary, another one to the narrator.

Mind you, the narrator in this book was mostly fine. I liked the way she made Eve sound, and had no issues with the way Peabody and almost every other character was portrayed. But the Irish accent she put on for Roarke was diabolical. As my husband (who is Irish and was “forced” to listen with me since we were on a road trip together) pointed out, this was the “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” variety of Irish. Both of us were waiting for the “begorraghs” and “top of the mornings” to start. Not that J.D. Robb would ever write those clichés but Roarke on these disks sounded like they were constantly on the tip of his tongue.

I don’t want to be too harsh. I get that the accents are used to distinguish between characters, and I know that the Irish accent may not be the easiest to mimic for non Irish people but that still didn’t stop this exaggerated accent from taking me out of the story. I found myself wanting to laugh through the tender and hot moments and actually grinning through the tension. Not to mention that it actually managed to irritate the husband. Finally I have to point out that this version of Roarke sounded like he had just stepped of the plane from Dublin and not like the man who had lived in America for years and had retained only some of his Irish lilt. (My husband would like to add that nobody in Dublin has ever sounded like Roarke does in this book. In fact, I don’t think the accent as used in this book resembles any accent actually used on this Island.)

Time to get of my hobbyhorse and get to the actual story, which was exactly what I expected it to be. In fact I’m absolutely delighted I managed to get my hands on this “In Death” novella. These shorter, in between titles are next to impossible to get in Irish shops so I tend to miss out on them, much to my regret. Discovering that my library actually had one came as a very welcome surprise.

As far as “In Death” stories go, this one was great fun. All the aspects you’d expect in an Eve Dallas mystery are here; the rather gruesome but highly imaginative murder, the snarky but affectionate banter between Eve and Peabody, the steamy interactions between Roarke and Eve, the action filled finale all showed up giving me exactly what I want and expect from these books.

And I love the comical twist the vampire story-line brought. I enjoyed that everybody around Eve was willing to buy into the possibility that they were actually dealing with a vampire to some extend. Eve seems to be the only one completely unimpressed by the man who acts the vampire; the only one convinced that it will be normal procedure and normal weapons that will bring him down. And so Eve, much to her exasperation, finds herself surrounded by people taking precautions in the form of garlic, silver crosses and wooden stakes. And the fact that at least one of those artifacts actually turns out to come in quite handy only made the story better. But nothing in this book was better than the moment Eve used her stock reply “bite me” only for it to turn around and actually, well, bite her.

I admire the way the author managed to bring us a novella without it ever feeling that she had to take shortcuts in order to tell her story. This is a complete story which happens to be shorter than the main novels while giving the reader everything they would expect to find. I’m going to have to start hunting for all the other novellas I managed to miss – although maybe not on audio.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Pages: 313
Date: 24/10/2013
Grade: 5+
Details: no. 4 Cut & Run
Own / Kindle

The Blurb:

“Baltimore, Maryland, is a city in alarming distress. Rising violence is fanning the flames of public outrage, and all law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, are catching blame. Thus the FBI’s latest ideas to improve public relations: a municipal softball league and workshops for community leaders. But the new commitments just mean more time Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett have to spend apart when they’re happily exploring how to be more than by-the-book partners.

Then the latest spate of crime explodes in their faces—literally—throwing the city, the Bureau, and Ty and Zane’s volatile partnership both in and out of the office into chaos. They’re hip-deep in trouble, trying to track down bombers and bank robbers in the dark with very few clues, and the only way to reach the light at the end of the tunnel together requires Ty and Zane to close their eyes and trust each other to the fiery end.”


I don’t think I’ve ever started a review quoting the dedication at the start of the book, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do this time, just because the dedication is absolutely wonderful:

“For all of those who keep going, even when they can’t see the light.”

And while this is a wonderful sentiment in and off itself, it is even better, more meaningful, after you’ve read the book. In fact, looking at the dedication again now, makes me shudder, just because of its beauty.

It must be clear to anyone following my reviews that I have utterly fallen in love with Ty and Zane and the books they occupy. It has happened before, and I’m sure it will happen again but still, I’m always a bit surprised when characters in a book become so real to me that I start thinking about them even when I’m not reading. It does make for a more than wonderful reading experience though.

Ty and Zane once again find themselves in the middle of violence and turmoil in this book. With bombs going off all over Baltimore and no clues as to who is responsible or why they are doing it and the public getting ever more scared and distrustful of the authorities that are supposed to be keeping them safe, the city is on a knives-edge as are Ty and Zane and their colleagues.

Things don’t improve when Ty manages to turn himself and Zane into specific targets when he directly addresses the unknown perpetrator during a television interview. It isn’t long before Zane feels the consequences of Ty’s public outburst in a terrifying way, resulting in a situation which forces the two men closer yet again.

And Ty and Zane are growing ever closer, even if Zane still isn’t ready to admit to his feelings for the man who is so much more than his partner. Zane might not be ready to admit to love yet, he does know he’s grown to depend on Ty and the love he has for Zane:

“Zane craved this. He needed it, like he needed air.”

And the connection between them is so much more than just physical:

“Zane shuddered as it occurred to him that it really didn’t seem like just sex anymore. It was more, more passionate, more emotional, more energizing, more draining… at that moment, he wasn’t sure it had ever been just sex between them.”

The reader and Ty may have been sure that Zane has deep feelings for Ty for a long time by now, when Zane at last catches up my heartfelt emotion was: about bloody time too! (I told you I was getting emotionally invested in these characters):

“He loved Ty Grady with all there was to give of his heart, and in the end, all it had taken was one wink for Zane to finally come to terms with it.”

Of course things are never simple for our two agents. Zane may have realized exactly what he feels for Ty, actually using the words “I love you”, opening up to Ty and admitting to his feelings takes a whole lot longer. And just when you think the relationship between the two men might be entering an easier phase, there is Nick, a close friend and former Marine colleague of Ty to throw a spanner in the works and create a host of doubts in both of them but especially Ty.

In these books the romance is more tension filled than the actual thriller part of the story. I find myself worrying about Zane and Ty’s relationship far more than I do about their safety, no matter how dangerous the situation they find themselves in. But once they get past the angst and arrive at that place the reader has been longing to see them in for over 1000 pages, oh boy is it beautiful. All the feelings; in the book and in me…

“The first time I saw you, after I got over hating you, I knew… I knew we’d die together.” – Ty

“First time I saw you, after I got over hating you, I knew (…), I knew I’d fall in love with you.” – Zane

What makes these stories extra special is the tenderness between Ty and Zane when they are together, the way they wrap themselves around each other when they go to sleep, their need to touch each other even when it has to be secretive because there are others around that really gets to me.

The way this book ends, is just not fair. In fact, I’m raging.  Especially since I’ve been informed (by those who know about these things as well as the authors) that I have to read a book called “Warrior’s Cross”  before I start on “Armed and Dangerous”; the book that will probably put an end to my misery. The authors clearly have a bit of a sadistic streak, ending the book the way they did in the full knowledge that they were going to steer their readers away from the “Cut & Run” series before allowing them to see what will happen after those final two lines in “Divide & Conquer”. I can’t quite decide whether I admire or hate them for what they did to me here.

I’ll end this review with my favourite quote from this series so far:

“Ty took his hand and pulled at him. “Come dance with me Zane”, he requested quietly”… “It was possibly one of the most erotic, most loving things Ty had ever done for him”.

Be quiet my heart, be quiet…

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Illustrated by Alessandro Maria Nacar
Pages: 91
Date: 23/10/2013
Grade: 5
Details: Part of the Save the Story Series
            Received from Pushkin
  Children’s Books through

Don Juan, the man who loved women. Who loved all women and had to be with as many of them as he possibly could. Because Don Juan is also the man who is only afraid of being bored.

“Don Juan isn’t an imbecile, he’s just a man who loves women, and he loves them so much that it’s impossible for him to love one alone.”

The story starts with a man entering the bedroom of a beautiful young woman who is engaged to be married. Thinking the intruder is her fiancé, the woman allows the man to kiss her only to realise that he isn’t who she thought he was. When the intruder tries to leave the woman’s house he encounters her father, the Commendatore, who he kills in a sword-fight.

The same evening, Don Juan – because that is who the intruder was – encounters a woman he married in the past, only to leave her the very next day and learns that her brothers are looking for him, determined to restore their sister’s honour and kill him.

Next thing Don Juan knows he has the police, the brothers and their swordsmen as well as the ghost of the Commendatore out to kill him. Inviting all his adversaries to his house on the same night can never lead to a happy ending.

Don Juan is a tale about morals and asks a rather interesting and – as the book says in the epilogue – hard to answer question:

“Are we guilty when fulfilling our desires means others are hurt? Or are our desires always innocent, and is it our right to try and fulfil them?”

This is the third title in the “Save the Story” series I have read in recent days and I have to say this one impressed me as much as the previous two – “The Story of Gulliver and “The story of Antigone – did.

As I explained in those earlier reviews “Save the Story” is an initiative to ensure that great stories from the past are not forgotten through retelling them for a new generation of readers. The way in which this goal is achieved is rather clever. While nothing about the original story is lost, the retelling is done in such a way that the stories are truly accessible for younger, modern readers. In these books we find subtle hints to remind the young reader that the story is set in the past, such as:

“They went off like rockets – rockets didn’t exist at the time, of course, but just so you understand.”

And while these books are aimed at readers from age five upwards (although I do feel that readers that young would need to have the stories read to them), they do not talk down to the reader. Quite the opposite in fact. I love that these books serve a dual purpose; they introduce (young) readers to wonderful and time-defying stories which can be enjoyed in and of themselves as well as be used as a springboard for a discussion about important and even philosophical questions.  

I know I’ve said it before but I can’t help saying it again; these are gorgeous books. The quality of these editions is a lot better than you normally come across when reading books aimed at children. The books look and feel luxurious and with both beautiful fonts and wonderful illustrations – not to mention the classical stories – these books would be a proud addition to anyone’s bookshelf.

Alessandro Baricco is of course the author who first came up with the idea for this series. As far as I’m concerned that was a strike of genius. In these days when it can be a hard struggle to get children to abandon all the electronical temptations surrounding them in favour of a good book it can only be helpful to have books this attractive to help us tempt them.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Pages: 314
Date: 22/10/2013
Grade: 5+
Details: no. 3 Cut & Run
Own / Kindle

The Blurb:

“Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are back on the job, settled into a personal and professional relationship built on fierce protectiveness and blistering passion. Now they’re assigned to impersonate two members of an international smuggling ring—an out-and-proud married couple—on a Christmas cruise in the Caribbean. As their boss says, surely they’d rather kiss each other than be shot at, and he has no idea how right he is.

Portraying the wealthy criminals requires a particular change in attitude from Ty and Zane while dealing with the frustrating waiting game that is their assignment. As it begins to affect how they treat each other in private, they realize there’s more to being partners than watching each other’s backs, and when the case takes an unexpected turn and threatens Ty’s life, he and Zane will have to navigate seas of white lies and stormy secrets, including some of their own


When reviewing “Cut & Run” in August I wrote that one of my reasons for rating that book “only” 4.5” was that I wanted to make sure there was room for the grades of the subsequent books in the series to go up. The friends who insisted that I needed to read this series had also informed me that the books would just get better and better, so the slightly less than optimum rating seemed like a good idea at the time. And I guess it was. I did enjoy “Sticks & Stones” more than I did the first book so the grade went up to 5. And now I have finished “Fish and Chips” and wouldn’t you know it, this is my favourite book so far. That isn’t a problem of course, except that I’ve run out of higher grades. On my blog I can – and have – just added a plus to the 5 this book so clearly deserves. Unfortunately, that opportunity doesn’t exist on any of the other sites where I’ll be leaving this review. Therefore, if you’re reading this review anywhere other than on my blog, know that I actually graded this book 5+ stars.

Yes, “Fish & Chips” is most definitely my favourite title in this series so far because the undercover case Zane and Ty are sent on gives them, and the reader, the opportunity to look at and experience their relationship on a whole new level. While the two men decided at the end of “Sticks & Stones” that they wanted to stay together as lovers as well as partners their relationship has, for obvious and work-related reasons, stayed under the radar. In fact their new colleagues in Baltimore don’t expect their working relationship to last for any length of time given Ty’s reputation and the way he and Zane are constantly arguing with each other. And yet, Ty and Zane have been growing closer to each other. They may both run shy of admitting to any deeper feelings but they are at least willing to concede that they want to be together.

“He’d reached a point where Ty’s attitude and cockiness were more turn-ons than annoyances.” - Zane

So the opportunity to spend two weeks as a gay married couple – be it of the criminal variety – allows our two men to act on their attraction in public, without having to worry about who might see them and what the consequences of coming out might be. The fact that Zane has to play the part of the dominant partner while undercover – a role that usually falls to Ty in their private life – brings a whole new dynamic to their relationship; a dynamic both of them seem to enjoy more than they would have expected.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a Ty and Zane story if it was all plain sailing. Ty struggles with the fact that he thinks he is in love with Zane, especially since he is sure that Zane doesn’t feel the same for him. And his doubts run deeper:

“Could he really be in love with someone he was afraid to ask about his past?” – Ty

Zane on the other hand is afraid to investigate what he might be feeling for his lover. All he knows for sure is that he is deeply afraid of losing Ty. And while his thoughts and reactions might suggest to the reader that his feelings run rather deep, Zane has no intention of investigating those feelings, never mind admit to them.

“That was the problem: Ty wasn’t his keeper – Ty was his conscience.”

It is wonderful to see how Zane, who for a very long time thought that whether he lived or died really didn’t matter to anyone, slowly comes to the realization that:

“He’d already known he’d answer to Ty, anytime, anywhere. But now Zane believed, for the first time in so long, that he had someone who truly cared about him.”

Of course this book is much more than a love story about two men slowly and carefully finding their way to each other. Being undercover on a ship, pretending to be a gay married couple may sound like fun and games – and very often is – it soon turns out that it is anything but a pleasure cruise (pun intended). Especially after several attempts are made on Ty’s life.

“No matter how many times a person almost died, it never got to the point that it was easy to shrug off.” – Ty

This book was clearly more about the relationship between Ty and Zane than the mystery they were trying to unravel. And although there were quite a few nail-biting and action filled moments in this story even those seemed to be more about the men and their feelings than anything else. I, for one, didn’t mind at all. I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to get a much better insight into Ty and Zane, while they were getting to know each other as well as themselves better.

“Sometimes Ty wished he knew what to say to help Zane, but then he reminded himself he wasn’t exactly what one could call stable, either. There was a lot of pot and kettle going on here.”

In my review of “Sticks & Stones” I worried that maybe I had been misreading the story; the way Ty and Zane were feeling about each other was the complete opposite of what I would have expected. So imagine how happily surprised I was to discover that not only had I not been wrong, Ty himself actually agrees with me:

“If he’d been a betting man he would never have picked himself from the two of them to be the sap who fell in love.”

And talking about falling in love; I guess it is time to admit that I have fallen head-over-heels in love with Ty and Zane and these books. I guess that means I should be grateful to those friends who “bullied” me into reading this book. And I am, whole-heartedly.

Monday, October 21, 2013


              Illustrated by Laura Paoletti
Pages: 100
Date: 21/10/2013
Grade: 5
Details: Part of the Save the Story Series
             Received from Pushkin
             Children’s Books through

In this retelling of Antigone’s story, originally written as a drama by Sophocles around 422 BC, Ali Smith takes the surprising and original decision of having a crow as the narrator. It is the crow who observes young Antigone while she decides to go and bury one of her brothers after a terrible battle which left both her brothers dead – one a hero and one deemed a traitor. The king of Thebes may have decided that his nephew Polynices was a traitor at the time of his death and as such doesn’t deserve a burial, twelve year old Antigone can’t bear to leave her brother’s body out in the open to be eaten by animals and slowly rot away. Fully aware that the penalty for honouring her brother’s remains will be her own death, Antigone still goes out of the city to find his body and bury it.

Antigone’s act of defiance doesn’t go unpunished but since this is a Greek tragedy in the truest sense of the word, it comes as no surprise that the King’s cruel treatment of young Antigone results in devastating consequences for him and his family. Because this is of course a story about power and those who would abuse it as much as it is a story about love and loyalty. Maybe Ali Smith explains it best when she explains her reasons for writing this story to the crow in the last chapter of this book:

“…that the story of Antigone, a story about a girl who wants to honour the body of her dead brother, and why she does, keeps being told suggests that we do need this story, that it might be one of the ways that we make life and death meaningful, that it might be a way to help us understand life and death, and that there’s something nourishing in it, even though it is full of terrible and difficult things, a very dark story full of sadness.”

Having the crow as the narrator of this story is a stroke of genius on Ali Smith’s part. The crow can describe the horrors of what happens to a body left in the open, without burial, in rather gruesome detail much easier than a human voice ever could. We expect some cruelty from animals like crows, and it will be much easier to accept the facts shared in this story – especially for young readers – when they come from this rather dispassionate point of view.

Like I said in my review of “The Story of Gulliver” these books are part of the “Save the Story” series which aims to bring classic stories to a new generation of readers because these stories should never be lost. All the stories in these books have a message to share; a message that was important at the time the story was written and has lost none of its importance in the years, decades or centuries that have passed since. These books give young readers the opportunity to become acquainted with important stories that have stood the test of time while at the same time giving them the opportunity to think about some big issues. And all of this is achieved without the books ever feeling preachy or educational.

This book is once again a work of beauty, and I am not only referring to the story. This is a high quality hardback with the words printed in a beautiful font in two different colours and accompanied by wonderful illustrations. This is the sort of book you will love to own, will be proud to have on your shelves and will want to keep even long after your young reader has moved on to other books and genres. In fact, even if you do not have a young reader in your life you could do a lot worse than getting the books in this series for yourself; especially if, like me, you’re only vaguely familiar at best with the classics being retold here.


Pages: 322
Date: 21/10/2013
Grade: 5
Details: no. 2 Cut & Run
Own / Kindle

The Blurb

“Six months after nearly losing their lives to a serial killer in New York City, FBI Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are suffering through something almost as frightening: the monotony of desk duty. When they're ordered to take a vacation for the good of everyone's sanity, Ty bites the bullet and takes Zane home with him to West Virginia, hoping the peace and quiet of the mountains will give them the chance to explore the explosive attraction they’ve so far been unable to reconcile with their professional partnership.

Ty and Zane, along with Ty’s father and brother, head up into the Appalachian mountains for a nice, relaxing hike deep into the woods... where no one will hear them scream. They find themselves facing danger from all directions: unpredictable weather, the unrelenting mountains, wild animals, fellow hikers with nothing to lose, and the most terrifying challenge of all. Each other.”


Online friends have been harassing me for weeks now, insisting that I need to read these books and hurry up already. I hate it when my friends are right. Not because I have a problem with discovering new to me fabulous books with addictive characters and a wonderful and angsty storyline. No, all of those are things I love. I hate my friends being right about me needing to read these books because I really do not have the time to fall in love with a series that consists of seven and a half books. Don’t my friends know I have books I need to review, ideally close to the release date?

It’s hard to stay angry with said friends if they recommend books this good though. Because of course they are right. I’m loving these books and do need to read them in quick succession because I need to know how this story, these characters and especially their relationship is going to develop. It really doesn’t matter that I still wish those friends had been wrong about these books about me needing to read them. Books up for review or not, it seems that I’ll be spending a considerable amount of my (reading) time with Ty and Zane over the next week or so.

Ty and Zane – sigh – what can I say. I’m only on the second book of this series and I’ve already completely fallen in love with these two men. It is impossible to not smile every time they start on one of their frequent and completely obnoxious arguments. And while the characters themselves may be completely unaware of it – or trying to deny it to themselves, as the case may be – it is so clear that the feelings these two men have for each other go deeper than those of colleagues or even friends. Still, Ty and Zane hadn’t been working together all that long and had been intimate for even less time when they both nearly lost their lives in Cut & Run. And although they are now back working together, even if it is doing boring and mind-numbing desk work, it is clear that neither has come to terms with everything that happened to them in that first book, never mind the attraction between them.

When Zane fails his psychological evaluation they are both forced into taking a holiday from their jobs as FBI special agents, with their future to be determined after they return. When Ty invites Zane to join him on a journey home to visit his family in West Virginia it comes as a bit of a surprise to both of them because they had both noticed how they had started to drift apart. The trip should have been a relaxing opportunity to find out where they stand with each other; do they want to continue with their fragile and undefined relationship, do they even want to continue being partners in the FBI?

This wouldn’t have been a Ty and Zane story though if this trip had indeed turned into a relaxing holiday. While hiking in the Appalachian Mountains with his father, Earl, and brother, Deuce, Ty and his partner Zane run into far more problems that they could ever have imagined. Worsening weather conditions and wild animals are the least of their problems. When they run into a deliberately set booby-trap on the mountains they know they are about to run into a situation they aren’t equipped to deal with. Turning around to gather reinforcements would be the sensible thing to do. One insensitive and hurtful remark from Earl sets them on a course towards conflict and violence – a course they may not survive.

This is one of those books that puts the reader on a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from laughing out loud to reading with tears in their eyes and every emotion imaginable in between. There were so many times I wanted to take Ty and Zane by the shoulders and shake them while telling them to just go with it, give in to the feelings, be honest with themselves and each other. And yet it makes so much sense in the story that they don’t. I loved following these two as they slowly come to realisations about themselves, each other and the way they are together.

“As partners, it seemed like they could read each other’s minds. But as lovers – or even friends – they barely knew each other at all.”


“Zane slept much better with Ty alongside him than he did when he was alone, and they both knew it.”

I could have happily killed Earl when he asks Ty the question that nearly breaks him and had tears in my eyes while reading about the devastating effect this had on the man who seems so strong and self-reliant in every possible way. Deuce on the other hand was a ray of sunshine in this story. I loved the way he managed to get both Ty and Zane to at least start thinking about their feelings and what they wanted and needed.

It may be that my reading of the story up to here was wrong, but to me Ty had always come across as the strong and independent one and Zane as the partner who needed their closeness most. So it was interesting to read that it is Ty who reluctantly admits to himself that he may be in love with Zane - even if he doesn’t know what being in love actually feels like – and Zane who is convinced that his feelings for Ty have nothing to do with love.

There is more, so much more, I could write about this book and these characters, but I won’t. This is supposed to be a review and not a book in its own right. All I want to say before I stop raving about this book is that the last few pages of this story were beautiful and heart-warming – resulting in a huge grin on my face. I’m so glad I already own Fish & Chips, the next book in this series. I give myself a few hours at most before I start reading that story.