Thursday, December 18, 2014


Pages: 264
Date: 18/12/2014
Grade: 4
Details: Reading Group Read

The blurb:

“Hauled in a cart to a field hospital in northern France in March 1916, an American woman wakes up from unconsciousness to the smell of gas gangrene, the sounds of men in pain, and an almost complete loss of memory; she knows only that she can drive an ambulance, she can draw, and her name is Stella Bain.

A stateless woman in a lawless country, Stella embarks on a journey to reconstruct her life. Suffering an agonising and inexplicable array of symptoms, she finds her way to London. There Dr. August Bridge, a cranial surgeon turned psychologist, is drawn to tracking her amnesia to its source. What brutality was she fleeing when she left the tranquil seclusion of a New England college campus to serve on the Front; for what crime did she need to atone – and whom did she leave behind?”

My thoughts:

“Can a man possibly care for a woman who is not herself? A woman who, with any luck, might change into someone else? Can a woman who is not herself truly care for another?”

I’m a bit ambivalent about this book. On the one hand I loved the story. I liked the idea of exploring the horrors of World War One through the eyes of a woman. We tend to forget they too played important and often horrific roles in this conflict and it’s about time it was given attention. I also appreciated the various layers in the story and the slow unravelling of Stella’s story and life.

Anita Shreve is a good and accomplished storyteller and The Lives of Stella Bain held my interest from start to finish. Having said that, I also found myself a bit underwhelmed with The Lives of Stella Bain. From the moment I started this book I had problems losing myself in the story. Stella’s tale is told in a detached manner and as a result I felt removed what was happening to her.

Initially I hoped the detachment would diminish as Stella’s memory returned. And, if the tone of the narration had shifted from impersonal to more personally involved as Stella returned to who she was and remembered why she found herself in the situation she was in, I would have considered it a masterful stroke of storytelling.

As it was, I felt I never got the opportunity to connect with Stella. She started off as and remained a rather one dimensional character in an interesting but rather flat story. It is quite possible I missed something but to me this felt like a missed opportunity. On the other hand, I can’t deny the story almost read itself and despite my lack of involvement in the story, I had no problem staying with it and finishing this book.

Sunday, December 7, 2014


Title: Serpent’s Kiss
Genre: Erotic Romance BDSM
Author: Sherri Hayes
Release Date: Dec 4, 2014


After losing her husband unexpectedly, Katrina Mayer decided to open Serpent’s Kiss. She wanted it to be a place where she and her fellow kinksters could play and socialize.

Five years after the doors opened, the club is everything she’d hoped it would be. On Friday and Saturday nights, Serpent’s Kiss is filled with men and women who share a similar desire to explore the pleasures BDSM has to offer. The club has continued to grow, and over the years, many of its members have become friends.

The one thing Katrina didn’t expect when she’d decided to open a club was the human drama that came with it. Learning to balance her life as the club mistress has taken some getting used to, but she wouldn’t change a thing.



Sherri spent most of her childhood detesting English class. It was one of her least favorite subjects because she never seemed to fit into the standard mold. She wasn’t good at spelling, or following grammar rules, and outlines made her head spin. For that reason, Sherri never imagined becoming an author.
At the age of thirty, all of that changed. After getting frustrated with the direction a television show was taking two of its characters, Sherri decided to try her hand at writing an alternate ending, and give the characters their happily ever after. By the time the story finished, it was one of the top ten read stories on the site, and her readers were encouraging her to write more.
Six years later, Sherri is the author of six full-length novels, and one short story. Writing has become a creative outlet for Sherri that allows her to explore a wide range of emotions, while having fun taking her characters through all the twists and turns she can create. She is most well known for her Finding Anna series about a young woman rescued from being a sex slave by a wealthy Dominant. The third book in that series, Truth, released July 25, 2013.




Welcome to the Serpent’s Kiss is not a full length novel. This is an introduction to the club, its owner Katrina Mayer, the people who work there and some of the members. It is meant to arouse your curiosity and does so in a very effective and appetizing way. After these forty pages I’m curious about Katrina and what she will or won’t do about Ryan. I want to see if Beth will get over her misfortune and how new member and newbie to the scene Drew gets along.

Having a female BDSM-club owner and Domme spearheading the stories makes a nice change from the usual fare of Male dominated novels (pun intended). Sherri Hayes obviously has a good understanding of the BDSM world and makes sure to share her knowledge with her readers without it ever feeling as if she’s giving us a lecture.

If this prequel is anything to go by, The Serpent’s Kiss will be a welcome addition to the world of BDSM romance and erotica. I’m looking forward to finding out what will be happening next. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

THE PLEASURES SERIES by Evie Hunter - A Special Treat

To celebrate the publication of A BOX OF PLEASURES - a complete box-set of all four of bestselling Irish author Evie Hunter's PLEASURES titles, together for the first time - Penguin Ireland are offering  readers a chance to experience Evie...

If you've never read Evie or even erotica before, this is your chance to try it. Go on, we won't tell anyone! And you might be pleasantly - or even pleasurably! - surprised... 

Pngnuin Ireland are also having a #pleasuresunboxed event next Saturday 6th December where readers and fans can ask Evie anything. Follow @pleasureswinter on Twitter for more.

Saturday, November 8, 2014


Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonski
Pages: 208
Date: 08/11/2014
Grade: 5
Details: Juvenile Fiction ages 10+
  Received from Hyperion
            Through Net Galley

The blurb:

“Grayson Sender has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever: """"he"""" is a girl on the inside, stuck in the wrong gender's body. The weight of this secret is crushing, but sharing it would mean facing ridicule, scorn, rejection or worse. Despite the risks, Grayson's true self itches to break free. Will new strength from an unexpected friendship and a caring teacher's wisdom be enough to help Grayson step into the spotlight she was born to inhabit?”

My thoughts:

In this review I will be referring to Grayson as ‘they’ because neither he nor she feels 100% appropriate. This is my personal interpretation and not meant to offend or confuse anybody. This gender issue doesn’t surface in the book itself since the story is told in the first person from Grayson’s perspective.

Up until recently twelve year old Grayson had been able to look in the mirror and see who they should be rather than who they were. Lately the strategy hasn’t been working anymore. No matter how hard they imagine and pretend all Grayson sees is the reflection of a boy rather than the image of the girl they really are.

Having lost their parents at a very young age, Grayson lives with his Aunt, Uncle and two cousins. Because Grayson holds the secret of their identity close, they haven’t been interacting with other kids their age for years. The happiness when it seems that Grayson may have found a new friend after four years without, broke my heart.

“(...) until I feel up to explaining to Aunt Sally and Uncle Evan that I have plans with a friend for the first time since second grade”.

When Grayson auditions for the female lead in a school play and gets the role it appears to be a dream come true at first glance. It isn’t long before reality comes crashing in. That reality is very well dealt with in the book. It’s not all pain and soul searching. Grayson’s life is far from easy but it isn’t unbearably heard all the time either. It would have been easy to turn this story into a tear jerking drama; easy but lazy and unsatisfactory for the reader. The way the story is told I got a wonderful appreciation of the shifts taking place in Grayson as they balance between the joy of being allowed to portray a girl and the fear of making themselves the focus of ridicule and bullying.

“Everything keeps flip-flopping back and forth, from bad to good, over and over again. Sometimes everything is light. Other times, everything is dark.”

It would have been very easy to dislike, if not hate Aunt Sally but a lot of her reasons for wanting to stop Grayson from taking the female lead in the play have to do with her worrying about them (and his cousins) getting bullied in school. Having said that, it got a bit harder to feel sympathy for her once she reflected on how Grayson’s choice would reflect on her parenting skills. Still, all those fears on Sally’s part are undoubtedly worries every parent of a transgender child would have. What did bother me though was the fact that especially the adults in this book were a bit one dimensional; either understanding and supportive or the opposite. While that may work very well for the age group this book is aimed at (and I’m not even sure about that, it’s easy to underestimate kids), it left me rolling my eyes once or twice.

I really appreciated that this book ended on a positive but not miraculous note. Grayson has come a long way but the author doesn’t suggest and the reader doesn’t walk away with, the illusion that all Grayson’s problems have been solved. This is the (very difficult) start of a complicated journey. Grayson has taken the first steps and, we are led to believe, found the inner strength to be true to their real identity. Nothing else is promised.

It was hard to read this book without comparing it to ‘Wonder’ by R.J. Palacio and I don’t mean that in a bad or derogatory wayl. Like ‘Wonder’ this book deals with a youngster who doesn’t quite fit in because they don’t conform to the norm. In both books the main character has to face their otherness in relation to the rest of the world and both characters manage to come out on the other side maybe not so much victorious but definitely intact and empowered.

“(...) when I look at myself in the giant floor-to-ceiling mirrors, I finally see myself the way I’m supposed to be - my inside self match up with my outside self. And now, everyone else will finally see it too.”

Overall this was a wonderful book I’d recommend to any reader aged 10 or over. Understanding otherness is something we can’t teach our kids or ourselves early enough.