Monthly Archives: March 2012

Breaking Beautiful

Some YA literature is predictable from the first page. Who didn’t know that Bella would wind up with Edward? In fact, the only mystery in that series is what he sees in her. But I digress. And really, I should not stain a review ofBreaking Beautiful, a wonderful work of YA literature, by mentioning that vampire thing.

Allie Davis is 18 and cannot remember what happened the night that her boyfriend died. Author Jennifer Shaw Wolf sends us on a chase through Allie’s mind. Does she imagine conversations that book place that night, or did they truly occur? Why does she feel like her friend, Blake, knows more than he appears to know? What about her twin brother, Andrew? What about the other people at the dance, the last to see her and Trip together before their fateful ride in his truck?

As Breaking Beautiful unfolds, we learn a lot about Allie, her family, and Trip. One of the overarching messages of this book is that appearances can – and do – deceive. Allie is told repeatedly to avoid Blake, because he spent time in juvie and he looks like he’s nothing but trouble. Mrs. Phillips, Trip’s mother, always wears a mink coat, ostensibly because it speaks to her family’s wealth. But nothing is as it seems in this book. As the reader, you quickly learn to take nothing at face value. School mates Allie distrusts may not be as bad as she thinks. A newly hired detective, who repeatedly tells Allie that he wants to help her, may not be on her side. Or is he? 

As if her memory loss is not enough of a burden, Allie also keeps receiving notes in Trip’s handwriting. Between the police pressuring her to tell them what happened, her own parents’ pressures, and Trip’s family’s demands, Allie is a mess.

I keep waiting to hear footsteps on the sidewalk behind me – an angry mob coming to grab me and drag me back for digging my claws into the queen, or for the murder they’re all sure I committed – but no one follows.

I’m not sure where I’m going until the sidewalk changes to a boardwalk and the ground starts to get sandy, past where Grandma’s house used to be. Past Blake’s house, gray and blue, with its sagging porch and peeling paint contrasting with the neat condos all around it. Toward the ocean, where the sound of waves shuts out the screaming in my ears.



Allie needs answers, but unfortunately, she is the only one who can provide them. 

I enjoyed Breaking Beautiful so much. I thought Allie was wonderfully complex, yet real. As a high school English teacher, I’ve seen girls like her who appear to have it all, but really only have something to hide. I’ve seen Blake, too – I teach a lot of Blakes. Her parents were real, and her classmates were real as well. But as much as I did like it, I was unsatisfied by the ending. Some of this was too neatly tied up, when it really should have been much messier.

This may be a YA book, but just anyone would enjoy it. Run, don’t walk, and get yourself a copy.

       

Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Book. Publication date is April 24, 2012.

Thanks to NetGalley for a preview.

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Bared to You

Bared to You
Sylvia Day
Published by: Berkeley Trade
ISN:  0425263908
352 pages
Available on Amazon.com
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.

Well, faithful readers, there are Hot Romance Novels, and then there are Hot Erotic Novels.

Bared to You, by Sylvia Day, most definitely falls into the latter category. I might have blushed a few times while reading it, and I might have had a few heart palpitations. Or some kind of palpitations, anyway.

Eva Tramell is 24 and starting a new job at an ad agency in New York. She moved with her best pal, the comely (and bisexual) Carey, who is on his way to becoming an in-demand male model. The day before she starts her job, she decides to walk the route so she can time it; Eva is big into fitness, although to Sylvia Day’s credit, she also likes to eat. As she makes her way through the building’s lobby, she literally falls down in front of Gideon Cross, the most handsome man she’s ever seen. Turns out he owns the building (along with several other buildings), and he decides he wants Eva.

Boy howdy, does he want her. He’s quite specific about how he wants her, including positions and quantity.

Day keeps us waiting a bit until we get these two in the sack (or in the limo, as the case may be), but when that headboard starts a’rockin’, it doesn’t let up. Which, if you read Bared to You, may sound like a metaphor for Gideon’s … um … CONSIDERABLE stamina. (Somewhere, Christian Grey is not amused.)

There isn’t much from this book that is family friendly, but here is a brief glimpse into the incredibly hotness that are the book’s sex scenes:

“I need you, Gideon,” I said breathlessly, inhaling his scent which was richer now that he was aroused. I thought I might be slightly intoxicated, just from the enticing smell of his skin. “You drive me crazy.”

He released my wrists and cupped my face, his lips pressing hard against mine. I reached for the fly of his slacks, freeing the two buttons to access the concealed zipper. He tensed.

“I need this,” I whispered against his lips. “Give me this.”

 Like I said. HOT.

The only problem with Bared to You is the plot. Eva will drive you nuts, and not in the way she drives Gideon nuts. When she gets skittish, she runs (there is a whole reason why she has “issues,” and Gideon, it turns out, has a few of his own). At some point, all that running just gets boring. Even Gideon is unimpressed. In fact, it’s difficult to see what he sees in her, other than carnal lust. Why does he trust her? In the meantime, there are some issues with Carey, and the whole thing ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. I guess we need to stay tuned.

I read this before I read the  Fifty Shades saga, and as I read the latter, I found myself comparing the two. Bared to You is wildly erotic, more so, even, than Fifty Shades. Gideon and Eva say things to each other that are raw and sexual, and they do things to each other that are even more raw and more sexual. Don’t read this if you do not care for fairly graphic details, because it is not your thing. In some ways, Gideon and Eva are hotter than Christian and Ana. Both men have tortured pasts, and both women are inclined toward fretting and hand wringing over their men. Bared to You is better written. There is less aggravating repetition (Eva does not bite her lip 5,000 times, nor does she frown or flush every other page), and clearly the editor was not some dubious creation, but rather someone who actually knows how to edit a book.

Is it a good book? It’s got great sex scenes. And very detailed sex scenes – detailed in a way that Fifty Shades is not. Gideon is interesting. (More interesting than Christian Grey? No. Christian intrigued me more than Gideon, but that could be due to having three books’ worth of Christian Grey.) Eva is frustrating. (More frustrating than Ana Steele? Somewhat. Eva is stronger and tougher, and she doesn’t need Gideon telling her how in awe of her he is, but she runs all the time, and I can’t see what he sees in her.) But I like Gideon and Eva together, more than I liked Christian with Ana. Eva does not demand that Gideon change for her the way Ana is incapable of living with the true Christian Grey. Their relationship doesn’t need to be so tortured, though.


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Dark Lake

Dark Lake, by Louise Gaylord, is part of something called the Allie Armington Mystery series. I’ve never heard of it, so this was my first introduction to Allie and the series. You don’t need to have read the previous books in order to understand what’s going on, which is good news.

This is a slim, quick read, and as mysteries go, it isn’t bad. It isn’t great, but it isn’t bad.

Allie heads back to her extended family’s summer cottage in the Adirondacks, only to discover her Aunt Sallie dead. Who killed her? Could it be her cousin, Arlene? Arlene’s fiance? Or what about Liam Witcher, a cop who appears to be helping her? And why don’t the local police seem interested in pursuing Sallie’s death as a murder?

There isn’t much else to say, because to do so risks giving away some spoilers. As far as the characters go, Allie is interesting. Smart, very intuitive when it comes to crime solving, yet she makes mistakes and is not perfect. She and Liam enjoy a few outings of rocking the headboard, which Allie worries might cloud her vision when it comes to Liam’s culpability. You want him to be innocent, but is he?

This is a quick, pleasant read. It won’t keep you up long, because it is brief. But it’s fun.


Published by Little Moose Press and available on Amazon.com.
Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC!

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Putting Boys on the Ledge

Blueberry “Blue” Waller, whose parents are kind of crunch granola people who named her after a fruit (yet her siblings are Theo and Marissa, and we are never told why they get the normal names) is determined to follow the lead of her friends: put boys on the ledge.

In other words, shelve them if you don’t like them, and if you do, keep room on the shelf, just in case:

Instead of you feeling all bad about yourself because a boy blows you off, you’re supposed to somehow get him to fall madly in love with you, and then you can ignore him, and then he gets all bummed and goes out onto The Ledge. 

And if you like a boy and he likes you, you always have to keep him teetering close to The Ledge so he never treats you badly. As long as you’re holding The Ledge over his head, you’re in control. 

In Stephie Davis’ Putting Boys on the Ledge, this theory is put to test when Blue meets an exceptionally hot boy named – are you ready – Heath Cavendish while trying out for a play. How can you put pure hotness on the ledge?

Well, it might be a little easier if you’ve got Colin Bradshaw, hired to help Blue’s family with their myriad of animals. Colin is cute, sweet and pretty awesome in his own right.

Putting Boys on the Ledge is a fluffy little bit of fun. There isn’t much substance to it, and you kind of know – okay, you totally know – where things will head. But Stephie Davis makes it a fun ride, and you find yourself entertained by Blue and her friends.

I imagine 14-year-old girls everywhere will eat this book up.

Published by Smooch and available at Amazon.com and bookstores everywhere.
Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.

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The Summer My Life Began

In Shannon Greenland’s The Summer My Life Began, Elizabeth Margaret is presented with an intriguing offer. Her heretofore unknown aunt, Tilly, invites her to spend the summer between graduating from high school and heading to Harvard with her at her bed and breakfast in the Outer Banks, North Carolina. Turns out, Elizabeth Margaret’s mother and grandmother have concealed Aunt Tilly’s existence from “Em”, as Elizabeth Margaret’s beloved younger sister, Gwenny, calls her. But why?

So Em heads to North Carolina, where she meets “sexy loser” Cade, a young man who works for her aunt. She also meets a cousin, Frederick, she did not know about, along with a quirky chef named Domino and a houeskeeper named Beth. Within a few weeks, Em goes on dates with two different men, uncovers the family mystery, and admits – out loud – that she does not want to go to Harvard, but instead dreams of culinary school.

And there you have it. That, faithful readers, is the sum total of this book.

I wanted to like it, I really did. I wanted to like Em more than I did, and I wanted to care more about her. But instead, I was frustratingly disinterested. Her life is too perfect. Rich girl, valedictorian, gets into Harvard, finds out her parents have lied to her about something important, but with preternatural aplomb, gets over the lie pretty darn quickly. She breaks up with one guy, but stays friends with him. Everyone loves her. She’s perfect.

TOO perfect.

There is no real conflict here. We all know that she’ll give up Harvard and go to culinary school. We all know she’ll get together with Cade. We all know that she’ll muddle through the family trauma and come out just hunky dory.

Here is what would make this a better read:

  1. Explain why Em is so agreeable to her parents’ wishes for her future. All we get is a “I don’t like to make waves” vibe from Em, but why? What does she get out of it?
  2. Have her struggle some, for goodness sakes! The most we get is a page or two of angst over the family mystery. It’s all too neatly solved. There is no mystery.
  3. Explain what, exactly, happens the night she stays with Cade. Don’t be coy. Did she sleep with him? I know this is a YA novel, but don’t play these games.
If you’re looking for a mild, moderately entertaining, lightweight book, then The Summer My Life Began is right up your May pole. But if you want some conflict, drama and mystery, then search elsewhere.
Published by Penguin. Available for Kindle pre-order on Amazon. 

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC!

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Irresistible Forces

I’ve been on a Hot Romance Novel tear of late. I think I need a Harlan Coben mystery or something to break the trend.

I actually read Irresistible Forces, by Brenda Jackson, about a month or so ago. It is nothing if not an extremely Hot Romance Novel.

Taylor Steele (gotta love that name) is a successful professional woman who has decided that her career is not all she wants in her life. She wants a baby. And in typical take-charge fashion, she knows who she wants to father her baby: Dominic Saxon (another great Hot Romance Novel name). Dominic is rich, powerful and gorgeous, and he doesn’t appear to need a lot of convincing. Is it that he wants to make a baby with Taylor, or is it that he wants a week of – and I quote – “Hot sex. Heated sex. Never-ending Sex.”

Turns out, he’s up for both. And when I say, “Up,” I think you know what I mean. Wink wink.

Here is a glimpse into Dominic’s mind:

He knew what she would bring to the bedroom – that was a given. Sitting across from her, inhaling her scent while visions of all the things they would be doing together on that island ran through his mind was playing havoc with certain body parts. She was fully dressed now, but he could see her naked while he made love to her, day in and day out. She was temptation at its finest and the thought that he wouldn’t have to resist temptation for an entire week had his body throbbing.

 Irresistible Forces basically is headboard rocking sex with a little plot thrown in, every now and then. Of course there are obstacles to Taylor and Dominic’s True Love (whatever), but when you read this book, you’re reading it for the headboard rocking, not the hand wringing. And the sex scenes are good. The rest of it is kind of silly.

Read it for the sex.

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Wicked Weekend

If you’re like me – and God help you if you are – the letters BDSM don’t quite ring a bell. But upon further examination, you might make out this: bondage, discipline, sado-masochism.

Yep.

When I began reading Wicked Weekend, by Gillian Archer, I realized I was way out of my depth. I’ve never heard of BDSM, knew nothing about it, and really am not interested in it. But that does not mean that Wicked Weekend is not an entertaining, if slight, novel.

Lauren miserably attends her sister’s pre-wedding ski party (who knew you could ski close to Las Vegas?), pining over her sister’s fiance, over whom Lauren nurses a bad crush. To get away from the happy couple for a few minutes, she goes to the bar to buy a drink. While there, she sees a gorgeous man across the room and recognizes the black bandana peeking out of his back pocket. She knows enough about the BDSM culture to tell that this man is into BDSM and prefers to be the dominant person in the fun. He sees her looking at him, approaches her, and the next thing you know, she’s upstairs in his room, getting spanked. Literally. Before they engage in their festivities, however, Jamie, the spanker, defends Lauren to her snotty sister, which sets the tone for a possible romance.

Oh, come on. You know there will be romance. This is a Hot Romance Novel, after all.

But that’s where it feels slight. While the sexy times are interesting and quite hot, the romance does not have any heft to it at all. Lauren is impressionable and slightly buttoned up, but I can see why she would fall for Jamie. The problem is why he falls for her. His choice of her over other women is not made clear. He has trust issues, but why Lauren? And really, now that I think about it, why does she decide she wants to date him?

It’s almost as if Gillian Archer can’t decide if she’s writing a bondage tale or a Hot Romance Novel. It’s almost as if she cannot do both, unless she provides more information. Still … it’s hot. The headboard rocking is HOT.

Here is a brief glimpse:

She could do this. God, he looked so hot sitting there with that smug grin on his face. She could tell that he was getting off on her torment. Truth be told, so was she. Release hovered just out of reach. And she knew the only way she as coming was if she followed his directions exactly and let him control her body.

Hot, right? Wicked Weekend has a lot of hotness.

And who knows? Maybe you’ll have a hankering for a spanking.

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