Monthly Archives: January 2013

Me Before You

Me Before You
by Jojo Moyes
Published by Pamela Dorman Books
384 pages
Genre: literature; romance; chick lit
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview

Get ready, kids, because I am about to gush.

The short version: I really liked this book. Really, really liked it. It isn’t without its flaws, but it’s just so good!

Okay, now the long version.

Life hasn’t been all that grand for Louisa Clark. It hasn’t been terrible, necessarily, but it has left her wanting. She eschewed university to work in such glorious jobs as a coffee shop attendant, and her boyfriend – well, the boyfriend is more obsessed with his marathon techniques than being a boyfriend. Her parents struggle financially, her older sister is a selfish single mother, and her grandfather has Alzheimer’s.

So when an opportunity comes for Lou to work as a caretaker for Will Traynor, she takes it, even if she has no idea how to take care of a quadriplegic. For his part, Will struggles with being a quadriplegic. He used to scale mountains (and get scaled by comely lasses … if you know what I mean … wink wink), and he was a powerful force professionally. Everything he valued and cherished evaporated in the seconds it took to fall victim to a car accident.

The two get off to an inauspicious start, but slowly they fall into a pleasant routine. Lou gets to know Will, or gets to know him as much as he will allow. He is not one to trust quickly, and undoubtedly he is even more reluctant because his autocratic mother hired Lou without his input. To go from being a man in control – a man who could wake up and decide to ride a motorcycle or go snorkeling or whatever he damn well pleased – to a man who has to have his catheter inserted is a chilling, maddening proposition.

What Lou can’t see is that she is every bit as paralyzed as Will. While she may be able to walk and move her arms, she nonetheless is stuck. Professionally, personally, emotionally. She is trapped in a metaphorical wheelchair of self-doubt, every bit as unable to leave it as Will is his.

Before you think you know how this will play out, let me tell you that you do not. Yes, Lou and Will grow closer. How can they not? They may even develop romantic feelings for each other. But just when you think you know how the story will end, Jojo Moyes takes you in a whole different direction. This sweet, slightly melancholic story becomes far more emotionally charged, as Will discloses his desire to end his life.

Moyes adeptly and succinctly presents both sides of the assisted suicide debate, letting each have its say. Lou and Will’s mother are adamantly opposed, but Will’s reasons for it resonate. When he tells Lou why he feels he must do this, you cannot help but be affected. When she pleads with him not to go through with it, your heart might break just a little.

As lovely as this book is, it does have one glaring flaw: the supporting cast is straight out of Central Casting. There are no surprises, whether it be the frosty wife who suspects her husband is cheating on her, the quirky friends, the self-absorbed boyfriend. We have seen these characters before – a LOT – so it is almost insulting that Moyes, who writes such a beautiful story that defies categorization should rely on stock characters.

Fortunately, you don’t see a lot of them. The focus is on Lou and Will. Which is as it should be.

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Filed under amazing story, bring a tissue, ignore the secondary characters, literature

Three Stages of Love: Lust

Three Stages of Love: Lust
by T. C. Anthony
Published by CreateSpace
194 pages
Genre: erotica; romance
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5 cupcakes

I liked this book a lot, even if I wanted to smack the main character senseless.

Eva is a young career woman, very determined and very ambitious. She fully believes that she will rule the world some day, and the last thing she’s interested in is a man who will get in her way. One drunken night, she meets one who immediately captivates her. She makes a move, but he is a gentleman; she’s drunk, and so he declines.

Naturally, she runs in to him again. Naturally, he becomes her new boss.

Alex is a stud, ladies. He is gorgeous, rich, intelligent, loving, caring and good in bed. Oh my, is he good. He and Eva have no problem scorching up the sheets. He allows her to unleash her inner vixen, and she provides him with a muse of sorts.

But of course, there are Issues.

Eva’s ambition, for one thing, causes some problems. She wants her career, something she worked hard to gain and she does not want to sacrifice it for love, of all things. Alex, on the other hand, wants the big L word. He professes it to Eva and cautions her that she is about to lose out on something amazing.

Can Eva crawl out of her own butt long enough to see that Alex is right? And that he’s good for her?

This is an entertaining book, even with Eva. The sexy times are HOT, and you will not believe that Eva can withstand them. As much as she annoys me – and she does annoy me – I kept on reading, if for no other reason than Alex. I liked that the roles were switched: she is career-driven, while he wants love and a relationship.

Given that this is the first in a series, you know it will end with things unsettled. And it does. I want to know what happens next in Eva and Alex’s relationship, and I kind of hope that Alex finds someone more worthy of him. Then again, there is potential in Eva. If she can grow up and let go of her own insecurities, she might be okay.

If you’re looking for some hot headboard rockin’, this is a good one. It has the added bonus of interesting characters and a decent story.

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Filed under erotica, Hot Romance Novels

Crossing on the Paris

Crossing on The Paris
by Dana Gynther
Published by Gallery Books
336 pages
Genre: literature; women
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
4 / 5 cupcakes

Three women – one young and working at her first job, one newly thirty and married with daughters, and one older, who is suffering from breast cancer and leaving France to head back home to the US. These three are the foundation for the book and tell us their stories.

Julie Vernet not only is on a ship for the first time, but she’s also working and leading home. She is determined to both escape her small French town and help support her parents, who lost Julie’s three brothers in WWI. She is a good daughter, even if she is thrilled to leave her home behind. Julie seeks an adventure; she unwittingly finds it in the form of a fellow worker, a Russian who pursues her most ardently.

On her first day, she meets Constance and Vera. The former is a young wife and mother who headed to France to convince her wayward sister to come home to help their parents through some health problems; the latter an aging socialite returning home to die. On board, Constance meets an attractive doctor whose attention she enjoys. The doctor also treats Vera, whose illness is a bit more advanced than we hoped. Julie attends to both women at various parts of the book, and their stories occasionally intersect.

This is a lovely book, written with eloquence and charm. We get to know every character quite well, although some are fairly stock and predictable. We want For instance, the doctor is presented as a good man, yet we sense that he is possibly disingenuous in his pursuit of Constance. The same goes for Julie’s Russian paramour. Vera, too, searches for love, although hers does not come in an expected form.

The stories slowly unfold, taking their time as the ship crosses from France to New York. As it gets closer to its destination, the three women adjust themselves to their fates, whether proactively or reluctantly. What will come of Julie, the small town girl now in a big east coast city? Or Constance and her marriage and children? And of course Vera. Will she find the peace and contentment she needs in order to die?

It is easy to get into this book, even if nothing terribly cataclysmic happens in it. Julie’s story is the most combustible, but then again, she’s the youngest and with the most wide open future. Constance and Vera, on the other hand, have more spiritual issues to face. For Vera, the journey is one of preparing herself for death. For Constance, on the other hand, the voyage represents an emotional departure from her staid and dull marriage.

This is an evenly paced book, much like the ship’s course. It is nicely written, tells a good story, and features likable characters. If it is occasionally unsurprising, it makes up for it with plots that keep you entertained.

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Filed under literature, stories for women

Thoughtless / Effortless

Thoughtless
Effortless
by S. C. Stephens
Published by Gallery Books
544 pages
Genre: New Adult
Thanks to edelweiss and NetGalley for the previews
4.5 / 5 cupcakes

Thoughtless is the first of a three-part series; Effortless is the second.

In the first, we meet Kiera, a college student who heads to Seattle with Denny, her Australian boyfriend of two years. He goes for work, she for school, leaving behind her family in Ohio. They move in with Denny’s friend Kellen, a bad boy womanizer who fronts a band.

At first, everything is peachy for the threesome. But as Denny becomes more immersed in work, Kiera finds herself with free time. And Kellen. Well, Kellen likes it when Kiera has free time, because she gets to spend it with him.

The two bond as friends – at the start, anyway. We can see that Kellen’s feelings for Kiera far surpass friendship. She sees it too – or senses it – but she is loyal to Denny. She loves her boyfriend and doesn’t want to hurt him. When Denny says he accepted a transfer to Arizona, though, Kiera gets mad. And then she gets naked. With, uh, Kellen.

The tortured romance between Kiera and Kellen is quite well written. This may have the appearance of a YA novel, but really it’s more of a New Adult Lit genre. The sex scenes – and there are sex scenes – are not explicit in a Fifty Shades kind of way, but the camera doesn’t cut away, so to speak. Kiera tells the story, and when she discusses her sex life, she tells us what she does and how she feels while doing it. In that regard, Stephens knows her audience. Twenty-somethings have sex, and they allow themselves to like it. Kiera needs sex to feel closer to Denny and to connect with Kellen, even if some of her couplings are foolish or fueled by alcohol.

Then there is Kellen. He is intricate and interesting, and you cannot help but feel drawn to him. In fact, Kellen is the reason you keep reading. You want to see how he navigates his way with Kiera, especially when she’s with Denny. If you sometimes don’t understand what it is he sees in her, you can’t be blamed. She is frustrating and sometimes childish. But she gives him something other women don’t, and that is emotional strength. She is with him because she likes who he is, not what he does for a living.

In the sequel to Thoughtless, life for Kiera and Kellen is anything but effortless. They are together, and nothing comes easy for them. Denny may have moved out, but he’s still very present in their lives. Kiera cheated on him to be with Kellen, and that is something neither she nor Kellen can forget. As much as they love each other, the fact of her cheating does not disappear.

In this book, the happy couple face their share of challenges. First, there is Kellen’s job. He and his band sign with a record label, and the first task for a new band is to tour. Meanwhile, Kiera is still in college, and she has to come to terms with Kellen’s increasing popularity. Just as her past comes into play, so does his, and this is what Stephens does well. Kellen has a history of jumping from woman to woman, solely for sex. Sex is what also grounds him with Kiera. To say that sex is complicated for these two is an understatement.

I really enjoyed these books, and I look forward to Reckless. I’m not sure I want fourteen-year-olds to read them, but older, more mature teens certainly can. Sex is not casual here, but it happens. There are ramifications, and knowing that there is a cost to sex is important. What keeps you reading, though, are Kiera and Kellen. Their story is engrossing. You find yourself fully invested in the two of them as a couple, wondering how they will overcome the various obstacles that come their way.

This is a good series, off to an excellent start.

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Filed under New Adult lit, romance, Some hot headboard rockin'

No Mistletoe Required

No Mistletoe Required
by Jeanette Murray
Published by Carina Press
71 pages
Genre: romance
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5 cupcakes

Yeah. This one. Um … well … it’s cute.

But.

We have Anna, a petite little thing who enjoys volunteering at the hospital, particularly at Christmas time. She is determined that the children there get to visit Santa and have a few minutes of peace outside of their illnesses, so she gathers together sorority girls from the local university to help out. Dan shows up to help out and is drawn to Anna. He finds himself unable to stay away from her. But Anna doesn’t make it easy for him. But unlike Anna, Dan hates Christmas, associating it with the death of his parents.

These two have a push and pull relationship, drawn to each other yet uncomfortable with it. They have to work past their own hang-ups to get close – especially Anna. Not that she doesn’t have a good reason for being reluctant, but still. STILL.

The romance here is cute and sweet, if not occasionally frustrating. Don’t go looking for anything hot, because all you’ll find is hot chocolate. That isn’t to say that this is a bad book. It isn’t. It’s a fun, enjoyable read. It just isn’t terribly compelling. When I put it down, I didn’t miss it. And I enjoy missing a book.

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Filed under a little blah, cute romance

The Pleasures of Winter

The Pleasures of Winter
by Evie Hunter
Published by Penguin
400 pages
Genre: erotica; mystery
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
4 / 5 cupcakes

Who knew that a plane crash in Honduras could lead to some hot – and I mean HOT – jungle sex?

It sure does in this book, my friends.

Abbie is a reporter fleeing some bad guys, winds up having to interview Hollywood hottie Jack Winter (GET IT? The PLEASURES of WINTER?). Their chat is off to a less than stellar start when the plane they’re on plummets to the ground in Honduras. Jack, Abbie and two other survivors wander around in search for help, and along the way, Jack and Abbie take a liking to each other.

Jack, in particular, thinks Abbie would make a great sub.

Yes, he’s a Dom, and he likes it his way, girls. The good news is that Jack’s way is all kinds of awesome, if Abbie’s reaction is any indication.

There is a plot here, superfluous though it may be. Actually, it isn’t all that bad. Abbie’s bad guys keep turning up, and she and Jack have some issues to work through if they’re going to have a relationship outside of the headboard rocking. It turns out that there is a lot more to Jack than Abbie supposed, and as a movie star, he has an image to protect. The truth about his life cannot be exposed. Then there is the fact that Abbie doesn’t want to think of herself as submissive, so Jack has to tame that. (GET IT?)

What you really want to know about are the sexy times, right? They are good. And by “good,” I mean SCORCHING. Jack is breathtaking in both his stamina and his ability to please. Jack may like it rough, but I’ll take his kind of rough any day. If only he could give lessons to Christian Grey …

In a nutshell: read it for the sex.

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Filed under BDSM, Christian Grey continues to cause problems, erotica, not another excuse to bring up Christian Grey again

Caroselli’s Christmas Baby

Caroselli’s Christmas Baby
by Michelle Celmer
Published by Harlequin Desire
192 pages
Genre: romance
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3.5 / 5 cupcakes

Well, that title kind of gives everything away, doesn’t it?

Terri and Nick have been friends forever. They watched each other’s romances, offered shoulders to cry upon, cheered on each other’s accomplishments. So when Nick meets Terri for dinner one night and she announces that she has something to celebrate, Nick figures she scored a major client.

Or something.

Terri is celebrating, all right, because she decided she wants a baby. As luck would have it, Nick needs an heir! His grandfather proffered some silly dare to his three grandsons that they produce a kid, and Nick figures he can get his while Terri gets hers.

When they decide to get their baby the old fashioned way, their little friendship gets a whole lot cozier. And hotter. And, um, yummier.

How Terri can think she will EVER want another man after she rocks the headboard with Nick is a question best not pondered.

You may think you know where this is headed, and you’re right. It does. But along the way, you get some pretty scorching love scenes, and you will enjoy Nick and Terri, even if you want to clobber one, either or both of them on occasion. They are frustrating people, but that’s why they are meant for each other. Everyone sees it.

This is a fun, quick, fairly hot read.

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Filed under Hot Romance Novels