Category Archives: sometimes the book just flat out sucks

Stuck in Downward Dog

Stuck in Downward Dog
by Chantel Guertin
Published by ECW Press / Key Porter Books
272 pages
Genre: chick lit (I guess)
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
1 / 5

I wasn’t sure whether to post this review or not, because I do respect writers and am aware that it is tremendously challenging to write a novel.

But sometimes, kids, books just aren’t that good.

Mara just got dumped by her boyfriend, has a job she hates, friends she doesn’t particularly seem to enjoy all that much, and a life that is in a deep, deep rut. Thank goodness for yoga, which is the only positive thing she has going on.

And there you have it: the sum total of this novel.

Sure, there is some social commentary about plastic surgery and cosmetics. And social climbing. And societal notions about what women should be doing with their lives. But as far as a real story is concerned? I couldn’t find one. It’s more of a stringing together of events than anything else.

Oh, and romance? There is NONE. Not even the hint of one. The ex-boyfriend? Mara doesn’t seem too bummed that he’s out of the picture. In fact, her lack of reaction beyond the surface leads us to believe that she never cared all that much for him in the first place.

Her so-called friends are horrific. One gets married and fails to ask Mara to be a part of the festivities, and the other is shallow and critical. Between them and the boyfriend, you wonder if Mara is a poor judge of character. Or, worse, if she draws all this negativity toward her.

The only reason I finished this thing was because I was convinced it would get better.

I was wrong.

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Sleeping with Dogs and Other Lovers: A Second Acts Novel

Sleeping with Dogs and Other Lovers
by Julia Dumont
Published by BroadLit
254 pages
Genre: romance; chick lit
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
2 / 5 cupcakes

My first thought upon finishing this book: what in the hell was this book about?

My second thought: thank goodness that’s over.

Here is your basic plot: Cynthia has started a matchmaking business, determined to use her time honed skills of sussing out who’s right for whom to help out the lovelorn. An ex boyfriend shows up to test her limits, and she has to decide whether she wants to try again with him.

Oh, and dogs. There are dogs here too. One of Cynthia’s clients owns some dogs, one of whom seems to be telepathic and other worldly.

Emphasis on “seems to be,” because we never really know. In fact, the vast quantities of things we never really know could make up a book in themselves.

Parts of this are funny and entertaining. Cynthia has a somewhat predictable relationship with her mother – there is nothing new here, and you will feel as if you’ve read it before – and her first client, Lolita, is unique.

But not enough is interesting. It’s as if you are reading synopses of previously published books, because this feels like you’ve read it before. And that, my little book loving friends, is not a good sign for a novel. Even the sex scenes are a snooze-fest.

The good news: it’s a quick read.

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Circle of Danger

Circle of Danger
Carla Swafford
Published by Avon Books
Publishing date: June 19, 2012
336 pages
Available on
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
2 cupcakes (for the sexy times)

Before I eviscerate this book, let me just say that I admire writers tremendously. It is so difficult to create characters who inspire us to care about them and to send those characters on a path that keeps us entertained, interested and emotionally invested. I try really hard not to write negative reviews about books; I would rather not write a review at all than pick apart an author’s work.

But when I read something like Circle of Danger, I feel like someone (in this case Carla Swafford, is toying with me, and I am not amused.

Here is the absolutely ridiculous, if not insultingly silly, premise of this book: there is a group of people called The Circle who are assassins <insert first mocking snort here> who kill people – I can’t even tell you who they kill or why. But they’re assassins. And at one point, their top dog was a guy they called Master who abused them when they were younger.

So we’ve got a band of secret assassins once ruled by a deranged pedophile. With me so far?

When Marie, one of The Circle, gets caught in an operation, she is injected with a green serum that – GET THIS – makes her crave sex. She cannot function unless she has sex and an orgasm.

I KID YOU NOT, people.

So you can see, can you not, that we basically have an excuse for sex scene after sex scene.

But oh, there is so much more. Because we also have Bad Guys, the ones who are creating and using the serum – called Blossom Flower – who must be caught.

Marie’s protector, Ryker, who has Issues with a capital I-S-S-U-E-S, provides the services necessary to relieve her of her … um … burden. See, he loves her and she loves him and they’ve loved each other FOREVER, but they just can’t admit it, for pity’s sake. So Marie isn’t really sure how much of her itch she needs Ryker to scratch is due to Blossom Flower or her own desires. And Ryker’s Issues cause him some problems, because he cannot “achieve completion” unless, well, I won’t give that part away, just in case you decide to read this dreck.

This book is just so awful. And what’s worse is that I think we’re supposed to take it seriously, which makes me want to laugh or cry. I’m not sure which. Here is a sampling for you:

His own release denied him unless he showed her his dark side. His thumb pressed into the tight opening near where he thrust into her. Tempted, but a hidden fear stopped him from pressing further. In all likelihood, she would hate him for pushing her too far too soon.

 So he worked at bringing her relief. Not one inch of her body had been missed by his touch or mouth. She screamed his name with another wave of satisfaction but she gripped his thighs, telling him to keep pumping.

For the love of Christian Grey.

There are some action scenes, and there is quite a bit of headboard rockin’ (these two quite literally rock the headboard, almost through the wall). The sex scenes are hot. There. I said something positive. The sex scenes are HOT.

But the rest of this book is dreadful.

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Valley of Fire

Sometimes while reading, I will imagine a soundtrack for the book. In the case of Janelle Taylor’s Valley of Fire, that soundtrack is limited to this chorus: “A little less conversation, a little more action, please.”

Look, I admire authors. Writing a book is not easy, and I doff my wig to them at every opportunity. But sometimes, let’s face it, a book just is not good. Sometimes, a book just flat out is awful.

As far as Valley of Fire is concerned, the problems lie in repetition, failure to create engaging characters, and an entirely predictable story line. But mostly, the problem is in how it’s written. Ms. Taylor’s descriptive phrases are laugh out loud awful, to the point that I found myself saying out loud, on more than one occasion, “Who the hell published this crap?” There are some paragraphs in which every sentence begins with the same word. Hello, sentence variety? Do we not know about it?

And the talking. The talking, the talking, the talking. Good grief. There are more conversations in this book than I hold in a year. And every last one of them springs from a well of the ridiculous. Brandy Alexander (for reals, people – that is her name) is a novelist specializing in, well, I can’t really say. Historical romance? Science fiction? It seems to change. But anyway. She’s writing a book and needs to research Las Vegas and its environs. While there, she nearly dies of heat exhaustion, but is rescued by the strappingly virile and handsome Steven Winngate, who also happens to be – of course – very, very rich. He comes to believe that she’s researching him for one of her books, so he decides to get back at her. OF COURSE they fall for each other. Like, duh.

Over lunch, during one of their interminable conversations, she confesses to all manner of inner thoughts and personal motivations. Why? Don’t ask me. I can’t tell you. All I know is that I lost 30 minutes of my life reading that mess that I will never get back. I also wasted too much time reading Ms. Taylor’s lengthy descriptions of Steven’s and Brandy’s bodies and what they were wearing. To whit:

Sturdy legs agilely straddled the motor in his jeans. [THE MOTOR IN HIS JEANS??? Oh, my God. Again, the editor. WHERE IS THE EDITOR?] He sat the girl before him, careful to keep her legs and ankles away from the hot engine and tailpipe. He placed her left leg across his right thigh and her right leg over his left thigh. He removed his yellow bandana which served to entrap his perspiration as well as dress up his western attire. He bound her hands together and slipped them over his head, allowing them to rest around his narrow and firm waist [well, of course it’s NARROW AND FIRM, because we wouldn’t want to be anything less than predictable] where not an ounce of excess flesh was permitted to exist [!!!!!!!!]. The span of his muscular chest and the measured reach of her bound arms brought their heated bodies into close contact. 

It goes on. And on and on and on.

I can’t really explain the plot of this dreck, because, quite frankly, there isn’t much of one. You’ll get pages – and I mean PAGES – of Brandy explaining how difficult it is to write novels and love scenes and deal with editors. You’ll have to sift through pages of what it means to be a woman trying to work and have it all. And pages of Steven yapping about, well, not much, really.

Then there are the love scenes. Picture every hackneyed euphemism, amplify it by 1000%, and you have the sexy times in this book. Tongues lap around nipples, heat surges through bodies, kisses that shatter, hungry mouths, and passionate lovin’ that takes them to the edge of reality and completion.

Unlike Fifty Shades of Grey, which is written badly and edited worse, Valley of Fire has nothing going for it. There is not a captivating story here, nor are there interesting characters.

Do yourself a favor and avoid Valley of Fire. I read it so you don’t have to.

Published by Severn House Publishing Ltd. and available on
Thanks (I guess) to NetGalley for the preview.

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