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Marleen (Cavan, Ireland)
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My Education
My Education
by Susan Choi
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.00

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting story but too wordy, 11 Aug 2013
This review is from: My Education (Paperback)
The story:

It is 1992 and Regina Gottlieb, 20 years old, is starting her graduate degree. From the very first time she sees him at a poetry reading, Regina is mesmerized by Nicholas Brodeur, the seductive English professor with a rather shocking reputation. Although she is well aware that it may not be the smartest thing to do, Regina accepts a job as his assistant and slowly finds herself entering the world Nicholas and his wife, Martha, inhabit. Getting closer to Nicholas and Martha means a distance develops between Regina and her house-mate, friend and occasional lover, Dutra.

While it is Regina's fascination with Nicholas Brodeur and his reputation that entices her into his orbit, he won't be the subject of her fantasies and desires. A passionate affair will follow, but instead of Nicholas it will be the person closest to him who captivates Regina to such an extent that she disregards the consequences her feelings and actions will have, both for herself and for those around her. And it won't be until 15 years later that the conflicts that started in 1992 and their lasting consequences come to the surface and have a chance of being put to rest.

My thoughts:

I am not entirely sure how I feel about this book or what to say about it. This a rather typical coming-of-age story in that it portrays the journey a young woman makes from the innocence and happy-go-lucky lifestyle so typical of teenagers to the very real and harsh consequences that an affair and first deep, but unattainable love can bring. And the gravity of everything Regina encounters and experiences jumps of the page in the form of long and at times seemingly mindless descriptions of everything she sees, feels, does and experiences. And that is where my main issue with this book lies. While I realise that those first encounters with deep but impossible love can turn us into philosophers, I can't help feeling that this book, or rather the writing in it, was trying to be a bit too clever. Overly long and detailed descriptions and complicated structures to the sentences forced me regularly to re-read a sentence or paragraph multiple times before I got the meaning. And this enforced re-reading kept on taking me out of what was a very interesting story.

Because, while the main story-line was fascinating, it seemed to take a back-seat to all those descriptions. After almost 400 pages I can only say that at all times I felt that very little was actually happening in this story. The emotions as experienced by Regina never quite seemed to match that which was happening to her and despite all the descriptions I never developed an understanding for her actions or a clear picture of what was motivating the other characters caught up in this drama.

I guess it is hard to get truly involved in a story in which the object of everybody's desires is a character I can't find attractive and, probably more importantly, can't imagine anybody else finding attractive either. Because it isn't really Regina's actions that upset everybody's lives. In fact, you could say that while Regina is the one relating this story she isn't really the main catalyst in it. That honour, in my opinion, falls to the person she has her affair with, the person I could never get a handle on or sympathise with.

From the description on the back of this book it would be easy to get the impression that this is a work of erotic fiction; however it isn't. While an affair plays a huge and devastating part in this story, and that affair is definitely passionate, this is not the sort of book that indulges in detailed or long descriptions of intimacy. This is a book about feelings, about acting on those feelings and the consequences those actions can have, not only on the lives of those personally caught up in that passion but also on those around them. This is a literary novel about love, lust, betrayal and devastation. It is a story about growing up and recognising the consequences of our actions, even if it takes years for the real consequences to come to the surface.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I liked the story, or the idea behind it, but didn't - always - enjoy the way in which it was told. To me this book seemed at times overly descriptive and lyrical which made it a slow and at times a bit of a hard to follow reading experience for me. I can't help feeling though that this may well be a deficiency on my part rather than a fault of the author. If you enjoy a thoughtful, descriptive and introspective story written by someone who uses words masterfully as well as abundantly, you will probably love this book.

A Serpentine Affair
A Serpentine Affair
by Tina Seskis
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever and Intriguing, 5 Aug 2013
This review is from: A Serpentine Affair (Paperback)
I received my copy from the author through NetGalley and rated it 4.5 stars.

"The evening was set to be balmy, perfect for a picnic, even one destined to end in disaster."

This quote perfectly describes the feel of this book. The story is told in a mellow and gentle tone with a constant threat of doom lingering underneath.

Seven women, Juliette, Camilla, Siobhan, Sissy, JoAnne, Katie and Natasha met and became close friends while in college in Bristol. Seven very different women with different personalities, backgrounds, insecurities, hopes and dreams found each other and became a close knit group of friends.

Twenty-five years later a lot of things have changed. The seven women all lead different lives, have all experienced their own ups and downs and really don't have a whole lot in common anymore. Issues have sprung up between them, some having their origins in the years they spent in college and some developed over the subsequent years. Little lies told, small resentments clung to as well as secrets kept have festered into bigger issues over the years until they've now reached boiling point. None of the seven, formerly close, friends thinks meeting for this picnic is a good idea but with each of them reluctant to be the one to put the final nail in the coffin of their friendship, they all turn up.

By the time the evening is over one of them is missing and all of them wish they had stayed away from the park that night. Lives are about to be changed irrevocably and long held secrets will be uncovered. The picnic will be a turning point in the life of each of these women.

This is a heartbreaking and realistic story about friendship and relationships and how they change over time. It shows how slights and mistakes that may seem small at the time can have enormous repercussions later on in life. Secrets are kept and fester until they have grown too big to be controlled.

Earlier this year I read One Step Too Far by this author and was really impressed by Tina Seskis' ability keep her readers guessing while telling a fascinating story. I have to say she does the same thing even better in this book; she is very good at keeping the suspense and secrets alive without giving the reader the feeling that she's actually withholding information. She builds the revelation of what is actually going on with the various characters from the very start of the book until the very last word on the very last page. At various points throughout this book I felt that I knew what was going on, only to be surprised by an unexpected twist.

Seskis' writing is smooth and the story almost too easy to read. She draws you in with her words and her characters, giving the reader a false sense of security only to rock their perceptions as the secrets are slowly uncovered leading to an ending that is both heartbreaking and shocking, although not necessarily for the reasons you would expect.

One word of warning though; it is important for the reader to pay close attention while reading this book. There are a lot of characters in this book, and the list grows as their lives progress. Read this book too fast and you'll lose track of who is connected to, or has issues with, whom. And because of the tension that lies just underneath the surface, the need to race through the story in order to find out what exactly is, and has been, going on is at times almost impossible to ignore.

This is an original page-turner with a clever and intriguing story written by an author who I expect will continue to surprise her readers in years to come.

Inferno: (Robert Langdon Book 4)
Inferno: (Robert Langdon Book 4)
by Dan Brown
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.00

3.0 out of 5 stars More of the same, 31 July 2013
And so we may have reached the point where Dan Brown / Robert Langdon and I have to part ways. I really enjoyed The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons when I read them a few years ago. When I read The Lost Symbol I was starting to think that maybe it was just more of the same and now that I've finished Inferno I know that I was right. Dan Brown appears to have one story in him which he keeps on rehashing and which, it would appear, the public is only too delighted to continue reading.

Up to a point I understand why his books are so popular. There is a huge threat to the world, with both the exact threat and the possible solution obscured by symbolic messages and riddles that only one, unlikely, hero can decipher and solve, thus, hopefully, preventing disaster. Written down like this it should be a winning formula and if sales figures are anything to go buy, it is.

So, why isn't it really working for me any more?

If I'm honest, I have to admit that I have a hard time explaining exactly why the story just didn't work for me this time, but it didn't. I found it too easy to put the book down. This should be a page-turner and compulsive reading but proved to be anything but for me. I got bored with the long descriptions, the writing felt clumsy and I never experienced that sense of urgency that I get when I read a good book, especially a well plotted thriller.

And that is a shame because I was intrigued by the whole mystery revolving around Dante's Inferno and fascinated by the philosophies behind the threat Robert Langdon is trying to avert. I can't help feeling that this could have been a captivating read if only it had been about 100 pages shorter, if the interruptions of the action had been fewer and/or shorter, if there had been less repetition in the story, if the writing had felt less clumsy, if...

It doesn't seem fair to castigate an author for finding a successful formula and sticking to it. Lots of authors have built very successful careers on doing exactly that; James Patterson and Nora Roberts are two high profile authors that immediately spring to mind. And while my feelings with regard to Patterson are not too far of those I expressed above about Brown, I have nothing but admiration for Nora Roberts who can use her formula and still give me stories that feel fresh and new.

Still, the way things stand, and given the amount of new and exciting books being published every month, I think it is unlikely I will pick up the next Robert Langdon adventure when it comes out. Having said that, it will probably be at least two years until that moment arrives and knowing myself, there is a good possibility that by that stage curiosity will get the better of me and I'll be tempted anyway. Time will tell.

Together in Cyn: 1 (Members Only)
Together in Cyn: 1 (Members Only)
Price: 2.74

4.0 out of 5 stars HOT MENAGE A BIT TOO SHORT, 30 July 2013
I received my copy from Ellora's Cave through NetGalley.

Cyn has been in love and lust with fraternal twins Chris and Jared for as long as she can remember. She has never told them that though or that she has very kinky fantasies involving the two of them. She's too afraid that admitting to her feelings or acting on them would spoil the wonderful friendship they have. But, if they could read her mind, the twins would soon discover that there is only one reason why they never see her with a man:

"Because I'm in love with you and your twin. Have been for almost a decade. I've got a journal at home filled with what I want you to do to me and I'll never be brave enough to show it to you."

Cyn would rather do without than disappoint herself as a result of sleeping with somebody who isn't Chris and Jared and so:

"My sex life...well, visualize the Titanic sinking and you get the gist."

Nothing can convince her that her fantasies could come true:

"Chris and Jared were my every fantasy and I ached for them. I craved something dark and dangerous I had no right to want - not from them both."

Until she discovers that the twins have read her diary and not only know all about her fantasies but also share them. While she always knew that Chris and Jared liked her and wanted to look after her, she never imagined that their feelings could be any deeper. But now that the secret is out the men don't waste any time making sure that Cyn is theirs and knows it:

"You've always been more important than any house or club and that was before we claimed you."

Cyn may have had fantasies about submitting to the twins for as long as she can remember, she isn't sure she will actually be able to do that. Her background and past experiences make her weary of that which she graves. The twins however recognise something in her; they know that she is more than capable of fulfilling her fantasies:

"You were born to take pleasure so all-consuming it threatens to steal your mind, and mine. You were made strong enough to submit to not only one Dom but two. Two men who want to push every sexual limit you've every conceived of and fall with you over the precipice into something you never knew existed."

Or, as a new found friend in the twins BDSM club puts it to Cyn:

"Submission is a beautiful thing. Giving yourself so freely to someone else. Trusting them. Believing in them. It takes a strong woman to be able to do that."

It takes time, reflection, long overdue honesty and being forced out of their comfort zones for this trio to become what they were meant to be. For Cyn it means accepting, at last that:

"...they needed me to be nothing more than myself."

I'm not quite sure what to say about this book. I liked the idea behind the story, I liked the characters in it and loved the very hot sex scenes. On the other hand, because I liked the story so much I would have loved to see more of it. As much as I enjoyed the enticing descriptions of everything Cyn gets up to with her two lovers, I wanted to read a bit more about her back-story and the mental battles she went through as a result of what had happened to her. I longed to read more about what she had to work through in order to really give herself to the brothers. As it is, we don't find much about her thought-processes. And the same is true for the twins, especially Chris. As it is written it feels as if the back-story is only there to give the author an excuse to write very steamy and delicious sex scenes. And in this book the back-story is just too good and intriguing to be treated in that way.

But, and I know I'm starting to contradict myself here, I'm also grateful that the author didn't turn this book into one of those angsty stories in which the heroine is forever second guessing herself and we seem to play the "will she - won't she" game for pages on end.

I guess that what I'm saying is that I could have done with this book being maybe fifty pages longer. Fifty pages which could have told us more about the characters back-grounds and everything that Chris and Cyn went through in order to overcome their issues and reach their happy ending. As it was written both Cyn and Chris went from feeling completely incapable of submitting to or inflicting a certain act, to jumping, feet first, into a rather extreme version of exactly what they were so afraid of. That turn-around, while intriguing, would have been far more believable if there had been a bit more of a build-up to it.

For me this was one very hot, very explicit and extremely sexy story; an easy and enticing read that could have been more with just a bit more attention to the background story and the characters' thoughts and feelings. If, however, you are looking for a steamy story filled with sexy scene after enticing sexy scene than this is just the book for you. Jennifer Casey does know how to write hot sex very, very well.

Truth (Finding Anna Book 3)
Truth (Finding Anna Book 3)
Price: 4.31

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, Though-Provoking and Sexy, 30 July 2013
I received from Writer's Coffee Shop through NetGalley and rated it 4.5 stars

This is the third book in the Finding Anna quartet and really shouldn't be read unless you've read the first two books, "Slave" and "Need".

Brianna has come a long way since Stephan rescued her. While she is still easily scared and has little or no self-confidence she does feel completely safe with Stephan and trusts him implicitly. The arrival of her father on Stephan's doorstep almost manages to set her back to the scared and withdrawn girl she was only a little while ago. But once that threat appears to have been dealt with Brianna and Stephan are able to continue on the slow but steady road to her recovery.

And Brianna is making real progress. While she is still deeply insecure she is slowly starting to trust that Stephan really does want the best for her. And though she may not always like his methods, she knows that his demands on her are made only to help her. Watching Brianna while she discovers that being intimate with a man - having sex with Stephan - was pleasurable and rewarding rather than demeaning and painful was beautiful. The moment when she realizes that she loves him put a huge smile on my face.

"Swallowing I looked into his eyes. What I saw only confirmed what I already knew. I'd do anything for him. Be anything he needed me to be."

Something I really appreciate in these books is that the author takes her time. There are no miracle cures in this story. Hopefully the last book will proof that love does conquer all, but the first three books show us that it is a long way to recovery. Brianna has been through a soul-shattering experience that left her fearful, prone to panic attacks and withdrawn. It is taking lots of time, patience and love to get her to build up her sense of self again, to give her the confidence she needs to face the rest of her life and to make her belief that she is good enough; good enough for Stephan and good enough in her own right. It is a psychological journey fraught with fear and pain but one that shows that with love and patience overcoming the unthinkable is possible.

Too many authors take short-cuts when dealing with a scenario like this. Too often I have read about broken and scarred characters who meet their true love and almost instantly put their past behind them. Sherri Hayes, thankfully, doesn't. She takes the reader along the road Brianna has to travel and shows us the tiny steps she takes towards trust and love. She is not afraid to tell her story slowly, at a pace that matches Brianna's progress and includes all the inevitable set-backs she encounters.

Stephan is an equally realistic character. While, for a long time, it seems that maybe he is too good to be true, this book shows he is "only" human after all. He makes mistakes while trying to help Brianna and he has his own fears and insecurities. He needs Brianna to guide him as much as he needs to help her. The result is a heartbreakingly realistic and beautiful story that will have you smiling and crying, hoping for the best while fearing the worst and rooting for Stephan and Brianna all the way.

Another thing that really works for me in these books is that it gives a wonderful insight into the world of BDSM. It doesn't shy away from exposing its evil excesses while showing that in its true form it is all about love, communication and trust. Because there are characters in this book of both the BDSM and Vanilla variety, the reader sees both the prejudices against the lifestyle and the beauty of what it is when indulged in by two loving partners. And because Brianna, as a result of her horrendous experiences in the past, has to be introduced to all the various aspects of this relationship at a very slow pace, the reader is eased into the concept as well.

I'm really glad this book didn't end on a heart-stopping cliff-hanger like "Need" did. While it certainly ends on a crucial plot point and does leave the reader with a desperate need to find out what is going to be happening next, there is no sense of doom this time, only a profound sadness, and for that I'm eternally grateful.

Having said that, I'm not going to enjoy waiting for the final installment in this series. I read somewhere that Sherri Hayes hopes to have it out in the first half of 2014 and I can only hope that by that she means January 1st. Because everything in this book indicates that the final installment is going to be intense and filled with developments. A lot still needs to happen if Stephan and Brianna are going to find their happily ever after, and keeping in mind the ending of this book, the road there is going to be anything but easy for this couple.

The Darwin Elevator (Dire Earth Cycle 1)
The Darwin Elevator (Dire Earth Cycle 1)
by Jason M. Hough
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fast Paced, Thrilling and with a sense of humour., 27 July 2013
"The builders came to Earth and constructed an elevator from Darwin, Australia into space. No one knows why, or if they will return"

Following the arrival of the cable, humankind has built space stations at various altitudes along the space cable. Living in the space stations are scientist, agriculturalists and other, privileged people. Several years later a plague envelopes the planet turning humans into feral animals. The only ones protected are the rare "immunes" and the people who live within a 9 mile radius of the space elevator which exudes an Aura of protection. Of course those living in the space stations are also protected, due to their isolation from earth.

Skyler Luiken is one of a group of scavengers who roam the planet in mothballed ex air force aircraft, searching for anything useful which can be sold to the elites who live in orbit. What's unusual about Luiken's team is that they are all "immunes" meaning that they don't have to use cumbersome haz-mat suits while out plying their trade.

The political balance of Darwin sits on a knife edge with Neil Platz in control of the orbital habitats and Russell Blackfield controlling the ground station of Nightcliff, the anchor point for the space elevator. The orbitals control food production, owned by Platz, who has his own dark secrets, and the ground-station controls the supply of Air and Water to the orbitals.

This is the setting for this debut novel from Hough. First thoughts are that I liked this first book in the "Dire Earth Cycle". There have been a plethora of dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels released in recent years and it is reassuring to finally find one that doesn't make me want to "slash my wrists" after reading it. The main characters are well developed and, unusually for such a novel, actually have a sense of humour, something severely lacking in a lot of other books of this particular genre such as Hugh Howeys "Wool" series. Skyler Luiken is a reluctant hero, who more or less by accident finds himself drawn into the political battle for the ultimate control of mankind's destiny. He has to pit his wits against Blackfield who is a "baddie" in the true classical sense of the word.

And still, the power struggle may only be the start of humankind's problems; for the builders are returning...

The gulf in the quality of life between the "Orbitals" and the Darwinians is huge. The orbitals live in relative luxury, completely removed from the daily and constant struggle for survival which is the lot of most of the earthbound population, all of whom are dreaming of one day ascending to space to a life without fear of starvation or premature death.

This was a fast-paced and thrilling read. And while it is clear that there is more story left to tell I am grateful that the author didn't leave me stranded on one of those heart-stopping cliff-hangers that seem to be all the rage these days.

I was very pleasantly surprised with this first offering from Hough, who managed to instil a sense of hope and optimism, and not a little humour into a subject which too often is portrayed in a truly grim manner, and I look forward to the next two instalments in the series, "The Exodus Towers" and "The Plague Forge".

Escaping Reality (The Secret Life of Amy Bensen Book 1)
Escaping Reality (The Secret Life of Amy Bensen Book 1)

4.0 out of 5 stars A Hot and Exciting Romantic Mystery, 25 July 2013
I received my copy from Julie Patra Publishing through NetGalley.

Allow me to start my review with a confession: this book is marketed as a New Adult title and I'm not entirely sure what that means. I get Young Adult and I get Adult Fiction but I can't quite get my head around this new concept; I couldn't before I read this book and I'm not any clearer about it now.

Be that as it is, and leaving genre issues aside, I did really enjoy this book. Lisa Renee Jones once again brings us an intriguing story and compelling characters. And she builds the story up in such a way that it isn't instantly clear to the reader what exactly is going on. Why is Amy on the run? What has happened in the past? And why is Amy still in danger, six years after a rather mysterious but obviously devastating event destroyed her life?

If Amy has learned one thing over the past six years it is that she is alone. She can't trust anybody because she doesn't know exactly what or whom she's running from and because she realizes that everybody associated with her will be in as much danger as she is. And while she has, in the past, successfully kept people at arms length, she finds this is something she can't do with Liam after she meets him. With him she feels an instant connection, although that doesn't stop her from deflecting his questions and feeding him convenient lies:

"I'm so good at lying. I almost convince myself it's the truth."

Liam, a prodigy billionaire architect with a reputation for being reclusive takes an instant interest in young Amy and seems determined to stay close to her, despite her best efforts to run away from him. He appears to be aware that Amy is holding back on him but doesn't push her to reveal more than she feels comfortable with while at the same time insisting that she accepts his help and attention.

For Amy, her attraction to Liam and his interest in her leads to confusion:

"You're you, he'd said. Only that's the whole problem. I'm not me."

Because the biggest problem Amy faces is that although she knows she is in danger and suffers from horrendous flashbacks, she isn't entirely sure what exactly happened six years ago and has no idea why her life was hit by disaster:

"This man who knows where he has been and who he is. I know nothing of me, not even where I have really, truly been and why I am here. Why I exist."

And while Amy knows that it would be better, safer, for both of them if she could just stay away from Liam, her attraction to him and the way her mind and body respond to his attention seem to make this impossible:

"I am naked before this man but I am so much more. I am exposed, vulnerable, and somehow I feel protected and safe."

Liam seems to see, to understand, that Amy is lost, alone and afraid. He seems to instinctively know what she needs - an escape from her problems - and he is determined to give it to her:

"The lack of control is control. When you're hanging on to each moment, anticipating what comes next, it leaves room for nothing else. That's what I want to do for you."

Liam makes Amy feel things she's never felt before and never expected to experience. And while his need to control her and her life is both scary and overwhelming he also brings her the peace she needs to sleep without suffering from nightmares and sexual pleasures she didn't know she could experience:

Your new territory to me, Liam. I have never met anyone like you. You're overbearingly generous and overwhelmingly male, or maybe it's the reverse."

Liam seems to be well aware that Amy is at all times only one step away from disappearing from his life and does what he can to make sure she doesn't:

"And baby, I want you, and all I can say is you might be smart to run before I get any more into you, but please don't."

Until Amy overhears something that makes her question everything she thought she knew about this man, something that makes her take a radical decision...

This is another one of those books that ends on a cliff-hanger. And while it completely achieves its intended goal and leaves me yearning for the rest of the story it also leaves me a bit frustrated. Lisa Renee Jones writing and stories are more than good enough to make me go back for more without being "forced" to do so by cliff-hangers. Yes, I completely get why books end on cliff-hangers but that doesn't make me like them any better.

Initially I had one or two questions marks about this story-line. I just wasn't convinced that somebody who has been on the run for six years and has built her life around not trusting anyone and constantly looking over her shoulder would instantly trust a stranger, like Amy did when she meets Liam. I also felt that all the mysteries surrounding her new life and the coincidences she suddenly notices would have worried her more. After finishing the whole book though I've come to accept that after six years in the dark Amy has probably reached the point where she needs to change her life, take control of it, and Liam just happens to be the trigger. And once I accepted that, the whole story made perfect sense.

Lisa Renee Jones has given us a story that delivers on several levels. This is one hot love story as well as a compelling mystery. Add to that some fascinating characters and lots of tension and you have yourself a book that is almost impossible to put down.

So, cliff-hanger not withstanding, or thanks to a very gripping cliff-hanger - who knows - I will be trying to get my hands on "Infinite Possibilities" as soon as it becomes available. I'm looking forward to finding out exactly what has happened in Amy's past and why, and can't wait to discover exactly what is going on with Liam. It appears that this sequel is planned for October and that date can't come soon enough. Taking into account all the questions that need answering, I've got a feeling "Infinite Possibilities" is going to be even more exciting than this book was.

Wicked Autumn (Max Tudor 1)
Wicked Autumn (Max Tudor 1)
by G M Malliet
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant Cozy, 18 July 2013
I received my copy from Constable & Robinson

On the surface, the village of Nether Monkslip is idyllic and peaceful; the perfect place for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of modern life. It certainly seemed the perfect escape for Max Tudor, a former MI5 agent, turned vicar after a horrible incident made him question his job and his life.

You don't have to dig very deep beneath the surface though to discover that Nether Monkslip, like most places, is nowhere near as perfect as it might seem. And the root of all of the village's issues can be traced back to just one woman, be it a very formidable example of the gender.

Wanda Batton-Smythe is the sort of woman who needs to be in control of everything and everybody around her and only capable of securing her imagined position by putting down everybody she encounters. And, with the Harvest Fayre only a few days away, nobody escapes the attention or the wrath of this very unpopular president of the Women's Institute.

When Wanda's body is discovered in the village hall on the day of the Fayre, it appears at first that she died as the result of an accident involving her allergy to peanuts. Max Tudor's secret service instincts kick in almost immediately though. He can't quite put his finger on it, but something appears wrong and he is convinced he is looking at the results of foul play rather than misfortune.

The police share Max' concerns and pull him into the investigation. As the vicar, Max has better insight into the villager's lives and more opportunity to sound them out than the police could ever have. But, with nearly every person in the village having a reason to dislike if not hate the victim and everybody's comings and goings confused as a result of the Fayre it will take a lot of talking, time and some deep reflection before the mystery is solved.

I'm not quite sure what to say about this book and feel a bit ambivalent about it. To start with the positives, I really liked Max Tudor as a character. The contrast between his past as an MI5 agent and his present as the village vicar make him a fascinating protagonist. It also allows the author to portray him as a seasoned yet gentle investigator. I also enjoyed the village setting and the various characters living there. And the mystery was well developed and presented; all the clues where there, available to the reader. The solution, while being a bit convoluted, made sense and fit the over-all story line.

On the down side, I wasn't too fond of the authors need to describe everything mentioned in the book in almost tedious detail. Max Tudor didn't enter a room or house without the reader being treated to long, and often irrelevant, descriptions of what could be found there. I found that these descriptions tended to drag me out of the story rather than pull me in and made me want to skim passages.

Another thing that failed to convince me were the numerous references to other works of fiction such as:

"For it was a truth universally acknowledged that a single vicar must be in want of a wife."

"The woman who liked to stir hornets' nests."

"She wondered if it were too soon to put the cat among the pigeons."

I'm sure there were quite a few other references but these stuck out for me. I can't quite make up my mind whether the author was trying to be clever or funny or something else altogether. On the other hand, this didn't iritate me so much as bemuse me, and it is quite possible that other readers would get a kick out of looking for and finding these references.

Overall though I thought this was a cute and cosy fun mystery. The book is well written, the mystery and its solution worked and were well plotted and Max Tudor is an interesting character. There are at least two more books to come in this series and I will definitely read the next book, "A Fatal Winter", before making up my mind about this series.

Bonds of Desire: Book Three of Wicked Play
Bonds of Desire: Book Three of Wicked Play
Price: 1.45

5.0 out of 5 stars Hot and beautiful menage, 16 July 2013
I received my copy from Carina Press through NetGalley.

This is the third book in the "Wicked Play" series and I think it is my favourite. While "Bonds of Need" and "Bonds of Trust" dealt with one-on-one relationships, be it in a BDSM environment, this book centres on a threesome.

Master Seth, one of the three Doms owning and running The Den BDSM club, and Allison (Allie) English haven't seen each other since Allie made her one and only visit to the club a few months ago. Unbeknownst to them, they haven't been able to get each other out of their minds.

Tyler Wysong is a new character. As a male prostitute working through an agency he finds himself submitting to a powerful and abusive Dom in one of the private rooms of The Den. When the Dom goes too far in his abuse, the owners of the club intervene and stop the scene. Their action comes too late though to prevent Tyler from being seriously injured.

Allie is called into the club by the three Doms for Tyler's sake. If he wants to press charges, they want to make sure he has the best possible representation.

As soon as Seth, Tyler and Allie find themselves together it becomes clear that there is a strong chemistry between the three of them. But with Tyler being injured and very stand-offish and Allie having all sorts of doubts and misconceptions about the BDSM scene, Seth's plan to introduce the other two to the pleasures of submission appear doomed from the start.

"The pull to Tyler was just as strong as the one to Allie - and just as wrong." (Seth)

A week together under Seth's gentle yet dominating guidance awakens strong and unexpected feelings in all three of them. Despite his resistance to Seth's attentions and his doubts about why he is actually in the Dom's loft, Tyler can't deny that Seth's presence has a profound effect on him:

"Just one touch, right there, and all of the tension dripped from him, leaving behind nothing but calm compliance."

Tyler may have been renting himself out as a sub, he has never, ever truly submitted to anyone. And now, in his vulnerable position, he finds himself wondering:

"What would it be like to truly, honestly, surrender and trust this man before him?"

And Allie has a lot to come to terms with as well. She can't deny her attraction to Seth and Tyler, in fact:

"Whether Allie admitted it to herself or not, she needed this. They all did for one reason or another."

And she has to admit that submitting to her partners is not something that stems from her being weak or Seth and Tyler taking advantage of her.

"She wasn't bound, she was freed. And with a long, slow exhale, she let go."

Allie, like many a new submissive before her, has to learn that submitting isn't about giving up your power to someone else. As Seth explains to her so very eloquently:

"It takes more courage to willingly give yourself to a Dom than it does for the Dom to tie you down...I can only have what you give me. In that way, you control me."

But it is not just Allie and Tyler who have to come to terms with their new feelings. Seth may be an experienced Dom, the feelings he has for his two guests and the hopes these raise within him for the future are new and confusing:

"Seth bit back a groan. They were so close and damn, but he wanted this threesome to work. He wasn't sure why or how it would succeed of if he wanted two subs, but he wouldn't let this slip away. Allie seemed to give something to Tyler that Seth couldn't and he wanted Tyler to have that. The man needed to know that he was more than his occupation. That there were people in the world who wanted him for who he was. And Allie stirred something in Seth he wanted to claim just as much as Tyler."

Their one week together is magical for all three of them. But after that week the real world awaits them again. A secret act of kindness from Seth manages to upset Tyler so much that he breaks all contact with the Dom and Allie. And Allie and Seth don't have a future if it doesn't include Tyler as well. It will take a near disaster to bring the three together again and give them another opportunity to embrace the unconventional but oh so tempting relationship.

"Yeah, she really could have them both. The future would sort itself out and it'd be okay, because not trying, not seeing, would be worse." (Allie)

There was a lot I loved in this book. First and foremost I really like Lynda Aicher's writing and characters. The story runs smoothly and has the perfect balance between general story and (very) sexy scenes. These characters are real and completely normal people and it is easy to identify with them, even if you may not be able to imagine yourself in a similar situation.

I also liked that this book shows that there is another side to BDSM. A side that doesn't involve pain or public displays of humiliation:

"Have faith in the three of us. No one is here to hurt the other."

In fact, the author goes one step further. What started out as a power-exchange has turned into something completely different but equally wonderful by the time all conflicts are resolved:

"But he wasn't their Master. He was their lover. That was perfect."

It is wonderful to see the characters grow and change while at the same time staying true to themselves in this story. And the change is biggest for Allie with her very traditional and conservative background and career-driven life. She has to grow a lot but it is worth every struggle when she realizes that:

"More importantly, she needed them both. They gave her balance where she hadn't known she required it."

And I delighted in the hotness of this book. While a ménage may be a bit much for some readers, it worked very well for me. I'm impressed with the way in which Lynda Aicher managed to write a very sexy story about a three-some without ever making it feel cheap or over the top.

Although these three books take care of the three Doms who own The Den, I really hope that Lynda Aicher continues with this series. And it does appear that she has created a wonderful opportunity to do just that in the epilogue. My fingers are firmly crossed that she will continue with this very entertaining, if slightly wicked, series.

Never Forget
Never Forget
by Lisa Cutts
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Start to a Fascinating New Series, 14 July 2013
This review is from: Never Forget (Paperback)
I received my copy from Myriad Editions through Nudge

The investigation starts when the body of a woman is found. She's been stabbed several times and has been dead for a few days at least. Detective Constable Nina Foster is one of many officers recruited to help with the investigation into the death of the woman who turns out to have been a prostitute with an eight year old son.

It's not long after that a second body is discovered. Although there is no known connection between the woman and the second victim, his wounds seem to indicate a link between the two deaths.

As the investigation progresses the body count continues to rise and for a long time any connection between the victims remains obscure. When a link is at last established it also reveals a connection to a traumatic event in Nina's past. Now she has to add worrying about being allowed to stay on the investigation to all the investigative threads running through her head.

But even with evidence slowly pointing the investigators in the right direction, it will take a violent confrontation and a surprising rescuer to bring the investigation to a close and a rather surprising ending to the book.

This book is Lisa Cutts' first novel and mystery. Drawing on her own experience as a police officer she writes a realistic yet deeply layered mystery. In fact, this is a book that requires attention from the reader. There are multiple characters with complicated connections between them to keep track of. And, since this is the first book in a planned series, a lot of attention is also paid to establishing Nina Foster as a well-rounded and realistic protagonist.

Initially Nina seemed a bit of a stereo type, with her habit of viewing every single man she met as a possible date or partner and her constant preoccupation with wine. Taking into account Nina's background though I can only applaud the author for not making her main character a lot more neurotic than she was. Many authors I can think of would have taken this character and made her appear far more disturbed than Mrs. Cutts did, just to add drama to the story. With the story-line being what it is this book didn't need that extra dimension and I'm delighted she resisted what must have been a rather tempting opportunity.

The mystery is well plotted, the investigation realistically described and the resolution both exciting and believable. I had a bit of a problem keeping the various characters involved in the investigation separated in my mind. While it is completely realistic that an investigation as described in this book would involve numerous police officers, and it also makes sense to introduce the characters that will play a role in what is to be a series of mysteries in the very first book, I did find myself getting a bit confused at times. On the other hand, there were a few characters who I imagine will make return appearances in future Nina Foster mysteries, and those were described in such a way that I got a good impression of who they were and what role the play in Nina's life without taking any pace out of the thrilling story-line. I'm impressed with the balance the author managed to strike; she gave me enough information about her characters to keep me interested yet left me curious about future books with everything that hasn't yet been revealed.

The short of it is that I really enjoyed this book. It is wonderful to find a new series with an interesting and realistic protagonist, a well written story and a complex and well executed mystery. I'm going to keep an eye out for future Nina Foster mysteries. If this debut is anything to go by, the world is one very talented mystery author richer.

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