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Archive for the ‘Brilliant Books’ Category

Heaven Help Me, Or Hell Have Me

I volunteered to read this and supply an honest review. I’d previously read CONNECTED and A MODERN LOVE STORY by the same author and had high hopes… I was delighted to say my hopes were not only met, but exceeded.

To say that Kassie is having a bad day, would be an understatement. Everything from tripping over the cat to being accosted on the way to work, seems set to ruin her day.

I’m waiting for the day when he flashes open his coat and I see more than hot jewelry. And when that day comes, I’m going to scrub my eyeballs out with Lysol. And then set them on fire.

Work sucks, as it does most days, especially when she has to fend off her boss, a man who makes wandering-hands seem tame. Eventually she’s home and repeating her mantra in bed.

Before I fall asleep, I almost ask out loud ‘What the hell else could happen?’, but I know better than to tempt the fates, and instead mutter, “Heaven help me, or Hell have me.” And then mentally amend it to Fuck Heaven, Hell take me.

I think it just this once, ‘cause I’m mad enough to go there.

Strangely, the day after is almost the complete opposite – especially when she’s told her boss is being investigated for harassment. At last! She goes home happy for once… and then things take a bizarre turn. There’s a ghost in her apartment. A rather hunky and gorgeous ghost.

 

I shoo at him like a fly. Only instead of my hand passing through his, I smack right into him. I looked right at him with wide eyes. I couldn’t help it! I just smacked a ghost for crying out loud!

Not only can she see – and touch him – they can speak to each other. He seems surprised when she assumes he’s a ghost, and that’s when she begins to wonder just what he really is.

“The other day,” he prompts. “Do you remember what you said?”

I think back – oh, that day – and scowl. “I’m pretty sure I said a lot of choice words on that particular day.”

“Yes, but one thing in particular put you in the spotlight.”

Her mantra – Hell Have Me – suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.

He studies me half a tick and nods. “Hell.”

“Hell?” I whisper. And then I do something I didn’t even think was possible, something I always thought was just a figure of speech. I gulp.

“You’re worried?”

I nod.

“Good,” he says, leaning in. “You should be.”

At this point I dragged my eyes away from the story to look at the % read counter – 66 %. Noooo, I muttered… I know this can’t all be nicely wrapped up and resolved in 34%, which means….. Yes. I have to wait for the next in the series.

Let me get a couple of caveats out there.

– This is written present tense. Normally I hate that, but Kassie’s voice is so vibrant that it makes this come alive.

– It’s short, woefully short. It is only a novelette, and so it serves as a deliciously tangy taster to Jolyn Palliata’s new series. A hell of a lot is packed in (tee hee, excuse the pun), but I still wish it was longer as I’m not very good at waiting.

Having said all that, it’s a fab quick read, and I loved it to bits.

*********

Dear Ms Palliata, if you read this review, please hurry up and release the next in the series. Yours sincerely, Impatient Reader 🙂

4.5 out of 5 (only because I desperately wanted there to be more!!

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The Devil's Dance

GUEST REVIEW from Mistik

GoodReads synopsis:
Cherry Clark is a spoiled brat, unappreciative of the good fortune she’s experienced throughout her life. She is also a solitary sex addict, experiencing her vicarious desires through her imagination and Internet porn. Her closet desire to be a submissive is shrouded in fear; and her mouthy attitude only gets her into trouble. One night after work, she finds a flier stuck to her car, advertising a mysterious club, Sheol’s Fringe. Her interest is aroused, she decides to go, unaware that her life is about to change forever. Sameal, the hot looking bartender and Sheol’s owner, is also a “devil”, and a member of the Board of Directors for Devil Corp, an organization that brokers in human pleasures through the use of a ‘Dream Journal’ service. The journal itself allows the user to experience whatever fantasy they write about while in a sleep-like trance. Sameal gives her a dream journal of her own, through which Cherry lives out her deepest and darkest fantasies. Her desires take some shocking twists. Even more frightening, they tend to manifest themselves in unusal physical form.
I love this quote it’s one of my favorites by far…
“I could almost taste the thick, mouth-watering fog of manly power that seeped from his pores, smothering me beneath it. Just being near him filled me with an overpowering sense of intimidation, excitement, and nervous surrender all rolled into one general package of an amazing turn-on. “Johnny Stone
Intense! I picked up this book after I saw it posted in one of my groups as an erotica paranormal read. I have read several erotica books and they were less than satisfactory in terms of plot and character development so I ventured into this one with caution…and an open mind.=)
This fabulous book had it all; the plot although revolving around sexual exploration worked; a very well developed female character – I felt for her, I liked her, I cheered for her; plus the intimacy scenes that were simply mind blowing. Hot, heavy but tasteful and written with such care I couldn’t help but sigh in awe.
Therefore, a read with solid writing, flowing energy both in the plot and the bedroom scenery, one that excites and renews a feeling of novelty, erases the boredom of repetitive plot construction currently in circulation among the paranormal books, is worthy of a 5 star mark regardless of the challenge to my sheltered senses. And make no mistake my senses were challenged; it was an intense read plagued with dark desires and unfathomable fantasies.
As if the taboo’s were not challenging enough, the paranormal element just brought an additional edge all wrapped up in one AMAZING read!
Pick it up!

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Male Review

What a gorgeous cover, eh.

 

When I want something light hearted, laugh-out-loud funny and sexy too, my automatic buy is Lillian Grant. Male Review, the eagerly awaited follow-up to Male Order was worth the wait.

Meg and Sam had finally hooked up at the end of the previous book, but their path to new love would run anything but straight. Her crazy nympho aunt moving in was just the start.

The thought of him lying in his reclining chair naked with his fist wrapped around his hard, hot, heaving cock sent a heat wave through her body and a definite dampening in areas that had no business being damp when you shared a bed with your eighty-something great aunt.

 

On the odd occasions they managed to get some privacy, they were usually interrupted.

Meg groaned with frustration. Not now, not when they were just about to… God, Sam was shrinking fast. His cock flopped out of her and she dropped to her knees with a moan of, “No, no,” intent on giving his manhood mouth to mouth.

 

When her scarily frigid mother followed shortly after, Meg gave up any hope of having any kind of sex life. In desperation, she goes to visit her father to try and understand why her mum has left him. She finds him entertaining friends:

“I hope you’re planning on helping to clean up before my mother gets home.”

Anyone would think she had lobbed a hand grenade into the middle of the table and shouted ‘incoming’. The two men so intent on poker a few minutes ago, jumped to their feet.

 

Then Sam drops a bombshell.

Sam met her gaze. This was a crossroads in their relationship. His answer could make or break the trust he’d built with her, but she needed to know everything about him, good and bad.

“I used to go to a BDSM club.”

Since Great Aunt Maud has just become a co-owner in a themed male strip bar, they decide to avail themselves of the facilities when the club is closed during the day. What followed, is one of the funniest scenes I’ve read in years.

Sam reached up to undo the left cuff. After a couple of minutes tugging, he glanced at Meg. “Have you got the key?”

 

If things weren’t bad enough, her arch-nemesis, the wickedly cocky Irishman Michael Monaghan is there to witness the entire scene. Could it get any worse? Well yes, actually, but that would be giving away the story, and you really need to read it for yourself.

If you like hot sex, spiced up with a little BDSM and a whole load of comedy, you’ll love it. Trust me, you won’t regret it  🙂

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The Bronze Horseman (The Bronze Horseman Trilogy)

Intense? Yes.  Unputdownable? Definitely.

Reading a book of this magnitude demands its pound of flesh. In one of my status updates, I described it as an Emotional Vampire – it squeezed every single emotion out of me, wringing me dry.

It was like reading The Mistress of Rome all over again… I was on the edge of my seat most of the time as it all came together. And I cried. Twice. Several times I was too scared to read on… but I kept going for one of the best reads of the decade. Yes, it was THAT good.

The basic premise.

Leningrad in 1941 just as the Soviet Union goes to war with Germany. Tatiana is an innocent and sheltered girl who meets a handsome soldier (Alexander) while out shopping for her parents. She’s sitting in the sunshine eating an ice cream, completely oblivious to the world rushing around her and Alexander sees her… can’t take his eyes off her. He follows her onto the bus and she’s so flustered she forgets to get off.

Tatiana finally looked to her right, and there he was, smiling cheerfully at her. He had perfect white teeth – unusual for a Russian. She couldn’t help but smile back. Relief must have shown in her face. Relief and apprehension and anxiety; all that, and something else too.

Grinning, the soldier said, “All right, I give up. Where are you going?”

They have an instant connection. After spending a few hours together he helps her with the shopping (taking her to the Officers store for her goods).

Tatiana watched Alexander walk beyond the iron gate across a courtyard, salute a tall officer, then stop and chat briefly to a cluster of smoking soldiers, breaking into a laugh and striding off. Nothing distinguished Alexander from the others, except that he was taller than anyone else and had darker hair and whiter teeth, broader shoulders and a wider stride. Nothing but that he was vivid and they were muted.

Hw walks her home, Tatiana all excited and happy – and then she discovers that Alexander is the boy her sister recently met and fell in love with.

“You know Dasha…?” but then broke off in the middle of the question, seeing realization and conscience and unhappiness strike his mute, comprehending face.

Tatiana looked at Dasha, then back to Alexander. She felt herself paling from the inside out. Oh no, she wanted to say. Oh no, how can this be?

Her sister, Dasha, means the world to her and claims to be so in love with Alexander. However, he doesn’t feel the same and after seeing Tatiana again (meeting her at work and walking her home, several times), he wants to break off with Dasha, but Tatiana won’t let him. She feels responsible for her sister’s happiness.

What she wanted to say to Dasha was, you’ve had plenty. You can get yourself a new one any time you want. You’re charming and bright and beautiful, and everybody likes you. But I want him for myself.

What she wanted to say was, but what if he likes me best?

The basic triangle is in place, but then it gets more complicated. Alexander has a HUGE secret that he tells Tatiana – he was born an American – and if the Russian secret police find out, he’ll be executed as a spy.

“Tatiana,” he whispered, leaning close to her ear, “we are followed, always, everywhere. The day might come when someone will jump out at you from a secret door, and then you will be presented to someone behind a desk, and he will want to know what Alexander Belov spoke to you about on your walks home.”

The only other person that knows is his one-time friend Dimitri, who is slowly and steadily blackmailing him. Dmitri decides he wants Tatiana and it becomes impossible.

“Tell me about Dimitri, Shura,” she said quietly. “What do you owe him?”

Add in the war and the siege of Leningrad (freezing weather, food shortages, family dying) and you have a complex and highly emotional story that begs to be read. It reduced me to helpless tears several times.

“It’s all right,” Alexander said, taking off his coat. “There’s some stew.”

Coughs. Averted eyes.

Alexander didn’t understand. He turned to Dasha. “I brought you soybeans. Dasha? You said you were making stew.”

“We did, Alexander,” said Dasha sheepishly. “But there was so little. We ate it.”

“You ate it and you didn’t leave her any?”

For a long time Tatiana and Alexander have to sustain their growing secret love with no more than a few words and touches, longing looks and covert walks.

He was crouching as he rummaged through his rucksack. She watched Alexander in profile, his bare muscled arms, his soldier’s body, his spiky wet black hair, a cigarette in the corner of his lips – Tatiana’s breath was taken away from her, he looked so beautiful.

You ache for them to be together and for everything to be out in the open. If you like unrequited love, you will ADORE this.

It was a warm night; her bare arms twice touched the rough material of his army shirt.

“This is the best time, Tatiana,” Alexander said. “Do you want to know why?”

“Please don’t tell me.”

“There will never be a time like this again. Never this simple, uncomplicated.”

Their romance is one of the best I’ve ever read, if not THE best. Lies and betrayal, fear of the secret police, fear of Alexander dying in the war and the constant risks they take to spend time together wrap this into an unforgettable read.

 

The only thing Tatiana could do was stand several hundred metres away from the archway that led to Pavlov Barracks and watch smoking, laughing soldiers filtering out.

She stood for half an hour. Then she went back to the hospital, thinking, not bombs nor my broken heart can take away from me walking barefoot with you in jasmine June through the Field of Mars.

Be warned. It does NOT have a happy ending.

Alexander and Tatiana sat a long time with their wet, cold faces pressed against each other, his arms around her, her hands cradling his head, while the wind blew the last, dead leaves off the trees, while the sky was a leaky November gray.

I would have been distraught had I not looked ahead to the blurb for the next one (it’s a trilogy). I finished reading this at 1 in the morning and seriously considered getting up and downloading the next in the series… sanity prevailed. I waited until I woke up at 5:30 and downloaded it then J

It’s a rare book that I exceed my 5-star top-rating for, but this is one of them. 6 stars.

The second picks up where the first finished, but with wrenching flashbacks to Alexander’s youth and how he ended up in Russia. The emotional rollercoaster continues…. J

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Long Hard Ride (Rough Riders)

I’ve had a few cowboy stories in my TBR pile for ages. Months. Why did I wait so long to read them? Hot cowboys have become my new current addiction * grin * And according to most people, few do Hot Cowboys quite as well as Lorelei James.

From the opening lines of Long Hard Ride, I was hooked. Channing Kincaid is tagging along with the rodeo alongside her new boyfriend, Jared.

On a drunken dare after too many kamikazes, Channing Kincaid found herself standing on a shellacked bartop with a bartender named Moose sprayed her chest with ice-cold beer.

 

I love books with amazing starts. So much promise – and even better, this one delivers. Shortly after winning the Golden Knockers trophy and snogging a gorgeous stud named Colby McKay, she learns that her boyfriend is actually married.

She should leave. Right away. Tonight.

Colby’s words surfaced. Come talk to me before you do anything rash.

The scared part of her wanted to run to Colby right now. Demand to know why he hadn’t told her Jared was married.

But in his own way, Colby had warned her.

 

She’s trying to figure out what to do when Colby finds her.

“Do you want to go home?”
”God, no.”

“Good.” Colby angled across the narrow table and repeatedly brushed the back of his knuckles over her cheek. “Run away with me, Channing. At least until we get to Cheyenne next week.”

 

She’s tempted, even when Colby tells her there are conditions.

Colby studied her carefully from beneath the brim of his hat. “You’ll be in my bed.”

Her pulse fluttered. “I figured that much.”

“As well as Trevor and Edgard’s.”

Channing’s jaw dropped. “I’d be sleeping with all three of you?”

“No. You’d be fucking all three of us, ain’t gonna be much sleepin’ involved.”

 

Colby travels with his buddies on the rodeo circuit, and sharing women is the norm. Despite herself, Channing is interested, shocked – and excited. Of course, things don’t go exactly to plan. Channing finds herself caring more for Colby than she should.

The truth was, she’d missed Colby.

What kind of idiot did that make her? They’d only been together two days and she’d already attached herself to him like one of those pesky sticky burrs that get caught up in horses’ tails.

 

They’re only supposed to be together for a week, and after that, Colby fully expects her to go back home to pick up her previous life as a teacher, while he completes the rodeo circuit. And even though it was his idea for all three guys to share her, he discovers that he wants her all for himself.

“Have we really only been together a coupla days?”

She stiffened up. “Yes. Why? Is time dragging?”

“No. On the road, time usually drags like an old dog. But it seems like you’ve always been around. I’m glad you’re here, darlin’.”

Probably not the first time he’d said such sugared words, but she’d take it since it was the first time anyone had ever uttered them to her.

 

But life never runs smooth in rodeo-land. Channing struggles to fit in with the other wives and girlfriends. Trevor and Edgard spend all their time fighting and losing their events, and Colby’s father hates her on sight. Colby gets banged up in one of his rides and Channing realises the stark reality of how dangerous the rodeo is.

If I wasn’t fanning myself from the burning hawt sex scenes, I sat on the edge of my seat desperately watching the story playing out. So what made this read so irresistible? Apart from the hot and sexy trio of gorgeous well-mannered cowboys (Colby, Trevor and Edgard), there were interesting and well thought out secondary characters including Colby’s sister, Keely, and Gemma & Cash (the stars of the next book).

I’m so pleased that Lorelei James has written lots more books in her Rough Riders series and I can’t wait to read them. A definite 5 out of 5.

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Saved By Cake

 

I know I usually review fiction and this is a cookery book, but I have a weakness for cookery books – a passion, actually – with the emphasis being on delicious baked goods. When I’m stressed, I bake. And so I was intrigued to learn that the bestselling fiction author, Marian Keyes, actually used baking to haul herself out of a deep depression. And be honest. Who could possibly resist a pink-covered cookery book titled Saved By Cake, over 80 ways to bake yourself happy.

When I buy cookery books, I like to have a bit more than recipes and pictures to go at. Memoirs, funny tales, explanatory notes – they all add to the experience and the pleasure aspect of simply being able to read a cookery book. Some of my favourite food writers are Nigella Lawson and Nigel Slater for that very reason. You can imagine my delight when I found Saved By Cake to include all sorts of delightful insights into MK’s life.

Medically speaking, there’s no such thing as a nervous breakdown. Which is very annoying to discover when you’re right in the middle of one.

Most of the recipes are prefaced with a little bit extra, and some had me laughing aloud. Marian is talking cake, cake, cake to her long suffering husband:

Somehow the conversation strayed onto Millionaire’s Shortbread and how hard it would be to make. To my great surprise, he suddenly became very animated and stopped looking like a man considering setting himself on fire, sat up straight and said, “No, it’s really easy! I used to make it when I was a teenager.”

I can’t tell you! It was like discovering he was secretly Argentinian and had enjoyed a moderately successful career as a polo player in his twenties.

And in this extract, she’s explaining the lengthy ritual of baking the Christmas Cake:

My poor mother, the stress of it was terrible for her. The whole deal was TCMNF (The Cake Must Not Flop). And apparently anything – anything – could make the cake flop. Any loud noise. Any sudden movement. Any bad news. My memory is that we spent hours and hours and hours tiptoeing around a darkened house, conversing in whispers, the tv and radio silenced. Under no circumstances must a shoe fall on the floor or a person burst into song (highly unlikely, given the tension). And if anyone opened the oven door, there was no telling, simply no telling, what awful consequences would ensue.

Then there was the year it didn’t happen:

One year she was just so overwhelmed by the responsibility of Making the Christmas Cake that she gave up entirely and my brothers Niall and Tadhg came home from school to find her lying limp in an armchair, the cake half mixed and they – entirely clueless – had to take over. She says all she can remember from that terrible day is overhearing Tadhg saying, “feck in another egg.” Then a while later Niall saying, “feck in more flour.” She has no memory of how the cake eventually turned out.

So there you go. Heavenly looking cakes, desserts and biscuits, all with beautiful, almost edible, photographs – including yummy little cookies shaped like shoes and dresses. I want some! NOW!!!

On that note, I’m finishing my review so that I can go and investigate my larder. I must have the basics in there, enough to whip up a tray of cupcakes… Now where did I put those cake cases?

5 glorious, sweet and delicious stars out of 5.

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Jabril

I actually read Jabril right after finishing Raphael. Well, there might have been a few hours sleep sandwiched in between, but not much. I’m just a wee bit behind on my reviews…

Jabril opens up right where Raphael finished. Cyn and Raphael have split up and she runs from California to Texas, to pick up another job for a vampire lord – as far away as possible from Raphael.

This lord, however, is the polar opposite of Raphael.

Had she expected them all to be like Raphael – beautiful, lying bastard that he was? Sure, he’d broken her heart, but all those Boy Scout virtues, like honorable and trustworthy, applied to him too. Powerful as he was, he ruled his territory with the loyalty and respect of his people, rather than fear.

She’s been called in to track down a missing person – a 17-yr old human girl, Elizabeth. The vampire lord, Jabril Karim al Subaie had been granted custody of Elizabeth and her older sister, Mirabelle – and planned to take control of their inherited fortune on Elizabeth’s 18th birthday. He’d already raped and turned Mirabelle, and Elizabeth would be next, but she managed to run away first.

No, she decided, it was the girl that had made her take an instant dislike to Jabril Karim. The young woman was treated like an ill-favoured pet.

 

Of course, Cyn has no intentions of returning Elizabeth – if she can find her. Instead, she decides to spring Mirabelle free. Only problem is, she needs to ask Raphael for help.

Duncan stopped mid-sentence, and Cyn could hear a silky, deep voice in the background. Her heart jumped and it was suddenly difficult to breathe.

“My lord -” She heard Duncan begin. She didn’t listen any further.

“Good-bye, Duncan.” She hung up. Her cell phone rang almost immediately, but Cyn didn’t answer. She was tempted to turn it off, but was afraid Kelli might call, or even Liz herself. So she switched it to vibrate and watched it dance around the table a few times, her eyes never leaving the display, as it shunted every call to voice mail.

 

She’s confused. Raphael seems to want her still, but she can’t bear to have her heart broken again.

Raphael reached out to tangle his fingers in a lock of her hair and tug her closer. His nostrils flared as he drew a breath. “He touched you.”

“No,” she objected, before remembering the clingy sensation of Jabril’s casual touch. “Just my arm, I didn’t want -”

“I should kill him for that alone.”

 

And herein lies Cyn’s big dilemma. Does Raphael really want her, or is this just a power play against Jabril?

Cyn blew out a breath, frustrated. “You know, I’m getting kind of tired of everyone pretending this is my fault. Raphael’s the one who walked away, not me.”

“Men are fools, Cynthia. You surely know that by now.”

“Tell me about it,” she muttered.

 

The plot is twisty and complex. In addition to the runaway, the escape with Mirabelle, the continuing angst over Raphael – there is apparently a killer vamp roaming the streets. And for some bizarre reason, Raphael stands accused. Cynthia is beyond furious when he’s arrested shortly before sunrise.

To hell with the speed limit. It was nearly daylight. Was the para facility equipped to handle a sleeping vampire? And what about Duncan and the others, their need to protect Raphael would outweigh even the instinct to retreat from the rising sun. She pounded the steering wheel angrily.

 

Vampires fall unconscious at sunrise and are at their most vulnerable. Raphael will have to spend the daylight in a converted prison cell and is only allowed one human to watch over him. He wants Cyn.

“And if I say no?”

Kimiko gave Cyn a baleful glare. “Then I will attempt to make other arrangements in time. If I fail, Lord Raphael will sleep unsecured, vulnerable to whatever the humans plan. And I do not doubt for one moment that this entire farce has been orchestrated towards that end.”

 

To my eternal delight, in one of the most delightful love confessions I’ve read, Raphael finally opens up to her.

He shook his head. “No, my Cyn, there has been no one in all these hundreds of years who mastered me. Until I met you.”

“So, having at last met a foe I could not defeat, I fled,” he said in disgust. “Rather than face you in my weakness, I thought to leave you behind, to forget about you, which I thought was surely possible. After all, how could one human overwhelm me with feelings in such a short period of time?” He smiled bitterly, shaking his head at his own foolishness.

 

It’s still not an easy ride for them, but Cyn finally accepts that she’s still in love with him.

Cyn felt a tug of desire low in her body as he unbuttoned his left shirt cuff and began to roll it up his forearm with economical movements. She had a weakness for beautiful hands on a man. Raphael’s hands were strong, his fingers long and square, his forearms smoothly muscled. She swallowed dryly and squelched memories of what those hands could do.

 

I loved the way that Cyn and Raphael danced back and forth, neither brave enough to admit they needed each other. It was touchingly, heart-warmingly real.

Raphael let out a small relieved breath and leaned back to sit on the edge of his desk.

“Are you all right?” Cyn asked, indicating his wounded arm with a nod of her head.

Raphael gave her a crooked smile. “I love when you worry about me, my Cyn. No one else does.”

She gave a little huff of disbelief. “Duncan worries about you,” she disagreed. “He’s worse than a mother hen.”

“Yes, well,” Raphael said softly. “That’s not quite the same thing, is it?”

 

Oh and Jabril is none too happy when he loses both Elizabeth and Mirabelle. He wants them back, and to make Cyn pay.

As with Raphael, I was GLUED to this and can’t wait to read the next in the series. 5 out of 5.

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