Book Reviews: Something Erotic Going On Here

The D.I.L.F.
At first I thought the D stood for divorcee, but no such luck. It’s doctor, and in this case a newly minted male doctor in love with his best friend’s sister, who’s ten years older. She’s a nurse and they end up working at the same hospital, and he’s staying with her.
There’s some witty banter, but her inner thoughts are even better. The erotic scenes are top notch, moving from solo to shower quickie to a playing out a fantasy involving a giant dildo.
Worst part: seemingly requisite bad ex screws things up even without showing up. The angst was over the top. Too many changes of mind, considering it was a short book. Had a chance to get a higher score.

Undercover with the SEAL
Former SEAL gets assigned to ostensibly bodyguard a Hollywood starlet, though in truth the job is something much different. All of that, of course, is a setup for them to have sex and fall in love.
I am so loving her; she’s a wonderful character, and not—completely—like you’d except considering her occupation. Some time was taken to give her hidden depths. Any story featuring a dumb-looking blonde actually being the smartest person in the room works for me.
And the topic is heady, timely.
But the rest is relatively standard. Despite it being called an erotica, there’s only one sex scene; yes, it’s a short book, but there were chances for more. No real surprises.

A reluctant werewolf can’t stop himself when he hears the howls.
But he’s not the best part of this. Amanda is the kind of heroine I love: demure, almost bashful, but with an inner strength and fire.
As for him, I find it strange when the human and the animal within have separate voices, as though they’re truly not one single being.
For such a short novel there were many machinations, perhaps too many villains, and therefore too many characters to keep track of. One of the heel turns seemed too abrupt, and the sex scenes didn’t have all that much heat considering the supernatural aspects. Overall it was a relatively pleasant read, as long as the expectations weren’t too high.

Bakra Bride: Tapestries, Book 2
A woman whose life has crumbled when doing the right thing falls into another world, where brothers find her and plan to keep her, but only if she agrees.
She’s a scrappy though badly used lady, very likeable. One of the guys is equally empathetic, but unfortunately he’s not the main; that goes to the caveman-type guy.
Over the years I’ve read plenty of stories where someone from our reality gets transported to another world or time. I don’t think I’ve ever read about it happening via a tapestry. Paintings yes, but not this.
I’ve sadly come to expect a silly lack of communication being a barrier before the inevitable happily ever after, but this one was worst than most. Everyone jumps to the wrong conclusion and is too stubborn to talk about it. Perhaps one of these days an author will shock me and make an unhappily ever after, because this was annoying enough to bring down my enjoyment of the entire book.

Blazing Hot
Typical arrogant firefighter gets hurt saving a dog and ends up in the care of a hot blonde nurse, who’s hurt from a previous tragedy. The usual ensues.
I want to stress that there’s nothing wrong with this book, just that it doesn’t stand out in any way. It basically plugs its characters into a standard plot, gives them a huge attraction for each other and a few made-up roadblocks because they can’t get out of their heads and communicate with each other, and then resolves it. By the numbers.

Virgin Fix
Freewheeling chopper guy returns to Florida to find his old boss ready to hand over the business to him, and that might include his sexy virgin ward. But of course nothing is ever that easy. . .
While this is nicely written, it’s nothing that hasn’t been done hundreds of times before. She can’t stand him, then falls hard for him. He wants his freedom, but she gets under his skin and he has no idea how or why. Stuff happens that could be solved if they were simply honest with each other. As much as I hate to put it this way, it was by the numbers.
Except for one thing, and this was quite a negative: letting the attempted rapist get off so easily. . .

Virgin Pass
Quarterback on his last legs comes back to where he started his career for one last season. There he finds the coach’s daughter all grown up, and is even working for his agent.
Even though this is just past novella length, there’s so much extraneous philosophizing, mostly about how he shouldn’t even though he wants her so much, that it quickly gets boring. Even worse, it basically rehashes the same ground over and over. She’s given a little more character, but not all that much. My favorite touch was her teaching him some football stuff.


Book Reviews: South America, More Dukes, and Unbelievable Stuff

South America Under the Skin of a Foreign Country
A widow from England spend a lot of time in South America, and writes about it.
It starts in Argentina, with tango. As basically the only dance I know, I found it amazing how the author’s views were pretty much opposite to mine. Not saying either is wrong, just incredibly different viewpoints. Something we do agree on is the great Chilean poet Neruda, so I was happy to see a section on him. I didn’t learn anything new, but I’m sure many readers had never heard of him.
Most of all, I enjoyed her insights. She’s very observant, and thankfully doesn’t go too far in extrapolating what they might mean. This style of storytelling reminds me of my blog, which is obviously very high praise. . . obviously. (Shut up.)
The one low note was the section on internet booking, which went on far too long and really brought everything to a halt.
In all, an enjoyable travelogue with a unique perspective.

Never Say Duke (12 Dukes of Christmas #4)
As always happens in these stories, two people who initially come off as incredibly wrong for each other end up in love and happily ever after. The fun part is the in-between.
Virginia is the kind of person who ignores your wishes when she gets it into her head that she knows better than you, but she gets away with it because she’s so charming and beautiful in her own wacky way. He, on the other hand, is quite the grump, with no enjoyment in his life other than ice cream. And that was before his injuries, which only made his disposition worse.
I’m a little miffed that the cat gets a point of view when Captain Pugboat didn’t. There’s a Mr. T, of course, because that’s how Ms. Ridley rolls. There’s also a Queen Turkey-tiara, but she’s not as important.
Considering how much of a cloudcuckoolander she is, it’s hard to imagine her so insecure. On the other hand, it makes it all the more special when she realizes he likes her the way she is.
So it wasn’t as good as the previous one, but that was one of the best historical romances I’ve ever read, so there’s no shame here.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not
A graphic novel about the famous brand.
It starts in Branson with one of the museums, where Ripley is a hologram giving the intro to the tour. Beauty and the Beast was real, in a story with too many Catherines.
From there it moves through a number of vignettes, each taken from one of the oddities in the museum.
Already knew the Phineas Gage story, though not the ultimate ending. That’s my fave part of these stories: not just explaining how they were true, but that some of these poor souls did have happily ever afters.
“Stableboys’ Sauna” is a term I wish I’d never heard. Then it turns much stranger, as we get a story about something that hasn’t happened, and might never.
Somehow one of the stories ended up in ancient Egypt, while another was a lot more expected, happening in one of my fave places, the Winchester House.
The funniest moment was the horse’s inner thought.
Because the stories are so short, they’re told in a very matter-of-fact style, just the bones. Some of them are entertaining despite that, but mostly they’re just sad, like the tale of the tallest man.

The Rose
Four British high society girls playing escort are in danger of being found out when a lot of their clients are invited to a birthday party. A statue of Aphrodite is involved, as well as an ancient goblet. The birthday girl can’t resist her Greek guest, who is really jonesing for the goblet, leading to some fantasy escapades as well as real ones.
The writing during the Greek visions is stunning. It’s hard to believe this is the same author that wrote the wonderful but completely opposite Picture Perfect Cowboy, but on the other hand it’s not. I particularly liked their patter. The heroine is a bit mannered, a touch spoiled, and prone to fits of stubbornness and posturing, but her sense of humor makes up for a lot. She’s also incredibly lucky; usually when an immortal plays with a mortal’s life, it doesn’t turn out nearly as well.
There’s a recurring gag about him having sex with a cloud, which makes me laugh every time, especially when he admits it might have only been a fog or a stiff breeze.
Some confusing turns at the end, but eventually neatly wrapped up.

From Resume To Work
As the title implies, this book aims to show you how to make a resume that will find you employment, written by someone with a lot of experience on the subject.
Thought this is a short tome filled with some duplication and a lot of references, there’s still a lot of good stuff here. It starts by explaining some of the things you might be doing wrong, why you’re being rejected, and how to correct them. From there it shows stuff you might not have known or thought about to spice up both the resume and the cover letter.
The important thing here is the author claims to know how employers think, and gives clues on that peculiar animal known as the employment psychologist. Some of their insights seem ridiculous—an accidental mistake of indentation shows the candidate has a mild form of schizophrenia?—but they’re seemingly important enough, or taken seriously enough, to be included here.
But other than that, there’s plenty enough tidbits to make it worthwhile.


Book Reviews: End of Year Hodgepodge

Ink in Water: An Illustrated Memoir
Subtitled: Or, How I Kicked Anorexia’s Ass and Embraced Body Positivity, which works a lot better as a title.
A woman’s battle with anorexia and associated self-doubt is told through her own thoughts and encounters with friends, boyfriends, and a few others. It’s not an easy read, so if you do pick it up you’ll need to hang on to your emotional hats.
I didn’t think I would have anything in common with this character, but right away with the atheist thing. . . yeah, that’s me there. But the crippling insecurity, where she can’t get out of her own head. . . early on I’m wondering if that’s a big cause of her anorexia. I also wonder if her ex had told her why he was breaking up with her. . . maybe none of this would have happened.
I would have thought such a slow plodding bio would be boring, but it actually isn’t. After that first bit about the atheism I couldn’t commiserate with her at all, but I guess that made it better for me, as I like learning about things outside my experience.
On the other hand, I’ve never been great at reading or watching about people in pain, and this isn’t easy to get through. There’s one thing that happens about two-thirds through that’s particularly gut-wrenching. This is obviously geared toward those who can benefit from it, as a kind of self-help book, but as a memoir it’s pretty tough to handle.

Virtue Signaling
The famous sci-fi writer has a blog, and these are some of his posts.
Humor and honesty. That’s what you want from a political commentator, if that’s what you can call John Scalzi in this book. He probably wouldn’t call himself that; he’s self-admittedly too lazy.
One other thing: logic. Unlike most of the internet and its shoot-from-the-hip tweets, these writings take time. They’re well thought out. They look at other sides of the argument and break down why he disagrees with it, or in the infrequent case agrees. Again, that’s pretty rare, and most welcome.

Kate’s Really Good at Hockey
A young-teen redhead loves hockey. Considering the previous works from this publisher, this is not a surprise.
After a get-together with all her friends before school—it appears they’re just back from summer break—there’s long and very clunky exposition as to how she spent her time away. The scene switches to her having a hard time at hockey camp while living with a grandmother who doesn’t seem to understand her. The main players are from those hockey hotbeds of Tennessee and Ecuador. And of course there’s bullies.
Mom says such Mom things. If you’re only gonna have a few things in common with Grandma, might as well make them ice cream and bacon.
There’s a lot of repetition, but I suppose this is for kids. Most of it is pretty standard storytelling, but luckily—or unluckily, in the case of the characters—there’s a couple of major twists.

Fall with Olga the Cloud
Incredibly simple even for a children’s book, this tiny tome features a bored cloud that calls its friends to join her in making rain. Everyone else is unhappy with this—even a tree says it’s too much rain—and a cat uses an umbrella.
Other than to say the sun sleeps a lot in fall, and of course it rains a lot, there’s not much here that’s educational. . . there’s not much of anything at all. Even a child could read this in less than a minute. Would have been better with more effort and more story.

Dad Jokes – Assault With A Dad-ly Weapon
The title tells you—and is a perfect example of—all you need to know about the contents of this book. Some kids might giggle at this, some adults might guffaw, but basically these jokes are designed to make you groan, so with that expectation it does a really good job.
I grudgingly admit I chuckled more often than I thought I would, mostly when the punch line took me by surprise. A few of my faves:
“If you rearrange the letters of postmen. . . it makes them really angry.”
“I don’t have a dad bod. I have more of a father figure.”
“I was accused of being a plagiarist. Their word, not mine!”
“I removed the shell from my favorite racing snail, thinking it would make him faster. But it’s actually made him more sluggish.”
“My wife said she didn’t understand cloning. That makes two of us.”
“What do you get if you cross a centipede and a parrot? A walkie-talkie.”
“How many eyes does a cyclops have? None, if you’re spelling it correctly.”
“What’s blue and not really heavy at all? Light blue.”
These are the best ones. Read the rest at your own risk. You might notice, though, that most of the favorites I listed above would not be understood by most kids.

A Flicker of Hope
A short candle—with eyes and mouth and arms and legs—is depressed, with a literal dark cloud hanging over it, full of the kinds of problems facing kids and teens today. Some are more important than others, but all hurtful. It takes the light of another candle, and even then a few tries, to get the stubby one to see the light.
Of all the usually non-sentient objects being given life in a children’s book, I’d have to say candles are the strangest.
The point here is to not be ashamed to ask for help, because others have been through the same.
Ends with a couple of pages about the power of hope, meant for adults so they can pass it on to their kids.

What Does A Princess Really Look Like?
A little girl does not settle for simply being a princess or a ballerina; nope, she has to be a mashup. Sometimes she dances with her two dads, though it doesn’t say if they are co-regents.
“Inside the head is where our smarts are.” Never heard it put that way, but I like it.
She’s funny and creative—she is a lefty, after all—and I love the way she’s drawn, especially when lying down. The illustrator captures a child’s joyful being in the way she kicks her legs up. It’s all so incredibly cute, even when things don’t work out exactly as she’d hoped.
Ends with a space to draw your own perfect, or not so perfect, princess, along with a Twitter/Instagram hashtag. Reading the author’s bio shows why, but because he’s a therapist who works with kids, it’s okay.

Who Will Roar If I Go?
African animals are introduced in beautiful subdued watercolor as the words tell the reader about them and the difficulties they face in the modern world.
The elephant has the best page.
If this had been written in prose I would have been okay with it, but a lot of the rhymes are either forced or simply done by throwing in a useless “you see” or such. The awkward cadence and differing lengths make it hard to singsong. It feels like an attempt to emulate Dr. Seuss by someone who’s never written a poem before. . . at least not a good one.
Come for the art. . .

The World’s Best Jokes for Kids Volume 1
Right before the first joke appears, there’s a warning sign, literally. It reads: Danger! This book contains a lot of silly, corny, brilliant, and funny jokes. Guess which of those four adjectives is the most on-the-nose.
What do you call a bear with no ears? B. Yes! Spelling jokes are my kind of humor. And computer humor: what do you call a bee from the United States? USB.
Even when the joke itself doesn’t hit the mark, the illustrations make up for it. There’s the joke so old it was sorta the title of an REO Speedwagon album, but if you look at the way the fish is looking up at the guy trying to tune it. . .
Then there are others, like the Frozen and Bison jokes, that are pretty cringy—I was warned, after all—but would probably make some kids laugh.
Sometimes there’s a joke like Nutella, irrelephant, and perman-ant that make me wonder how many kids would get the humor, since they might be too young to know those words. Even I don’t know what a stomata is.
They used one of my favorite jokes, about time flying and then fruit flying. Don’t know what that says about me, especially when they include the poultry in motion line.
I will go as far as to say this made me chuckle more often than I thought I would, though it certainly brought the groans as well.
P.S. There’s also The World’s Best Jokes for Kids Volume 2, because one collection of groaners wasn’t enough. But it appears they used up all the good ones in the first volume, because this one wasn’t anywhere near as good or funny. Went through almost half of the book without laughing once, and didn’t even groan that much, because there just wasn’t anything there. At that point I gave up.

The Cookie Eating Fire Dog
Childlike watercolors and a little prose tell the story of Dan, who isn’t so much a fire dog as he is a fireMAN who happens to be a dog. From the title I assumed he’d be like the other Dalmatians, but right on the first page it says he wears the boots, coat, and hat that make the firefighter’s uniform. He can’t speak, though he does cry a lot when he doesn’t get cookies. Eventually he proves his worth while at the same time buckling down and getting serious about his job.
Little of this story makes sense, but then I suppose the age group this is directed to doesn’t care about that very much. Still, despite the occupation this is about, which a lot of little kids find exciting, there isn’t much here to remember. It does end with a few pages on fire safety, as well as a recipe for ginger snaps.

Dynomike: What’s Heartfulness?
In one of the most brightly colored children’s books I’ve ever seen, a tiny dinosaur on a tricycle plays with a few friends, their exploits recorded in rare stanzas where all four lines use the same rhyme, at least on the first page. The mom of one of the friends is sick and they brainstorm ideas to make her better.
Doesn’t feel like heartfulness is explained all that well, at least not in the story; there’s a page on it after. Don’t know why it was so important the friend didn’t find out what they had done.
Cute, but I think the message could have been a little clearer. Perhaps this was designed so the kid would ask the parent to explain.

Southern Rose
Short but enjoyable encounter between a Union officer and a Southern spy. They have a past, and it looks like they’ll have a long future too.
What I don’t understand is why she played so coy and he so rough at the beginning. I get that she was worried about what might happen to her, but by the time they meet up for a few minutes later everything seems to have changed, though nothing really did.
This is weird to say, but this might have been better as one scene rather than two.

Through the Red Door
Widow navigates her way through two suiters while running a bookstore with a hidden though famous erotica section. A ghost may also be involved.
It’s interesting that of her two new beaus, it’s the “hot” one she instantly bonds with, because he lost his spouse too.
Probably the most fun character is the professor’s assistant—at least for a while—the kind of person who’s fun to read about but would annoy the crap out of me in real life.
The writing is really smooth, the dialogue humorous. While there were some genre clichés near the end, as a whole the plot flowed organically, and everything tied together well at the finish.
This is one the best romance books I read this year.

The Moon’s Pull
Crazed werewolf is killing humans in a Wyoming town. Sane werewolf doesn’t want to kill the bad one, but needs to stop him somehow while falling in lust with the human detective investigating the murders.
Even though it’s short, there’s a bunch of extraneous description. I really don’t care about the color of the detective’s pants or the killer’s hair. And despite the relative shortness of the book, it’s made even shorter by the inclusion of several sex scenes in a row. Nothing wrong with sex scenes, quite the opposite, but they could have been better spaced.
Worse, there were a lot of extra commas, and in general the whole thing was stilted, with no style. Things run together in a jumble. It became a chore to read, and I probably would have given up had I not known it was so short, and had several erotic scenes to look forward to. The flashback scene was badly integrated. The author, and definitely this relatively famous publisher, should have invested in an editor.
But if there’s one part I particularly disliked, it was this ridiculous passage:
“Why doesn’t he go to the bigger cities where criminals are more rampant?” Sam asked.
“Because, my sweet,” Quentin replied. . . “A smaller town draws less attention.”

Science Fiction: A Novel
Quite an all-encompassing title.
The first chapter introduces a galaxy-wide version of a cooking reality TV competition, in which a part of the loser becomes next year’s main ingredient. The next chapter shows an earthling with some cooking skills being scared out of his mind at a strip club. You can see where this is going.
It’s definitely silly, but I can’t say it’s funny enough. Like a lot I’ve seen recently, it’s trying really hard to be the next iteration of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy–this one even more so—and falling way short. The ship’s drive is a huge example. And all this before I read the end, where he actually thanks Douglas Adams.
I do like how he turned the info drop on the ship into an infomercial.
Anyway, there were some cute moments, and I eventually liked Bridget, but it never hit the heights it set.

Atlas of Adventures: Wonders of the World
Well-drawn semi-cartoons show some of the most impressive places in the world, both natural and manmade. The drawings take up two pages and are full of small details, but very few of the sites get that treatment. For instance, the first section is Australia and Oceania, showing a map of the region with all the places featured, but only Uluru gets its own section.
I was very glad to see my two favorite places in the world—The Alhambra in Spain and the Glowworm Caves in New Zealand—make the list. Throw in the Charles Bridge in Prague, Petra, Chichen-Itza, Torres del Paine, and Ludwig’s Castle and I’m completely happy with this. The drawing for that last one is particularly well-detailed, but on the other hand the Alhambra left a bit to be desired, since I know it so well.
Can’t believe they filled two pages of notes and art on the Marianas trench.
At the end there’s two pages of things to search for amongst what you just saw, as well as an index.
All in all, great fun and a pleasant way to teach kids about the world.

Egypt Magnified
Very detailed drawings of ancient Egyptian life fill pages, and it’s up to the reader to find ten small things on each page. Apparently printed books include a magnifying glass, but I doubt digital ones will.
I’ve seen plenty of books like this one, as well as apps for both kids and grownups, where the point is to find what’s hidden in the artwork. This one goes further in that the drawings are much more intricate, and the details not everyday familiar, which makes it more challenging.
The most important takeaway here is that it’s wonderful when a children’s book can be both educational and fun simultaneously.


Book Reviews: Cheaper by the Dozen

In celebration of Labor Day—or something—here’s a mishmash of genres, including non-fiction, poetry, erotica, and comic strips to go along with three entries of my now-favorite historical romance series. . . okay, my ONLY historical romance series.

A Study in Shifters
As you might expect from the title, this has a Sherlock Holmes connection, in this case featuring a descendant of his who’s also a shapeshifter. . . except she can’t shapeshift anymore, after a bad mission she feels really guilty about.
She can still sniff like a jaguar, though. When we meet her she’s trying to solve a locked room puzzle, though there’s no speckled band in sight. She’s rich and lives in Paris, but is sent to investigate a murder in a fancy school in England; never would have thought a book about a shape shifting Holmes descendant would be full of teenage-y cliquey high school stuff.
She starts timid, still scarred by her previous failure, but as she regains her confidence I like her more and more. Given how much time was spent detailing her previous mission, it’s no surprise it has a bearing on the current one.
There’s a lot of mention of her inner jaguar, as though it’s a separate entity, as is her rational Sherlock mind. Strange to think her brain isn’t integrated, but by the end it’s somewhat resolved.
The ending felt tacked on, obviously there just to make a hook for the sequel. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this.

Saving Worms After the Rain
After starting with the history of a small town in Pennsylvania, with far too many people to keep track of, we finally get to the story of an autistic boy, who also happens to be psychic. As the book goes along and the boy grows up, I see some of the reasons for the long winded opener, though not all of them.
There are some really interesting touches with Aspen’s character that are thoroughly unexpected. I’d definitely fist bump him.
It’s a short book, but all the better for it. The only part where a longer story would have helped was the rushed romance, but other than that I’m quite satisfied.
I look forward to reading more of Aspen’s adventures, and I hope many families of autistic people read this too.

Lord of Chance—Rogues to Riches #1
Somewhere on the Scottish-English border, two people are running from their declining lives in London. They match wits in an early version of poker and she wins. In order to help each other, they pretend to be married.
Then their troubles really start.
I couldn’t believe what was written about marriage by declaration, so I looked it up. Never should have doubted, as this author has always been meticulous about her research. I can just imagine her coming across this tidbit and wondering how to use it in a novel, and of course her imagination was up to the task.
Early on I thought the lady was in for a huge disappointment. The jewels are one thing, as real as possible, but the story of where they came from isn’t necessarily true. Even though I was more or less right, the author provides yet another twist at the end.
They make the most of their marriage—except for sex—while it lasts. On the one hand I like their relentless optimism, but on the other it’s obvious it won’t be that simple, or else this would be a really short book. If there’s one thing I don’t like about her, it’s how often she puts herself down. She’s got esteem issues, we get it, which makes it difficult to accept—even though I love the idea—when she becomes a forerunner to Lucy (from Peanuts) and her psychiatry booth.
Since romances always have to end happily ever after, it’s no surprise so many things went right at the end. But it’s not really about plot as much as characters, and after a slow start this pair grew on me. One could say they earned their happy ending.

Lord of Pleasure—Rogues to Riches #2
Lord Wainwright has a reputation as a flirt, and much worse. Camellia has always tried not to be noticed, or appear in the scandal rags. A masquerade offers them the opportunity to get to know each other and fall in love without knowing who the other is.
Reputations are at stake in the second story of this series, though not in the way one would assume. In fact, part of the delight of this story are the subverted expectations, along with how they want to break free of the constraints their very opposite lifestyles have hoisted on them.
Camellia is one of my favorite heroines, forcing herself into the role of a wallflower for the sake of her family, and not complaining when her parents arrange a marriage for her, so her younger sisters can now be courted. But when she turns into Cinderella she finds she loves the role too much to give it up. To my surprise, it wasn’t that hard to like Michael as well, even if he’d been enjoying his reputation and going through life as a rich casual jerk. Seeing his change and growth is even more intriguing than hers, especially because he doesn’t do it to please the woman he’s fallen in love with.

Death in Paris
Man does faceplant into his soup and a former lover thinks it’s murder. She and her best friend, both Americans in Paris, do the Miss Marple thing. No one believes them, of course.
The author interrupts many scenes to talk about the restaurant or café the characters are in. I like the local color when they’re out and about in the different neighborhoods, but eventually it becomes too much, especially the descriptions of the food.
I don’t know if I’m supposed to hate the husband, but I do. There’s a scene where he orders her to stop snooping, and he comes off as such a jerk. There’s an attempt at redemption, but even then he behaves like an ass rather than a loving partner.
I did like the introspection that there’s more to a person than just their crime.
I accidentally, jokingly, guessed the killer. But it truly annoyed me that she went in to face the killer instead of waiting for the police as  promised. That dropped her likeability score a few notches, and worst of all perpetuated one of the worst clichés in the genre. The story would have been much better served if she’d waited outside and the killer had tried to escape, forcing her to follow him.
I liked it, but I could tell it was a debut.

The Darkness In Faith
A female serial killer hunts bad guys, but in a completely different way than Alexandra Sokoloff’s character does. For one thing she’s married, living a double life, finding her victims on the internet and then luring them in with the promise, and sometimes reality, of sex.
When I saw this title, I thought it was going to be about faith, but that’s the character’s name.
Found it clever to introduce a male character that seems destined to be the story’s antagonist, except she polishes him off quickly and moves on to the next one. But instead of killing her latest target, she falls in love with him, apparently because he just as twisted as her. She goes as far as to tell him what made her this way, which is how we know who’s who when she gets kidnapped.
The first thing you see on cracking open this book–metaphorically if you’re Kindling it, of course–is a music playlist, which to my surprise included two bands I know, Evanescence and Halestorm. To make this truly multimedia, there’s some photos scattered throughout, which didn’t do much for me. They came across as completely generic and really didn’t describe what I was reading about, too lovey-dovey compared to the much more dramatic action. And indeed, they’re stock.
I’ve no doubt the author wants me to be on her heroine’s side, but the fact is she’s just as sick and twisted as the guys she hunts. She’s not motivated by revenge or justice; she LIKES torturing and killing. The image of her sucking a cock after she’d just cut it off. . .
Maybe she’s doing it as a twisted sort of revenge, since she was tortured when she was younger. Maybe it’s a form of PTSD, and this is the only way she can cope with it: doing to them what they did to her. Still, that might be an explanation, but it’s not an excuse.
There’s no way to be psychologically prepared for this, because the author keeps going one step further. This was too much for me, so I can’t say I enjoyed it, but the insights were sometimes fascinating.

For those familiar with the author’s works, it doesn’t take long to discover that this story is the reverse of Stolen Flame, the first in her famous series. This time it’s told from the male’s point of view, the hard bitter security guy who can’t help but fall in love with Flame.
This book reiterates why I loved the character of Vivian so much. Even though they love each other, even though he’s become so cold in the last few years, she’s the intelligent rational one. She makes the smart decisions for them, not the emotional mistakes of the former Marine.
If I had to compare, I’d say I liked Stolen Flame more, but both benefit from the other.

How to Self Publish Inexpensive Books and Ebooks
The title tells you everything you need to know, and in keeping with that, this book itself feels inexpensive.
It’s written matter of fact, like a textbook in a class you don’t care about, even though this will only be read by those who do care. There’s plenty here on why you shouldn’t use most companies, with some grudging examples at the end of those chapters that might be okay. There’s huge sections that list publishing companies, which can make for boring reading if not outright skipping. While I’m not saying it shouldn’t be here, as for reference’s sake it’s necessary, it does render an already small book even tinier.
The most interesting chapter was on doing your own publicity.
I don’t have anything against this book other then it’s dry and boring, but then it’s basically a reference book, not meant to be exciting. Still, it didn’t give me much of an impetus to want to read it or do anything with the info.

The Book of Onions: Comics to Make You Cry Laughing and Cry Crying
Another collection of small-paneled no-continuation comic strips, usually featuring a round head in a suit. The artwork makes you laugh, and then the caption cranks it up another notch.
Right off the bat, the first page, “A Love Story for the Ages,” made me laugh. Good start.
Other faves:
Jogging! I’m on the side of the animals.
What do guitars have to do with capital punishment? Find out here!
“Tell me I’m beautiful.” That’s the second Mirror Mirror on the Wall joke I’ve read this month, and both were awesome.
Kleenex and gun-toting pandas, back to back.
So many more I could have mentioned, but had to draw the blurry line somewhere. Just go check it out for yourself.

Emotions Explained with Buff Dudes
An unconventionally drawn comic strip that’s more the thinking kind of humor than strictly LOL. For example, there’s a great one on how life gets better when you lower your standards. And speaking of that character, it’s not good when Life is the antagonist.
Some faves:
“Never again” was too poignant.
I love the Godzilla boop.
Pessimism is the new “Why are you hitting yourself?”
The internet does not like being cheated on.
Gee, I wonder if this author has student loans!
Emotion is scarier than logic. I’ve always said that too.
Brains, looks, or skinny?
Cup ramen is cute as well as patient.
Told you spiders were asses.
The art is simpler than most comic strips. The main character looks about eight years old. Neither of those facts is a bad thing here.

Stupid Poems 14
I’m not a fan of stupid, but when someone is this self-aware. . . I figured it was worth a shot. Thankfully these turned out to be the fun type of stupid, evidenced by the opening entry, rhyming couplets featuring an opera dragon’s missing part.
Some of the rhymes are forced, and meter is rarely enforced—damn, that’s catching—otherwise this would have been truly fantastic. . . but then they wouldn’t be stupid.
Swan Knight is my fave. The author is obviously an opera fan; good thing I am too, but there’ll be a few people who will have no idea what’s going on in some of these.
The milk one was thought provoking, though I’d be more interested in the first guy who thought a lobster could be eaten.
As far as the love poem goes, I wonder if it’s occurred to him that the problem with his love life might be him making up stupid poems about her. . .

Lord of Night—Rogues to Riches #3
Aristocrat—former aristocrat, now—runs boarding school for unfortunate girls. Early version of cop saves her and a new charge from a ruffian. He’s more interested in finding out who’s been pilfering from rich homes. . . you can guess where this is going.
Best scene: Dahlia and Heath “shaking hands.”
Though I like the main characters, as well done as all the others in this series, I’m not into this story the way I was with the previous two, plus the other I read out of order. It’s hard to pinpoint why I feel that way; perhaps the peripherals weren’t as interesting, though the boarding school certainly had its fun moments. Still worth the read, though.


Book Reviews: Erotic Football, Art, Sales, and Elevators

An artist/restorer gets a visit by yet another “billionaire sexiest man alive,” who takes her to dinner with the promise of a big job. Of course she falls in lust with him, and though he can have any woman he wants—and usually does—he thinks she’s perfect for him.
I’m sure you’ve heard all that before. As for the surrounding plot, it involves the billionaire’s family, and his arrogance drags her into danger. . . but you’ve heard that before too.
The writing itself was pretty good, and I enjoyed the art talk. There could have been a little more on the restoration process, but it’s okay if the author didn’t want to take a chance on being boring. I liked the main female character, but not as much as I usually do in these kinds of stories. The male lead was as douchy as they always are in these stories.
All in all, it was fine, but not particularly memorable. I’d label it a missed opportunity; more could have been done here, or at least slightly deviating from the overdone norm.

Aging quarterback butts heads with scientist testing his reflexes and gameplay. What did you think would happen between them?
No, the other thing.
There’s a lot more science in this football romance than you’d expect, but some of it’s VR, which is fun. There’s even some hilarious moments with the technology, which is surprising but definitely welcome.
Of course they’re both damaged from their origin stories, but at least they’re trying to make the world a better place in their own way. This makes them more sympathetic and likeable, especially him, though the author almost left it too late, considering his arrogance.
By far the best scene in this football romance takes place in a greenhouse, with a character that can appreciate color more than anyone else.

Better to Marry than to Burn
In a town of former slaves, the leaders say every man must marry or pay a fine, or leave with all the women deemed inappropriate. Ladies from back East are coming to town, the only real alternative. One man rejects this plan, saying it’s just a different form of slavery.
This man, aptly named Caesar, has his own plan, having put out an ad for the kind of woman he wants. He didn’t explain what he means by “legacy,” so that leads to some difficulties when the woman who answers the ad shows up. She’s not what he expected: cultured, erudite, kinky, and gay. But then she didn’t expect him to be similar (except for the gay part) despite his lack of schooling. This is not a case of opposites attract, because they realize how alike they are.
That’s the one thing I took away from this book: they recognize their similarities and rejoice in them, at least after some initial stubbornness and ego from both sides. And it’s always a pleasure to read characters that use words most people don’t know (and I do, speaking of ego).
Just tell me Purity Patrol cannot be a real thing. . .

7 Brothers and a Virgin
A rich but not spoiled young woman is being forced by her father to marry an old guy, so she runs away to a ranch run by seven brothers, hoping one of them will make her no longer a virgin.
Reverse harem is the latest rage in erotica. Hard to say what makes a good one, at least as far as the sex scenes, but you basically know how the story is going to end. It’s mostly about how the brothers handle having to share her. A lot of times it’s hard to tell all the men apart, even more so when there’s seven of them, but in this case it’s pretty good, especially with the twins.
The ending takes place six months later, with the real conclusion, especially with her father, barely mentioned in passing. That’s annoying, and seems cheap.

The Hunt
Half vampire hunts full vampires for an ungrateful town. When one mission fails the town hires another vampire hunter, leaving her to rage, and of course fall in lust for the new guy, who’s as arrogant as. . . every other male lead character in this kind of romance/erotica.
Like a lot of books in this genre, the author takes every opportunity—at least once a page—to turn an innocent phrase into sexual innuendo about how much her body wants him even though she can’t stand him. A few funny ones are good, but there’s just too much of this. At times it feels like padding, and it’s a short book as it is.
Everyone in this story is an ass, except for the female lead. Even the goddess is unworthy.
Here’s the good things. In addition to some snarky humor, the ending is incredibly original, at least something I’ve never come across. While I enjoyed this story for the most part, despite it being by-the-numbers, the ending kicked it up a notch.

Door-to-Door Sales (The Open Door Book 1)
The title refers to an escort agency womaned by very different sisters. The stories tell about the encounters of the employees as well as prospectives.
The first story is the trope of the young virgin getting a hooker for his birthday, and even though it’s told in a rather terse present tense without much embellishment, it’s still satisfying.
Story #2 is another oft-told story, that of the audition. It’s the humor that sells this one. What I like about this author is that she can do a complete description, especially of people, without making long paragraphs out of it. It’s necessary for such short stories, but I’ve seen plenty of others fail at it.
#3 features a male escort with a huge endowment, which makes him feel like a freak. It’s an interesting change of pace.
Ending this first volume is the story of an employee who seems disillusioned, perhaps doing the job longer than she expected she’d be going out. It’s a bit sad, but neither the customer nor her bodyguard bat an eye, showing she’s a pretty good actress.

Door-to-Door Sales (The Open Door Book 2)
The continuing adventures of the employees of a Las Vegas escort agency.
The first story features a quick visual tryout, followed by a group interview, in which all four of the prospectives make a pile of sex while the owners try not to seem affected, and fail miserably. As far as the new employees go, it’s nice to see people enjoying sex, as well as wanting to make their partners enjoy it too.
That story is quickly followed by the owners, having become aroused by the show, running off to be with their own lovers. The psychology here is intriguing, considering the ladies are as different in their tastes as their looks.
The third story is a sequel to the one in the first volume about the male escort with the large. . . accoutrement. This one is rather sweet, oddly enough.
This volume ends with one of the older escorts teaching newbies, along with his crush, who despite having sex with him all the time has still friend-zoned him.

Taking Command
Rebel hijacks a top-model spaceship and thinks he’s gotten away with it, but finds a hot reporter he’d failed to notice on his initial sweep. So of course they fight both each other and the obvious instant attraction. There’s a little more plot to it, but it’s mostly about them and their failure to communicate. . . like every other story in this genre.
Is it wrong that I wanted the booty-bot to join them? Funny how she wants to use the bot more than him.
There’s some stuff I liked, but just as much that I thought could have been done better. It came out pretty standard, as though the author was playing it safe. And except for the sexbot, this could have easily taken place in a non-science-fiction setting.

Private Prick
Kinda flighty redhead gets stuck in her building’s elevator and promptly loses it, though due more to men problems than claustrophobia. Then the super drops through the trap door and first frightens her, then satisfies her. A lot of stories would end there, but not when the “crazy chick” can screw with the guy some more.
I really wish this main character wasn’t so erratic, if not completely batcrap (her own word), but at least the writing is keeping me here, being snarky sarcastic in the most brilliant way.
In the end I did like it, though I don’t think I would’ve been as forgiving as he. I wish there’d been a better reason for the hiccup in their buffing romance, though.


Book Reviews: Sexy Missions and Floors

Mission Innocence: Fallen Angel Chronicles Book 2
A young lady, living in a place too small to be called a town or village, and beat down by her parents’ conservative and cruel treatment, is the latest target of the sex angel, the celestial being who has made it his job to bring pleasure and happiness to those in dire need of it.
This story wasn’t all that much different than the first one—though the emotional and psychological moments were dissimilar—as this involved a woman who didn’t know better, compared to one who’d shut herself off due to being betrayed. It was delightful to see her blossom so fast, though I’m not sure how realistic that would really be.
What really made me like this one more was the extra scene at the end, in the adult motel; there was no corresponding moment in the first story. It was both hilarious and touching, and of course sexy. Talk about making up for lost time!

Recently divorced and horny college professor plays with herself after class, only to find the student she’s lusting for watching her. But even though she’s tempted, she wants someone else.
First and foremost, this is told in present tense. I’ve liked such stories before, but this time it’s throwing me off.
Like most bdsm stories–as opposed to regular romance–this includes a lot of psychological examination, especially in light of her past. What annoys me is that there’s no actual ending. She’s vacillating between her lover and her student, even though the former no longer wants to be with her, but it leaves off without any closure, making me wonder what was the point the author wanted to share. The only possibility I can think of is that it was left that way for a sequel, which is not an acceptable reason.

Some Like It Hot
A sampler of some erotic works.
The first one features a woman with amnesia being reintroduced to her husband’s kinky sex life. There’s some fun banter, and she seems like an intriguing character.
#2 is about a recent—as recent as possible—Harvard grad looking for investment for her start-up. As usual in these stories, the guy she meets is a total jerk, but I’m sure he’ll somehow redeem himself by the end. It’ll have to remain a mystery, for I’m not interested, just from that little snippet of him.
#3 has a just-legal wannabe submissive at her first gathering, where a Dom instantly takes her somewhere private so they can. . . talk, as in teach her some of the things she might expect were she to consent to playing with him. As far as dominants go, he’s far from the worst, but I absolutely love her. Wouldn’t mind continuing this one.
#4 has a rebellious young woman being interviewed for a million-dollar job without knowing the guy she’s talking to is the one she slept with the previous night. This left me curious about her, and even more the situation.
#5 has a young lady eager to try submission with a guy she basically just met. Her roommate thinks she’s crazy but lets her borrow some clothes for her date and who knows what else.
Though plot wise it’s nothing special, the dialogue makes it intriguing enough for me to want to read more. For once the guy isn’t a jerk, and I definitely liked her.
#6 takes place in Hong Kong, in a ritzy hotel where the lady is overwhelmed by all the splendor before her dinner date with the rich man. But as small-town Midwest as she seems to be, and as much as she wants him, she’s strong enough to make him work for it, and he doesn’t mind. This would be an entertaining couple to follow.

Wicked Masquerade
A woman is invited to what she thinks will be an all-out orgy, immediately feeling inferior to all the supermodel types. She finds the affair more classy than anticipated, with plenty of new rules. Most people are nice to her but there’s also some jerks, especially after she attracts the attention of a famous stud. One encounter with him, with her in charge, and she’s staying for more despite her previous plans.
The erotic scenes were wonderful, but what really set this book apart was the rest: small moments of introspection, surprising humor, and the description of two people genuinely liking each other.
I always read to the end, and I’m glad I did this time, as I found this is the author’s first book. If she’s this good her first time out, I definitely look forward to the next.

Mission Inevitable: Fallen Angel Chronicles Book 3
After a quick intro in which a woman pines for more than a casual sex relationship with the man she’s fallen in love with, the action moves to the protagonist, fallen angel/hedonist Damien Fontaine, relaxing with his main squeeze, Rhiannon.
Damien is a lot more introspective than usual, making a nice parallel to the human couple in that he wonders if there’s something more than a friends-with-benefits relationship with his witch sex buddy. She’s more perceptive than she lets on, but that probably won’t be addressed till the next installment.
But back to the main story. I have to agree with Damien that she deserves better, which makes the inevitable ending still feel forced. Despite the fun in bed and on the tennis court, this one just wasn’t as good as the previous two.

The 13th Floor: Dark Dreams
Female executive has scary—and sometimes sexy—dreams featuring a supposedly nonexistent floor in her building, while working on a project with a mysterious guy and having some friends-with-benefits nights with her friend’s cousin.
Once the big twist arrived, I wondered why it took so long to get there. Despite this being short, it felt like it went on too long, with her dream coming in small pieces. Just felt like it dragged on and on.
The vampire sex scene, once I cogitated on it, seems logical, but for one who can’t stand the sight of blood, it was icky.


Book Reviews: Erotic Quixotes and Groupies

Grey’s Promise
A surgeon scarred by her past finally wants to confront her repressed memories, but needs her meant-to-be but-never-happened to help her, despite how often she’d spurned him in the past.
First of all, I have a problem with this title. This is clearly her story, so why does the title feature the man?
There are three parts to this novel, one more prominent than the others; that of course is the love story. Her psychological well-being is another, while the third is the mystery of what happened to her and her family so long ago. Also present is some erotica, though even though this book is listed as such, there really isn’t very much of it here.
First, the mystery. There are more than enough clues given to make one of the characters the obvious perpetrator, so much so that I figured it couldn’t actually be this easy. In a way I was right, but after a little thinking, the real “bad guy” wasn’t hard to figure out either. The psychological stuff was done better, though at times heavy-handed. As far as the erotica is concerned, the problem is that with reunited stories they spend so much time finding reasons to not get together that there isn’t much physical loving until the end, thus making me wonder why it goes under that label.
And as for the romance, these characters went over the same ground over and over. It’s rare when a female protagonist is as stubborn as the male, but it happens here. I usually like the female leads, and I really tried to this time, but it wasn’t till the end that I was convinced she was a doctor, especially a neonatal surgeon; her personality and judgement made her seem like anything but. And I’m glad someone at the end finally called him on his crap as to why he wouldn’t go all the way with her.
It annoys me that I couldn’t like this more.

Domme Quixote
A dominatrix struggling to pay the rent for her club puts on a show and embarrasses a mobster who insults her with his attitude. Hilarity tries to ensue, but it’s not allowed.
Most stories involving dominatrices feature them having a screwed up regular life, and this one is no exception. Her desire for her security chief clouds her judgement at the worst times, but it’s her stubbornness and ego, just as much as the mobster’s, that escalate things into such dangerous situations.
But even had Don Quixote not been one of my favorite stories—seeing a fantastic version of Man of La Mancha recently no doubt helped—this would have still been a ton of fun. The sex and domination aspects were done better than the romance and mob stuff, especially the shows. There’s more than enough entertaining reading. The main character, in particular, was immensely intriguing, someone I would love to get to know better (though not as one of her slaves!).
But I kept wondering: this guy is in the mob, but he’s not the leader. She mentions she had contact with the mob when she first started the business, so she must know someone who can get Gino to lighten up. But that of course is so simple it never occurs to her. . .

In Deep: Emerald Mountain
A ski patrol boss and his new employee have a past, in which he acted like a jerk to her—though more out of neglect than active malice—and now is taking it out on her in passive-aggressive ways. When she calls him on it, the fire is rekindled, which of course leads to trouble.
I used to ski, but there’s a lot of terms here I don’t recognize. Maybe it’s stuff inherent to the rescue business, but I was definitely puzzled by “bombs” for a while, until it became obvious. This author has either done the research or grew up in this sector.
But despite the unique setting, it’s basically one of the usual stories: two people with a shared past are forced to spend time together. Everything is awkward, they try to avoid each other for what turns out to be wrong reasons, and everything would have been okay if they’d just bothered to talk it out. And yet everything turns out peachy in the end, though this one feels even more forced than most. I’m not bagging on this particular book, just that it’s an overused, by-the-numbers plot that many authors are guilty of using and abusing.
Maybe it was a simple formatting error, but headers to identify who’s doing the first person narration are missing. It gets confusing, especially when there’s a protagonist switch within a chapter.

Mission Insecure
A fallen angel has spent 800 years on Earth doing what caused him to get kicked out of heaven in the first place: sex with mortals. At least he’s not a jerk about it, using his powers to help those with sexual problems while enjoying himself. Kinda reminds me of the show Lucifer, though this character is a lot more human than the King of Hell ever will be.
In this story he manufactures a scenario to get in with a wealthy woman who’s been basically cloistered for a decade after being hurt by her slimy fiancé. Once you buy into that premise, it’s pretty good, with some hot sex scenes in its short length. As a set-up for a series it does the job, and it makes me want to read the next one, which I will soon.

Three Hearts: Seasons of Three, Book 1
Despite what the title hints at, there’s only two stories here. On the other hand, both plots feature two men and one woman, so that answers that.
In the first story, a lady breaks up with her boyfriend and immediately shacks up with her two bosses for a ménage. As the tale of a woman having rebound fun in a way she would have never imagined, it would have been fine, but the scene the morning after was too unbelievable, especially that she went along with it.
The second story features a lady having the worst morning ever getting stuck in an elevator with two flower delivery guys. There’s no doubt that if she wasn’t feeling so down after the chain of bad events hit her on the way to work, she would not have done what she ended up doing with those two guys–especially in an elevator!–but on the other hand it seemed to be just what she needed. It helped that the guys were funny; most hunks in this genre aren’t. This made the story more enjoyable, especially the guess-the-chocolate game, though that felt like it went on a bit too long. Definitely the better of the two.

Rockin’ Him Hard
A short story about a college girl who joins her friend backstage at a concert and ends up in a limo, then a hotel room, with a famous band. She picks one of them, goes off to have sex with him, then is surprised when her friend joins in. Just like that she’s inducted into the society of groupies, or whatever they call it; that’s not me being facetious, as they often use the term themselves with no derogatory meaning at all.
From the beginning I enjoyed the tone, a slight humor in what’s going on without being sarcastic. The writing is smooth, a pleasant surprise as I later realized I’d read this author before and had not been anywhere as impressed. Maybe it’s because of its shortness, but this story stood out more, just a fun hookup and move on. . . to the sequel.

Rockin’ Him Harder
Like the first one, it’s short and sweet. This time our favorite groupie has to share the hunk with two of her traveling sisters.
If you read the first one, this is more of the same. Whether that’s good or bad depends on how much you liked the first one.

Rockin’ Him Fierce
This time around the featured groupie wants the rock star all to herself, though thankfully she’s not all mean and backstabby to her gal friends. Jealousy is present but not explosive, and unlike most stories the people here actually talk to each other to work things out. There’s one big sex scene in a limo, but unlike the other stories, it’s not as much of a focus this time around.

Rockin’ Him Solo
In the inevitable conclusion, the now-in-love groupie and the also-in-love rocker go to his hotel room without any other girls tagging along; the title is bandied about more than few times. It’s kinda sweet, if you want to believe in the happily-ever-after.


Book Reviews: Erotic Hacks, Dragons, and Chateaus

X Marks the Spot
A woman wants to move on, but her husband won’t let her. She’s interested in a guy from her past, but some well-meaning shenanigans by friends make for a huge misunderstanding, and now she’s not sure which one she wants.
I almost gave up on this, as I found the writing style boring from the beginning. But then. . . I want to hate the author for that big twist, and what it does to Abi, but it’s actually kinda brilliant. On the other hand, I can’t stand that this genre is seemingly required to make so many characters real assholes, but Liam is particularly gifted in that regard.
When I got through the first half I didn’t think I would enjoy this as much as I eventually did. The writing got better, the characters became smarter and kinder, and even the supposed bad guy grew into something better. I pretty much guessed where the sex would end up going, and that was done well too. Thoroughly pleasantly surprised after muddling through that annoying start.

Sister In Law
An abused child grows into a beautiful woman, but burning with an obsession for revenge on all men. She uses her beauty to get what she wants, without a care to anyone else’s feelings, usually. She’s recruited into a sinister plan to take down the President of the United States by the {NRA}, but finds herself falling in love.
Speaking in digital terms, the first 10% of this story is just setup; takes that long for the protagonist to be introduced. It’s followed by a long description of the physical and psychological problems she faced growing up. It’s a long flashback to the present, which basically explains her approach to sex and business once we get there. This lasts till 27%, which means it’s over a ¼ done before the story actually starts.
I liked the writing, with plenty of funny stuff. The problem is the pacing; almost halfway through and it’s still not at the main plot so glaringly told in the publicity blurb. Not that her life story is boring, but every once in a while I wish it’d moved on. If there’s one thing I didn’t like about the writing, it’s the clunky foreshadowing at the end of each chapter; not necessary.
The thing with Craig was a little obvious, but a good touch, not unexpected considering the people she was dealing with. I didn’t think I would like the letters to her BFF, but they really helped to make her sympathetic. After starting as a woman intent on revenge, she mellowed nicely, coming across as more human.
The book takes quite an unexpected turn right before the end, something I would have never imagined from the main character. I’m not sure I’d call it believable, but it was well done. But right after that there’s another twist, and I found her decision on that one not credible at all. I have no idea how I feel about the ending and its aftermath, at once noble and yet all the more upsetting. I have some sympathy for her, but not as much as her story would want from me. Also, I am officially saying this is not an erotica as advertised. The sex scenes are truncated, hardly even foreplay.
Although it was for the most part nicely written, as mentioned above, there were moments when I felt like this was a beginning writer, and in the author page I saw I was right. A great first effort, but not as great as it could have been.

Dragon’s Bride: Monster Ball
In this short novel—I read it in about two hours—a female dragon shapeshifter is basically forced by “The Elders” to mate with a seemingly emotionless leader, held captive until she comes into heat. And when she does. . . does she ever! Of course his cousin and her sister are involved, and there’s all kinds of secret relationships that that are bursting to unsecret themselves.
Eh. . .
At the heart of most romances, even paranormal, is a lack of communication, but this book ups that factor by a few levels. Even the thing with the supposed bad guys would have worked out if only these people talked to each other. It’s all supposed to come off as “love is inevitable” with a touch of “all’s well that ends well,” but it’s really more frustrating than anything else, and the sex scenes don’t have enough to make up for it.

The Chateau
A man whore/secret agent assassin takes his next unofficial assignment enthusiastically, infiltrating a sex cult. . . though it’s not really infiltrating if you tell the target what you’re doing. He’s there to “save” a relative of his chief from the dastardly “clutches” of the woman in charge, but of course things are never as they seem.
This author writes “bigger” than most erotica. This is my second book by her, and like that other one, it feels like an esoteric literary fiction with some sex scenes.
I always find myself thinking ahead, guessing at what twists might be coming up, and this one had a couple. For instance, I thought it would be amazing if the least likely of all characters—and it’s obvious who I mean if you’ve read this—is the mole. Looks like I might be right, but it’s left ambiguous. At least my guess about her ex-husband was spot on.
By far my least favorite part. . . it’s fine to say that he wants everything that’s happening to him, and she loves giving it to him, but that mind fuck about Colette and Soren. . . there’s no coming back from that. It’s just evil. I don’t care why she did it, I lost all sympathy for her there. He simply didn’t deserve that, as it’s not the kind of pain he’s into; no one does.
According to the small interview at the end, this book is a bit of a prequel, set in a universe where a lot of things, especially with this character, have already happened. If I wasn’t still annoyed by that twist I might have felt like reading those others.

Love Hack
A nerdy computer geek and a beautiful lady at a tech firm meet and get instantly hot for each other. . . of course. She’s got an annoying ex, and in what was probably an earlier entry in what feels like a series, there was a major computer intrusion that the company is still recovering from.
There’s some excellent writing here. During a scene where they’re making love by a fire, the paragraph about their shadows joining in was superb.
The plot was relatively simple, the ending obvious, but it doesn’t matter when the characters are both relatable and special, and the writing this much fun. . . at least that’s how I felt before the last twist, which was completely out of character and forced, just for the sake of. . . I don’t know why. It was the very textbook definition of anticlimactic. Perhaps there’s some blueprint, some book on writing these types of novels, that says they can’t live happily ever after just yet; there must be some other obstacle to overcome, after one or both act stupidly in some manner. That probably cost what was otherwise an excellent book a higher score.
Fun note: I think this author is a Judy Greer fan. First there’s the “Hi-Lo” line from The Big Bang Theory—which could also be an Evanescence/Lindsey Stirling shoutout—and then there’s the huge planner/organizer right out of 27 Dresses.


Book Reviews: Sci-fi, Mystery, and Other Necessities

The Bronze Skies
After fleshing out all corners and eras of her massive Skolian universe, Doctor Asaro goes back to the beginning in the second book in the Major Bhaajan series. The first was so amazing it’s gonna be a tough act to follow, though it just might have.
I was particularly excited when the blurb mentioned Jagernauts were involved, so I was really hoping Digjan was in this! Nope, Dr. Asaro is just teasing me as usual. Instead it’s a much more seasoned psychic warrior that’s on the warpath, so Bhaaj is called in to find her before she can make another attempt at murdering one of the most important people in the empire, leading into one of Dr. Asaro’s favorite subjects, AI. In what might be called a glut of “robots will rise up and take over” stories nowadays, this one stands out, even from her own previous books like the Alpha series.
Archaeology, anthropology, astronomy, sociology, and of course the inevitable high-level math and science are all happily present here. The best parts, however, are the small moments, especially when she’s helping her people: trying to get a permit for one to sell his wares aboveground, arranging a martial arts competition between her students and an academy, and so on. They really round out her character, making her more than just a detective. At the beginning of the first book she didn’t have much personality, though she grew throughout that story; here she’s even more human, to the point where she’s even telling jokes full of sexual innuendo. It’s a bit startling, considering how tightly wound up she was in the first one. Even more so, she finds out more about the powers she’d been afraid she had at the end of the first.
This story also expands the already large scope of the undercity, but also introduces the above world other than Cries, the legendary planet where human life was transported from Earth so long ago. In the scope of the three huge space empires it’s pretty insignificant, but somehow harder to grasp. I’d been hoping this would lead to finding out what alien race seeded the planet with humans in the first place, but despite the clues in what they left behind it didn’t go that far. It did give us an archaeological site that sounds like it came right out of a video game, and the special Jagernauts that guard it. I anticipate many more stories coming out of that.
So in the end Bhaaj—Calaj too—saved the universe every bit as much as Soz, but just like her, no one will ever know. . .

Beg for Mercy
Mercy went from growing up in a brothel to becoming an assassin, but retains enough humanity to chuck her assigned job when she finds a conspiracy that’s much bigger and more dangerous for what remains of the western United States. Along the way she gets involved with a legendary figure that shares a common enemy.
Yes, this is a dystopian romance/erotica, though that last part was minimal. Not unheard of, but definitely rare.
Not sure about this one. The many factions made it hard to follow, and Mercy was just too stubborn to root for. At one point she puts herself out as bait to catch the bad guy, having conveniently forgotten about the bounty on her. The action was realistic, but the sex scenes didn’t pack as much heat.

The Unity
A military leader in a sprawling authoritarian space empire questions his oath when his second-in-command tries to kill him. From there the story sprawls all over the galaxy, with a huge cast of characters and ships, far too many to keep track.
There are some nice moments, like the intro and background for Dr. Aravantis; short but sweet, and most importantly memorable. His creations were also a delight to get to know, but the negatives far outweighed them. I had huge problems with the conspiracy, and especially all the killing, alternatively making me annoyed or sad, and I don’t like that. Most of the circumstances were unnecessary, and the dead are hardly grieved over at all. In fact, the whole book seems devoid of emotion. It definitely didn’t make me want to read the sequel.

Girl, Wash Your Face
I picked this up because I’m a huge fan of Rachel Hollis, though that’s her fiction rather than her lifestyle website. So this work of self-help was new territory for me, but I was quickly relieved to find her amazing humor was still there.
This book feels like a bunch of blog posts, which for all I know is true. At the beginning there’s a section on the true but tired platitude of taking care of yourself before you help others, which by now is so overused it’s hardly a new concept. She does manage to weave several points together, which does help.
This would have been just as good without all the religious stuff thrown in. I feel the earnestness; I don’t believe anything written here is less than genuine. But I can’t be sure if that belief is there because I’m a big fan of her previous works. Nevertheless, it’s more than worthwhile reading for those who aren’t familiar with her Girl series and have no preconceived notions.

Egyptian Enigma
Having enjoyed this author’s previous works, taking place mostly in Australia with fictionalized history tours to the old civilizations of Mesoamerica, this entry tackles Egypt, possibly the only place that would have even more fodder for stories like these. Though it follows the pattern of trying to solve an old archaeological mystery, this book has less in the way of modern conundrums. Most of the story involves who’s in the sarcophagus, but other than a stolen notebook and a break-in, there’s no real mystery until the end, and that’s only a setup for the next book.
The one thing I love the most about this character is her memory palace, and the way it works as a library. If she wants to remember something, it comes up as though brought to her by a librarian. Pretty cool. Just as fun is her amazingly diverse family, if you don’t count all the cats.
It’s funny that the author takes the time to write out the Welsh dialogue, as it’s never pronounced like it’s spelled.
Despite liking Egyptian archaeology very much, I’m not enjoying this nearly as much as I did the previous books, with the flashbacks in Mesoamerica. But if nothing else, this book rekindled my interest in the 18th and 19th dynasties of Egypt. And all the references to Buffy, Firefly, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. . . seriously, this writer is from my tribe.
Long recipes and glossary at end, along with dedications. Wait, my archaeological crush Dr. Kara Cooney was in there and I missed her? Ouch. Please don’t tell her.
There was one point I disliked. In one of the sections taking place in ancient Egypt, the rulers tasks her scribe to check the records to “seek guidance from the ancients.” He does find something similar in the past, but it never occurred to the ruler that, in this time where anyone could be a suspect in the conspiracy, this guy could make up anything he wanted. . .

The Treachery of Russian Nesting Dolls
I do hate coming to a series late—this is the fourth—but it sounded too intriguing to pass up. It starts with a bang in the red-light district of Amsterdam, and the most unusual foot chase you’ll ever read.
The main character is intriguing, which is more than I can say for the plot, which did not invest me at all. The mystery-solving had its bright spots, but then the writer ruined it by not giving me a chance to solve the case; the clue that did it was not given to the audience till after. Not fun.
Second off, I didn’t like the roller coaster ending, mostly because I didn’t see the point of it. Maybe there was something in the previous books that led to that big moment, but it doesn’t seem likely. The author has an agenda we’re not privy to, other than his obvious hatred for the latest Russian baddie in power.

The Telling Image: Shapes of Changing Times
This is a picture book that wants to be more than that.
The first part reads like Intro to Human Anthropology. There’s an intriguing observation about shapes, the round and the square in Liberia shown as examples. One gorgeous photo brought good memories of Stonehenge, before it was fenced off. The Big Dipper-Great Bear-laptop thing was a bit forced, though that was quickly overshadowed by the most beautiful shot of a spiderweb ever.
This is definitely not something you should read in one sitting, with numerous philosophical discussions that will make you pause to think. This isn’t a coffeetable book that gets opened to look at pretty pictures; the photos here serve to highlight the text.

Love and Laughter
Right at the start, when the author introduces herself, she writes, “In the pages that follow, we’ll talk frankly (because I don’t know how to be anything else!). . . My name is Beth Liebling, and I’m a sappy, emotional, hopelessly optimistic romantic. I believe in happy fairy tales and forever love.” She also mentions that she’s a divorce lawyer. . .
A very conversational intro leads to exactly the same in the main part of the book. It’s important to go into this expecting it to be fun rather than a serious discussion about sex, though the title should have been enough of a clue. At one point she compares romance to going to the theater, then being in a play with your partner. It’s a little trite, but her enthusiasm is infectious.
There’s artwork, sometimes small shots of lingerie as chapter headers, but other times full drawings that seem cartoonish, which works in this setting. Some of the jokes are hokey, and sometimes she goes out of her way for a joke that isn’t really there, but on the other hand I prefer earnestness to sullen any day.
And that’s it exactly. More than just fun, it’s optimistic. I can easily imagine her responding the exact same way in person at her shop.


Book Reviews: Errrrrotic

Endless Chase—Dalakis Passion, Book 5
In what is book 5 of a series I haven’t dipped into before, a semi-supernatural woman goes to Transylvania to avenge the murder of her parents, and finds something much different than vengeance.
This is one of those stories where the two leads look at each other and instantly fall in love, thus saving a lot of time on “getting to know you” and dates and stuff. They even have psychic sex at one point. Halfway there’s a pretty weird twist involving the female protagonist, but that’s about the only unexpected moment. There’s a lot of characters, no doubt introduced in the previous books, but my fave is the priest, and that’s coming from an atheist.
This was a bit difficult to judge. It went on longer than I expected, especially after the final battle. It’s a strange romance, and that’s saying a lot in this genre. And if the title is a pun on his name, too bad the author didn’t use it in the story.

Breaking the Rules
A woman comes home to El Lay when her mother gets sick, and in between taking care of her and looking for a job she joins her brother at the gym and falls in lust for the owner, who used to be tease her when they were kids.
Amara is an interesting mixture of contradictions. Sometimes she’s sassy, other times shy. Abhors violence, but has the hots for a professional fighter. Worried about reputation, but preferring one-night-stands to relationships. I often fall in love with the women in these stories, but there’s something special about Amara that pushes her into the category of most memorable even with all those strange traits.
As for the book, I like the funny moments, the banter. If it wasn’t for the first half being all “we can’t,” boring me after a while, this would have been truly excellent, even with the whiny petulant older brother.

Training Sasha
A young woman who kinda grew up in an S&M club still has the hots for the new owner after five years, even though he treats her horribly. But then she’s a submissive, so that seems to work for her. Unfortunately he’s a dom into pain rather than sex, so he doesn’t want to have anything to do with such an innocent, even if she is curious about the lifestyle. It doesn’t help that her brother works at the club.
Like some of the most annoying of this genre, it does the “I can’t!” mental speech over and over. The fact that it’s the man doing it doesn’t make it any less annoying. Even worse, I do believe this is a new record for the most stubborn, stupidest character I’ve ever read, and that is saying so much. . .
I know I harp a lot about misunderstandings and no communication being so overdone in romances—there really wouldn’t be any without them—but it’s particularly sad when one party for the most part isn’t allowed to voice her thoughts anyway.
I didn’t think I was going to end up liking the ending, but thankfully the author did a masterful job of redeeming what looked to be the biggest asshole in literary history. Still wish the ride there had been more enjoyable, though.

A woman who strips to pay for her degree doesn’t want to quit the job when she’s graduated and working as a therapist, for several psychological reasons as well as money. That old saying about counselors receiving counseling to know what it’s like doesn’t apply here, as she seems to have more problems than her patients. The biggest of those hang-ups is a fear of love, which she mentally discusses over and over, but it also turns out she as well as her fellow therapist had an eating disorder.
On the other gender side is a guy who appears to be simply smitten by her, but the truth is much more sinister. She’s right to wonder why he’s so hot for her, even if it’s not what she thinks.
At first it’s confusing as to why there’s an occasional chapter written by another guy; it took me a while to realize it was someone else. That guy’s a real downer, even beyond how closed off the primary two are. At least at the end it all makes sense, a good job of tying it all together. But seriously, these people are so damaged they induce sadness, even pity, much more than any rooting for their sputtering romance. Even if they end up happily ever after, it’s not enough to overcome this.
I’ve complained about how introspective some of these books are, but I can forgive it this time because she’s a therapist. On the other hand, despite it being a relatively short book full of that, I still grew annoyed at how often they got together and then he huffed out. I liked the writing more than the structure; don’t want to say plot, because it’s actually an intriguing premise, but the repetition made it difficult to stay invested.

Switch It Up
What an intriguing premise!
White hat hacker breaks into a sex club’s website, finds a Sim, and gets so mad at something that she goes right to the club in real life to give the owner a piece of her mind. Then the fun begins.
Despite all the erotica I’ve read, including plenty of power and domination stuff, this is the first book I’ve seen full of the phycology of the switch. It’s pretty interesting, especially the fact it’s a male. Most menage stories feature the two guys with the girl only; rarely do the guys play with each other too. That made this different.
I’m always amazed that stories like these go so long. There’s a section where she’s talking about anatomy, and it’s so matter-of-fact that it’s kinda jarring compared to the previous playful nature. But in the end her being a hacker wasn’t that important; would have been cool to see more scenes of her doing her stuff, maybe catching more bad guys. Overall it was more than okay, but I still feel Maddy’s character was shortchanged a bit. Would have preferred more of her.