Kim and Kelly’s Review Of Book Lovers: Sexy Stories from Under the Covers Edited by Shawna Kenney

blskSeveral months ago I received a pitch for a book that featured “a unique collection of toe-curling tales that satisfy the need for well-written erotica with substance.” That hooked me. So I emailed reading BFF Kelly and got her involved in the review too. We both read a lot of romance/erotica books that wind up being trite, lackluster, and frankly seem written for shock value. The idea that a group of writers got together to write erotica that would appeal to our minds as well as our bodies? Yes please!

From Goodreads:

Forget poorly written prose and clichéd love scenes: Book Lovers answers the call for sexy literature with substance. This collection of toe-curling tales written by and for word-worshipers offers well-crafted fiction and creative nonfiction that connects literature to libido. From a Vonnegut-inspired tryst to an imaginary ménage à trois with Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin, the book encompasses a veritable buffet of literary fantasies.

Whether they’re conjuring Junot Díaz between the sheets or dreaming of a modern-day enactment of Wuthering Heights—this time refusing Edgar in favor of lusty, bodice-ripping nights with Heathcliff—the stories in Book Lovers are designed for readers’ brains and bodies.

Kelly: Honestly, it should have been a warning sign that the book was being pitched as “intelligent” erotica. Any time you have to tell people that you’re smart, well… It’s either evident or it isn’t.

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Anyway, we were intrigued by the promise of erotica heavy on the literary references and did not give sufficient side-eye to a blurb that begins with a clichéd attack on the genre.

Kim: Since this is a book of short stories, Kelly and I figured we’d discuss a few separately.

First up was my favorite (and possibly Kelly’s too) A to Z by Kristina Wright.

Kelly: It’s the first story in the collection, and it’s definitely the best of the bunch.

Kim: Quick synopsis: two women, Amy and Zoe, meet in a library. Every two weeks Zoe gives Amy a new book to read. The authors’ names take her through the entire alphabet (A is for  Austen, B is for Bronte, etc.)

Kelly: All lady authors, too. It’s actually a really neat trip down the alley of women’s literature.

Kim: By the time they hit “N” Amy is craving more from Zoe than just her literary recommendations.

Kelly: Because “N” is for “Nin.”

Kim: I loved this story not only for its women’s literature suggestions, but for the fact that the women get turned on by literature. It’s completely cliché to say, but reading is so sexy. Hearing (or being part of) conversations about books is so hot. It doesn’t matter the genre, the author, the story – just hearing someone’s passion for a book is stimulating and sensual.

Kelly: Yes, that part of this story was just lovely. Mainly, though, I loved the story because it worked so well as a short story. It gave me enough information about the characters for me to care about them, but was mysterious enough that I was perfectly content to leave them be after 12 pages. The story also does a great job of balancing fantasy (meeting a sexy stranger in the library and bonding over a yearlong course in women’s literature) and reality (the end). And, although this story was a little bit strange (all short stories are, right?), it was perhaps the least strange of the bunch.

Kim: Strange was definitely the overarching theme of this collection. The closing story of the collection, The Wolf by Amy Halloran, takes the cake for “strangest thing I’ve ever read.”

Kelly: Yeah, that one is special. Kim was texting me while she read the stories (she got to it before I did), and when she hit that one… Well, let’s just say those were some fancy texts. I’ll let her tell you about it.

Kim: I could not formulate words to even express how odd the story was. Think of the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. Basically in this version, Red has to write the beginning and middle of multiple stories for the Wolf, who has eaten her grandmother (literally.) They then finish the stories together. He waits for her in grandma’s nightgown, all fur and paws. What she has written will determine how he pleases her. As she gets to Granny’s house and begins telling her story, Wolf begins transforming from beast to man. Once he’s transformed she has to feed him her mother’s soup….also known as “the cure.”

Kelly: I’m pretty sure that’s a euphemism.

Kim: Once the cure is given and he can touch her, they begin their sexual coupling. All the while feeling guilty because grandma is in his stomach. After the Wolf comes, Grandma explodes out of him and the Wolf leaves Granny’s house. WHUT?

Kelly: I’m going to start using the term “sexual coupling” on the regular. That’s my favorite, ever. Especially because the wolf is wearing grandma’s nightgown.

Kim: I’m glad you enjoyed that term. ;)

I’d like to say that strange stories don’t always bother me. I’m ok when authors take risks and it pays off. But this story….well there isn’t a payoff. What is the point of it? Maybe in a full length novel these characters and their relationship could be explored more, but for a short story…there is just no point.

Kelly: Oh, god. No. Please no full-length novels exploring the sexuality of Little Red and the Wolf (and Grandma).

Kim: Oh I’m not asking for one by any means. Just trying to figure out HOW this story could have ever worked.

Kelly: OK, OK. I had a little panic, there. *breathing*

Kim: I think the whole Grandma in Wolf’s belly while he has sex with Red was the strangest part. The fact that it’s actively discussed is what’s SO weird. Here, some excerpts about Granny:

“We have been here before, at the corner of want and tell. I write as if I’ll change things while Grandma sits in his belly, dissolving, grinding inside him, an achy, ouchy thing.”

“In his belly she kind of smiles. She does not hate our intersections. Though brittle, she has loved. I think she likes to be near us.”

“Inside him, Granny is swimming laps in soup. She likes this, too.”

Kelly: So effing strange… but, then, I found many of the stories in the collection very strange. And the ones that weren’t (with the exception of the first story, which I really did like and  Inked, which was also rather good) they were straight up forgettable. That’s not to say that I didn’t like some of the strange stories…  The Thrillhammer Orgasmatron (for reals) was interesting and funny in addition to being incredibly strange.

Kim: I’ll give the book credit for all the literary love. There were stories that were inspired by Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Ulysses by James Joyce, and The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allen Poe. Stories that revolved around love for authors Junot Diaz, Anais Nin, e.e. cummings, Henry Miller, and Oscar Wilde to name a few. There was definitely a variety of inspiration to say the least. If this book inspires other readers to read new authors (alive or dead) then I have to pat it on the back.

Kelly: But keep in mind that it’s fucking strange.

Kim: SUPER strange.

Kim’s Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Kelly’s Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Book Lovers: Sexy Stories from Under the Covers Edited by Shawna Kenney
Avalon Publishing Group (2014)
Paperback: 240 pages
ISBN: 9781580055291

Special thanks to Seal Press for our review copies!

Kim’s Review of Unmasking Juliet by Teri Wilson

ujtwLast year I read Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson and absolutely loved her modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. It was completely charming  and filled with flirtatious dialogue that hooked me from the beginning. When Wilson announced that she was working on a contemporary version of Romeo and Juliet I was nervous and excited! I mean Romeo and Juliet is completely romantic but also totally depressing. I couldn’t wait to see if Wilson could win me over again, so as soon as Unmasking Juliet became available, I started reading.

Plot from Goodreads:

Ever since she was a little girl learning to make decadent truffles in her family’s chocolate shop, Juliet Arabella has been aware of the bitter feud between the Arabellas and the Mezzanottes. With their rival chocolate boutiques on the same street in Napa Valley, these families never mix. Until one night, when Juliet anonymously attends the annual masquerade ball. In a moonlit vineyard, she finds herself falling for a gorgeous stranger, a man who reminds her what passion is like outside of the kitchen. But her bliss is short-lived when she discovers her masked prince is actually Leo Mezzanotte, newly returned from Paris and the heir to her archenemy’s confection dynasty.

With her mind in a whirl, Juliet leaves for Italy to represent the Arabellas in a prestigious chocolate competition. The prize money will help her family’s struggling business, and Juliet figures it’s a perfect opportunity to forget Leo…only to find him already there and gunning for victory. As they compete head-to-head, Leo and Juliet’s fervent attraction boils over. But Juliet’s not sure whether to trust her adversary, or give up on the sweetest love she’s ever tasted…

Unmasking Juliet is, in a word, delightful! Wilson writes such pleasant romances that you can’t help but be warmed by them. I think a crisp fall day, curled on your couch with a soft, cozy blanket is the best way to enjoy her novels. Her ability to creatively turn classic novels into contemporary pieces is astounding. I was wondering how she was going to have two warring families hate each other on the scale that the Capulets and Montagues did, and if she could effectively include a balcony scene! I’m happy to say that Unmasking Juliet is a resounding success.

If any of you out there have read Laura Florand’s Amour et Chocolat series (see reading bff Kelly and my review of book one here) and have enjoyed it, you’ll already know that there is something incredibly sexy about a man who knows what he’s doing with chocolate. And a chocolatier that puts his heart into his product to show his love for a woman….that’s even sexier. Leo is oozing with sex appeal. I loved how Wilson was able to give Leo some of Romeo’s actual lines from Romeo and Juliet and not make them sound cheesy and outdated. Her mixing of the prose was flawless and beautifully crafted.

Next up in Wilson’s re-imagined classics series is a new take on My Fair Lady, entitled Unschooling the Professor, due out in December. You can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be purchasing that book the day it comes out.

Romantic, alluring, beautiful, and creative, Unmasking Juliet is a story that will make you believe in the power of true love.

5 out of 5 Stars

Unmasking Juliet by Teri Wilson
Harlequin (2014)
Paperback: 368 pages
ISBN: 9780373778751

Special thanks to Harlequin for my review copy via Netgalley!

Sam Asks: Where Has Reading Taken You?

10006937_10100599367070623_6774052526976724838_nA few weekends ago my family and I took a little trip to Boston to visit some friends. It was a perfect fall weekend in one of my favorite cities. Just like every other twenty-something parent with a smart phone I took countless pictures of my baby girl so that all the folks back home could feel like there were with us. Plus…that face…I can’t even talk about it, she’s just…ahh!

Ok, back on track. When I was pregnant we started reading to Scarlett Liv every night, a tradition that we continue to this day. Every night my husband and I pick a book and take turns reading to our little bundle. I am proud to say that the kid has so many books that they can’t all fit in her room! We have a ton lining the walls in our basement and next to the bathtub and near the high chair. Scarlett is drawn to books. She loves to point to different pictures and words and we love to show her what they mean. It is a great joy to watch her fall in love with text and to engage with reading so early.

The best thing about being a reader is that you get to travel to so many places and experience so many wonderful or terrible things that you would not otherwise understand. Most of the time these travels are from the comfort of your own home, but on special occasions you find yourself in the setting of one your favorite stories. I got to experience a bit of that this weekend with my family.

Boston happens to be the setting of two books that have become a staple in our nighttime ritual. The first is Goodnight Boston by Adam Gamble. This formulaic bedtime story guides readers through a full tour of Boston’s best sights from morning to night, spring to winter. We love this book and all of the others in the Goodnight series. The second Boston book we love is the classic Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, a charming story of a mama and papa duck looking to start a family in the great city of Boston.

On our tour of Boston we were able to see two places from Scarlett’s reading life, and though she won’t be able to remember being at the Aquarium or Boston Public Gardens, I will. I was there the first time that a book came to life for my baby, and I have the picture to prove it!  I know this will happen to her again and again, and I can only hope she’s as nerdy as I am so that the experience will mean something to her!

The more that you read the more that you’ll know, the more that you learn the more places you’ll go! Dr. Seuss

I’m sure Dr. Seuss meant this more so in the metaphoric sense, but I’m loving it today because of its literal meaning. Reading takes you places.

Read. Go.

Go. Read.

Where has reading taken you? Literal AND Metaphoric places welcome :)

Happy Reading!

Kim and Sam’s Review of Landline by Rainbow Rowell

lrrSo if you haven’t heard of Rainbow Rowell yet, let staffer Sam and I gush over her for you. She’s an author who writes both Adult and Teen contemporary fiction. She champions the people whose voices aren’t always heard. The voices of the different. The small. The people who sometimes need a push in the right direction. Her stories take you on emotional journeys that irrevocably change you (you can read my gushing reviews of her teen novels Eleanor and Park here and Fangirl here.) Today, Sam and I are discussing her latest adult venture, Landline.

From Goodreads:

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.

Maybe that was always besides the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

Sam: I must start by saying that I have yet to meet a Rainbow Rowell book that I didn’t like (thanks to Kim). That said, there was something about Landline that was EXTRA awesome. What I liked most is that Rowell used her YA formula with a married couple on the brink of big changes and decisions. I found Neal and Georgie more than relatable, they were parts of myself in a way I haven’t seen in a book. Not for a long time at least.

Kim: I think what made this book SO special for us, Sam, is that we’re married, and have been with our partners for several years. So we immediately could relate to the ups and downs of Neal and Georgie’s marriage.

Anyone that’s been in a long-term (read: very long) relationship will tell you that at some point you feel comfortable with your partner. That honeymoon period doesn’t necessarily end, but it evens out. There isn’t a crazy mad dash to spend every second of your day with your other half. You feel comfortable in silences. You can wear your sweats and yoga pants with them. Your love becomes more than that immediate infatuation present with new love. However what keeps a marriage together is making sure that comfort doesn’t become laziness.

For Neal and Georgie their marriage has become a bit TOO comfortable. They don’t talk about their hopes and dreams and wishes anymore. It’s become a focus almost solely on Georgie’s hopes and dreams and wishes. When Neal takes the kids to Nebraska for the holidays and leaves her behind, she is finally faced with what her life would be/could be without them. And when her old landline gives her the opportunity to talk to a young version of Neal, she finds that the person she swore the rest of her life to might be the one with all the answers.

Sam: I think that Young Neal in particular is such an interesting character because to me he represents  a typical 18-year-old faced with the dilemma: “what am I going to do with the rest of my life?” So, here is this kid from Nebraska who sets off for the West Coast to study marine life because he has never seen the ocean. (There is something poetic about going too far away to study something so “romantic.”) Then he hates it. Because at 18 who knows what they want to do? BUT he meets this girl. And maybe he doesn’t know who he wants to be, but he knows who he wants to be with. THEN their relationship gets so comfortable that they marry , have children, and still he’s never figured himself out, so he stays home. He falls into the homemaker role, becomes the center of his kids’ universe, a universe that Georgie admits is hard to be part of. I do appreciate that by the simple fact that Present Neal LOVES his kids, he ends up doing exactly what he wants.

Kim: I totally agree with you! Young Neal puts all his faith for his future into his love for Georgie. It doesn’t matter to him early on that he’s unsure of his future. His future IS Georgie, and that’s enough for him. I can seriously relate to Young Neal because when I met my husband I was just like Young Neal. Sure I had dreams for my future, but everything got completely reworked once he entered the picture.

This is another thing married people would probably agree with us on. As important as your dreams and future hopes are – finding a way for your partner to be part of them will always matter more. In this we see how selfish Georgie is/has become. Present Neal is a homemaker so that Georgie can see her dreams come true. But what dreams does Georgie ever help Present Neal accomplish?

Sam: Yes. I agree, though I think the subtlety is that she never helps him uncover a dream. In many ways he’s still lost because his world is so wrapped up in hers. What’s worse: a dream never accomplished or one never found?

Kim: Damn. Good question.

Sam: Then there’s Georgie. She’s been able to pursue every dream she’s ever had and she’s found success in it. With her best (awful) friend, Seth, they have found success in the TV comedy writing world. What I like about Georgie’s relationship with Seth is that you can tell it’s hard. I liked seeing Georgie struggle with him because it amplified the feeling that her moments on the phone with Young Neal were easy.

Kim: UGH Seth. I have SO many thoughts on him.

Sam: I try not to.

Kim: HAHA! My first thought is, “how blind is Georgie that she can’t see that Seth doesn’t have her best interests at heart?” Like HOW can you consistently call someone your best friend who doesn’t care that your marriage is ending? Like Georgie tells Seth that Neal has gone to Nebraska with their kids and he sees her falling apart a little more each day without them. All Seth cares about is writing their show.

At what point do you ask yourself is my dream worth my best friend’s downfall?

Sam: My blood is boiling just reading that. He’s not a good person and his influence on her is sad. He knows how to manipulate her. The way he speaks to and about her is alarming and the fact that she can’t see it despite the lovely things that Neal says and does and draws is baffling.

Kim: Completely agree. Present (and Young) Neal is a complete foil to Seth. Seth provides Georgie with NOTHING that she needs. Neal, on the other hand, is unconditional in everything he offers her. It’s heartbreaking to see how blind Georgie has become to that.

Sam: My heart hurt when Neal’s late dad picked up the phone that first time. How wonderful to get a moment with someone after you thought there wouldn’t be another. I think it’s amazing that Georgie was the one to hear his voice an extra time because it’s that reminder that sometimes the last time you see someone, or talk to them, or tell them you love them is the last time.

Kim: SUCH A GOOD POINT. Georgie takes her comfortable marriage and her comfortable husband for granted. Something I’m sure we’ve all done to a loved one at some point. Talking to her deceased father-in-law is one of those “come to Jesus” moments that really makes Georgie evaluate her present path.

I also think that seeing her younger sister falling in love for the first time with the pizza delivery person is another “come to Jesus” moment. To realize that love can be fleeting and to grasp it when you’re luckily given the chance to….well it all helps Georgie realize how important and necessary Neal is in her life.

Sam: So the pizza delivery person might be the most badass and swoonworthy character in the book (not counting Neal…of course.) Side note: I LOVE the expression “come to Jesus” and will now use it at least twice this month. Double side note: I would really LOVE to read a whole book about sister and said delivery person…

Kim: LOL to your first side note. And YES YES YES YES to your second.

Dear Rainbow,

Sam and I would REALLY love for you write that story. Like omg please do it.

Love,

Kim & Sam

Sam: *whispers* This is where you have your “come to Jesus” moment.

Kim: In the end what makes this story so amazing is its bottom line: True love always offers you a chance at redemption.

Sam: That and the fact that it is so damn magical. To truly rediscover all of the best parts, maybe long forgotten parts, of your person is such a beautiful idea. After reading Landline my eyes were open once again to the amazing, loving, sweet person that I get to spend every day with. That’s a gift. Thanks for the magic, Rainbow Rowell.

Kim’s Rating: All the stars in the universe for this book.

Sam’s Rating: What Kim said.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell
St. Martin’s Press (2014)
Hardcover: 320 pages
ISBN: 9781250049377

Playing Catch Up…

As you know from Sunday’s post my blogging has not been up to par recently. In an attempt to catch up on all the reviews I need to write I’ve penned several “catch up” reviews below. Hopefully some of the books spark your interest and make you want to read further!

ucmUnbound by Cara McKenna

Plot from Goodreads:

She set out to find herself, and discovered the darker side of desire.

Merry’s lost a lot recently—first her mother, then close to a hundred pounds. Feeling adrift, she strikes out in search of perspective. A three-week hike through the Scottish Highlands was supposed to challenge her new body and refocus her priorities, but when disaster strikes, she’s forced to seek refuge in the remote home of a brooding, handsome stranger…

Rob exiled himself to the Highlands years ago, desperate to escape his own self-destruction. Haunted by regrets, he avoids human contact at all costs…but when Merry turns up injured, he can’t very well run her off. And as he nurses her back to health, Rob can’t resist his guest’s sweet demeanor—or her flirtatious advances. The igniting passion between them rouses a secret appetite Rob has long struggled to keep hidden. But Merry craves nothing more than to help Rob surrender to his desires, and the journey draws the lovers into an entirely different kind of wilderness.

Reading BFF Kelly recently told me she had a new author I needed to start reading: Cara McKenna. When we discussed what book I should read first she immediately recommended Unbound. I’m really glad she did because it’s about two really odd but really fascinating characters.

Merry is a woman undergoing huge physical, emotional, and mental changes.  Her physical changes have led to her being a bit more adventurous and aggressive sexually, while also giving her new confidence in herself as a woman and as a person. This new-found confidence (and the unfortunate loss of her mother) forces her to reevaluate the track her life seems to be on – her job, the friends she’s surrounded herself with, and the man she’s been giving her attention to.

Rob, on the other hand, has been struggling to keep the person he is all tucked away inside. Due to his checkered past, he decides to leave society, his friends, and his job to live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. No indoor plumbing, no electricity, no modern conveniences, and most importantly – no people. There in that cabin he hides what he believes is his most shameful secret – his masochist fetish.

Final Thoughts: If you’re ok with reading about sexual relationships that are Dominant/submissive and include bondage, then definitely check this one out. McKenna’s story about two people rediscovering themselves sexually and personally is really well done. I truly enjoyed Merry and Rob’s quirks and watching them get their shit together.

4 out of 5 Stars

Unbound by Cara McKenna
Penguin Group (2013)
eBook: 268 pages
ISBN: 9781101621998

tahdgThe American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

Plot from Goodreads:

Traveling abroad with her mother at the turn of the twentieth century to seek a titled husband, beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash, whose family mansion in Newport dwarfs the Vanderbilts’, suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, married to Ivo, the most eligible bachelor in England. Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals. Money, Cora soon learns, cannot buy everything, as she must decide what is truly worth the price in her life and her marriage.

This book frustrated the hell out of me. Nothing about any of the main characters endeared me to them at all. Cora is totally naive and aloof, Ivo has a bi-polar personality, Bertha has no mind of her own, and the whole story takes WAY too long to come to a resolution. When I finished the book I scratched my head and wondered what the point of it all was. The last chapter gave me a small amount of insight into Ivo’s head, but at that point it was too little too late. Every time he affected Cora in a negative manner there was never a resolution. For example, he leaves her for most of her pregnancy to go to India, returns to England many months later but doesn’t tell Cora, which angers her. Nothing is ever said between Cora and Ivo about this or about him not showing up until the birth of their child. Their relationship is so dysfunctional because of the lack of communication, and by the end of the novel that problem still isn’t really resolved.

Final Thoughts: The character development is so poor that you can’t appreciate any of the “world” that’s built (when I say “world” I mean the setting: the estates, the art, the fashions, etc.) It’s a shame because Goodwin’s writing had promise. The story she created had a great premise, it was just poorly executed.

2 out of 5 Stars

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
St. Martin’s Press (2011)
eBook: 480 pages
ISBN: 9781429987080

bemBelieve (True Believers #3) by Erin McCarthy

Plot from Goodreads:

Robin used to be a party girl… until she got black out drunk and woke up in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend. Now she’s faced with being THAT girl, and couldn’t be more disgusted with herself. She can’t even tell her friends the reason for her sudden sobriety and she avoids everyone until she meets Phoenix—quiet, tattooed, and different in every way that’s good and oh, so bad…

Phoenix is two days out of jail when he meets Robin at his cousin’s house, and he knows that he has no business talking to her, but he’s drawn to her quiet demeanor, sweet smile, and artistic talent. She doesn’t care that he’s done time, or that he only has five bucks to his name, and she supports his goal to be a tattoo artist.

But Phoenix knows Robin has a secret, and that it’s a naïve dream to believe that his record won’t catch up with them at some point. Though neither is prepared for the explosive result when the past collides with the present…

Having previously read the first two books in McCarthy’s True Believers series (True and SweetI jumped at the chance to continue by reading book three, Believe.

To be honest I wasn’t a fan of how fast things moved between Robin and Phoenix. Robin has basically become a new person after her major screw up – and as such I wanted her to find herself and become independent before jumping into a super serious relationship with Phoenix. Phoenix is also changing. He’s adapting to a new life and new surroundings. The two of them are going through so many personal changes that their relationship with each other makes sense, I just wish they had more time to get comfortable in their own skin. It makes me wonder what they would be like if their relationship suddenly failed. Would they be able to continue making the healthy decisions they had started making in their new lives? Or would they both fall back to their old habits?

What I did think was great was the evolution of Robin, and the focus on drinking till you black out/binge drinking. It’s a serious issue for many college aged kids, and one I think McCarthy is smart for bringing attention to.

Final Thoughts: I’m glad I’ve stuck with the series this long. I’m excited to see how it’ll all come together in book four, Shatter, due out this fall!

3 out of 5 Stars

Believe by Erin McCarthy
Penguin (2014)
eBook: 232 pages
ISBN: 9780698148710

Special thanks to Penguin Group for my review copy via Netgalley!

mtrMisbehaving by Tiffany Reisz

Plot from Goodreads:

Wanted: Adventurous, open-minded man willing to try anything…

As a popular sex blogger, Beatriz gets paid to have orgasms. So being on deadline the week of her sister’s wedding isn’t as rough as it sounds. There’s just one hitch: Bea’s assignment is to write a review of a sex position manual, but she doesn’t have a plus one to play with.

The good news: Ben, the one who got away back in college, is also attending stag–and he’s as temptingly gorgeous as ever.

The bad news: Ben turned down Bea’s offer of graduation night sex five years ago.

The best news: He’s not planning on making the same mistake twice. 

I really enjoyed Reisz’s Original Sinners series and was excited to read something else that strayed from that world. Not that anything is wrong with the Original Sinners world, I was just eager for some new characters from her. I was definitely not disappointed. (Note: Misbehaving is a contemporary erotic retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.)

Bea is this badass sex education blogger who is completely confident in herself, except when it comes to Ben. He’s been the one guy to turn her down. The one guy she really wanted to give her heart to. And Ben knows that turning her down all those years ago was one of the biggest mistakes of his life. When the two are thrown together again at a wedding they realize they have the perfect opportunity to try again.

Misbehaving is a smart erotic novella about two individuals who are interesting, smart, kinky, and unafraid to explore their sexual appetites with each other. It is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Reisz – a story that explores human emotion with witty banter, hot (at times awkward) boundary-pushing sex, and extremely likable characters.

Final Thoughts: READ IT.

4 out of 5 Stars

Misbehaving by Tiffany Reisz
Harlequin (2014)
eBook: 108 pages
ISBN: 9781460326404

Special thanks to Harlequin for my review copy via Netgalley!!

rnacRusty Nailed (Cocktail #2) by Alice Clayton

Plot from Goodreads:

In this sequel to Wallbanger, the second book in the Cocktail series, fan favorites Caroline and Simon negotiate the rollercoaster of their new relationship while house-sitting in San Francisco.

Playing house was never so much fun—or so confusing. With her boss on her honeymoon, Caroline’s working crazy long hours to keep the interior design company running—especially since she’s also the lead designer for the renovation of a gorgeous old hotel on Sausalito. So with her hotshot photographer boyfriend gallivanting all over the world for his job, she and Simon are heavy-duty into “absence makes the heart grow fonder” mode. Neither has any complaints about the great reunion sex, though! Then Simon decides he’s tired of so much travelling, and he’s suddenly home more. A lot more. And wanting Caroline home more, too. Though their friends’ romantic lives provide plenty of welcome distraction, eventually Caroline and Simon have to sort their relationship out. Neither wants “out of sight, out of mind,” but can they create their own happy mid-ground cliché?

Rusty Nailed is the second in Alice Clayton’s Cocktail series, and is a direct follow-up to Wallbanger. When I read Wallbanger a year or so ago I remember laughing out loud SO hard. Clayton has this writing voice that you can’t help but get sucked in by. Rusty Nailed tackles the challenges involved with a relationship becoming more serious and more permanent. As such, the writing grows a bit more serious and reflective, but still includes the signature humor. Rusty Nailed chronicles this relationship growth excellently. I love all the characters and the situations into which Clayton throws them. I think she excellently illustrated the stress that comes with moving in and settling down with your partner.

Final Thoughts: Clayton introduces us to who will be the heroine of book three in the Cocktail series, Screwdrivered. It’s safe to say that I’ll be reading it, and that you should be reading Wallbanger and Rusty Nailed in preparation.

4 out of 5 Stars

Rusty Nailed by Alice Clayton
Gallery Books (2014)
Paperback: 320 pages
ISBN: 9781476766669

Living With a Book Addict: Where Do You Read?

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Our Deck!

I know it’s been a while since my last post, so hello there! For those of you whom I have not acquainted myself with yet, I’m Todd, Kim’s husband and chronicler of life with someone (cough) who is addicted to reading. Yes, it has its ups and downs, and I aim to tell you all about them (with a healthy side of humor) here. Today my aim is a little more physical, rather than emotional or intellectual: where do you read?

It seems an innocuous enough question on its face. “Well that’s easy,” you might say, “I always read on the couch” or “I always read in bed.” Sure, this is boring and vanilla, and I’m sure it’s perfectly true. But, when you come to think of it, you probably read in many more places than just at home on the couch. Planes, trains, car trips, and white water rafting all see their fair share of reading (okay so perhaps not the last one.) Point being, if reading is a big a part of your life (as it very well is with Kim,) physical location and comfort take a back seat to reading. I’ve seen her read cramped into impossible angles in the car, or with her Nook inches from her face in the darkness of our bedroom. I’ve seen her fall fast asleep with a book tented open on her face, or rolled over a few times myself in bed on a book that’s made its way under the comforter. I’ve even seen her read on the toilet and in the tub!

However, this summer has seen the rise of a new reading location: the deck. You see, we’ve never really had “an outside” as I like to say. Our old apartment in CT did not have a porch or patio, but our new apartment does have a deck. Although it’s only about 5 feet by 10 feet or so, it’s our own slice of the great outdoors. We’ve decked it out (pun definitely intended) with chairs, a small table, and a grill! Now that we have this space, Kim has taken no time in setting up a nice reading spot in a deck chair, complete with a giant umbrella overhead to block out the sun (before the umbrella, there was much sunburn to be had.) I’ve come home from work to find her out on the deck, oblivious to the world driving by below, fully immersed in a book.

So, that brings me back to my original point: where do you read? Is it a special place that you’ve cordoned off in your home, or is it anywhere you happen to have a book? Is it a special part of your daily routine, or do you catch a quick chapter here and there on the train ride home? Whatever the case may be, we can all agree that taking some time out to connect with a good book is invaluable. It’s whether or not you can get over that kink in your neck afterwards that’s the problem. So, let us know below about your favorite reading spot!

Where You Been!?

Hello dear blog friends! (If there are any of you still reading this.)

I owe you all a serious apology for the dismal amount of posting that has (not) been occurring on the blog. Since I’ve become a bookseller with a non-traditional work schedule I seem to be trying to spend as much time (as this odd schedule allows) as I can with my darling hubby, friends, and family. Having your working hours occur while everyone else is free leads to missing everyone. And the free time I have while everyone else is working? Well I’ve been spending it on my deck, reading.

So let me give you a quick synopsis of what I’ve been reading/doing, what you should be reading, and what you can expect from the blog going forward.

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Charlotte, Four hours old

First and foremost I have to share my news! On May 1st I finally became an aunt! My niece Charlotte is the darling of my world. I love her to pieces. And having story time with her every time I babysit? The highlight of my life. She is super alert and listens to all the stories I share with her. What are we reading? Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, LOADS of Dr. Seuss, Jane Austen primer books, and Bill Martin Jr’s Brown Bear & Friends series among other things. I like to believe that I’ll be solely responsible for turning her into a bookworm as she continues to grow.

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Charlotte, 10 Weeks Old

Speaking of growing – holy crap has she grown a lot in two months. The picture to the left is Charlotte at four hours old. The picture on the right was taken during story time this past Wednesday.

I barely got any reading done in May, but I can happily say that I ROCKED it out of the park in June. My YTD total (as of today) is 80 out of 130 reads for the year. I am way behind on writing reviews for all of you, but want to give you a quick synopsis of some of my recommendations.

In the “should read” column:

  1. LANDLINE BY RAINBOW ROWELL – holy crap read it read it read it read it read it. Staffer Sam and I are working on a joint review for this one. Let’s just say there was lots of texting back and forth about how fabulous this book was (as if it could ever have been bad.)
  2. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer – 3 out of the 4 books in the series have been published. They are fairy tales retold with a science fiction/fantasy flare. Book one, Cinder, is Cinderella. Book two, Scarlet, is Little Red Riding Hood. Book three, Cress, is Rapunzel. And book four, Winter, is about Snow White. The series is fantastic, especially for fans of fairy tales. Sam and I are working on a series spotlight post for the Chronicles, so keep an eye out.
  3. Summer Rain - An anthology featuring authors Ruthie Knox, Mary Ann Rivers, Charlotte Stein, Molly O’Keefe, and more! All of the proceeds for the book go to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network). It’s filled with (mostly) fantastic contemporary romances.
  4. Murder at the Breakers by Alyssa Maxwell – If you’re in the mood for a mystery, look no further! Maxwell’s got a brand new series that takes place during the Gilded Age, set at the beautiful Newport Mansions.  As a kid my family would vacation for a week each summer in Cape Cod. Halfway between my childhood home and the Cape were the Newport Mansions. Reading a mystery series that revolves around said mansions is brilliant!!!
  5. And on the historical fiction front, I highly recommend The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway! It’s a great time traveling story that weaves in an epic romance. Ridgway’s debut novel is proof she’ll be around in the literary world for a while.

Though I haven’t written posts for my blog, I’ve written some posts that appear elsewhere! Reading BFF Kelly from Reading With Analysis and I reviewed the first book in Laura Florand’s Amour et Chocolat series, The Chocolate Thief. I also did some more reviews over at Austenprose  – the first was for a fabulous paranormal what-if version of Pride and Prejudice by KaraLynne Mackrory. In Haunting Mr. Darcy an accident places Elizabeth in a coma, with her ghost appearing (and haunting) Darcy in his  London home. He has to figure out how to join her mind and body together again. It really was a great book. You can read my review here. The other review was for a contemporary/new adult version of P&P entitled Pride’s Prejudice by Misty Dawn Pulsipher. There were a bunch of editing issues with the book that threw me off for a bit, but ultimately something about the story captured me. My review for that is here.

Keep an eye out for posts from me in the near future. I’m hoping that in the next two weeks I can get finish the plethora of reviews I’ve started. In closing, let me know what you’ve been reading. Have you read anything I mentioned above? What do you think I should be reading? I hope you have all been enjoying your summers and getting in lots of reading time.

As always, happy reading!

Kim’s Guest Review of Passionate Persuasion by Rosemary Clement-Moore

pprcmIf you’re a fan of Jane Austen’s Persuasion but prefer your romances to take place in this century, let me tell you about Rosemary Clement-Moore’s novella Passionate Persuasion.

Alex realizes he messed up hugely years ago when he broke up with his college girlfriend Kiara. When life throws the two of them back together years later he knows he has to somehow win her back. Will he be able to repair the damage he did to Kiara’s heart and claim her for his own?

For a direct link to my review, click here.

Kim and Kelly’s Dueling Review of Laugh (Burnside #2) by Mary Ann Rivers

lmarIt’s not a surprise that Kelly and I are back, together again, reviewing another Mary Ann Rivers novel. We are both in love with Mary Ann’s characters, stories, and the way there are ALL the feels in her books (you can also read my review of her first novella, The Story Guy, and our review of Heating Up the Holidays.) Kelly and I jumped for joy when Mary Ann announced her Burnside series. We loved the first book in the series, Live, so much that we wrote our review as a love letter to Mary Ann about it. The second book in the series, Laugh, blew us away (as expected). Thus, we are here to fan girl all over it and its main character, Sam.

From Goodreads:

Dr. Sam Burnside is convinced that volunteering at an urban green-space farm in Lakefield, Ohio, is a waste of time—especially with his new health clinic about to open. He only goes to mollify his partner, suspecting she wants him to lighten up. Then Sam catches sight of Nina Paz, a woman who gives off more heat than a scorcher in July. Her easy smile and flirty, sizzling wit has him forgetting his infamous need for control.

Widowed when her husband was killed in Afghanistan, Nina has learned that life exists to take chances. As the daughter of migrant workers turned organic farmers, she’s built an exciting and successful business by valuing new opportunities and working hard to take care of her own. But when Sam pushes for a relationship that goes beyond their hotter-than-fire escapades, Nina ignores her own hard-won wisdom. She isn’t ready for a man who needs saving—even if her heart compels her to take the greatest risk of all: love.

Kim: I need to start off by saying that this book was a balm for my soul. Sam Burnside is in MANY ways an extreme version of myself. We’ve both been diagnosed with ADD and have had it be debilitating for us in some way, shape, or form. We’re both highly obsessed with needing the people around us be happy. This results in us trying to fix all their problems or protect them from hardship. While you may be saying, “Hey! That’s a pretty generous thing to do,” it’s my unfortunate duty to tell you that it often results in animosity from the people we love, much to our chagrin. They perceive us as interfering with their lives. Lives that they need no help with.

I can tell you firsthand it’s really difficult growing up like this. Knowing you’re struggling with concentration issues, hyperactivity (for some ADD people), and a constant sense of letting everyone around you down all the time. It certainly doesn’t help when people tell you that you don’t work hard enough, tell you everything you do is wrong, or tell you that you’re just too _____. A lifetime of feeling this way begins to make you feel less and less adequate of a person until you find people who realize you are filled with an fathomless amount of love.

Kelly: I really wish we’d known each other when we were younger. I would have been OK with a fathomless amount of love. :)  [Here’s my own personal rant: I will never understand why people choose to go through life thinking the worst (or, at least, not thinking the best) of the people around them. I don’t understand why it took people so long to figure out that you, Kim, are amazing. And, shifting to the fictional, I don’t understand why Sam’s own family was so perfectly blinded to his sterling qualities. I cannot fathom why anyone would tell him to be anything other than what he is.]

Kim: First, you’re the best. Second, I totally agree with your above statement. Sam is NOT a bad guy. He’s a doctor who wants to open up a clinic in his hometown to help people who are struggling. He wants to help out Nina’s farm and create a lasting partnership for his community. He wants to take care of his sister Sarah, badly injured from her racing accident. He wants to help his sister Des, who is all the way overseas, traveling and falling deeply in love for the first time. His list goes on and on. All he does is care about the people around him, to the detriment of his own self sometimes. His house is an absolute disaster zone, one that reflects how his mind is always jumping to his next task.

Kelly: Laugh is definitely Sam’s book. Sam, through a lifetime of being told what he is, being told that he’s too much this or that and (very much) not enough this or that, is not able to see himself clearly. He believes what he’s been told, and that’s heartbreaking. But let’s think for a second about ourselves: Sam’s not the only one who believes these things that are not true. He’s not the only one who can’t fathom that failure is not (or does not have to be) the motif of his story. We all suffer, to one degree or another, from the terrible messages that surround us, those sent to us by our (if we’re lucky, well-meaning) parents, friends, siblings and those sent by our society and culture. We all see a funhouse-mirror version of ourselves and need to learn how to see the shapes that are really there, learn to love ourselves — our real selves — before we can truly love anyone else. Laugh shows us what that process looks like, and it does it in such a beautiful way. I wish that Nina’s journey towards seeing herself more clearly were given a little more page time, but… I find so much value in Sam’s journey (and Nina’s involvement in it) that I don’t actually care as much about it as my brain tells me I should.

Kim: I agree. As much as I would have liked to see more of Nina’s journey of self-discovery, Sam’s was just perfection. I cared about Nina a lot, especially as she started telling the people around Sam to lighten up on him. Realize that his love for them was endless. Self-less. Pure.

Kelly: Nina’s journey felt very private to me, even though she has more friends and — on the outside, at least — appears that she’s got her shit together. I mean, Sam’s chaos is super obvious. His apartment is a wreck; he’s going through a crisis dealing with the responsibilities associated with opening the clinic; he’s taking extra shifts at the hospital to avoid thinking about it all; he’s not talking to two of his siblings (well, more accurately, they’re not talking to him) and is sending desperate emails to Des; he’s choosing to spend time learning about urban farming to avoid thinking about all the balls in the air that could (and will) come crashing down at any moment. He’s a hot mess. But Nina, who has built a business from the ground up, who has cultivated the earth and the people around her, is just as messed up. She’s an uprooted plant struggling to grow. She’s the other side of Sam’s coin. Where Sam is root bound by his past, Nina is surgically cut off from hers. Where Sam is certain of his ability to love, Nina is certain that she sacrificed her ability to love.

Nina resonated with me… and I know I said before that the story feels like Sam’s story and I almost wish that Nina’s journey had been a little more front and center, but I wonder if Mary Ann Rivers was just giving Nina the space and freedom (and privacy) to live out her grief and learn how to make room for love. Maybe that’s the most generous thing Mary Ann could have done for Nina (and for all of us reading the story) is give us the privacy and respect to let grief fill us up and then let it all flow out. Does that make any damn sense?

Kim:I think you’re absolutely right. Maybe it’s just me, but when I am overwhelmed with grief it all comes out as a huge scream (i.e. pounding on pillows and my bed.) I need to let it all out physically in a cathartic way. I can’t even imagine what Nina would need to do to get all the grief out that she’s felt all those years due to her husband, her dreams, her family, etc. The glimpses of her grief that we’re given are heartbreaking. And as Kelly said above, her inability to see how she can love. How she already does love, but just doesn’t see its value or weight.

I know that those of you reading this review must think this book is such a downer. But it’s really not. It’s beautiful in its honesty. In its realness. It doesn’t even matter if you see yourself as Sam or Nina – there is someone in your life that is like them. Reading this book will have you seeing them in a new light. Maybe realizing you need to be overly compassionate for someone who still grieves, and trying to understand someone like Sam (or me!) that wants the best for you and sometimes may not go about expressing that in the best way. We all have quirks within our personalities that make us puzzles to the people around us. It’s the people like Nina and Sam (and Kelly & I) that work to figure out those puzzles, knowing that once you do the love you’ll receive is boundless.

Kelly: Yes! There are a handful of books that felt very important to me for one reason or another. (I have felt that way about every single piece of writing — novels, novellas, short stories, blog posts, and tweets — I’ve read by Mary Ann, by the way.) I felt that way about Snowfall and The Story Guy and — in a huge way — about Ruthie Knox’s Making it Last. (And Laura Florand’s Snow Kissed, if we’re making a more comprehensive list.) And Laugh is another. It’s an important book. It’s important to me because it says something true that resonates with me, that lifts me up, that reassures me, and that teaches me. It’s important to all of us (if I can make such a pronouncement) because its message is universal. We need more love. We need more acceptance. We need to love and accept ourselves, and we need to love and accept each other. We need to give each other the space to grieve, and we need to step in occasionally to help cultivate the best parts of our loved ones.

Kim: So in closing, as always we’d like to write Mary Ann a letter.

Dear Mary Ann,

THANK YOU for Sam. And for Laugh. And for writing a story that gives voice to people like Sam and Nina. For showing that a disability doesn’t have to be debilitating. Its effects can be disastrous, but they can also have amazing outcomes. The ability to love unconditionally. To care more about others than yourself.

Thank you for showing the world that being “too ____” isn’t always a bad thing. For giving a voice to those of us who are sometimes so burdened with the amount of stress we put on ourselves that we have no voice. For showing that giving “too much” love is never a bad thing. But most importantly for giving me a character that I related to more than any other character I’ve ever read in my entire life. That act alone has shown me I’m not alone in my feelings. For just that, I’ll thank you for a lifetime.

Love,

Kim

Kelly: Dear Mary Ann,

Thank you for Nina, for her background, her grief, her hangups, and her strengths. Thank you for her friends (and for writing a book that passes the Bechdel Test. Seriously… thank you so much for that.). Thank you for showing her full life (alongside Sam’s full life) and for writing her so generously that I was free to accept her generously (and to accept myself generously as well). Thank you for loving Nina and for allowing Nina to love Sam, to see him clearly, and to fight for him. And also to fight for herself.

Love,

Kelly

Laugh by Mary Ann Rivers
Random House – Loveswept (2014)
eBook: 288 pages
ISBN: 9780804178228

Special thanks to Loveswept for our review copies via Netgalley!

Winner Announced in the Bloodwitch Giveaway!

baarSO SO SO sorry for the delay in announcing the winner! One person has been chosen the winner in the Bloodwitch giveaway!

Congratulations to:

  1. KyungMi who left a comment on May 26th

Please contact me with your mailing address by Friday, June 13, 2014 to claim your prize.

Thank you to all who participated and left comments!