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Tag: "Romance"

Review: Glamour Puss by Anna Madsen

[ 3 ] October 5, 2014

screen-shot-2013-09-17-at-1-40-21-pmReviewed by Poppy Johnson

Glamour Puss – a Tongue-in-Cheek Guide to Being a Powerful Woman: Manipulative, Chic and Sexy by Anna Madsen would first appear to be a slap in the face to the traditional feminist view that all women need to “beat the boys” figuratively, literally and physically in every aspect of their lives. The author believes that women should stand strong and stay empowered while also retaining their womanly charms (for what is a woman without charm?).

Glamour Puss is a book making a statement. When you were born, if the doctor yelled, “It’s a girl!”–you are supposed to be proud and celebrate your womanhood! Allow the men, according to the author, to think they run the world (or the insane asylum, take your pick), but silently rule the planet from a quieter and more powerful perch (really right under their noses).

The book uses subtle sarcasm to guide women on how to get it over on the men. The author suggests catering to your man’s needs, using your cleavage (if you must), and cooking him a steak–all while using other feminine strategies for taking back the world reigns underhandedly.

Madsen covers it all: Alpha and Beta males, manipulation (how to use it), world societies, what to look for in a mate, how to get him to propose marriage, effectively communicating your needs to a man, reconsidering the benefits of an older man in your life, why gold diggers are not so bad after all, how to teach men to treat a woman well (or at least better), using sexuality to get your self-determined prize, pushing body language as a valid communication method, using erotic karma to your advantage and more.

I particularly enjoyed the section on fashion that stated that 80% of people (which comes out to 5.8% of the population) with Compulsive Buying Disorder are women, which is no surprise. Women instead should tone it down and find more productive hobbies–not chasing men, but real hobbies, such as parasailing. The book is meant to be funny and poke fun at women, but there are some true gems amidst the humor. I would recommend it to women of all ages who needs a good laugh!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

After a decade of working in several NYC law departments and teaching, Poppy decided she enjoyed writing full-time. She currently works as a freelance writing consultant, and lives with her husband and sons on the East Coast.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Anna Madsen. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Priestess Dreaming by Yasmine Galenorn

[ 2 ] October 1, 2014

PriestessDreaming520Reviewed by Sara Drake

Priestess Dreaming is the latest addition to The Otherworld Series (Sisters of the Moon series). It is told from the point of view of Camille, a Moon witch, and one of three sisters fighting the forces of destruction. An ancient wyrm wakes and Camille must go on a quest to find and bring back the Merlin of King Arthur legends.

Like many long running series, this one has become character and subplot heavy. The individual novels suffer as a result. The first half of the book served to update readers on every subplot line there was space for, with little connection to the plot of this book, and fit in as many guest appearances of characters as possible. It read more like a kaleidoscope than a novel. One of the main characters of the series, Menolly (Camille’s vampire sister), makes an appearance for just a couple of pages. This will be a disappointment to fans who favor her story lines. It also made it hard to care about anyone or anything for the first part. However, things steadied once the quest began.

I did enjoy the Arthurian twists. Ms. Galenorn offers the readers an original idea and twist to the plot and the ending of that subplot line surprised and satisfied. The main plot suffered from lack of both action and tension—no substantial obstacles appear and at no moment did I feel the characters were in any danger. In fact, the novel as a whole lacked tension.

The world building impressed me. Ms. Galenorn has built a complex alternate universe populated with diverse and fascinating beings. The underlying mythology and cultures comes through showing an intense amount of forethought and work. I love any author that can build something new since I’ve become bored with the multiple variations on the same themes that seem to dominate urban fantasy.

My biggest complaint: the dialogue. Ms. Galenorn can write pretty impressive action scenes but her dialogue comes off as stilted and unrealistic. It lacked the natural flow of the rest of the writing and felt like a jarring interruption to the overall flow of the scene. However, Ms. Galenorn keeps the dialogue to a minimum and that helps.

Overall, this book shows all the signs of being part of a series that has run past its prime. The diehard fans will love it but new readers will be lost. Those fans on the edge of giving up will start to drift from the series. It happens. It’s hard to keep any series fresh for long. I did appreciate that Ms. Galenorn continues to offer both a beginning and a conclusion to the book rather than relying on cliffhangers.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Sara Drake has been an avid reader since a young age. She has both a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling and a Master’s in History.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Jove. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Elly in Love by Colleen Oakes

[ 4 ] September 26, 2014

Reviewed by Amanda Schaefer

Elly Jordan, owner of Posies Florist, is moving up in the world. Not only does she have a wonderful new boyfriend (Keith, who happens to make great sandwiches!), but she’s now vying for a spot on BlissBride, a reality TV show. Being the florist of a BlissBride wedding would truly set her career for great things! But Elly isn’t comfortable in front of a camera…let’s face it: Elly isn’t comfortable no matter where she is. But Snarky Teenager, Elly’s coworker, is convinced that the notoriety Elly will receive from competing on a BlissBride show will increase the chances of her new florist shop’s success.

When Elly is chosen to the BlissBride florist for the town’s super-movie-star-bride, she’s star struck and broken-hearted at the same time. Lola Plumb has been in every tabloid and anyone-who’s-anyone knows that she’s just a mess waiting to make a mess! But Elly sees a sad little girl behind all the makeup and drugs and fancy clothes. Inside, Lola just wants to be good and live a quiet life, and Elly is determined to help her start with a beautiful wedding to a man who truly loves her.

During the days of preparing for BlissBride, a young boy comes into Posies acting creepy and shady. When he shows up again and appears menacing, Elly screams, which brings Keith to Posies from his shop. He tears into the boy in defense of Elly; however, after assuring Keith that Elly is okay, the boy finally admits that he is Elly’s half-brother. While Elly continues dealing with her brother, scrambling for BlissBride, and helping Lola become the young woman she wants to, she also is learning how to deal with the rift learning of her half-brother has created in her relationship with Keith. Broken-hearted that Keith is lying to her and is quite possibly not the perfect man for her, Elly decides to push through and do her best to be happy. She proves to her brother that she truly wants him in her life, opens Store B across town and provides Lola a wedding that is stunning and classy all at the same time.

While Elly in Bloom was a good book, Elly in Love is simply just better. Oakes’ second book in The Elly Series is real and honest–a story almost anyone could relate to in one way or another. I’m still not a fan of Snarky Teenager not having a name, if only because she becomes so integral to the story in Elly in Love that a proper noun would suffice for the character. I just believe she deserves a name, so I named her in my head and just replaced the words when I was reading. However, in the end I just can’t wait to see what’s next for Elly and her team of designers, or what’s next for her and Keith! I hope Colleen Oakes plans on writing more about Elly!

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Amanda lives in Missouri with her engineering husband, two sons, and one daughter. In between homeschooling and keeping up with church activities she loves to read Christian Fiction, Women’s Fiction, and any Chick-Lit. She never goes anywhere without a book to read!

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by SparkPress. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky

[ 2 ] September 23, 2014

16045031Reviewed by A.D. Cole

Nicole, a famous food and entertainment blogger, has just signed with a publisher to produce a cookbook centered around the local food culture of her childhood home, the island of Quinniepeague, Maine. Overwhelmed with the daunting task, she contacts Charlotte, who has made a name for herself as a travel writer. The two of them reunite, after ten years, for a summer that will change their lives.

Nicole has a four-year-old secret that could end her husband’s career. Charlotte has a ten-year-old secret that could save his life. When the secrets come out, the friendship is nearly destroyed. But along the way, the two women grow and mature both as individuals and as friends. Nicole begins to take control of her situation with her husband. And Charlotte finds true love in an unexpected place.

Sweet Salt Air is women’s fiction at its best. The friendship between the two women is the central storyline. I found this story to be a great reminder that coming-of-age isn’t only a phenomenon of the young. Nicole is thirty-four when life forces her to either evolve or break. Both women change and grow throughout the novel.

There is a strong foodie element to the book. If this doesn’t make you want to visit your local farmer’s market and then get in the kitchen and cook, then nothing will. My mouth was watering throughout and now Maine is at the top of my list for future travel destinations.

In terms of romance and mystery, there is plenty of both to be had. Charlotte’s love interest is a loner recluse who has lived on the island all his life. His mother was legendary for her herbs and her herbal healing. She was also legendary for the mysterious things that happened to people who crossed her. Nicole warns Charlotte to stay away from Leo Cole lest his mother’s legend somehow harm their cookbook project. But Charlotte can’t resist the herbs. And then later, she can’t resist Leo.

Honestly, I’m all about the romance, but it wasn’t the main element in this book. I would recommend it for romance lovers, but also for anyone looking for good women’s fiction. It’s a slow, sultry read, and very sensual. I found that I could put the book down when I needed to, but I also couldn’t wait to pick it back up again.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

A.D. Cole is a homeschooling mother and aspiring romance novelist. She lives in the Ozark foothills and spends her free time reading, writing, baking and pondering life’s little mysteries.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

[ 4 ] September 17, 2014

Reviewed by Rachel Mann

One Plus One is the first Jojo Moyes book I’ve read, and to borrow a cliché, it absolutely won’t be the last. This book is entertaining, well written, and captivating. It would fit perfectly on a shelf alongside books by Maeve Binchy or Marian Keyes. If you enjoy reading about characters from different walks of life that connect in unusual ways or spending time on vivid portrayals of specific small-town lives in the UK, then you’ll probably like One Plus One, too.

The book kicks off with a bang as we meet one of the main characters, Ed, who has stumbled into some legal and financial problems. Soon after come other characters with problems of their own: Jess, a young mother and house cleaner/bartender/odd jobber, and her two unique children, her stepson, Nicky, and her daughter, Tanzie. Nicky and Tanzie’s father is almost non-existent in their lives, which has left his ex-wife and children all facing various dilemmas. Nicky is a mascara-wearing misunderstood teen whose kindness doesn’t save him from neighborhood bullying; his younger sister, Tanzie, is a child prodigy with a gift for mathematics struggling to attend a once-in-a-lifetime scholarly Olympiad. (The three also have a giant dog, Norman, who’s got a personality as big as his size.)

The book’s third-person narrative shifts among these four protagonists as their paths come together and they become involved in each other’s lives. Each character’s voice is believable and distinct. I found myself rooting for and empathizing with each of them in turn. It’s hard to decide who is the most interesting, brave, or troubled: Ed, Jess, Nicky, and Tanzie all have their own troubles to bear and tough decisions to make. What’s more, their emotional responses to their dilemmas—and their actions—seem so real.

Moyes’ book took me totally out of myself. I was hooked from the first page, when my stomach sank with sympathy for Ed, and I tore through the rest of the story. I felt for each of these people and cried for them—and I was sorry to leave them behind at the end.

I can’t believe it’s taken this long to start reading Moyes’ work. I’m thrilled to have discovered her books, and I’ll be reading another as soon as possible.

Rating: ★★★★★ 


Rachel, who has a Ph.D. in English, is a freelance writer/editor and a voracious reader. You can talk to her about books at http://twitter.com/writehandmann.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Viking Adult. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Hannah and Emil by Belinda Castles

[ 2 ] September 16, 2014

{74FF26E8-A5B0-467C-B5AD-36EFAED4A2A9}Img400Reviewed by Marisa Deshaies

Readers love war stories—the glory, the heroism, the action, the romance, the idea of fighting for the greater good. All of these themes, in conjunction with the inspirational notion that war eventually leads to the betterment of a people and its society, make for stories in which readers can revel in good versus evil. All war stories are appealing for these themes, but publishers and authors alike recognize that stories set during the World War II time period are fan favorites.

I admit, as a reviewer and reader, that I fall into the category of readers who gravitate towards these novels. Ever since I discovered the movie Pearl Harbor in 2001 I have diligently read and watched every book and movie on World War II history that I could get my hands on. Hannah & Emil, a novel of a couple who find themselves in the midst of the European crisis during World War II, is now a novel added to my section of war stories from which I both learned new facts about this time period and relished in the heroism and romance of the Greatest Generation.

Hannah & Emil, from author Belinda Castles, is a fictionalized story of the author’s grandparents’ adventures, misfortunes, and triumphs during the European crisis of World War II. Castles takes real-life accounts of her grandparents’ lives but is careful to fictionalize details, characters, and dialog for her family’s privacy. The novel is a story of Hannah and Emil, two young adults whose lives are forever altered by the political turmoil of the European continent during the first half of the nineteenth century. Beginning with the main characters’ childhoods in England and Germany, respectively, Castles shows how backgrounds inevitably influence the present. Hannah, the daughter of a well-off British emigrant from Russia, is offered every luxury imaginable while growing up. She appreciates education, becomes a translationist and writer, and travels all across the Continent publishing political pieces advocating for equality. Emil, the son of working class parents from Germany, is shown as a blue-collar boy who deeply loves his country but feels discontent with his homeland upon returning broken and battered from the First World War.

Amongst the political turmoil of the Continent Hannah and Emil emerge as characters with ideas and ideals about the direction the world around them is going. Hannah, involved in the Labour party from a young age, desires to travel the world to write about her surroundings; Emil joins his father in protesting the spread of Nazism in Germany but quickly finds out the protestors are not kindly taken upon. Upon a particularly violent protest in which Emil participates, he finds himself displaced in Brussels, Belgium as a refugee and unable to ever return to Germany for fear of certain death. Here he meets Hannah, who has taken a job as a translator in Brussels after completing college in London and teaching in Paris. The two meet and begin a relationship about halfway through Hannah & Emil, which is in my opinion when the pacing of the novel quickens after a slow beginning that does not always cover necessary or intriguing discussion to the story. The latter half of the novel covers the 1930s-1970s; Hannah and Emil’s employment as hostel owners, his displacement to Australia and her adventure after him, and their return to England upon the end of the war. Any further details will spoil the story, but suffice to say that those readers who choose this novel for its World War II history should find the latter half of the story more fulfilling than the beginning because of the displacement plotline.

Regardless of any alterations to her grandparents’ story, any reader—World War II aficionado or otherwise—will appreciate the unique approach taken to the events in the novel. Nevertheless, Hannah & Emil is not the typical World War II novel: yes there is romance, yes there is discussion over Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, yes there is mention of the persecution of the Jewish people; but, Hannah & Emil is not a story about the handsome soldier who goes off to war and leaves his young bride-to-be to find satisfaction in work at home. Hannah & Emil is also not a story of a brave young adult who takes in a refugee against her parents’ wishes or one who is persecuted in a concentration camp but survives against all odds. Castles’ novel is a story set during World War II, but very little of the novel actually deals with the intricacies or history of this time period. Readers who desire complete immersion into a World War II setting, as I assumed I would be from reading the back copy of this book, will be disappointed in the limited details that come across in Hannah & Emil.

Castles’ writing style and the structure of the novel also leave something to be desired in this book. Hannah & Emil spans many years, alters each chapter through each character and a point of view, and does not always utilize complete sentences. The results of these choices on Castles’ part make for a novel that lacks in characterization and feels choppy in its prose. Hannah, in my opinion is the more interesting character out of the two protagonists; her desire to consistently push herself in her education and employment is unique for women of that time period. She is also stubborn—I enjoyed her refusal to take no for an answer as she fought to be reunited with Emil. Readers also know Hannah better because her point of view is first person, so novel literally reads as if it is her diary. Readers do not, unfortunately, know Emil as well because his story is so disjointed over his years of war-time fighting, displacement, and hospitalized visits. Neither character ever truly shares their emotions or explains to readers why any decision was made for personal reasons or within historical context. For example, readers who do not know much about socialism or fascism in Europe during World War II will have difficulty understanding why Emil is displaced to Australia or how he became such a well-known figure to the Nazis.

I did find Hannah and Emil’s romance inspiring in its characters’ determination and genuine feeling for each other; these two fought for their livelihood and their relationships. The fact that this novel is based upon events that actually occurred brings this story to life and reminds readers that events such as these happened and could happen again. Nevertheless, I will not re-read Hannah & Emil because I felt that the first half of the book read slowly and did not add much value to the story. The backstory to these characters’ lives was interesting at a bare minimum, and I would have much preferred more detail about the historical context and plot to the war and displacement camp aspects of Castles’ story.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

An alumna of the University of Delaware’s English department, Marisa holds a Master’s degree in professional writing from New England College. Her dream job is to work as an editor for a publishing company. A voracious reader of all types of literature, her favorite genres include the classics, contemporary and historical fiction, Christian fiction, and women’s “chick-lit”.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Allen & Unwin. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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