Book Review: His Hostage

review-cover-his hostageTitle: His Hostage

Author: Anna Adler

Genre: Romance, Erotica, Contemporary

Rating: 4 Stars (3.5)

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Description/Synopsis:

Evelyn thought she was the luckiest girl in the world when she married Jack Moorland, the handsome heir to a software fortune, after knowing him only for a few months. The fairytale soured when Jack turned out to be selfish, controlling, and unable to perform in bed. Kind and weak-willed Evelyn finds herself trapped in a loveless and sexless marriage. She wants out of her gilded cage, but lacks the confidence to stand up to Jack, who has no intention of letting her go. Being kidnapped by the mysterious burglar Hal becomes a liberating experience. Is it Stockholm syndrome, or is this professional thief exactly the man Evelyn needs in her life?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’m going to give this book the benefit of the doubt and give it 4 stars – even though realistically, it was more of a 3.5 for me.

Technically speaking, the book was well written. There were no obvious typos, grammatical errors, or punctuation problems, and the narrative and dialogue flowed smoothly throughout. Zero Problems.

But, here’s the thing: There were moments in this book that stuck out to me as red flags. As steamy and even sweet as the romance between Evie and Hal was at times, there were definite moments when Hall threatened Evie with bodily harm and even rape…. and he was serious. I had genuine concerns at times that Evie wasn’t safe, and in real life, she would have been in serious danger – despite the couple’s attraction to each other.

On the other side of the coin, however, I know this is fiction. It is erotic romance, and for the most part, I think this book caters to readers who may share the fantasy of being kidnapped and seduced by a handsome, dangerous stranger. I get it. I do. Everyone has a dark fantasy or two in the deep recesses of their brain. That’s okay… but it didn’t keep me from wanting to cringe.

As far as the sex went, this book was steamy. There were a few tip of the hats to voyeurism, anal, oral, rough sex, and kidnap/restraint fantasies, and if that’s your thing… you’re going to enjoy this book. If, however, you are put off by anything mentioned above, you may find this book a little too hot to handle. Overall, I liked it. There were some questionable moments that made me cringe, but for the most part, it didn’t stop me from enjoying the story as a whole, even if it wasn’t entirely to my liking.

Book Review: Aftermath

review-cover-aftermathTitle: Aftermath [After The Fall 1]

Author: Tom Lewis

Genre: Science Fiction, Apocalyptic, Alien Invasion, Young Adult

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

The end of the world came fast. Between the time the warning had sounded on the TV, till when 16-year-old Paige O’Connor awakened sometime later, civilization had been crushed.

The attacks had come by “them” – those things in the ships in the sky that had appeared suddenly, and without warning.

And as Paige would soon discover, the attacks had only been the beginning.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I tried to like this book. I did. I picked it up multiple times, read a little bit, put it down, re-read it again—but I just couldn’t get past the writing. The story itself was interesting at first look. It followed a girl, her friends, and family, as aliens invade earth and her hometown is wiped off the map. There was action, mystery, and from what I saw of the story, the characters were well fleshed out.

But all was not hugs and puppies. I had a serious problem with not only the logic of the character’s decisions but also the way the story itself was written. There was an obvious moment in the first four chapters of the book where the main character and her best friend witness an electrical surge, and the traffic lights and other electrical systems start to fail all over town…I mean, power poles fell. Then, she gets home to where her brother and his friends are having trouble getting the TV to work, and instead of mentioning that something weird is going on with the electrical grid – something that was still very fresh in her and her friend’s mind and should have stuck out as odd – she basically tells them “did you try unplugging it and plugging it back in?” I was mystified that the main character would completely skim over the fact that something was so obviously wrong and not mention it to anyone.

The writing itself, though, was my largest complaint. It started off okay. The characters were a little cliché, but nothing stood out too much. Then, I noticed moments where the author messed up the POV. The fourth wall was broken. Things that should have been said in dialogue, were stated in the narrative. Words were left out of sentences. At points, the narrative said one thing, and then the characters showed me something contradictory. Exclamation points were used in abundance! Everywhere!

It got to the point where the writing style just devolved into an overdramatic mess of exclamation points and declarations, and when I got to a sentence that read “It was punishing, pushing beyond any level of tolerance, and blasting their sanity.” I was just done.

The style of the narrative just wasn’t something I enjoyed, and though I tried to push past it and into the story, every time I picked the book back up to give it another chance, I’d run into another narrative problem that made me roll my eyes and kept me from wanting to read any further. I have no doubt that there is someone out there that will love this story… but they’re the type of person who’s going to have to be okay looking past the  inadequacies of the writing, and that’s just not something I’m able to do.

Let’s Talk Book-Swag.com–a new place to find great books.

Hello ladies and gentlemen of blogland! This is going to be a bit of an unusual post from me, but as you may have noticed, I love books. I mean, I really love books. They are my life. Recently, I was e-mailed by Scott Mullins of book-swag.com, letting me know about his new website and sort of what it was about, and I was asked if I’d be willing to help him get the word out—and I am. Because I love books, and his site is something I see myself using. So here I am to tell you a little bit about it.

I am not being paid to promote this site or compensated in any way.. I just like books, and I want to share. So I’ll let Scott tell you in his own words what Book-Swag is about:

Book-Swag.com Vertical BannerWhy are you launching the site?

I’m launching the site as a bit of a test to see if there’s a way fro writers to promote their books without having to pay out some big fee. Most writers don’t have the money to simply try out different forms of book promotion and more often than not they don’t have the time to do the vast amount of free promotional stuff like social media, guest posting, etc.

Also, a lot of promotional sites require you to discount your book, but as the people working on Book-Swag are writers ourselves, we feel that in a way this is disrespectful to the authors. They’ve spent all this time writing, rewriting, editing, getting the book formatted, a cover designed. Why should they discount their book to ninety-nine cents? You wouldn’t ask that in other professions, so why do we ask that of authors?

As the site is free for readers to sign up and receive information on book recommendations and deals, and it’s free for the author to promote their books, the site will make it’s money through affiliate links with Amazon. For every book sold, as an affiliate, the site gets a percentage of Amazon’s commission. This way we can help authors without having to charge them a free and they don’t lose any money on the sales because it comes from Amazon’s commission.

What is your business model?

At the moment we’re a small team of friends all working for free. We’re doing this out of our own time. We launch on the 1st of July but all money we make will be pumped back into the site – hosting, email accounts, paying for coding, advertising, etc. We’re giving it six months to see if the website can become something that is self-funding while providing great results for the authors featured. After that, if the site is paying for itself, we will review everything. If it’s making money ninety percent of that will go back into the site and ten percent will be split across the team members to help compensate them for their time.

How will you control the quality of the books which you promote – often sites have minimum requirements e.g. number of on-line reviews or star rating?

We start with the submission page – http://www.book-swag.com/submit-your-book/ – and from the information the author has submitted we try to get a sense for the author (do they have a decent website, social media presence etc.). I and the other people who work on the site will look at reviews and comments on Amazon to get a sense of what the current readers think of the book, we also do a search for other online reviews and comments on Goodreads. After the initial submission, we reach out to the authors to get a sample chapter and check the quality of the writing, and if it’s something we like. It goes a little on gut feel too, if we feel the author isn’t suited then it will simply be a ‘No thanks’.

How do you plan to promote the new site?

At the moment, we’re doing a pretty heavy outreach campaign within the writing, reading and publishing community. Asking them to get the word out any way they can (Author Unpublished note: That’s where people like me come in!) , guest posts, backlinks, social media shoutouts, hitting up their email lists. We’re trying to get on sites like Buzzfeed – https://www.buzzfeed.com/scottthewriter/27-websites-to-help-you-find-your-next-great-read-2e1d8– and anywhere else we can. We’re doing a bit of social media marketing, but as we’re a small team we’re finding this quite time-consuming.  A few weeks out from the launch we’ll be looking into spending about $1000 in advertising – Google AdWords, Big Writing Sites etc.

After that, we’ll be asking each author who is featured on the site to put a backlink on their site to ours and promote it to their audience. This way it’s a bit of a promotional ecosystem, we help them get their book to readers and they also help potential readers find our site. And when I get the time I’ll be doing some outreach through press releases to news websites and writing magazines.

What’s your background? Is this your first foray into online promotion?

I’m a writer myself but haven’t written anything that I’ve attempted to publish as of yet. I spend my days working as a freelance writer and building websites for companies. Previously I created a site call thisiswriting.com  which started out as a personal site, then I started interviewing authors I had met online and it grew into multiple author interviews, guest posts, writing and publishing tips and other content about the writing world. The site gets around 5000 visits a month and I offer free book marketing through that site. People can check that out here – http://thisiswriting.com/free-book-marketing/

Anything else you want to tell people?

I think I’ve rambled on long enough, but I’d love for people to help us support authors by letting everyone know about the site, whether it’s friends, their family or a random stranger on the street. Every little bit is helping us get the word out about book-swag.com

Now let’s get back to Author Unpublished…

So, from what I understand of the the site, it’s a place for authors and readers. Authors can promote their books – for free – on a curated e-mail list, and readers who sign up will get e-book deals and promotion straight into their inbox. Personally, I think it’s great, because I read a lot of small-press and independent authors, and sometimes quality books from small sources are hard to find. Now I’ve taken up enough of my reader’s time today.. but if you’re interested, I encourage you to give the site a try.  Anything that gives authors a shot at getting their book seen… well, I’m a big fan. And hey, it’s free! What do you have to lose?

Free Fiction Friday #69

Hello ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Free Fiction Friday #69! For those of you who are new to this blog, or who may have missed out on the previous Free Fiction Fridays, every Friday I post an article containing 10 fiction e-books that are 100% FREE on Amazon at the time of posting, and an additional 5 that are roughly of the same genre and on sale for less than #5. I try my best to make sure they are all 4+ stars, have over 40+ reviews, and are 100 pages minimum—so that you can have a hand-picked list of the best-of-the-best to choose from and enjoy over the long weekend (while I do more important things, like laundry). I try to switch up the genres every week, and this week our theme is: Steamy Reads ! (cause #69 guys. It had to be done. Enjoy!

P.S. It is incredibly difficult to pick erotica books out at Amazon, as there is no specific category for it. I tried my best to pick some hot reads out of what popped up in the romance category – but I’m afraid this list is going to be hit-or-miss for heat, but they should still be some pretty decent reads. Good luck!

THE FREE

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THE BARGAINS

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Book Review: Spirals

review-cover-spiralsTitle: Spirals

Author: Sarah Dalton

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Thriller, Novella

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Before Mary came to terms with her paranormal gifts, she was a normal girl at a normal school. Then she meets Anita Bridgewater, a wild girl teetering on the edge of self-destruction.

Mary is popular for the first time ever. She’s friends with the coolest girl in school, and there’s a relationship blossoming with her first crush, Mike Parkinson.

But there’s just one problem. These zombies keep turning up, and they seem to be warning her about something. Mary soon finds herself out of her depth and spiralling out of control with catastrophe waiting around the corner…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I didn’t know a lot going into this short foray of fiction. I didn’t know who Mary Hades was. I didn’t know that this was part of a larger series of fiction. I didn’t know that this was a novella. So understandably, my view of this story is a little different than most people picking it up.

On the one hand, I had an unbiased, fresh look at how this book stood on its own two feet. On the other hand, things I normally would have  let slide because this was an origin story, are also what, in the end, didn’t make the story work for me.

Technically speaking, the book was well written. Though perhaps a little predictable, I liked the characters, I enjoyed the plot, and the writing itself was pretty flawless. It flowed nicely and wasn’t encumbered by a multitude of grammatical errors or spelling mistakes. The paranormal aspect of the plot threw me off guard and  drew me into the story as I wondered what the significance of the zombies was and how their appearance would impact or even predict the turns of the plot.

But, just as I was getting engrossed in the story, it ended. I wasn’t expecting a novella, and the abrupt ending left me feeling unsatisfied. Why was Mary seeing zombies? I have no idea. It was never explained, and as an introduction to a character that goes on to star in a much longer series—I kind of get it. This was almost a prolog of sorts to a more detailed story—But, as a stand-alone story? It didn’t cut it. The story ended as a tragedy without any real explanation of some of the major plot points.

I think if you’re going to read this story as part of the larger series, then this short origin story may be a tiny bit of flavor that further expands the world of Mary Hades, and you may really enjoy it—it was well written. But, if you’re like me, and you pick it up as a stand alone? Well, it’s an interesting read, but don’t expect to have your questions answered. You’re going to be left wondering how everything tied in together, and there just aren’t going to be any answers in it for you.

Book Review: Relentless Pursuit

review-cover-relentless pursuitTitle: Relentless Pursuit

Author: Ella Jade

Genre: Romance, Erotica, BDSM

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Desire unlocks the door to a new world, but she never expected to find him on the other side.

Julian Anders has a way of making women drop to their knees. He’s fierce, domineering, and knows what he wants in the bedroom. He craves total submission. His busy life doesn’t allow him the luxury of traditional dating. He doesn’t want it and doesn’t need it. He makes no apologies until Kayla Quinn, his best friend’s younger sister, shows up at the exclusive club where he finds his companions.

Kayla has been unsuccessful in love and is tired of waiting for the one. When a friend introduces her to an upscale club that caters in matchmaking without the commitment, she decides to try it. She requests a mature, dominant man, but she never bargained for what happens next.

Julian is enraged to find Kayla interested in men like him. Men who have no desire to commit. She’s not the club’s typical client. He’s known her for years but stayed away despite his strong attraction to her. He decides the only way to save her from a potential disaster is to pursue her himself. Can she handle his darker side? The one she never knew existed? Perhaps he’s finally met his match…both in and out of the bedroom.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I don’t usually read books that delve into BDSM. It’s not that it makes me uncomfortable (to each his own, right?) I just have no interest in it personally, so usually, I try to avoid books I know have BDSM in them – but when I was given the chance to pick up Relentless Pursuit by Ella Jade, I thought “why not?” I like to read new things now and then, and honestly, I’m glad I gave it a chance.

As far as the technical side of the book went, it was fairly well written. There was one typo that stuck out to me, which is pretty negligible in the grand scheme of things. Overall, the book was clean, flowed well, and the dialogue didn’t sound incredibly hokey. I have no complaints. The only truly niggling little thing that bothered me, was the premise of the book.

Here’s the thing: there were a lot of aspects of this book that were new to me. The club was something I hadn’t particularly seen in another book. The best friend’s kid sister thing… well, I’ve seen that in other romances, but not in romances like this one. However, there was this correlation between the majority of this book and another very popular ‘BDSM’ book that made me a bit uncomfortable. Similar circumstances with the characters. Similar scenes. A similar order of scenes. Even similar occupations. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but the similarities were so striking that at times it made it hard for me to sink into the book. I started looking for those similarities, and I found a lot of them.

BUT, and it’s a big ‘but’, I think this book did it better. Where the other book-that-shall-not-be-named lacked in strong characters, consent, and proper BDSM practices, this book brought it’s A-game. This is what the other book should have been, and sadly fell devastatingly short of. So, I’m all right with it – and I’m going to leave it at that. Was this the type of book I’d search out to read? No, but that’s just my personal preference. Was it entertaining? Yes. Did it keep my attention? Yes. Was it well written? Yes. Did it live up to the synopsis? Sure. I can’t fault this book for what it was.  If you’re looking for a light BDSM themed romance/erotica to sink into – something that may be an introduction into BDSM literature, I’d suggest you start here. It’s a solid read, and not so heavily BDSM that it’s going to scare away the average reader who wants to dabble into reading the genre.

Book Review: Smoke and Mirrors

review-cover-smoke and mirrorsTitle: Smoke and Mirrors [Blackhollow Academy 1]

Author: Jess Haines

Genre: Urban Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance, New Adult

Rating: 5 (4.5) Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Kimberly may wield ultimate cosmic power, but even a mage has to pay the rent. No one will hire her for her magic talents until she’s got the credentials, so she’s stuck in a crappy rent controlled apartment with her mother, yearning for treats she can’t afford at her part time job in a café, counting down the days until she graduates the secret Blackhollow Academy school for magi. Only then will she have the certificate she needs to land her dream job in a coven.

The problem? She needs a familiar to graduate.

As an illusionist, she doesn’t have the ability to summon or create a familiar of her own. Her only option is to convince a supernatural creature to let her bind it instead. Since having a powerful Other at her beck and call would guarantee her a place in a coven after she graduates—and legendary treasure hoards are an added bonus—she thinks binding a dragon as her familiar will solve all her problems…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

This book couldn’t’ have come through my inbox at a better time. I was looking for a good, solid romance that I could effortlessly sink into for an afternoon… and staring at me was a long list of books I’d been asked to read that I wasn’t sure fit into that category. I couldn’t have been happier that this was the book that I picked up.

Technically speaking, the book was flawless. I didn’t catch any obvious typos or grammatical errors. The narrative and dialogue flowed smoothly, and at a good pace that was neither too fast nor too slow. I never came across a moment where I had to re-read or roll my eyes at what the characters were saying or doing.

Though there weren’t a lot of characters to the cast, the ones I got to know were well fleshed out and for the most part, likable. Kimberly was a great main character, and although I wish the romance between Kimberly and Cormac had been a bit more solid, it was easy to see why the surly dragon was so drawn to her. I think, for me, there just wasn’t enough of a build up to the romance between the two main characters. Obviously, there was an attraction between the two – but there was also a lot of distrust from both ends, and I just didn’t see them falling in love as quickly as they did. Despite that, their romance was entertaining, so I won’t fault it too much.

The world building by far was one of my favorite aspects of this book. It was an interesting mix of Harry Pottery meets Lost Girl, meets Dresden – and it worked. I liked that there were familiar aspects of urban fantasy (such as a magic academy, magical creatures living in a real life setting, and prejudices against certain types of magical creatures) that I’d seen in other series, but they were put together in a way that was new, and entertaining.

Overall, although the romance was an aspect of this book, I don’t think it was the strongest point. But it didn’t need to be. The story stood up in a lot of other ways, and all together, it made for a solid read. Would I read it again? Yes. Will I continue on with the series? Definitely. If you like Urban Fantasy with a little romance and a hard working heroine that delves into some pretty serious topics without getting too dark or gritty, this is something I’d recommend to you.