Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Break Her by B.G. Harlen


I sat down to write the review for Break Her by B. G. Harlen, and I first thought, oh, I could write for *days* on how I feel about this book. It would be an endless stream-of-consciousness review, disjointed thought following disjointed thought. But then, I immediately followed that with, no, there is *nothing* I can say about this book. How do I put words to an experience that cratered my mind?? How do I reconcile the enormity of the hold this story has had (and, still has) on me with the near-constant cringing of my moral compass?!

My need to purge some of the feelings this book engendered won out.

The story itself is graphically and excruciatingly painful. This review is the only warning you'll get from me. Consider very carefully what your limits are and any triggers you may have before deciding to read this. Break Her is about the torture of sustained rape and the ultimate, intense psychological battle of wills between perpetrator and victim. Two characters in all, strangers to each other, neither named by the author (though, name or not, the female lead became more real to me than I can express). A time period of a day and a half. Oh, what can happen in a day and a half.

So, what did I experience while reading? Here are some thoughts, disjointed or otherwise.

This was a difficult, distressing read. I read in bits and pieces over several days, taking many breaks. So many times I wondered, why do I keep going back?! Why don't I just stop? You will want to stop, and, at the same time, you won't. Unquestionably, there is genius storytelling at work here.

I have never, not ever, read anything quite like this. Very early on, I felt sure that I knew exactly what it was I needed to take away from this heinous and remarkable combination of words. I thought, ah, I know what the author is trying to convey. This here? This is exactly the larger message. Mmmm, right. Until it wasn't. I went round and round and back and forth with myself so many times, I was dizzy. At multiple points in this story, I found myself questioning not only myself, but both characters, the author, the world at large. Granted, we all read through life filters of our own making. And, mine tend to be serious and somewhat intense on an ordinary day. Reading this was no ordinary day, not for me. Far from it, in fact. So, there is no doubt that what I took from Break Her, what I've kept with me, is strongly impacted by my life experiences and beliefs.

Toward the end, as the relentless attack reached a new low point, I would swear that I could *actually* feel some of what the victim was experiencing. I can't begin to tell you how that feeling has stayed with me. Part of me thinks I would do anything to get rid of it, to forget it. But, I have to say, I also believe that this is what makes Break Her a must-read for those who can handle it. Because, that feeling, the fact that I can't forget it? It makes rape REAL. It gives me a graphic but essential look inside the harsh reality of the crime. And, for me? For me, that is a lifetime guarantee that I will NEVER take the act of rape lightly, agree with those who seek to 'redefine' it, nor will I ever believe I have the right to judge *any* victim/survivor of this loathsome crime or try to legislate the decisions to be made arising from possible consequences. That alone makes this well worth reading, in my opinion. This is a horrible, terrible, gripping reading experience that, ultimately, is a story of the fierce desire and will to survive. The almost unnatural but awe-inspiring strength of this woman is the real triumph in this story. There are other points made and questions posed in the telling of Break Her, and legitimately so. For me, though, what I've laid out here is what I choose to take away from this experience.

Whatever arguments can and will be made regarding content, I don't believe anyone will be able to deny the amazing talent in this author's writing. This cannot be a debut author. I just don't believe it. Whoever this author may be, I hope there is much more to come. May I put in my request now for some slightly lighter fare with the next book? My emotionally exhausted self would be eternally grateful.

 5 Dark & Twisty Stars!!
 
Want to know more about B.G. Harlen?
 


  

 
 
Elizabeth
 


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Winners of Exquisite by Ella Frank

The winners of Ella Frank's giveaway of her debut, Exquisite, are:


Kelly and Momma To A, Wife To B.


Congratulations to both of you!!!


We absolutely loved Exquisite and we hope you will, too. Exquisite is now also available on B&N. If you are interested in purchasing Exquisite, you can do so on AMAZON and B&N. Kobo is coming soon as well. We'll add the link here as soon as the book is available on Kobo, too.

We want to thank Ella Frank again for coming to the blog, answering questions and for her awesome guest post. Thank you to everyone who participated, we had a lot of fun. Please, check back with us soon! We have more reviews and giveaways coming up for you. We'll be participating in the Men and Women of The Military Blog Hop starting on November 9.

Next Tuesday, November 6, author HelenKay Dimon is stopping by with her brand new release Lean On Me. She'll talk about her new book and is also giving away a digital copy to one lucky winner. We'd love to see you then!




 * winners were chosen using random.org*

 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Guest Post + Giveaway: Ella Frank and her debut Exquisite


Every now and again we come across a book and an author that we feel is worth shouting praises for. Ella Frank is that author and her debut book Exquisite has grabbed our attention. Her writing shines and her book reads as though she has many novels to her credit. So, have a look at the woman behind this smashing debut, leave a comment and you could win one of two ebooks that Ella Frank has so graciously offered to give away! We have no doubt that her future shines as brightly as her book!!   

Exquisite

 
Her heart was guarded…


Tormented by self-imposed guilt, Dr. Lena O’Donnell has spent the last nine years in survival mode. Struggling through days that seem to blend together and battling her way through each horrifying night, she’s determined that this is what she deserves…


Until he tore down the walls…

Mason Langley’s life is going exactly the way he planned it, until her. A confirmed bachelor and the successful owner of the hottest restaurant to hit Chicago, he never expects to be blindsided by an angry woman in a pair of scrubs. No matter how hard he tries, he can’t seem to shake the doctor, and he finds himself liking the way she makes him feel.

Almost over night Lena finds her world turned upside down by Mason and the sexual desire they discover together. Slowly, she lowers her guard and invites him inside but when tragedy strikes she begins to believe that sometimes it’s better to be alone and safe than to love and lose… 

Read our reviews of Exquisite by Splage and Karla.


Please welcome: Ella Frank





 
I grew up in Australia and moved over to the States when I married the love of my life. I was always a bit of a romantic, ever since my nana gave me a romance novel to read, so it made complete sense to me that I would follow my husband across an ocean. That’s what one does for love, right?  It didn't however; make a lot of sense to my parents.  I understand their apprehension, but several blissful years later I am happy too say romance did not let me down.

As a new author I originally sat down to write this story in June of this year. I decided to 'try' my hand at actually finishing a book I started after reading an article about self-publishing. So, I sat down in June and the words started to flow. I then let a good friend of mine read the first written chapter.  That was the best thing I could have done because she pushed me every day for more. Within one month, Exquisite was done.

Everyone writes differently.  I would love to say I had an outline, a synopsis or some kind of plan to go by, but I'd be telling a lie. I liken my writing style to brain vomit. I sit down and it just comes out, not the best advice for any writer, but so far it's what has worked for me.

The Exquisite series came to me through several different stories I was writing, and then they all seemed to merge together.



I was originally drawn to the tortured side of Lena and her struggle to move past her guilt and fear and to recognize the love and warmth that is Mason. I wanted to write a series about women. I wanted to showcase three strong women who all had different issues to overcome, and the men who helped them overcome them.

I wanted to explore other options than the bad boy. I think I wanted people to meet a man who could be strong, solid and essentially good without being a troubled soul. After all, in reality it isn't always the man who needs healing, and that is how the Exquisite series came to life.

My hope is if you choose to pick up this story that it touches some place inside of you. I hope you will follow Lena and Mason and watch their progression in book two and three where you can learn more about their friends and family.





Giveaway

Ella is giving away 2 ebook copies of Exquisite in the ebook format of your choice. Leave a comment with your email address and you will be entered to win a copy of this fabulous book.  This Giveaway is International and ends on Monday, October 29. Good Luck! 


You can find out more about Ella Frank on her


website          twitter        facebook
 
 

Exquisite is available on
 
Amazon         B&N       Smashwords (October 27)







Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Kind of Christmas (Virgin River, #20) by Robyn Carr


4 1/2 Stars! Feel good, comforting...loved spending time in Virgin River!! This is definitely MY KIND OF CHRISTMAS!!

This is book is everything that is good about the Virgin River series. It has just the right balance of drama, romance and in the end; you feel a sense of comfort and satisfaction.

Two charming characters are featured in this 20th book of the series, yes 20th and still going strong. Angela is Jack’s niece and has come to Virgin River to re-think how what she wants to do with her life after recovering from a devastating car accident. She’s sassy, spirited, bold and very determined…a real breath of fresh air. She spots Patrick as he’s watching her, while the residents are raising the annual Christmas tree in the town center. They make eye contact, and you know the saying “you had me at hello”, well …it applies here. They dive head first into a relationship full well knowing that it will come to an end when Patrick heads back to his life in the Navy, and embarks on promises made to his fallen comrade and best friend. Neither has any expectations, but never anticipated to have so much in common and to feel the sparks of love. While they have different reasons for coming to Virgin River, finding that special someone was not in the plan. Angie wants to experience more because of a near brush with death and contemplates her life, while Patrick is having trouble moving forward because of a death he’s witnessed and deems himself responsible for. He’s hell-bent on keeping promises made, even though he’s misconstrued the meaning of them. Through it all they are supportive of one another, enjoy their time spent, are totally taken by each other, but know that letting go was part of the deal…or is it?

In true Virgin River style, there is a hardship story that involves a family that was initially presented in previous books. Angie takes them under her wing and it becomes her mission to find the funds for young Megan’s much needed surgery. What I loved most about this book is that we got to visit with so many of our favorite characters, which adds to the sense of familiarity and made for many humorous moments throughout the book. We get to go back to Jack’s bar, a setting that I always enjoy. I can almost taste Preacher’s home cooking, feel the warmth of the fire, the hum of chatter, the laughter, all while enjoying an ice cold beer. I am among friends and it feels good. The ending was sugary sweet, sappy, romantic and just PERFECT!! Oh…and as usual Jack was right and always has the last word…go figure!

Overall this was a truly enjoyable read that brings home the meaning of family, and the understanding that sometimes tragic events have a way of showing us the true meaning of life and what is really important. Grab onto happiness and love when you find it, because our time on this earth is so short.

                              *ARC courtesy or HarlequinMira via NetGalley*

 Want to know more about Robyn Carr?




  


Karla


                                                  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Double Time (Sinners on Tour #3) by Olivia Cunning


Story Rating- 5 Stars
Character Rating-5 Stars
Romance Rating-5 Stars
Heat Level Off The Charts-5+ Stars
Overall Rating-5 Stars

The story line was FANTASTIC!! It gave me a very realistic glimpse into the life style of a rock star. I LOVED every moment of this book and I can say without a doubt that it ROCKED ME!

Trey’s story was so deep and I got to read just how passionate he is. He has been struggling most of his life with being in love with Brian, his best friend. In this book Brian's life has taken a HUGE turn. Trey finally realizes that Brian will never love him the way he has always loved Brian.

Reagan joins a competition in order to become Exodus Ends new rhythm guitar player. While she's behind closed doors playing her heart out for the job, Trey hears her and swears it's Brian playing. When he sees it’s Reagan he can hardly believe his eyes. Reagan wins and the two of them hit it off right from the get go. They spend time together and Trey is finally developing some feelings for someone other than Brian. He wants Reagan to be in his life and swears off all others in the attempt to keep a real relationship with her. The problem is, he also feels the need of raw and pounding sex that only a man can offer him.  

In walks Ethan, Reagan's ex-boyfriend, but also her roommate and best friend. The second Ethan lays eyes on Trey he wants him. The problem is Trey feels the same way. I don't want to give too much of the story up, so let me just say that once these three decide to take it to the next level the love/ sex scenes are scorching hot and very original.  We also get some M/M action and…WOW… OH MY, Olivia sure knows how to write some off-the-charts HOT scenes.

The parts of the story that took place during the concerts were really well written and realistic. You do get the feeling of being backstage at a concert and what goes on before, during and afterwards.

I loved that all of the Sinners were included in this book along with their women. We get a look into all their lives and what is going on. I don't know why Double Time, being the fifth book in the series, was released third. Jace and Eric's books have not been released but they were both in this book with the women they end up with. That's kind of strange that these books are being released that way, but you know what? I'll take a Sinners Tour book anyway that Olivia gives it to me and be extremely happy to have it. Looks like we get Jace's book, Hot Ticket, in February 2013 and then Eric's book, Snared, later on next year.  I can hardly wait for those books, and I also hope that one day Olivia will write Trey's brother Dare's book. He just sooooo darn SEXXXXXYYYYY!!!!!




 Want to know more about Olivia Cunning?







Kathleen



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Exquisite by Ella Frank


4.5 Stars
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Heat Barometer: 4 out of 5 stars
Written from Lena and Mason’s POV


Ella Frank’s debut novel was exquisite, just like its title. The maturity level in the writing and complexity of the story and characters was outstanding and far from what I would expect from a newer author. The cat and mouse game between Mason and Lena was comically written, but yet the story was not light and Lena’s struggles with relationships were built from a road of heartbreak. 

The story’s beginning is dark and sad and it was what I had to rely on to justify Lena’s abrasive reaction to the easy going Mason. Lena and Mason were a match made in hell from the beginning. They were like two rams in constant battle. Lena was hard to like because of the way she sabotaged all the initial interactions she had with Mason. That being said I loved her toughness to the charming, smooth talking, Mason. The one liners she would throw at him had me smiling; she was making him crazy. The challenge is what kept his interest in the beginning. Lena was so difficult at times I don’t know if she was worth it, but Mason was AMAZING and in the end I grew to love her and them together.

The sex scenes were inventive and fresh. Ella Frank would build the sexual tension to a furious tempo. I kept thinking these characters had such incredible self control. The foreplay was exhausting to me as a reader, yet very exciting. The H&h were “clenching”, I was clenching; thinking of the tub and shower scene still gives me the shivers.

I am grateful that I had the opportunity to read Ella Frank’s first work. She gives you your money’s worth. I love when I am only half way through a story and think so much has happened that the book could end now, yet I still have another half to go. That is such an awesome feeling because the story can go anywhere, that unpredictability is exciting and Ella Frank delivered. This is the first book in the series and I will definitely look to pick up book 2, 
Entice, as soon as it is available. 


**A copy of Exquisite was kindly provided by Ella Frank in exchange for an honest review**



 Want to know more about Ella Frank?







Splage




Monday, October 15, 2012

Starfish and Coffee by Kele Moon


4 1/2 Stars!!


Kele Moon you've done it again!


At twenty-two, Alex Hunter is a native of Mirabella Island off the coast of Florida. He doesn't have much ambition beyond the next good time, and he's poor enough to be lacking in opportunities to improve his life. He's also gay. Though, he's too scared to admit the last to most of his friends, as well as his brother. The same age, Matt Tarrington is rich and the heir to a business empire. He's fulfilling a bet made with his wealthy friends by working for a year in a local diner on the island. To put it mildly, he's unsure about his sexual preferences. The two young men could not be more opposite. And, yet, somehow they ultimately fall deeply in love. However, their youth leaves them vulnerable to fear, and a regrettable six year separation follows. All these years later, are they both mature and courageous enough to finally risk everything for the love of a lifetime?



Sexy, lusty and also deeply emotional, Starfish and Coffee by the amazing Ms. Kele Moon is a wonderful story! This is a character driven and relatively simple read, but no less powerful for it. Matt and Alex are wonderfully fleshed-out characters, each with his own set of strengths and weaknesses. The chemistry between these two is scorchingly HOT!! Holy tingly bits, these boys are ON FIRE! If you've read any Kele Moon prior, though, you pretty well know to expect this. She has me spoiled because she is stellar at writing super-charged, intimate scenes between characters. Even better, however, is that she builds these scenes on a firm foundation of deep feeling and emotion. And, while the intense sexual attraction between characters is what, undoubtedly, first catches our attention, it's the emotion, the feeling, which keeps us all glued to the page until the very last word. Starfish and Coffee does exactly that. 

So, why not five stars? My reason for that is probably purely subjective. There were one or two small areas in the story where I would love to have seen a bit more expansion. One of those being familial relationships. I feel like a bit more exploration there could have made the overall story just ever slightly more solid. 

To be serious for a moment, there is one important point I do want to make here. I've neglected to mention it on other reviews of her books, and I regret that. Many of Kele Moon's stories carry the message of equality. And, the fight for equality can and does apply in many ways (not only sexual orientation) in each of our lives. I know it does in mine, for my own reasons. Everything she writes seems to encourage an open mind and an open heart. I think that's a valuable lesson to be reinforced. Now, Kele certainly doesn't slap you upside the head with what she believes. She isn't shoving anything down anyone's throat. It's beautifully woven into the story, but it's there nonetheless. That's one of my favorite things about this author. She inspires me to keep thinking and growing, even while she's entertaining the hell out of me;-) Now that? That's some talent! Give her a try if you haven't already. If you are familiar with Kele Moon, then I guarantee you won't be disappointed with this story!



**ARC kindly provided by Kele Moon via Loose ID Publishing**






 Want to know more about Kele Moon?






Elizabeth



Friday, October 12, 2012

A Needful Heart by J.M. Madden

4 1/2 Yummy Stars!! Love me a tortured, sweet, humble hottie named Matt Calvin, and this heart NEEDS more of him!! 

“You can’t choose who grabs your heart.”

I was amazed at the nicely developed story and the depth of the characters that this book offered. I love my possessive in-your-face alpha males, but there is something to be said about the tortured unpretentious hero, Matt Calvin is that and so much more. He is the shy guy, just living his life, trying to do right by everyone; he has no expectations when it comes to women. Raised by his abusive father after his mother left them, he knows nothing about love and relationships. He’s admired Gina Carruthers from afar, and when they literally crash into each other, he takes it upon himself to her care after she’s injured. The heat develops quickly between these two and it is unbelievably sweet and passionate!! 

“Matt centered her in front of him. For a long time, he didn’t do anything but hold her there and pant.”

“With a sigh, he rested his forehead against her belly as if his emotions were too much for him.”

“Gina almost fainted at the look of his unrestrained passion.”


These scenes were beautifully written and really gave you an understanding of what was going through Matt’s mind when he became intimate with Gina. The author has a way of letting the reader feel along with them…almost too realistic and very overwhelming at times. Gina tries to hold back her feelings for Matt in fear that she’ll scare him away; he just doesn't know how to handle it and deems himself less than worthy. It becomes the basis for the story, the two of them struggling to keep their emotions in check, one wants to move forward and the other doesn't know how. There is also an additional story with Gina’s young neighbor Gabe, which plays nicely into the plot, as Gabe’s sad story mirrors Matt’s youth. 

One issue that stopped me from giving this book 5 full stars was the abrupt ending. This book needed an epilogue!! You've become so invested in these characters and their past circumstances, that it would have been nice to see that their future happiness was ensured! One less sex scene…*cringe*…I can’t believe I said that since the author writes them so well, or a little less internal turmoil omitted…dedicate those pages to an epilogue…wah lah, the book would have been perfect! None the less, it was a freebie, but still would have been worth paying for. 

If you haven’t read J M Madden, check her out. I really enjoyed her short read Second Time Around. She has an amazing ability to pack a big punch in a small package! 



 Want to know more about J.M. Madden?





Karla



Simply Irresistible (Lucky Harbor #1) by Jill Shalvis


4 to 4 1/2 stars

I loved this book! Loved it!

Simply Irresistible is my first experience reading a Jill Shalvis book and it certainly won't be my last! I'm still baffled by how long it's taken me to read one of her books. 


Simply Irresistible is a sweet, flirty, feel good romance overflowing with wonderful characters, humor, romance, and a swoonalicious hero that deserves to be called a hero. 


Oh, how I love Jax! He's everything I admire in a hero! The heroine, Maddie, was an oxymoron for me. She was as charming and lovable as she was frustrating. Her battle with her insecurities drove me slightly crazy but also endeared me to her. But where this book really shined for me was in the complex relationships and the sharp-tongued yet warm-hearted banter that the author created between the three sisters, Maddie, Tara, and Chloe. Their hilarious interactions with each other were some of my favorite parts of this story. 


Simply Irresistible was an absolutely delightful read. This feel-good book was exactly what I needed. The ending was heart-warming and left a huge smile on my face. I'm eagerly looking forward to reading the next book in this series.


 Want to know more about Jill Shalvis?

webpage      







Kristen