ashwednesday

Jam Tomorrow. Jam Yesterday. But Never Jam Today.

Today I Learned, Top Hats Do Not Make A Story

The Last Good Knight Part I: Scars and Stripes (The Original Sinners) - Tiffany Reisz
”I do see a lady in this room, the most beautiful lady I’ve seen in a long time. She’s strong, smart and completely comfortable with who and what she is. She also understands the men who want to serve at her feet.”
“I’m going to beat the shit out of you tonight and fuck you. And then probably fuck you again.”


All that.

And a top hat to boot.

So an Original Sinners novella that takes place between the The White and Red Years. Roughly after Eleanor left Soren to work as a Domme in The 8th Circle but before she got her clit ring (I need some clarification on the timeline based on this one). So of course it’s going to be The Eleanor/Nora’s Fantastical Vagina and It’s Sidemen Show kind of thing, so this is me picking my battles with our kinky heroine.

I’m guessing with Nora’s vague references about Soren during her session with the club noob Lance plus the amount of googly eyes Soren and Nora make at each other being all sexual tensiony the break up has been pretty recent. Having read The Saint and finished The Red Years, I think this is as good a jump off point to get introduced in the series as The Siren. Though, fair warning, it hardly showcases Tiffany Reisz strong points of clever dialogue and intriguing heroes.

”I knew it. SEAL,” she said. “Give me a second to pat myself on the back.”
She reached her arm around her shoulder and swatted herself awkwardly.
“This is harder than it looks,” she said. “Don’t laugh at me.” Nora switched arms and tried patting herself from around and behind her back. “I’m going to keep doing this until you admit you’re a SEAL.”




The wit felt a bit flat for me bordering on cheesy try-hard while the dialogue came across robotic. But then Kingsley hasn’t made his requisite appearance so there’s hope yet. Scars and Stripessuffered the generic issue I have with BDSM books where the kink play scenes veers towards operation manual procedure. Of the ‘go here, kneel there, give me a number, make me come’ variety. Which is unfair to The Original Sinners canon because it hardly falls prey to that pitfall, undoubtedly.

I like that this addressed that little conundrum in my head about the fine line in the Sub-Dom dynamic. When the sub’s desire ceases to be his/her own’s and defers to satisfying his/her dom’s, it makes the entire exercise, in the aspect of the giving and taking of pleasure, too tricky to follow coherently. This also provided some vivid detail on the 8th circle as a business establishment, something I always appreciate in Reisz’ novellas from this series. 

Being familiar with Reisz' oeuvre, I can’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed with Scars and Stripes but I do confess that the promise of more Soren just makes it impossible for me not to continue.

Review Copy provided by the publishers.

Meeting Joe Black

Delirium - Susan Kaye Quinn
…they tally it up, and when your debts - medical bills, taxes, that foolish vacation you took in the Bahamas on credit - when all of it is no longer worth your future productive contribution to society, otherwise known as the price of your life on the open market, they call in the debt collectors.


As a first book in a series, I thought this was pretty impressive. True, the world building is still pretty flimsy and the protagonists are severely lacking in the personality department, but in terms of keeping my interest for it’s short length and making me curious for the next one, Delirium was pretty good.

The premise incorporates some elements of that film In Time where time is the new currency, except here someone is tasked to collect the remaining time from a dying person whose remaining days alive is deemed worthless by some obscurely depicted agency. This remaining time is transferred to someone whose life is valued in society and thus needs to be prolonged, for example, a scientist researching the cure for cancer. 

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Fast, Far and Away

Anonymous: HarperImpulse Romantic Suspense - Dani-Lyn Alexander
"I'm not a yo-yo. You can't keep bouncing me back and forth. You want me, you don't, you want me, you don't..."

When it comes to books of this length, I usually just count my blessings when it comes to rating them. This... this is a challenge to say something nice about.

Because at the heart of Anonymous is a poorly planned mystery with weak red herrings and deplorable characters trapped in a ridiculous conflict, cursed with the worst excuse of a "shocking" plot twist in the history of ever. 
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What in the Hizzle???

The Warrior  - Victoria Scott

I was different then. Dare I say I was a douchebag?I dare not.I've always been awesome.
Even if I was a self-centered dick, I was an awesome self-centered dick.

The handful of friends I had when I read The Collector can attest to my Dante Walker fangirl status. I think I may have inadvertently shoved that one down a couple of throats here on GR none too gently. I'm still not sorry, by the way. He's easily one of the most entertaining heroes out there. His insults and insights, his POW! so indelible to his character, I'd imagine it as iconoclastic as "bitch" is to Aaron Paul.

Boy's got swag for days, indubitably.

Which is why writing about The Warrior is nearly, if not more, as heartbreaking as reading it was for me.

I've made allowances and excuses for The Liberator. Perhaps its the biggest testament of my love of everything Dante Walker but I figured it was my insurmountable expectations' fault and not the actual direction the series took with the introduction of Aspen in the storyline.



As it turns out, it really WAS the story's fault. And it got exponentially worse in its chaotic conclusion. 
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I Can Feel My Brain Draining From My Pores.

The Breakup Artist (The Artists) - Nichole Severn

I have a relatively high tolerance in terms of DNF-ing books. No matter how shitty it gets, I try to stick it out so I could give it a decided rating and review by the end. 

 

I don't think I've ever wanted to DNF a book as short as this one. Not even its length could be counted as a blessing as it only served to highlight how bad this was because it felt a lot like 400 instead of 48 kindle pages.

 

Demi Shepherd is a break-up artist. As in she gets hired to by people to break-up with their fiancees, spouses, boy/girlfriends, wives, husbands, etc. Things get complicated when the man who hired her to break-up with his fiancee ended up dead in her hotel room and $50,000 ending up mysteriously in her bank account. From working with a ridiculous job title to becoming the lead suspect in a murder, Demi realizes the frame-up job on her goes deeper than it appears as she finds herself of the run from money laundering dirty cops with the help of the inexplicably hot and mysterious Jack.

 

I'm not going to try and pretend there's any redemptive value to this book so I'm just going to start posting my questions about this story:

 

Question 1: Why does this job exist? Whatever economic shakedown happened that prevents douchebags from good old break-up through text? Or email? I feel Taylor Swift wants to know as well.

 

Question 2: How difficult is it to relay to someone that he/she is getting dumped that it would require a mentorship program? Because Demi has a mentor whose help she sought while trying to escape. The poor woman got scarred and burned by someone who went batshitty batty upon receiving the news.

 

Question 3: This quote from a disgruntled dumped:

 

"You know after Heather had you break up with me, I started drinking," Gary stopped a few feet away, expression hardened, eyes on fire. "I lost my job. My house. Everything. She even took the kids. All because of you."

 

I'm confused. When I requested this book I thought Demi's role as a Break Up Artist is to scheme a ruse with her client that will force the client's spouse to dump him or her. Instead, her job really is just like a messenger of sorts. So my question is: Did the human race get infected by some virus that renders them stupid and illogical, hiring people to break up for them and in return, the dumped blames the Break Up Artist and not the dumper? Because I can totally get onboard with that.

 

Question 4: Did we really need to name the fucking purse when we can't even keep track of the characters' whereabouts? Seriously, there was one scene where she's watching her apartment on TV, the next scene she's in front of the apartment as if she teleported there. 

 

 

You know what? I think I figured it out. I think this is a sci-fi/dystopian book.

 

It just hasn't realised it yet. 

 

I'm gonna give it a bit of time, let it have its existential crisis.

 

 

Review Copy provided by the publishers thru Netgalley.

Too. Much. Acid.

The Door - Andy Marino
”If you’re lonely right now, you have to understand that it’s not half as lonely as you’ll feel for the rest of your life, once you know what I know.”


Full disclosure, I didn’t realise this was a Middle Grade book until I got approved for this galley. The last MG book I read was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. So I was expecting to feel out of my element while reading this, only to be surprised how fascinating this turned out. 

In the beginning anyway. 

I really liked how manic this author’s imagination seem to be, that you have to wonder what herbal plane he’s operating on. I just wish he also took something to rein in all that creativity, enough to make the story more coherent and sensible.

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Existential Erotica

The Saint - Tiffany Reisz
This was how it would be. 
This was how it would happen.
This was the beginning.
This was the end.


I didn’t want to read this immediately after receiving the galley. Not for lack of any interest, I was actually more interested with this prequel series than the final book of The Red Years. It’s just that I’m not always right as rain after finishing a Reisz book. I always need a few days to forget a little, recalibrate perspectives and get reacquainted with my comfort zone after being teetering on an existential and theological edge with these characters. She always makes me hold my breath until the very last chapter (barring spoilers), makes my gut twist for the looming end, shaking like a junkie knowing the next fix isn’t available yet… its never a comfortable experience.

Yet I’m still shaking.

But with two popes getting canonized by the Vatican into sainthood this weekend as I finished Søren and Eleanor/Nora’s beginnings, I find I couldn’t have picked a better time to read this, almost two months away from its actual release.

Everyone who will read this book is already a fan of the series, so the question now will be if it delivered? 

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Needs A Leprechaun. Maybe Seven.

Her Best Laid Plans - Cara McKenna
2 STARS 

Half-hearted and boring. I imagine this was written while the author was writing another book, baking ten pies and doing her taxes. I have such faith in McKenna's knack for writing that I believe she can do all that and still come up with a coherent, albeit lazily imagined, snoozefest of a romance where nearly everybody's a bartender because, duh Ireland.
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Quaaludes and Kaiser Rolls

Love Letters to the Dead - Ava Dellaira
Our flushing hearts, trying to climb the stars - how with the wrong wind, we can fall.


I don’t think I’ve ever felt so many contrasting emotions for a book as I did for this one. My first impulse was to rage quit this as early as the second Cobain letter, followed by derisively laughing at Laurel’s puerile drama. Then I felt some alien tug at my heart over Aunt Amy and her Jesus Man and got teary-eyed over the story behind her parents’ broken marriage. Reading this book felt a lot like having your emotions painfully scooped out of you, put back reconfigured at the end: strangely familiar but also new. 

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The Bottom of Your Bottom is Different from Everyone Else's

Flying - Megan Hart

2 books after, I think I’m starting to become a Megan Hart fan. Something about the way she writes, the themes she chooses to tackle and the way she presents the emotional conflicts in them leaves a lot of room to think. Which is all sorts of perfect for the unapologetic over thinker. She never spoon-feeds the reader. She allows you to mold the characters however you deem fit and devise your own conclusions about them based on your own ethos and experiences and in the end you are gifted with a story with some personal weight and clarity. Certain authors have grand stories to tell and then there are authors like Megan Hart who gives you a deceptively simple construct of romance and sex that gets to the bottom of you. Which is different from the bottom of someone else. 

*insert butt joke here*

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The Church of Melina Marchetta

Finnikin of the Rock  - Melina Marchetta
”You asked me once what my magic was.
That is my magic.”


I am now convinced Melina Marchetta is made of equal parts freshly-baked cookies, clean laundry, pixie dust and waffles. Something about her books just comforts me in ways I cannot attempt to capture into words. Her oeuvre covers themes that in their simplicity would probably come across emotionally exploitative in lesser hands, but her crafty storytelling effortlessly ties textured characters with my personal reflexes and sentiments towards family, courage, hope and love. 

And somewhere in the middle a bit of magic happens.

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Channinging Your Tatum? Channing of the Tatum? I Give Up.

Still Life with Strings - L.H. Cosway

DNF AT 30%

A picture is just a picture, but add music and there's emotion. There's a story.


Or it could really just be a picture.

I rarely DNF before the halfway mark, but I foresee painful hours ahead and I decided to forego that kind of pain. 

This was just one giant try-hard mess where the creativity starts and stops with the heroine, having these interludes where she plucks out notes from air while she listens to the orchestra. What was that anyway? A residual of her alcoholic past? Is this all the intoxicated's dream? I hope it got explained eventually because that bit in the story felt too blatant an effort to be quirky. Except within the context of the 30% that I read just came across desperate.

Shane and Jade are just... I'm actually dreading the point where they have non-anonymous sex. I am being TOLD that Jade is this hardened, responsible and mature heroine who cares for her siblings all on her own. When she just comes across immature most of the time with thoughts generally preoccupied by Shane, it's a wonder she remembers to feed her brother and sister. 

I like to think I have two brains. One is my girl brain and the other my boy brain. They both have good sides and bad side.




It did give credibility as to why she's a perfect human statue.

She sets the hard rule of not dating anyone because of that fuzzy explanation about her battle with alcoholism and yet she still engages in these flirtations with Shane. It was an utter ridiculous device to instigate sexual tension. Every time she says no and Shane still manages to ease some level of physical intimacy with her... it makes me feel awkward. Made worse by Shane as the poor little rich boy who wants to "experience life" who finds Jade "fascinating" right after she tells him her past as an alcoholic. I mean fuck that Range Rover for clipping his wings. And that Stradivarius he has to play in his gilded cage. And that dinner to Marco-Pierre White's restaurant. 



Do I even want to mention the unfunny Channing of your Tatum?

MASSIVE disappointment from where I stand. The creativity, the humour, the maturity in the writing... were all severely, painfully absent. 

I stopped right around the time Shane's caricature of a mom started to add the class snobbery vibe and decided to put this away. Lest I hate this to the point of swearing off any future releases from this author altogether, I think I'd just keep my fond memories of Painted Faces and forget this incident ever happened.

Sweet Dreams are Made of Cheese...

Hard Time - Cara McKenna
I’m not afraid of you, I wanted to tell him.
I’m afraid of me. What I’m capable of.


I started writing a review for Hard Time right around the 35% mark. In that review I added this to my favourites shelf. I kinda still want to, especially with the first half of this book. Now I haven’t been reading much erotica nowadays so my spidey sense for these things can very well be rusty but I don’t think I’ve ever started writing a review midway through a book because of the feels that I can’t handle anymore. That was definitely a first. I just wanted to shove this down everybody’s throats as fast as I can. 

I still want to by the way. 

But unfortunately, this was 310 pages long instead of 155 and somewhere beyond the halfway mark, right when the tension of Cousins Correctional Facility was removed from the equation, it lost a bit of its claws for me. Only to gain back its footing towards the end thanks to Kristina.

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How Porn is Your Word Porn?

The Word Exchange: A Novel - Alena Graedon
Words don’t always work. Sometimes they come up short. Conversations can lead to conflict. There are failures of diplomacy. Some differences, for all the talk in the world, remain irreconcilable. People make empty promises, go back on their word, say things they don’t believe. But connection, with ourselves and others, is the only way we can live.


I’m half tempted to recommend this to all my friends right now. Just to see how far they would get before calling it quits. 

Word Exchange had a compelling story, one that keeps you going in the hopes that things will start to make sense. And it did… after a while. For a time I started to understand why Graedon chose to tell the story the way she did and it was pretty clever, though admittedly challenging to wade through. There’s an element of subtle commentary, and by extension relatability, within the speculative, peridystopic setting that makes you stop questioning this book’s ambition and wonder how close is the future this is selling? But somewhere past the halfway mark, it started to collapse in itself. Doubts resurfaced, sympathy for the characters slipped further and the themes this was trying to highlight became too obscure for me to keep track of.

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Skinny People Are People Too

Astonish Me - Maggie Shipstead
How strange it was that a dream, once realized, could quickly turn mundane.


Not everyone can appreciate ballet, much less be a fan of it. I certainly am not. I find the discipline and the artistic egos of those who willingly subject themselves through physical and mental torture to achieve technical perfection more intriguing than the actual performance. People whose sole point of validation and happiness are the appreciation of others. With enough fervour to completely shun complex carbohydrates for extension, form and turnout? 

I mean, ofcourse I wanna know about these crazy and gorgeous people.

In the world of dancers, ballerinas are rockstars: ethereal and breathtaking in their narcissism.

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Monotony and Melancholia

Mud Vein - Tarryn Fisher
”You are at once both the quiet and the confusion of my heart.”
-Franz Kafka


I couldn’t choose a quote from this book, so we’ll go with that one.

Well this certainly wouldn’t be a crowd pleaser. And something about an author as established as Tarryn Fisher refusing to pander to certain limits and expectations makes me want to outright slap a 5 star rating on Mud Vein. Something about seeing her unmistakable fingerprints all over a book that is such a departure from the comforts set by a series as successful as Love Me With Lies just clenches at my heart. 

Because seriously, I know its a personal question and all but what’s the level of meta in this book? On a scale of Wheel of Fortune to Community?

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