Christmas Challenge 12 – A Christmassy Book: A Winter Flame by Milly Johnson

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Eve hates Christmas for several good reasons. Her mother is a selfish, sometimes drunk/sometimes stoned woman who often ruined Christmas for Eve as a child. Later as an adult, her fiancé, Jonathan is killed serving his country in Helmand Province on Christmas Day. So now every Christmas, Eve does her best to hide away  with a good book.

So imagine her surprise when an elderly aunt dies and Eve inherits a theme park. A Christmas theme park. Suddenly there’s no hiding away from Christmas and no escape, especially when she has to deal with a pregnant reindeer, a magic forest of Christmas trees and a Santa who makes her question whether she actually does believe – how else would he know about the fuzzy felt?

But it’s not as simple as just running a theme park, as Aunt Evelyn (the crafty old bat) also left half of the park to the very charming and handsome Jacques Glace. He instantly gets Eve’s back up and the cheerier he is the more convinced she becomes that he’s up to something. She goes to great lengths (breaking and entering) to try and find out more about Jacques and prove that he’s only after her aunt’s money. Now, this is a romance, so typically she makes all these assumptions and makes a tit of herself while trying to prove them before reaching the inevitable happy ending.

It’s ultimately a sweet, frothy, Christmassy romance with plenty of magic. It’s well written and another quick read. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a light-hearted read to curl up with over the holidays.

Christmas Challenge 10. Something you wouldn’t normally choose: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J. K. Rowling

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“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

This one doesn’t need much of an introduction.

So Harry Potter is my something I wouldn’t normally choose because when I was  a lot younger and the books were gaining popularity, I gave the first one a go and couldn’t get on with it. Hated it even (I know blasphemy). Since then I’ve become a major fan of the films and thought it was time to give the books another chance. And I can finally see what all the fuss is about. I didn’t even realise how much the films had missed out. Chamber of Secrets here I come!

Christmas Challenge 10 – Something you wouldn’t normally chose: Play Dead by Anne Frasier

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‘I love death, but hate the smell of it. How can that be? And how terribly unfair. To be so drawn to something, yet so repulsed by it at the same time.’

I really struggled with this category of the Christmas challenge because I will genuinely read anything. Play Dead on the outset sounds like something I’d normally read, with zombies and voodoo, however when I read some of the reviews on Amazon I realised it was more of a crime/mystery/thriller book. While I enjoy a good thriller/crime novel I haven’t read one in a while (I read a Kathy Reichs book back in the summer) so that’s why I chose this one for this category.

It follows Savannah detectives Elise Sandburg and David Gould as dead bodies start turning up, except they aren’t dead. It seems that in a community that is superstitious, and believes in black magic and voodoo, someone is making zombies. Play Dead was interesting in the way it looked at these superstitions and interweaved them with logic and rationality. The best way this is demonstrated is through the detectives themselves; David Gould is a transfer into Savannah with a traumatic past and refuses to believe in the voodoo traditions that the rest of Savannah seems almost afraid of. Elise, on the other hand was a baby abandoned in a cemetery, rumoured to be the daughter of an infamous root doctor or witch doctor, Jackson Sweet. As we read we learn that Elise dabbled in voodoo when she was younger and stops when she suspects that magic is the reason her ex-husband married her. Frasier keeps the reader on edge, we aren’t sure whether the magic is real or not, and this helps build the suspense and mystery in this novel.

The narrative switches perspectives, which adds an extra creepiness factor when it switches to the murderer’s view point with no warning. The obsession with death, the almost erotic imagery that surrounds the decaying bodies and the compulsion and drive to kill is almost hypnotic.

My only critique would be the ending, I felt a little like it came out of nowhere. I understand that the majority of the book was laying groundwork, setting the scene and explaining the familial relationships and their complexities – however, the end seemed like a little bow to tie everything in and leave certain characters unscathed. That said, Frasier is a talented writer and I can’t wait to start the next book, Stay Dead.

Christmas Challenge 5- Something chosen for the cover: The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn

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I am a huge Julia Quinn fan and while I enjoyed The Sum of All Kisses , it wasn’t my favourite Quinn romance. It was a quick read and delightfully charming. The romance builds out of a dislike for each other, which always makes for an entertaining read as the characters argue and bicker.

Lady Sarah Pleinsworth hates Hugh Prentice for  the drunken duel he had with her cousin. She believes its the reason she’s still unmarried and tells him so. I liked Sarah because she’s feisty, honest and sassy. However, she’s not always right and jumps to her own conclusions, causing some funny moments. Hugh didn’t walk away from the duel uninjured. He’s pragmatic, has no patience for dramatic and over exaggerating women, preferring logic and numbers. He has this habit where he counts everything and can do large sums in his head to help calm himself. When she approaches him at an engagement ball, he has no idea who she is and has no desire to find out. He firmly decides she’s barking mad when she claims he’s ruined her life, after all he’s never met her before. I  always love Quinn’s characters because they’re funny and flawed, making them easy to fall in love with.

The two are thrown together again to celebrate two weddings with a week long celebration. Out of guilt and necessity (Hugh) and family obligation (Sarah) the two must accompany and entertain each other, which leads to them learning that first impressions aren’t everything and maybe opposites attract.

It was lighthearted, funny and toe-curlingly sweet. I devoured this book in one sitting, but historical romances are my weakness (love a rake, or an earl and I have an awful soft spot for a pirate), they just have this lovely charm about them, especially Quinn’s. Then you chuck in a few sex scenes and I’m totally smitten!  This is my ‘chosen for the cover’ book because it represents the sweet charm of the genre for me. It’s romantic and beautiful. This particular cover, for some reason also reminds me of Beauty  and the Beast.

Christmas Challenge 4 – Recommended by a friend: Unrememebered by Jessica Brody

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Unremembered by Jessica Brody was recommended to me by friend who loves YA fiction, especially fantasy YA like Divergent, The Hunger Games and The Mortal Instruments. So I had high hopes for this recommendation and I was not let down.

Unremembered is a very sweet, original tale from the perspective of a 16 year old amnesiac sufferer, only not everything is as it seems. The novel starts with a plane crash over the Atlantic. She’s fished out of the water, thinking that the year is 1609, with no memories and it emerges she wasn’t actually on the plane’s passenger logs and no one saw her board. Unable to remember and alone, she adopts the name Violet (after her eye colour) and goes with a foster family, attempting to find out what happened to her.

There’s a strange boy called Zen who claims to be trying to keep her safe, a man with red hair who appears everywhere she goes and a mark which looks like a tattoo that burns. This combined with strange abilities; leaves Violet with more questions than answers.

The way it’s told through Violet’s perspective (or Sera as Zen calls her) keeps the reader as much in the dark as she is. It keeps the narrative interesting because you’re not sure who to trust or what to expect.

I didn’t see the explanation and the ending coming, which definitely earns the book brownie points from me. I can’t really say too much here as it will give too much away, but Unremembered reminded me of the Minimum Ride books by James Patterson and is something I would recommend if you’re a fan of those books.

 

Christmas Challenge 2. Something from the library: An Unforgettable Lady – J. R. Ward

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“Chanel made her feel in control”

With a serial killer targeting socialites on the loose, prominent woman Grace Hall is forced to higher a body guard. Enter John Smith (I get why Ward picked the name but it still kinda annoys me and is my only real criticism) and so begins a tale of forbidden lust, love and revenge. Think Whitney Houston’s film The Bodyguard (1992) just with more sex and a few pretty violent deaths thrown in. Despite my rather cheesy synopsis of the plot, J. R. Ward’s writing avoids any seriously cringey pitfalls and the who did it element had me hooked. A nice, easy read, just what I needed this week!

I’ll definitely be adding more of J. R. Ward to my to read pile/mountain.

Christmas Challenge 11: Something from my ‘to-read pile’ – Torn by Scarlet Le Clair

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I just want to begin with saying that erotica is one of my favourite genres, along with historical romance and fantasy, so I’m a bit of a harsher scorer when it comes to this. But reviews are subjective, my 3* might be a 4* for you, so please bare that in mind.

Torn is a very easy read, I finished it in two hours. The language is relatable and down to earth, none of that ‘delicate pink buds of joy’ stuff when what the author really means is nipples.  This makes a refreshing change. It’s modern erotica for the modern reader.I gave Torn a 3* review overall but in terms of steaminess I’d definitely give it 4*.

As with most of the erotica I read, there are certain phrases that always stick out. This isn’t a critique as such, because it becomes habit to reuse a good phrase and in erotica I think sometimes it’s difficult to describe sex in a new way after five or six sexual encounters.  I once read a novel where every time the female protagonist had an orgasm, she ‘detonated’ and ‘exploded’ – which was practically every three pages.

In Torn the phrases that stick in my mind are ‘I came everywhere’ and ‘I came all over him’. Now for me, they’re a bit excessive but they fit in with the more modern tone of the novel and the excess of emotion. It’s exaggerative, a bit like how you might tell someone if you were repeating the story to a friend. An ‘Oh my god, he was amazing- I came everywhere’ type thing.

I feel that the relationship with Sam and Chris, could have been introduced earlier and had a bit more detail – it felt like a quick background nugget, just thrown in. Torn for me was too short and  made me feel that a lot of vital things weren’t explained until later or weren’t explained with much detail.  However, I have learned that there will be two more books –hopefully that will contribute to giving a fuller experience.  However,  my score is based on Torn as a stand-alone book not part of a trilogy.

A love triangle for me is usually a sticking point; Ashleigh will tell you that I hate them. The woman is usually just a greedy, selfish nitwit who can’t make up her mind. But in Torn, it works. The love triangle is between Sam and brothers, Luke and Blake, who are very different men. Blake is more shy and nervous, whereas Luke is confident, sexy and has tattoos – love a guy with tattoos. You can tell that I actually enjoyed this dynamic for a change as I was on Facebook with Scarlet when she declared she was #teamblake, whereas I’m definitely #teamluke.

All in all, I enjoyed reading Torn and will be keeping an eye out for the next installment. I won’t give away who Sam chooses or the ending so you’ll just have to read it!