Book Review: LOVE BITES: A Paranormal Romance

It’s been awhile.  I needed to take a break from blogging and reviewing (thanks summer), but I’m back with a short review for an amazon short reads.

Love Bites: A Vampire Romance (House of Sanquin Paranormal Romance Series Book 1) by [Wolfe, A J]

LOVE BITES, book 1 in an intended short reads series, is a fun, fast paced, light paranormal romance. It’s appropriate for teens +. I liked that it wasn’t just the same old same old tired vampire tropes. There were new ideas like some (but not all) vampires were able to have children and go out into the sunlight. That could lead to some really interesting twists in later stories in the series.

For the plot itself, Brooke is desperate to find her sister Clara. They don’t have the best relationship, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t love and worry about her. When she finds a mysterious letter addressed to Clara from the house of Sanguin with the word “vampire” on it, she decides to take her sister’s place at the scheduled appointment. George’s job is to turn humans into vampires. He turns Brooke thinking she’s Clara…and gets in trouble for doing it. The also fall into (slightly) insta-love. It’s a romance trope so I can deal with that. Especially since there’s some insecurities, doubts, and secrets that jump up later. Brooke settles into her life at House of Sanguin but George must deal with the consequences of accidentally turning someone into a vampire. Clara’s return complicates matters even further.

I liked that sisterly love is just as important as romantic love in LOVE BITES. Even if Brooke and Clara have had their differences in the past, they still love and care for each other. I’m interested to see what else is in store for the House of Sanguin in the rest of the short reads series.

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Book Review: CHANGE YOUR CHILD’S NEGATIVE BEHAVIOR by Nurit Levi

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

CHANGE YOUR CHILD’S NEGATIVE BEHAVIOR is part of  Nurit Levi’s Peaceful And Calm Home book series.  She offers insights, support, practical advice, and easy to follow exercises to help you achieve a peaceful and calm home — especially in regards to your childrens’ behavior.

My favorite part of the book was the easy, down-to-earth writing style.  It feels like Levi  is sitting down across from me listening and giving advice after the latest ‘guess what my kids did today’ story.  There’s a warmth that emanates from the page.  I feel like I can trust her and she’s not just trying to sell me a book or a method (even though she really is).  There’s no finger pointing and ‘do this, don’t do that’ in CHANGE YOUR CHILD’S NEGATIVE BEHAVIOR.  Instead, Levi gets to the root cause of why your child may be acting out.  She follows this up with advice and easy to follow exercises.

I give this book a solid 4 out of 5 stars.  The reason I’m not rating it higher is all three of my children are special needs.  The advice in the book is geared more toward normal developing children.  I would have appreciated a section on special needs.  Maybe Levi can address this in a further edition or another book in the Calm & Peaceful Home series.  Overall, though I would recommend CHANGE YOUR CHILD’S NEGATIVE BEHAVIOR if you’re looking for a gentle, down to earth, non judgmental, brief parenting guide.  At 57 pages, it’s easy to read in one sitting.

Book Review: STORIES OF LOVE & WEIGHT LOSS by Adi Tsin Ben-Nun

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Whatever your relationship with food — good or bad — the thought of eating probably brings up some sort of emotion in you.  Food can symbolize comfort, love, and the often painful struggle with self love and acceptance.  STORIES OF LOVE & WEIGHT LOSS  is a collection of short monologue like vignettes based on real cases the author experienced during her years of private practice. They are at times sad, poignant, joyous and uplifting.  You go through a gamut of emotion while reading the vignettes.  Chances are, you’ll find at least one (or more!) stories that you strongly identify with.

I enjoyed the first person point of view the stories were presented in.  You feel more connected to the narrator if you can get into their head and really explore their emotional ups and downs with them. I don’t think it would have worked as well in third person due to the person nature of the stories.  At first, I thought it was going to be a non fiction collection sort of like Chicken Soup For The Soul, but all about the weight loss.  The further I read, the further I enjoyed the fictionalized accounts of real cases. The story lengths vary from a paragraph or two to several pages.   It was a quick, easy read with a great message at its heart.   I personally struggle a lot with body image so I especially appreciated the message of  ‘you’re beautiful just the way you are.’

Book Review: THE SORCERY CODE by Dima Zales

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

The premise of  THE SORCERY CODE by Dima Zales is fairly unique but still rooted in fantasy genre staples. Outcast sorcerer Blaise has spent over a year looking to create a way that makes it easy for everyone to use magic — not just the elite, superior sorcerers.  His obsession loses him his fiancee Augusta who doesn’t agree with his ‘poor people deserve magic too’ stance.  Still, Blaise sticks to his work and creates Gala — a beautiful girl that’s the human embodiment of magic.  He expected a talking mirror, and got a hot chick.   Awkward — especially for a guy who hasn’t really seen the outside of his house in over a year.  While Gala experiences all the world has to offer, Augusta is bent on stopping Blaise’s goal of magic for all.

First off, the cover really drew me in. It has the just the right mix of mystery and fantasy. The color scheme is beautiful with the sunrise (set?) matching the magic in the globe/orb.  I enjoy fantasy books but haven’t been an avid reader of the genre since I was a teenager.  The cover really intrigued me.  I quickly read the blurb and knew it was something I’d be happy to read and review.  The writing was fresh and well paced.  I found myself thinking “I can see why Dima Zales in a NYT Bestselling author.”  There was an ease and flow that I appreciated.  There was some info dumping in the first chapter but it came in the form of dialogue between Blaise and newly formed Gala instead of just a big exposition info dump.  While I got a little restless during that scene, once all the essentials were out of the way, the pace picked up again.  The story is told in multiple points of views so you get equal time with Blaise and Augusta’s sides. Each chapter is clearly marked just in case you need to be reminded who the main POV character is for that chapter.  Yeah, Augusta isn’t the nicest sorcerer on the block and wants things to stay status quo, but it’s nice to be able to see where she’s coming from with her beliefs and actions.  Blaise spends a lot of his time obsessing over Gala’s hotness.

I enjoyed THE SORCERY CODE and would definitely read the sequel.  The deft, well paced writing and flawed but still relatable characters pulled me in.  I’m invested now.  That’s the sign of a good writer and good story.

Book Review: SO WE SAID GOOD BYE by Rama Marinov-Cohen

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

In SO WE SAID GOOD BYE by Rama Marinov-Cohen, high school sweethearts Aya and Yaron reconnect after thirty years apart.  It plays on the “what if” aspect that — let’s face it — everyone with a first or lost love thinks about from time to time. No matter how happy you are or how good of a life you have, you always “what if?”  It’s human nature.  This book played up the theme in an ever evolving story of past memories colliding with present lives.

At first glance, the cover really intrigued me. The woman is looking forward into the future but also tied to time/the past.  It’s hard to let go — no matter how many years pass. There’s always going to be that one person that you’ll think of always as your first love.  Maybe you’re still together, maybe you’re not, but “what if” and “what could have been” probably played in your mind at least once…it did for Aya and Yaron.

Narrated in the first person and alternating between Aya and Yaron, I liked the breathless, almost frantic style of Aya’s chapters. The sentences were short, sometimes choppy, verging on stream of consciousness.  Internally, she held back nothing regarding her excitement, fear, uncertainty, and back to excitement at contacting Yaron after twenty-eight years.  Externally, it was business as usual. She went on with her daily life and responsibilities but there was a new guardedness around answering her husband’s questions.  She had a secret but he wasn’t in on it.  In his  chapters, Yaron was reflective, almost shocked, that it had been twenty eight years since he last saw/spoke to Aya.  He could look back with the maturity of age and time and see what went wrong (and what went right).  I felt the dual narration made SO WE SAID GOOD BYE much stronger than it would have been with just one point of view.  Aya’s breathless mental zipping around may have gotten annoying if not tapered with Yaron’s calm, steadiness.  I liked the contrast.  By the time I finished reading the book, I felt like I knew these people.   They jumped off the page. I identified with Aya and Yaron.  I think anyone who wonders “what if” can.

Book Review: NETOPIA by Y.G. Levimor

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

In that not too distant future, “going out” has become as simple as tapping into the Virtual Reality social network MINDS.  You can go anywhere, be with anyone, eat anything, and more all without having to actually physically interact with another person or leave your house.  “Going out” is now all in your mind.

NETOPIA by YG Levimor falls firmly into the techno sci fi genre.  The first chapter — even the first sentence — drops you right into the action. You’re instantly living in this not too distant future where people prefer the virtual world to the real world.   Robin Nice, one of the founders and most prolific ‘author’ of MINDS,  isn’t a nice guy.  I couldn’t decide if he was a villain because he was self centered and focused on keeping people addicted to MINDS because it made him a star, or a broken down hero looking for redemption.  I felt a definite push and pull with Robin. Sometimes I liked him and sometimes I couldn’t stand him.

From a nitpicky reader perspective, I felt the chapters were way too long. Sometimes I struggled to stay focused and keep turning pages.  Instead of 8 or 9 different scenes, I would have preferred shorter chapters.  Instead of a scene break, in my opinion, a chapter break would have been more effective.

NETOPIA really makes you think about the role of technology in our lives. It was an interesting, thought provoking read.

Book Review: KILLER PURSUIT by Jeff Gunhus

I received a free advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

After a blog hiatus for the holidays, I’m back with my latest book review for crime thriller KILLER PURSUIT by Jeff Gunhus.

Special Agent Allison McNeil has another tough case to crack.  A DC call girl has been murdered.  Two hidden cameras were found in her apartment.  One is erased to hide the killer’s tracks.  The other is connected to an unknown, anonymous person through an encrypted internet connection.  Allison must find the missing videos before the killer gets to them first.

KILLER PURSUIT moves along at a very rapid pace.  The chapters are REALLY short which helps with the ultra fast pace.  The technique reminds me of  Mary Higgins Clark’s writing style with short, punchy chapters.   Also, while KILLER PURSUIT is the second Allison McNeil Thriller, you do not need to read KILLER WITHIN to enjoy this book.  There’s a handy little flashback in the beginning before jumping to the present time and current case.   There are enough twists and turns to keep even the most seasoned mystery/thriller/suspense readers guessing.  Jeff Gunhus has crafted a really enjoyable, edge of your seat thriller.   Time to pick up KILLER WITHIN for my book collection!

Book Review: DARK ILLUSION by Dana V Moison

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review

NYPD Detective Sharon Davis works to solve a string of grisly murders targeting young, beautiful wannabe models before the killer strikes again.  Interwoven with the mystery in DARK ILLUSION are the stories of ambitious, unhinged business woman Kelly and supermodel Gloria.  Being beautiful on the outside doesn’t make you beautiful on the inside.

I wanted to like DARK ILLUSION.  Really, I did.  The serial killer aspect was interesting and a woman detective is a nice touch when the book bills itself as having strong female leads.  The problem, for me, was in the execution.   I spent a lot of time confused thanks to near constant “head hoping” between characters in a single scene and far too many characters to begin with.  I would have liked some sort of prologue setting up Sharon Davis as the lead (or at least the one in charge of  investigating the crimes).  Instead, we get an opening chapter with love-struck photographer Andy and aging supermodel Gloria.  I spent the entire first chapter thinking it was going to be a romance between Andy/Gloria.   It’s not.   The Andy/Gloria chapters are where the worst of the head hoping occurs too.

It would have been nice if Sharon was set up as the lead point of view character and the others (Kelly and Gloria) were secondary characters instead of leads.  At least it would have tied everything together in a more cohesive manner.  Nothing particularly pulled me into the story and characters though the idea itself has merit.  A serial killer targeting models while a female cop desperately tries to stop them before they kill again could have been amazing.  Instead, it was just “meh”.   I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either.

Book Review: TOMBS OF LUST by Dorit Silverman

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review

First written in 1985 but only recently translated into English, TOMBS OF LUST tells the forbidden love story between a Bedouin man and Israeli woman.   It was made into an award winning movie in 2002 called “Tahara: God’s Sandbox.”  If you’re curious,  the full movie is available on YouTube.

I’m not quite sure what I was expecting going into reading TOMBS OF LUST.  With the word “lust” in the title, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the erotic nature of the story.  The main characters spend most of the novel naked, nearly naked,  having sex, or thinking about having sex.  I understand that it’s an awakening and celebration of sorts for the main character Leah.  It’s a chance to be in control of herself and her own life instead of having other people control her.  I admire the sentiment.  I’m just used to less graphic romance.   That’s not any fault of the author at all, just my own personal preference.
One aspect I really enjoyed was how Silverman alternated the chapter view point from male and female leads.   The word choice, sentence structure, etc were so uniquely Najim and Leah that it really gave a richer, deeper understanding of their relationship — especially the language and cultural barriers.   It takes a very skilled writer to successfully pull off that technique.
TOMBS OF LUST is also a very quick read.  There’s only 8 chapters total so it’s easy to read in an afternoon.  It held my attention.  I plan to watch the movie to see how it compares to the book.

Book Review: THE STRANGE WAYS OF PROVIDENCE IN MY LIFE by Krystyna Carmi

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review

Krystyna Carmi was born in Poland into a loving, happy,  Jewish family.  Many lives were lost and even more lives were changed forever during World War II.  Krystyna’s story is one of courage, resilience, and never forgetting the people and places that shape our lives.  In addition to the moving narrative,  the book contains over 100 family pictures.

THE STRANGE WAYS OF PROVIDENCE IN MY LIFE is a must read if you’re interested in memoirs,  World War II, and/or holocaust survivor stories.  On top of the rich, immersive experience of reading Carmi’s memoir, the pictures she includes really bring her world to life.  Even after I finished reading,  I paged through the book to view the pictures again.  They tell a story all by themselves.   It’s a story I’m happy she shared.  I’m even more happy that I got the chance to experience it by reading this book.