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Category Archives: Romance

Like Mind by James T. Wood

Like MindPremise: Corey Tosh is a slacker in Portland, Oregon who gets by on just enough work to survive, making sure to put out minimal effort in everything he does. That is why he responds to a Craigslist ad looking for medical test subjects in exchange for fifty bucks. Of course things go terribly wrong when people begin following him and trying to kill him. But in the process he discovers he has an amazing new ability.

Thankfully, the cute redhead from the medical office is there to help him. Anka is the prettiest girl who has ever talked to him, but she’s not really a nurse. She works for the NSA. She also doesn’t really find Corey’s continual pop culture references to be incredibly endearing, at least not at first. But Corey’s understanding of women is about as obscure as his constant movie quotes are to Anka.

Now they must find the doctor who performed the experiment on Corey’s brain because whatever the doctor did is killing him. They also learn that, of all the people trying to kill or kidnap Corey, nobody can be trusted, not even Anka’s boss at the NSA.

Themes: How do you learn new things? Do you need to see them done first or do you work through trial and error? Corey is forced to learn new things instantly, and with it comes the shock of being able to do many new things without the understanding of why or how.

Meeting Anka not only makes Corey evaluate his own understanding of women, but it also makes him look at himself and his past romantic relationships, or lack thereof. Corey does some soul searching on why all his relationships failed and what part he played in making them fail. It also helps him to understand what it is that some women find attractive, especially when it comes to Anka.

Like Mind also touches on government conspiracies, international spying, and terrorism through intertwined plots that quickly spiral downward in a race for their lives. Corey and Anka discover that who they can trust might not be those they first expected.

Pros: Like Mind is laced with humor that helps to make an otherwise typical chased-by-the-governments-trying-to-kill-you story into something more unique and fun to read. This book is pretty short, so the pacing is quick and the character exchanges are crisp. And if you have never been to Portland, Oregon or driven up through Washington, Like Mind is spot on, giving references to local landmarks and places to see such as Powell’s Books, the hipster culture, even down to the terrible traffic on I-5 and I-84 (the Banfield). I’m glad I got most of the movie and television references because most of them add to the comedic tone of the story. The editing is actually very good, especially for a self-published book.

Cons: Some of the humor will be lost on many readers as obscure movie and television quotes are thrown out mercilessly. I am certain that few will get every pop culture reference in Like Mind and will perhaps even find themselves connecting with Anka more than Corey in her constant eyebrow raising at his lame jokes. With it being Anka’s first assignment her nervousness and questionable abilities make sense, but I figured her training would have made up for some of these things. The one thing I noticed most with the editing was some missing or misplaced comma usage. We don’t learn the protagonist’s name until the third chapter, which makes the front end seem clipped, like there is something missing. And being a short book might not be a positive for some readers.

Recommendations: Like Mind is a quick, fun romp through Portland, Oregon with a local slacker making light of a government trying to kill him. I thought of the television show Chuck as I read Like Mind, but instead of a database implanted into Corey’s brain it is the triggering of mirror neurons allowing him to imitate everything he sees. I only wish the story was a little longer with some more context into why Anka would be interested in someone like Corey in such a short period of time, even with the stressful things they go through together. Like Mind actually gave me some hope that not all self-published books are terrible. In fact, this one is actually pretty good.

James T. Wood’s website
Like Mind on Goodreads
Buy Like Mind from Amazon
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I received a copy from the author to write this honest review. We also used to be roommates.

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Posted by on August 4, 2013 in Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction

 

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Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles by Ron Currie Jr.

Flimsy Little Plastic MiraclesPremise: Ron Currie is an author truly in love. The biggest problem is the woman he loves, Emma, may or may not return the sentiment, at least not in the way he thinks he wants. At Emma’s request, Ron banishes himself to a Caribbean island to write this book, that happens to be about Emma, and also to grieve the loss of his father to cancer.

Ron’s grief over the loss of his father and of Emma leads him to self-destructive behavior: getting into fights, drinking himself into oblivion, engaging in a physical relationship with another woman, and eventually faking his own death. The ramifications of his choices come piling on when he has to face the reality of the living and the people he has hurt along the way.

Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles pulls back the curtain of a mind obsessed with a woman and deeply entrenched in the reality of the world’s problems. What happens when the reality created in our own minds leaks into that of others? And then what happens when the truth is revealed and this false reality is unfulfilled?

Themes: Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles is about obsession over a woman who will not fully have a man. Ron’s love for Emma is made clear to her, but she remains aloof. Even though she cares for him in some way, her inability to give herself fully to him keeps them apart.

This is also a story about love, for Ron’s obsession is based around his ability to only love one woman, Emma, even when he is with other women. His willingness to banish himself to an island is evidence of his love for her in spite of it being unrequited.

Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles shows us how people cope with loss. When Ron’s father is dying of cancer, and he eventually dies, Ron takes us through those last days of his father’s life and the aftermath of what happens when someone is gone from our life. The grief also comes out in his relationship with Emma, as he plunges into a self-destructive tailspin on a Caribbean island.

Pros: I found the narrative of Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles interesting, being first person and journal-like and feeling deeply intimate in the author’s mind. It clips along pretty fast, and jumps from topic to topic in a way that highlights the thought processes of a neurotic mind. The characters are key in making this story believable, especially considering the meta of wondering if this is really an autobiographical story.

Cons: Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles is so packed full of profanity, sex, and moral depravity that made it difficult to read. The thought process was hard to follow at times, going from talking about his dying father to robots becoming self-aware and taking over the world. The neuroses of Ron Currie (character or author?) only speak to a lacking in a life seeking meaning and happiness in the wrong places. The main character comes off as egotistical and pretentious.

Recommendations: Even with a great amount of profanity and sex, my biggest problem with Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles is that Mr. Currie seems to equate reality with truth, and sets up philosophical arguments that are flimsy straw men. In spite of these things, Ron Currie, Jr. touches on some topics that are difficult to talk about but real: coping with death of loved ones and the loss of romantic love. I have a feeling anyone who reads Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles will have strong feelings of either liking or disliking it, but I think everyone who does read it will encounter a story that causes them to think about their own lives.

Ron Currie, Jr.’s website
Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles on Goodreads
Buy Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles on Amazon
Download Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles for your Kindle
I received a copy from the publisher to write this honest review.

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2013 in Fiction, Romance

 

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There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love StoriesPremise: Even in the midst of Communist Russia, perhaps especially in such a place, people desire human connection. In this collection of dark short stories, each person lives a life in close quarters with others, yet still can’t seem to manage healthy close relationships. Women reach out to married men for romance, men cheat on their wives looking for excitement, children desire affection, and all under the haze of alcohol to block out the pain they wallow in.

We bump against people every day. We make decisions that lead to unforeseen consequences. Those consequences are passed on through generations for more decisions to be made, and so on. This is the human condition. Underneath it all is a need for everyone to have love.

Themes: These short stories are proclaimed to be love stories, and that they are. But they are more. Each short story tells the tale of a person’s search for love, but also their desire to be loved and accepted, not always requited by others, but always searching.

On a general scope, the stories of There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself show us what life is like under an oppressive communist regime and the misery it can bring to the people. In their group apartments, basic needs are hard to come by as they share lives never quite having enough to get by, yet still somehow surviving.

Pros: More than anything, I felt a very human experience through these stories. They are far from flashy or even very exciting, but on the grand scale the views of these very ordinary people’s lives seem to create a spectrum of emotions both in the characters and in the reader. Whether it is pity, sympathy, sorrow, or hatred, you will feel something from reading these so-called love stories. You may not be able to relate directly to the characters in their circumstances, but there will be some sense in which you can relate to what they are feeling in spite of their circumstances.

Cons: Some of the things in There Once Lived a Girl can be difficult to relate to because of culture gap from not living in a communist country. Most of the amoral decisions made by characters, including promiscuity, women chasing after married men, men beating and cheating on their wives, and an overall drunkenness in the culture seemed to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. This was probably the most difficult thing to see past while reading this collection, not to mention it is fairly depressing.

Recommendations: There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself brings to light the lives of everyday people living in misery under the oppressive Soviet Union. The stories illuminate our interconnectedness and what it really means to be human. We each have, on some level, a desire for love, acceptance, and self-worth that can only be fostered through relationships with other people. Through these characters, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya makes us see other people with more sensitive eyes and with the realization that each of us has our own story to tell. Give this collection of dark short love stories a chance and you might just find yourself appreciating the loved ones you have even more.

There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself on Goodreads
Buy There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself on Amazon
I received a copy from the publisher to write this honest review.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2013 in Fiction, Romance, Short Story

 

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Jane by Robin Maxwell

JanePremise: In this retelling of the Tarzan story, Jane Porter is a scientist who sets forth with her father on an African expedition that is led by adventurer and entrepreneur Ral Conrath, wherein they are on a mission to find the missing link. When they arrive in Africa, they encounter a hostile environment, from the natives to the flora and fauna to natural events out of their control. Jane soon learns Ral Conrath’s true character and finds herself in a confrontation with the wildlife which leaves her injured.

As she tells her story to writer Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jane explains the details of her time being nursed back to health by Tarzan, her discovery of who Tarzan is and how he got to Africa, and her encounters with the Mangani, the very missing link she has been searching for and the creatures who raised Tarzan after the death of his family. Through this, Jane learns his ways and the ways of the Mangani and develops a love and a trust for Tarzan.

But the jungle is dangerous, especially for Tarzan and Jane, with the brutish Mangani leader Kerchak ready to kill Tarzan if he reappears in their midst and Ral Conrath willing to do whatever it takes to gain the gold of the natives, with unknown secrets of their own. Even more frightening is what to do with Tarzan now that his roots are known. And with Jane growing to love Tarzan, what will she do with herself?

Themes: A major theme in Jane is romance. When she meets Tarzan, Jane is immediately struck by his protective behavior and his physical structure. During her time with him, Jane’s animal lusts are drawn out along with romantic emotions she rarely feels.

Jane is packed with adventure and action that is almost nonstop. When they aren’t swinging from trees or fighting animals, Jane is experiencing life from a less civilized perspective in the African wild as Tarzan teaches her the ways of the jungle.

Pros: The pacing in Jane is well-executed. There is so much action in Jane to which the romance and dialogue adds a nice contrast. The linguistic intricacies add a lot to the feel of the story and a depth that might have been lost without them. It helped having a language glossary in the back of the book. The interaction between Tarzan and Jane learning each others’ languages is gripping. If I had to pick one thing to say about Jane it would be that it is full of wonder and freshness on the part of almost every character, as if every single thing they are experiencing in this story is new. It is an inspiration to seek new experiences.

Cons: One of my complaints is the character consistency for Jane, especially in the last chapter. At the beginning she seems outspoken and uncompromising and without a sense of humor, but when we reach the final chapter she seemed like a completely different person who withholds information with a wink and a smirk from the very person she is telling her story to who she is trying to get to believe her. Her animal lusts for Tarzan seemed out of sync with her feminist ways, and giving in to Ral Conrath’s advance on the ship on the way to Africa and making excuses for him in their little encounter did not make sense at all. With that said, there is too much sex in Jane, especially Jane’s fascination with breasts. But my biggest problem with Jane is the outright anti-religion/pro-secular humanist thread through the story.

Recommendations: Jane is a creative re-imagining of the Tarzan story that comes from the perspective of Jane. We get a feminine perspective that is often lost in adventure stories. I think Jane is a great addition to the Tarzan story, adding depth to a character who sometimes fades into the background. While I thought there was too much sex and it was too anti-religion, I was still drawn into the characters and the execution of Jane. There is hinting at a sequel when we reach the end, but I felt it unnecessary since the story is complete as is. If this is the case, perhaps it is to go along with the serialized Tarzan stories of Burroughs, but I only hope Robin Maxwell will be less heavy-handed in future installments with any political or religious agenda she might have that came across in this one. It might sound like I didn’t like Jane, but overall I enjoyed it and had trouble putting it down in spite of the things I felt were the author’s views coming through in the writing.

Robin Maxwell’s website
Jane on Goodreads
Buy Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan on Amazon
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Posted by on January 18, 2013 in Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance

 

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The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson

The Merchant's DaughterPremise: Annabel Chapman comes from a wealthy family, but when her father dies and the family accumulates debt, they must work in the fields to pay off what they owe. When Annabel’s family refuses to work, she either must agree to marry Tom the Bailiff, who has offered to pay their debt for them, or work in the home of the new lord, Ranulf le Wyse, in order to repay it. Lord le Wyse has a reputation of being harsh and uncompromising, and he wears a beard to cover a scar on his face, which all adds to his fierce countenance.

Annabel proves to be a hard worker, but continually finds herself bumping into Lord le Wyse in awkward situations. Their relationship becomes complicated when they begin to develop feelings for each other, though they are conflicted with how they really feel. Lord le Wyse bears the pain of losing a child and a wife, and Annabel has dreams of becoming a nun, so romance is the last thing either of them want. Since Annabel can read and has always wanted to read the Bible for herself, she jumps at the chance to read to Lord le Wyse. It is during these nightly readings that their relationship becomes confusing, but it is also a time when they gather answers to questions they have about life.

Things come to a head when Bailiff Tom is injured when trying to take advantage of Annabel in the woods. She is quickly suspected of injuring him but refuses to reveal the truth in order to protect someone else. Ranulf le Wyse faces a revolt incited by Tom and Annabel must make the decision to save her own life by fleeing to the convent or staying to defend Ranulf’s honor. It is during this time that everyone’s true feelings come to light.

Themes: The Merchant’s Daughter is a romance, bringing together people who are initially not attracted to each other but begin to see the good in each other through adverse circumstances. Lord le Wyse initially comes off as mean and Annabel desires to become a nun, but their desires to be alone are slowly changed as they spend more time together.

This is also a story of faith and seeking truth. Annabel has never seen a Bible, let alone read one, and her dreams of becoming a nun stem from her deep-rooted desire to read the “Holy Writ” with her own eyes and thoughtfully come to conclusions based on her own reading. Ranulf has a Bible and allows her to read to him, and their reading and accompanying conversations lead them to deep discussions about faith, contrasted by the sermons of the local priest.

With the historical medieval setting of The Merchant’s Daughter, there is also a vein through the story of the separation of classes. We have lords controlling land and the peasants they oversee, kings who rule and those who judge on their behalf, and a sense of duty, both for the peasants to work for their lord and for the lords to protect and provide for those people. Questions of propriety come up, with Annabel being a servant to the lord, along with her desire to read the Bible to make her own decisions of her faith.

Pros: It is humbling how easy it is to take the printed and written word for granted, especially the availability of a Bible for people to read. It was refreshing to read a romance that didn’t focus on sex as the basis for a relationship. I was thankful that the main characters struggled with their faith and didn’t make blind assumptions. They ask valid questions that are relevant to everyone who has questions about belief in God.

Cons: The Merchant’s Daughter suffers from too much telling and not enough showing. Some additional dialogue would have helped, but I can see how this might have taken away from the tension between the characters. Annabel seemed a little too perfect as a character, being kind and beautiful and virtuous in all ways. A couple of the supporting characters felt unnecessary, especially Gilbert Carpenter, who could have probably been omitted or combined with another. The Merchant’s Daughter might be considered preachy for some, but this can be easily accepted if the reader opens the book knowing that it is Christian fiction.

Recommendations: For a clean, Christian retelling of the classic Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, The Merchant’s Daughter does a satisfactory job. There is some violence and attempted rape, but it is not in any way graphic. The romance is palatable, though I am certain I am not really the intended audience. This would probably be more entertaining for a female teen than an adult male. Give this a chance if you are looking for historical fiction with a good message or if you simply like fairy tales and are looking for a different take on a classic.

Melanie Dickerson’s website
The Merchant’s Daughter on Goodreads
Buy The Merchant’s Daughter on Amazon
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Posted by on September 12, 2012 in Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance

 

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