Happy Marriage?! Volume 8 by Maki Enjoji

I guess I should have paid more attention when I reviewed Volume 4 of this series here, and said this:

Hokuto is still a little too controlling for my taste…

Unfortunately, I’ve gotten to a point where I have to give up on this series. I’ll explain why below.

HM8

Happy Marriage?! Vol 8 Front Cover (VIZ Media)

 

THE PLOT: In this volume, we learn that the couple have now been married for three years (seriously?) Hokuto suddenly decides to make a deal: He’ll give up being CEO and, if he can turn around one failing company in a year’s time, he’ll become the Mamiya heir. In the meantime, someone seems to be stalking Chiwa.

MY TWO CENTS: I should have listened to my instincts when I read Volume 7. There was a moment where the couple was fighting, Chiwa became hysterical, and…Hokuto slapped her. I should have realized right then that I wanted nothing more to do this series, but I thought, “Maybe it’s JUST because she’s hysterical, and that doesn’t come across so well via manga, and…” Yeah, I should know better. You should NEVER try to explain away a slap. Because then, in this volume, he hits her again.

Here’s how it goes down: Chiwa is being stalked, but she’s trying to keep it from Hokuto so she’s no bother to him. (Uh-huh.) But the stalker gets progressively gutsier, pushing her down, causing minor injuries, etc. Chiwa’s ex-boyfriend and coworker Asahina figures out what’s going on with Chiwa’s weird behavior and clues in Hokuto. In the nick of time, the two of them stop the stalker from attacking Chiwa. Hokuto confronts Chiwa, asking why she didn’t tell him, basically bullying her by cutting off her mumbling by screaming at her to “SPEAK LOUDER!” When she tells him she didn’t want to worry him for nothing, he hits her.

To repeat: A MAN HITS HIS WIFE BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T WANT TO WORRY HIM WITH HER SILLY STALKER PROBLEMS.

He follows up the slap by falling to his knees, burying his face in her stomach, and crying about how he wouldn’t want to live if something happened to her. People, this is domestic violence 101…the violent act followed by the honeymoon phase.

I just KNOW some readers are going to try to excuse this. Some might say it’s a cultural issue. I don’t care what cultural background you’re from, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS NOT OKAY. Others might point out that Hokuto is a hot alpha male and he was just so upset and lost control of his emotions and it’s so romantic. To anyone who would even think this, I say: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE BY A HOT MAN IS STILL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE! No one, NO ONE, EVER, under ANY circumstances, should try to justify hitting. And it is NEVER ROMANTIC.

Finally, there will be those readers who say, “God, chill out, it’s only a book (or a manga).” I suggest those people think about the books that shape and influence people’s lives EVERY SINGLE DAY. It really only takes one impressionable young person to read this and decide it’s okay to be hit as long as it’s by someone young and hot and emotional.

BOTTOM LINE: I don’t recommend this volume or the series, because HITTING IS NEVER OKAY. The only way I’d recommend it is if somewhere in future volumes Hokuto sees a counselor for his control issues, or maybe Chiwa dumps him. But I really don’t see that happening.

TEACUP RATING: I’m going to go with zero teacups, because DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS NEVER ROMANTIC.

ON SALE DATE: October 7, 2014.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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Talk Sweetly to Me (Brothers Sinister 4.5) by Courtney Milan

This novella is the final entry in the “Brothers Sinister” series, which makes me sad. It features…gasp…an interracial couple! Really! In 1882! Readers met Irishman Stephen Shaughnessy, also known as “An Actual Man,” in the previous book, The Suffragette Scandal (reviewed here). His romantic interest is Rose Sweetly, a brilliant mathematician who also happens to be of African descent.

Talk Sweetly to Me Front Cover

Talk Sweetly to Me Front Cover

THE PLOT: Rose is a lot more interested in Stephen, her neighbor, than she should be. First, she knows his reputation with women. Second, he’s always joking, and she’s got serious things on her mind, like the distance between planets and caring for her very-pregnant sister. Third, she believes her racial background pretty much prevents her from ever being more to him than a mistress. But Stephen will not be denied a chance with Rose. He manages to set up math lessons with her as his tutor. He buys her a telescope for a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event. And at every step, he’s unselfish as can be. But Rose just can’t take the chance until a life-or-death situation proves whom she can trust most in the world.

MY TWO CENTS: How can you not love Rose? She’s a geek! She’s a genius! And, unfortunately, she’s forced to face the barriers of racism. (As I was reading Rose, I was picturing Freema Agyeman, who played another smart, geeky Brit who also happened to have dark skin.) And while I enjoyed Stephen, Rose was really the star of this story. She wrestles with her own feelings and the dictates of society, all while just wanting to be alone with her slide rule. (That is not a euphemism.) The moments where Rose shines the most are those she shares with her sister, Patricia, whose complicated pregnancy is even more endangered by the racist doctor who’s supposed to be caring for her. The first time the doctor referred to Patricia as “women like her,” I physically flinched. I’m so glad Rose gets to…oh, but wait, that would be a spoiler.

For those interested, no other Brothers Sinister characters show up. There is a mention of Free, but that’s all.

BOTTOM LINE: A really good novella, but I wish this story could have been a full-length novel. I feel like the story itself is stronger than the romance, which, granted, is not necessarily a bad thing. Stephen and Rose’s relationship could have developed so much more, and more gradually, over a longer novel.

TEACUP RATING: Four-and-a-half out of five teacups. Definitely worth checking out, even if you haven’t read the rest of the series, especially if you appreciate diversity in your reading.

ON SALE DATE: The novella is now available in e-formats.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Broadchurch (Novelization) by Erin Kelly

If you haven’t seen the UK series Broadchurch, do it. Do it now. Unless you’re waiting for the US version, Gracepoint. In which case I say: watch Broadchurch anyway, because Olivia Colman’s performance is outstanding. (Yes, I love David Tennant too, but Colman is really the reason to watch.) If you already love Broadchurch, you’ll probably want to check out this novelization by Erin Kelly.

Broadchurch Front Cover (St. Martin's Press)

Broadchurch Front Cover (St. Martin’s Press)

THE PLOT: The murder of 11-year-old Danny Lattimer rocks the small British coastal town of Broadchurch. DS Ellie Miller is just back from vacation and was pretty sure of returning to a promotion. Instead, she faces a new boss and the murder of her son’s best friend. DI Alec Hardy is  in charge of the case, but he’s got baggage, namely a serious health condition and an infamous, botched previous case. These two unlikely partners sift through the town’s residents for suspects as lies, affairs, and skeletons in the closet all come to light.

MY TWO CENTS: If you loved the series, you’ll probably want this book. It’s more story than your usual movie tie-in book but doesn’t add any new plot content. The story is told third person, primarily from the POVs of Ellie Miller and Alec Hardy (the two main investigators), grieving mother Beth, and Karen the reporter. Occasionally we get snippets of other characters’ POVs.You get a little new insight into Beth’s grieving process, suspect Jack Marshall’s thoughts, and the reporters’ motives and emotions. The murderer is the same as in the series (since rumor has it that there may be differences in the American version.) Even having seen the series, I found that the end of book made me cry.

BOTTOM LINE: Well-written, but if you’re looking for more story, you won’t get it here. I also wouldn’t recommend the book as a substitute for the series.

TEACUP RATING: I easily give the book 4 out of 5 teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Hardcover and e-formats will be available on September 16, 2014.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Darling Beast (Maiden Lane #7) by Elizabeth Hoyt

What sets Elizabeth Hoyt’s “Maiden Lane” series apart from other romances? First, there’s the setting. In a genre often focused on polite Regency drawing rooms, the slums of St. Giles in 1740s London is an entirely different feel: gritty, dirty, desperate, and dangerous. Then there are the love scenes, which are unusually explicit, earthy, and carnal. What I enjoy most, though, is the way Ms. Hoyt forms her couples. She takes two completely disparate people who in no way should be together and makes it obvious that they not only do belong together, they are also the only right match for the other.

Darling Beast Front Cover

Darling Beast Front Cover (Hachette/Grand Central Publishing)

THE PLOT: Lily Stump is an out-of-work actress and single mother with a seven-year-old son. They’re living in the damaged theater of a pleasure garden that had been destroyed by a fire. Lily’s son tells her that there is a monster living out in the gardens. The “monster” turns out to be a hulking brute of a man who cannot speak. At first Lily believes the man, whom they nickname “Caliban,” has intellectual disabilities, but then she begins to realize it’s all an act.

Apollo Greaves (first introduced in Book #6, Duke of Midnight) is a viscount who escaped from Bedlam after being incarcerated for four years. And if you know anything about Bedlam in the 1700s, you can imagine it was no picnic. He was imprisoned for murdering three of his friends…a crime which, of course, he didn’t commit. He’s in hiding, restoring the pleasure garden for his friend Asa Makepeace (brother to several other Maiden Lane characters). Apollo is mute thanks to a severe beating received from Bedlam guards and its resulting psychological damage.

How will Lily react when she finds out she and her son have befriended a convicted murderer? How do these two misfits come together? Will Apollo ever be able to prove his innocence? And even if everything else works out, how can a future earl lower himself to marry an actress?

MY TWO CENTS: Nothing makes a better romance than two damaged individuals who heal each other. (Might this be a recurring theme throughout the third trio of Maiden Lane books?) Apollo is vulnerable, yet his strength becomes apparent as he interacts with other characters: friends, foes, and sometimes foes who become friends. Lily is spunky, smart, and talented, but she also has reasons to be cautious of strong men. I loved her unconditional love for her son and her need to protect him no matter what the cost. I adored the way various characters eventually ended up fighting for Apollo. I was so engrossed in this book that when I realized I was 3/4 of the way through it, I was unhappy that I was almost finished.

I will say that I missed the Ghost of St. Giles. Without giving away spoilers for the previous books, the Ghost has been such a bedrock of the series that it’s hard not to feel his loss. Other established characters do appear, most notably Apollo’s twin and her husband (Duke of Midnight), Lady Hero (Notorious Pleasures), Lady Phoebe Batten, and Captain James Trevillion.

I’m intrigued by several new characters introduced in this book, especially one in particular. I know the next book, Dearest Rogue, is about Phoebe and Trevillion, and I’m assuming that Book 9 is Asa’s book, but I’m seeing potential for at least two more books after that. One character especially has my fingers crossed, but I don’t want to elaborate because of spoilers. Let’s just say this character is definitely not standard hero material and is vastly entertaining.

Side note: The many scenes involving the reconstruction of the garden remind me of an Ewan McGregor movie called The Serpent’s Kiss. The movie takes place during the Restoration period, and it’s about a private estate’s garden and not a pleasure garden, but I get a similar feel from it. If you’ve never seen it, check it out.

Finally, for Elizabeth’s Facebook followers: perhaps Daffodil will remind others of a certain Miss Puppy Pie.

BOTTOM LINE: I continue to love this world Elizabeth Hoyt has created and thoroughly enjoyed this strong new entry in the series. Established Maiden Lane fans will devour it with great satisfaction. If you haven’t read the previous books and want to jump in, I strongly suggest you at least check out Duke of Midnight to really get all of Apollo’s story. If you prefer tasteful, formulaic romance offerings with little violence and more genteel sex scenes, then Darling Beast (and the rest of this series) may not be for you.

TEACUP RATING: Darling Beast gets 5 out of 5 teacups from me. (I still enjoyed my favorite Maiden Lane, Thief of Shadows, a teensy bit more; I’d give that one 5+ teacups.)

ON SALE DATE: Darling Beast will be available in mass market paperback and e-formats on October 14, 2014.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Darkness by Erin Eveland

I’ve been asked if I ever give a book a bad review. The easy answer is: I try to pick books to read that I think I will enjoy. Life is short, my free time is precious, and I have many books on my “to read” list, so I deliberately avoid choosing authors, settings, or genres that I dislike.

Every once in a while, though, I’ll choose a book that sounds good but just doesn’t work for me. Such was the case with Darkness by Erin Eveland. I chose it because the summary reminded me a bit of L.J. Smith’s “Forbidden Game” series, which I LOVED back in the day. But really, I think the only similarity is that they both contain Shadow Men.

Darkness Front Cover

Darkness Front Cover (Selladore Press)

THE PLOT: Catherine is abandoned at birth by her alcoholic mother and raised by her grandmother. The little girl has special powers, seeing and manipulating shadow entities. When her grandmother dies, Catherine’s mother returns in all her trashy glory to run through Catherine’s meager inheritance and use her for welfare money. Fast forward to teen Catherine, who is in love with a local boy and desperately wanting to get out of her dead-end town. But her love interest is being controlled by Artros, a magical being with an interest in Catherine and her secret powers.

MY TWO CENTS:  I feel that the prose is just overblown and pretentious. For example, “perchance” is not a word anyone normally uses to describe actions taking place in the 21st century. This is forced and unnatural, and it pulls me out of the reading experience. I might understand using archaic language for the character of Artros to emphasize how ancient he is, but even that technique should be used in small doses. The writing just feels inauthentic.

I know ARC reviewers are usually not supposed to mention grammatical errors, but this title didn’t contain a note about being an advance proof, and the overwhelming errors in this book made it a struggle to read. There are the comma errors that often make it difficult to follow the dialogue. There are other types of grammar errors everywhere.  Then there are the sentence structures that just add unintended humor. One example:

Contemplating, the car idled awhile before he turned the ignition switch off.

Yikes. At best, that’s one introspective car!

BOTTOM LINE: I’ve been an editor for 20 years, and in my professional opinion, the book suffers in many ways from lack of editing. It needs to be streamlined and cleaned  up. I only made it halfway through the book before I called it quits. I suggest the author demand a better edit from Selladore Pressfor her next book or, if this is a self-publishing imprint, that she hire a good freelance editor before self-publishing again.

TEACUP RATING: I can only give this book one out of five teacups. There might be a good story in here, but it was just too much work to find and follow it. Other reviewers indicated that they enjoyed the book, but with my apologies to the author, I cannot recommend it.

ON SALE DATE: Darkness is available now in paperback and e-formats.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Pride and Prejudice (Manga Edition), adapted by Stacy King, art by Po Tse

The first time I read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, I was in high school. It was the book I chose for my senior thesis paper (specifically, I focused on the character of Mr. Collins). To give you some perspective, the Colin Firth miniseries was still a good five years away at that point. So I’ve been a fan for a long time, and I love manga, but I wondered if I could accept a manga version. Could it do the story justice?

Pride and Prejudice Manga Classic

Pride and Prejudice Manga Classic (UDON Entertainment Corporation)

THE PLOT: Wait a minute, you don’t know this classic story? Go read it right now. Go on, I’ll wait.

Okay, seriously: The five Bennett daughters don’t have large dowries or good connections, but they need to marry well because their cousin will inherit their home when their father dies. Things are looking up when a wealthy young man, Mr. Bingley, moves into the neighborhood and is smitten with Jane, the oldest daughter. Second-oldest daughter Elizabeth, an intelligent and witty young lady, spars with Bingley’s unpleasant (and rich) friend, Mr. Darcy. Add in a gold-digging mother, various meddling relatives, a degenerate fortune hunter, stupid little sisters, and two of the worst marriage proposals of all time, and you’ve got yourself a classic.

MY TWO CENTS: As soon as I saw this, I was intrigued. Elizabeth and Darcy in manga format? For the most part, it works well. The art is very pretty, although Elizabeth’s hair is down in formal company a bit too often for my Regency tastes (I know, I’m being picky). The art of Mr. Collins made me laugh out loud every time I saw it.  The story is streamlined a bit, and there are some liberties taken with both the story and language (no one will convince me that Regency-era folk said “No way!” EVER.) There are a couple of weird moments that I’m pretty sure aren’t canon (Elizabeth’s tearful breakup with Wickham). But overall, it’s a fun read.

BOTTOM LINE: A fairly faithful presentation of a classic story. Don’t read it INSTEAD of the classic, though; read it to supplement your enjoyment. I’m interested in checking out more of the Manga Classics that are on the way: Les Miserables (I’m assuming THE BOOK, not THE MUSICAL), and The Scarlet Letter. You can check out the style of the art here: http://www.udonentertainment.com/blog/tag/manga-classics/

TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups for this adaptation. (The original, of course, gets a million teacups.)

ON SALE DATE: Both hardcover and paperback formats will be available on August 19, 2014.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Dark Sacrifice Launch Day Blitz

Dark-Sacrifice-Launch-Day-Blitz

I’m so excited to be part of the launch day blitz for Dark Sacrifice! I’ve really been enjoying these books, and I think many other readers will, too.

 

Dark Sacrifice (Dark Paradise #2)

By: Angie Sandro

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group

 

Sandro_Dark Sacrifice_E-book

A GIFT AND A CURSE

Mala LaCroix sees dead people -really. After using her psychic gifts to catch a killer, she’s locked in a psych ward and must strike a deal with the devil to secure her release. Apprenticed to a dark arts practitioner, Mala vows to free herself and save her loved ones from danger. But she doesn’t know who to turn to when her crush on Landry Prince turns into something more serious.

 FATE WORSE THAN DEATH

Landry has sacrificed everything to protect Mala. A near-death experience changes him forever, and now he, too, possesses supernatural powers he doesn’t understand. Mala and Landry must band together to defeat the dark forces-both human and otherworldly-who would use their abilities for evil. Even as they fall for each other, they must prepare to battle for their very souls . . .

 

PURCHASE AT…

B&N: http://bit.ly/1u7MhF5

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1ohv1aX

iTunes: http://bit.ly/1sdcQJw

GooglePlay: http://bit.ly/Xq6YRS

 

EXCERPT

On Saturdays, the local farmers set up a market in Paradise Park. I plan to do my veggie shopping there since I didn’t get my garden planted this year. The streets bordering the park are packed. I’m lucky to find a spot in the parking lot of First National Bank kitty-corner from the Memorial Rose Garden. Colorful tents are lined up in orderly rows in the square. Each section is separated, with the organic foods in one row and regular folk who want to sell extra produce in the other. Local shops also set up booths selling everything from pastries, coffee and tea, handmade clothing and soaps, fresh eggs, organic meat, and toys and games. A freaktastic clown stands on the street corner with a tank of helium and a gaggle of kids around him. I’m tempted to buy Landry a balloon to cheer him up.

The passenger door slams shut as soon as I shut off the engine. Landry wastes no time coming around to open my door and lift me to the ground before I can squawk in protest. He strides off while I grab my cloth shopping bag, leaving me to stare after his retreating back in shock. When he’s halfway across the street, he pauses and turns around.

“This is your idea. Hurry,” he yells.

“I’m coming.” I shut the door and run to catch up. When I reach him, he moves around me until I’m on his blind side. He starts forward again, but slows his steps so they match mine. If I didn’t know him so well, I’d think he didn’t have a care in the world, but I do. He walks like he did in jail—shoulders back and tight, chest slightly raised. He scans the area, alert for a threat.

I take his hand, squeezing when he tries to pull away.

We blend into the crowd, strolling up and down the rows. It’s a mix of people of all ages. A few people say “hi.” Most don’t. A large percentage of them stare. I feel like I’m at the mercy of paparazzi.

“Smile and wave,” I mutter from the corner of my mouth, jabbing Landry in the side with my elbow.

“Huh?”

“You’re acting like you’ve done something wrong, but you haven’t. Don’t let these fools see you sweat. Weakness breeds violence. Like a silverback gorilla in the jungle, you need to beat your chest and fling your poop at someone.”

His snort-laugh doubles him over, and I pat him on the back. “That’s perfect,” I say. “No worries.”

He turns and lifts me into a breath-stealing hug. “Thanks,” he whispers in my ear and presses a brotherly kiss to my forehead. Wish he’d move his lips a little lower. Would a few inches kill him?

My voice comes a little thick and raspy too, and I cough to clear my throat. “No problem.”

How long has he been standing here holding me? We have an even larger audience than before. Now we really are the object of paparazzi-like behavior as people snap pictures of our embrace with their phones. I wrap my arms around his neck and press my cheek against his. “Cheese,” I say, grinning for the cameras.

A couple of high school kids start to laugh.

One yells, “Give her another kiss, Landry.”

“Yeah, Landry. Give me a kiss.” I bat my eyelashes, whispering in his ear, “I swear if you drop me on my ass in public—”

I don’t have to finish the threat.

His mouth steals across mine.

I lean into him, head tilting. My arms tighten around his neck. His lips are soft and juicy, like peaches. Yum. My thoughts scatter and swirl, leaving only the sensation of his mouth on mine.

He breaks free first and lowers me to my feet. He avoids my gaze. “Did it work?” he asks, running his fingers through his black hair so it falls forward to shield his eye again. He shifts from his forward foot to his back which somehow puts distance between us without him having to move.

I laugh, playing off the hurt. “Yeah, we gave our fans a titillating bit of new gossip to take the place of the old. Rumors about our relationship will be flying through town before lunch.” I glance around to be sure. The crowd drifts away, realizing there’s nothing more to see. Even better, nobody hurls insults or throws dead animals at our heads. “Let’s go.”

 

Angie Sandro_author photo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Angie Sandro was born at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. Within six weeks, she began the first of eleven relocations throughout the United States, Spain, and Guam before the age of eighteen. Friends were left behind. The only constants in her life were her family and the books she shipped wherever she went. Traveling the world inspired her imagination and allowed her to create her own imaginary friends. Visits to her father’s family in Louisiana inspired this story. Angie now lives in Northern California with her husband, two children, and an overweight Labrador.

Angie’s social media

@AngieSandro

http://anjeasandro.blogspot.com/

http://facebook.com/pages/Angie-Sandro/

 

  THE DARK PARADISE SERIES

dark series

Dark Paradise (Book 1): read my review here

Dark Sacrifice (Book 2): read my review here

Dark Redemption (Book 3): Available September 9, 2014

 

 

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