Book Reviews

CrazyDogMama’s Book Reviews, January – April 2017

Hello, hello!  I read a lot of damn books (it’s kind of an obsession if you haven’t noticed), so I figured I should get to writing some damn book reviews!  I am *always* reading something; most of the time more than one book at a time. My rationale is that if I have a book going from every genre I like at any given time, no matter what mood I’m in, I have no excuse not to read. I read on the couch, at the beach, in the backyard, in the bath, in bed, at cafe’s, in the car (as a passenger, mind you), and I am such a freak that I will even read a few pages while standing in line for coffee! The funny thing is, when I was young, I didn’t really like reading. It was a chore; something that felt like work. I didn’t want any time taken away from snow skiing, dating or partying. OH HOW THINGS CHANGE…

Today I want to share with you the books I have read so far in 2017. Also, if you would like to connect with me on Goodreads, go here. Just so you know, there are NO SPOILERS in my reviews. I get pissed when people ruin books (or movies) for me, so I go with the Golden Rule here. 🙂

Book Review #1 – All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

Who is Andrea Bern? When her therapist asks the question, Andrea knows the right things to say: she’s a designer, a friend, a daughter, a sister. But it’s what she leaves unsaid—she’s alone, a drinker, a former artist, a shrieker in bed, captain of the sinking ship that is her flesh—that feels the most true. Everyone around her seems to have an entirely different idea of what it means to be an adult: her best friend, Indigo, is getting married; her brother—who miraculously seems unscathed by their shared tumultuous childhood—and sister-in-law are having a hoped-for baby; and her friend Matthew continues to wholly devote himself to making dark paintings at the cost of being flat broke. But when Andrea’s niece finally arrives, born with a heartbreaking ailment, the Bern family is forced to reexamine what really matters.

Will this drive them together or tear them apart? Told in gut-wrenchingly honest, mordantly comic vignettes, All Grown Up is a breathtaking display of Jami Attenberg’s power as a storyteller, a whip-smart examination of one woman’s life, lived entirely on her own terms.

I received a copy of “All Grown Up” from both the Book of the Month Club (BOTM) AND The Cozy Reader Club ! I know, I know, I haven’t posted my BOTM reviews yet, but I will soon!  To see my Cozy Reader Club reviews, go here. Duplicates aren’t a big deal for me because I belong to several different ‘swap’ sites (paperback swap, my subscription addiction swaps, etc.) where I can rectify that situation pretty quickly. This is a downfall of subscribing to multiple book boxes, dupes are inevitable!  BUT what is even more fun, is bartering your dupes for MORE STUFF.

I read this book in about a week, which is pretty quick for me, but it’s because it isn’t that thick. I was intrigued by the whole idea of reading about a woman who doesn’t have her shit together. The book spans Andrea’s life jumping back and forth from her early 20’s all the way to her 40’s. She is child-less, man-less, hates her job and has a somewhat dysfunctional family. Seems normal to me, but apparently it’s odd to the masses. Bah! Jami Attenberg’s prose is a little different – she writes in a kind of direct and quirky way to give you a sense of the character’s personality. I enjoyed this, and found the book hilarious throughout. Some people might not be able to relate to a woman who intermittently takes drugs, sleeps with various men without care or commitment, and is generally cynical and unmotivated, but I was good with it. I am an unmarried woman in her 40’s who has never had children of her own, but I am divorced and am still close with my step son, and my drug-taking has only gone as far as weed. So, I don’t mirror the character exactly, but I can relate to her; especially the cynical and dysfunctional family parts.

The book kept my attention the whole time and I enjoyed the read, but I only rated it 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads because I didn’t care for the ending. The ending was abrupt and unsatisfying (for me). I can understand why the author ended it the way she did, but I felt there was no closure; like there needs to be a sequel to finish things up. I was left wanting more! The ending wasn’t a ‘cliffhanger’ by any means; it was just flat in my opinion. What I am glad for, is that this book focused on a non-traditional life for a woman, and a not-so-perfect individual who never really changes. I liked that a lot.

Book Review #2 – Simply Carnal (House of Pleasure #7) by Kate Pearce

No passion is too decadent and no desire is too exotic at Madame Helene’s Pleasure House–an exclusive brothel in Regency England that offers the ultimate in erotic delights. . .

Powerful Seduction

Christian Delornay has observed so many illicit liaisons at his mother’s house of pleasure he regards sex as merely an enjoyable pastime, certainly not an act of love. So when a young widow arrives in search of work, Christian hires her as his assistant with the intention of instructing her in the ways of sensual seduction. . .

Passionate Surrender

Desperate to escape her past, Elizabeth “Smith” is happy to accept Christian’s offer of work. She is prepared to serve his every need, yet she refuses to reveal her most intimate desires. But in the hands of a master it is impossible to deny her own wanton yearnings, and she soon succumbs to her secret longing for pure carnal pleasure. . .

I received this book from Risqué Reads; which is my favorite “smut” book box.  You can read my reviews of this subscription here.

After reading the description on the back, I was SO excited to read this book! I had not read anything like it before, and it intrigued me. I promptly took photos (for the blog), then immediately started reading it. This title is one of many in the “House of Pleasure” series (I think there are 9 so far), however each one is a standalone; although I believe there are recurring characters, and of course the same venue. This is the first book in this series that I have read, and Kate Pearce is also a new author to me.  Being a Type A personality, it used to bother me to read a book that wasn’t titled “#1” in a series (even if it is a standalone), but I got over it.

‘Simply Carnal’ gripped me from the first page, and kept my attention the whole time.  I would say my average reading time for a standard-length book is about 2 weeks, but I read this one in 10 days. I didn’t realize it was written as ‘historical’ erotica, but I thought the way the characters spoke and dressed added to the sexiness of it! I also really liked the main character Elizabeth. A resourceful, intelligent and sharp-witted woman in any time period is always a good thing! I think it is also very important to note that this novel is not for the faint of heart, sexually speaking. If anal sex, threesomes and brothels offend you, DON’T READ IT. For me, though, bring it on! The more controversial or ‘risqué’ a book is, the more I like it! 😉  If you are not sure whether or not you can take it, I would encourage you to try this one – it kind of gently introduces you to those things without over-doing it. The writing is well done also. I like it when the conversations between characters are believable and realistic.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book and will most definitely be reading the whole series! The ending wrapped everything up nicely, with a nice little plot twist – and it was happy. I do enjoy not-so-happy endings, and cliffhangers are OK sometimes too, but this book will appeal to the people who need those happy reads with good closure. I rated this 4 out of 5 stars. A book has to really change my life to get 5 stars, but this book was a good time, so it got 4 stars out of me.

Book Review #3 – All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

A beautiful and provocative love story between two unlikely people and the hard-won relationship that elevates them above the Midwestern meth lab backdrop of their lives.

As the daughter of a drug dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. It’s safer to keep her mouth shut and stay out of sight. Struggling to raise her little brother, Donal, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible adult around. Obsessed with the constellations, she finds peace in the starry night sky above the fields behind her house, until one night her star gazing causes an accident. After witnessing his motorcycle wreck, she forms an unusual friendship with one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold.

By the time Wavy is a teenager, her relationship with Kellen is the only tender thing in a brutal world of addicts and debauchery. When tragedy rips Wavy’s family apart, a well-meaning aunt steps in, and what is beautiful to Wavy looks ugly under the scrutiny of the outside world. A powerful novel you won’t soon forget, Bryn Greenwood’s All the Ugly and Wonderful Things challenges all we know and believe about love.

THIS BOOK TOTALLY KICKS ASS! I gave it my rare 5 out of 5 stars. I was so enamored by this whole novel. Every page of it. I received it from BOTM club back in August, and I have no idea why it took me so long to getting around to reading it! The description of it was different from my usual picks; but it sounded so intriguing that I added it to my box that month. It ended up winning “Book of the Year” at BOTM club; which is voted on by members. I can totally see why it won, and I couldn’t agree more!! I read it in 5 days.

My research concluded that people either loved or hated this book. It is controversial in nature because of the young age of the girl; but I think the author did a fabulous job keeping it edgy, yet sweet. Some were arguing that the romance was ‘sick & twisted’ and that it had pedophilia aspects in it, but I disagree. If you actually read it, I can’t understand how you would think this. The male character is definitely NOT a pedophile, and without spoiling anything, while there is a certain degree of innocence lost at an early age, it is very consensual – and knowing the background of the characters makes it more than understandable. I am not excusing any illegal or bad behavior, but the book addresses all of these issues; and does it perfectly. After all, REAL love is quite often gritty and complicated, is it not? All that being said, I was in love with the two main characters – Wavy, and especially Kellen. You will not be able to help falling in love with Kellen.

I do have to admit, there are some taboo topics covered in this novel, and Bryn Greenwood doesn’t spare you the details. To me, this is what makes great writing. Don’t sugarcoat shit! Can I get an amen? I believe a writer must take you out of your comfort zone if they are worth their weight. To give you an idea of how this book affected me, I actually CRIED towards the end. That’s right. I shed actual tears. I don’t do this. Not for books, anyway. That’s how powerful it was for me. ‘Nuff said, I think.

Book Review # 4 – Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Behind Her Eyes Book Review

Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake, but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.

And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend. But she also just happens to be married to David. And if you think you know where this story is going, think again, because Behind Her Eyes is like no other book you’ve read before.

David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife. But then why is David so controlling? And why is Adele so scared of him?

As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can’t guess how wrong—and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

This book was quite the ride! This is another BOTM Club book. (Something to note: if you want to become a BOTM member, you can purchase previous month books!) It was so imperative that I find out what happens, that I stayed up all night one night reading it! Like many others who reviewed this, I kept trying to guess what was going on, and how it would end, and I while I was close, I could never have guessed the very final ending in a million years. You can sort of see where it’s going towards the bitter end, but then it just kicks the crap right out of you.

All the characters are mega-flawed. I think that is mostly why I liked this book so much. Also, it’s bizarre. I don’t want to ruin anything for you, but the concept, which is revealed about mid-story, is somewhat unbelievable (kind of sci-fi), but I was still enthralled. AND, who is to say how ‘unrealistic’ anything is, anyway? Truth is often stranger than fiction, you know. I rated this 4 out of 5 stars because it was a page-turner for me. I can’t say much more about this book or I’ll spoil it for you, but yes, there is a super-duper double plot twist, and the ending is far from a happy one in my personal opinion. You may not care for that aspect, but any author that can mess with you that much is aces in my book! Sarah Pinborough was new to me, and since I enjoy her writing style and colorful imagination, I am looking into reading some of her other books!

Book Review #5 – Bared to You (Crossfire #1) by Sylvia Day

Bared to You Book Review

Gideon Cross came into my life like lightning in the darkness… 

He was beautiful and brilliant, jagged and white-hot. I was drawn to him as I’d never been to anything or anyone in my life. I craved his touch like a drug, even knowing it would weaken me. I was flawed and damaged, and he opened those cracks in me so easily…

Gideon knew. He had demons of his own. And we would become the mirrors that reflected each other’s most private worlds…and desires.

The bonds of his love transformed me, even as I prayed that the torment of our pasts didn’t tear us apart…

I was kinda late to the party on this reading this one. Sylvia Day is a superstar in the contemporary romance world, but for some reason I didn’t pick this one up until recently in a swap. I read somewhere that this novel was extremely similar to ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, but with much better writing and character development. I will agree with that! There were an obscene amount of similarities, but the female character wasn’t a virgin having orgasms all over the place. Thank God. Nothing irritates me more. This book had a Dominant/submissive aspect to it, but did not delve into BDSM like 50 shades did, though. Just FYI.

I did enjoy this book, but I could put it down for long periods of time. Perhaps I just wasn’t in the right mood, but it took me awhile to get through it. I was going to give it 3 stars out of 5 because of that, but then the last 50 pages were really good and I was anxious to read the next book in the series to find out what happened as soon as I finished it. So I guess you could say it redeemed itself and I switched my rating to 4 stars. The thing I enjoyed most was the female lead’s level-headed decision making. I can’t even count how many erotic novels I’ve read where the woman does incredibly stupid things that no one sane would do. The thing I enjoyed the least was that the ‘Alpha Male’ was a little bit of a pussy sometimes. You may laugh at that, but I want my alpha males strong and unwavering…ALL THE TIME. Don’t be pussy-ing out on me! I let it go, though, and decided to swap for the whole series. I do need to find out how this all goes.

Book Review #6 – Missing, Presumed (DS Manon #1) by Susie Steiner

Missing Presumed Book Review

Mid-December, and Cambridgeshire is blanketed with snow. Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw tries to sleep after yet another soul-destroying Internet date – the low murmuring of her police radio her only solace.

Over the airwaves come reports of a missing woman – door ajar, keys and phone left behind, a spatter of blood on the kitchen floor. Manon knows the first 72 hours are critical: you find her, or you look for a body. And as soon as she sees a picture of Edith Hind, a Cambridge post-graduate from a well-connected family, she knows this case will be big.

Is Edith alive or dead? Was her ‘complex love life’ at the heart of her disappearance, as a senior officer tells the increasingly hungry press? And when a body is found, is it the end or only the beginning?

I have a lot of mixed emotions about this book. The writing is good. The characters are complex. The storyline is…meh.  It took me months to read this because I got really bored in the middle. The plot was interesting enough, but it dragged on and on. BUT. I absolutely adored the main character ‘Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw’. She is one of the best crime novel female leads I’ve encountered in a long while. She is flawed in the very best ways; although I did want to smack her during a short episode in the book. There is one other character in the book I just love that shows up towards the end, but up to that point, Manon is the only one I cared about. The book did take a bit of a turn I wasn’t expecting that I enjoyed, and the ending was satisfying without being too predictable, so I ended up giving it a 3 out of 5 star rating. Because of my love of DS Manon, I am looking forward to reading the upcoming sequel coming out in 2018. If you are looking for a sinister and riveting crime novel – this won’t cut it – but if you can appreciate good character development and a lot of side-story, then I do recommend it for that.

Book Review #7 – Slow Surrender by Cecilia Tan

He pushes her sexual boundaries . . .

From the moment waitress Karina meets him in a New York bar, she knows James is different. Daring. Dominating. Though he hides his true identity from her, the mysterious, wealthy businessman anticipates her every desire and fulfills her secret fantasies. Awakened by his touch, Karina discovers a wild side she hadn’t known existed and nothing is off limits.

She aches for more . . .

What begins as an erotic game soon escalates to a power play that blurs the line between pleasure and pain. Even as she capitulates to James’s sensual demands, Karina craves more. She wants his heart, his soul. She wants his love . . . and she’ll break all the rules to get it.

There were a lot of things about this book that I loved, and a few things that irritated me. First, let’s cover the good things. I thought the ‘commands’ or instructions the lead alpha male came up with for the female lead in the story were fun and interesting – definitely not predictable. That was my favorite thing. The writing was also good and I don’t recall seeing many (if any) typos. The story flowed well – I was never bored, and I finished it pretty quickly.  The bad.  Karina, the female lead, agreed to very kinky things, very quickly, with a man she knew nothing about. That makes for a hot book – but no one in their right mind would do that. It is terribly irresponsibly and risky. I would have been more into that if there was a more established relationship; but as it read, I kept thinking NO WAY IN HELL!!! And coming from me, that is saying something, I assure you.  The other bad thing was the alpha male (James) did a very un-alpha, un-sexy thing at the end that bugged me. I think the writer was trying to show his more ‘human’ and emotional side, but I was unimpressed. For the most part, though, I enjoyed the read and plan to finish the 3-book series.  I gave ‘Slow Surrender’ 3 out of 5 stars.

You may have noticed the really freaking cool bookmark sticking out of ‘Slow Surrender’. I just got this from MyBookMark, and I love, love, LOVE IT! It is so unique and cute! So far it seems to be very well made and it is the perfect bookmark for my sexy reads!

The designer has a bunch of different ‘legs/shoes’ and I may get a few more!

So that’s it my darlings – I hope you enjoyed my book reviews! Let me know if there is a book you are dying for me to review; I’m always looking for new reads! Until next time – may all the books you read inspire you!

XOXO – CrazyDogMama

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Cheryl, a.k.a. "CrazyDogMama". Welcome to my blog! Anything and everything goes here - seriously. I'm a super laid-back, non-traditional, 40-something introverted writer. My language can get a little colorful, I love horror movies, I pretty much live on coffee, chocolate and cigarettes and I'm not above writing about uncomfortable subjects. So, if you're good with that, take a look around and get to know me! Even if you're not, I try my best to entertain and offer up good advice occasionally, so hopefully there is a little something here for everyone.

This is my life.

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