Review: A Taste Of You

A Taste of You: The Epicurean Series Book 1 by Sorcha Grace
Published by Everafter Romance on May 17th 2013
Genres: Erotica, Love & Romance
Pages: 374
Format: eARC
Source: Library

A young food photographer's appetites are awakened when she is swept off her feet by a handsome billionaire gourmand. Beautiful and talented Catherine Kelly is starting over as a food photographer in Chicago. With her painful past buried in California, she's focused on her career and is hungry for little else. Until she meets a wealthy bachelor with arresting blue-grey eyes filled with enough tragedy to match her own. William Lambourne is rich, powerful, and gorgeous--and as talented in the kitchen as he is in the bedroom. From the moment they meet, William is determined to discover the perfect recipe to unlock Cat's resolve, awaken her senses, and make her his own. Book 1 in The Epicurean series, A TASTE OF YOU will leave you hungry...for more!

Although I generally don’t like the idea of guilty pleasure books – from where I’m sitting, if you’re reading, who cares what it is?! – I can’t ever seem to stop myself from feeling a little guilty about the occasional erotic romance I pick up.  I feel about them the same way I do about ready meals – I feel like I should want to pick up something more nutritious, more healthy, less processed and yet some days, I just want to eat the ready meal (actually this isn’t a great analogy because I frequently want to eat the ready meal and only occasionally get drawn in by the erotic romance, but the idea is the same).

I pretty much knew when I decided to start A Taste of You that it would be very formulaic – insecure woman meets rich, mysterious, secretive man, and the two get involved in a controlling relationship which alternates between awesome sex and terrible communication.  I know the stories are often repetitve, but I just can’t help but pick one up every now and again, and although A Taste of You follows that basic formula, I think it’s one of the better ones.

It thrilled me to think that this man wanted me.  It made me feel sexy and powerful, even though I was completely at his mercy.

Cat Kelley is interesting: she has hobbies, passions, friends.  She has a history.  She’s had relationships – successful relationships – before she ever meets William Lambourne, so she sees the red flags just as we do, instead of being totally naive.  William Lambourne fits the same mould as Christian Grey etc, although we get to see a little bit of personality shine through towards the end of the book which I liked.  Their will-they-won’t-they relationship kept me engrossed, even though some of Cat’s moments of insecurity did make me want to shake her occasionally.  Their back stories are both interesting, the sex-scenes are steamy, and the food descriptions both in and out of the kitchen are evocative, adding an extra dimension to help A Taste of You stand out.

A Taste Of You delivers exactly what you expect and I flew through it in a couple of days.  It was enjoyable enough, but even with the cliffhanger ending (which sadly, I thought was very predictable!), I probably won’t be reading the sequel unless I can find it at the library.

Review: As I Descended

Review: As I DescendedAs I Descended by Robin Talley
Published by Mira Ink on September 6th 2016
Genres: Horror & Ghost Stories, LGBTQ, Paranormal, Retelling
Pages: 370
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.
Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.
Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.
But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.
Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.
But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.
From acclaimed author Robin Talley comes a Shakespeare-inspired story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair.

When I read it…

This was a one day read on August 25th!

What I’d heard before I read it:

I’d heard a lot of enthusiasm for the blurb but I hadn’t actually read any reviews before I picked this up.

What worked for me:

  • The creepiness: I don’t read a lot of spooky stories, but I was strangely in the mood for something a bit scary when I picked this up, and As I Descended definitely delivered – part of the reason I finished this in a day is because I stayed up until some crazy time in the morning because I was too freaked to comfortably go to bed!
  • The pacing: I was hooked on this pretty early on, and I read the whole thing in a day, because the fast pacing (combined with the creepiness) meant I just didn’t want to put it down.
  • The diversity: I’m always on the lookout for more F/F relationships (especially in speculative fiction since I’m not much of a contemporary fan), and Talley has given us a great diverse cast, which was one of the elements I liked most about As I Descended.

What didn’t quite work for me:

  • The ending: I don’t really know what I expected from the ending, but I just found it ultimately unsatisfying.
  • The characters: The characters just didn’t really work for me because their motivations and their actions just never seemed to match up very well.  Characters seemed to change their opinions a bit too rapidly for me to feel they were truly believable, and I wanted more depth, more substance, for each of the characters.

I enjoyed As I Descended, just not as much as I’d hoped to.  While the premise sounded amazing, I think I just had expectations that were too high.  A few months after reading, I’m left with sadly very little impression of As I Descended, just a vague impression of spookiness and a diverse set of characters. An enjoyable enough read, but definitely not the favourite I was hoping it’d become.

Other reviews of As I Descended: Pretty Deadly Reviews | The Young Folks | That’s What She Read

One StarOne Star

Review: Wild

Published by HarperTeen Genres: Contemporary, Retelling, Young Adult
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss

The forest is full of secrets, and no one understands that better than Cade. Foraging, hunting, surviving— that’s all he knows. Alone for years, Cade believes he’s the sole survivor. At least, until he catches a glimpse of a beautiful stranger…

Dara expected to find natural wonders when she set off for a spring break camping trip. Instead, she discovers a primitive boy— he’s stealthy and handsome and he might be following her. Intrigued, Dara seeks him out and sets a catastrophe in motion.

Thrust back into society, Cade struggles with the realization that the life he knew was a lie. But he’s not the only one. Trying to explain life in a normal town leaves Dara questioning it.

As the media swarm and the police close in, Dara and Cade risk everything to get closer. But will the truth about Cade’s past tear them apart?

A YA Tarzan retelling.

When I read it…

I read this between July 10th and August 7th.

What I’d heard before I read it:

Almost nothing. This is a 2014 release I requested but didn’t end up starting immediately and then have heard pretty much nothing about since.

What worked for me:

  • The premise: I really liked the idea of a modern day Tarzan retelling, and although it’s difficult to talk about too much without spoilers, I liked the way Mallory had set everything up.
  • Sofia: Dara’s best friend Sofia was fun, and sweet, and I liked the way she was always looking out for Dara.
  • Cade: I liked Cade, and his naivety regarding life outside the forest made me feel for him instantly.  I loved seeing his life in the forest, how competent and comfortable he was in the wild.
  • The forest setting: I really liked seeing the national park, both through Dara’s eyes and Cade’s.  The two see the forest so differently, and I really loved seeing the beauty, the danger, the usefulness, all as complementary facets.

What didn’t quite work for me:

  • The romance: I just found the romance way too much, way too soon, and it didn’t work for me at all.
  • The ending: While I enjoyed the story as it was going on, the ending was a real disappointment for me.  I have no idea what the best ending should have been – indeed, part of the reason I was so hooked was because I had no idea how it was going to end – but I just found the ending ultimately quite unbelievable and unsatisfying.
  • The justification for life in the wild: I liked the idea, but I felt like it needed a bit more back story to make it believable – while I could see one parent resorting to such extreme measures, I’m not sure I could see both agreeing to it, at least without seeing a little more of their lives and personalities before living in the wild.

I wanted to like Wild, but for me, this was definitely a case of the execution not living up to the premise.  I didn’t really like the vast majority of the characters, which probably explains a lot about why I didn’t like the book as much as I’d hoped to. I couldn’t understand Dara, who wasn’t spooked by someone stalking their camp.  I was irritated by Josh’s change from protective to basically absent. I was also frustrated by their overall relationship: despite having been in a long term relationship, Dara seems to feel their relationship is doomed and founded on very little in common.  I felt like the author was trying to discredit the relationship from the beginning, to make room for the potential romance between Cade and Dara, but that meant I either felt their relationship was implausible to start with, or that the rather abrupt change made no sense!

Other reviews of Wild: The Young Folks | The Daily Prophecy | There Were Books Involved

One StarOne Star

Review: Ruined

Review: RuinedRuined by Amy Tintera
Published by HarperTeen on 03-05-2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss

A revenge that will consume her. A love that will ruin her.
Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped.
But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family.
In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family.
Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.

When I read it…

I read this between April 19th and April 22nd.

What I’d heard before I read it:

Virtually nothing – I’d heard Amy Tintera’s name before, but I haven’t read any of her books.  I just loved the cover and the synopsis!

What worked for me:

  • Emelina: I love kick-ass characters, and we all know I have a weakness for the anti-hero, so of course I was bound to love Emelina, our feisty and ruthless main character.  She’s not quite Manon Blackbeak, but she’s still pretty awesome.  She’s not all-powerful or superhuman; she’s more Arya Stark than Daenarys Targaryen, and that’s okay!
  • The shades of grey: Again, stories and characters that aren’t clear-cut good/bad are a bit of a weakness of mine so I loved how the characters in this are shades of grey.  Rigid points of view and prejudices have to be questioned, and everyone in the story has to see whether they’re willing to bend at all – or break.
  • The idea of guilt and redemption: The characters in Ruined are absolutely ruthless, there’s no doubt about that, but they’re not all heartless. I loved the fact we see characters questioning their decisions, their actions, their opinions, instead of being able to kill and manipulate completely without remorse.

“You did what you had to do.”
“I did what I chose to do.” Tears spilled over her cheeks, staining his shirt.
“Then choose better next time.”

What didn’t quite work for me:

  • The world-building: The world-building seemed a bit simplistic, and a bit vague for my liking.  I’d have liked more on the different kingdoms, the people, the history of the Ruined and their abilities.  This is a very quick read, so I wouldn’t have minded a longer book with a bit more backstory thrown in.
  • The romance: I liked Em, and I liked Cas, I’m just not sure I was convinced by Em and Cass as a relationship.  I love a good ship I can get behind, but as much as I liked these two characters separately, I never truly rooted for them together romantically.  As a political alliance, absolutely, as a romance, I wasn’t sold.

This was a quick and easy, addictive read.  I liked the premise, the characters and the shades of grey, but it didn’t have the same extensive world-building found in my favourite YA fantasy series.  A great start to a series, and definitely a series I’ll be continuing, but ultimately not a new favourite.

Other reviews of Ruined: Nick & Nereyda’s Infinite Booklist | Here’s to happy endings | Of Spectacles & Books

One StarOne StarOne Star

Review: Running with Rhinos

Review: Running with RhinosRunning with Rhinos: Stories from a Radical Conservationist by Ed Warner
Published by Greenleaf Book Group Press on March 1st 2016
Genres: Biography/Autobiography, Non Fiction, Science & Nature
Pages: 232
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

“Running with rhinos” is not a euphemism—not when you’re ground support for the International Rhino Foundation’s Rhino Conservancy Project.
Edward M. Warner, a self-proclaimed radical conservationist, presents his outrageous adventures from more than a decade of collaboration with the veterinarians and biologists who care for endangered rhinos in Africa. Few if any laymen like Warner have been invited to do what amounts to some of the most dangerous volunteer fieldwork around.
Fewer than five thousand black rhinos remain in the wilds of sub-Saharan Africa. About five hundred live on private conservancies in Zimbabwe. For Warner, working on the frontlines of rhino conservation not only allowed him to help rhinos, it gave him the opportunity to pursue and refine his emerging philosophy of radical conservationism, to cultivate partnerships between local communities and private landowners in Africa, and to export the lessons about land and wildlife management back home to the United States.
In Running with Rhinos: Stories from a Radical Conservationist, Warner takes readers along as he weasels his way into becoming volunteer ground support for the International Rhino Foundation’s Rhino Conservancy Project, or “Rhino Ops,” in Zimbabwe. It is gritty, sweaty, sometimes scary, and exhilarating work. Warner succeeds in telling a remarkable story of the extraordinary bonds between humans—and their dedication to protecting endangered animals—all while weaving eye-opening stories about the flora, fauna, geology, geography, and politics of sub-Saharan Africa.

When I read it…

I read this between April 1st and 10th 2016.

What I’d heard before I read it:

Nothing! This was an impulse request as soon as I saw it on NetGalley, because I love rhinos and I really genuinely love a good discussion about rhino conservation approaches.

What worked for me:

  • Warner’s genuine love of Africa: Warner obviously has genuine love for Africa, and I liked the snippets of fauna, flora and geological knowledge throughout the book.
  • Comments on differing conservation approaches: Although I’d have liked to see more, I liked that Warner talked about a few different conservation approaches, such as de-horning, arming anti-poaching patrols, private land conservancies and trophy hunting.  Private land conservancies is obviously the area he feels most strongly about, and his genuine belief in this type of conservation really came across.
  • The insight into logistical conservation problems: Conservation involves huge amounts of work that aren’t as exciting as darting rhinos, and we got to see a lot of the problems field conservation programmes struggle with, such as equipment difficulties, problems importing equipment and financial constraints.  These aren’t huge, dramatic stories, but nonetheless the genuine reality of field conservation, and I liked that these were reflected throughout the book.

What didn’t quite work for me:

  • The writing style: I felt like this book was just too focused on Warner.  That might seem an odd sentiment given that the book is effectively a memoir, but on at least two separate occasions he tells us about taking people out to dinner “at the most expensive restaurant in town” and he also casually mentions buying someone a new car.  The new car does contribute to field work at least, but none of these stories felt like they really added anything worthwhile to the story.
  • Dismissive comments: There were a few occasions where comments that I think were supposed to come across as funny, fell totally flat to me.  Warner says “The only reason I haven’t gone into politics is that I refuse to demean myself”, that he found it “intolerably boring to go on game drives with tourists” and uses the phrase “Bambi environmentalists” a few times to disparage conservationists who are against  trophy or sport hunting – as if to say there’s no scientific or economic arguments against trophy hunting for conservation.  While I think these were meant to be funny, these comments instead came across as judgemental and borderline-offensive at times.
  • Not enough “big-picture” conservation: Ed Warner describes himself as a “radical conservationist” and so I expected quite a lot of conservation debate or opinion, but there was no real mention of the bigger picture of rhino conservation – not once is the issue of demand discussed, which I found disappointing.

I think ultimately Running with Rhinos just wasn’t what I expected from the synopsis. I think I expected a lot more stories about the animals and conservation methods, whereas in reality there were a lot of stories about people and these really overwhelmed the stories about rhinos themselves for me.  Of course rhino conservation involves huge amounts of work that doesn’t involve contact with rhinos, but a lot of the stories weren’t really about work, they were about going to the bar, and so although we see rhinos being darted, having horns shaved, having snares removed and being relocated, I felt like I had to work to get to those stories.  Despite only being 232 pages, and the only book I was reading at the time, this took me 10 days to read, and on more than one occasion I have to admit, I nearly stopped altogether.

Warner’s heart is, I’m absolutely sure, in the right place, and I love the fact that the profits of the book go to rhino conservation, but the book and I just didn’t fit together unfortunately, no matter how desparately I wanted us to.  I would be more likely to shelve this in autobiography than natural history, which I think sums up exactly why the book didn’t work for me.  I do think with a rather critical edit, this book could be great, but as it stands now, I personally much preferred The Last Rhinos by Lawrence Anthony.

One Star