Tag Archives: 2012

Review: Come Fill Me by Tina Donahue

Liz’s Review

Come Fill Me by Tina Donahue
Paranormal Romance released by Samhain Publishing on December 18, 2012

Two men will stop at nothing to have her gift, her desire … and her love.

The Prophecy, Book 1

Years ago, with the healing abilities afforded by her blend of Aztec and extraterrestrial blood, Liz was free to do as she wished. Now she is trapped in a blood feud, forced to heal one of her clan’s most dangerous rivals so they can exploit his gift of prophecy.

As she drapes her nude body over his, the rush of his returning strength overwhelms her, and his stunningly sensual caress pushes her to her sexual limit.

Zeke Neekoma never expected to hunger for a woman he’s supposed to hate, but now that he’s tasted her, he has no intention of denying himself the pleasure of her body—or of kidnapping his enemy’s most cherished plaything.

Brought to Zeke’s stronghold to heal his brother, Jacob, Liz surrenders her body’s most traitorous needs to the unrestrained desires of two powerful men. And the brothers fill the lonely void she has too long endured.

But her clan doesn’t intend to let her go without a fight…and the ecstasy that binds Liz to her lovers could be the thing that breaks them.

Warning: Worlds collide when two Alpha males crave a woman they shouldn’t have. Their dominance and desire knows no limits, culminating in sex so torrid this babe’s never gonna be the same…or free of one brother’s touch.

This book was a complete and utter surprise from beginning to end. First, I read the description and completely pictured a story taking place a thousand years ago. All the historical buzzwords were there – clan, Aztec, blood feud, healer – but it actually takes place in the present. But it’s a present that is deeply steeped in the history of the Aztecs, interwoven with sci-fi tidbits like healing abilities and alien ancestors.

The story opens with Liz Munez, a doctor, who is also a powerful healer. Her father is being held by a really nasty man named Carreon, and Carreon is using her father to force her to heal people at his command. She’s a strange dichotomy. On the one hand, she loathes Carreon. She loved him at one time even though he was a thoroughly abusive asshole who shared her sexually with his people. Now, she fears and loathes him but also accepts that he can control her because he has her father held prisoner. She appears to be strong willed, but she is easily controlled because she fears for her father’s life. When Carreon shows up at her office and demands she heal someone for him, all it takes is one mention of her father and she follows willingly. She swears to kill him if he hurts her father, but they’re empty threats that even Carreon recognizes.

Carreon is one evil SOB. He is the leader of a clan of their people, who is trying to destroy their enemies. He uses Liz to heal his wounded men. He’s charming, smiling broadly while he lies, and he wants Liz by his side forever. He’s a perfect bad guy: ruthless with his enemies, willing to step over innocents to save his own hide, and utterly entranced with himself.

Zeke Neekoma is the leader of his clan. They’re different from Liz and Carreon’s people, rumored to be descended from aliens. Their people have the power of sight – the ability to see into the future – and Zeke is the most powerful of their people. He is a man that has been deeply scarred by loss through Carreon, who killed his beloved daughter, Gabrielle. He had a vision of Liz and was ambushed by Carreon on his way to save her. Near death, he’s healed by Liz and promises to keep her alive if she comes with him. His animosity for her, when he assumes she is still Carreon’s willing lover, shifts quickly as his desire for her grows. He needs her, he wants her, and he’ll have her whether she likes it or not.

Secondary characters include Zeke’s brother Jacob, who engages in the most ridiculous form of sibling rivalry ever. When he sees that Zeke wants Liz, he promptly decides to go after her himself. He appears to be immature, only interested in on-upping his older brother. Liz’s father is a very powerful healer. He would rather die than heal on command for Carreon or anyone else. He is the very definition of a strong-willed person. Kele is part of Zeke’s clan and in love with Jacob. She throws herself at him again and again, only to be rebuffed. She can’t take a hint and blames Liz for coming between her and the man she loves. In a fit of rage and grief, she does something so stupid that I wanted to reach into the book and smack her. This book has a lot of bad guys – an entire clan of them as a matter of fact – but Kele isn’t a bad guy, she just makes bad decisions.

This book is very raw and graphic. Through Liz’s memories, we learn about all the things that Carreon forced her to do with himself and his men. I’m not a big fan of the “c” word, and Liz uses it in her own thoughts and I find that a bit surprising. Aside from the harsh language, the book is heavily suffused with sex. Liz’s special healing abilities come from her touching skin to skin with the person she’s healing. If they’re very badly injured, she will have to have sex with the injured person in order to completely heal them. In the past with healings, Carreon treated her like a toy, watching her heal his injured men and then having sex with her before passing her around to his people. There are times when she remembers these events with shame and others when she is turned on at the memories. I found her wishy-washy thoughts to be a bit confusing.

Overall, this was a decent book with deep characters and a well-thought-out storyline. It was an engaging story that I had a hard time putting down once I started reading it, but I never really connected with Liz like I wanted to. I liked Zeke and even Jacob, but Liz didn’t come across as sympathetic which, in the end, is what lead me to not enjoy the story as much as I wanted to. Normally, if I was reading a story about a sexually abused woman who finally finds a man worth loving, I’d be cheering for her. But this story left me feeling cold towards Liz. She bounced between too many beds all for the sake of healing and it made it difficult for me to care about what happened to her.

Grade: C+

You can read an excerpt here and buy a copy here.

Review: Hearts of Darkness by Kira Brady

Liz’s Review

Hearts of Darkness by Kira Brady
Paranormal romance released by Kensington Publishing on August 7, 2012

In the first of a dazzling new romantic trilogy, one woman’s courageous search plunges her into a millennia-old supernatural war–and an irresistible passion. . .

Nurse Kayla Friday has dedicated her life to science and reason. But for her, Seattle is a place of eerie loss and fragmented, frightening memories. And now the only clue to her sister’s murder reveals a secret battle between two ancient mythologies. . .and puts Kayla in the sights of lethally-sexy werewolf mercenary Hart. He’ll do whatever it takes to obtain the key to the Gate of the Land of the Dead and free what’s left of his soul. But seducing the determined Kayla is putting them at the mercy of powerful desires neither can control. And as the clock ticks down to hellish catastrophe, the untested bond between Kayla and Hart may lead to the ultimate sacrifice.

As an avid sci-fi/paranormal fan, I knew when I began reading Hearts of Darkness that I was in for a wild ride.  Set in present-day Seattle, the story opens from first hero Hart’s POV and then heroine Kayla’s POV.  Werewolf Hart has only one thing on his mind and that’s finding the key to the Gate so he can get out from under his blood-debt to his boss.  The only thing on Kayla’s mind?  Identifying her murdered sister’s body.

Kayla Friday is a unique character in a book filled with incredibly unique characters.  On the surface, she is simply a human woman filled with grief and determined to find out who killed her sister and why.  Underneath that, we find that she is a strong-willed, compassionate woman who trusts too easily.  When she is first given a glimpse into the supernatural world all around her, she is struck with disbelief.  She powers through that disbelief, knowing that the secret to her sister Desi’s demise came at the hands of someone in this newly revealed world that is invisible to humans.  Hart tells her to run as far and as fast as possible, but true to her character, Kayla stays, desperate to know what happened to her sister.  She’s attacked, drugged, taken against her will, and betrayed, but still she finds the strength to keep going.

Hart is a werewolf.  There are several groups of shifters, including the new-to-me Thunderbirds (think human-sized black birds).  An outcast, Hart has a chip on his shoulder the size of California and is only doing what he has to do to free his soul.  Blood-bound to Norgard, a dragon shifter and all-around bad-guy, Hart must complete tasks in order to free his soul and escape.  Complex on a hundred different levels, Hart is a mercenary that thought he needed no one but himself.  A classic look-out-for-number-one sort of man, he finds himself surprised at Kayla’s ability to trust in him and just how much he likes her faith.  Hart was a sexy, likeable, frustrating character.  At times I wanted to both hug him and strangle him.

At war in this world are the Kevarti and the Drekar.  The Drekar have vowed to help humanity, the Kevarti just want to rule the world.  Shifters abound, both in the furry and feathered form, and in the dragon form as well.  In the world that Kira created, the humans are unbelievably obtuse to everything supernatural that is happening around them, explaining away things they don’t understand.  I really, really enjoyed the world because she turned everyday things into supernatural occurrences.  The need for gaslights?  It’s because the aether (which is a supernatural thing) causes the lights to go out.  Cars won’t start?  Ghosts.  It was clever and added a touch of realism to a completely unrealistic world, which is just exactly what a paranormal book needs to be plausible.

I love mythology.  As a teen I devoured books about ancient Greece and the gods and goddesses.  Hearts of Darkness treads heavily in the world of ancient beings, and in some ways it bogged the book down for me.  So many names and histories and words that needed explanations.  It felt at times that I should be taking notes so I would remember the players’ names and connections.  Ancient history lessons abound as Kayla is let into the world by slow degrees, learning about curses, other realms, possessions, ghosts and what happened to her sister, Desi.  And in a world where even the good guys do bad things, it was hard to know just whose side who was on.

I’ll be blunt:   the book is complicated.  But it’s also wonderfully written, engaging, and sexy.  This isn’t a book you can flip through casually, because it’s enchanting and complex and worth every minute that you’ll spend devouring it.  As a lover of all things paranormal, I felt right at home in Seattle with Kayla and Hart as they tried to reconcile their growing attraction and face an uncertain future where life hangs in the balance.  I will definitely be picking up the next book in the series.

Grade:  A-

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.

Review: Double Down by Katie Porter

Liz’s Review

Double Down by Katie Porter
Contemporary romance released by Samhain Publishing on July 31, 2012

Vegas Top Guns, Book 1
Desire as reckless as a fighter jet in freefall…and just as dangerous.

As part of the 64th Aggressor Squadron, Major Ryan “Fang” Haverty flies like the enemy to teach Allied pilots how not to die. The glittering excess of the Strip can’t compare to the glowing jet engines of his F-16. But a sexy, redheaded waitress in seamed stockings? Now she gets his blood pumping.

Cassandra Whitman’s good-girl ways haven’t earned any slack from her manager ex-boyfriend, or prevented a bad case of frazzle from holding down two and a half jobs. She sure wouldn’t mind letting the handsome Southern charmer shake up her routine.

Their wild weekend lives up to Sin City’s reputation. Especially when they discover a matched passion for role-playing. For Cass, it’s an exciting departure from her normal, shy persona. But for Ryan, it triggers memories of a time when his fetish drove away the woman he loved–leaving him reluctant to risk a repeat performance.

Except Cass refuses to settle for ordinary ever again. She’s about to show the man with hair-trigger hands that she’s got a few surprise moves of her own.

Warning: This book contains dirty-hot role-playing, featuring an all-alpha fighter pilot and an ambitious waitress with a fabulous imagination. Also: dressing-room sex, a plaid schoolgirl skirt, and a sprinkling of spankings.

I’m not even really sure where to start talking about this book.  It’s just an incredible story on so many levels that putting one first seems almost impossible.  Katie Porter, I’ve come to learn, is the name of the writing team of Carrie Lofty and Lorelie Brown.  I haven’t read anything by either author prior to this collaboration, so I had no expectations going into the story except to – hopefully – enjoy myself and I really, really did.  I haven’t read many role-playing books before this one, usually finding the odd “dress like a cheerleader” request in the romance novels I normally choose, so picking this one that has role-playing as a central theme was new for me.  When I think of role-playing I automatically think about the French Maid costume, but Katie opened up my eyes with this story, weaving a tantalizing tale about a man who isn’t sure he should like the things he does, and a woman who really would do anything for the right man.

As a girl who enjoys a man in uniform (my hubby was in the navy), Major Ryan Haverty already had brownie points with me in the hotness category.  His odd fascination with waitress Cass’ seamed stockings as she took his order at the restaurant where she worked started the first of many quirks that came to define him as a character.  Ryan, known to his fellow soldiers as Fang, is a dual personality – one part of him is what he perceives as normal and the other part kinky, specifically into role-playing.  In Ryan’s case, he’s desperate to keep the kinky part of himself well hidden, so deeply buried that it won’t ever come out.  The problem with secrets, as we all know, is that eventually they come out and Ryan was ill prepared for the fall-out.  Ryan’s reasoning for squashing his kinky fantasies is two-fold.  One, he’s an officer in Air Force, stationed at a nearby base, so indulging in role-playing in public could cause problems with his job.  And the other is that he once got his heartbroken by a woman that he revealed his kinkiest needs to and swore to not do that again.  What I really found fascinating about Ryan’s development in the story is that just one taste of fantasy for him and he slowly unraveled into a downward spiral of self-loathing and recrimination.  As the reader, we’re treated to his POV, and the disgust he feels for his suddenly increasing fantasies involving Cass roll off the page.  You can feel how much he hates himself, how much he wishes he didn’t like to role-play, how frightened he is when it clearly overwhelms him and pushes at the careful boundaries of his ordered life.  On the outside, Ryan is a hero and a leader, a man with loyal friends who has seen battle and lived to tell about it.  On the inside, however, Ryan is a festering mess of conflicted feelings, desires, and needs.

Cass was positively brilliant.  When challenged, she proved herself to be up for anything.  She was a heroine that I could get behind and cheer for.  What I found most interesting about her character was her background and family.  Her family is wonderful and amazing, but very smothering and insistent that she helps with the family business.  You get to see the way she feels pulled in separate directions – one for her passion of art and the other to support her family – and it’s not until Ryan’s influence that she begins to see herself as the independent woman she really is.  Her character flowered spectacularly.  There were no abrupt changes of heart or sudden decisions, but a gradual bloom that seemed real and earnest.  When her heart is breaking, her chin is held high and her belief in herself keeps her from accepting anything less than everything she deserves.  For that reason alone, Cass has become one of my new favorite female characters.

Secondary characters include Cass’ parents, her sister, brother-in-law and niece and Ryan’s fellow Air Force pilots.  Cass’ parents are the overbearing sort that expect their children to be happy living the dreams of their parents and not their own.  Their tour company is in trouble and the guilt comes out in buckets when Cass tries to improve her position at an art gallery so she can do what she loves for a living.  I loved to see her take her own life by the horns and make a stand for herself.  It’s one thing for a woman to stand up to a man about what she will and will not tolerate in a relationship, but it’s an entirely different, earth-shattering thing for a woman to stand up to the people who raised her and do her own thing.  Ryan’s two pilot friends, Tin Tin and Princess, are colorful and fun.  Tin Tin comes from money and comes across as an arrogant pretty-boy that would toss a girl aside when he’s done with her.  While it may be true in some ways, he shows his true nature when he stands by Princess’ side while she’s heaving up her drinks in the bathroom.  Now, who doesn’t want a guy like that?  And as for Princess, she’s got some serious issues.  Wound as tight as a spring, she seems to have no off-switch, flipping from calm and controlled to wild and berserk with no stops in between.  Both characters have their own stories in this series, and I think their characters are well worth looking into and deserve their own stories.

I can’t review the book without talking about the sex.  Holy role-playing Batman!  This book is just packed full of fantastic sex.  Each scene is unique as they move forward in their relationship, switching between sweet vanilla sex and kinky sex, initiated most often by Cass.  Cass has an internal radar that seems to sense whenever Ryan is turned on by something, and she turns the tables on him as often as she can.  Ryan struggles internally throughout the role-playing.  Like a dieter who eats a big piece of cake, he loves it at the time and hates himself afterwards, afraid that if Cass would find out the depths of his desire for role-playing that she would walk out on him.  I can’t even tell you the crazy things that they do without giving up too much of the story, but suffice it to say that although the book starts off with a bang (literally), the characters and the storyline don’t suffer for the attention to sexy details.  Well balanced, the loving is exactly what the story needed to ratchet it up a few million notches, from a romance about a pilot and a waitress to a sizzling story about just how much fun two consenting adults can have when they open their minds to the possibilities.

When I first began reading the story, I wasn’t really prepared for how much I would like the characters and become invested in their lives.  The story grips you by the neck and doesn’t let go, while you watch the lovers dance.  This story has got so much going for it, between the role-playing, the family issues, and the characters coming to terms with what they want in their lives, this book is full to the brim with heat and passion.  Unlike other stories in this vein that might focus solely on the sex, Porter broadens the scope to share the life-altering decisions that both Cass and Ryan make as they explore the kinkier, darker side of pleasure.

Grade:  A-

You can read an excerpt here and buy a copy here.

Review: The Rogue Countess by Amy Sandas

Erin’s Review:

Book CoverThe Rogue Countess by Amy Sandas
Historial romance released by Samhain Publishing on July 24, 2012

A passion neither of them wanted…and neither can deny.

Anna Locke was once young, naïve and infatuated with the handsome Jude Sinclair. Until the charismatic “gentleman” showed his true colors by abandoning her on their wedding day.

In the years since, she has transformed herself into a confident, successful woman, independent of her errant husband’s aristocratic family in every way but name. When Jude unexpectedly returns demanding a divorce, she quashes the butterflies he still elicits, and resolves to show him she won’t be so easily cast aside.

Jude has come home to assume the responsibilities left to him upon his father’s death, and to finally end the marriage into which he was tricked. To his surprise, Anna is no longer an awkward, skinny girl with a furtive gaze. She has become a lush, enigmatic vixen with dark eyes that shield secrets she seems determined to keep.

In their intimate war of wills, the heat of bold desire flares into passion—and casts light on a shared past tangled in lies and blackmail. But until Jude can win her trust and learn the truth, there will be no destroying the obstacles that loom darkly between them…and the love that should have been theirs.

Warning: This title contains a shockingly revealing sapphire gown, highly improper behavior at a masquerade, a tangled web of deception, and perhaps most scandalous of all, a fiery passion that flares to life between a husband and wife who have been estranged since their wedding day.

What would you do if at 16, the people you were to trust the most betray you for their own gain, which destroys multiple lives and before you could even say a word, the one person you hoped could save you abandons you for the next 8 years and pretends you don’t exist?  You’d plan your revenge too!

Anna, know 26 has lived the last few years of her life they way she wants to.  She calls herself Mrs. Locke And distances herself as far from her husband’s family as possible.  She’s intelligent, resourceful, and much to her mother in law’s dismay in TRADE.  But underneath her harden and worldly exterior is a vulnerable girl who wishes to be wanted, loved and protected.  Something she never felt as a child and had hoped to gain in her marriage.

Jude was an angry boy who grew up into a scorned man.  Leaving his new wife on the house steps immediately after the wedding, he spent the next few years roaming Europe and trying to forget the betrayal of his family and the witch he refuses to call a wife.  He has returned to England after learning of his fathers death more mature and ready to pick up his responsibilities, as soon as he rids himself of the woman he sees as ruining his life.

This is one of the best debut novels I have read and I had to double check that this was a debut novel. The writing and polish is one expected of a much more seasoned writer.  The author tackled this estrangement plot line and difficult characters (especially the sister) with aplomb and grit.  Each character in the novel, even the more minor ones, were complex and  not one dimensional.  Not only could I imagine meeting people like the characters in real life, I have met people like them.  They have their flaws and their walls.  But it is how the author goes about opening up the characters to their own flaws and tunneling under each others walls that makes this story so good.

It was refreshing to come across a story where no one should blame either Anne or Jude for how they feel about their marriage.  Neither party is at fault for anything other than being to immature and to hurt to see the situation from any perspective than their own.  Each has had plenty of time to build up the idea of whom the other is that is shattered to pieces starting with their very first interactions.  The author reaches a fine balance of the couples’ antics between mischievousness, annoying the other, and getting attention, without spite, harm, or  childishness.  You will not forget Anne and her whip.  From there the author manages to create a realistic and creative story that continues to throw these two in each others path allowing the final vestiges of their preconceived notions to disappear but gives them, especially Anne , a chance to believe in love and each other.  For both revenge turns out to be very sweet indeed. Like most romance novels, the characters around the couple see so much more clearly than the hero/heroine do and give them little nudges as needed.

While the author moved the plot line via internal conflict of the main characters and a lack of open discussions between the two.  She did so in a way that actually works and doesn’t make you want to slap someone for stupidity.  It is not even pride that keeps these two apart, but a external threat and in my eyes a very effective plot ploy that works within the psyche and construct of the characters.

An excellent debut romance that should not be missed

Grade: A-

You can read an excerpt of the book here, or buy it here.

Guest Review: Tempting the Best Man by J Lynn

Romance Gal’s Review

Tempting the Best Man by J Lynn
Contemporary romance released by Entangled Publishing on April 23, 2012

Madison Daniels has worshipped her brother’s best friend since they were kids. Everyone thinks she and Chase Gamble would make the perfect couple, but there are two major flaws in their logic. 1) Chase has sworn off relationships of any kind, and 2) after blurring the line between friends and lovers for one night four years ago, they can’t stop bickering.
Forced together for her brother’s wedding getaway, Chase and Madison decide to call a truce for the happy couple. Except all bets are off when they’re forced to shack up in a tacky 70’s honeymoon suite and survive a multitude of “accidents” as the family tries to prove their “spark” can be used than for more than fighting. That is, if they don’t strangle each other first…

Tempting the Best Man is a very short story as the whole book takes place within four days. Everything is covered, from the history of the hero and heroine, their attraction to one another, and  them finally being unable to resist each other. Madison loves and hates Chase at the same time but the love always tops the hatred. Chase is handsome, single and successful, so why is he denying himself love and happiness? Because he believes he is just like his father who cheated on his mother. He doesn’t want to hurt Madison but he invariably ends up breaking her heart, albeit unknowingly, every time he rejects her.

Chase is your typical hero, one who tries to avoid anything to do with relationships like the plague. His love for Madison is obvious to everyone including himself but he remains too stubborn to act on it. He is a successful business man trying hard not to turn out like his father though he can’t change the fact that they look exactly the same.

Madison is an independent, funny, sassy and witty heroine. She makes being the only girl in a group of four guys (her older brother and Chase and his brothers) seem so sexy and enjoyable. Madison is a strong heroine in some instances but she also has her weak moments. For instance, when Chase rejects her for the first time she really tries to move on but at the same time she can’t help wanting to be close to Chase and she does this by not only living in the same city as him but also in the same building! Thus, proving that she doesn’t let disappointments hold her down from getting what she wants. She is relentless and determined to win over Chase’s heart and making him see her as something [someone] other than his best friend’s little sister.

Despite knowing this is a novella I felt like I didn’t get enough time to really know the characters. In addition, there are so many things that are too predictable while reading and all the clichés you can think of are found on this one. To name a few: Madison’s car breaks down on her way to the vineyard and even though she calls her dad to come and get her, guess who shows up to the rescue? Yup, the hot guy, who happens to be her brother’s best friend that she’s had a crush on since she was a kid. They both get locked up in the wine cellar where they share a ‘steamy kiss’ but then pretend it didn’t happen. Then, of course the main one, where the rooms are overbooked so they have to share one- and coincidentally, it is a honeymoon suite! There is also the fact that the main reason that they are dancing around being in a relationship is because of Chase’s misgivings about turning out like his dad!

I also got a bit frustrated with Chase for his tendency to be possessive over Maddie. It was contradictory and unreasonable because he doesn’t wasn’t to see her with another guy but he doesn’t want to be with her himself!

Nevertheless, the book is so funny and some scenes are just beyond hilarious and I constantly found myself laughing out loud. The love between Chase and Madison was palpable and everyone around them knew about it. The relationship between the families-the Gamble brothers and the Daniels enhances the story and makes you wish you had interfering relatives around. They are corny and entertaining. Plus they are all so carefree with one another that you just have to love them.

This was a fun, short, romantic read that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a light happily ever after. I hope this becomes a series because I would love stories for the other Gamble siblings as well as catch up with Madison and Chase.

Grade: C+

You can buy a copy here.

Guest Review: Don’t You Wish by Roxanne St. Claire

*Barbie’s Review

Don’t You Wish by Roxanne St. Claire
Young Adult Fiction released by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on July 10, 2012

When plain and unpopular Annie Nutter gets zapped by one of her dad’s whacked-out inventions, she lands in a parallel universe where her life becomes picture-perfect. Now she’s Ayla Monroe, daughter of the same mother but a different father–and she’s the gorgeous, rich queen bee of her high school.

In this universe, Ayla lives in glitzy Miami instead of dreary Pittsburgh and has beaucoup bucks, courtesy of her billionaire–if usually absent–father. Her friends hit the clubs, party backstage at concerts, and take risks that are exhilarating . . . and illegal.

But on the insde, Ayla is still Annie.

So when she’s offered the chance to leave the dream life and head home to Pittsburgh, will she take it?

The choice isn’t as simple as you think.

I don’t read much YA at all, especially nowadays, because they all seem to have the exact same premise. I only picked up this one up because it was by Roxanne St. Claire, who’s been one of my favorite authors in her other genres, and it wanted to give it a shot. Don’t You Wish really surprised me in a great way, because it seems to be different from the current YA books being published. This books has such a fun, innovative story, with a creative, fast-paced, plot and lovable characters. I devoured it like a beloved desert. I’ve loved every page of this book. It’s been one of my favorite reads this year!

Annie Nutter is supposedly your average girl, as she doesn’t get noticed at school and doesn’t get to hang out with the popular crowd at school. She’s just a band dork who gets made fun of. Annie is really nice and fun, but she’s shy and doesn’t show that much of her lovable personality to the world. At the point where she becomes Ayla Monroe on the outside, yet continues to be Annie on the inside, is where the true beauty of the character lies. Because of this – Annie gets this huge initiative and changes Ayla’s life. A life that would seem to perfect for everyone that wasn’t really living it. It’s like Annie gets the spark to light the fire within [Ayla] and starts to proactively make things better.  And Annie finally stands up for herself. I love that about her.

Then, there’s Charlie, a geeky guy, within a picture perfect world who gets bullied for not being rich enough for the Crop Academy. He befriends Annie as Ayla. Of course, the real Ayla would never have befriended him. Charlie is a key character as it’s his genius that eventually helps Annie figure out her final solution. Charlie is a very authentic, multi-layered character. He’s so real to me, I have a physical image that I associate with him. Charlie is brilliant, and he’s not very trusting of other people. He’s more vulnerable than he appears to be, and it’s very hard for the reader not to wish you had a guy like him when you were in high school. Think *insta-crush*. He’s a really great character, and you can’t help but keep rooting for him and Annie to end up together..

I have to admit, even though Annie has a very nice and sweet best friend in real world, it was the character of Ayla’s “Dumb-Blonde-Friend” Bliss that made me laugh out loud. Bliss was my favorite secondary character. She brought a lot of fantastic humor to the book. I would have liked to see what happened to Ayla’s life after Annie left and Ayla’s real soul returned, as Annie changed so many things, from minute details to relationships with friends, classmates and parents. Perhaps this was the only thing that was lacking in the book for me. The “after” scenes.

One of the best things about Don’t You Wish is that it’s not a depressing, angsty book. This is what separates it from the paranormal YA books nowadays – because as it’s about parallel words, the book does have some paranormal elements. This story is a fun, light-hearted book, that is above all, a very pleasurable read. I recommend it to everyone that loves a really unique story, a good laugh and really interesting characters.

Grade: A+ 

You can read an excerpt here, or buy a copy here.

Heidenkind’s Guest Post/Review of A Bride’s Story by Kaoru Mori

Hi everyone! A treat today! Double post, and with this, something definitely new, and interesting! Shelli is on vacation so we weren’t sure if she would be able to get her post so me, so I went to twitter to ask for help, and Ms. Heidenkind immediately stepped up. I haven’t read manga in a long time, but I know it’s even more popular now. I’d also never heard of this series, and as you see, it’s gorgeous. So everyone, give Heidenkind a very warm welcome!

A sekret: I am a bit obsessed with Mongolia. I have wanted to go there ever since I wrote a report about it back in high school. So I was super-excited when I heard that Kaoru Mori, who wrote and illustrated the fabulous Emma (review here), was working on a manga series set in 19th-century Mongolia.

If you’re unfamiliar with manga, it’s basically a type of comic book that comes from Japan. If you enjoy any kind of genre fiction, there’s probably a type of manga out there for you–the categories are highly specialized. I started with vampire romance mangas like Midnight Secretary and Vampire Knight, both of which are extremely unputdownable and full of win. I think most of the appeal of these books is their exoticism, and the fact that by US standards they’re pretty subversive. A bit like soap operas, mangas can go on forever and usually have tons of characters, and A Bride’s Story isn’t any different.

A Bride’s Story centers around Amir, who at twenty is extremely long in the tooth to be getting married. Her husband, Karluk, is only twelve. Awkward! Actually that’s less than the age difference between me and my bother, but it’s still kinda skeezy. But obviously that’s just my modern bias. And if you think there’s no sexual tension going on in these books, well… you’d be wrong, although Karluk does pull a Louis XVI despite Amir’s wiles.

It’s small wonder that Amir hasn’t been married before now, because she’s a little odd. And not just in a, “You’re not from around here, are you?” sort of way; also in a, “Why are you watching me sleep like that?!” way. For realz, I think she might be a little unbalanced. There were times when I felt like I was reading Fatal Attraction: Mongolian Edition.


Amir is watching you. Always watching.

But there are tons of other characters, of course, including a bad-ass grandma, an anthropologist from England, Amir’s friend, Pariya, who always looks angry; a street-smart guide; Amir’s evil male relatives; a pretty nomad woman who lives with her mother-in-law; and the rest of Karluk’s family. The only secondary character who’s been explored with much depth so far is the anthropologist, Mr. Smith, but I’m sure as the series goes on other characters’ stories will be fleshed out.

The art in A Bride’s Story is also gorgeous, full of tons of detail, yet still easy to read. Mori isn’t one of those manga artists who only has 3 faces in her repertoire (coughBrideoftheWaterGodcough), and each character is completely individualized and recognizable. As with Emma, it’s clear Mori has done tons of research into this setting, and I can always appreciate thorough research.

I’m not as into A Bride’s Story as I was into Emma–not yet, anyway; sometimes it takes a few volumes for me to really get into the story–but I do think these volumes are a promising start to the series. I love being transported to Mongolia, and a few of the characters are really interesting, so I’ll definitely be continuing series.

Thanks for guesting with us, Heidenkind, and also for sharing about A Bride’s Story – and manga in general!