Perverse by Larry Rodness

The definition of perverse courtesy of Dictionary.com:

1) willfully determined or disposed to go counter to what is expected or desired; contrary
2) characterized by or proceeding from such a determination or disposition
3) wayward or cantankerous
4) persistent or obstinate in what is wrong
5) turned away from or rejecting what is right, good, or proper; wicked or corrupt

Synonyms: 1) contumacious, disobedient; 4) stubborn, headstrong, willful; 5) evil, bad, sinful 

Perverse is billed as a coming of age story with a paranormal twist. It tells the story of Emylene Stipe, a 2nd generation Goth. Emylene's parents own the Pall Bearer's Paradise, a Goth club and hangout, which makes Emylene royalty in the local Goth community. Emylene's world takes a turn for the unexpected after striking up an affair with Stelio, a Geek store owner with a secret. Soon everything Emylene knows will be turned upside down as her world becomes infected by evil vampyres (book spelling), leaving her to fight to save her world.

Perverse was given to me by the author in exchange for a review. I am honestly torn about how to feel about this book. I feel that there were almost two competing stories - Emylene's coming of age tale and the paranormal battle against vampyres - that don't completely mesh together successfully. I'll start with what I feel was the least successful of the two - the coming of age tale. I think my preconceived notions of what constitutes a "coming of age" story might have a lot to do with how I responded to this aspect of the story. When I hear "coming of age" I expect a story that focuses on a character (or small group of characters) and chronicles a journey of discovery and/or transformation. It is a personal story and the story is generally told from the perspective of the character undergoing the transformation. This perspective is essential to the story, in my opinion. It is through this character that we as readers get our cues on how we are expected to react and build a connection to the story. We may not always agree with the character, but seeing the story through their eyes provides the thread through which we can experience the story and come to understand how they view the world around them. To me this is an essential aspect of a "coming of age" story, because without this understanding, it is difficult to see how the character's perspective changes over time.

In my opinion, the biggest obstacle for this part of the story was the author's chosen point of view. The story is told from an objective POV, where the narrator is separated from the story and simply tells the happenings. The story is never told through the eyes of Emylene and it is, therefore, hard to know what she is really thinking and feeling. Because I was never able to get into Emylene's head, it was hard for me to connect with her as a character and understand how she saw the world. She said her parents were overbearing and that she resented the responsibilities their positions in the community placed on her, but why she felt this way was unclear and it made it hard to sympathize with her and understand her need to rebel. Emylene's voice was largely absent from the narrative, making it was hard to understand her and recognize any changes that may have occurred. Aside from being more appreciative of her parents, she really didn't seem all the different at the end of the book. Usually in a "coming of age" story I expect the character to experience some significant change. This may have been a style choice made by the author, as it would certainly be a "perverse" play on the traditional format, but to me it was jarring and instead of intriguing, it left me scratching my head and feeling like I missed something. 

As far as the paranormal aspect of the story, I felt that it was much more successfully executed. It was imaginative and entertaining. This aspect of the book was much better developed and I feel like the book would have been stronger had this been the focus of the book. The ending is left open enough that there could be a sequel, but at this point I find myself hesitant to say that I would be willing to pick it up and continue the story. I just don't feel like I built enough of a connection to the story. I believe this story has a lot of potential, but like some other self-published/smaller publisher books, it suffers from the lack of a good editor.


Tangled (Tangled #1) by Emma Chase

Drew Evans is used to getting what he wants. He is handsome, arrogant, makes multimillion dollar business deals and can have whatever woman he wants. He has loyal friends and as the baby of the family, is spoiled. Drew is the master of his universe, until he meets a brunette bombshell in a bar who refuses to give into his advances. When they part ways, she remains in Drew's thoughts.

When the new associate at Drew's father's investment banking firm turns out to be Katherine "Kate" Brooks, the bombshell from the bar, Drew finds his life turned upside down. Kate is brilliant and ambitious, unavailable, and refuses to be thrown off her game by Drew. Drew and Kate become professional competitors as they both compete to land a huge account and the sexual tension between the two is palpable. When they are forced to work together, they will discover that professionally they make a great team. Drew still wants more. He is desperate to have Kate.

When his chance finally arrives, Drew finds himself feeling things he never thought he would, or could. Spooked by the depth of his feelings for Kate, Drew makes a mistake that causes him to lose his chance at love and happiness. After spending a week holed up in his apartment with "the flu," Drew realizes what an idiot he has been and sets off on a mission to get Kate back. Will Kate give him a second chance?

I loved this book! Once I started, I couldn't put it down. I loved that it was told from Drew's point of view. He is smart, witty, and a total playboy, but it made for an extremely entertaining narrative. I found myself shaking my head at his antics, smiling at his audacity, and laughing out loud. When I finished, I had the urge to go right back to the beginning and read it again. The characters were great, the story was well written, there are plenty of steamy scenes, which all make this a fantastic read. Drew is joining the ranks of my book boyfriends and I'm sure I will be picking this one up again and again.

There is another book which is in the works according to Goodreads. There is no cover or synopsis, so I'm not sure if it will be a continuing story or a spin off. I couldn't find out any further information from Emma's website either. Either way, whatever it is, I will most definitely be picking up the next book in this series. 


Until I Break by M. Leighton

By day Samantha Jansen is Laura Drake, the confident and in control author of salacious vampire romances, by night she is just Samantha, a shy girl with a broken past she struggles to overcome and make peace with. When Alec Brand walks into one of Samantha's book signings, she finds herself face to face with the living embodiment of Mason Strait, the broken hero from her novels. 

Alec is Samantha's darkest fantasy and biggest nightmare all wrapped up in a sexy, arrogant, and intense package. Alec is hiding dark secrets of his own, a monster inside of him that he struggles to repress. The connection between Samantha and Alec is instant and powerful, but the pair of them are deeply scarred and damaged. They have the potential to save each other or destroy each other beyond repair. Both characters will have to struggle to overcome their pasts and put their trust in each other, or break each other in the process.

I came across this book awhile ago and added it to my "to read" shelf, but when I heard that the author was pulling it out of production (click here for the author's blog announcement), I hurried up and grabbed a copy of it while I could. I have to say that I am glad that I did. Until I Break does deal with some heavy sexual issues, but I didn't find it any worse than some of the other romance novels that I have read. I actually found this book to have a very unique concept that it didn't fit the formula or mold of the traditional romance novel. I loved that both Samantha and Alec were broken and had their own issues to overcome. I liked how they were able to really "see" each other and look beyond the facades they presented to the world, and I also liked how the book switched perspectives between the two.

The only thing I didn't like was that it took too long for their relationship to reach its pinnacle and the ending felt somewhat rushed. Their relationship was very stop and go, with long periods where Alec would essentially disappear. I suppose this was done to amp up the drama, but it frustrated me at times. I also feel like I missed the point where Samantha and Alec went from being "in lust" to "in love" with each other. Their relationship lacked a lot of the tender moments that usually signal that transformation, instead it was almost like one day they weren't in love and the next they were, which kept me from fully connecting to them as a couple. These are small qualms and in no way distract from enjoying the overall story. I never once lost interest in the story.

It's a shame that M. Leighton has decided to pull this book, but I can respect her decision to do so. I know that sharing your work with the world is hard enough and can only imagine how hard it must be when your work receives such a negative response. I admire her unwillingness to change the story to placate others. If you can find a copy of this book I would suggest grabbing it and giving it a chance. 


Stealing Harper (Taking Chances #2) by Molly McAdams

Stealing Harper is the companion novel (novella really) to Taking Chances (review here...fair warning, it does contain spoilers), which is a heart wrenchingly good contempory romance novel. I found myself absolutely emotionally destroyed after reading Taking Chances, so much so that I couldn't pick up another book for a few days.

In Taking Chances we meet Harper as she arrives at San Diego State University determined to start a new life for herself. Harper quickly finds herself falling for two guys and smack in the middle of a love triangle. Brandon is tattooed, ridiculously muscled and handsome, a fighter in the Underground, and incredibly sweet and gentle with Harper. Chase is a hot, tattooed artist with a reputation for going through girls like socks. Even though she knows he's wrong for her, Chase gets under her skin like no one else can and is determined to become a better man in order to be worthy of Harper. Harper finds herself torn - she knows she loves Brandon and wants to spend the rest of her life with him, but she just can't seem to forget about Chase. One weekend of passion will have far reaching consequences for both Harper and the men she loves.

Stealing Harper allows us to reexperience the story from Chase's point of view. It doesn't really add anything new to the overall story, but if you were a fan of Chase before then you will "enjoy" this one. I say "enjoy" because as much as I would like it, Chase's fate remains the same and it is still emotionally devastating (even if I already knew what I was in for). If anything, this book made me love Chase even more. He is the perfect redeemable bad boy and one of my favorite book boyfriends. I loved being in his head as he struggled with his feelings for Harper and his desire to become a better man for her. I still find myself wishing for Chase's story to have a different ending, unfortunately you can't always get what you want...


Everybody's Jane: Austen in the Popular Imagination by Juliette Wells

I picked this book up when I was invited to a Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) event by a good friend and fellow Austen enthusiast, at which Juliette Wells was speaking. I have to admit that while I consider myself an Austen fanatic, my interest in all things Austen has never really extended beyond re-reading her novels over and over again. I have felt little compulsion to do any type of scholarly reading or research into Jane Austen herself and/or her novels. Reading her novels has been enough for me and very much akin to the idea of "enchantment" presented by Rita Felski and referenced by Wells.

"Enchantment is characterized by a state of intense involvement, a sense of being so entirely caught up in an aesthetic object that nothing else seems to matter...This sense of immersion seems self-enclosed and self-sustaining, demarcated by a distinct boundary; the transition back to the everyday world feels unwelcome, even intrusive..."

I did find Wells book to be rather interesting, although it did require me to engage in a different reading style, as it is a purely academic and it's been awhile since I have read this type of book. In Everybody's Jane, Wells explores the question - What does Jane Austen mean to you? The focus of her book is the amateur reader, as opposed to the scholar, and the various ways that these readers interact not only with Austen's works, but Austen herself. The title "amateur" in this case does not carry the negative connotations often associated with the word, but instead relates to the original meaning of the word - referring to an admirer or devotee.

Each of the chapters in the book focus on a different aspect of the Austen experience sought after by amateur readers. The first chapter introduces us to the amateur reader and lays out the outline for the rest of the book. Chapter two profiles Alberta H. Burke, an Austen admirer and collector, and her world famous (at least within in the Austen circle) collection that was donated to Goucher College upon her death. Chapter three focuses on how and why amateur readers read Austen today - from enchantment to finding life advice. Literary tourism and how some readers seek a closer connection to Austen by traveling to places connected to her life and works is the subject of Chapter four. Chapter five was one of the more interesting chapters in my opinion and discusses how Austen is depicted in portraits, fiction and films. Chapter six explores how people, particularly Americans, have sought to recreate Austen by infusing her works with elements such as sex, horror/paranormal, and Christian elements. The final chapter addresses how the amateur and scholarly reader come together through organizations such as JASNA.

Juliette's writing style is easy to follow despite the fact that it is an "academic" piece, and I have to say that reading it has definitely piqued my interest in expanding the boundaries of my Austen experience.


Rule (Marked Men #1) by Jay Crownover

Shaw Landon has loved Rule Archer since the day his twin brother, Remy, brought her home. While everyone assumed that Shaw and Remy were a couple, Shaw only ever wanted Rule - the one thing she couldn't have. Rule was Remy's opposite in every way - he was tattooed, pierced, had wild hair, and refused to live life on anyone's terms but his own. Rule has never paid much attention to Shaw. She was his brother's girl and he tolerated her at best, never knowing about the feelings she had for him.

All that changes on Shaw's 20th birthday when too many cocktails leads to Shaw and Rule spending the night together. Now Rule can't get Shaw out of his head and Shaw is about to get everything she ever wanted. However dark clouds hang over their relationship - Rule's dysfunctional family torn apart by grief, Shaw's own family drama and psycho ex-boyfriend, and Shaw and Rule's own abilities to trust in love. They quickly learn that their love will not be easy, that they will have to work at it everyday, but that in the end somethings are worth fighting for. 

Loved this book and can't wait for the next one. Rule is my new book boyfriend and is everything a girl could want in a bad boy. All I can say about him is "Holy Hotness!" He oozes sexiness and deliciousness. This was a great book from start to finish and had everything a good contemporary romance needs - emotional turmoil, drama, angst, great sex, and a happy ending. 

Even more exciting...it looks like we can expect at least two more books in the Marked Men series...

Jet (Marked Men #2) - Ebook release date of May 28th according to Goodreads 


Rome (Marked Men #3) which it looks like we can expect sometime in early 2014


The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby was one of my favorite books that I read in high school. Yes, I was one of the nerdy kids who actually read the books assigned in English class. I love the 1920s period of history and this book captures it perfectly. The glamour, the glitz, the loose morals, the dizzying heights, and the foreshadowed crash.

Everybody who's anybody has been to one of Gatsby's parties. His Long Island mansion is forever alight with the buzz of a never ending party, music, and booze. But no one really seems to know Gatsby and the speculative stories surrounding him only serve to drive the mystery that is Jay Gatsby. When Nick Carraway comes to Long Island and befriends Gatsby, he discovers that there is an obsessive secret lurking behind the facade. It is an obsession that will ultimately led to his destruction.

I decided to pick this one up again when I heard that a new film adaptation was going to be released starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire since it had been such a long time. I am a big fan of the 1974 film version starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. Robert Redford played a fantastic Gatsby and is a total dreamboat!

My interest was piqued when I heard that Baz Luhrmann, director of Romeo and Juliet (also starring Leo) and Moulin Rouge, was directing. I loved R&J and Moulin Rouge and how he incorporated a modern soundtrack and feel into period/classic pieces, and was hoping that he would be able to do the same for The Great Gatsby. I have to say that I wasn't disappointed. My only qualm about seeing the movie was the idea of Leo DiCaprio playing Gatsby. I have nothing personal against Leo as an actor, I am just very biased towards Redford's portrayal, but I have to say that I pleasantly surprised. Leo's Gatsby was spot on and he embodied that character perfectly.

Gatsby definitely makes my list of beautifully tragic characters and he is the perfect example of how even too much of a good thing can be bad. Gatsby's fault is his hopefulness, a trait that most would say is a good thing, but Gatsby's hope was too excessive. He let his hope and the vision of the future built on that hope to blind him to reality. He was so blinded by hope that he couldn't see Daisy for what she really was and was forced to live in denial and in the end it destroyed him. I have heard Gatsby called the ultimate optimist, but does optimism mean that you throw reality out the window? To me optimism is the ability to see the good in even the worst situations. It is not denying that the bad exists, but rather believing that good can still be found. I wouldn't call Gatsby an optimist, I would call him a dreamer...


The Secret of Ella & Micha by Jessica Sorensen (The Secret #1)

The night Ella walked away from the bridge and Micha left her shattered. Now she is determined to start over and leave the girl she used to be and her past behind her. Ella cuts ties with everyone from home and sets off for college, creating a new identity. When Ella returns to her home for the summer, she fears that everything that she has been trying to suppress will resurface, especially if she sees Micha again.

Micha and Ella have been best friends since they were kids and Micha has loved her since they were 16. He never told Ella for fear of driving her away, but the lines of their friendship have long since been blurred, and he believes she feels the same for him. When she finally reappears after disappearing 8 months ago without a word, Micha is determined not to lose her again. He slowly breaks down the facade that Ella has built, as only he can - only Micha knows the truth about Ella and her past - and as the walls crumble, Ella and Micha find in each other a love worth everything.

I enjoyed this book, but not as much as The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden. I'm not sure if a sequel to this novel is really necessary as there was no big cliffhanger at the end of this one. However I am interested to see what's next for Ella and Micha. There are certainly things from both their pasts that can still be explored, as well as the next chapter of their relationship now that they have finally gotten together. I will definitely be picking up the sequel when it is released later this month.

Coming soon in this series...

The Forever of Ella and Micha (The Secret #2) - E-book release date May 28, 2013

The Temptation of Lila and Ethan (The Secret #3) - Expected E-book release October 8, 2013. This is a spin-off of Ella and Micha's story and I'm looking forward to this one. I liked both the characters of Lila and Ethan and like the idea that they will get their own chance at love.


Never Have I Ever by August Clearwing

Piper Minogue, astrophysicist in-training, is an introvert focused on completing her Master's degree at Caltech. The perception of her prudish nature is challenged when she reveals a secret fantasy while playing the drinking game, Never Have I Ever. Her confession intrigues Noah Wellington. Noah and Piper are drawn to each other and the connection they feel is strong. The two of them collect a list of "Nevers" and set out to indulge their fantasies and wishes. Noah and Piper's relationship is not without problems as both are haunted by the dark events of their past. Noah's brother, Ethan, also seems determined to drive Piper away. When the demons from the past catch up with Noah and Piper, they threaten to destroy everything they hold dear, including each other.

I'm not sure how I feel about this book. It contains STRONG BDSM themes, including rape scenes. It is fairly graphic and at times I had a hard time reading the scenes. Usually when I pick up these books, they are usually romance novels with some kink thrown in. The romance is at the center of the book. I feel like this book was the opposite. It was written as eroctica with a plot thrown in. The characters and plot seemed secondary to the scenes and as such I had a hard time connecting with the characters. The plot got more and more outlandish and ridiculous. I might have been able to deal with that had I been able to connect better with the characters. The potential was there in Noah and Piper's relationship. Had their relationship been the true focus of the book and if their relationship evolved more, I might have been able to overlook some of the books other flaws. If you are looking for an eroctica novel then this one is for you. If you're looking for something along the lines of a 50 Shades where the tortured soul is redeemed by love, while having an interesting sex life, then this one may leave you wanting... 


This Girl by Colleen Hoover

This Girl is the third installment in the Slammed series (review here) by Colleen Hoover. This time we get to see the events that happened in Slammed through the eyes of Will. I loved how Colleen approached this book. It is not just a straight retelling of Slammed. Instead the book picks up where Point of Retreat (book two) leaves off - with Will and Layken on their honeymoon.

Will tells Lake about some of the most memorable moments from when they first met - the first moment he saw her, their first date, when he realized he was her teacher, the moment when he first realized he loved her, the poetry slams, etc. The book flows back and forth between the present and Will's remembrances  which was an interesting style choice. I enjoyed it because it was more like a conversation. She asked him about something, he would tell her about it, and then we got to see her reaction to Will's thoughts and feelings.

The epilogue takes us 3 years into the future and was the perfect ending for this series. The final poem - my last piece - was so touching and perfect. God, I would love to find myself a guy who can write poetry like that! Will is definitely one of my favorite book boyfriends :) I'm so happy that Colleen decided to write this book. I love when we are able to see both sides of the story. I think it adds so much more depth to the characters and the events in the story. Another great one from Colleen!

The Slammed series has just been re-released with new covers. Make sure to check them out!

The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley

Matt Beaulieu has known Elle McClure for her entire life - holding her for the first time when he was two years old. The two of them grew up next door to each other and it seemed inevitable that they would fall for each other. Even after breaking up as teenagers, they never stopped loving each other. Years later, in their early thirties, they marry and have everything they have ever wanted...except a baby.

Matt's worst nightmare comes true when Elle accidentally falls and hits her head. When the prognosis is delivered, Matt is fully prepared to let Elle go, knowing that she would not want to remain on life support and die a long, drawn-out death like her mother. However just before they plan to terminate life support, Elle's doctors discover that she is pregnant.

Matt and Elle tried for years to have a baby, suffering through several miscarriages and a stillbirth. There is a chance that if they can keep Elle's body alive that the baby can be saved. However that would mean that Elle's wish not to be kept alive artificially will have to be ignored until the baby is born. Matt knows that Elle would be willing to do anything to save the baby, even if it means remaining on life support, but when Matt's mother realizes that Matt does not plan on terminate life support, she files a petition in court to force him to do so. Matt is determined to save the last remaining piece of Elle. With no guarantee that Elle can carry the baby to term, Matt and Elle's family battle over what Elle's final wishes would be.

The Promise of Stardust is extremely well written and poignant. Although it deals with some controversial issues, I did not feel preached to. I felt that the differing opinions of the issues were represented through the different characters, and I didn't feel like the author had an agenda in writing this story. To me the book was about the characters, not about any political statement. It does provide plenty of food for thought, however.

I was raised a Catholic, like Matt and Elle, and do not agree with abortion. I too believe that life begins at conception. Having said that, I am a strong Pro-Choice advocate. I do not believe that my morals, or the morals of anyone else, should dictate the decisions of a woman and what happens to her body. I also believe that terminally ill patients should have a choice in whether or not their lives are prolonged artificially. I think there is something to be said about the quality of life over the quantity in some situations. I think these issues are so controversial because, like most social issues, they are not black and white. There is a whole lot of gray area. Mix in various religious and moral views, with a dash of varying constitutional interpretations and you find yourself with no clear cut answer.

The beauty of our democratic system is that the Constitution is designed to promote the will of the majority, while still protecting the rights of the minority. It is an imperfect system at times, but what is remarkable is that we are even able to have these types of discussions and disagreements. We have the right to have an opinion and peacefully share that opinion, as well as the right to disagree with others. Democracy is a beautiful thing....but I digress.

Seeing the story through Matt's eyes was both touching and utterly heartbreaking. The emotions in this book were beautifully portrayed and I found myself tearing up more than a few times. This is one of those situations that you hear about and think, "That will never happen to me." You find yourself wondering what you would do if the same thing happened to you. This story also speaks to the human spirit and its ability to find hope, even in the darkest of situations. Priscille Sibley's writing is excellent and I was able to lose myself in the story. I would definitely recommend this book, just know that it is not a "light" read and is emotionally charged. Keep Kleenex handy.