Fifty Shades Trilogy

Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed are the books in the trilogy by E. L. James (Erika Mitchell), that has taken the country, and world, by storm. The story of gorgeous billionaire CEO Christian Grey and a virginal college student, Anastasia Steele began as online fan fiction of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. An e-book developed, and by miraculous word of mouth advertising, the e-books broke into printed format.

These books fall into the category of erotic romance. Themes consist of BDSM and the more kinky side of sexual fantasies. However, even though my knowledge of specific terminology improved, I can’t say that these books were a lot worse, (or better, depending on your point of view), than other romance novels. True, there were many more sex scenes, but other than that, the makings of a wonderful story, including great plot elements and very intricate, deep characters were all present.

Christian Grey is a control freak, and by his own admission, “fifty shades of f***ed-up.” He is a business genius, having become an extremely successful and rich businessman at the young age of 27. He has never been in love with a woman before, but enjoys a different type of diversion when it comes to relationships with women. Then Anastasia Steele walks, or literally falls, into his life. Drawn to her, Christian proposes the only type of relationship he knows, and while Anastasia is interested, and has many questions, these parameters do not define their relationship.

At times sweet, heart-wrenching, angering, and of course, hot, I believe these books have found a special place in almost every woman’s bookshelf and heart. I know that these characters will stay with me for a long time, and it’s going to be tough to find the next book that makes me fall head over heels in love with it.

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Unforgettable Embrace

I recently entered a giveaway on goodreads for the book Unforgettable Embrace, by Joanne Clancy. I did not win, but the author contacted me to see if I would be interested in a free e-book version in exchange for a review. I liked what I’d read about the book, so I accepted her offer and added it to my Nook book collection, (definitely nice to have since I was traveling last week).

Rachel Jenkins has become bored with her monotonous, predictable life with her boyfriend of 14 years. Even though it is a comfortable relationship, there is something missing. Rachel ends the relationship and embarks on her own path to self-discovery and happiness.

She sells her apartment, purchasing an RV, which she uses to travel to all parts of Ireland. Along the way, she meets some interesting people, one specifically. Batt immediately captures her attention and makes her rethink being single. A bit flustered by her mixed feelings, Rachel heads back home to Cork to spend time with her best friends, helping one of them plan her wedding.

Rachel keeps in touch with Batt, but is convinced that she doesn’t want to be more than friends, but when she sees him again on New Year’s, that changes, and she knows she loves him and wants to be with him.

Later on, the three friends, along with Rachel’s sister, fly to England for a weekend “hen party.” There, Rachel receives a text message from Batt that she misinterprets. Convinced he is seeing someone else, Rachel behaves badly, making out with Scott, a random man she meets in a restaurant/bar. When she is no longer intoxicated, she regrets her actions, but still responds to a few of Scott’s increasingly insistent text messages, hoping he will get the hint.

She confesses to Batt, and again, they become a bit estranged, but her friend invites him to the wedding anyway. And of all surprises, Scott shows up at the wedding too! When Rachel spurns Scott’s advances, things quickly become scary.

Of course, as predicted, everything turns out fine in the end. Rachel’s friend is happily married and Rachel gets the guy as well.

When I read this, I was looking for a mindless, enjoyable read, as I was on a plane for several hours, etc. For the most part, it hit the spot. However, while Rachel was traveling over Ireland, the descriptions and events described were quite excessive and boring, as was the discussion concerning Hawaii, (her friend’s honeymoon location). Definitely in need of some editing! However, I did enjoy the Irish slang and the way they spoke of certain things.

Maybe this was just with the e-book format, but it was hard to follow conversations when there were multiple people involved, as there were not paragraph breaks for each person’s dialogue, as there should have been. Instead, there were multiple people speaking within the same paragraph! Also, Rachel’s brother’s name was spelled different ways throughout the story, as “Jo” and “Joe.” This, and other similar errors, was very distracting.

Overall, I enjoyed the story, even though it meandered in parts. It was a light read, which was what I was looking for at this time as well. I just wish there had been more attention to detail and much more editing.

This Burns My Heart

I won this book in a giveaway on Goodreads a few months ago.

This Burns My Heart, a debut novel by Samuel Park, is a heart-wrenching tale about how a single decision can so drastically affect the rest of your life. Set in Korea in the early 1960s, the war is coming to an end and the country is changing quickly. Soo-Ja Choi, a beautiful young woman with rich, loving parents, wants to move to Seoul to go to diplomat school. Her father refuses her, so Soo-Ja plans to marry Min, a young war protestor who is also looking to go to Seoul. She does not love him, but he seems nice enough, and she believes he is the ticket for her to get to Seoul.

The day before Soo-Ja’s wedding, she has another offer of marriage from Yul Kim, an attractive young man studying to be a doctor. She rejects him as so much time and energy has already been spent in her own marriage preparations. This is the moment that she will later relive a thousand times, hoping to change her answer and rewrite history.

After marrying Min, she moves in with his parents and is expected to play the role of the dutiful, obedient daughter-in-law. She realizes that she was tricked and that she will never reach Seoul. She later discovers that Min’s father has a substantial debt, and encouraged Min to pursue her just to be able to force her loving and rich father into helping out with his financial woes.

Soo-Ja and Min have a daughter, Hana, together, who is the light of Soo-Ja’s life. She wants to get away from Min, but the law says that the husband gets the children, a fact of which Min does not hesitate to remind her. So Soo-Ja is stuck with a poor, lazy husband, working herself to the bone, just to be near her daughter.

Yul does make a couple of unexpected appearances in her life. He has gotten married to another woman, but is still in love with Soo-Ja. But because of Hana, Soo-Ja must still reject him.

Min’s parents have moved to America, and when Soo-Ja has gone home to be with her own family after the death of her father, Min effectively kidnaps Hana, going to America. He has also taken the money that Soo-Ja worked so hard for, and the pay-off from her investing. There is nothing to do but to go to America to try to get Hana back. Once there, Hana does not want to leave, preferring to stay with her father and her grandparents. Again, Soo-Ja resigns herself to her miserable fate and decides to stay with them, working for her father-in-law.

Somehow, Min sees what he has done to her and decides that he wants to be able to like himself in a few years. So, he grants a divorce and sends Hana back to Korea with her mother.

After she returns, she stays away from Yul, believing that by doing so, she can hope that he, at least, may have a good marriage. However, Yul’s wife pays Soo-Ja a visit with the intent to make her promise to spurn any advances that Yul may deliver in the future. When she learns that they are no longer together, she can make no such promises.

Finally, Soo-Ja and Yul can be together and she can look forward to the rest of her life being different.

While different than many novels about Asian women searching for love in an oppressive society, This Burns My Heart is really a romance novel. Even though the meetings between Soo-Ja and Yul are few and far between, they can each feel each other’s presence, or absence, in their lives every single day. Soo-Ja had suffered so much, so I was very glad to see her luck finally change while she still had time to enjoy life.

I’d definitely recommend this book.

Love by the Book

I’m quite behind keeping up with reading the books I’ve won from giveaways on Goodreads. I still have a small stack to get through. Most recently, I read Love by the Book, by Cara Lynn James.

Set in the early 1900s among the upper class society in New England, this book is a Christian historical romance. The book begins with the reading of Melinda Hollister’s sister’s will. Melinda, along with her sister’s husband’s brother, Nick, are granted joint custody of their niece, Nell. Never a fan of the overly serious Nick, Melinda can’t imagine what her sister was thinking, but resolves to make the best of it for Nell.

Melinda has always been the belle of the ball, enjoyed shopping with no worries of the expense, and has never had to concern herself with much responsibility. Now, with Nell, and with the knowledge that she and her mother have burned through her father’s small fortune, leaving them destitute, she is forced to embrace responsibility and frugality. But, before news of this reaches the ears of society, Melinda must attempt to find a rich husband to rescue her from disgrace. Her invitation to Newport for the summer by Nick’s family provides the ideal setting to search for such a husband.

Highly predictable, Melinda and Nick end up married. But Melinda is disappointed that Nick married her only for Nell and out of pity for her situation. She has warmed to him over the few weeks she’s spent with him over the summer, and she wants more than anything for her husband to love her. Nick, not good at verbally expressing himself, also has feelings for Melinda, but misinterprets her quietness and preoccupation with sadness and disappointment at their marriage.

The couple make it through some hard situations and of course, finally profess their love for each other, and all is well. Very predictable, but no complaints.

I definitely consider this a light read. I enjoy a good romance now and then, and this one was very enjoyable. The characters are memorable, realistic, and likeable. I didn’t get annoyed at any of them, which has not been my previous experience with some Christian romance in the past. There was a lack of smut, which I enjoyed, and the references and innuendos were tastefully done, especially since the couple was actually married for the second half of the book. Overall, an enjoyable read.

Always Something There to Remind Me

Every woman remembers her first love. Maybe it was college, high school, or even younger. And after we grow up, some of us wonder what he is doing now, and others of us think What if? or If only I could go back….  No heartbreak is quite as terrible as the first one, and that experience changes some of us, for better or for worse. Beth Harbison’s book, Always Something There to Remind Me, takes the reader on a journey through many moments in her own past as it tells the story of Erin Edwards.

Chapters alternate (for the most part) between present day adult Erin, told in first person, and the past 1980’s Erin, told in third person. We learn how the past has shaped the woman she has become. In high school, Erin is madly in love with Nate Lawson, and he feels the same way about her. The problem is that they have found each other too early in life and things just don’t last. Over twenty years later, Erin has a daughter, (by a man she wasn’t in love with), and is now dating the perfect guy. Rick is handsome, considerate, well able to provide for a family, and he loves Erin and wants to marry her. The only problem is that he isn’t Nate.

The loss of her only love has defined Erin’s life. She doesn’t let anyone get too close, pushing them away when they cross that invisible line. And then something happens. Nate suddenly reappears in her life, and Erin feels the same way she used to as a teenager. But things are complicated now. Erin has her daughter, Camille, and Rick, while Nate has a complicated situation of his own. The book does have a happy ending, giving credence to true love. And although the ending was satisfying, it was completely unrealistic.

Beth Harbison wrote Erin’s story with such emotion that it really did take me back…. I can still remember the excruciating heartbreak that went on for years after my first love cast me aside. I’d see him out somewhere, then cry all night long and wake up with a sinus infection the next morning and have no voice left. Not that I’d ever want him back; I’m very happy and in love with my husband. The point is that I can remember the pain in vivid detail, which the author captured extremely well in telling this story. It was also a very quick, entertaining read that I was able to (almost) finish in one sitting. Chick lit isn’t my usual genre, but this book was recommended to me, and I did enjoy it.

The Promise of an Angel

I just finished reading A Promise of an Angel, by Ruth Reid, another book I won from a Goodreads giveaway. This is a debut novel by this new author, and she is also a full-time pharmacist, which gives me further hope for my future. (Have I ever mentioned that I’m a pharmacist?)

Judith Fischer’s plans for her life basically include marriage and children. She is finally about to turn 19 years old, which is old enough that her parents will allow her to begin courting. On the day that she expects Levi Plank to ask her parent’s permission, her younger brother Samuel falls from the roof of the barn and is injured. Judith sees a strange man by Samuel’s side and later learns that he was an angel. However, no one in her community believes that she has seen an angel, including her own family. No one, that is, except Andrew Lapp, the bishop’s son, who risks being shunned himself by befriending Judith when his father has forbidden that he see her.

The community distances itself from Judith, believing that she is making up stories. However, Judith has faith and is unwilling to tell her community anything other than the truth. Andrew stands by her side and supports her, even at risk to himself. Finally, the bishop is given reason to believe her and Judith gets her happy ending after all.

I’ve always been interested in the Amish. I think I’d enjoy being Amish for a few days, but I’m not sure about a lifetime. I haven’t read much Amish fiction, but I’ve enjoyed what I have read, especially this book. I’ll definitely keep my eyes open for Ruth Reid’s second book in her Heaven on Earth series.

Between

Once again, another book I won from Goodreads.

Between, by Cyndi Tefft, is a new take on the young adult paranormal romance. Vampires, werewolves, angels, demons…those have all been done. But what about a modern American girl and the Grim Reaper? And throw in a kilt and a Scottish accent too. Definitely some new material.

Lindsey Waters is in a terrible car wreck that ends her life. She wakes up in a serene meadow and Aiden MacRae is there to take her to heaven. He has been caught in “between” for three hundred years, transporting souls, but never being allowed through the gates himself. Supposedly, the love of one person is supposed to redeem him. Soon after meeting her, he knows that Lindsey is the one.

This was the part of the story that I had difficulty with. Lindsey has just experienced death, but she only seems to be concerned with Aiden and learning more about him. It is instant love somehow, and definitely rushed. Also, there was too much giggling going on for me too. She just died and she just wants to giggle like a school girl? Anyway, getting past that part…

 Lindsey and Aiden really do fall in love and vow to make the most of the time they have together, neither one of them knowing exactly how long that will be. Lindsey has “gone towards the light” twice now, but has always been able to stop and go back to Aiden. Then one day, her body feels as if it is full of electricity and she is pulled from the Between-state back to earth, waking up in a hospital bed to a broken and shattered body and soul.

While she struggles to understand why God would take her away from Aiden, she learns more about herself and her family, finally understanding that there was a reason that she came back to her body. She still misses Aiden terribly and wants to be with him. But isn’t the only way back to him through death?

Between was definitely a quick read and it pulled me in immediately. Other than the minor flaw discussed above, I enjoyed all of it. Cyndi Tefft successfully captured emotional elements of love found and lost. I did like the ending, however, I wanted a bit more information, too. But there is a sequel, Hell Transporter, that is in the works, (no release date yet that I can find), so hopefully some of my lingering questions will be answered.

Oh, and the copy I received had an inscription from the author. That was a very nice touch and definitely added something.

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