Review: The Anatomy of Jane by Amelia LeFay

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Thank you to the publisher who granted me an ARC of this new book. J.J. McAvoy called attention to it on her FB page recently, right after I’ve just finished swooning over “That Thing Between Eli and Gwen.” It was like a one-two punch that couldn’t be ignored. I discarded my Saturday plans and am now writing a review about Jane, Max, and Wesley for NetGalley, Goodreads, and here. (Insert a sip of wine at 2PM before proceeding.)

This is completely different from any of Ms. McAvoy’s books (hence, the pseudonym), and, TBH, I was surprised. It’s hard core, LGBT, BDSM, ménage à trois, heavy drama, with some grammatical errors thrown in (it is an ARC, after all), all rolled into one. In the dedication section of this book, Ms. LeFay thanked another author I’ve read and liked, Alessandra Torre, for encouraging her to write this story. I couldn’t help but thank Ms. Torre, too, because this story was different… “good” different, you know? It also has a cliffhanger for an ending, which, sadly I didn’t like, dammit. I now have to wait for Fall or Winter 2016, when hopefully, Ms. LeFay would publish the follow-up book and give us the 3 characters’ HEA.

In “The Anatomy of Jane,” Max and Wesley have been lovers for at least 4 years, before Jane enters into the picture. Jane blows both Max and Wesley away with her straight talk, bangin’ bod, and gung-ho attitude about life. They all love and lust for each other, even as they all struggle to keep life as normal as possible. At least, as “normal” as society deems it to be. Max is from a wealthy Bostonian political family, and appearances have to kept a certain way. Jane is insecure about her role in Max and Wesley’s lives. These are why they ultimately leave us hanging on what happens to their love story.

What I liked:
1. Jane, Max, and Wesley’s characters – they’re all flawed, but likable.
2. The plot line – I couldn’t predict where it was going. In my book, that’s what makes a book great.

What I didn’t like:
1. That the book ends on a cliffhanger
2. That part 2 is supposedly coming out in Fall or Winter of 2016, and it’s only April 30th
3. Normally, I’m not such a grammar Nazi, but the grammatical and spelling errors here threw me off at times that I had to re-read some passages twice or thrice to understand what’s going on. (Examples:
“She walked over quietly memorized by Max until she stood right by my chair.” —> Ms. LeFay meant “mesmerized by Max.”
“But you seducing her while I’m trying to immediate her is hardly a wise choice; don’t you think?” —> the author meant to say “intimidate her.”
Jane’s last name was often referred to as either “Chapman” or “Chapmen” – not a big deal, really, but after numerous times of reading it, my brain started to chafe.)

To wit: Fall/Winter of 2016, I can’t wait to see what you bring me as Ms. LeFay promised to tell us what happens in “The Anatomy of Us.”

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Review: The Baller by Vi Keeland

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I thought this was a typical second chance at love story, where the main characters realize that they really did not love the first person they were in a relationship with, that “true love” was what they felt for each other instead. Vi Keeland proved me wrong. She surprised me with a story I can relate to, one that feels real.

Both Brody and Delilah have loved and lost. I also thought “lost” meant both their former lovers were dead. I actually loved it that Vi gave Willow her own POV. That made the entire story more realistic for me, and made me want to read on (or maybe, skip to the end already, to see whether Brody chooses Delilah or Willow). The vulnerability infused in each character was heart-rending. Brody talking to Marlene on her death bed and him giving Marlene’s eulogy – both tear jerking scenes. Delilah visiting Drew’s grave? Likewise. This was exceptionally good. Vi kept me up until 2am, just to finish it. If I could’ve given it 6 stars out of 5 on Goodreads, I would have.

Review: That Thing Between Eli and Gwen by J.J. McAvoy

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I’ve been waiting for this since reading and blogging about J.J. McAvoy‘s “Sugar Baby Beautiful.” I stayed up late last night just to devour it, actually. Obsessive, I know. 🙂 Couldn’t be helped, though, since I follow Ms. McAvoy on FB and she’s been posting teasers and contests about it since early-April.

Eli and Gwen’s story was unusual for me to read. It can be real – I mean, the whole time I was reading the first part of the book, I thought, OMG, they are Shania Twain and her second husband, Frederic Thiebaud. If you don’t know who they are, what rock have you been living under? Gwen is a beautiful, multicultural, artistic, Alaskan woman; she was also blatantly cheated on by her fiancé, who literally ran away with another man’s bride on the said bride’s wedding day. (Now, doesn’t that remind you a little bit of Shania??) Eli is her polar opposite: a neurosurgeon, alpha male with a gung-ho attitude. I don’t know how Shania’s second husband is like, but, man, he made Gwen (and me) feel like a woman. All pun intended.

When I said the story is “unusual,” believe me, I meant that IT’S GOOD. Ms. McAvoy is not a cookie-cutter type of writer. THANK GOD. I just read and abandoned A.M. Madden‘s “Back-Up” book right before I finally stopped resisting reading about Eli and Gwen. The 2 authors’ styles could not be any more different. Ms. Madden made her heroine a simpering, crotch-clenching fool. Ms. McAvoy portrayed Gwen as a strong woman with solid family foundations, who can actually THINK on her own; OMG, she is rich, because she worked for it; she does not define her femininity based on her womb and ovaries (Yes, people, not all women have reproductive organs that are ticking time bombs!). She didn’t immediately fall for Eli’s ape-like asshole ways – which is great, because NOBODY likes assholes. Until Eli became more likable, Ms. McAvoy did not let her heroine fall for any antics. Now, THAT’s what I call a heroine.

There weren’t any annoying minor characters, either, in “That Thing Between Eli and Gwen.” Both of Eli and Gwen’s former partners, Hannah and Bash, knew they were pieces of shit. They did try to get back in their ex-lovers’ good graces, which is cliched, but, hey, we need a little bit of drama in the story. There’s a bit more of a twist from Hannah near the end, and I can’t help but think, okay, some women still need to be portrayed as scheming lunatics, but it’s not so bad as how antagonistic women are shown in other books I’ve read. At least, Ms. McAvoy didn’t hold back on showing readers how Bash is still scum of the century in the end – so, yay for gender equality, in terms of these two anti-heroes, at least.

The ending was a bit abrupt, I must say. Again, it’s real and believable. I actually liked how Ms. McAvoy didn’t make their HEA so Cinderalla-ey. Gotta add, though, that the lengthy epilogue read like it was the real ending, and there should have been another (real) epilogue afterwards. Like, oh, how did Gwen interact/relate to Sophie, how did Eli feel standing on an altar again, etc. But, oh well, maybe Ms. McAvoy would write an extended epilogue? Just saying.

Overall, I came away sighing in happiness. I didn’t read the teaser chapters of Ms. McAvoy’s new book at the end of “That Thing…,” because I don’t want to be tortured until July. But you can bet I’m looking forward to it.

Review: Reasonable Doubt 1-3 by Whitney G.

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At first, I was in reasonable doubt myself that I would like this series. By the time that I got to book 3, I am grudgingly admitting: okay, I liked it.

Wait, what am I talking about? “Grudgingly?” That’s not me. It’s either I like it or I don’t. With this one, though? I was on the fence for a while, but then I looked thru Whitney G‘s other books and thought, hey, why not, let me see what else she’s got. They could be better. Too bad she hasn’t updated her blog site (linked above) since October 2015 (her last post was to thank readers who greeted her on her birthday and to say she’s pulling out her two new anticipated books), so maybe she’s stopped writing? I hope not. She’s only 27 years old, according to the aforementioned blog post.

In any case, “Reasonable Doubt: The Full Series” was a pretty interesting read. It features a heroine who is both a pre-law student and an aspiring prima ballerina. It also highlights a man who’s 10 years her senior and who has also experienced highs and lows in both his professional and personal lives – in NYC, no less. Aubrey logs in to a for-lawyers-only chat room and meets Andrew online. She asks him for help on her supposed legal cases (in reality, she was asking for help on her school assignments). He asks her for a f*ck. Andrew eventually discovers that she lied, and for a lawyer, he, apparently, really abhors liars.

As Andrew and Aubrey’s story progressed, I can’t help thinking, “Wow, she’s really clueless.” But, Aubrey’s characterization somewhat improves when she finally stands up for herself, stops pining for her a**hole, and pursues her dream of ballet dancing. (BTW, am I the only one who finds it weird that she pursued degrees in pre-law and in dance from an Ivy League school??) Andrew also gets the justice he was owed after getting screw-balled by his wife, his best friend and business partner, and by NYC media. I liked the part where he was the one who compromised more to make his relationship with Aubrey work, as the girl just couldn’t catch her break with the people who should’ve loved her the most – her parents.

All in all, I hope whatever is keeping Whitney Gracia Williams from writing since October of last year will un-strangle her from its clutches. She wrote a heck of a 3-part story here on “Reasonable Doubt,” and her readers would continue supporting her because of it.

Review: Sidebarred by Emma Chase

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I’ve been waiting for this since I saw its announcement on Goodreads. And, I have to say: Emma Chase did not disappoint! Out of her “Legal Briefs” series, Jake and Chelsea’s story is, in my humble opinion, the BEST.

Sidebarred” is, like, an extended epilogue of Jake and Chelsea’s life. We already knew they’d have a kid of their own (if you read “Appealed” before this), but knowing how these beloved characters felt about adding a SEVENTH kid in their brood is just how Pharrell feels when he sings “Happy.” What I especially like about Ms. Chase is she does not give us just extra-cheesy, me-man-you-girl type of stories. She makes it FUN to read. And cry a little bit when, near the end of the novella, you hear what one of the adopted kids ultimately names his own kid (a.k.a. Jake and Chelsea’s grandchild). She also gives doses of reality in her stories. Like, see how she inserts that little spat between Jake and Chelsea in “Sidebarred?” Yeah, that makes this an interesting read – not an eye-rolling one.

Golly, now I’m wondering if Ms. Chase will continue the “Legal Briefs” series with Samuel Shaw, Robert Becker, and Vivian Mason’s stories. If she does, she’ll have a sure-fire way of making her readers (ahem, me) clap along with her.

Review: Six of Hearts by L.H. Cosway

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Okay, I’m seeing a trend here: NEW AUTHOR TO LOVE!!! The first book of L.H. Cosway‘s I read and loved was a written collaboration she did with Penny Reid called, “The Hooker and the Hermit.” Their second book, “The Player and the Pixie” is already on my e-reader, and I can’t wait to sit down to it this weekend. To be honest, though, I don’t think I’ll be reading Ms. Cosway’s “The Ultimate Power” and “Florence Vaine” series, as I’m not a paranormal or urban fantasy fan, but her “Hearts” series is seriously getting me hooked.

Six of Hearts” is a heart-wrenching, poetic-justice type of love story. The hero, Jay, is an illusionist, who’s being maliciously maligned in a broadsheet/tabloid about him supposedly killing someone after testing out a magic trick. He deliberately seeks out the legal services of a man to help him sue the crap out of the publication. Turns out the solicitor’s daughter, Matilda, is one of his “six hearts.” They have a complicated and tear-jerking back-story together, which is a surprise revealed at the end. Matilda and Jay’s story is unconventional, but relatable (which is one of my two ultimate tests of whether a book is recommendable). There’s drama, comedy, angst, and sorrow all combined. Seriously, this series is going to be E-P-I-C, for me.

P.S. The second ultimate test of whether a book is recommendable or not? If I don’t roll my eyes while reading the book, it’s good.

Review: Painted Faces by L.H. Cosway

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I love unconventional love stories. I really do. I loved J.J. McAvoy’sSugar Baby Beautiful,” Alessandra Torre’s Black Lies,” and Jessica Clare and Jen Frederick’sLast Kiss” from their “Hitman” series. This one, though, by L.H. Cosway, is completely different from anything I’ve read before.

First of all, the Hero, Nicholas, is a DRAG QUEEN. He’s straight. Not bi. Which is weird. But, COOL! He’s got mommy and daddy issues, which carries him throughout his life choices, but underneath all the paint, dresses, heels, and stage act, he’s relatable, believable, and root-worthy (as in, woot-woot). His love, Freda, is a secure, confident, laid-back woman, whom I find to have similar characteristics as with several young European girls I know. Their story is a roller-coaster ride, and Nicholas proves himself to be not just an unconventional romantic hero, but one who epitomizes our times as well. Freda is a lush (see that scene where she almost dies by grocery cart c/o a street comedienne), but, oh-well, I hope she matures, together with Nicholas.

Their story is told using Freda’s POV, so I’m holding back on reading part 2 of “Painted Faces,” entitled “Killer Queen,” which I think is written in Nicholas’ POV. I’m hoping there’s more HEA in the end of that second book, because these characters are ones I won’t regret re-visiting.