Monday, November 26, 2012

Please welcome Tom Barry!!!

Here are the questions I had for Tom Barry author of When the Siren Calls:

1. You spent many years working in the corporate world as a consultant, what made you want to write a romantic suspense thriller? It seems very far from your former career.

Even businessmen can occasionally be romantics !  But the original idea for the story was around a dark protagonist, Jay, who is a master persuader, adept at using his skills in the boardroom and the bedroom. The character of Jay did draw heavily on my corporate background. But the story quickly evolved into a love triangle in which the wealthy but neglected Isobel and the smouldering seductress Lucy were both set on the man of their dreams. Once I understood the story was about complex adult relationships, it was obvious that the prime audience was women, so it was right  to make Isobel or Lucy the lead, and I considered both options. I went with Isobel because she is the natural heroine, albeit a flawed one; she is the one in danger, she is the one struggling to live the life she wants.  And she is a complex and fascinating character, if a little self-absorbed. For the story to work it was clear Isobel was going to have to undergo massive growth and change, and it is that growth and change that the story is about.

2. What other genres could you see yourself writing? Why?

I enjoy thrillers like Grisham books and, like Grisham, I have a professional services background. So I could see myself writing thrillers against the background of the cut and thrust world of big, bad business, and several reviewers of When the Siren Calls comment that it has many of the characteristics of a thriller. When the Siren Calls is a very sensual story, with racy but tastefully written sex scenes. So it would be an easy step into the field of erotica, and I have written several erotic short stories under a pen name. But at the moment I'm happy to focus on human dramas where sex is an important component, but where it is not the reason to write the book, or to read it.

3. Jay and Isobel both get to narrate the story, but did you ever worry about writing a novel from the perspective of the opposite sex?

Yes, and if you look at the romance market, it is dominated by women writers. But there are any amount of male authors who have successfully written with a female protagonist and from her POV. The important thing about Isobel's dilemma is everyone over 15 can easily relate to it. We all, at some time, find ourselves in jobs, places, or relationships which aren't fulfilling, but we need to find the courage to change our own situation, despite the fact that may be difficult and may cause hurt to ourselves and others. So I could relate to Isobel's struggle and put myself in her shoes. Others will be the judge of how good a job I did, but the feedback so far has been encouraging. My wife, my editor, and my early review panel all brought the female perspective, and that was helpful.

4. When the Siren Calls is the first of trilogy. Do you know how everything will end?

No, because while I have the story for book three in outline, I do not plot my stories out methodically. I let the characters drive the story, and invariably they take me places I wasn't expecting to go. The trilogy will finish with Isobel in a very different place, emotionally, to where we find her at the end of Book 1. At the end of Book one she has escaped a workaholic husband and an unfulfilling marriage, and survived a dangerous affair with Jay. But she has yet to find happiness. In Book three I think we will see Isobel as a more free spirited character living life the way she wants to, but still finding herself in plenty of trouble. Will it all end happily ever after…we will have to wait and see.

5. In three words how would you describe your book?
(The) thinking woman's romance.

My take on: When the Siren Calls

The cover of When the Siren Calls by Tom Barry sold me before I read the e-mail pitch. The cover is beautiful. The woman on the cover looks mysterious. She's floating in the water. She's barely above the surface of the water. She's about to drown. Is she drowning literally or figuratively? I wanted to know.

The story opens with Isobel trying to navigate the streets of Marrakech, Morrocco. Aggressive merchants in the marketplace are preventing her from leaving, until a dashing stranger saves the day. Jay whisks Isobel away and takes her back to her hotel. For a few moments, Isobel forgets her troubled marriage to Peter and gets lost in conversation with Jay. He's attentive, while Peter isn't. Isobel's attempt at a romantic vacation failed. Peter spent more time with his phone, or as Isobel puts it "his penis." He would rather cuddle up with his phone and check up on his business ventures than spend time with his wife. Isobel is a lonely person, and that little bit of time with Jay gave her a chance to see what is possible. Maybe she can get Peter to change. Will he want to change?

Jay seems like a lot of characters I've read. He is married with a girlfriend, Lucy, on the side. He jumps from business opportunity to business opportunity. If he loses an investor's money, it's no problem. He can just move onto the next investment. He has an air of arrogance. Nobody can bring him down. He seemed more like a scam artist than a business man. His latest investment is a timeshare property in Tuscany. It's failing, but that doesn't faze Jay. He will come out on top, while everyone else will lose their money. When Isobel tries yet again to revive her marriage, she and Peter head to Italy eventually making their way to Tuscany. Here is where the trouble ensues. Jay not only begins an affair with Isobel, he tries to get Peter to invest in the timeshare. What a stand up guy! He knows it's a bad investment, and is perfectly willing to use someone to save his own skin.

Overall, I didn't have a problem with the writing. But I didn't quite feel this was romance or erotic fiction. First, I have read several romance and erotica books. All of them have been written by women. I was a little apprehensive to read a romance book written by a man. I know that's sexist, but there has to be a reason so few men write romance books. Most of the romance and erotic books I've read are very overt with the sexual content. The sexual content in When the Siren Calls feels very muted. That's not a bad thing, it's just not what I'm used. This felt more like a chick-lit book. Why chick-lit? Isobel is like a lot of women out there. She is stuck in a bad marriage and is looking for a way out. Enter Jay. Is he the solution? Or will a relationship with him just lead to disaster? This wasn't quite my cup of tea, but it is worth checking out.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received an e-galley from the author's publicist (Fully Booked Public Relations) in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Turkey Day!!

By the time any of you see this, most of you will have gorged on turkey, stuffing, and a whole lot of other stuff. Wherever you are I hope you are enjoying the day with your family!

I have been noticeably absent from my blog. Grad school takes up a lot of time. I might have to rethink the number of classes I want to take next semester. On the days I don't have school, I'm sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop and notebooks. Reading for pleasure has taken a backseat. I have less than a month to go before the end of the semester. Hopefully, when the semester is over I will have a lot more time for posting.

In the meantime, I'm posting video. This book haul is stuff I've received in the last six weeks.

Monday, November 12, 2012

My take on: Cold Light

If you haven't read Fallen by Traci L. Slatton, STOP reading now! If you read Cold Light without reading book 1 in the series, it won't make any sense. Some books you can get away with reading the series out of order, but not this one. Fair warning, if you haven't read book 1, what I'm about to write will spoil it for you!!

In this post-apocalyptic world, deadly mists are still a huge threat to society. If the poisonous gases don't kill you, it will plunge you into madness. All around the world, people have banded together against the deadly mists. When we last heard from Emma, she and her daughter, Mandy, had reunited with the rest of their family. Haywood has rescued his wife and daughter, literally flying in like a knight and shining armor. In Haywood's mind, he is just reuniting his family. He and their older daughter Beth were in Canada when the whole world changed. But he doesn't realize Emma has changed, too. To survive, Emma joined an all-male camp, led by the handsome and brooding Arthur. Their relationship starts out very adversarial, but soon turns to love. And that love is still a part of Emma in book 2.

Arthur is never far from her thoughts. She loves Haywood, but, to me, her connection is much deeper with Arthur. Eighteen months have passed since the end of book 1. Living in Canada has brought Emma and her family some peace. But that peace is short-lived when Beth is kidnapped by a rogue group of men. The motherly instincts immediately kick in for Emma. There is no question, she has to go after Beth. No matter the dangers, Emma has to get her daughter back. Along the way she meets some interesting characters, and ... creatures. A cougar, yes a cougar, becomes Emma's protector throughout the book. Rather than attack each other, Emma and the cougar have an unspoken truce between them. She doesn't shoot him, and he doesn't attack her. It might sound weird to some, but in this world it is very normal.

Emma's determination to find her daughter will be put to the test when Arthur comes back into the picture. Emma has never left his thoughts either. He's a tough guy, he's a leader, and he always has to be strong. But he is vulnerable when it comes to Emma. He will do anything for Emma. His decision-making is sometimes driven by love instead of what's practical. After all, how much sense does it make to cross the Atlantic Ocean for love when the rest of the world is in turmoil? It has to be love. He helps Emma search for Beth, despite her pleas for him to stay away. I don't want to spoil too much, but the search will force Emma to make a choice.

I have to say, I like the first book a lot better. To me, the second book is more about the search than the relationships between the characters. The action starts right away. But I wonder what happened in those 18 months since the last book? That aspect is kind of glossed over. What was Emma's relationship like with Haywood? Did everything just go back to normal for them? What about Beth and Mandy? You don't hear their voices too much in either book. Book 2 ends in similar fashion to book 1. You are left wondering if Emma has made the right choice? Maybe when book 3 comes out, Emma will have a better grasp on her future.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received an e-galley from the author (Traci L. Slatton) in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 5, 2012

My take on: The Angel

Ok, a few things to take care of before I dive into my review of The Angel by Tiffany Reisz. If you haven't read  The Siren, the first book in the Original Sinners series, STOP reading NOW and go read the first book. Honestly, you can read The Angel without having read the first book, but I don't think you will truly understand their personalities without some context. Second rule of business, if you don't like erotica STOP reading NOW. If you're religious or a prude, STOP reading NOW.

Now, if you're still reading GREAT!! I don't read a lot of erotica books, but every now and then I do like to step outside of the box with my reading. Ever since I read the first book in the series, I've gotten  A LOT of similar review pitches. Some I have said yes to, so don't be surprised if you see more reviews like this in the future. I loved The Siren, so of course I said yes to reviewing the second book.

Famous erotica writer and dominatrix Nora Sutherlin is up to her old tricks in the second book. She is once again immersed in a complicated -- but loving -- relationship with her longtime lover Soren. It's hard for me to understand how someone could find pleasure from pain, but it works for these two. But trouble is on the horizon. Soren, who also happens to be a Catholic priest, is up for a promotion to bishop. A reporter, Suzanne Kanter, receives an anonymous tip that Soren a.k.a. Father Stearns is hiding something. Suzanne has no idea what he's hiding, but the scrutiny alone is enough to send Nora into hiding. Of course Nora isn't alone. Michael Dimir, a fellow parishioner, is along for the ride. Soren saved Michael from himself by rushing him to the hospital after a suicide attempt.

At 17, Michael is young and confused. Becoming a member of Nora and Soren's underground circle would be a dream come true. But Michael is afraid of that dream. He's afraid to be himself. If his family knows the truth, will they accept him. He doesn't have to explain anything to Nora, she already accepts him. Michael is her Angel. She makes it her mission to help Michael spread his wings, and become his true self. Michael and Nora hide out in the upstate New York mansion of millionaire playboy Griffin Fiske. Griffin relishes having Nora and Michael stay in his home. Griffin is immediately smitten by Michael, but can't give into his desires. Why? He doesn't have Soren's permission. Griffin has left a trail of lovers, both male and female. Griffin isn't the relationship type, and Soren doesn't want Michael to get hurt. But Michael feels deeply attracted to Griffin. Michael is too afraid to express his feelings, but Nora is determined to bring them out. Yes there is sex and physical pain involved, but Nora helps Michael to find his voice. He finally learns to stand up for himself.

After reading the first book, I thought Soren was a sadistic monster. I didn't like his character at all. He found pleasure in torturing Nora physically and emotionally. What is the attraction between them? What makes him special? What is his motivation? He didn't come out of a box like that. The second book softens up his character a lot. You learn a lot more about his background. You feel sympathy for him. Although, the details  of his childhood are very stomach-churning.

Yes, there is a lot of sex in this book. It seems like there is more sex in this book than in the last. my opinion the sex is part of their character development. In the first book, we're just getting to know these characters. The second book delves more into their pasts and their psyches. Before she became the powerful Nora Sutherlin, she was wild child Eleanor Schreiber. Soren saved her from herself. And their relationship grew from that. Soren had a terrible childhood, but he still had the capacity to love and be very giving to others. Thanks to Nora and Griffin, Michael learns to spread his wings. He finds the strength to stand up to his abusive father. He finds the strength to tell his mother who he is. Michael, Griffin, Nora, and Soren aren't normal by society's standards, but after reading this book you'll learn there is nothing wrong with being different. Who cares what others think, as long as you're happy with yourself?

By the end of The Angel you will be wanting more. And get your minds out of the gutter with that last statement!! The last page reintroduces us to a beloved character from the first book!!! You will have to read both books to find out who I'm talking about. The second book ends on a cliffhanger! So I can't wait to read the third book in the series!!

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from Little Bird Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, November 2, 2012

My take on: Detroit Breakdown

Before reading Detroit Breakdown by D.E. Johnson I had no idea this was the third book in the series. Now that I know, I have to read the first two books because I loved the third book. You can still follow Detroit Breakdown without having read the first two. There are a few instances where I think it would have helped to have read the first two books, but overall I was entertained.

It's 1912 Detroit when we meet Will Anderson and Elizabeth Hume. They are still rebuilding their relationship when crisis hits Elizabeth's family. Her cousin Robert, who is locked up at Eloise Insane Asylum, is accused of murder. Elizabeth refuses to believe it. That's not the Robert she knows. Robert has mental issues, but he's not a violent person. Will and Elizabeth decide to investigate the murder with some help from a local cop, Detective Riordan. To get to the truth, Elizabeth must face her own demons. Robert is more than just her cousin, he is Elizabeth's brother. This is a time when mental illness was considered shameful. Instead of acknowledging Robert as her son, Elizabeth's mother lets everyone believe he is her nephew. Elizabeth's own mother is teetering on the edge of sanity. Some moments she is very lucid, and sometimes she is very wackadoodle!! Given the family history, Elizabeth is worried about her own sanity. How long before she becomes just like her mother and Robert?

The investigation into the murder at Eloise is a dangerous one. Will has himself committed to Eloise in order to investigate from the inside. Questioning the doctor in charge, Dr. Beckwith, is useless. He's hiding something. Perhaps Will can get the real story if he is disguised as a patient. Elizabeth also disguises herself and gets a job as a volunteer. While at Eloise, Will discovers that it's not just one murder they are dealing with. Four men have been murdered. The killer's weapon of choice? A Punjab lasso, just like in Phantom of the Opera. If you listen to the patients, the Phantom is more myth than reality. To the other patients, the Phantom isn't human. He can't be caught. He will kill all the patients before anyone discovers the truth.

What goes on in Eloise is just astounding. The methods of "treatment" are more akin to torture. The "doctors" believe they know better, despite patients screaming in pain. Will pretends to have amnesia. In many ways he is a model patient, he follows rules but that is not enough for Dr. Beckwith. Will is still tortured despite following the rules. I often wondered if he was going to die before discovering the truth. Will he descend into madness just like the rest of the patients? The doctors, especially Beckwith, get some sick pleasure out of torturing their patients.

There is a lot of suspense throughout the book. When you finally learn the identity of the killer, it wasn't what I was expecting. I was speed-reading the last 60 pages because I wanted to know who the killer was. The book leads you to believe another person is the killer. It was a nice surprise at the end. The last few chapters is a race against time. Does Will survive after coming face to face with the killer? Will Elizabeth get to Will in time to save him? The whole time I was rooting for the both of them to survive. I'm a romantic at heart, and want them to live happily ever after. Of course I won't tell you the answer because you have to read the book!!

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Macmillan) at the request of the author's publicist (Wunderkind PR)