September 2021

A Book Review of “At His Mercy”

I have grown somewhat tired of Greek billionaires and aliens, so for a change I decided to read something from the realms of fantasy. Fantastic creatures, magic, and a bit of romance – the next book on my list promised all that and more with the title “At His Mercy” and a subtitle Shadow Caster: Book1.

As before, to try to give an honest evaluation of all the books I read, I have decided to make several categories and give stars for each of them, plus the comments. Five stars is the maximum. The mean value from all categories will give the final review in terms of star numbers.

The Book: “At His Mercy”

By: Eve Edgeley

Published on: 1. August 2021

Publisher: Passion Prima Press

Page count: 68

Star rating so far: None at all! I’ll be the first one to comment on this book.

Review categories: 1.) Cover, 2.) Language, editing and formatting, 3.) Plot and believability, 4.) Character development

1.) Cover: ****

The book says cover design was done by Sara Porter and although design itself was not the worse one I’ve seen, it is a bit simple – a stock photo, a bit of photoshoping, and some fancy letters, all in dark tones as befitting the shadow caster. I see some space for improvement there.

2.) Language, editing and formatting: *****

Spelling and formatting are practically immaculate – which can’t be said for the heroine, especially after the dark elf has had his way with her (hark, hark). OK, I’ll stop my pitiful attempts at humor here and just say that the book is very decently written and as decently edited, although I was a bit put off by all the italicized words (which was used to emphasize them, I guess – but that’s my personal taste). The language is also OK, with words such as “brow”, “debauched”, “opportune” and, of course, “manhood” to add to the feeling that we are, indeed, dealing with the fantasy world, populated with mages and dark elves, who are mythical creatures excelling in bdsm and equipped not only with pointy ears, but also with impressive manhoods, apparently (a certain video by Cindy comes to my mind).

3.) Plot and believability: ****

Plot is straightforward and simple. Considering that the whole novelle is only 68 pages long, there is no time to lose, so the story goes straight to the point – Emari, a virgin mage, is kidnapped by dark elves, and left at the mercy of the Dark elven Prince, as the title already warned us would happen. He likes to torture his prisoners by forcing them with his magic to repeatedly orgasm, which seems to be a much more efficient method of extracting information than, let’s say, waterboarding. But, Emari has a secret of her own – she is a so-called mind mage, meaning that upon touching somebody, she can enter their minds and control them. Needless to say, the Dark Prince touches her eventually, with the full length of his manhood, which seems to be enough for her to establish control over him, but also to see the truth about dark elves, which puts her own people in not so favorable light.

I’ll stop here so as not to reveal everything (like Emari). Let’s just add that in the end the things develop in such way that humans and elves make an attempt at peace, which enables the two lovebirds to finally be together.

Was the plot engaging? Definitely! On the scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is the hottest male character ever, the Dark Prince is probably 11. Emari is also cool and not only a wildcat as the Prince likes to call her, but a smart and compassionate person. Was the story believable? Mhmmm… kind of, but not always. Like, Emari takes control of the prince and after she has read his mind, basically, he, instead of killing her, or at least locking her up and throwing away the key, decides to release her. Because the elves are such gentlemen. And he does that after several pages of him telling her that he wants her to submit to him, that she should beg him (for sex), and that he will split her open (don’t ask). I would have been happier at this point if Emari had really managed to get away on her own, by controlling him. Also, later, another guy is introduced, making this a kind of unsuccessful love triangle, but it was just too short a story for the third guy. I didn’t really need him, and he didn’t have much to say anyway. The whole politics in the end was also kind of hard to believe, but OK, maybe I’m being overly picky.

4.) Character development: ****

Even though the story is relatively short, the characters are surprisingly well developed. We get glimpses of the history and the past of the Dark Prince, and Emari’s background is also mentioned (although the whole dating problematics that Emari was facing was more fit for a modern-day college than for the Temple City Academy of Magic). I didn’t like his name much – Toth reminded me of Tooth, which kind of spoiled it for me a bit. I also did not enjoy the whole dominant male thing, but that’s my personal taste, and if that’s what turns Emari on, well who am I to complain.

I liked how Emari and Toth went from being mortal enemies to longing for each other, but the opportunity to make this story more complex and engaging was, unfortunately, not used by the author, who has opted for making everything much simpler and too short (unlike other things…) Maybe in the next books the plot will get more complicated. I am looking forward to reading them if that turns out to be the case.

Overall rating: 4.25 *

For this type of fantasy romance, where Elves are well endowed and are not afraid to show it, and women are tough but like to submit to their partners in bed, it is a well-written book. It would have been even better if it was longer and more complicated. Such as it is, I have a feeling I have not read a book but the first chapter of it, which was rushed at some points (the story covers a period of 4 years!). Probably it is a way for the author to earn money, but I am still a fan of books being called books and stories being called stories.

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“Requiem for a Genocide” – a book review

A welcome change from romance literature I usually read and review was the recent SF novel “Requiem for a Genocide” by Michael Drakich. I was really glad to receive an ARC copy from the author, who asked for an honest review in advance of the December publication of his book because I like reading SF a lot (Asimov, Clarke, Gibson, Lem, Strugazki brothers… you name it, I’ve read it, and now to add to the list – Michael Drakich!).

I will skip my usual rating system for this book and go straight to the point.

The main character in this book is a sentient warbot with four arms, the last of his generation, who is used in battles between two alien nations on the planet Mervos. Later on, the two nations unite and decide to use their warbots to kill some humans that happen to live among them – and that’s where the story takes off.

Although our robot is a murderous machine, he has feelings, an ability to learn and is loyal and brave. He also wants to be free from the robotic laws, hates loneliness and losing friends, and does not want to die. I could totally relate to that (minus the robotic laws, I guess). I liked him, as well as the human girl he was trying to save throughout the book. As their relationship developed, and he changed through his interaction with the girl, I liked him even more. Because I became so invested in these two characters, I enjoyed the book despite some of the problems I had with the world-building.

One other thing I liked was the representation of humans in the book as nice, compassionate, and not aggressive, supportive of other civilizations they encounter, in contrast to the way they have behaved throughout real history. I liked the idea that in the distant future when humans have discovered how to travel between the stars, they have also discovered how to be nobler, less destructive and less profit-orientated.

Coming to the weak sides of the story – I did not entirely like the world-building, as I mentioned. The planet Mervos is too much like Earth – the aliens are smaller, amphibian-like, have three fingers, but other than that, everything has a feeling of the rural USA, including farmhouses, small cities, living rooms with sofas, cars and shops and police stations. Even the clothing is similar. I would have liked greater differences there. Why does this alien civilization use an alphabet and a numeral system identical to the human ones? Also in naming their robots? A bit more fantasy from the author in inventing new worlds and aliens would have made the reading experience slightly more rewarding.

So, my final verdict is 4.5 *.

A warm, intelligent story with lovable characters and a lot of action, but with an alien world that is not alien enough to be called alien.

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About romance books and romance in books

So, you have this book in your hands and someone comes by and asks, innocently enough, what you are reading. You pause. From this point on, there are several possible scenarios:

1.) You are reading “A Brief History of Time” from Hawking, or Euclid’s “Elements”, in original. In that case, you can proudly show the book cover and subtly brag about your intellectual prowess and knowledge of ancient languages.

2.) You are reading some sort of a non-fiction book, maybe about home improvements or gardening. Or someone’s autobiography. It’s a dignified read. You can use it to start a conversation, and maybe you’ll even end up with a handyman willing to fix your plumbing.

3.) You are reading fiction, but something classic. Like Tolstoy, or Orwell, or Proust. Preferably, the book you are holding shows signs of extensive usage, indicating that you have read it many times, and hopefully underlined important passages. It definitely leaves an impression.

4.) You are reading fiction, but something more popular. A thriller, a detective book, maybe a fantasy or an SF novel. You can show it to the inquisitive passerby with the probable net result of zero. Perhaps you’ll find a kindred spirit and your next partner for binge watching of whatever series you agree upon.

5.) You are reading a romance. The cover is either very sparkly, to attract attention, or dark, to indicate mystery, or in the worst case, it sports a half-naked man or a woman in a compromising position. Good luck with showing that to anyone but your best friend with similar tastes. Fortunately, you are probably not holding a book in your hands, but an eBook reader, which enables you to discreetly turn the screen off and reply to the annoying question by referring to the scenario 1 to 4.

6.) You are reading a romance. You have just come to the steamy part, and you are so engrossed that you don’t even hear the question.

Yet, why is it embarrassing to read a romance novel, but not, for example, a book about model railways? Why do people brag about having written a biography, a self-help book, or an SF/fantasy novel, but rarely that they have written a steamy romance? And why, if someone writes a book and it happens to be a romance, it is not considered to be “serious” enough? I mean, some of the best classics are essentially romances. Think about “Pride and Prejudice” or “The Age of Innocence”. Or if you want to venture away from female authors, how about “Eugene Onegin” or “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”? In each of these books, romance plays if not the most then at least a very important role. This is one of the reasons why these books are such captivating read. And maybe Victor Hugo wanted to attract attention to the values of the Parisian cathedral, but he chose a romantic plot to do it. Right?

Because people love romances! At least women do. I don’t know about men – do they really avoid such books or are they sticking to the scenario Nr. 5?

It is important to add, however, that the books I mentioned are exceptionally well written. Being a fan of the romance genre myself, I have perused quite a few of the books belonging to it, both classical and modern. And admittedly, some of the contemporary works were not that well written (some of the older books as well). And some of them were just plain ridiculous. Nevertheless, do I feel embarrassed for having read them? No, and neither should anyone. These books have fulfilled their purpose of keeping me occupied for a while and cheering me up, and that’s an honest purpose and a commendable one. You can keep track of all the romance (and other) books I’ve read and found time to review in my posts on book reviews. My goal with these reviews was not to criticize, but to help authors gain more visibility, so my star ratings are always three or more on Amazon or Goodreads (and anything I would rate with less I’ll keep to my blog and my blog only…)

However… when I set out on a journey to write a romance novel myself, it was mostly because I lacked something in the majority of the books that I’ve read. What that was I cannot precisely describe. Maybe I wanted the story to offer something more besides the two main characters and their best friends (about whose romantic entanglements we will learn in the second and the third book of the series)? Or I really wanted the character arc to exist? Maybe the romance was too superficial, and I wasn’t convinced? Maybe it was too implausible? Honestly, how many of us encounter billionaire CEOs with a sixpack on a daily basis? Who shapeshift into wolves, bears or dragons occasionally? And do men really like women who use ten swearwords in a row in one sentence? Is that supposed to be charming or am I just too old-fashioned? And don’t get me started on the description of sex in books! Actually, I’ll try to come to that topic later, in another post (if I find time).

To cut the long story short, what elements make a good romance book? It certainly depends on one’s taste, but I prefer to give my characters time to get to know each other and then fall madly in love. I want them to be aware of the faults of the other person and still decide that they like them and want to spend (probably) the rest of their lives with them. And, finally, I want the attraction and tension to build up gradually, all the way to the point when they can’t be ignored any longer. In another words, I want people to interact (and not just in bed), to suffer, to yearn, and I want to be there when they finally find happiness.

With that being said, I am off to continue working on my new story! Stay tuned!

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A book review of “His Ultimate Concubine: A Romance”

A longer book this time, “His Ultimate Concubine: A Romance” is a contemporary romance novel exploring the inner worlds of a Greek billionaire and a daughter (and sister) of his sworn enemies. They both have hidden agendas in the beginning, but love conquers all, even the completely misplaced efforts of the male MC to take revenge on the unsuspecting female MC.

As before, to try to give an honest evaluation of all the books I read, I have decided to make several categories and give stars for each of them, plus the comments. Five stars is the maximum. The mean value from all categories will give the final review in terms of star numbers.

The Book: „His Ultimate Concubine: A Romance”

By: Nataline Altherr

Published on: 11. August 2021

Publisher: Harnest Media

Page count: 121 (finally a longer read!)

Star rating so far: Three 4* reviews on Amazon and one 4* review on Goodreads

Review categories: 1.) Cover, 2.) Language, editing and formatting, 3.) Plot and believability, 4.) Character development

1.) Cover: **

You can check it out for yourself, but this cover is better suited for a cyber punk SF novel than for a romance. Where’s a naked male torso? Or a yacht? Blue Mediterranean sea with scattered green islands? Or the sea, with the yacht, with the naked guy on it (I feel I’m on to something here). But honestly, I’m not trying to claim I know anything about design (I don’t), but I don’t find this cover very appealing or appropriately representing the content. Interestingly, the same publisher has put out several romances, on the same date (plus minus a day) and all have a similar cover design. Was the budget tight? Or are they trying to maximize the profit? I chose to read this one, because I liked the word concubine (what can I say, it sounded so dramatic). Turns out it’s just another word for a mistress, but we’ll get to that later.

2.) Language, editing and formatting: ****

With very few spelling and grammar mistakes, this is the best-formatted work I’ve read so far. What jarred me somewhat were the dialogues. They were often interrupted by explanatory paragraphs, or several sentences depicting what the characters felt or wanted to do at that moment – she was usually busy comparing him to a dragon, and his thoughts mostly revolved around taking revenge. This seriously affected the pace of the dialogues, so that I had trouble recalling what it was that the people were saying in the first place and had to go back to read it again. Another thing about the writing style that I noticed were many incomplete sentences, missing the verb or the subject, or repeating the last part of the sentence somewhat changed (“…as she had vowed she would never do. Must never do!” or “…and wondered how she could ever, possibly, survive this. Survive him.”), all applied with an aim to increase the drama. Which they did, but sometimes there was just too much drama for my taste. One final thing that was not so off-putting as it was funny – he was so often compared to a dragon and his chest was so often compared to a wall that I’ve lost count. For me, mentioning this once or twice would have been enough. The guy was dangerous and he was well-built – I got it the first time. Therefore, one star deducted, although this is a personal taste. If you like dramatic writing, than you’ll probably like this book a lot.

3.) Plot and believability: ****

OK, some spoilers ahead. A common or garden Greek billionaire (or maybe not so common – after all, his life is anything but happy), a daughter from the family he hates, who has good reasons of her own to become his mistress (or concubine). She plans to do that without actually going to bed with him, which, of course, does not really work out. He, on the other hand, wants his revenge, because her father and brother have destroyed his family. So far so good, and I could feel with them and totally understand his motives as well as hers. Until the point when it is revealed that his family was treating him essentially as a mop, but he still feels obliged to revenge them on her, who hates her brother and father anyway, so not only is his revenge pointless, but he is taking it all out on a completely wrong person. I think even he realized that at some point in the book. So, yes, a lot of drama there, easily avoided if the characters invested some time in thinking, but then, there would be no book if that were the case.

One other point of critique: Why is his name in the book Abby, whereas the book description on Amazon says he is called Nikos? And what kind of a Greek name is Abby? I’ve never met a Greek guy called Abby, and I’ve met quite a few of them. No billionaires, though, to my chagrin.

4.) Character development: *****

As mentioned above, I really liked the characters. The Greek billionaire starts as a cruel, vengeful person and is in time transformed through his love for her (although, with some emotional intelligence, many tears could have been avoided). And, she remains true to her character and forgives him almost everything. If there would be something to complain about, it would perhaps be the depiction of the supporting cast – her brother, who seems to be a very one-dimensional villain, and her mother, who seems to be outright stupid.

Overall rating: 3.75 *

Characters are interesting, the story can keep the reader’s attention for a while, however too much drama and jerky dialogues spoil the effect somewhat. For those who like this kind of romance, where revenge plays a major role, but love conquers in the end, it is a solid read.

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