Book reviews

Reviews of the books I have read.

“The Lady of the Camellias” – a Book Review

There is nothing as good as a classic if you want to be thoroughly creeped out.

Written by Alexandre Dumas (fils), “The Lady of the Camellias”, or “Camille” as it is also known in English translation, is a romantic and tragic story that has been the inspiration of numerous plays, movies, and even an opera. Since I was so free to quote “The Count of Monte Cristo”, written by Alexandre Dumas (père), in my second book of “The Neighbor” series, it was only fair that for the last book of the series, I should quote the son. Besides, the story I intend to write follows a former prostitute, so what better source material to quote than “Camille”, a tale of a courtesan in love?

With a bit of time on my hands, I bought a version of the story translated from French by Edmond Gosse, with an introduction by Toril Moi. Honestly – just read the introduction. It will tell you a lot you need to understand the book. The scandalous references to sex, the female monthly cycle (just pay attention to the color of camellias), and above all death have all been justly discussed in this introduction. So I won’t bother you with my opinions on those topics but will share with you my impression of the book.

My advice is: don’t read the book in a public place. I read it on the plane and it was embarrassing how often I had to hide tears.

Sure, the story is old-fashioned, and one may argue that such views on sex workers or promiscuous women are outdated. The hero of the story is an idiot with an emotional intelligence of a turnip – come to think of it, he is smart as a turnip too. He is also insecure and intimidated by the beautiful Marguerite and determined to gain power over her. Once he has that power, and believes himself betrayed (even though it is obvious to anyone who cares to look that she did not betray him but handled in his best interest), he uses it to crush Marguerite’s heart and health, to the point that she dies.


Don’t believe the movies, the book is much more cruel.

However, the writing is so masterful that the characters and their actions, both the tragically good ones, as well as the contemptuously bad ones, made me cry in front of strangers. And that’s what I call good writing. I don’t have to like the characters in the book – I can hate them, despise them, judge them, want to strangle them… The only thing I shouldn’t do is be indifferent. Well, Alexandres both the father and the son knew what they were doing in that respect.

Now, you might ask why I was creeped out. If I say that the book starts with the exhumation of the poor Marguerite’s body (because her lover wouldn’t leave her alone, even in death), would that explain it? “Camille” is not on the same level of creepiness as, for example, “The Monk” by Matthew Gregory Lewis, but it does have its fair share of obsession with death and sex, of course.

My final remarks: the story is worth reading, but maybe you should be less of a cheapskate than I was, and buy the more expensive version. The edition I read maybe looked good in a printed form once upon a time, but someone decided to make an e-book out of it and by doing so forgot that proofreading it once before putting it up for sale is always a good idea.

The book I read was full of mistakes, which hurt considering that I came across them in a book by a legit publisher called “Signet” (or maybe not so legit? Who knows…). So many times we, self-published authors, are blamed for releasing a work that was not rigorously enough formatted and edited. I think the publishers of classics should be held to even higher standards. After all, the writers they publish are not around to complain.

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A Book Review of “Mr. Pavalli” – or who the f*** is Nick?

What enticed me to read and review this book (or story of only 42 pages, to be precise) by G. Romany was the fact that it was for free and had very few reviews. I was thinking I could add my review and support the author. Little did I know… Well, actually I did, or I strongly suspected it, so, served me right.

This is a relatively short erotica story that makes as much sense as any of such stories and leaves an aftertaste of having watched a porn clip on some obscure site that does not care too much about the quality. It’s not badly written – the style is fluent, readable, the sentences not too complicated. If you like a macho male protagonist (youngest investment banker with a sixpack and a big, fat…bank account, you know, the usual stuff) and a chubby insecure female lead character (one of those who are smart, but convinced they are not good enough, and who melt at the thought of someone loving and protecting them) then you’ll be happy reading this story. Of course, if you can overlook several points.

First: The cover – why is the guy so red? Is it just my tablet, or was it the saturation problem of the image editor, or has Mr. Crab just spent too much time in the sun?

Second: The copyright page – I did not understand why the author would (quote) “continue to provide you with a reality we can all escape from when the life we run become just a bit harder to walk”? Are we running or walking, and why would the author provide me with something I would like to escape from? Bad marketing move is all I can say.

Third: The story – There’s this hot boss Mr. Pavalli, who for some reason likes his employee Lucy and wants to protect her from whatever, and there’s Lucy, whose boyfriend has cheated on her (because he’s a model and she’s an ordinary girl with (gasp!) a couple of extra pounds and stretch marks), but she still has qualms about having sex with the hot Mr. Pavalli, because she is not sure if she is morally allowed to get over her cheating boyfriend so quickly. And that’s it. That’s her big dilemma.

Fourth: The names – And here comes my final question, directed at the heavens above and any wise person out there who might know the answer – if Lucy’s boyfriend’s name is Josh, and Mr. Pavalli’s name is Nate (Lucy screams it a couple of times in orgasmic bliss), then who the f*** is this Nick, who not only pops up in the text but also in the titles of all chapters written from the POV of Mr. Pavalli?

And with this final puzzle, I will leave you to ponder about the reason for the existence of stories such as this and other mysteries of the universe.

My final verdict: 2* (And this only because I think this author can write, and with a better plot and some editing and proofreading might in fact produce a solid book one day).

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“Mr. Dale and the Divorcée” – A Book Review

It seems to be a characteristic of wise and experienced authors that they plan their book releases in advance. This includes collecting reviews before publishing by giving away free books. I came across such an opportunity and received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Since I am a conscientious person and plan to maybe review a book or two in the future, I did my best to read the book on time and give the already mentioned honest review.

Truth be told, I always tend to write nicer reviews than a book might deserve if I was cruelly honest. On the other hand, I know how hard it is to write a decent book and unless I am simply horrified by what I read, I find no reason to get upset over every slight inconsistency or every little detail that is not believable. Like the fact that an older woman from the 19th century manages to give birth to twins and actually stay alive. Having said this, I will proceed to review the book and try to avoid any further spoilers.

This is the first book I read from Sophie Barnes, but it won’t be the last – if I manage to go through a virtual pile of books stored in the memory of my e-book reader and find time to read another regency romance. As a fan of Jane Austen, I was interested in reading a historical romance from a similar period, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The main character, Wilhelmina, is a woman divorced, and much of the ensuing conflict in the book comes from the fact that in order for a divorce to take place, she needs to create a public image of herself that is essentially the direct opposite of the person she truly is. Mr. Dale, the main male protagonist, is a slightly self-righteous barrister coming from a wealthy family who is attracted to Wilhelmina from the moment they meet but is repulsed by her (fake) reputation. Expectedly, there is a lot they need to learn and discover about each other so that they could find their happy ending, and this experience changes them for the better (although, to be honest, they were both almost perfect to start with, they just didn’t know it).

The characters are wonderfully described and developed and I enjoyed reading this book and following their interaction. Also, the book is well written and perfectly plotted, with just the right amount of misfortune to make me root for the characters, but not enough to spoil anything.

This is maybe my only point of complaint. I understand that a happy end needs to be happy, but the sugar-coated ending was a bit too sweet for my taste. That and those twins. Maybe I’m just a wretched person deep inside, but what about pox, mumps, measles, diphtheria, pertussis, and the myriad of other horrible diseases that could have claimed the lives of one or all children as well as some of the grownups along the way? How about the hard realities of life? Sure, my heart melted with happiness that everything went well for everyone involved. But my head did not believe, and this spoiled it a bit for me.

Regarding the language – British characters in the book use “gotten” as the past participle of “get”, which I don’t think would be the case if they were speaking the same language as Jane Austen. I can understand the usage of American English in other novels, but in a historical romance maybe a bit more attention should be given to how the characters would really speak. This would enable me as a reader to become better emersed in the book and believe that something like the story described had really happened. Apart from that, other books from this series promise to be as charming and interesting as this one, and I hope I will get to read them as well.

My verdict: 4.5 * Well written and plotted, with a sugar coating that was a bit too thick for my taste.

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„Salford World War” – A Book Review

Another book I have received a free copy of in exchange for an honest review was the “Salford World War” (Will World War 3 start IN Salford?) A Romantic Crime Thriller for 2014 by Mike Scantlebury (published in 2014/republished in 2018). To describe the process – I was contacted on Twitter by a PR manager (hired by the author, I suppose) to ask if I was willing to read the book and post a review on Amazon and Goodreads. I said yes. It was straightforward and in good faith on both sides, and I was happy to do someone a favor, but also to read a romantic crime thriller, which guaranteed to be exciting and different from most of the books I’ve reviewed so far. Admittedly, I was also attracted by the promise of a romance, and there was some romance in the book, indeed – except that the main male protagonist turned out to be as romantic as a rotting piece of wood and I wanted to bludgeon him to death on several occasions throughout the book. But we’ll come to that later.

I will skip my usual rating system for this book as well and write a focused assessment fit to be posted on Amazon (or anywhere else), where people do not have much time to invest in reading long and rambling reviews.

The book’s main protagonist is Amelia Hartliss, who is a secret agent given an important task of protecting an official from China, who comes to visit Salford. The premise of the story is that there are many who want the Chinese official dead, and if they succeed, the consequence might be that China will issue an ultimatum to Great Britain, because the assassination happened on their soil, which in turn might lead to World War III, similar to what had happened in World War I. Here, I am not sure the idea holds water – for the start of the World War I it was not really important where the assassination took place but who did it. Therefore, even if the Chinese official was killed in Salford, it would still matter who killed him. You can’t just start issuing ultimatums because the secret service of the country supposed to protect the emissary you’ve sent consists of a bunch of people incapable of protecting their pet hamster, let alone a foreign visitor. Or you can, but then you don’t really need anyone assassinated at all.

However, the author makes a good job of selling the idea, so after accepting this as a possibility, we join Amelia in her efforts to organize the visit and at the same time figure out who has murdered a good friend of hers (and a former lover), while in parallel trying to understand if she has a personal life at all and any kind of future with Mickey, a fellow spy. By the way, Mickey is the one I’d like to bludgeon to death, simply because of the way he is treating Amelia throughout the book, and if she has any brains at all, she will delete his phone number and try to forget the guy existed. But, to get back to the main topic, the events unfold, and we discover that almost nothing is as it seems (except that Mickey is truly horrible as a boyfriend), and Amelia kind of succeeds in the end, except that it turns out it was not her success after all. Now, at that point, if I had been treated like they’ve been treating her, I would’ve probably quit my job, left my boyfriend, and found me a therapist, but Amelia is tougher than that, so she decides to stick around – for a couple of more books.

So, why should you read the book? It’s fun, and the convoluted story gets properly unraveled by the end of the book. Mind you, there are 11 books before this one dealing with the same character, so I missed the background information. Perhaps the author could put in front a short synopsis of the stuff that was happening before the book Nr. 12. Then it would be easier to understand certain references in the story. Also, I like Amelia (even though she seems a bit too trustworthy and quite incapable for a secret service agent). She is a nice character, and I am curious what will happen to her. I like even Mickey a bit (but only a bit) because he is kind of rough but honest. However, not boyfriend material. Not at all. What I didn’t like was the way dialogs were written, because I had sometimes a hard time figuring out who said what and if they have said it at all or only wanted to say it. I also did not fully manage to follow many characters who came in and out of the story and were insufficiently described and sometimes acted in a way I could not entirely explain. But if you can overlook these weaknesses, and if you like an action-filled story with a nice female lead character, then you’ll have fun reading this book.

My final verdict is 3.5 *.

Interesting, action-filled story with a twist at the end, but with some incomprehensible and confusing moments, and not much romance.

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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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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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A book review of “Toxic Stepbrother”

Another book (if you can call it a book) I came across is “Stepbrother Toxic” or “Toxic Stepbrother”. I expected a somewhat extended read, but it is in fact one relatively short story, with a couple of excerpts from other stories of the author. Therefore, my review will not be extensive either.

As before, to try to give an honest evaluation of all the books I plan to 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: “Toxic Stepbrother: A Stepbrother Romance”

By: Celia Styles

Published on: 12. August 2021 (Also a recent one)

Publisher: as far as I could tell, self-published

Page count: 26 (officially, 63, but the rest are excerpts from other stories)

Star rating so far: One 3* review and two 4* reviews on Amazon and an average of 3.06 * from 35 reviews on Goodreads

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

1.) Cover: ***

A half-naked guy, with an obligatory tattoo, probably representing the stepbrother. OK, as such covers go. Why is the title written as “Stepbrother Toxic”, whereas the real title is “Toxic Stepbrother”, I don’t know. Also, what’s toxic about the guy in the story is beyond me. The stepfather is toxic, for sure, but the stepbrother is anything but.

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

Language is OK. I noticed only a few spelling mistakes. No ellipses, but a lot of em-dashes, as well, in the middle, at the end, and sometimes at the beginning of the sentence.

3.) Plot and believability: **

Oh, boy… Sorry, oh, boy –

Whereas the beginning of the story is not so bad, and I can understand how the girl hooks up with the pretty surfer boy and even agrees to have sex with him half an hour later (protected, I sincerely hope), the writer lost me at the later point, when we find out that (SPOILER) the pretty boy is the son of the man the mother of the main character married. Despite being a stepbrother and a stepsister (by marriage), our two main characters decide after three days of acquaintance to start a family, which indeed happens a few pages later. I’m sorry, but I can’t believe that anyone in their right mind, and no matter how good the sex was, would decide they have found their soulmate and the mother/father of their children after 72 h of knowing someone.

4.) Character development: **

Some of it is present, but there is simply not enough pages to develop anything. We are mostly informed throughout the text about the past, and the plans for the future, as we are later on informed about how the life of our two main characters proceeds after they elope to Hawaii. Due to it being compressed to only a couple of pages, I had a feeling I was reading a Wikipedia article instead of a romance story.

Regarding the characters, the main female character is nice and relatable, and her stepbrother/boyfriend is cute. A bit lost, definitely uneducated (he quit school at 17), although properly sculpted, due to his passion for surfing, and not in the least toxic. What annoyed me was that after knowing the girl for the whole of three days, he, upon meeting her mother, immediately claims he wants to marry her (the girl, not the mother). Why? How? Also, the whole naughtiness of them being together, even though they are related (they are not)… I simply don’t get it. I also don’t get how any decent, loving mother, would allow her new husband to hit her daughter and not say a word about it. Excuse me? No matter how rich you are, you slap my kid, we’re done! Considering how close mother and daughter were described to have been, I could not believe that such an act of physical violence would be tolerated by the mother, and also that she would continue to ignore her only daughter in the days to come, only because her psycho husband said so.

Overall rating: 2.75 *

The writing style is not bad, but the story is rushed, and I did not have time (nor much desire) to get invested in the characters. At all. Too much cardboard, too little flesh. Also, paying 4.57 $ for what is essentially 26 pages story plus a bunch of excerpts is a rip off. Sorry, it is. There are so many full-length books out there costing less, and although quantity does not necessarily mean quality, I still find it uncool to bait people like that.

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A Book Review of “Between Two Galaxies”

I love SF and I love romance, so for my first review I chose a story which combines the two genres under a compelling title “Between Two Galaxies”, and subtitle “Alien Romance Story” by Kerry Webb.

Even though the topic is more fiction than science, such books can be fun, if frustrating. Ever since my experience with “The Krinar Chronicles” by Anna Zaires I have been on a lookout for a hunky alien, with whom I could have the first contact (and the second, and the third…). Unfortunately, we need to be realistic here – the probability of having a wild, interspecies sex with an ET are very low, despite the many sex scenes in the book of Ms. Zaires, some of them copy-pasted from her other books (did she think we wouldn’t notice), which would imply otherwise. But let’s get back to the original story I intend to review here.

To try to give an honest evaluation of all the books I plan to 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: “Between Two Galaxies – Alien Romance Story”

By: Kerry Webb

Published on: 09. August 2021 (So, a recent publication)

Publisher: as far as I could tell, self-published

Page count: 38 (on the short side, so more of a story than a novel)

Price: 0 $

Star rating so far: One 3* review on Amazon and an average of 4.67 * from three reviews on Goodreads

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

1.) Cover: ***

Not entirely bad, but not really reflecting the content of the book. To give an idea what I am talking about – the book tells a story of a NASA biologist Alessandra and her crush on an alien Ka. The cover shows a woman in a wet shirt and a bikini hugging a half-naked guy. If that’s what they standardly wear at NASA, I want a job there, please. But maybe it is a scene from the time after they got together and had a chance to go to a beach. I don’t know. I like the starry sky in the background, it looks quite cool and alien.

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

Formatting is reasonable, I was a bit put off by the curly letters used for the chapter titles. I would have liked something more scientific or with an alien flair. Language… well, how can I say, there’s some space for improvement there. For example, one sentence in the beginning:

“Sometimes, she had to admit, working for NASA could be boring sometimes.”

There’s one sometimes too many there, if you ask me.

Also, capitalization of the words (is it Alien or alien? Is it The General or the General?)

The book would profit from an editor or a proofreader.

3.) Plot and believability: **

Sorry, I am trying to be positive here, but although the plot is not that bad, there is significantly more fiction (or fantasy) than science in the SF part of the book. Let me elaborate (spoilers ahead, be warned):

Our main character is Alessandra, who works for NASA as a biologist. Her best friend is Emma, a chemist. As the writer informs us, quote “Even though they were in different fields entirely, it never seemed to influence their friendship”. Is there some secret feud between chemists and biologist that I wasn’t aware of? Or do people only become friends with others working in the exact same field? More importantly, what are two (presumably young) women, a chemist and a biologist, doing in the middle of the night in NASA headquarters? What happened to all astrophysicists? Are they on a vacation? And how can Alessandra (a biologist) figure out by just looking at the screen that the asteroid is a) manned, b) going to hit the Earth? Last time I checked, the asteroid trajectory analysis needed some serious observation and calculation, and I am kind of skeptical that a biologist would be able to do that in such a short time (or at all – most biologists I know have studied biology because they are bad in math and physics). Emma, however, seems to be much more convinced in the abilities of the chemists, in this case, to do complex astrophysical calculations because when at one point the military wants to check if the asteroid is really going to hit the Earth, she rolls her eyes and says:

“Oh, like the military scientists who went to the same schools we did know more than we do.”

Ahem… Yes? Because they have studied physics perhaps? I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that not all military scientists are either biologists or chemists.

OK, so then everyone is alarmed, and they go to the spot where the asteroid is going to hit and expect to be protected from the effects of the impact by sitting in an armored vehicle. Well, tell that to dinosaurs.

The spaceship lands (because it was a spaceship, in an asteroid, or that looked like an asteroid), and in it, they find a naked alien with a loincloth and a glowing hand. So, the representative of this highly developed alien civilization, which has mastered interstellar travel, is essentially an ET Tarzan. Alessandra is the first on the scene, and somehow, here I was really confused, one minute she was wearing a protective suit, and the next minute she is touching his glowing hand with her bare hand. How? Why? I had once been warned not to touch a dolphin with my bare hands, let alone an alien!

Anyway, now we come to the part that was really bordering on the unbelievable: the alien is a prince (OK, what else, but this is not the unbelievable part) who has come to Earth (to the USA, to be precise) because his planet is under an attack, and they need help. In fact, the Earthlings (and the USA) are their only hope!

Wait a second. You have an interstellar travelling technology, and you depend on us to save you? How? By paddling to your planet? And, do you really want that? I mean, look what happened with a number of countries on Earth that have depended on others to save them. For an all-knowing alien that’s a pretty daft move.

Later on, we find out that the aliens are apparently capable of flying through a hyperspace but know nothing about nuclear weapons. And that their spaceship control panel has three buttons and one screen (a radio, an autopilot switch, a hyperspace jump button, and a radar).

There is suspicion on both sides, the president shows up, Lindsey the red-haired soldier woman has a brilliant idea of going to the alien planet to check out the situation and the president calls that “A fine and dandy idea, sweetheart”. Lindsey is a trained soldier, not a sweetheart, Mr. President.

What was really unbelievable was when they decided to send Alessandra, Emma and Lindsey as their emissaries to Ka’s planet. I mean, three women? Hello? When did that ever happen in human history? But then it turned out they planned for them to die anyway as a pretext for attacking Ka’s people and stealing their resources, so that explained it.

Three girls find out about it by listening in on some secret radio communication (I am not sure how that happened) and decide to switch sides, essentially betraying their planet and their species. Lindsey then kicks the assess of the Earth forces, Alessandra the biologist becomes a diplomat and Emma the chemist creates cures to nearly every ailment. And Ka, the prince, becomes very popular.

So… no. I need more substance in an SF book, even if it is primarily a romance. Writers, do your research. There are so many good movies out there, so much info on YouTube about the mysteries of the universe and how much we don’t know about the things. And so, so many good SF books where people speculate on extraterrestrial life and technology required for space travel. No, you can’t just get in a spaceship and fly to a planet light years away within days. And if you could, those aliens would probably be so technologically advanced that they would come and crush us like bugs (not date us). If they could find us in the first place. The universe is enormous, namely. If you are unsure of the facts (and don’t want to take advanced courses in theoretical physics, for which I can’t blame you) then please write the plot in such a way that this does not become immediately obvious. Or find someone who is an expert and ask for support.

4.) Character development: **

Enough about science. What about the characters and their emotional connection? Alessandra is strangely drawn towards Ka, and he claims she is his soulmate. There is a telepathic connection between them. At one moment, he suddenly knows everything about her. Which is that she can speak English and that she likes Jane Austen.

OK, Jane Austen is pretty cool, admittedly. I’m a big fan myself. But is that really everything there is to know about Alessandra? There is a hint that Alessandra did not have such a great childhood. At one point, the book says:

“She had never been looked at with such care and compassion before by any man, even her father.”

I was curious to know why. It could explain why she took only a couple of seconds to fall for an alien, even though we learn along the way that he is really well mannered (he gives Alessandra his seat) and that he has perfect pearl white teeth (even though he apparently has retractable claws, as well).

Regarding Ka’s appearance and anatomy, if I were Alessandra, I would pay more attention to Derrick’s report. Derrick is a physicist in charge of studying Ka’s biology (it seems that they have real problems at NASA to assign appropriate tasks to people). Also, a secondary love interest of Alessandra. He says that Ka has an anatomy almost entirely the same as human. That “almost” would really worry me! But Alessandra ignores it and seems quite enthusiastic when Ka says that she should just move in with him and stay on his planet (the one threatened by an invasion by another type of alien and devastated by war). Maybe she knows something about Ka’s anatomy we don’t?

Anyway, the character that I liked the most was the General. Why? He was always true to himself. He barked at people, glared at them, or screamed orders most of the time, as any decent General should. Also could pilot a spaceship so well that Ka could see him sitting inside and even wave at him. Therefore, capable of making his hands dirty, not only expecting others to follow his orders. Way to go, General!

Overall rating: 2.5 *

Short and a bit rushed at the end, with a potential to be a nice story, but losing points on the science part and character development.

A Book Review of “Between Two Galaxies” Read More »

Vacation reading list

To support fellow writers and maybe discover my knew favorite authors, I have decided to read several books and write an honest review about each one of them. It’s vacation time, and I managed to get all the work that kept piling up either reassigned or postponed, so I have some time for reading and writing. I will post reviews here, but also on other platforms, such as Amazon, or Goodreads and similar, wherever I can for the maximum support of the authors. The criteria for choosing the books:

Genre: Romance (all sub-genres); I do plan to read other genres as well later on 🙂

Price: Free or 0.99 $

Reviews: None or very few (no need to write a review for books that have thousands already!)

Hang around to see what I’ve read and how I liked it. I am really excited!

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