Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Beauty And The Beast (2017 - PG)

**** stars

I've just been to watch Beauty And The Beast, something I was looking forward to as I loved the original, and there is nothing like knowing the story so you can settle down and just enjoy the movie, rather than be awed, terrified, disturbed, etc., etc. Sometimes, just watching and enjoying is enough. 

And it didn't disappoint, staying very close to the original and throwing in some in-jokes that will go way over the kids' heads. The sets are lavish, and the musical numbers as accomplished as you would want them to be. Emma Watson is not a natural singer but she has good back up with an impressive cast of tuneful villagers, and she does well, with a light, clear voice that suits her role. One quibble would be that she isn't very animated, especially during the Be My Guest number, when you would expect her to show delight, maybe bounce in her seat a little. Instead, she was curiously passive, with her usual calm smile. I couldn't help thinking I was watching Hermione Granger, albeit with a better wardrobe. Talented as she is, she seems to be the same in every movie she stars in, even down to her hairstyle.

The film is long, over 2 hours, and bearing in mind the target audience, it could have been shaved by about 1/2 hour. There were a couple of extra songs, and an odd sequence involving a trip to Paris that could have been dispensed with, neatening the whole thing. I could see why they did it, to develop the relationship between the two main characters so they weren't just falling in love over a snowball fight, and to help Beauty understand what had happened to her mother, but it felt out of place and was ultimately unnecessary. The new songs were good, but ultimately forgettable and I'm sure smaller viewers would be wriggling at this point, wanting to get on with the story. This is a tale that doesn't need to be messed with too much, and it was the finer details that were far more fun; Le Fou's camp sidekick, the three tough guys turned into queens, Gaston's utter odiousness, the tender relationship between Lumiere and his feather duster lover, and the frankly eye-popping special affects that ran through the whole film. It was a gorgeous, colourul Regency extravaganza, so rich in detail, ones' eyes were in danger of suffering from indigestion. Those prone to migraines or with an aversion to sweet things take note. Toothache and gripes might ensue in natural-borne cynics, but I loved it. If I watch it again at home, though, I'll probably make a cup of tea during the prolonged pub scene. There is only so much Gaston self-love I can take. 

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Angels Fall by N.S. Beranek

This book is like walking through a Mardi Gras festival; colourful, confusing and fantastical, laced with horror and throbbing with erotic promise.

It is worth noting that the book is written in the present tense, which puts the reader right in the heart of Beranek’s world from the get go.

The blurb assumes a lot when it says “when a member of the created family he’s focused on instead comes under threat from a mysterious illness, Ehrichto strikes a deal with his own sire, to return to the sire’s bed in exchange for his help.” I get that this is vampire-speak, but I was left thinking “huh?”

If it puts some people off, that would be a shame, because although the book isn’t that long, it is packed so full of beautiful details and lavish descriptions, it feels like an all-round sensory experience. The smell of blood and sun-tan oil, fresh bodies and sexual promise, all drip from the page. The author has built this incredible, colourful, savage world, filled with family drama, vampire politics, and sexual undertones. There isn’t a lot of actual sex, but despite that, it is a very erotically-charged book. Very clever and not easily accomplished.

An all-round sensory experience

There are a lot of characters, and a lot of different dynamics at play, so much so it seemed confusing at times. I’m still not sure what the relevance of Dorjan’s character is. I feel I have to read the book again to fully grasp all the delicate nuances. Again, this would delight some readers, but I wasn’t wholly gripped enough to do so. As a book reviewer, I don’t have time to read the same book twice. This is a shame, but it’s the author’s job to explain it through the story, not my job to rummage through the book until I finally get it.

Having said that, I believe there is scope for a series. There are some great personalities here, all of which are colourfully described and given their own distinctive voice. I loved Michael’s family, and the way the author dealt with his coming out, the confusion of his parents, his horrendous social-climbing mother. The setting of scenes is first class, and consistent throughout the book. I really wish I loved it more than I did, but the chaotic story-line was a little too distracting for my taste.

No doubt about it though. This is a clever and literary addition to the vampire genre.

Monday, 20 March 2017


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Book Review: A Woman's Worth by Chicki Brown

I loved this story. On the surface, it is a very easy read. Gianne is a strong woman, a cancer survivor is just picking up her life after her illness, and the departure of a dickless boyfriend who was scared off by the serious nature of her diagnosis. 

Then she meets Marc, part of the charismatic Stafford clan, and before you can say "raw vegan food evangelist" she is travelling across the country to Las Vegas, for three months of fitness training, diet, and will they/won't they dynamics. Cynics will roll their eyes at this point but if so, this book is not for you. Saved from TV movie sentimentality by the author's writing and ability to draw her characters, this is a warm-hearted cuddle of a book, but one with an edge. Maybe some will object to the raw foods message. I know a few found it heavy-handed, but I didn't. It was interesting, but didn't make me feel guilty about my burger and fries. 

Marc has his own family issues (don't we all?) and they were dealt with very entertainingly. The guy is hot, hot, hot! Perhaps a little good to be true? Whatever, he was a real sweetheart, and I loved him and Gianne together. Gianne didn't take any crap, either. Yes, she decided to go to Las Vegas, but she was pragmatic, knowing she had to return, scared of commitment yet not averse to a little fun. I loved her. I want her and her friends as my friends. She was a girl to root for.

Equally, Marc's family were complicated, competitive, aspirational, each with their own resentments but held together by their mother, who was awesome. The book really came alive when the family were together. I know this is the first in the Stafford Family series, so it will be interesting to watch these stories develop!

Finally, cancer is a tough subject that can be excruciating if clumsily dealt with, but the writer has done a brilliant job. Gianne lives her life six months at a time, from all-clear to all-clear. All through the book, I was never sure which way it was going to go, and I needed to know. Now I do, the last thing I'm going to do is tell you. Read it yourself. 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Three great reviews, and why they matter

So grateful for these great reviews for Closer Than Blood. They all came in this week, which was incredible! Reviews are there for the reader, but all authors are (or should be) grateful for the feedback they receive, whatever it is. And on Amazon, the more reviews you have, regardless of the stars, the more likely you are to be noticed by Amazon, and therefore get more exposure. It's a win/win. Just don't take the criticism personally. You can't please everyone all the time, but so far, people seem to like Closer Than Blood. Why not try it for yourself and see what people are raving about?

Review and Excerpt: Last Shot at Justice by Kristi Cramer

Last Shot at Justice by Kristi Cramer is out NOW!
Enter to Win a Signed Copy: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ef1f1d8320

Detective Mitzi Reardon just became the prime suspect in a murder she didn’t commit. On the run from enemies and coworkers alike, Mitzi must put her trust in Blue Thomas, an old-school cowboy from Kansas. Against all odds, they must bring the real killer to justice.

As a trap closes around them, Mitzi devises a bold escape strategy that may just get both of them killed.


"Kristi Cramer knows how to keep the suspense pumping in this never-a-dull-moment thriller." Calvin Dean, author of Curses, A Door Unlocked, and The Epitaph of Jonas Barloff.

"Stunning dialogue between the characters. Humorous and action-packed. Blue feels like a real person." N.D. Taylor, author of The Spellbound Consortium series of Urban Fantasy.

Last Shot at Justice is A Thomas Family Novel, a series of suspenseful standalone novels featuring characters connected to the Thomas Family of Syracuse, Kansas. (Series was formerly titled The Boys of Syracuse, Kansas.)

My Review

Exceptionally good romantic suspense story. Really well written, with sparky dialogue and great character development. I immediately warmed to Mitzi, the tough cop on the run, and Blue, her mild-mannered cowboy accomplice. A real page turner, full of excitement and goodwill. Not much in the way of sex. This is a romance, not erotica, and the way the characters fall for each other over the duration of the book is sweet without being turgid or sickly. I'll definitely be checking out more of this author's writing.

Excerpt from Last Shot at Justice

Mitzi looked to see the cowboy holding his coat open, inviting her to step under it. “I’m all right,” she demurred.
   “You’re wet enough,” he said. “Walk with me under here and you won’t get worse.”
   She almost protested, then realized she might be less conspicuous outside if she accepted his offer. She stepped under his proffered arm and stretched one arm across his waist to latch onto his belt, the other pulled his coat close around her. He was so much taller than her that she fit right under his arm, and his coat formed a tent above her. Most important to her at the moment was the fact that he was warm, and big enough to offer real protection against the danger she was in—though it went against all her training to involve him.
   In the moment before they moved, she studied his face again. Lightly tanned skin, high cheekbones, strong chin, straight nose. Fair-colored brows slightly furrowed above curious brown eyes that softened his otherwise angular face. His mild, vaguely bemused expression suggested she had nothing to worry about. From him.
   Stepping out the door into the pouring rain, he guided her to the right. There was no one on the street outside the 8-Ball Tavern, and she breathed a sigh of relief before urging the man along. He looked down at her from beneath his cowboy hat and walked faster.
   Lord, he’s a monster, she thought. He seemed pretty clueless about what was going on though. She figured he must be one of those more-brawn-than-brains football lineman types, which was just as well. He wouldn’t ask questions, and she could go on her way in the morning without worrying that he would get in trouble on her account.
   A man in a gray raincoat rounded the corner, looking the other way, and bumped into them. Mitzi thought he looked like the man she hadn’t recognized at the murder scene.
   “Pardon us, mister,” the cowboy whom the bartender had called Blue said, turning her aside to pass him. She tried not to physically shrink away.
   The man grabbed her escort’s arm, and Blue turned.
   Mitzi peered out from inside the coat as the man sized Blue up, then glanced at her.
   “She all right?”
   She tightened her arm around his waist, and Blue nodded slowly, spoke even slower. “My sister’s just a little drunk. I gotta take her home to Daddy or he’ll skin me alive.”
   The man gave her another glance, then nodded. “Better take care of her, then.” His tone dripped with sarcasm that the cowboy didn’t even acknowledge.
   “You can be sure, mister.”
   The two of them walked around the corner and Mitzi suddenly found it hard to stand on her own two feet, much less walk. When she stumbled, Blue scooped her up as easily as she might pick up a bag of Mr. Tuggles’ cat food and carried her to a beat-up brown Dodge pickup.
   Without setting her down, Blue pulled the passenger door open and set her inside. He peered at her briefly from under the brim of his hat, a small worried frown turning thin lips down. Then he withdrew and closed the door, shutting her inside while the rain poured down like bullets on the metal of the truck.
   Shivering, she reached over to unlock his door only to discover it wasn’t locked.
   He opened the driver’s door and slid onto the seat, glancing at her as he closed the door. Without a word, he turned the engine over and started driving away. She slumped down in the seat so she couldn’t be seen from outside and looked up to see him adjusting the heater setting.
   “Is that your real name? Blue?”
   He nodded without taking his eyes from the road. The wipers flashed across the windshield to sweep away the heavy rain.
   “Where’re you from, Blue?”
   “Kansas, ma’am. Close by Syracuse.”
   “Well, thank you for doing this for me.” The truck had picked up speed after making a few turns, and she figured they were far enough away that she could sit up. It was nearly impossible to tell where they were, though judging by the increasing hills they were heading west, away from Mile High Stadium. “How well do you know Denver?”
   “Not very. I’ve only been here a couple weeks.” He squinted out the window, searching for street signs.
   “Do you know where we are?”
   “Well now, I think I missed my turn a ways back.”
   Headlights appeared in the darkness behind them, and Mitzi turned to look out the back window. The car was coming fast, and she let out a creative oath.
   “Faster, Blue.”
   “I need to turn around,” he said.
   “Do it later.”
   “I’ll find our way to your place. Right now, I want you to lose the car that’s behind us.” She put as much authority in her voice as she could and hoped he would do as she instructed.
   Before he could say anything, the car behind them turned on police lights and flashed headlights to signal him to pull over.
   “It’s the police,” he said in surprise, starting to pull over.
   She jerked the wheel back, sending the truck lurching away from the curb. “Don’t stop. Lose them.”
   “Listen, I don’t have license plates; they’re after me.”
   “No, Blue! If you pull over, I’m dead. You understand?” She tried to push her foot down on the accelerator.
   “Come on. They don’t shoot hookers on sight. Just let me....”
   The unmarked police car behind them bumped them lightly, and Blue gently but inexorably pushed her away from the driver’s side of the truck and pulled over under a street light. “Just sit tight,” he told her. “Nothing’s going to happen to you.”
   “Blue!” she struggled against his restraining hand, but she could only move away from him—she couldn’t make him drive away.
   Behind them, the passenger side of the police car opened up, and a man in a raincoat stepped out. She struggled harder as she recognized the man they’d bumped into. Instead of heading to Blue’s door, he headed for her side of the truck.
   “Please,” she said, turning frantically to Blue. “He’s going to kill me!”

Grab it here! https://www.amazon.com/Last-Justice-Thomas-Family-Novel-ebook/dp/B01MU68DV9/

Monday, 6 March 2017

My Interview with AJ Adams, author of The Zeta Cartel series

Read my interview with the incomparable AJ Adams, plus pick up tips on how to create teasers for your own books. Thanks to AJ Adams for this interview. It was a huge amount of fun!

AJ Adams - Romance & Crime : AJ Adams Interview with Jayne Lockwood: Closer than Blood Jayne Lockwood Jayne started writing Black Lace books with Virgin Books as Savannah Smythe. Today she writes under h...

Wonderful World of Books: Blog Tour - Closer Than Blood by Jayne Lockwood!

Wonderful World of Books: Blog Tour - Closer Than Blood by Jayne Lockwood!: Title: Closer Than Blood  Series: Closer Than Blood  Author: Jayne Lockwood Genre: Romantic Suspense Release Date: March ...

Nadine's Obsessed with Books: Closer than Blood by Jayne Lockwood (Blog Tour)

Nadine's Obsessed with Books: Closer than Blood by Jayne Lockwood (Blog Tour): Blog Tour Closer Than Blood Jayne Lockwood Forbidden passion, blackmail and murderous intent in the cold, glitte...

Sapphyria's Book Reviews: Blog Tour ~ Closer Than Blood by Jayne Lockwood

Sapphyria's Book Reviews: Blog Tour ~ Closer Than Blood by Jayne Lockwood: Welcome to the Blog Tour for Closer Than Blood Jayne Lockwood About the Book: Forbidden passion, blackmail and mu...

Sneak a peek!

Sneak a Peak!

Sneak a peek!