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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: The Rogue's Pirate Bride by Shana Galen

Release Date: February 7th, 2012
Publisher: Casablanca (Sourcebooks)
Page Count: 339
Source:Complimentary copy provided by author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)


The marquis de Valère escaped certain death in the French Revolution and is now an infamous privateer. Out to avenge the death of his mentor, Bastien discovers himself astonishingly out of his depth when confronted with a beautiful, daring young woman who is out for his blood...

British admiral's daughter Raeven Russell believes Bastien responsible for her fiancé's death. But once the fiery beauty crosses swords with Bastien, she's not so sure she really wants him to change his wicked ways...
What Stephanie Thinks: If you're familiar with my book preferences, you'll know that while I'm open to reading any sort of story (as long as it is fiction), historical romance is the one genre I try to stay away from. As displayed in my rather discouraging review of Carlyle's The Bride Wore Scarlet, I find it difficult to enjoy the remarkably cliché stubborn-heroine-attempts-to-resist-horny-but-foxy-as-hell-hero storylines, as well as the so-called "taboo" of very proper ladies behaving so improperly (that, my mindless little pigeons, was only exciting in The Other Boleyn Girl, and it stopped being exciting when "historical romance" actually became a mainstream genre) and find that the little bits of history in between aren't as interesting as they're intended to be. History is for textbooks, not romance novels. This ideology probably explains why I only enjoy one out of every five historical romances I read. Stop holding your breath, Shana, dear. The Rogue's Pirate Bride was that lucky one.

While the typical feisty heroine motif does annoy me a bit, Raeven comes off as a lovable, rather than bitchy, character, due to her vulnerabilities. She's mad clever—which is a trait I suppose comes along with sailing on ships full of men with her father from the age of four—but she's also tender, and like every girl, has had her heart broken once, and is fearful of opening it up again. The overly self-assured sexyass hero (here, he's a duke turned pirate—the kind of man a girl happens to capture the attentions of, only in a romance novel) also irritates me a bit, but Galen does a marvelous job of making me love him too. Swoon swoon sigh: that basically sums up my reactions to their heat-and-banter relationship.

Galen has a writing style that is entirely consuming; I read this in two sittings! The plot moves along quickly, so I didn't find myself getting bored (even within the typically dull historical tidbits) at all. The dangers of the life of a pirate in Bastien's case, and a rebellious admiral's daughter, in Raeven's, were a constant adrenaline rush. Swashbuckling brawls and heart-thudding suspense kept me at the edge of my seat.

On the other hand, there's a bit of a compassionate reflection in this book as well. Bastien's lived off his mentor and crewmates ever since he lost his family—poor victims of the Revolution—so the concept of family is something he's never really known. Raeven helps him realize what the true meaning of family is, and shows him that with enough hope, family is something he can once again have.

I didn't realize this book is the third in the Sons of the Revolution series. This implies that SPOILER yes, Bastien does have brothers, whose stories are told in the previous two books. However, I picked this one up not knowing the series' sequence, and I understood it just fine. It could be considered just a connected stand-alone novel, as the main characters of the first two books only play minor cameo roles in this one. I have a tendency of doing this—meaning, reading books out of order—with series(es?)... as demonstrated by my consumptions of Nicola Cornick's The Brides of Fortune and Maya Banks's KGI series.

Sorry... I tend to ramble when I really like a book. Consider this über-long review as praise for a scorching thrill of a novel full of sexual tension and cutting humor :^) I'm impressed by the buzz of Raeven and Bastien's rocky but tempestuous relationship (and blown away by the sex!), as well as the encompassing compelling drama of this regency-set novel. Speaking of which, it doesn't all take place in England, like most regency romances do. There's a bunch of France too. Oui oui. Shana Galen is an honor to the historical romance family; books like hers make me reconsider my distaste for the genre, and that kind of influence, to be able to sway me in that manner, is not, I repeat, not, an easy thing to do.

Stephanie Loves: "'There's nothing complicated about our relationship. I hate you and I want you dead.' After I kiss you half a dozen more times."  — ahh. Haven't we all secretly lusted over someone we promised ourselves we would hate?

Radical Rating: 9 hearts: Loved it! This book has a spot on my favorites shelf. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Saturday, January 28, 2012

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Fangs Rule: A Girl's Guide to Being a Vampire by Amy Mah

Release Date: March 1st, 2011
Publisher: Reardon
Page Count: 124
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author, via Bewitching Book Tours, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you both!!), as part of the Fangs Rule virtual book tour

Fangs Rule: A Girl’s Guide to Being a Vampire is a Young Adult book for anyone between puberty and senility as it takes a close-up look at life as a female teenage vampire in easy-to-follow A-to-Z advice for the reader. The book is also full of manga art which helps show the human world what life is like in a vampire world...

Everything is explained from how to polish your fangs to fashion tips and ways of climbing across a ceiling wearing a nightdress without showing your underwear.

Fangs Rule is a must for every teenage vampire and from these pages you will see why Amy says “Vampires don’t sparkle! ... they bite!"
What Stephanie Thinks: This A-to-Z guide is an innovative approach to the paranormal Young Adult genre. Rather than hopping on the bandwagon of sparkly sexy vampires (Amy Mah actually dispels these clichés... gotta love her for that, if anything!), a little bit of classical gothic vampirism is shown within the pages of this book, as well as a lot of gore. And of course the sex. But not the explicit adult kind. As a book for teenage girls, all exhaustive information that has to do with sex is more oriented toward how it should be dealt with in the pubescent years, and for the most part, humorously. So I wouldn't call this inappropriate, by any means.

Mah is a real hoot. Her style of writing is rather childish, but it definitely captures a teenage girl's essence—it's so flustered, that I can't help but think it cute. Her liveliness and enthusiasm make for real knee-slappers; I found myself chuckling more than a few times throughout this book. The advice given not only is helpful (for those teen girl vampires out there), but it also all ties together to bring the reader into understanding Mah's world of the paranormal. I appreciate how she is able to do this without writing an actual novel, just with a simple list!

The book has its flaws too, however. The grammar and conventions are poor—as an independently-published book, that much isn't a surprise. There are a lot of "errrr"s" and "ummmms" and ".................."s that aren't fit for a book. It just is incredibly unprofessional, not to mention, annoying. Some topics are also really uncomfortable in a painfully awkward "why on earth would you bring something like that up?" way. For example, there's a whole section about why a certain species of vampire (the undead housemaids) don't wear underwear. Use your imagination to figure out what this reason is (hint: they're basically sex slaves....). Yeah, she went there. It's not that things like that are particularly improper, it's just that they're really, really weird.

The illustrations are well-drawn, but they're a bit irrelevant. Vampire powers will be discussed, and out of the blue, on the next page, will be a picture of an old man with a caption that says "This is my uncle in his nice suit" or something. Gave me lots of "lolwut" moments.

Looking past the editing mistakes (did Mah even have an editor?), and inopportune subject matters, I liked this one a lot. The manic tone is quite amusing, and the teenage experience (that she describes skillfully) relatable. Kudos to Mah for telling a vampire story without actually writing a story... even without a definite plot, this book, with a cast of characters and a detailed exposition, could be considered a great Young Adult novel thanks to the dazzling vampire realm it creates.

Stephanie Loves: Amy Mah brilliantly sums up a teenager's unfair, unlucky, and incredibly awkward life: "For some reason boys are fascinated with boobs, and with plastic surgery so easily available nowadays I don't see why they don't get their own...— so why is it that they like ours so much -___- Us girls don't obsess over their weenies like that.

"[Blooding] is the when quality time is spent with your dad, no longer, in which he no longer is the old-fashioned monster of a male that storms into your bedroom without knocking while you're changing and demanding that you apologize to your mother for something that she is shouting at him about." — the story of my family in one sentence.

"If your boyfriend suddenly decides to go commando, just tell him he looks untidy. A boy standing still naked is okay, but as soon as he walks about, not all his bits move at the same pace, and it is more amusing-looking than sexy. You may have heard of girls swooning (fainting) when seeing a boy naked, but I expect this was just an excuse to stop from pointing at them and getting into a fit of giggles over what they see." — I reckon so too! LOL

"Remember that it is normal to turn the head slightly when you kiss. Nine times out of ten it will be to the right, which of course means that the first time you kiss a boy, he'll be the one out of ten sort, and you'll knock noses.— in every kiss you have as a teenager, he will be the one out of ten sort. It soon shall pass.

"There's a truth in the old saying: 'Go to bed with a stranger and wake up with a friend.'— well I never! This puts a whole new perspective on the concept of sleeping with the enemy. So forbidden (hot!).

Radical Rating: 8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Friday, January 20, 2012

❤author: Becky Due Interview and Giveaway!

❤ I'm thrilled to welcome author, Becky Due, to the blog today. Welcome to ¡Miraculous!, Becky! Will you please share a short bio with us?
Like the main characters of my novels, I spent many years running from my life, looking for love, crying a little and laughing a lot along the journey of finding myself. Through writing, I found my passion. I am the author of several books and I’m currently working on my next novel. Happily married Scott and I live in Colorado, Florida and Alberta, Canada with our two furry "kids".

❤ Tell us about you books, and more specifically, The Dumpster, which I reviewed recently!

Well, if you’re looking for something — love, friendship, entertainment, laughter, hope, inspiration, strength — you’ll find it in my novels. The women in my novels are never rescued by men; these women rock!

Winner on the 2011 National Indie Excellence Book Awards (Romance), The Dumpster: One Woman’s Search for Love, is about an average woman looking for love in all the wrong places. This is a lighthearted novel where you can relax, have fun and hopefully laugh out loud.

❤ I know I sure did! What inspired you to write your first book and then how did you get published? Tell us your call story.
I’ve always enjoyed writing, so moving into a writing career seemed natural to me. The publishing story is a long one. After finishing my first novel, The Gentlemen’s Club: A Story for All Women, I sent out the query letters and had many agents interested, but because I couldn’t afford a professional editor at the time, I felt defeated. I kept writing, working hard and saving my money. By the time I could afford the help I needed, writing and publishing had changed. Therefore, I started my own publishing company, and the rest is history. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. It’s challenging, but I love my career.

❤ How much of your actual life gets written into your fictional stories?

Of course, I’m in every book in one way or another. It is usually all of the ridiculous stuff I do that finds its way into my books. I don’t think I’ll ever tell what is fiction and what really happened. I have so many great friends who also find their way into my stories, but usually because they are just so amazing to me.

❤ What are your biggest motivations for writing?

I have to write. I’m not happy unless I’m writing… just ask my husband. My biggest motivation comes from my readers. I’m crazy in love with my readers. They are the best!

❤ Can you honestly say being an author is your ideal job? Do you ever sometimes wish you hadn't begun a writing career?

I am so thankful for my career. I feel blessed everyday; I get to do what I love. When I have down days, like we all do, I give myself a break. I take the day off and do something else I enjoy, like painting, going to the movies or napping in front of the TV.

❤ How would you describe your writing style and tone?

I write the way I like to read. When I pick up a book, I hope it moves along quickly. I want to live in the story for a short time, and then I want to get back to my life with a new, empowered, inspired outlook. And that is what I try to do in every one of my books.

Give aspiring writers a piece of advice you wish you had known before getting published.

A book will not market itself — make sure you have a marketing and sales plan. This career is a lot of hard work and takes a lot of your time, but like anything, if you want it badly enough, go for it.

❤ Are there any books or authors you idolize?

I’ve been touched by so many authors and books, but I’d have to say, Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote is my favorite book. I’m very sentimental and I read that book at a time when it made an important impact on my life. Books have a way of doing that.

❤ What's a question you always want to be asked during interviews? How would you answer it?

Well, I think it is interesting how we get little signs throughout our life, guiding us to our purpose. I had so many little signs along the way, and I wish I had listened much sooner. I’m thankful I figured it out. I hope all women tap into that inner voice and find their passion. We have the power to change our lives anytime we want, at any age.

❤ What’s the most interesting comment you have ever received about your books?

“I’ve decided to go back to school because of Returning Injury: A Suspense Celebrating Women’s Strength.” The woman could not put her finger on what part of the book inspired her, but she said something in the story made her want a better life.

She did go back to school -- in fact, she will graduate next year.

That’s the kind of thing I hope for with every book I write.

❤ Wow! The effect books have on readers is an amazing one. What's next for you?

I’m working on my next novel — editing stage — and I have another project that started as a screenplay, but I’ve decided to rework it into a novel.

I'm certainly looking forward to them! Where can you be found on the web?

❤ Before we conclude this interview, is there anything you'd like to ask our readers?

I’d love to let your readers know that I am giving away a package of my books to celebrate this interview. You’ll receive The Gentlemen’s Club: A Story for All Women, Touchable Love: An Untraditional Love Story, Returning Injury: A Suspense Celebrating Women’s Strength, The Dumpster: One Woman’s Search for Love, and my children’s book, Blue the Bird: On Flying.

You heard her right! Becky's giving away all FIVE of her books today! To enter this fabulous giveaway, leave a question or comment for Becky.

Giveaway runs through February 3rd, 2012 at 11.59 pm (your time).
This giveaway is open to ALL readers 18 and older (by the prize provider's request), international folks included!
Please include your email address in your comment! If I don't know who to contact once you are chosen as the winner, your prize will be forfeited.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: The Dumpster: One Woman's Search for Love by Becky Due

Release Date: December 29th, 2010
Publisher: self-published
Page Count: 187
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author, via Dawn Seidel, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you both!)

Nicole, a cute, chubby, twenty-something woman, is looking for love in all the wrong places. Who would have guessed that a dumpster in the back alley below her bedroom window would hold the key to finding love?
What Stephanie Thinks: To sum up The Dumpster with a few words, I would say: quick, easy, and entertaining. Kind of how I like my men. (.......uh). It isn't just that the plot is fast-paced, but the book's pages just fly past me. Definitely something you can read in one or two sittings, or in between train transfers, or while sitting in the waiting room at the doctor's office.

The story itself is very cute and perky; even in times of despair, there's lots of preaching about how Nicole is really a strong, independent woman, and that even though she may have hard times, that doesn't change the fact that she's lovable and wonderful. Gooey girly stuff like that. Nicole is, as in most chick-lit books, fun and friendly—I wish I had a friend like her! She has insecurities like all of us do (man problems, moral problems, fat problems...) but she is blessed with great friends and a loving family to support her.

For most of the novel, Nicole's conflict is that she can't seem to find a guy... a guy who'll stick, anyway. She's attractive, and she's got a great personality (as her friends, her awesome partners in crime, assure her), but guys just see her for sex, as an easy lay, and it's about time she do something about it.

Enter the smelly dumpster that turns her life around, which sits right outside her bedroom window. Nicole hates it at first, but eventually it turns into a figurative "dumpster" where she can literally throw out everything that is troubling her (i.e. her "fat" clothes, her ex's clothing, and so on). The moment this idea clicked for me, I was thrilled at how Nicole was solving her own problems.

I must admit the tone of the book is rather childish—too girly, too immature—at times. There were moments I wanted to slap Nicole (she's a bit of a ditz) but she's still a good person at heart. This book is one to read when you really don't want to think too much, when you just want a good laugh (the situations Nicole gets herself into are hysterical!), or when you just need something to get you out of the dumps. Due very simply tells a pleasant story about a woman finding her true love by first finding herself, and I recommend it to all lovers of chick-lit and women's fiction.

Stephanie Loves: I love Becky Due's sense of chick humor! "Nicole thought she had gone to heaven. Frank was perfect in every way. But then he didn't ask her if she wanted any [cotton candy]. He didn't even look at her as he paid the guy and said, 'I love this stuff.'
What a jerk. He'd better share.
Frank sat next to her stuffing his face with her blue, fluffy sugar. And if that wasn't bad enough, his elbow kept bumping her breast each time he took a mouthful, reminding her of what she was missing. Then he leaned over and offered some to Mark, who passed. Frank offered it to Roxanne and she passed too. Nicole was about to have an oral orgasm when he finally offered her some. She could not believe what came out of her mouth. 'Oh, no thank you. That's a little too sweet for me.'"— LMAO. We all have our moments.

Radical Rating: 8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Saturday, January 7, 2012

♥♥♥♥♥♥: A Black Girl's Poetry for the World by Kimberly LaRocca

Release Date: April 13th, 2011
Publisher: CreateSpace (self-published)
Page Count: 123
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)

Kimberly LaRocca knows all about challenges, the ones we can’t control, and those we create. She also knows about standing tall and staying proud, no matter what.

While celebrating self-determination and human pride, A Black Girl’s Poetry for the World also presents insightful poems exploring all aspects of the human experience. From lost loves, strained relationships and the difficulty of forgiveness to raw anger and intense sexual desire, LaRocca ‘tells it like it is’ and literally bares her soul in her poetry.
What Stephanie Thinks: The intimacy of this collection of poems—on the life, love, and losses of Kimberly LaRocca—really puts a memorable touch on it. Narrated often in the second person, her carefully spun words really jar the reader and show them not only the trials and tribulations of her life, but more importantly, that she's overcome all of them and has emerged as the strong, radiant woman she is today.

As poetry, however, it falls a little flat. Vocabulary is simple and figurative language is mediocre, so there isn't much of a extraordinary value to the words. Everything written is very honest and raw, though, so that makes it really personal and relatable. The wording is sometimes awkward, and some metres have ill-fitting word choices for the sake of rhyming patterns. I cannot stress enough that rhyming does not make for good poetry. Sometimes, if used improperly, it can even detract. But I'm not the author, so I have no place to dictate; I'm just saying the poetry would have flown a lot more naturally had it not been forced to rhyme.

I like how the poems (each no more than eight stanzas, or one page) come together to make up the "autobiography" of LaRocca. Of course, nothing is ever clear-cut and as poetry, her life story is open to interpretation, but the basic foundation the reader gets is pretty solid. I wouldn't say this collection of poems is anything phenomenal, but it sure is a frank, sassy, easy read that demonstrates the value of being able to hold one's head high even after a heartbreak, as well as the value of learning to dance in the rain after the storm.

Stephanie Loves: At one point, we all get fed up with a lost love, fed up with constantly caring and being the one who gets hurt, so we become determined to make them feel in every which way, as if they're the one who lost something good. LaRocca describes this emotion perfectly in A Love Like Mine:
You're gonna miss me when I'm gone.
Miss what we had,
The way I kissed you late at night.
You're gonna miss me so damn bad.

You say you don't care,
That there are many more like me.
I really hope you find her soon,
So you can finally see.

Yeah, you think you know it all,
Thing it's all a big game.
But time will tell,
And your heart will know
She and I aren't the same.

Go ahead.
Make your move.
And please, hold your breath
Until she loves you like I do.
"—it's like this: I am the best he has ever had (and will ever have), but he won't know it til I'm gone. Appeasing in a really bitchy, determined way. I like that sort of power trip (because 100% of the time, he's the one who comes running back anyway).

Radical Rating: 6 hearts: Satisfying for a first read, but I'm not going back. ♥♥♥♥♥♥

Sunday, January 1, 2012

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Well with My Soul by Gregory G. Allen

Release Date: October 11th, 2011
Publisher: ASD
Page Count: 327
Source: Directly from author for review
Brothers testing the bonds of blood...

Jacob and Noah Garrett are brothers harboring a lifelong resentment towards each other while dealing with their own compulsive obsessions. One is a liberal gay man who forsakes his family and moves to New York City from Tennessee to make his mark on the world. The other is a southern conservative who is left at home holding the proverbial family bag. The story follows their loosely intertwined lives through the wild times of the late seventies and the restraint of the Reagan years in which one brother ends up becoming a minister and preaching his doctrine while the other believes there are some things people are born with and not meant to change. Well with My Soul is told through the perspective of both brothers and shows how misguided choices can drastically affect those around you for years to come; and how family may be all that one has when looking for peace to stifle the embers that smolder beneath the surface.
What Stephanie Thinks: The southern family values give this book a bit of a slow start, but the pace picks up thrillingly when Jacob, the elder and more attention-seeking of the Garrett brothers, moves out to begin his career as a high-profile male model in the Big Apple. There, he discovers the ecstatic delights of sex and drugs, and is finally fully able to embrace his gay identity with his loving partner, Gary. For a large portion of Well with My Soul, partying and bright city life contrast the drawl of Noah's day-to-day routine back home in Tennessee with stern but compassionate Mama. However, one disastrous night, one epiphany spirals those simple themes into a hardcore debate of faith and self. Ultimately, not-so-extraordinary lives are affected by long-term decisions, we learn—and they could even dwindle down to matters of survival.

Gay sex in New York in the 80's only really leads to one thing: the AIDS epidemic. I'm a complete RENThead; I can't say I'm still not moved by the history of the HIV disease, no matter how many times I come across it in cinema and literature. It makes for a tragic chronicle, especially when intertwined in a love story, and it's one of those things that makes my heart twist at every mention.

Allen's universal message—that being untrue to oneself, in time, will have its consequences—resonates in his soulful and devastating novel. While the prose itself isn't anything special, and the dialogue often weak, the characters are heavy and realistic, and the plot so developed, that it's hard not to become engrossed. I recommend this one to anybody who enjoys southern literary fiction, gay fiction, and doleful love stories like Larson's RENT.

Stephanie Loves: "'We're all whores in one way or another.'"

Radical Rating: 8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

please release me, thanks.

That moment when your mind flutters to someone twenty-four hours a day and you silently but desperately beg them to just get the fuck out of your head. And it doesn't work.