EDWARD, EDWARD BY LOLAH BURFORD

PUBLISHER: 1972/73, MacMillan
FULL TITLE: Edward, Edward: A Part of His Story And Of History 1795-1816 Set Out In Three Parts In This Form Of A New-Old Picaresque Romance That Is Also A Stud
GENRE: Historical Fiction
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: A

FROM PUBLISHER: It is a hunting tale of a strange romance between a worldly and dissolute man, James Noel Holland, Earl of Tyne, and the golden-haired young Edward, his ward–or perhaps his son. Homosexuality, sadomasochism, and incest are elements in their relationship–and so are affection, love, and the saving quality of grace.

The time of the story is the beginning of the nineteenth century–the pre-Regency years of domestic unrest, of the Napoleonic Wars, and of lawlessness, cruelty, and the vast chasm between the rulers and the ruled. The place is alternately the cold Northumberland wild country where the Earl has his seat, the grim and beautiful city of London during the Season with all its pomp, the retreats of Devon and Brighton, and eventually Vienna at the acme of its musical splendour. The background figures include Mrs. Siddons, the famous courtesan Harriett Wilson, various noted rogues, Beethoven and Schubert, Castlereagh, Godwin, George III, and particularly, in retrospect, John Wesley, whose religious teachings, precipitates and early crisis in Edward’s life but is to prove an enduring force.

In the course of the narrative a great many warring elements shape Edward’s character. He is sent to Oxford, where he proves a brilliant student. Holland takes him to London to spend some months living in his resplendent townhouse while he is grooming him–assisted by Beau Brummell, among other famous figures–to take his rightful place in the world of society when he comes of age and receives his inheritance–for the Earl has by now privately acknowledged that he is Edwards father. He obtains the skilled services of two of his former mistresses to introduce Edward to the techniques and arts of heterosexual intercourse–an experience which repulses Edward at first, and then proves pleaseant indeed. Soon Edward finds himself growing fond of a young girl–but both families violently oppose a match, in true Montague-Capulet fashion.

Many times the two men, father and son, abjure their passionate lovemaking, only to resume it more violently than before. Finally Edward’s apparent duality, augmented by a serious psychological and physical breakdown, have all but destroyed him utterly. Deeply concerned, the Earl takes him to Vienna and dramatically demonstrates that now Edward must make one of two choices: life or death. And in the end of the story is the beginning…


SPOILER SUMMARY: INCEST ALERT! Noel, 38, Anne, mother, 33. Edward, their son. They first met when she was 17. They meet again years later, have sex under a tree and she becomes pregnant. I can’t remember but I think he raped her. She thinks Noel will marry her. He won’t marry her and tells her he’s going abroad the next day and invites her to come. She says she can’t and asks him to strangle her, which he does. She only passes out. He goes away to the Continent for two months and she marries within the first week of him leaving. When their son Edward is almost seven years old, Anne goes to see Noel. Her husband has died recently and she’s dying and needs Noel to take care of their son. Edward comes to meet his father. They decide to get married for Edward’s sake. After the wedding, Anne feels like she’s dying so asks Noel to have sex with her. Anne doesn’t know if Noel is Edwards father because one week after having sex with Noel for the first time, she married someone else and began a sexual relationship with her husband and got pregnant right away.

Edward was sent to live at one of his father’s homes and didn’t actually see Noel for 6-12 months. Noel went to see Edward because he’d hurt his foot then didn’t see him again for over a year. He didn’t see him at all the year he was eight. In the spring of Edward’s 9th year, his footman George took Edward to see Gypsies at the fair. One of the men asked him questions about how his father Noel was treating him. Later that night Edward was in bed when he heard his dog whine. He went to look for the dog outside and was abducted by the same man at the fair who’d asked about his father. Noel found him 1 1/2 days later. Starting on Edward’s 12th birthday, he began to run away a lot. Later that same year, one night Edward got into bed with a sleeping Edward, kissed him, took his nightgown off and caressed his back. Edward kissed him back then asked him the next day if what they did was a sin. The day after, they traveled by ship to France. “They spent a week in his mannor, the weather holding, their days and nights divide in a way they did not speak of or refer to again.” During their last swim at the beach, just before they were to leave for England, Edward tried to drown himself. Noel saw him, went in after him and dragged him to shore. By the time Edward was 16, it had been almost four years since he’d last seen his father. Noel showed up one day to tell him he was sending him to Oxford University. Edward told him he didn’t want to go, he wanted to travel with a preacher who knew his other father, and that he wanted to become a preacher himself. Noel told him he wasn’t going. That angered Edward so he pulled out a gun and threatened to shoot Noel. Noel shot the gun out of his hand and locked Edward in a room by himself for a week. At some point during that week, Noel kissed Edward.

During the second part of the book, after Edward goes to Oxford, he starts thinking about the sexual feelings he’s having for his father. Up until this part of the book, were weren’t given any reason to believe Edward had those type of feelings for Noel except a few times years before when he kissed him. When Edward went home for the Christmas holiday, Noel locked him in the same dark, small room because he was scared Edward might try to kill him like before. At this point in the story, Noel is still a very distant, unfriendly person. He tells Edward that he wishes he had never taken guardianship of him. Every time Edward comes home to visit, Noel locks him in the same dark room. Once Edward’s friend Marion came to visit him at Noel’s and saw him locked in the room. Noel was caressing Marion’s shoulder in front of Edward. They spent the night in bed together. Edward heard them in bed. He was hurt and jealous and became physically sick.

During a visit home when Edward was 19, he told Noel that he knows he may be his father. Once while at college, Edward started wondering why Noel was so distant toward him, why he didn’t ever want to be around him. Edward knew that Noel must have meant something to his mother for her to have left him with him when she died. While Edward was growing up, Noel would look for signs of himself in Edward but could never see any. As Edward got older, he developed a violent streak like Noel. Edward and Noel were discussing the possibility of being related. Noel said, “Why do you think you are my son?” Edward said, “I don’t think, I know.” They were looking at family portraits of Noel’s family. Edward was saying there was no resemblance between him and his other father. Sometime after that, their relationship turned sexual. When Edward was 20, he told Noel that he knows he raped his mother and that he forgives him. He picked up Noel’s hand and kisses it.

Once while at the home of his mistress, Edward cuts himself with a knife. Noel and a doctor come and strap him to the bed. Fast forward to when Edward is 21, he and Noel are in bed together. They argue about something, Noel hits him in the mouth, causing it to bleed. He told Edward to ‘turn over’ but he said no. They fought some more. Noel took his pillow and held it over Edwards face until he stopped struggling, then turned him over and raped him. Later, Edward took Noel’s hand and kissed it, then kissed him and they went to sleep beside each other. Noel ‘bought’ a prostitute named Amanda. He paid her well so that he could cut her hair short like a boys and use her (anally) like a boy. He “hurt” her and she got some type of infection and died.

Edward left home for good when he was 21. Three years later he ran into Noel. Noel asked him to come home but Edward said he couldn’t yet. In July of 1815, Noel got sick and had Edward move back in. Noel recovered. In the last part of the book, Edward gets sick. One night, he drinks all of Noel’s laudanum. He almost dies but recovers. One night while still recovering, Edward woke from a bad dream. Noel pulled his nightgown up but Edward told him he didn’t want to have sex because he felt faint. Noel said he couldn’t control himself, to try to resist him because he was going to use him ‘terribly.’ He grabbed Edward, struggled with him, kissed him, all the while Edward is crying. Edward passes out and Noel rapes him.

The ending: Noel told Edward he needed to get married. Edward told him he wanted to die, so Noel filled up a marble basin with water and tried to drown him. He started to struggle. They talked and Noel punched him in the chest to wind him so that he could try to drown him again. He didn’t drown him. Edward went to see a girl he knew and they decided to get married.





INVITATION TO RUIN by Bronwen Evans

PUBLISHER: Brava, 3/2011
GENRE: Historical Romance
SETTING: England, 1808
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: C

FROM PUBLISHER: The only thing Miss Melissa Goodly has ever wanted out of a marriage is love. But any hope of that dissolves one wild night, when she loses herself in the arms of the most irresistible -- and unobtainable -- man in all of England. For when they are discovered in a position as compromising as it is pleasurable, she has no choice but to accept his proposal.

Avowed bachelor Anthony Craven, Earl of Wickham, never meant to seduce an innocent like Melissa. Yet now that the damage is done, it does seem like she'd make a very convenient wife. After all, she is so naive he won't have to worry about ever being tempted. Or so he thinks, until the vows are spoken and they are left alone -- and his new bride reveals a streak just as brazen and unrestrained as his own...


MY THOUGHTS: The story spans about six months. The hero is thirty-three year old Anthony. He's got black hair and silver-gray eyes. The heroine is twenty-one year old Melissa. She's got black hair.

I didn't care for this book at all. The incident at the beginning was contrived and too unbelievable/unrealistic. I find it hard to believe it would really have been planned out by someone so close to Melissa. It was just silly. We got no backstory on the heroine at all and I'm not sure why that was.

The hero has a very dark past. His father was very abusive toward him but not to his identical twin brother, Richard. The hero is hard and unwilling, at first, to open up his heart to the heroine. He does end up falling in love with the heroine, and she, him, after a few months. I never felt their love was true. We got a tiny bit of backstory about the hero but I'd have liked more.

Right from the start, after the 'incident', the heroine seemed a bit obsessed with wanting the hero to love her. She didn't even love him at this point so I don't understand why she wanted to be loved by a stranger so much.

I don't like that something as serious as slavery was thrown into this story. I felt it was unnecessary and a bit strange. It was more of a small subplot that took a backseat to the unbelievable love story between hero and heroine. There were several plots; the hero trying to bring down a slaver and the main plot seemed to be the unbelievable relationship between the hero and heroine. Then another plot involving a female villain, assisted by a man, who's trying to bring down the heroine for a really stupid reason- jealousy.

This was a dark, unromantic novel. Typically I like that type but the author just didn't pull off a true love story. This novel just didn't work for me.

Were I grading this novel on everything except the love story, I'd grade it an A. I liked the male/female villain duo and the explicit, dark sex. Because the love story was lacking and just plain lame, and this is a romance, I have to grade this novel a C/3 stars.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.



CAPTAIN'S WOMAN by Saliee O'Brien with author photo

PUBLISHER: Pocket Books, December 1979
SETTING: 1714 England/Bahamas/Cuba
TIMESPAN: Six years
NARRATION: First Person
HEROINE: Mary Read
HERO: Captain Roger Courtney
BODICE RIPPER: Yes
RAPED HEROINE? Yes
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: B

FROM PUBLISHER:

SHE WAS DISGUISED AS A BOY- Forced to flee England to escape her lecherous kinsmen, she was a stowaway on a pirate ship, with a secret as dangerous as her life.

BUT SHE WAS ALWAYS A WOMAN!- She served her Captain, a man cold as ice. But her love couldn't touch him, for he had a secret as mysterious as his stormy past.

CAPTAIN'S WOMAN- A novel of flaming passion, a woman's enduring love and the storms that beset it.




MY THOUGHTS: This is one crazy story. The heroine, Mary, is nineteen and living at her deceased grandmother's home, which is now being run by the grandmother's male relative. Mary is using the name George Read because she's been living the last five years of her life as a boy. Her mother died and she went to live with the grandmother....who really believes she's male. When she was little, her mother dressed her as a boy and took her to visit her grandmother. The grandmother didn't like boys so that's the reason for the disguise.

Sir Cecil, who's thirty and married, is bisexual. He's been at Hunter House since the grandmother died two months before. He takes a liking to 'George', who is not a blood relative. He catches him undressing one day and discovers that George is really a woman. He rapes Mary and tells her she's to be his secretary and that they're to continue their sexual relationship. She told him no and told his wife that she was really a woman. Cecil had Mary arrested for being an imposter and she was taken away by two men. On the way to Newgate Prison, they raped her outside of the carriage. She got away from them, naked, hid and then returned to the spot she was raped and put all her clothes, and wig, on. She found a ship called The Hague and snuck onto it and hid.

A guy named Karl van Buskirk found her and believed her to be male due to her disguise. Somehow he found she was female and she agreed to have sex with him if he kept her secret and tried to find her a job on the ship. He introduced her to Captain Roger Courtney, who's got auburn hair and blue eyes. She, disguised as George, became his cabin boy. A crewman came into the room once and saw that she was a woman and agreed to keep it secret. Word got out to some that she was female and she got raped by a crewman. Soon after, the same day, she and Captain Roger where in his cabin. He raped her. When the penetration began she actually held him tighter to her. She thought this about the incident, "He held me tightly, shuddering and I knew that, though he had raped me, it was actually I who had conquered him."

All sorts of crazy nonsense takes place for the rest of the novel, far too much to get into. I got real bored after about a third of the way through it and couldn't wait to finish it. Way too much manly sea stuff and fighting for my liking.

Karl is thrown overboard and is presumed dead until he shows up years later. Mary ends up in Cuba married to a Cuban man named Pablo Gómez. She'd met him previously. She finds out from her maid that he's been raping and beating her. The maid takes her to a dungeon where Pablo currently has four girls chained up and hanging from the ceiling. During this time, Captain Roger Courtney shows up. She still loves him and agrees to sail away with him, even though the's still married to Pablo, to his home in England, where he's a Lord and no longer a pirate. That's how the story ends.

It's totally implausible that a feminine woman could live several years dressed as a man and have no one know it. How stupid do authors think we, the
readers, are? And this whole time, there was no mention of Mary ever getting pregnant. The stuff with the dungeon could have been interesting if the author hadn't thrown that in out of the blue during the last few pages.

This is one over-the-top story. It's only 296 pages and too much action is packed into it. I got this book in September 2009 and have finally read it. I was impressed with the craziness of it but my excitement died shortly after I started reading it.






A DUKE TO REMEMBER by Kelly Bowen

PUBLISHER: Forever, 7/2016
GRNRE: Fiction/Historical Romance
SETTING: England, 1819
SERIES: Season for Scandal, #2
AUTHOR SITE: link
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: C

FROM PUBLISHER: Elise deVries is not what she seems. By night, the actress captivates London theatergoers with her chameleon-like ability to slip inside her characters. By day, she uses her mastery of disguise to work undercover for Chegarre & Associates, an elite agency known for its discreet handling of indelicate scandals. But when Elise is tasked with locating the missing Duke of Ashland, she finds herself center stage in a real-life drama.

Noah Ellery left the glamour of the London aristocracy to pursue a simpler life in the country. He's managed to avoid any complications or entanglements—that is, until he lays eyes on Elise and realizes there's more to this beautiful woman than meets the eye. But when Elise reveals her real identity—and her true feelings for him—the runaway duke must confront the past he left behind . . . to keep the woman he loves forever.



MY THOUGHTS/SPOILERS: This story was interesting enough and was more romantic suspense than romance. The plot was pretty simple and easy to follow along with. No complicated subplots to distract from the main one. I liked both lead characters alright.

The synopsis isn't completely accurate and it's the publishers fault. It states that 'Noah Ellery left the glamour of the London aristocracy to pursue a simpler life in the country' but that's false. At the age of ten he was forced into an insane asylum for absolutely no reason, then escaped a few years later. He had no choice but to go into hiding. He didn't chose to leave 'the glamour of the London aristocracy'. He was forced to live a secret life for fear of being caught and sent back against his will.

Some things I didn't like. I find it very hard to believe that Elise found Noah right away without even looking for him. I find it hard to believe too that Noah's friend Joshua, the one he escaped with when he was fifteen and hasn't seen since, was also involved in finding him. I don't find it plausible at all that Elise could be masquerading as a man sometimes without anyone suspecting she's female. I'd have liked for Noah's evil cousin Francis Ellery to have been in the story a lot more instead of just being at the beginning and end. His involvement in this story was far more interesting to me than that of Elise and Noah and far more interesting than the sex scenes.

I'm disappointed that Noah didn't converse with his mother about being sent away all those years ago. I was hoping she hadn't been involved in the plot, in fact I was assuming we'd find out she hadn't been, but they never even spoke to one another.

I think Noah's thirty-five years old but I'm not sure and I have no idea how old Elise is. We got no backstory at all on her. I don't think I'd read this author again.

Lastly, there's a line in the story (page 137 of the ARC) where Noah said, "I.Don't.Want.The.Title'. Please keep that awful modern-day way of typing out of historicals.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


FALLEN WOMEN by Sandra Dallas

fallenPUBLISHER: St. Martin's Press, 10/2013
GENRE: Historical Mystery
SETTING: Colorado, USA, 1885
AUTHOR SITE: link
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: A

FROM PUBLISHER: It is the spring of 1885 and wealthy New York socialite Beret Osmundsen has been estranged from her younger sister, Lillie, for a year when she gets word from her aunt and uncle that Lillie has died suddenly in Denver. What they do not tell her is that Lillie had become a prostitute and was brutally murdered in the brothel where she had been living. When Beret discovers the sordid truth of Lillie’s death, she makes her way to Denver, determined to find her sister’s murderer. Detective Mick McCauley may not want her involved in the case, but Beret is determined, and the investigation soon takes her from the dangerous, seedy underworld of Denver’s tenderloin to the highest levels of Denver society. Along the way, Beret not only learns the depths of Lillie’s depravity, but also exposes the sinister side of Gilded Age ambition in the process.



MY THOUGHTS: I really enjoyed this. It's a rare occurrence that I'm anxious to continue reading a book after I've put it down temporarily but that's what happened every time I put the book down to take a break from reading. For me it was a true page-turner.

This was an interesting whodunit. We're given plenty of suspects, some of which I wouldn't have suspected of the murders. Was it someone's ex-husband or possibly a father-son duo? The coachman or the butler? Or none of them? Someone close to her or a stranger? Lillie had been involved with many men and the killer could have been any one of them. I like William, the uptight butler, and would like to see him in a future novel. At one point I was wondering if it was him who'd done the killings. I was only slightly surprised to find out who the real killer was. When you read a book like this you suspect everyone at one point.

I don't like the heroine, Beret, at all. She's cold and a bit curt with most people. She loves yet hates Lillie, who at twenty-two is ten years younger than herself. They're the opposite appearance-wise and perhaps Beret is a touch jealous. I didn't have an opinion about Beret early on. I began to dislike her strongly when I got to the part when she thinks to herself that she 'hated' Lillie and she 'deserved' to die, presumably for being a prostitute. Then I learned about where some of her dislike for her came from and how Lillie came to live, at first with their aunt and uncle in Denver, then the brothel, and I understood some of her hatred but not her thinking Lillie deserved to die. She also thought Jonas, the seventeen-ish coachman, was 'ugly' which made me uncomfortable since he's got something physically wrong with him. When she learned Mick came from money she asked him why he worked. That irritated me and made me think she was an idiot for asking such a stupid question. But of course she's not an idiot.

I like the detective, Mick, a lot and like how his part in the story ends. I hope this story turns into a series. It reminds me a bit of the Deadly series by Brenda Joyce, what with the rich heroine helping the detective hero, and the reporter who's out to pester them. I'd really like to read about them working together some more.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


GIRLVERT: A PORNO MEMOIR by Oriana Small aka Ashley Blue

PUBLISHER: Rare Bird Lit, 6/2011
GENRE: Nonfiction/Memoir
FILM LIST: link
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: A-

FROM PUBLISHER: Proclaimed "girl-pervert" Oriana Small, AKA Ashley Blue, a veritable artist at heart, weaves through the intricacies of a decade in and out of the adult film industry, love, drugs, and her own firebrand of what it means to live ecstatically. From accolades to agony, Girlvert illuminates the surreality of a life lived beyond all comprehension.



MY THOUGHTS: This dark and depressing, brutal at times. I've never read about someone as hardcore as her. She goes beyond the basic porn vaginal, anal, double penetration, comeshot-to-the-face. She's a product of drug addicted parents and she went on to become a binge eating bulimic at twelve and a drug abuser soon after. I can't understand how a person can do drugs and drink alcohol 24/7 and still live...and with no food in your system either. How can you function?!

I feel bad for her childhood but have no sympathy for her once she entered the world of porn. But she never asked for any. She seems to enjoy what she does. It's unclear to me if she's completely off drugs. I never got the feeling that she ever wanted to be drug free. She doesn't seem to care about herself at all and several times said that she just wants people (porn actors/producers/friends) to 'love' her. She's never gotten any type of counseling (that I know of) for her eating disorder, drugs or her bad childhood, nor did she ever mention the word counseling. This quote from her and the word happiness from her book disturbs me- 'I have always had a high thresh for the gross, the vulgar, the sickening. For me it is a source of happiness and excitement.'

Some things Oriana told us made me cringe and wince and just feel depressed. I feel like she blamed her boyfriend, fellow porn actor and fellow drug addict Trent for a lot of the porn she did. She was very easy to manipulate. She doesn't seem to like women and always called them, herself included, sluts and whores.

The part where she met her future husband, Dave Naz, was far too rushed as were the parts where she briefly mentioned working for Playboy TV. She never mentioned her coworkers there by name. I think she didn't want to give the females attention in her own book.

This book is definitely a keeper for me but it's not for everyone, that's for sure.

You can check out her blog.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.



KEEPING SECRETS by Suzanne Somers

PUBLISHER: Warner Books, 2/1988
GENRE: Nonfiction/Memoir
PURCHASE: link
AUTHOR SITE: link
MY GRADE: A+

FROM PUBLISHER: This is the story of the Suzanne Somers the world never knew...the shy, frightened child trembling at her father's drunken rages, the troubled teenager who became a pregnant bride, the young model struggling to support her son, the rising star still haunted and controlled by her past. It's the story she wrote for America's millions of adult children of alcoholics, people who don't drink, yet suffer from and need help against the ravages of this insidious disease. And it's a story of incredible courage, a candid, sometimes shocking autobiography of a woman who dared to face the dark side of her soul and triumph over it.



MY THOUGHTS: This memoir was much darker than I'd anticipated. Actually, I didn't expect anything like it. Suzanne's father (born to Irish immigrant parents) and all three of her siblings are recovering alcoholics, or were before the book was published in early 1988. Her father's side has quite a few in the family.

Her father was an angry, verbally abusive foulmouthed man who was never not drinking. The house was constantly filled with chaos and there was some violence. The father was assaulted by three of the children at different times when they were teenagers. Suzanne once hit him in the head with a tennis racket when she was sixteen, resulting in a bloody head injury that required medical attention, her older sister kicked him in the ribs and broke them, and her younger brother broke his ribs too. Suzanne wet the bed until she was in her early teens, her younger brother did too, and Suzanne began having nightmares in first grade. She'd hide in her bedroom closet a lot too to get away from the yelling. Her mother stood by her man and allowed her four children to be raised up in a mess but Suzanne holds nothing against either parent.

Suzanne didn't have it easy in her early life and career. She comes from a religious Catholic family and went to Catholic schools. She got expelled from one when she was 14 because a snooping nun found in her locker a somewhat explicit poem she wrote about a boy she was interested in. She got pregnant when she was not quite 17 1/2, got married to the father, had the baby, Bruce Jr., in November 1964, one month after her 18th birthday, then began having an affair with a much older man (47). Her marriage ended a few years later and she began dating her current husband, Alan Hamel, even though he was married with two children. They married about nine years later, in 1977. Acting and modeling jobs were few and far between so she had major trouble paying bills and was even arrested for bouncing checks. She got pregnant by Alan shortly after and had an abortion and almost hemorrhaged to death in the days following. She shot nude test photos for possible publication in Playboy magazine but changed her mind about it and never signed the release. Playboy released the photos anyway years later after she became famous by being on Three's Company.

Sadly she didn't discuss the controversy surrounding her firing from Three's Company in 1980 but she may discuss it in her second memoir, 1998's After The Fall.

I think the book is well written, I loved it and have nothing bad to say about it.



BLACK CHRISTMAS by Thomas Altman

PUBLISHER: Bantam, 12/1983
GENRE: Fiction/Contemporary Horror
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: C

FROM PUBLISHER: Christmas in Murdock. A time of cozy safety, snowy sidewalks, and carolling children. But this holiday season someone is bating Sheriff Dunsmore in a bizarre and deadly game. Someone is stalking the young women he knows and loves...seducing them with icy steel...leaving them for him to find - far too late. It's the night before Christmas. The frightened town edges toward panic. And Dunsmore is about to receive the most terrifying gift of all.








MY THOUGHTS: I should state that this novel has nothing to do with the 1974 film Black Christmas (though that was novelized in 1976 by Lee Hays).

This was fairly boring. Three young women from the same town are murdered at different times within a short period of time in the days leading up to Christmas, and a fourth was almost killed. It wasn't until shortly before the killer was revealed that I'd guessed who they were.

There were the usual suspects- ex-husband, odd boy in town, ect., neither of which turn out to be the killer. I don't understand the significance of the number thirteen; each victim was stabbed thirteen times. The reason for killing two of the three doesn't make any sense and it wasn't explained why the killer had those two on their radar anyway. The ending is odd too, somewhat happy, and I'm not at all satisfied with it. The novel needed to be slightly longer so we could have gotten some answers as to what the killer was thinking.

This wasn't suspenseful enough and it wasn't good enough to recommend.


SWEET HELL ON FIRE by Sara Lunsford



PUBLISHER: Sourcebooks, 11/2012
GENRE: Nonfiction/Memoir/Prison
AUTHOR TWITTER: link
MY GRADE: A

FROM PUBLISHER: As a corrections officer at an all-male maximum security prison, Sara Lunsford worked with the worst of the worst, from serial killers to white supremacists. She knew that at the end of every day, she had to try and shed the memories of the horrors she had witnessed in order to live a happy existence. But the darkness invaded every part of her life. And dealing with a stressful divorce and a mother sucumbing to cancer led her to a complete immersion in her work and eventually the bottom of a liquor bottle. Sweet Hell on Fire takes the reader on a journey with the author, from hitting rock bottom to becoming a woman who understands the meaning of sacrifice, the joy of redemption and the quiet haven to be found in hope.


MY THOUGHTS: I've been interested in nonfiction, specifically true crime, since the mid-1990s and jumped at the chance to review this. I like reading and watching shows about the darker side of life. I thought it would be real interesting to read about working in the prison system from a woman's point of view.

The book was everything I thought it would be- disturbing and disgusting. Did I mention the cup of semen Sara found in an inmate's cell? The author's narrative is raunchy and unfiltered and is a bit much at times. I'm not offended but some of her language made me cringe. If you're bothered by foul language, you'll want to skip this. Her calling herself 'fat' was way too repetitive, as was her constantly telling us how tough she was. We get it- you're 6' tall, 'fat' and tougher than any man you've ever come across. Move on to something else. I'm interested in knowing if she'd like to find her birth parents and how old she is.

This was a very entertaining read and I do recommend it to those interested in prison life.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


À LA MODE: 120 Recipes in 60 Pairings: Pies, Tarts, Cakes, Crisps, and More Topped with Ice Cream, Gelato, Frozen Custard, and More by Mark Scarbrough and Bruce Weinstein

PUBLISHER: St. Martin's Griffin
GENRE: Cookbooks/Baking
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: B

FROM PUBLISHER: Are you ready to take your baking over the top? Here are sixty decadent and delightful ice creams and the sixty desserts that are their vehicles. A la Mode offers not just solid dessert recipes, from raspberry oat bars to bear claws, from chocolate pecan pie to a white chocolate pavlova, but also gives you the unforgettable pairings that make these desserts smash hits: apple cranberry pie with Camembert ice cream, chocolate sheet cake with salt caramel frozen custard, and espresso cream jelly roll with mascarpone ice cream.

Let's face it: vanilla can sometimes be so... vanilla. A great a-la-mode pairing should be as decadent as finding the perfect wine to go with your cheese plate. With À la Mode, IACP winners and cookbook dynamos Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough show you how to create innovative delights such as creamy hazelnut gelato atop coffee-poached pears, or maple frozen custard with a mouthwatering cinnamon roll cake, alongside simpler classics like confetti ice cream with layered vanilla birthday cake. You haven't lived until you've had peanut brittle pie with popcorn ice cream, a Cracker Jack fantasy!




THINGS I'VE MADE


RASPBERRY OAT BARS


These turned out really good and they have great crunch. The dough is made from butter, white and brown sugar, rolled oats, flour, almonds, egg white, salt. I left out the cinnamon. I added a little vanilla extract to the mixture and added 1/8t almond extract to the raspberry jam.

I think this could have used just 3/4c. jam instead of 1c. Of course you could substitute any other jam for the raspberry. I cut my bars, which were made in a 9" square baking pan, into six pieces. If you happen to have a 7" square pan you could probably make just half of this recipe.


CHERRY-VANILLA FROZEN CUSTARD


This has egg yolks in it, vanilla extract, milk, cream, sugar, salt, and canned sweet cherries. I don't like that you can taste the egg, but I knew this was custard so I expected an egg taste. It was very easy to prepare in a sauce pot and my cold mixture took about 30 minutes in the ice cream maker before it thickened enough to pour into my container to freeze. When I went to eat some twenty hours later it was of a perfect scooping consistency. I used less vanilla extract than called for but it was still way too much. I'd make this again using less vanilla. When I ate the last of it four days after freezing the mixture, I didn't even notice an eggy taste.


CHOCOLATE SOUR CHERRY LAYER CAKE


I made half the recipe in an 8"x2" square pan and didn't layer sour cherry jam between layers. It baked in 26 minutes. I made my own buttercream frosting for this. This is very bitter. It's made with both unsweetened cocoa powder and melted semisweet chocolate. It's dense like a brownie.

I'd never make this again and words can't describe my disappointment. I've made countless chocolate cakes and none have ever been bitter.



ORANGE SHERBET


This is made with milk, cream, sugar, clear corn syrup, unflavored gelatin, salt, orange juice, and orange zest. It has a very pale orange color. It tastes good, like a Creamsicle® but it's got ice crystals all through it and it's not creamy like you'd expect and falls apart. My mixture took 28 minutes in the ice cream maker  After freezing 24 hours it was pretty firm. I'm not sure what the gelatin did for this, or the corn syrup. I'd make this again but only if I couldn't find a creamier recipe elsewhere.


LEMON POLENTA CAKE


This buttery cake has good flavor and smells good too. It's made with fine ground polenta, flour, plain yogurt, lemon juice, and lemon zest. It's dense and slightly moist. The texture is not that of a standard cake since this has polenta in it. It's more coarse. I made half in a 9"x1.5" round pan. It sunk in the middle slightly. It baked in 19 minutes. I made my own thick vanilla glaze for it. I used the zest from one lemon for this and it's the right amount.



SOUR CHERRY COBBLER


This recipe uses all sour cherries but I used just one drained can of them and a 16oz. bag of frozen dark sweet pitted cherries. I used a 1.5qt baking dish. The topping has ground almonds in it. My topping was wetter than it should have been though I used the exact amount of milk specified in the recipe. It didn't taste good either and was a little too salty. The bottom of the topping was wet from the moisture from the cherries. I wouldn't make this again.




PEACH ICE CREAM


This uses fresh peaches, milk, cream, salt, cornstarch, and peach nectar. It took just 23 minutes in the ice cream maker to thicken. The peach flavor is very subtle, as is the peach color. Because you can barely taste the peach I wouldn't make this one again.


APPLE-CRANBERRY STREUSEL PIE


I left out the crust and cranberries, so this really isn't a pie. In the topping I used light brown sugar instead of dark. I added salt to the apples, as well as cinnamon. The topping is pretty good but after processing it, it wasn't like cracker crumbs but was thick and creamy. I dolloped it evenly over the apples and it spread out nicely. The top of it was crispy but the underside was moist from touching the apples. Not the best topping because it softens.




MY THOUGHTS: Though I'm happy with six of the eight things I made, I'm disappointed in this book. There are two more chocolate cake recipes and one brownie recipe in here but sadly I'm not comfortable making any of them because of how awful the one chocolate cake I made turned out. There are a few other ice cream/frozen custards I'd like to make and only a couple more baked goods.

There's not a basic chocolate ice cream recipe in here. The one basic vanilla ice cream recipe has chopped chocolate added and was given a fancy unpronounceable name. I wish there were a few more fruit sorbet recipes, those using no dairy.

There's not a photo of everything but there are quite a few and they're beautiful.


I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.