A Bargain in Silver by Josie Jaffrey

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I really enjoy storylines that are very different and unique. So, right up front I’m going to let you know this one is about vampires. Usually vampires don’t hold my attention, what with all the blood drinking and stuff going on, but this is not the typical vampire tale. (Still drinking blood, just a little more sophisticated about it.) They call themselves The Silver, because of the silver streaks that appear in their eyes, and they are a vicious group just about ready to take over the world. Then there are The Weepers, who are zombies with red tears running down their faces, and they enjoy munching on humans when they can catch them.

Emilia works at Parker’s Bar, where she and the other employees have become as close as most families. They let her know it is not a wise idea to walk home at night, but she informs them that she can make her own way. Of course, in the darkest area of the street, Emilia is frightened out of her wits when she is cut off by three strangers inside of a construction tunnel. One of them is a large man with blood around his mouth. What is that about?! Just as she is certain that she is looking death in the face, she is rescued by a very handsome man named Drew. He explains to her that she was almost attacked by Weepers and the best part…they like to eat people. Eww. As he tries to draw her away to a safe place, she refuses to budge and prefers to argue and demand answers, even as the streets fill with Weepers. Since he has the strength to rescue her from three scary monsters, I am unsure as to why he simply stands there and waits for the Weepers to get closer and closer. She’s looking rather obstinate and not too smart. Lucky for her, he has the patience of Job.

Eventually, Drew convinces Emilia that they will be much safer at his apartment. He lives in a very, very expensive building on the 10th floor. They hike their way up to his place, leaving her out of breath and exhausted. How about half dead? By the third floor most of us would be looking for the elevator key, but yes, there is a power outage. Once in the apartment, Drew brings her to the television and tells her to watch and listen. (No power outage? Or does he have a backup generator?) A very authoritative Silver introduces himself as Solomon and proceeds to tell the human population that to survive in the new social order they must do the job assigned to them and provide a monthly donation of blood. In return, the Silvers will provide for all their needs, such as health care, food, and housing. Emilia is utterly shocked and hardly capable of thinking, but moments later she is showing her strong will once again. She spots Drew on the stage with Solomon and wants to know just who he is and what she is doing in his apartment. It doesn’t take Drew long to convey his personal thoughts about Emilia (Could it be love?) and then it is up to her to decide what she is doing with him.

In time, Emilia meets Solomon and he shows interest in her. She is afraid of them both and wonders if there is a way to escape. She has a special place in this new society, though. While others are basically slaves, she is treated with care and continually speaks her mind without forethought. She questions everything and constantly makes demands, never recognizing that other women would not last long with her attitude. Even when her escape plans culminate with the deaths of three friends, she still does not soften her attitude or recognize the danger she is in.

The story is quite interesting with the a difference in the relationship between the Silver and the humans. There is a lot of action in some chapters, but then there is a slowing of the pace in the middle. Also, there is a certain amount of ‘cookie cutter’ story when it comes to the perfection of the Silvers and their out-of-this-world beauty. It’s a staple of vampire storylines and romance novels. After a few slow chapters, the story starts gaining speed again and rolls on to the end. Those who enjoy romance will like this one. Those who like vampires will absolutely enjoy the unique take on these bloodsuckers. However, I think the author had a real chance to develop a much larger and more interesting story if she had involved characters that were actually out in the slavish society, trying to survive.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – Fantasy/Romance for older teens and adults.
  • Level of sexuality – There is certainly a lot of thought on the subject, but the characters have a long way to go if they’re going to have any kind of real relationship.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? No. At times, I think Emilia was meant to be entertaining, but fell short. Or maybe I don’t know funny when I read it. (Yes, I do.)
  • Is this part of a series? Yes, and I admit that if the sequel were to land on my desk, I would probably read it just because I am insatiably curious on ‘unique’ takes on generic storylines.
  • Level of character development – The characters did not change and Emilia started as a spoiled child and it ended with her as a spoiled child. It would have been wise for her character to give maturing a try. I thought even Drew, the macho man, could have used at least a touch of strength when it came to dealing with his darling Emilia. The wringing of hands did not add to his character and only served to make him look weak.

I award this book ⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Available here on Amazon

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Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

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This book came highly recommended by many people and when I read the blurb I was intrigued. What followed was horror disguised as romance. Maybe I’m special – or have seen and experienced real life – and that is why I can see the dark truth hidden in this story geared towards young adults who will not recognize it, but I feel I have a duty to let others know what this story is really about: domestic abuse.

Abby is our main girl and she is someone who I tried very hard to like. She has a secret past that has her hiding (don’t all romances have someone with a deep, dark secret?) and wary about starting a romantic relationship. So, she runs off to college to make a fresh start. Unfortunately, this particular place of higher education is actually just an extension of high school and the book reads like it. In the same manner of the majority of young adult romance, the bad boy sees her and immediately must own her. The sad part is that she barely puts up a fight. She allows this man to control her and dictate how she lives her life. Time and time again, he abuses her and she forgives without fail and lets him walk all over her again. She never lacks for excuses for his bad behavior.

Travis is the campus bad boy who looks like Adonis and acts like Narcissus, only with a heavy dose of hidden insecurity. He’s a street fighter and takes a new woman, or three, to his couch every night. (Important Note: Even he subconsciously recognizes that his behavior is despicable, which is why he refuses to have sex with these desperate groupies in his bed. The filth stays on the couch and possibly in his blood. A smart woman would have him tested before ever going near him.) That is until he spots Abby. Like a dog with a bone, he’s not giving up on this stunning little lamb. When circumstances provide the opportunity to stay in his apartment and then ridiculously never leave, he forces her into his bed – “just to sleep”. Don’t be fooled by his noble declaration. He goes out of his way to make her uncomfortable in the bedroom, in the bathroom, in the living room, on campus, literally everywhere. She stubbornly stays in his apartment, even though he allows her no privacy and crams the emotional abuse down her throat. He also throws temper tantrums like a drunken toddler and doesn’t see the harm in that. For some inexplicable reason, he cannot understand why she is hurt by what he does and instead lashes out in anger, which happens a lot, and you can guess how he behaves when another man enters the picture.

What could have been an interesting, yet unoriginal, story was deeply disturbing. From the get-go I recognized Travis for what he truly was and found Abby’s inability to accept it and blindly falling for his tricks appalling. One of the most memorable moments was when they had a squabble and instead of acting like a big boy, he races off to a bar, where he gets wasted, and then brings home not one, but two, women and then proceeds to have an orgy loud enough to wake the neighbors. Abby’s response is to lay in HIS bed and cry and listen to the hours of moaning and screaming going on in the living room with the man she is falling for. Needless to say, he apologizes and swears it meant nothing, so she lets it slide. This hefty book continues in this fashion and never gives up in its quest for a happy ending. But, in reality, how can a man who refuses to fully acknowledge his abuse for what it is and a pitiful woman who condones his despicable behavior ever have a happy ending? The author made it seem like happily ever after, but it’s honesetly a story that millions of women live and regret deeply every day – smothered by an obsessive husband who keeps her on a tight leash and makes her believe she doesn’t deserve better.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – It is supposed to be a romance and is meant for young adults, but I would never advise my own daughters to read it, no matter how old they are.
  • Level of sexuality – Very high and at times repulsive. Nothing like listening to a raging orgy of wasted people rather than having the self-worth to walk right out the door, to make your stomach churn.
  • Is there graphic language? Heaps.
  • Did I cry? No, but it was touted as a spectacular “good cry book”. I have no idea why.
  • Did I laugh? Not at all.
  • Is this part of a series? Yes, apparently there is a second book, which is the same story told from Travis’s perspective.
  • Level of character development – I didn’t see much. The main characters were unlikable and weak. Weakness is not a bad thing and is a necessary element for a good story, but they didn’t overcome anything and evolve, which would have made them relatable and strong characters. The side characters were just as sorry. It seemed that nobody was ready to be an adult, but they were taking on the responsibilities that come with college living – booze, illegal fighting, lots of sex with random strangers, and the occasional class. I’d toss the petty gossiping into the mix, but that felt more high school and actually suited them just fine.

When this book arrived in the mail I couldn’t wait to tear into it. In the beginning, I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters, but I had high hopes that things would turn around. The book is massive, and my patient wait for them to become something better turned into dread over the fact that this book is a statement for women, telling them that it’s okay to accept a hot man’s abuse and scary obsession. What could have been a powerful testament to a man turning his life around and a woman loving and helping him change, turned into a how-to book for abused women. While the writing is undeveloped and immature – think more along the lines of something for a sixteen-year-old – it is the message that forces me to give this ⭐️ dismal star. There are thousands of people who love this book, but the likelihood of them being a reader who completely overlooked the nasty truth is extremely high, and I’m relieved to see that there are also thousands of women who know how damaging this book is. If you’re looking for a strong heroine who matures into someone you can respect, read Gone with the Wind. If you want someone who will eventually end up wearing long sleeves to hide the bruises, this is the book for you.

Available here on Amazon

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Dead Haven: A Zombie Novel by Flint Maxwell

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Dead Haven is another zombie story, but there’s a little more to it than just killing dead guys who won’t stay down. It starts with Jack Jupiter, who hates his home town and growing up there had been the worst time of his life. Unfortunately, his mother dies and he is the only one to arrange her funeral. In actuality, it’s nothing more than a burial. Fortunately, Darlene, the woman he loves more than anything or anyone, is present and helps make the ordeal bearable.

Jack hasn’t heard from his older brother, Norm, in a very long time and he’s fine with that, seeing that Norm had been their mother’s favorite. As the older brother, he had enjoyed being a constant trial for Jack while they were growing up. To make matters worse, he considers it unusually bad luck when Norm calls and says he’ll be at the burial. Jack is not ready to confront his brother and insists he leaves. Norm, after all, is not the one who took care of their mother and it aggravates Jack to no end that Norm will appear and act as the favored son, once again.

After the funeral, Jack figures they’ll have to eat eventually and heads off to the nearest mom and pop grocery story. He prefers to keep a low profile, but sooner or later he will be recognized as the successful zombie author he is. At the store, he is noticed by an old school bully who asks Jack about his success. He decides that belittling his former tormentor is the best way to handle the situation and announces that he’s disgustingly rich, and this once upon a time bully proceeds to beat the stuffing out of him. Jack limps back to the motel where Darlene waits. She tries to soothe his battered ego, but this is the final straw and he elects to work out at the gym owned by an old school friend, even though he despises working out.

This is where the zombies make their debut and where said bully’s father happens to be at the same time. You have probably guessed he is going to cause Jack all sorts of trouble, because he is a gem much like his son. As a group, they decide to sit and wait for rescue. Except Jack is not in agreement. He is terrified for Darlene and wants to get back to her. It’s amazing what a group of petrified people will do. Argue is first and foremost. They also look to Jack, since he’s a well-known author of zombie tales. That belief won’t get them far, as he has never actually encountered one and never expected to. This is an opportunity for Jack to show what he is made of. When pushed to lead, he doesn’t turn away, but attempts to lead a cantankerous, frightened group of people through the zombie apocalypse. Although Jack is a disappointment to himself, he actually comes across as someone who will do what needs to be done. All in all, he is not a letdown for the reader nor the book.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – Science fiction for teens and adults who enjoy those scamps we lovingly refer to as zombies.
  • Level of sexuality – There is some sexual activity, but it does not drive the story so much as it defines the relationship between Jack and Darlene.
  • Is there graphic language? There is some, but not to an extent that it had my attention more than the story.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? I had to smile sometimes just because of Jack’s opinions.
  • Is this part of a series? It is book one of the Jack Zombie series.
  • Level of character development – Jack continued to mature as a leader and a man in love with Darlene throughout the entire book.

I will be honest here and say that although I liked this storyline, I read the sequel and found it to be a more interesting book. For book one, I give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars. Start here and keep going.

Available here on Amazon