How Speleology Restored My Sex Drive by Michael Bernhart

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First things first, I had to look up ‘speleology’. Having never heard this word I was intrigued, since it was linked with everybody’s favorite word, ‘sex’. I suspect we’re all disappointed to find that it is simply the study and exploration of caves, but without this great word the book would lack direction. This is written in first-person by Max, whose wife is Sally and nine-year-old twin daughters are Mary and Margaret. Max and Sally find them adorable, however, they are not blind to their daughters’ tendencies, which consist of going their own way in spite of their parents, easily convincing and dragging innocent bystanders right along with them.

Let’s begin. This is a very entertaining story. Apparently, Max has gone treasure hunting in the past and now has two daughters and a wife who think spending their summer vacation doing a rather dangerous activity is just the thing to bring new meaning to the word vacation. Max can’t stand against his family of women and, being the only dissenting vote, he prepares to spend time with them in the Georgia mines, searching for Confederate gold.

Sally has a fascinating uncle, Skeeter. As a young man he excelled at whatever he put his hand to and always tried to do the right thing. His return from serving in Vietnam brought home a very different man, one who brawled his way through his enlistment along with accumulating several AWOLs. No one knows how he supports himself and as they grow accustomed to his conversations, consisting of spies, implanted chips and chemicals, the family decides Skeeter is just as fine a man as he was before he served. Skeeter has a lot of stories about Confederate gold: who had carried it during the Civil War, who had delivered it during the war, and who had likely buried it during the war. He is more than happy to share what information he has and, as they sit in a local restaurant, they pour over maps of mines in the area. They make their plans and agree to meet the next morning.

Max and Sally awake to discover their daughters have talked Skeeter into starting their hunt early. They have not left a note and Max and Sally have no idea where they are or which mine they should hit first. They decide to go to Skeeter’s place to look for clues. What they find is vague, but they finally settle on a mine to investigate, looking for their twins.

There is always a bad guy(s) and, unfortunately, their waitress from the prior evening is married to one. Once she spreads the word of the possibility of gold in the mines, there is no way to keep it quiet. Being the only ones on the dirt road near Skeeter’s home, Max and Sally are passed by several men in pickups. Wondering why anyone would want to travel the bumpy road to Skeeter’s, Max turns around and follows. They hide in the brush while the men begin yelling for Skeeter, carelessly shooting guns and hitting Skeeter’s dog. Max can tell by the look on Sally’s face that she is not going to forget what happened to this dog. Well aware that the men are drunk, Max is much more careful following them. Since they are looking for Mary and Margaret also, there is no way Max and Sally aren’t going to be right behind these men until they can manage to get in front of them. However, these guys are playing for keeps and they discover they better find the girls before anyone else does.

I like a story that has fun and action and this one does. Max and his wife can’t help but meet interesting people with wild backgrounds. Such as the young employee, Shawn, at the car rental. Who knew that shortly his car would be blown to smithereens and for his own safety he should travel along with the treasure hunters? Or Bob and Brenda, an older couple who live along a trail to one of the mines. Bob looks to be in his seventies and Brenda appears to be in her fifties. He has hair sprouting on his shoulders and she, wearing a bikini, has more leathery skin than any human should be forced to see. There are plenty of fascinating characters and, unfortunately, the bad people are truly bad. I couldn’t wait to see what Sally was going to do when it came to revenge for Skeeter’s dog. Did I mention she carries a gun?

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – I would call this book suspense with humor for adults and teens.
  • Level of sexuality – Low.
  • Is there graphic language? Some.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? I did and it also made me smile in amusement a lot.
  • Is this part of a series? Yes, the Max Brown series.
  • Level of character development – These are well-rounded characters.

I believe I would enjoy the other Max Brown books and I give this one ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 stars.

Available here on Amazon

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The Lucky One by Sylvie Stewart

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The premise of this romance is one that all romance readers have encountered before. While the basis of it is not particularly original, the writing is witty and hilarious, making it definitely worth the read. It may not have any surprises, but the delivery is a wonderful surprise of its own.

It begins with the typical gorgeous girl who thinks she is unattractive and unworthy of love. It also has the typical gorgeous guy who is obligated to convince her of her delectable sexiness. Of course, the reasoning behind her hang-up is eventually cleared up and then you understand why she thinks so little of herself in comparison to his Adonis-state. There are a lot of stereotypes in this story, such as her girlfriends all calling each other bitch and squealing like little girls, and guys who are macho and cannot show their feelings. Thankfully, Bailey is anti-girly and fights hard to maintain that status. Jake also tries to break the mold by being the guy who is in touch with his feminine side and acknowledges his emotions. They balance out the side characters to a certain degree.

The story is told first-person and it is that fact that makes it so enjoyable. All the entertainment comes from the inner dialogue, some of which is directed right at the reader. If I had not been able to hear what Bailey was thinking I would have viewed her as a girl who likes to make a guy work a little too hard for her attention. No matter what I would have liked Jake. He does work hard to get her attention. It is a refreshing break from so many romances where the guy must “own” her. I love having a male lead who is a down-to-earth guy instead of a pompous showboat who tosses her over his shoulder and takes her back to his cave.

While I enjoyed the main characters immensely, I had some difficulty with one aspect of the writing. The style is wonderful, but there is an overload of cultural and/or social references that went right over my head. I have never encountered a book like this, where I had to google terms, some of which I couldn’t locate. Perhaps they were too obscure, but I was supposed to get it right off the bat. Just one example is dead rabbit pregnancy. That reference threw me for a loop and was a shock. There are numerous phrases that are intended to be funny, but when even my auto-correct cannot figure it out, it’s simply frustrating. While reading this story I was forced to learn what French bowling is and that apparently it is also referred to as boules, bocci ball, and cornhole. YouTube was the only thing that answered my question there. I also had to look up IPA, because the context was barely there and all I garnered was that it was alcohol. Too many phrases were stated with the expectation that the reader is up on all things cultural and an avid lover of the Urban Dictionary.

This book could have been a hard one for me to read. I’m not easily impressed with romance since they all tend to follow the same formula. This is no exception, but it was consistent with its sense of humor and the characters never strayed. It was strongly written and overall I’m impressed with how well the author made a typical romance truly stand out.

Now, for the rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – Romance for adults only.
  • Level of sexuality – It’s graphic when it’s there. It is surprisingly low considering how they met and the entire beginning of the story, but when it happens there are plenty of juicy details.
  • Is there graphic language? Of course. No contemporary romance is complete without a good dose of swearing.
  • Did I cry? Nope.
  • Did I laugh? Not out loud, but I chuckled inwardly all the way through.
  • Is this part of a series? The characters are definitely interwoven in other stories. In fact, the end of the book lets readers know to expect the next character’s happily-ever-after later in 2017.
  • Level of character development – Bailey and Jake are well done. Considering they somewhat follow typical romance leads, I was delighted with how well it was handled, making them stand out amongst the rest. The side characters were a boost to the story and did not disappoint.

The actual story itself is nothing new. It is the genius of the writing that makes it stand out. The first part of the book was a little slow, but at the halfway mark it picked up and I couldn’t put the book down. It might have taken a while for it to grow on me, but I’m glad I stuck with it. I highly suggest it for all romance readers who want a well-written, hilarious tale of insta-love. I gladly give this ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 stars.

Available here on Amazon

Available here on Barnes & Noble

Perfect Tenn by Heather Dahlgren

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This romantic comedy is a difficult one to review. There are so many strengths, but there are some weaknesses that detract from the overall story. I enjoyed it immensely and read it very quickly. It is a book that I definitely suggest for romance readers.

Regan is a gorgeous redhead who lives with her equally gorgeous best friend, Tennyson. They’ve known each other almost all their lives and at twenty-three they decide sharing an apartment is perfect for them. It’s a typical premise, but has some flair that makes it a unique read. Regan hasn’t had a date in over two years. The author doesn’t just come out and say it is due to her subconscious desire for Tenn, but it is obvious from page one. Her friends, including Tenn, convince her that she needs a real man, instead of her drawer of sex toys. So, they set her up on a series of hilarious but disastrous dates. The story is told first-person Regan and she is a riot. From start to finish, she never let me down and I laughed until I cried.

Initially, Tenn sleeps with everything in a skirt with such exuberance that Regan has to wear earplugs. It becomes clear within a few pages that he has the hots for Regan, but won’t just come out and say it. So, like many other romance novels with this storyline, he thinks having lots of sex with anonymous women will get her attention. It certainly does. Only instead of making her realize he wants her, she thinks he’s a man-whore. Slut status aside, he’s a very likeable guy. He’s not as funny as Regan, but it’s not told from his perspective and he cannot hold a candle to Regan’s sarcasm.

One of my issues with the book is the parents. Both Regan’s and Tenn’s parents are best friends and apparently do everything together. They are also single-minded and think about nothing but sex. They draw their children into these wildly inappropriate conversations and give descriptive details of their own insanely active sex lives. The first encounter was awkward, but humorous. The second was still funny, but even more awkward. This went on through the entire book. Regan would beg them to stop, but it seemed that they could only discuss sex. At one point, both mothers take Regan for a girl’s day, which included a trip to a sex shop. The mothers are overjoyed and act like they are in heaven. Regan hides outside in the parking lot. I felt sorry for her, because they did not seem to care that they made her so uncomfortable that she had to down a bottle of wine just to get through dinner. What was incredible was that they had dinner with their parents several times a week. If my parents humiliated me and asked about my sex life, then compared it to theirs, including what they had just been up to seconds before I rang the bell, I would rarely see them.

Another aspect of the book that bothered me was Tenn’s idiotic idea that having scream-inducing sex every weekend right on the other side of the wall from Regan would make her realize he was attracted to her. It’s a premise I’ve seen a million times and I’m always confounded. I know that it is for drama and it definitely fits the bill, but she would have to wonder if he had picked up something nasty after banging a thousand easy women. Apparently, nothing says ‘I love you’ like excessive copulation with anyone other than that person.

Even with my personal issues regarding this book, I still read it all the way through and enjoyed most of it. Regan was the perfect storyteller; she was a riot, she was a strong woman who swore like a sailor, and she was the perfect amount of aloof when it came to Tenn. The side characters were entertaining, although the parents were too much for me, and added just the right amount of funny without detracting from the couple. Typos were a huge problem. I read the e-book, so I do not know if the print version has been edited, but it was obvious that this one hadn’t. I am amazed, because the author is clearly gifted and was able to produce such a wonderful story without reading through it to check for errors. It was enough to make me pause, but the fact that I finished says a lot for this book.

For the rating:

  • Genre and general audience – romantic comedy and only for mature readers.
  • The level of sexuality – is incredibly high. It’s dirty and graphic. Not only do the parents think about it constantly, so does Regan. The difference is she doesn’t give play-by-play until later on.
  • Is there graphic language? Tons. It’s always refreshing when it’s not just the guy who swears, which is a stereotype of most romances, and Regan has no problems using colorful descriptors.
  • Did I cry? Only from laughing so hard.
  • Did I laugh? Like I said; I laughed hard enough that I had to wipe a tear from my eye.
  • Is this part of a series? It is a stand-alone.
  • Level of character development – Both Regan and Tenn are highly developed. Regan is a well-rounded character and never slips. Tenn is also a constant, once he makes a story-altering decision. Of course, Regan doesn’t pick up on it, but the reader sees it right away. The side characters are fairly one-sided, but they are consistent and serve their purposes well.

I loved the book, even with the plethora of typos. I can forgive a certain amount and after that I usually stop reading, but this story kept me hooked and I had to see what entertaining scene was going to happen next. For being a popular storyline, it stood out amongst the others I have read, because it was so well-written (aside from the lack of editing) and the never-ending laughter. If the parents had been toned down just a bit and a second round of editing done, I would have given it one of my very rare five stars. What can I say? I love to laugh. As it stands, I’m happy to give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars. I highly recommend this book for romance readers who want a light, happy read and I am looking out for more from Ms. Dahlgren.

Available here on Amazon

Didn’t Get Frazzled by David Z. Hirsch, M.D.

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Seth Levine has always wanted to be a medical doctor and his first year of medical school consists of equal measurement of intimidation and being overwhelmed. Wanting to be able to share the agony, his friends are mostly medical students who can relate. Sometimes they meet at each other’s homes for parties, sometimes it’s just drinking themselves almost beyond the point of recovery, and other times it might be a really strange club with people doing really strange things. Medical school means open your mind to the future and why shouldn’t that mean the same for entertainment? Spending four years of school together leads to their lives entwining to the point that they rely on each other for support, entertainment, and if someone needs a new special friend there is always a kind student waiting to introduce their rather unattractive classmate from high school. These students’ attitude seems to be ‘work hard and play harder’, sometimes with a little more joy than commonsense.

Seth has a mischievous sense of humor. For example, naming his cadaver Homer, after the Simpsons, and then feeling he has done him a disservice and claims that he’s named after the Greek poet instead. In another instance, he helps a patient get out of the hospital by telling her to simply repeat, “I want to go home,” over and over to her doctor. Guess what? It works and with enough of it, her doctor is more than willing to send her home. There’s also the first gynecological exam, which consists of examining the instructor with three other students as witness. Eww. There is plenty of amusing tales to keep readers’ minds running in circles.

Seth’s girlfriend, April, is his buffer between school and his reality outside of medicine. She’s a bit of a quirky gal, sometimes taking herself a little too seriously, forcing Seth to adjust to these moments. They’ve been together since college, and even though he knows they’re not the perfect couple, he figures they’ll probably go on forever. Gradually, it dawns on him that his friends are not hers and that she is finding companions of her own. As his life becomes consumed by medical school, he’s not surprised when April announces she has found another man, a smarmy one who will focus only on her. They decide to ride it out for a month, due to their lease. For Seth, it can’t be over soon enough, especially since he hates her new man, Dennis, enough to daydream about punching his face in until he’s just a smear on the floor. He also finds he can barely manage to be civil, when she announces a weekend away with Dennis. He already knows that life without her will be a big challenge and, of course, there is an unattractive classmate waiting in the wings.

This book is entertaining from start to finish. Even with down moments that come with life, these people go through medical school focused on success and the shenanigans that give them just the right amount of laughter, the reader too. This is the grease to our squeaky wheels of life. There are moments that I found hilarious and I read it in two days, happy to spend my time with this book. It is more than worth your time.

And now for the stars!

  • Genre and general reading age – Contemporary fiction for mature readers.
  • Level of sexuality – Miniscule. After all, they’re studying a lot of anatomy in class already.
  • Is there graphic language? Only in ‘medicine-ese’.
  • Did I cry? No, no, no!
  • Did I laugh? Long and loud!
  • Level of character development – Seth can’t help but mature. He has no other choice.
  • Is this part of a series? No.

I’m more than happy to give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars!