Two reviews: In the Mirror and Afterburn/Aftershock

Here are two reviews of Advanced Reader Copy books that I have recently read.  Because the author or publisher was kind enough to send them to me, I felt they deserved to be reviewed. These reviews were first posted at Red Room under my blog there, but they bear repeating.

In the Mirror
By Kaira Rouda
Real You Publishing Group  2014
ISBN # 978-0-9849151-4-9

     As the back cover of this novel, In the Mirror, says: Jennifer Benson has it all. She does have it all, that is, until she is diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer after giving birth to her second child, Hannah. She has a successful career running a clothing store called Clothes the Loop with her partner, Jacob. She has the perfect husband in Henry and two children, Hank and Hannah, whom she loves. She has supportive family and friends including fellow cancer patient, Ralph, who has become her best friend.
     What she doesn’t have is the assurance that she will survive. In fact, she may well be dying. While she spends her time undergoing chemo-therapies and investigational treatments at a cancer care facility called Shady Valley, her husband, children, and a nanny are coping at home, trying to keep their lives intact as she battles for her life and wellness. With each new therapy, hope waxes and wanes for her and her family.
     The idea that she could well be dying is what drives Jennifer. She worries whether her children will remember her; she despairs that Henry is already looking for a sexy replacement. As a result, she decides to throw a life celebration party for all of the people, past and present, in her life so that she can see everyone one last time, just in case. She’d rather a party than a funeral.          Although most of her friends see it as morbid, she gets support from her friends and family in designing and sending the invitations. Only Ralph, who is battling an invasive cancer of his own, really understands what she is going through as one therapy after another seems to fail, and depression engulfs them both.
     Ralph and she both feel lonelier as their respective spouses, Barbara and Henry, seem to distance themselves by treating their partners like platonic friends rather than sexual partners. Even Jennifer and Henry’s date nights at Shady Valley end in chaste kisses to the forehead.
Suddenly, Jennifer’s high school sweetheart, Alex, returns and begins to make visits to her. He romances her, showering her with affection during a time of vulnerability. But what are his motives? Does he have her best interest at heart? How will this affect Jennifer’s and Henry’s marriage? And what will happen to her friendship with Ralph?
     Overall, the questions this novel tries to answer are these: What choices would you make if you knew you might die? How would you live each day? Would you make different choices? And the one that got away, would the answer change under different conditions?
     The novel is, at times, sad, hopeful, humorous, and ambiguous…in its ending. It is up to the reader to decide what Jennifer’s fate is.
     As indicated at the beginning of this post, I’ll be looking forward to reading other novels by this author since she gives the reader something to think about long after the story is told.

Afterburn/Aftershock: A Review
Another recent Advanced Reader Copy that I received as a Goodreads giveaway was Sylvia Day’s Afterburn/Aftershock. I have read several of her novels in the past so I knew what to expect. She has written the Crossfire series (Bared to You, Reflected in You, and Entwined with You) which is a contemporary erotic romance novel series. She has also written a few historical romance novels (Seven Years to Sin, The Stranger I Married are just two examples).

By Sylvia Day
Published by Harlequin Enterprises Limited,
(Cosmo Red-Hot Reads), 2014
ISBN# 978-0-373-62243-6

     This novel is the first of the Cosmos Red-Hot Reads from Harlequin. It is a collaboration between the magazine, Cosmopolitan (Cosmo for short), and Harlequin Publishing. It is actually two novellas rolled into one. Although each of the novellas is complete as is, by combining them, the romance is fully fleshed out. Like other novels by Day, certain similarities (and trends) can be seen.
     This is a contemporary, erotically-charged romance novel, which is set in New York and Washington D.C. Gianna Rossi could be described as a quintessential Cosmo girl. She’s smart; she’s savvy; she’s sexy; and she’s beautiful. Add to that, she has a supportive family. Frankly, she wants to have it all and goes after her dream job. Her dream is that of working as an administrative assistant with Lei Yeung, a smart, savvy businesswoman in her own right. Gianna (or Gia as she is known to Jax) has nursed a broken heart for a couple years, but she has emerged stronger and better with the help of her close-knit family.
     The broken heart was caused by a quick, but potent romance with Jackson (Jax) Rutledge several years earlier. What Gia thought was love ended abruptly with Jax returning to Washington without a word. Jackson is the typical rich, alpha male. He’s handsome with strong, chiseled features, sexy mouth, deep brown, knowing eyes, and is cream-your-jeans hot. He looks good in power suits, jeans and t-shirts, and nothing at all.
By now, Lei and Gianna are a formidable team of powerbrokers in the restaurant industry. They have made fabulous deals, and are about to make the deal of a lifetime. That is, until two men, Ian Pembry and Jackson Rutledge, enter the picture. Ian was once allied with Lei, but after a betrayal years earlier, they aren’t any longer. In fact, there is no love lost between those two, now.
For Jackson, he wants to take up where he left off with Gia despite the fact that he is responsible for ruining this business opportunity. The sexual tension between the two remains as high as ever with Jackson making overture after overture to win her back (and into his bed).
     In a true romance genre tradition, it is a matter of time before Gianna and Jackson get together. Yet, at the core, there are some issues that must be resolved between the two. Ultimately, can those issues be resolved? Further, will their relationship ever be more than sex? Will the barriers separating them be broken down and a commitment of a lifetime made?
     Because of its contemporary nature, there are some steamy descriptions of sex. Recently published romance novels are much racier and more graphic than the earliest ones published. Yet, the authors of these romances indicate that the partners tend to practice safe sex by using condoms as befitting the awareness of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
     Because I often note what appears in nearly every novel, here is the lowdown on the trends seen in this story.
     What-the-tuck* trends found within the story:
          An extremely wealthy and drop-dead gorgeous man
          Messy hair including a ponytail

          References to expensive brands of clothes, shoes, and cars
          At least one green-eyed character
          And, of course, hair tucked behind the ear
     All in all, it is a light read as most romances are. It is not a literary novel, but then it doesn’t try to be; however, it certainly provides entertainment. It is perfect reading for a summer afternoon at the beach. As it says at the end, “…these sexy, contemporary romances are for today’s fun, fearless female,” and then what follows are several Cosmo quizzes if the reader is so inclined to take them.

  * A what-the-tuck trend is a feature that appears in nearly every novel. Suffice it to say, that I have noticed that novels are becoming predictable.

What books have you read lately, and have you discovered any WTT trends? 

About pedometergeek

A pharmacist by profession, a haiku poet by nature, I read and write. I have a book of haiku, Ohayo Haiku, and another somewhat alternative haiku book, Three Breaths, but write other genres. I also read...lots of novels! My favorite is, and remains, Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged but I am also a big Harry Potter fan. I truly am a pedometer geek strapping on my pedometer as soon as I awaken.
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