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If you're anything like us (and what are the odds of that?) you love to read. One morning in 2004, we spent a long time scouring the web for sites like this, and couldn't find any, so we had to make it ourselves. Keep in mind, we're essentially lazy, and if such a site already existed, we'd still be in bed with our favorite books. We're always open to a good, opinionated author who loves to review books, so if you want to review for us, send your sample review, CV and query to let us know. Welcome to Novelspot, the book-lovers paradise.

February on Novelspot

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New this month, Novelspot welcomes:

    Webutation

    bookcover: 
    Wild Song cover
    Author: 
    Jane Eagland
    Publisher: 
    Stoke Books
    Fiction: 
    ISBN/ASIN: 

    9781781121825

    Description of Sales Url: 
    Available from Amazon
    Review: 
    bookcover: 
    Cover of Belly Fat Breakthrough
    Author: 
    Dr. Stephen Boutcher
    Publisher: 
    Gallery Books
    Non-fiction_: 
    Rating: 
    5
    ISBN/ASIN: 
    9781476775500
    Description of Sales Url: 
    Purchase from Amazon
    Review: 

    Dr. Stephen Boutcher's Belly Fat Breakthrough is a statistically packed book defining various kinds of fat, how and where it is placed on the human body, how this fat reflects and influences your health, and what you can do about it. There is a mind-numbing quantity of study summaries, statistics, examples and references. The theories and reasons behind everything are painstakingly researched (or maybe I should say painfully.)

    After reading this, I was exhausted by the sheer quantity of specifics in chapters 1-5. There is more science here than need be (and I like science.) I don't really want to read about a scientific study to validate every other statement. Some of the study outcomes reflect country, race, age, gender, so who knows if the results can be extrapolated to the reader. Studies do not make me trust or believe a program more, because one can set up a study to prove just about anything and the sheer quantity of defense obfuscates whatever the doctor is trying to say. It makes being able to just read this book practically a painful experience. However, there are a number of tests, questionnaires, and do-it-yourself directions to dull even a Cosmo girl's pencil.

    If you can get past over-researched explanations why every little thing does what it does, you will find this: Boucher emphasizes high interval training, especially interval sprinting (great advice for someone with my knees.) He waxes on about the relationship between lifestyle changes, and healthy living to affect body composition. After five chapters of going on, chapter six a provides a six week plan. I found the book dry, not very readable and with no big surprises. Diets always come down to exercising more, and eating better, right? In those contexts, Boucher is very specific about what 'more' and 'better' mean. Note that my rating is more about readability than diet performance. I don't see myself taking Boucher on as a guru. To be completely fair, the true test of this book would be in following his plan and then referring to diet success to gauge the book's success.

    bookcover: 
    Author: 
    Frank Hopkinson
    Publisher: 
    Anova Books
    Non-fiction_: 
    Rating: 
    3
    ISBN/ASIN: 

    9781909396517

    Description of Sales Url: 
    Purchase from Amazon
    Review: 

    I read this compendium on sheds. You know In Forrest Gump, that Bubba monologue about shrimp? It's pretty much the same thing, except that the topic is sheds instead of shrimp. (I think I would prefer shrimp, since at least they can be eaten.) Apparently there are at least as many ways of building, using, and cuddling up to sheds as there are preparing and eating shrimp. I don't want to be unfair, but sheds are not my forté. Probably this book is a good gift for someone who is a backyard builder of sheds or a dweller of man-caves. But then I am reminded of my sister, whose back yard faced another yard in which someone had built a shed that had a nice porch and rocking chairs on it. She hated that shed, and sacrificed several feet across her back yard to grow shrubbery to hide what she thought of as a monstrosity. I expect her husband who could build or fix anything at the drop of a hat would love this book as much as she hated that shed. So given the potential for creating marital friction, give this carefully. I know the book has a audience of shed-lovers, but there are shed-haters out there too.

    bookcover: 
    The Dominant
    Author: 
    Tara Sue Me
    Series: 
    The Submissive Trilogy
    Publisher: 
    Penguin Group
    Rating: 
    7
    ISBN/ASIN: 

    9780451466235

    Description of Sales Url: 
    Purchase from Amazon
    Review: 

    Truth is, I haven't much to say about this one. Dominant is a fairly typical D/s romance.

    Dominant Nathaniel West is the rich Dom, and Abigail King is on a path to becoming his sub. She's a newbie, which he doesn't like. He prefers experience, but is willing to make the sacrifice because he was gaga over Abigail before she conveniently applied to be his sub. Yes, applied. West has a matchmaker who gets these potential subs for him. I doubt the agent is listed in the yellow pages, but didn't examine that part too closely.

    The story is written by Tara Sue Me, who is a woman; and the point of view character is Nathaniel West. I find myself getting off track in the book, wondering if she's got the internal mechanics of his head correct. Is this the thinking of a Dom, or an idealized Dom that the author is imagining. Since I have never fathomed what goes on in a dominant man's head in certain circumstances (beatings? whippings?), this becomes a story-breaker for me.

    The story falls into the same category as Fifty Shades of Gray, which has a substantial audience. For those who want it, there is a lot of very explicit sex. There is also a whole lot of inexplicable wishy washy from the Dom, for whom the concept of developing a real relationship with his sub is an obstacle and something he can't quite understand. I take this whole overthinking of the plot with a grain of salt, because the publisher is mainstream, and probably required the Dom to be softened up to be relatable to mainstream values. This is a series, so there is more of this where this book came from, if D/s is your cuppa tea.

    bookcover: 
    Dark Spell cover
    Author: 
    Gill Arbuthnott
    Publisher: 
    Floris Books
    Fiction: 
    SpeculativeFiction: 
    Rating: 
    9
    ISBN/ASIN: 
    9780863159565
    Description of Sales Url: 
    Purchase from Amazon
    Review: 

    In spite of growing up with a high school English teacher with a passion for Poe, let me say first of all that although I am not a horror fan, I do have a few movies that I like on the basis of an affinity for a particular actor or two, (Michael J Fox in The Frighteners, the entire cast of Practical Magic.) I am not predisposed to enjoy horror fantasy, but for some reason, magical families and witchcraft stories are the exception. Blame it on the chemistry between Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York. I felt the same g-rated sweet chemistry between young protagonist Callie Hall and her good friend Josh in Dark Spell by Gill Arbuthnott.

    Callie Hall is a young witch. It's not so much that she's coming out of the closet, as it is that she had no clue she was in a closet. Unaware of her growing magical powers, she has a Carrie moment in response to some school bullying. She soon discovers from her grandmother and her cute little coven of old lady witches that like her grandmother, she is indeed a witch. The witch gene apparently is a recessive one, and skipped her mother, a fact which leads to some issues. Callie's long distance friendship with Joshua (from Edinburgh) has some issues, and the tunnel under the ruins of St Andrews' Castle really has some issues.

    I was drawn in by many things in this book. The familial relationships, the problems between Callie and her mother, and the closeness between Callie and her grandmother. The sweet tolerance of Callie's oblivious father and not-so-oblivious grandfather. The chemistry of the family rings so true that it brings extra credence to the magic. I enjoyed this book so much that after I listened to it play aloud on my rickety old keyboard Kindle, I had to take it aside and read it in person with my own eyes to see if it was as engrossing as I thought. (It is.) The story is well engineered, and works not only on the superficial level, but on more than one level. I am not surprised that it has won awards.

    I found myself enchanted by Dark Spell. I enjoyed not only the characters, but also the sense of place the author delivers of the mix of old and new in contemporary Scotland. Gill Arbuthnott conjures a stunning mix of teen angst and magic mixed with just enough danger to scoot you to the edge of your seat. Big thumbs up on this one!

    My name is Elizabeth Black and I have been writing erotica and romance since 2007. My first published story was an erotic retelling of Cinderella. It was about what happened to Cinderella after her Happily Ever After wedding. Suffice to say, things were not happy in paradise. Scarlet Magazine in the U. K published the story. From there, I went on to publish several novels and novellas and numerous short stories. I also write horror and dark fiction with the pen name E. A. Black. So far, I've published only short stories. I'm working on a mystery novel right now.

    bookcover: 
     The Cuban Table: A Celebration of Food, Flavors and History book cover
    Author: 
    Ana Sofia Pelaez
    Publisher: 
    St. Martin's Press
    Non-fiction_: 
    Rating: 
    8
    ISBN/ASIN: 

    9781250036087

    Description of Sales Url: 
    Purchase from Amazon
    Review: 

    For as long as there have been families, one of the routes to developing culture and heritage has been through the family kitchen, which in this day of nuclear families, the internet, and the latest eating fads, is loosing continuity. This familial and historical aspect of cooking permeates every page of The Cuban Table: A Celebration of Food, Flavors and History. This is not a book merely of recipes, but a love-letter to Cuban cooking. The author, Ana Sofia Pelaez, clearly cherishes her subject, as does Ellen Silverman's camera. There is background from the author, and a sense of history of the recipes and culture. Now I want to visit Miami and seek out Cuban restaurants, and maybe even find my way to Cuba to stay in a casa particular (a private home with rooms for guests) and check out the family restaurants called paladares.

    I have not tried all of the 100+ recipes; but I am in the process of making a dent in them. In my head which has no Spanish in it, their exotic names feel like some kind of magical incantation: Rabo encenido, batidos, quimbombó. I feel a little like I have a secret eye into the Cuban kitchen, knowing (now) that Cuban cooks are fiercely protective of their cooking secrets. Translating the food from the page to the plate feels like an adventure for me. Sadly, however, since I am not really familiar with Cuban cuisine, I have no way of knowing if my efforts (delicious as they have proven to be, even with my low carbing them), I really don't know if they hit or miss the traditional mark. I have not been intrusive with my changes. Instead of putting the picadillo filling into a ball of potato, I used peppers instead. I have to tell you, the recipe was delicious, and though the flavoring (a combination of olives, onions, garlic, cumin, pepper and cinnamon!) was like nothing I have ever had before, it felt familiar.

    I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves Cuban food and culture, or to anyone who wants to expand their tastebuds. Let me draw the circle a little bigger. The truth is that if you have a mouth, you'll appreciate this book.

    bookcover: 
    Victoria Donda Bookcover
    Author: 
    Victoria Donda
    Publisher: 
    Penguin Random House
    Non-fiction_: 
    Rating: 
    2
    Description of Sales Url: 
    Purchase from Amazon
    Review: 

    I was seduced to read this book by the premise. Not that it is like a fictional premise-it is Victoria Donda's life. Because of her politics, Victoria's mother "disappeared" and Victoria was taken from her, and given to another family. Victoria lived for years believing she was part of that family, then discovered the truth. When I heard what the book was about, I knew it would be a dramatic and interesting story. The premise and the promise of the story did not live up to its potential. The story was badly organized, and badly presented. There is only a small portion of the book that is actually about how Victoria lived, and how she discovered the truth. It is presented awkwardly, sporadically, and keeps going back and forth in a way that is sure to lose anyone's interest (I am sad to say.) The timeline is disorganized. I plodded through and wished with every page that there was not so much more of it still left to read. Sad to say, the best part of the book is probably the family pictures.

    However interesting My Name is Victoria: The Extraordinary Story of One Woman's Struggle to Reclaim her True Identity should have been, I was far from swept away by the middle-school writing. The truth is that I cannot know if the book was badly written in its original language, or if the miserable English version (which is what I read) was bad and badly translated. I had to force myself to get through it, partially because of the book's 'style' and partially because it was so political. There were problems with presentation, and pacing, and frankly, the story just went on and on, not unlike this review. (I should have just stopped with 'poorly written.) If I were a student of Argentinian politics, I might have had more incentive to give the book a fair chance. Or maybe not.

    I do have respect and sympathy for Victoria Donda, and I feel a certain pride in how she managed to take charge of her life in spite of her true family and life being stolen from her. Growing up the victim of a brutal regime must have been no picnic. I just wish the book had managed to tell her story in a better way.

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