Erin’s Bookshelf: Castle of the Wolf

It’s another edition of Erin’s Bookshelf, and I’m staying in the world of brooding heroes and sassy heroines. Romance! This week’s recommendation is particularly special, because it is one of my favorite books. I found a copy in a thrift shop years ago, picked it up on a whim, and fell in love with the story right away. It’s a little older, but I think it more than deserves some affection.

I’m talking about Castle of the Wolf by Sandra Schwab!

587901

You can purchase the Ebook on Amazon (admittedly, the paperback version might be a little harder to come upon).

Celia (Cissy) Fussell thought she was doomed to a life of spinsterhood and loneliness following the death of her beloved father. However, she is surprised to learn she was left an inheritance,the Castle of Wolfenbach tucked away deep in the Black Forest. There’s just one catch: In order to claim her castle, she must marry the Wolfenbach son. With the promise of a real future before her, Cissy travels from England to Germany to claim her inheritance and meet her future husband. Unfortunately, her intended is not as keen to meet her. Fenris Wolfenbach is haunted by more than the scars on his body. A former soldier who lost his leg in war, he has retreated from the world into his family’s former castle, and doesn’t appreciate the intrusion of the pretty English woman who claims his home is now hers. As the two clash within the walls of Wolfenbach Castle, they come to realize that all that glitters is not gold, and love can blossom even in shadows.

There are so many things I love about this book. It’s a fairly quick read, but it’s packed with emotion and detail. Cissy is one of my all time favorite heroines. She is naive and sheltered (as most women of somewhat noble birth would have been), but she’s funny, stubborn, smart, and views the world with a sense of wonder. Her love of fairy tales creates the framework within which the story is told.

Fenris is also one of my all time favorite heroes. Yes, he’s your typical brooding leading-man, but there’s a sweetness and vulnerability to him that makes his character endearing. He is terribly self-conscious about his body, and is riddled with guilt about his perceived ruining of his family. Not only is he strong, handsome, and overall swoon-worthy as any good romance hero is, but he’s emotional, and wants Cissy to love him even though he doesn’t think he deserves it.

Apart from the two main characters, this book is also beautifully written. The historical details are sharp without overburdening the story, and the author’s whimsical style of story-telling creates a good balance of drama and lightheartedness. There’s also a nice blend of Gothic themes with fairy-tale tropes (and not Disney fairy-tales…I’m talking old school Grimm brothers). The romance is steamy, but the emphasis is on the emotional development of the two characters rather than their physical attraction to each other (though that’s definitely there as well).

Though I obviously recommend it to everyone, I’d highly suggest this book to anyone who wants to dip their toe in the romance genre pool and see how they like it. Also, to anyone who leans more on the side of sigh-worthy stories over bodice-rippers. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Until next time!

Erin K.

 

Erin’s Bookshelf: Vicious (Sinners of Saint)

I’ve said it before, but one of my absolute favorite genres is romance. Paranormal, historical, contemporary…it it has to do with love, I’m probably going to love it. It’s the genre I read most, and it’s also the genre I’ve started to write in. So, naturally, I have a ton of recommendations for good romance books.

Today’s edition of Erin’s Bookshelf features one of my latest reads, and one of my new favorites. Vicious, book one of the Sinners of Saint series by L.J. Shen, is a contemporary romance available in paperback, Ebook, and Kindle Unlimited.

51bM01e8jAL

Now, the rest of the Sinners of Saint series is great (there’s five total to-date), but Vicious is my favorite. The story follows Emilia LeBlanc, a young artist struggling to support herself and her sick sister in New York City. One night, while hovering over rock bottom, she has a chance encounter with Baron (Vicious) Spencer, her high school crush/nemesis. Ten years earlier, he drove her from the small California town her family had moved to when her parents found jobs working on the Spencer’s estate. Vicious claimed to hate her then, and when they are reunited, nothing appears to have changed.  For Vicious, running in Emilia again presents the opportunity to settle old scores, and finally indulge his obsession with the girl who tormented his every thought when they were younger. He hates her, and she hates him, but he has to have her. The passion between them is undeniable, but their past mistakes and pain blur the line between love and hate until neither are sure where they fall.

There are three big reasons I love this book. The first is that I love a hero who is tall, dark, and a little broken. I’ve never been as big a fan of the straight-laced golden boys who don’t have any internal demons to wrestle. And man, does Vicious have some demons. Seeing how he comes to terms with them and deals with them makes me root for him that much harder, and keeps me from hating him at times (because he can be a real a-hole).

The second reason is that I like a story where the emotional stakes are as high, if not higher, than the physical stakes. There are plenty of stakes and conflicts outside of Vicious and Emilia’s relationship that keep the story engaging, but the emotional roller coaster that takes place between them is what made me finish this book in two days. There’s a realness and rawness to their inner conflicts and baggage that you don’t always see in romance, but when it’s there, it sets that book apart in a gigantic genre.

The third reason is that, in a world where women are compartmentalized as either prudes or sluts, I like a strong, quirky heroine who isn’t shy about her sexuality. Though her good-girl persona might make you think otherwise, Emilia is assertive in the bedroom, and even though Vicious is very much an alpha, she is by no means submissive. She gives as good as she gets, and is not shy about voicing her needs and demands when it comes to sexual situations (and non-sexual ones).

I could go on and on about how much I love this book, but I don’t want to give anything away. If you love romance, and want something that will keep you on the edge of your seat with a bad-ass hero and a strong-willed heroine, then go check it out for yourself, as well as the rest of the Sinners of Saint series (if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read them all for free!).

Until next time!
Erin K.

 

Erin’s Bookshelf: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

So I’m a little late in the game with this one (this book was published almost 10 years ago), but I’ve only just read it, loved it, and I think it deserves a shout out!

Plus, it’s my blog, and I can do what I want.

That’s why in this edition of “Erin’s Bookshelf”, we’re talking about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith.

Woohoo!

51azVAbrKIL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

Here’s the book’s description on Amazon:

“Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is an audacious retelling of English literature’s most enduring novel. This expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem begins when a mysterious plague falls upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield. It’s the perfect read for literature lovers, zombie fans, and anyone who loves a reanimated Austen.”

Now, I love Pride and Prejudice. I love the original story. I love the movie. I love the BBC miniseries. I love the many variations of the story (and there are many, many variations). I love Elizabeth, and I looooooooove Darcy.

Zombies are cool too.

It was my love of Pride and Prejudice in all its forms, however, that originally drove me to watch the movie version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Yeah, I watched the movie first (Spoiler-not-spoiler: The movie is vastly different from the book), and this might not be a popular opinion, but I liked it! So, I wanted to read the book (Spoiler-not-spoiler: The book is admittedly better…but isn’t that always the case?).

The book is essentially the classic Pride and Prejudice, but with some creative flourishes and additions to add that extra layer of zombie fun. The juxtaposition of the concerns of etiquette, marriage, and class advancement with the constant threat of violence and gruesome death is sometimes startling, but in a kind of hilarious way. The consequences of damaged pride are heightened when the retribution could very well be decapitation in order to salvage one’s honor (Elizabeth seriously contemplates doing just this to Darcy on multiple occasions), and while the zombie threat is not the focus of the book, it does make the classic regency romance much more of a thrilling page turner.

What I thought was very clever about the book was how the addition of zombies didn’t detract from the strict class system of the time, or take away from the central conflicts and prejudices of the story. Elizabeth is seen as lower-class not only because of her family’s status, but because she received her martial arts training in China rather than the much more fashionable Japan. Women are allowed to be warriors, but are expected to hang up their swords once they are married in order to assume their proper roles as wives and mothers. With these details included, the zombie story-line is a smooth and believable addition to the narrative, and the divided priorities of the characters (marriage and survival) also adds a dash of comedy to the story.

At least it did for me.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, and would happily read it again. It’s a fairly quick read, so it could be the book you take with you on your last vacation before the end of summer. I highly recommend it to Austen fans and zombie lovers alike!

Also, I’d recommend the movie. Just don’t compare it to the book, and you’ll be fine.

Until next time!

Erin K.

 

 

Erin’s Bookshelf: A History of the Great Zombie War (The Simpson Experience)

Hello all!

In addition to promoting The Guardians, as well giving you some insight into my writing life, I’d like to use this site to highlight books that I’m reading and loving.

So welcome to Erin’s Bookshelf!

This first book is a little bit of a cheat, since I did contribute to it 😉 But I love it, and so much work was put into it by so many people, I think it deserves a little bit of love!

51TrDMdZoSL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

From Amazon: “There was little warning. It was upon us. Living death. This collection of historical documents includes excerpts from diaries, audio recordings, official reports, and chatrooms, as well as photographs, maps, propaganda posters, and even a fornication license. Together they illustrate stories of sacrifice, heroism, and craven cowardice among the population of Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. These are people from all walks of life, all ages, all colors and creeds, united in one goal: survive the zombie apocalypse. This is our memorial to the fallen.”

This book was actually part of a class I took in college, and everyone in the class contributed to the story. It’s a unique take on the zombie genre, that presents the apocalypse of the undead from multiple points of view, primarily within the perspective of a small college town in Iowa. Each piece of writing is different in voice, style, and focus, but they all work together to tell one story.

If you like zombies, and small Midwestern liberal arts schools, you’re going to want to check this one out!

The book is available in paperback at Amazon.com.

Until next time,

Erin K.