Book Review: ‘Paris Is Really For Lovers’ by Scarlet Cassadine

Volo Press Book Review

Will you fall in love with ‘Paris is Really for Lovers’ by Scarlet Cassadine? I’ll outline what it was like to read it for me and you can decide for yourself if your money would be well-spent on this piece of fiction labeled as contemporary romance.

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I had about as hard of a time reading this book as I had reading 50 Shades of Grey. Yet, I do it for a few reasons. First, because it does help me feel better about my own writing (and we all know my self-esteem is not the highest). Second, it concretely helps me see what doesn’t work in a piece so that I can avoid those types of pitfalls in my own. Third, if I’ve already paid for it and it’s written by an indie author, I’m going to finish it in support of someone who is doing what they love, regardless of what my opinion about it may be.

Why It Was So Difficult To Finish

Clarity

Imagine you have a close friend who is still learning English, has never been the most coherent storyteller, and is completely shit-faced. If you can visualize that person trying to tell you the story of how she met and married her second husband, you get a feel for what it’s like to try to read and comprehend what goes on in this book.

And, as I request of my own beta readers in their reviews, I won’t just toss that opinion out there and let it sit. I’ll back up what I noticed. Just so that you’ve been warned, “a knock appeared at the door” 🤔 and the use of ‘then’ in place of ‘than’ are rampant throughout this piece.

Here are just a few more examples of sections that shocked me–especially since, in the opening, someone was credited with having edited the book!  😱

The first few lines of the story:

It was all planned. 

Planned on how Tia Ambers was going to be able to have a full mental break from her home-bound duties.

Sadly, it was at this point that I realized reading this book was going to be grueling. And I was not proven wrong. I put ‘full mental break’ in orange because I believe I understand what she meant, but I have most often heard ‘mental break’ being used to describe acute psychosis due to my professional background.

 

A few paragraphs later:

He popped the trunk and unloaded her suitcase and carry-on tote brief case bag.

That’s a lot of different types of bags in a single product. Is it really all of those at the same time, was this a typo, or is this really what that author meant to say?

 

And a few paragraphs after that:

She was 14 when her parents took her [to Paris for the first time]. She remembered how huge the Eiffel Tower was and also the food was different. It was richer in spice and flavor and very decorative. Nothing plan or bland about it. And all the buildings and outskirt drives. 

‘And’ would suffice, as would a simple comma before ‘also.’ ‘The food was richer in spice…’ would flow just fine instead of breaking the idea up into two different sentences. The last part is just dangling out there on its own. There are a lot of lines like that in this book.

 

So, as you can see, there are a lot of clarity issues in the book. What I’ve shown you so far happens in just the front 4% of the book. You’ve got 96% more of this to deal with.

 

The Characters

There didn’t seem to be any character development here. The people listed were more like pawns that did whatever Cassadine wanted them to if it seemed convenient for her at the time.

Tia overwhelmingly allows herself to be moved around by the people surrounding her. She’s a constant damsel-in-distress. She does nothing about the fact that her husband is cheating on her, for example. Another guy, Paul, actually sets up a meeting with a divorce lawyer FOR HER in order to get it done–he even takes her to the meeting himself.

Paul does a lot of work for on Tia’s behalf–even buys the house the Ambers have been living in from Tia’s parents so she can continue living in it without issue–yet he never gets angry or resentful, he never seems exhausted or questioning of the relationship or Tia. He just takes everything in stride and is the perfect gentleman everywhere but in the bedroom.

These issues with character realism were most noticeable after Tia got raped. Once they did have sex again for the first time in a while, Tia had no hesitancy about the act. Then, even when Paul (for who knows what reason) physically restrains her with his hands during sex (as was done to her during the rape), she’s perfectly fine with it, even says she “loved it.”

The vast majority of people I’ve worked with who have experienced rape have trouble having any intimate contact for months, often years. And intimate contact can be something as simple as a touch, holding hands, or kissing. But it seemed to me that, because Cassadine was ready to write the rest of the book, she just pretended that the rape didn’t affect Tia very strongly and kept on with the story.

The Plot

In a nutshell:

Tia goes on a trip to Paris and meets a man, Paul, who works at a competing company and sweeps her off her feet. She decides she wants to leave her cheating husband and be with Paul. She’s raped by a guest staying in the same hotel as her one night and Paul gets her treated for her wounds. Paul lets her heal at his nearby estate and they return to the United States together after Paul offers her a job and her own company when she’s ready. After Tia accepts the job offer, Paul initiates and facilitates Tia’s divorce from her husband. Paul buys Tia’s house from Tia’s parents. Tia finds out she’s pregnant with Paul’s child. Paul proposes. Tia accepts. Tia decides to go on a trip to Mississippi to see an aunt she hasn’t met with in over 10 years. The end. 

That’s the ‘plot,’ but I don’t recognize a story arc. Tia didn’t change as a person, only her circumstances were manipulated by Paul. There was no real tension or mountain to climb. There were little mole hills that Paul launched her over or that magically went away, but nothing that she had to work through on her own.

Another oddity was that Paul’s ex-wife came to a business event Tia had organized for the company. Paul disappears with his ex somewhere, but Tia loses track of them. She goes to the bathroom and hears them having sex in one of the stalls. She sees Paul step out of the stall after his ex, wash his lips, and leave the bathroom. AFTER THAT is when Tia decides to tell Paul that she’s pregnant, then Paul proposes, then she accepts. Again, it’s like the bathroom incident didn’t take place. Or, maybe Tia doesn’t care, but that would seem odd because she just divorced somebody who cheated on her.

😵

 

Overall Rating: 1 / 5 stars

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I can’t in good conscience recommend spending money to read this book. There are so many issues that need to be addressed before I would even deem it a complete work of fiction. But, that’s just my opinion.

If you still want to read it, click the cover image below.

 

 

Query Perfection: Reviewing Christopher Kokoski’s ‘Query Letter Swipe File’

Query Letter Swipe File Kokoski

This is a kick-ass tool for your traditional publishing arsenal. This is “query letter how-to” meets “plug-and-play”. In Query Letter Swipe File, Christopher Kokoski once again delivers clear, no-nonsense guidance on an integral part of traditional publishing: the query letter.

What Will You Learn?

Query Letter Swipe File breaks down the components of a solid query letter and then compartmentalizes them so that you can fill in the blanks based on your particular story. By presenting the information in a way that is flexible and easy to customize, Kokoski shows his deep understanding of how varied the literary world can be. Many authors still attempt to teach people with a one-size-fits-all approach.

How Is Information Presented?

The format is easy and quick to read / swipe through (hence the title). This is a fantastic book to have in your physical and digital library as a go-to reference for every query letter you’ll ever write. The paragraphs are short and casual. The language is easy to understand and doesn’t get bogged down in a bunch of technical jargon that slows down or confuses readers of some non-fiction. I truly believe that just about anyone could pick up this book and write a decent query letter–even if they’ve never done it before (like me!).

 

What Should You Look Out For?

It looks like there were a few typos present that may catch you off guard upon first reading, but it’s easy to get past them because of how the templates are set up. For example, in template #4 (the one I used for the query letter I’ve included), the copy read:

In [BESTSELLING AUTHOR IN YOUR GENRE] meets
[BESTSELLING BOOK OR MOVIE IN YOUR GENRE], this
story blends [GENRE COMPONENT], [GENRE
COMPONENT] and [GENRE COMPONENT] with [GENRE
COMPONENT].

So, as written, if completed, this section of my query letter might read:

“In Stephen King meets IT, this story blends childhood trauma, horror, and mystery with fantasy.”

which doesn’t make a lot of sense. But I believe he meant that you might say something like:

“In Stephen King’s novel IT, childhood trauma, horror, and mystery are blended with fantasy.”

What Will You LOVE About This Book?

The standout feature of Query Letter Swipe File is definitely the list of words and phrases that you can insert into the templates as you please. This means that Kokoski has done all the heavy lifting for you concerning how to word the openings, endings, and transitions that you’ll need to strengthen your query letter. I love it when instructions and tasks are made as simple as possible, and Kokoski has definitely done that in this book!

 

Final Verdict: 5 / 5 stars ⭐ ⭐ 

Query Letter Swipe File by Christopher Kokoski is fully loaded with everything you need to quickly and easily get a query letter constructed that will help you present your work in the best way possible.

Full Disclosure

I am a self-published author ONLY! I have never had to write a query letter and don’t know that I will ever have the desire or need to. However, in order to review this book, I did actually write a short query letter for Show Her using a template that was included in the book. You can read it at the end of the review.

 

About the Author

Learn more about Christopher Kokoski on his website: www.ChristopherKokoski.com.

 

Sample Query Letter for Show Her

Dear Supre Agente,

 

Based on your interest in dystopian and romantic literature, Show Her would be a perfect piece for you to represent.

 

Erika Wogo knows how to live a life that is the envy of everyone around her. She meticulously maintains her outward appearance, adheres to her husband’s every demand without question, and even passes her knowledge of being a proper wife on to others who are willing and eager to learn how to become (and stay) married.

 

But when a co-worker confesses to having an affair with Erika’s husband, Erika’s world view is shaken and the countdown to Erika’s divorce–and permanent social ruin–begins. Erika knows that it is only a matter of time before her husband will formally end their “purchase agreement” and leave her divorced and tainted for the rest of her life.

 

With a mix of cunning, determination, and sophisticated bio-weaponry, Erika does all she can to defend her marriage and her reputation against her husband’s infidelity. But, as adept as she is at managing her rivals in love, her loyal followers, her public persona, and the ex-boyfriend who still loves her without question, she will inevitably have to face the consequences of her nefarious actions.

 

Show Her is a dystopian psychological thriller blended with science fiction and romance. Show Her is a complete novella at 23,320 words. Please note that this is a simultaneous submission.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Sincerely,

T. L. Curtis

TLCurtis@Volo-Press.com

404-666-1126

 

Check Out Feign II at Langmanual.com

volo press t l curtis

Feign II: The Downfall  has been rated and reviewed at Langmanual.com.

“Rating of three out of five ponderous stars. Feign Collection Book 2. Poetry book by T.L. Curtis.

With a tagline like “The Downfall” it’s hardly a wonder this book is filled with poems that are frankly, downers. They convey sorrow and hopelessness. No two ways about it. That said. Don’t be fooled about my opinion. This book really pleasantly surprised me. I’m generally NOT a fan of poetry or sad stories, in fact I’ve only ever bought one poetry book in my entire life, and not by choice, it was for a school assignment. But since I liked another book by this author (Show Her) so I wanted to give it a chance. This author seems to have a knack for ponderous content so I sought out her other published work. I wasn’t disappointed.”

Read the rest of the review at http://www.langmanual.com/post/2252467.

Volo Press Reviews: Angel’s Feather by Alina Popescu

Angel's Feather Alina Popescu

Wondering if this dystopian, homo-erotic, science fiction story is a good fit for you? Read the official Volo Press review of Angel’s Feather by Alina Popescu and find out!

 

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Volo Press Rating System

0 – Couldn’t finish it. Wouldn’t recommend it to anyone in its current state.

1 –  Poor work. Brutal to get through, but did manage to finish. Painful experience. May be an acceptable read for die-hard fans of the genre AND the author.

2 – Sub-par work. Hard to get through. May be an okay read for fans of the genre or the author.

3 – Solid work. Multiple, minor issues / one or two major issues. Recommended for most people who need something to read on a road trip or bed rest.

4 – Strong work. Satisfying to read. A few grammatical or logistical errors, but nothing too distracting. Recommended for anyone.

5 – A fantastic read. Highly recommended to everyone.

6 – Virtually perfect. My life is incomplete if I don’t have a copy in my home. Will no-doubt read multiple times throughout my life.  YOU MUST BUY THIS BOOK! 

Sub-ratings:

  • Nope

  • Poor

  • Okay

  • Good

  • Great

 

Overall Impression of ‘Angel’s Feather’ (Alina Popescu)

Angel’s Feather is about a human male, Adam, who falls in love with a ‘Flyer’–angel-like beings with wings who monitor humans to make sure that they don’t try to escape from Earth. At this point in the (hopefully distant) future, humans have depleted Earth of most of it’s This Flyer is named Michael

If you enjoy fan fiction involving same-sex romantic couples, and aren’t normally bothered by character inconsistencies and grammar problems, you will probably enjoy Angel’s Feather.

Rating: 2.9

Writing: Okay

There were multiple things that bothered me about the writing, including grammatical issues and what appeared to be a lack of fluency in English. Recognizing that that could be an issue, I lifted the rating a little.

Examples:

“…had me staring at Michael, mouth gapping.” (Gaping)

“I latched on that spark of hope…” (Latch on to a piece of something, not a spark)

“…but that small ounce of trust…” (What’s a large ounce?)

And it wouldn’t have been quite as distracting if these all hadn’t happened within the first 15% of the book. The rest of the work continued on with similar issues.

 

Characters: Nope

Main Character: Adam

Lover / Overseer: Michael

 

For me, the characters were more convenient than realistic. I try to be a little more forgiving since I am a licensed psychotherapist (and I know that my analysis of human behavior can be a little more intense), but even so, I can’t think of a single character that behaved in a away that seemed consistent.

For example, Michael was presented as cold because of his disappointment with humans breaking the rules and being executed for it. Yet, within minutes of appearing in the book, he hugs Adam and licks bodily fluid off of him (calm down, just tears ^_^).

Questions that arose from that single scene included:

  • If Michael has simply been assigned to do a job, why does he even care if a human lives or dies? It’s like a soldier assigned to assassinate someone being concerned about whether or not they have prostate cancer or a cold. If it helps him do his job to be emotionally distant, he’d probably remain that way or just resign or ask to be reassigned if he couldn’t (this is possible because he does get reassigned later in the book). Maybe if Michael had fallen in love with a human before that he’d had to kill or if he was half human himself this might have made more sense.
  •  If they’ve had no physical contact in the years since
    Spoiler Alert

    Michael killed Adam’s father

    [collapse]
    , why would he suddenly lick Adam’s tears and hug him? 
    Michael and Adam apparently see each other on a relatively regular basis, so why is Adam all of a sudden in tears about this and why is Michael all of a sudden a caring and consoling being(if that’s why you call tear-licking)?
  • If Flyers are supposed to be “emotionless” and cold, wouldn’t this unusual behavior have gotten a rise out of the crowd that was surrounding Michael and Adam at the time? It seems like there would have been some shock, outrage, confusion, maybe even fear from the other people of the village who were witnessing this, but they seemed to act like it didn’t even happen.

Adam, the main character, behaved in ways that seemed erratic as well. One minute, he empathizes with Michael, and the next he’s angry at him, and then he’s letting him hold him? All in the same few seconds? And even after this intimate, yet public, scene, Adam labels Michael “as untouchable as the fake angels in our religious books.” Why? You were LITERALLY just in his arms?!

I’ve seen this pattern before in my own and other people’s writing. It seemed as thought the characters did whatever the author wanted them to do to complete a particular scene that the author had in mind. This often results in characters seeming unstable mentally and emotionally, since they are swayed by the wind of creativity in the writer’s mind instead of their own motivations or the circumstances taking place in their world.

For Adam, empathizing with beings who were essentially his jailers seemed too happenstance. He was perfectly set up to feel resentment and anger towards his father and his uncle. Honestly, he could have felt that towards the Flyers, like everyone else, and it would have fit in seamlessly. But I have to have a stronger understanding of Adam’s psyche in order to be able to validate his feelings of empathy towards beings who kill people like him.

Plot: Good

In theory, this is a really cool plot. The idea of having made contact with a myriad of non-human life forms and trying to get off of a planet we abused irreparably is strong. I also like the idea of a charge falling in love with someone who has been told to monitor him, especially with the history between them. And, of course, man-on-man action gets me through my day, so that helped a lot. Even though there was only a single sex scene in the whole book! Boooo! ^_^

All that was missing for me was the solid execution of the details of a plot like this one. It’s like having all the puzzle pieces sitting on a table near each other, but never clicking them together to make the final, smooth, whole picture.

 

Have you read Angel’s Feather by Alina Popescu, yet?

Leave a comment if you have. If you haven’t, click here to get your copy now!

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Challenge (Christopher Kokoski)

If you’re trying to spread the gospel, The Challenge is here to help make it a little easier.

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What is The Challenge About?

The Challenge is a non-fiction work meant to help spread Christianity to non-believers. The idea is to have them read through a series of thoughts that are meant to make a logical case for the existence of God and the super-humanity of Jesus Christ.

 

Why is The Challenge Taking on This Task?

In most sects of Christianity, evangelism (spreading Christianity) is part of being a Christian. However, some people are shy, socially awkward, or maybe just too aggressive to deliver the message successfully. The Challenge hopes to bridge that gap so that just about anyone can try to spread Christianity to others without feeling strong discomfort or starting an argument. Just hand them the book and ask them to read it.

How Does The Challenge Accomplish Its Goal?

The book has two sections. One that speaks to the messenger and one that speaks to the receiver. The section for the receiver explores logical arguments for and against the existence of a god and the idea that Jesus Christ is the savior of mankind.

The ideal is for the person receiving it to be open-minded enough to read it. Within the book, the person is actually encouraged to reconnect with the messenger and have a conversation about there newfound religion or why they still don’t believe after they’ve read the book.

 

Where Would I Use The Challenge?

I don’t see that you could not hand this book off to someone in just about any context. Co-workers, friends, family members, even people you don’t necessarily know (that kid that rides the bus with you every day wearing a ‘There is no God’ pin on his backpack).

Who Can Receive The Challenge?

If you have anyone in your life who is a Christian, I could see them appreciating this book (if they enjoy reading, that is). Some of the concepts may be a bit hard to grasp for younger readers unless they excel at reading.

 

When Is The Challenge Available?

The Challenge is currently available for sale on Amazon.com for $4.99 (paperback)!


I was connected to some Mormons for a couple of years (long story), and one of the conversations we had was about how hard it is to reconcile faith with fact. It seems as though the two are mutually exclusive. If I know that something is, I don’t have to have faith because it’s a fact. But when I choose to believe something, even though I have no strong evidence of it, that’s acting in faith.

Therefore, when an attempt is made to use basic logic to convert someone, it can be tricky. But, if any book can help you get it done, it’s The Challenge.

 

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