A book review of Pure Healing by Aja James

Pure Healing (Pure/ Dark Ones #1)

Pure Healing is the first book in a series called Pure/Dark Ones.  So far there are five books in the series, although only the first two have been published so far.

This book reminds me very strongly of the Immortal Guardians series by Dianne Duvall and also the Midnight Breed series by Lara Adrian.  But more the Immortal Guardians one.  If you liked that, you’ll love this.

Similar to the Immortal Guardians, in this series, there are humans and others.  The bad others are vampires or Dark Ones.  The good others are Pure Ones.  I haven’t quite worked out how the others are different from humans.  It seems to be some kind of reincarnation after death.  The Pure Ones are not allowed to have sex except with their mate.  No mate, no sex.

This book is primarily about the romance between Rain and Valerius.  Rain is the Pure One’s healer.  Valerius is one of the elite protectors of the Pure Ones.

The role of the healer is an interesting one.  She appears to use her life force to heal, and so every ten years she needs to recharge her life force.  She does this by taking a consort for three months, and by drinking his blood and his…well, you know… she recharges enough for the next ten years.  The stronger the consort, the stronger the healer becomes.  And Valerius is the strongest of the Pure Ones.

Valerius is very old.  His father was a Roman gladiator.  After his father was killed, Valerius was sold as a sex slave.  This period of his life has left him unable to offer himself up to be Rain’s consort.  And yet, with Rain refusing to take the same consort more than once (there’s a story behind that), she’s down to weak men who will be unable to recharge her sufficiently to sustain her for the next ten years.

This book skips a little bit between various Pure Ones, and one Dark One, in order to set up various threads that will weave through the story arc.  I found it a little disorientating right at the start, because we start with the Pure One’s queen, and not either of the two main characters, but otherwise it was fine.

I gave the book four stars, and I was definitely keen to read more.  I was a little baffled though to realise that the next three books are all ‘dark’, and it’s only the fifth book in the series that goes back to the Pure Ones.  That seems weird to me.  Like maybe alternating would have been okay, but three dark ones in a row?  I guess I’ll have to read one and find out.  But this book hasn’t set me up to be a big fan of the Dark Ones, so…

But yeah, if you liked Immortal Guardians or the Midnight Breed series, definitely give this one a go.

Chocolate making

Do you ever face the dilemma of whether you should take photographs or just put the camera down and join in the fun?  This is a tricky one for me.  I’ve talked before about how my passion is to capture memories, and this makes it hard for me to accept that a moment won’t be recorded.  Not all moments, of course, but the ones that feel like they deserve to be memorable.  Happy moments, laughter, bonding…

When my children were still fairly small (primary school aged) I was looking through the photos of them, and realised I wasn’t in hardly any of them.  There were photos of them with just about every family member except me.  The only ones I was in were the ones of them when they were babies.  It was a pretty rude shock.  I realised that I was watching my children live their lives, recording it all, but not participating.  I was standing on the sidelines.  That revelation is what led to the ‘family’ part of my bucket list, where I set myself a challenge of participating in a whole bunch of different childhood activities with my kids.  Not watching, participating.  I also became more aware of it, and started putting the camera down or passing it to my husband or another family member so I could be in the shot.

On March 11th, we had another of our family creative days.  So far we’d made cheese in January and soap in February.  The previous ones were just the girls – my daughter, my mother, my mother-in-law and me.  And my sister joined in the soap making.  But this time we got the boys there too – my son, my husband, my father-in-law and my nephew.  We did it at my mother’s house, as she had plenty of room for everyone.

In the end, it was mostly just us girls making the chocolates, but the guys did get involved a little.  Obviously they were all keen for taste testing (!) but my husband helped make the ganache we used for fillings, and my father-in-law helped us with getting the chocolates out of the plastic moulds (something we struggled with!).

The reason I mentioned the photography dilemma at the start of this post was really to explain why I have no decent photos of the day.  I know, a poor excuse, but I was honestly too busy making chocolates to take photos.  And man, your hands get messy when you’re making chocolates!  I should have remembered to ask one of the guys to take photos for us, but I just forgot.  Oh well.

We made three sorts of chocolates – hollow eggs, solid eggs and filled chocolates.

The hollow ones were a big fat fail because we couldn’t get them out of the moulds without breaking.  We’d made them too thin, plus we were using older plastic moulds that were brittle.  So yep, those were a fail.  Lesson learned though!

The solid ones worked well.  We used white chocolate which we coloured and painted into the moulds, then filled them with white chocolate.  I enjoyed making these ones, and so did my daughter.  My mother and mother-in-law found them a bit tedious I think.  They didn’t look quite as stunning as I’d hoped, but they were okay.  We stuck some of the egg halves together to make solid eggs, but that made them difficult to eat.  And too much chocolate in one go.  Halves were better.  Again, lesson learned.

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The filled ones were the most experimental of the bunch, but turned out quite well considering.  We made a batch of ganache (cream and chocolate combined in a roughly 50/50 mix).  When I say we, I mean my husband made the ganache.  Ha ha!  He was a commercial baker for 10 years, and ganache is the icing used for most commercial cakes, so he had plenty of experience with that.  We used a variety of things to flavour different portions of the ganache:
– coffee syrup
– Baileys cream liqueur
– peppermint flavouring
– orange flavouring
We also made some raspberry truffle filling, and some blue curacao liqueur jelly.  They all worked quite well.  I don’t like coffee, so I didn’t like the coffee ones.  My mother really liked those ones though.  The Baileys ones were my favourite.  The only ones I felt didn’t really work were the raspberry truffle ones which were waaaay too sweet.  The kids liked those ones though.

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I made some with Caramilk chocolate, which is a caramelised white chocolate that I like.  They turned out delicious.

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It was a fun day, and I enjoyed it, but making chocolates is very time consuming.  If you’re going to do it, you need a lot of fridge/freezer space and a lot of time.  It’s fun though!

A book review of The Spy Who Kissed Me by Pauline Baird Jones

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Everything was pointing to this book being rubbish.  The cover art is pretty crap.  It doesn’t scream ‘sophisticated writing that’s going to whisk you away into a story that feels so real you’ll…’  I don’t even know how to end that sentence.

Then the book starts with author’s notes informing us that this is the author’s first ever completed novel, and she had real issues getting it published.  Oh joy.  I’m definitely in for a thrill here.

If this was a movie, it’d be an action comedy.  Or a comedy action.  It had a lot of action and a lot of comedy.  There were shots fired, car chases, stabbings, people getting run over, explosions, and lots of kissing.  But it was interwoven with a sense of humour that kept me smiling as I turned the pages.  It was the kind of humour that made you chuckle to yourself or snigger quietly as you read on the train, leaving people wonder what you’re reading or watching.

The story is told in first person by Isabel ‘Stan’ Stanley.  She is hilariously self-deprecating.  It’s a weird kind of humour too, because the other characters keep commenting on it, which makes sense when you’re reading, but looking back makes you realise that the author was kind of laughing at her own jokes.  Never mind, I was laughing at her jokes too, so all good.

Despite all the action, despite the deaths, despite the bad guys doing bad things, it was a light hearted romp of a read, and I really enjoyed it.  I’d recommend it as a perfect holiday read, something to read at the beach, or if you’ve had too much of reading dark, intense, brooding kinds of books.

I know humour is individual and you might not enjoy it the same as I did, but definitely give it a go.  I was pleased I did.  I gave it four stars.

Book review of Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair

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Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair is a science fiction romance, set some time in the future.  My first impression was that it reminded me of Star Trek, and I initially wondered if it was fan fiction.

There’s somewhat of an ‘enemies to lovers’ trope, with Sass and Branden on the outs at the beginning.  There is a lot of hidden history though, that the author slowly reveals to us.  And to Sass.  I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of Sass having a ‘sneak peek’ into Branden’s personal feelings, but she does later share with him that she has this knowledge.  It’s interesting to wonder how the story would have changed if Sass hadn’t had that insight though.  Would she have found it harder to look beyond Branden’s closed-off façade?

Branden is a cyborg (born human but upgraded with computer technology to be super smart, fast, strong, etc).  Sass is human.  This difference plays into the tension between them, especially on Branden’s part as he can’t understand why any human would find a ‘machine’ attractive.

Most of the story takes place on the spaceship where Branden is the Admiral and Sass is the Captain.  I’m not sure why you’d have an Admiral and a Captain on the same ship (seems like overkill to me) but what do I know?  Despite my first paragraph, I’m not a Trekkie.  Later though, the story moves to a small ship, a planet and back to the small ship.  This forces Branden and Sass to interact more, as they learn to depend on each other for survival.  I felt that this was where they both truly came into their own.  Branden risks his life to save the others, and this is one of the clearest moments up to then when we (and the other characters) see that he is not an emotionless machine.  We are given insight prior to that, but this is where he lets his mask fall and shows us.

There is a secondary romance that also plays out alongside the main one.  I enjoyed this.

There was only one thing that really bugged me, and it was minor.  There are creatures called fidgets, which appear to all intents and purposes to be the equivalent of domestic cats (although they have abilities domestic cats don’t have, as you’d expect in science fiction).  The author takes this comparison and runs with it.

‘Me? Nervous as a long-tailed fidget in a room full of rocking chairs.’

Seriously?  Does changing it from a cat to a fidget actually make that saying work in a science fiction world of spaceships?  People barely use rocking chairs in 2018 let alone many years into the future.  And if you’re going to invent new worlds, new species, etc., invent new sayings!  Don’t just take old sayings and repurpose them!

‘Fuck you and the equinnard you rode in on,’ she told it.’

Ugh. ‘Equinnards’ seem utterly irrelevant in a world where people could live their entire lives without setting foot on a planet surface.  But it was a minor detail and certainly not enough to stop me from re-reading or recommending the book.

I did think the rest of the story was well written.  It was very easy to read, it flowed well, it had a nice balance of action and rest, and the aliens and alien-technology fitted into the story well without making the reader go ‘huh?’.

All in all, I enjoyed the book.  I gave it four stars.