Monday, September 9, 2013

Ten "Short" Years

Lizzie - September 2013

Ten years ago today my precious Lizzie was born (technically whelped), but I didn't even know of her existence until five years ago, when we adopted her. She's been my constant companion for half of her life, but she's so reserved—so timid, that she's more of an enigma than any of my other darling doggies. She can certainly get happy, but it's not her default mood. Not by far. She can seem relaxed much of the time, but I think she has to work at it. She may be happy to see me when I've come back home, but she's not obvious about it. Surely she wants things like food, treats, to go outside, and even attention, but she rarely asks for anything unless I make a fuss first.  She's patient and well-mannered for grooming, vet visits, and the like, but I think she's that way because of her extremely timid nature. She's most relaxed when she's up on the bed with me, but even then she rarely lies on her back any more. I miss that. I love that about Corgis...that and a lot of other things, of course.

She's so quiet. The only time she barks is when she's playing with her toys. When my husband riles her up, and the occasional single woof when some noise frightens her. It's not like I want her to be manic all the time, but it would probably help me from worrying about her so much if she wasn't so reserved all the time. She's such a lovely girl. She may not be the perfect example of what a Corgi should be, but she's perfectly precious to me.

She's been afflicted with keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye) in her left eye for years (before we got her). It requires prescription ophthalmic drops and artificial tears several times per day. There's eye cleaning with moistened cotton balls, and she required surgery to correct an inverted eyelid. If that wasn't "unfair" enough now her "good" eye, the right one developed Cherry Eye, and that requires surgery to correct. I often wonder if the cause of the dry eye (was it trauma induced?) and/or the result of having to endure treatment have contributed to her being so frightened. I guess it doesn't matter, but it kinda makes me sad when her response to every creak of the house, squirrel on the roof, or clap of thunder is to be terrified.

She and I have a quiet day at home together, which is our usual routine. I gave her an extra forkful of canned food to be mixed with her dry this morning. Her remaining treats are larger in size, so she gets a bonus there too. It's not supposed to be too hot today, so maybe we'll be able to linger outdoors a bit longer during her walks. My husband has been playing with her this morning. Squeaking and tossing her toys for her to chase. A little tug of war with her froggy. She's dropped her shoulder onto her jack toy and rolled on it several times. She's snatched her Nylabone out of her bed and chewed on it.

So far, not too shabby as my dad used to say. My nature is to feel excessively concerned for my babies' welfare, and to feel guilty for not making sure everything is "perfect" in their lives. At this stage of my life I don't think I'll be changing overly much, but I know to feel blessed for every day I have her with me. Besides, every time I see her little legs (tailpipes) sticking out I smile. Every time. No matter what else is going on. I just adore those short little legs!

Happy Birthday, Lizzie!





Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Book Review: His Wicked Games Series by Ember Casey

Title: His Wicked Games
Series: His Wicked Games #1
Author: Ember Casey
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Published: 06/05/2013
Publisher: Self-published
Genre(s): Contemporary Erotic Romance


DESCRIPTION

"Trapped with a billionaire in his mysterious mansion... Can she beat him at his own game?

Lily Frazer would do anything to save the Frazer Center for the Arts--even take on the infamous billionaire Calder Cunningham. When Lily breaks onto the Cunningham estate, she only wants to find and reason with Calder. (All right, all right, she wants to punch him in the face, too, but that's Plan B.) As it turns out, the arrogant billionaire is willing to give her the money he promised, but there's a catch: she must win it from him.

And the games he has in mind aren't exactly... innocent.

Lily isn't about to give up the money without a fight (or let some haughty bastard seduce her), but she quickly discovers that there might be more to the brooding Calder than she initially perceived. As their games of cat and mouse become increasingly intense, she suddenly finds herself confused by her own emotions. Can she deny her attraction long enough to win the money she needs?

A contemporary, steamy take on Beauty and the Beast, His Wicked Games is a tale of devilish deeds, wild passions, and wicked romance."

 MY THOUGHTS

His Wicked Games was a prime example of getting the best "bang for your buck!" In my Facebook Book Blogs feed on the morning of August 24 I saw an entry announcing it was on sale for $.99! (Even at its regular price of $2.99 this book is a real bargain!) I clicked through to its Amazon Kindle page, read the description and thought, "I'm getting a bit of a Gothic feel. Gothic and sexy!" This is the author's first published book, and I must say I was very impressed! Right from the first page I liked the heroine, Lily Frazer's, voice. She was persistent in her pursuit of justice, i.e. getting the funding that was promised in support of her beloved art center. She was convinced that she was in the right, and was not afraid to tell the mysterious Calder Cunningham what she thought of him. She was determined to get what she was owed at nearly any cost. She was going to get onto that estate! She was going to see Mr. Cunningham. She was going to get the money promised; come hell or high water! (Which figured into the story—the latter at any rate.) Her smart-alecky comments and inner thoughts were highly entertaining. When she finally got tackled for trespassing by the elusive Calder Cunningham, the "games" began. Oh, and he turned out to be a master game player...yes indeed-y!

Due to a severe downpour and the subsequent flooding Lily had to stay at the estate, which only made her more testy.

The righteous Lily ranted at Calder:
"You might have the rest of them eating out of your hand," I say, "but I'm not letting you off the hook that easy. You think you can just throw your reputation around and do whatever you want. You expect to just throw out a few bills and flash a sexy smile and have everyone fall at your feet. You don't give a damn about anyone else."
And, of course, his reply was:
"You think my smile is sexy?"
This was just a hint of things to come—first with their verbal volleying, and then with their sizzling sexual exploits. 
 "The way I see it," he says slowly, his voice dropping low, "you want something from me. The question is, how far are you willing to go to get it?"
The house was immense and extravagant, and Lily wondered where all the staff was. There appeared to be only one other person in that huge house. A chef, who had worked for the family for a very long time. Ooh, another mystery to ponder.  Along with the suggestive dialogue, sexual tension, and an overall impression of secretiveness, there were bits of clever humor like this:
"In all fairness to Martin," says Calder, "I still contend that some vegetables are supposed to stay in the dirt and shouldn't be eaten at all."
The house, it turned out, had hidden passageways, which led to some heated moments, and thrilling pursuits. Ooh, and another game...Hide and Seek!

The naughty Calder was quite talented at suggestively sexy talk, and Lily, despite herself fell victim to his seductive ways. Oh, she was aware of the consequences...
"I feel like I'm burning from the inside out, tortured by lust for someone I shouldn't even like, let alone want. I tell myself it all comes down to that twisted law of the universe that you always want what you can't— or shouldn't— have. Calder has the power to destroy everything my dad and I spent our lives building. I've finally found an opening, a way to win back what he denied us, and my body's bent on betraying me."
The games proceeded with ever increasing stakes. This made for a push and pull, give and take scenario between Lily and Calder which further made for highly addictive reading!

They spent only a few days together at the estate, but a lot happened between them during that short time. He confessed something to her that made me think her being there was nothing short of an elaborate plan. Things he mentioned, almost absently, had Lily wondering what was really behind his refusal to fund her and her father's beloved art center. 

After some mind-blowing sex, and fairly deep conversations, tensions flared and a conflicted Lily decided she needed to get out of that house immediately! However, someone she had no wish to see made an appearance before she was able to leave. Her creepy, stalker-ish ex-boyfriend, Garrett! And he dropped a bombshell about the Cunningham family that I had suspected, and think Lily was beginning to, as well. 

One of the things I liked most about Lily's character were her keen observations, particularly regarding her own failings. She got an A+ in self-assessment.
"It all seems so obvious now, but I was blind to it all at the time because I was only thinking about myself and what I wanted."
Needless to say Lily's drive to keep her art center open had her looking within herself for a solution. She was strong, capable, and determined. She also had her father, who was extremely devoted to her and their center. What's more, she acknowledged her feelings for Calder, and how much his not contacting her had hurt her. 
"All this time I've been pissed at him, thinking he lied so he could use me for sex, while the entire time I've only been after his money."
She had some trouble with that pesky ex of hers, which led her to contact Calder with an apology. See! She knew she'd messed up and admitted it! 

Of course, they worked through some of the things that had kept them apart. He came clean and explained some of them to Lily. He also asked her to come out to the estate. There was one particular location they hadn't made use of yet. That was when Lily said to Calder:
"I'd like to propose a little game."

And that was the perfect ending to a perfectly wicked great read! 

Title: Truth or Dare
Series: His Wicked Games #2
Author: Ember Casey
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Published: 08/23/2013
Publisher: Self-published
Genre(s): Contemporary Erotic Romance

DESCRIPTION

"The steamy sequel to HIS WICKED GAMES...

After their passionate weekend at the Cunningham estate, Lily and Calder have decided to take their relationship to the next level. But love in the real world isn't all fun and games--especially when it becomes clear that Calder still harbors his share of secrets.

When Calder suddenly suggests they slow things down, Lily knows something is seriously wrong--and she's not afraid to pull out the big guns. She makes Calder a proposal he can't refuse: an ongoing match of Truth or Dare that she hopes will bring them closer together.

But as the contest increases in intensity, so do the stakes, and suddenly Lily and Calder have to face the question they've both been avoiding: what sort of relationship do they have when they strip away all the games?"

MY THOUGHTS

Now, for a little bit of Truth or Dare, the sequel to His Wicked Games...


I purposely waited three days after downloading the first book to start reading it knowing the second book was set to be published on August 23. It worked out perfectly, because as soon as I finished His Wicked Games I downloaded and started reading Truth or Dare. Another great reason to read this series—no need to wait for the next book!

The second part of Lily and Calder's story began with Lily's being late for their first date, and Calder's devising "punishment" for that infraction. So, the wicked games were in play right away. Yippee!

 Things are different now though, and Lily felt that difference...
"I cross my hands in my lap as he walks around to the driver’s side. My nerves have returned in full force. Back on his estate, I felt wild and wicked and seductive. In that strange, secluded mansion, I discovered a passionate, confidently-sexual side of myself that I never even knew existed. Now? I feel like a freaking high schooler on her first grown-up date— uncertain and awkward and terrified. Please, don’t let me vomit in his car…"
During a pleasant dinner out Calder received a call; with that their flirty conversation ended, and there was a shift in his behavior. So, instead of the full steam ahead that Lily wanted Calder doused her flames when he said...
“Lily,” he says slowly. “I was thinking, back in the car… Maybe we should slow things down for a bit.”

“Maybe…” he says. “Maybe we should just try dating for a little while. No sex.”
Uh oh!  Where were the games? Where was the fun? This was not good, and it left Lily wondering...
"I mean, he spent all evening teasing me with his wicked promises, touching me and whispering about the things he would do to me later. He took my panties, for freak’s sake. What the hell happened? What could his financial advisor possibly say to him during that call that would change everything so drastically?"
Being curious about what left Calder so obviously conflicted about continuing a relationship with Lily made for some seriously ravenous page turning. What in the heck was going on?  

Meanwhile, things at The Center had improved a great deal. Lily's genius idea was paying off, and it looked like they just might keep its doors open. Then she met a journalist who went out of his way to butter Lily and her father up so they agreed to an interview.  Uh oh...again.

The "no sex deal" didn't mean not seeing each other. Lily and Calder attempted to spend time together like "normal" people...
"It’s strange. Strange to be a normal couple walking through a normal park. I mean, this is the guy who once had sex with me up against the wall of a dungeon. Well— cellar, if we’re getting technical about it. My time on his estate was intensely erotic, and this feels so ordinary by comparison."
Heh. }:-)

Lily soon found out that dating Calder—spending time with him in public was going to be next to impossible; the reasons why I'll not divulge here. 

She also felt that he was still withholding things from her. Things that could change his playful mood dark in an instant.
“Lily…” The emotion in his voice startles me. Something is seriously wrong. He suddenly seems so lost, so vulnerable, and I tighten my arms around him. “I’m here,” I say. “I’m always here.” His mouth is at my ear. “You don’t know what you do to me.” I close my eyes. “But I know what you do to me.”
Then, to "fix" things and to hopefully get Calder to open up to her she devised another game. A game of Truth or Dare...

Let me just say they had a lot of fun, and she totally got off playing the game. ;)

But Calder was still struggling and tormented and not feeling worthy of Lily...
“It was selfish of me to let things get even this far. You deserve someone who can give you more than just a little piece of himself. Someone who doesn’t just use you to keep his mind off of the things he’s too much of a coward to face.”
If you're looking for conflict you'll find it in this book. Calder's defeated attitude and Lily's subsequent devastation made for a few tears. I genuinely felt my heart break a little for them. Yes, I know this is fiction, but when you read it, I DARE you not to feel badly for them too!

When Lily found out about the rather unpleasant plans that were in store for the Cunningham estate she was worried enough about Calder to send him a text...
"We never finished our game. Does that mean you forfeit?"

That Lily is one...smart...cookie! You know that got him, right?

Further enticement came in the form of Lily being uncharacteristically drunk during a brief and abruptly ended telephone conversation. Oh, that really got his attention! He showed up and took care of her. (That whole scene was really touching!) They did some cuddling, and some more talking, which led to some "heated" discussions of a whole 'nother variety! When they finally resumed their game of Truth or Dare Calder had a lot of lost time to make up for.

More conflict occurred, some having to do with The Center and some to do with a very important decision that Calder had to make.

Then three awful events happened: the article was published, Calder made his decision and Lily's ex showed his true colors in a violent way. EEGADS! SO MUCH DRAMA!!!

Things didn't end there though—no, no, no. Someone came to his senses. A final dare was issued, and then "EVERYTHING" plus I felt a hard-earned promising future was in store for them! YAY!!!

I thought it was worth mentioning that I only found one tiny typo between the two books. Very well written and edited!

Update: Read 11/21/2013

Title: Sweet Victory
Series: His Wicked Games #2.5
Author: Ember Casey
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Published: 11/21/2013
Publisher: Self-published
Genre(s): Contemporary Erotic Romance

DESCRIPTION

"One night. One game. One wicked experience they'll never forget...

It's Lily and Calder's first night in their new apartment--and Calder proposes a steamy showdown that's certain to leave both of them breathless. In a challenge like this, things are sure to get heated--but neither of them can be prepared for the surprises that await them as their ultimate game unfolds...

Approx. length = 23,000 words. This edition also includes a 5,000 word sneak preview of Her Wicked Heart!"