Coming Soon: CSN Stores Product Review

I dont know about you guys, but I've yet to meet a kitchen gadget I didnt like. For the past year or so I've been a big proponent of the minimalist kitchen. This happened through necessity rather than design since we moved from a large-ish single family into an apartment with a shoe-box kitchen.

As I donated three large boxes of kitchen articles from my old kitchen, I tried to get over my heartbreak (and hoarding tendencies) with positive thoughts - why do I need a sandwich maker when I have a frying pan and my own ingenuity and so on and so forth. I've been pretty good at maintaining this position, over the last year the only new article that has entered my kitchen has been my beloved ebelskiver pan.

So, imagine my excitement when the generous people at CSN Stores contacted me to review a product from their site. The website has over 200+ stores and they carry an exhaustive range of products all in one place- from dinnerware, to furniture and shoes, bags and luggage. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity. And once my mouse stalled over the kitchen tools link, I knew the product would have to be a kitchen gadget.

But, I haven't yet narrowed down which one will replace the ghosts of gadgets past in my teeny-tiny kitchen. So, here's the question to you guys to help me figure out if there's something I really need - which is your favorite kitchen gadget?

As of this writing, I would have to say my favorite is my Braun hand blender with whisk and immersion blender attachments. I love it so much I've even given it out as gifts.

Review: Lover Mine

Rating: 2 / 5

Lover Mine is the 8th book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood Series by JR Ward.

Let's get this out of the way first, shall we. Read this book only if you have read the rest of the series. It could be read standalone, but a lot of the complicated relationships are clearer if you go in order. Series order and reviews can be found here and here. There will be BDB terminology in this review and minor spoilers wrt this book and previous books which will not be explicitly marked.

LM picks up 4 weeks after the events of Lover Avenged. Xhex, the half-sympath assassin, has been kidnapped by Lash, son of the Omega. The Brotherhood, Rehv, John Matthew, Blaylock and Qhuinn are doing their best to find any clues to her disappearance. Something about the manner in which she disappeared and the way that he treated her the last time they were together has caused John Matthew to bond with Xhex and his panic, grief and the need to avenge are unsurpassable.

Meanwhile Xhex is enduring physical and mental abuse at the hands of Lash, who initially saw her only as a hostage, but has since fallen in love with her himself. After 4 weeks of Lash's brutality Xhex has come to several revelations, that she is in love with John Matthew and she kept him at a distance because of the repercussions once JM found she was half-sympath. And that she has finally reached her breaking point, the only reason for her survival is to seek revenge against Lash.

Xhex manages to get herself out of Lash's clutches and re-unite with JM for some bitter-sweet moments together since both know that the time they have is short. Xhex is driven by one purpose, she MUST kill Lash herself and does not envision life after the event, while JM in order to retain any self-respect and self-worth MUST kill Lash himself.

JM has a long, sordid history with Lash and the years spent away from the vampire community where he was different, misunderstood and traumatised have left deep scars in his mental make up. To allow Lash to have abused the female he is bonded to is unthinkable. To allow anyone else, even Xhex, to kill Lash is even more unthinkable. As their personal vendetta against Lash leads to the inevitable showdown, JM and Xhex must examine their hearts to determine what is really important, the destruction of their souls or finding and keeping a soulmate.

I must come clean, I almost, almost didnt write this review because of how disappointing the book was. The only thing pushing me was my OC tendencies since I've reviewed every other book in the series on this blog. Cant break that trend now, can I?

A major part of my disappointment has to do with John Matthew. If you've read my reviews you know I dont care for him at all. But, in LA, I almost thought that I would be able to read his story. Almost. It had to do with this wonderful dynamic that JM and Xhex had going on - she the tough, hard-as-nails sympath assassin, while he was the much more emotionally available, tormented younger guy. I wanted to read that story. The kidnapping in the last book upset me because I had a premonition that everything I was interested in was going to be thrown. And I was right!

Basically this book is a rehash of Lover Awakened where Bella is kidnapped and Zsadist goes crazy trying to find her. Bella and Zsadist worked because their characters were defined to fit the roles they inhabited in their book. In LM Xhex the tough warrior woman is forced into Bella's role while whiny JM gets Zsadist - it really, really didnt work for me. I was excited when Xhex was introduced because there are so few strong women in this series, I hated that for her to get a HEA she had to be emotionally and physically broken down until she seemed a changed person. I'm not saying that any person can undergo what she goes through and still come out strong, her journey probably strikes the right chords for survivors. I think I'm upset that she had to go through an ordeal which required her to be weak and needy just so JM could play the alpha male.

A huge part of my problem with JM is how much telling, not showing, there is going on around him. The first scene in LM introduces him as follows
The one in the middle, however, was trouble. Slightly larger than his buddies, he had dark brown hair that was cut short and a classically handsome face-but his blue eyes were lifeless, with about as much reflection as old asphalt.
A dead man walking. With nothing to lose.
JM is always talked up as being a fierce and extremely dangerous fighter but he really does nothing. His internal monologues are whiny, self-centered & immature and it seemed to me like other people were always picking up after his messes. Even at the climax, after all the angst over how it had to be him taking Lash out all JM does is put himself, stupidly, in danger, so others can save Xhex and bail him out. And while I can see how it might look that he took the higher road, put his own needs aside to allow Xhex her vengeance all I saw was JM being his pathetic, ineffectual self. Right, I'm sure everyone understands exactly how much I liked him so we'll move along now.

As is the case with all the BDB books, the plotline above is only the primary romance. There's ample other action going on in this book. Lash and the Omega have a falling out and Lash soon learns what it means to be daddy's boy no longer. We have a flashback with the Brothers Darius and Tohrment investigating the disappearance of a member of the glymera. And we have a storyline with a paranormal investigations unit in South Carolina (? I dont remember and am too lazy to look it up). None of these worked for me, the lesser parts never do and the minute I started reading the latter storylines I knew exactly how they were going to be resolved so that took away some of the mystery factor for me.

Which brings me to the portions which did work. Namely the triangle between JM's friends Blaylock, Qhuinn and Qhuinn's cousin Saxton. Blay's been in love with Qhuinn forever while Qhuinn just wants to conform to the norm, get married to a woman of worth, after being an outcast all his life. He treats Blay horribly then gets cross-eyed with jealousy when Saxton finally asks Blay out. All the Qhuinn/Blay portions were fantastic, the scenes shifting between them wanting to hurt each other, to intense longing esspecially on Blay's part. All I wanted to do was read about them.

It's a pattern I've been noticing since LE, the secondary romances have all the sizzling romantic tension but when they move into their own story lose all their chemistry. I certainly felt the same way about JM and Xhex in the last book and couldnt wait to read their story. The caveat with Qhuinn and Blay's story is that I'd love to read them get their HEA but as a secondary romance in one of the future books. I'm sure I will not be able to handle another book filled primarily with the teenage angst and urban slang speak that this book had.

Lastly we also get a buildup to the next book which is Payne and Manny's story. Again, I loved Payne when she was introduced - a female Brother? Fantastic!! But LM ends with Payne breaking her spine and it looks like she's going to need intensive therapy/rehabilitation (which is probably where Manny steps in, Manny to those who dont remember was Jane's boss in LU) to get back on her feet. By now you know how I feel that Payne has to be weakened in her own story ... as if the psychological number her mother, the Scribe Virgin, has done on her isnt enough. Also, this will be another romance with a human/vampire love interest and I've yet to see one of those come to a satisfactory conclusion.

And finally, if you are still reading and want to know about the series arc ... what series arc? I felt the storyline was completely stagnant in LM, while simultaneously introducing more characters for potential stories. The problem is that I'm just not interested in these characters, I wanted to read about the Brotherhood and they're all storied out. How about Tohr's story, you say? In the BDB world the men are mated for life. Tohr had his mate in Wellsie who died, so if I read about an upcoming book with Tohr I will be intensely irritated. As it stands, I'm not sure if I'll pick up the next one in the series.

Series Order

1. Dark Lover
2. Lover Eternal
3. Lover Awakened
4. Lover Revealed
5. Lover Unbound
6. Lover Enshrined
7. Lover Avenged
8. Lover Mine

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