A Trip to The Ripped Bodice: A Romance Bookstore

Several months ago, I contributed a small amount to a Kickstarter campaign for a specialty romance bookstore right here in Los Angeles.  I don’t buy many physical books these days having converted to reading ebooks almost entirely.

I wanted to support The Ripped Bodice for several reasons: (1) I would love to be able to attend author signings which are hard to find around here; (2) I love the idea of there being a place where I can get recommendations and discuss romance books with knowledgeable people and (3) there are so many specialty bookstores — why shouldn’t there be a romance one?

I’ve been following Bea and Leah’s progress on the store after the successful Kickstarter campaign at @TheRippedBodice.  The store’s Grand Opening is March 4th and 5th, but I was thrilled to see that they are conducting a soft opening this week.  Having a quiet Sunday, I rushed down to see the store in person.

The store in located in a nice area of Culver City with plenty of nearby parking.  20160228_115648 (Medium)

The Ripped Bodice is painted a cute pink color on the outside and is white on the inside which allows the books to be the stars.  And there are so many romance books of all types and genres including historical, contemporary, young adult, paranormal and erotica.  They also have a smattering of books in Spanish and even have books on the romance genre itself. (I am sure I’ve missed other groupings but it was too much to absorb in one trip).

I think my favorite part of the store is that the books are arranged differently than in other stores.  For example, the historical romances are in order of time period then author.  So all the Regencies are together, all the Victorians, etc.  For the paranormal romances, Vampire lovers, witch lovers, Shifter fans can find all their books together.  What I like best about this is that it allows me to find books in a different way other than author.  Whether I feel like a witch romance today or I want to find a book similar to an author I already read, this upsetting of the standard shelving arrangement made me look at the books differently.

The store is fun but tasteful and elegant.  I appreciated Bea and Leah who were friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgeable.  I didn’t have any specific books that I was looking for so I asked for recommendations for a contemporary and a paranormal, Several choices for each genre were suggested after questioning about my own tastes.   I can’t remember ever getting that kind of service for romances at a bookstore.

I walked away with three books (I had already decided to get a Jennifer Ashley historical).

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There are cute little pink receipts! (You can see the corner of mine in the above photo).

I will return next weekend for the Grand Opening events.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this store because I believed in its concept and after seeing it live, I think this could be something special.

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Bea and Leah with Fabio.

Review: Night Shift

Review: Night ShiftNight Shift (Kate Daniels, #6.5; SPI Files, # 0.5; Psy-Changeling, #12.5; Barbarian, #1) by Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Lisa Shearin, Milla Vane
Series: Kate Daniels #6.5, SPI Files #0.5, Psy-Changeling #12.5, Barbarian #1
Published by Berkley on November 25th 2014
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 378

Four Paranormal Novellas

NIGHT SHIFT consists of four paranormal novellas. Of the four authors, I had only read Singh before this collection. Overall rating: 4 stars.

SECRETS AT MIDNIGHT by Nalini Singh: Part of Singh’s Psy-Changeling series, this novella features Bastien Smith (Mercy’s brother). Bastien is a DarkRiver leopard and one day he scents his mate on the street of San Francisco. When he finally discovers who she is, he knows there is something different about her. Kirby is a schoolteacher who is alone in the world. The story has a twist that is different from other stories in this series. This story was great. Bastien was a great hero although I had less interest in Kirby as a person but her ultimate story was very interesting and added to the Psy-Changeling universe. Rating: 4.25 stars.

MAGIC STEALS by Ilona Andrews: This novella is part of a series that I have not read. That made no difference, however, because I found the story easy to follow, with interesting characters and a tight storyline. Dali is a weretiger who is involved with Jim Shrapshire who is a werejaguar. Dali feels that she is not a good match for Jim because Dali thinks herself as clumsy and not a strong fighter. Dali does good magic instead. I thought the story was really funny especially when Dali is attempting to hide Jim from her mother. I thought the story was interesting and I loved how Jim is clearly attached to Dali who doesn’t really believe in herself. This story intrigued me enough to want to read more of this series. Rating: 4 stars.

LUCKY CHARMS by Lisa Shearin: This is the story of Makenna Fraser who is a new employee for the SPI, Supernatural Protection Investigations. Makenna is a seer who can see the actual creature underlying any disguise. She is partnered with Ian Byrne who is the star of the company. On Makenna’s first day, she and Ian are in search of a quintet of leprechauns who have evaded their bodyguards. Their search takes them through strip clubs and a sex club. The story is all about the case and there was little character development or any relationship between the characters. I know that there are other books in this series, but this story was not enough to make me interested in reading more. Rating: 2 stars.

THE BEAST OF BLACKMOOR by Milla Vane: Kavik is known as the Beast of Blackmoor. His homeland has been taken over by an evil ruler and when he is refused his request by the goddess Vera, Kavik, who is fifteen, insults the goddess and finds himself given a curse instead. Years later he meets the woman who will be his downfall. Mala, High Daughter of the House of Krima is one of Vela’s chosen and on a quest of her own to save her own destroyed homeland. Her task: to tame the Beast of Blackmoor. I really liked this story. The hero is very dark and tortured but Mala’s persistence wins him over. Both of the characters are strong warriors and work well together as partners. The story is also very sexy especially for such a short novella. Rating: 4.25.



Review: Shards of Hope

Review: Shards of HopeShards of Hope (Psy-Changeling, #14) by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling #14
Published by Berkley Hardcover on June 2nd 2015
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 483

Brings All The Story Threads Together and Starts a New Chapter

THE STORY: Aden Kai and Zaira Neve are two Arrows who awake to find that they have been stripped of their psychic abilities. Forced to escape and rely on one another, they discover a new plot to take control by shattering the fragile peace that has arisen after the fall of silence. As head of the Arrows, Aden knows that he must show the Arrows that there is hope for the Arrows in a post-silence world. He believes that Zaira is the key for him. Zaira, however, knows that she cannot risk relinquishing silence lest she risk releasing the psychotic murderer that she knows is within her.

OPINION: Simply beautiful. SHARDS OF HOPE builds to its conclusion slowly and with such precision that by the time the conclusion arrives, it is clear that the entire book is the demonstration of what the solution to the problems must be. This book is a treat especially for fans of the series because there are so many significant cameos by favorite characters. Aden is a wonderful hero. He so clearly has loved Zaira for so long and he is such a caring individual that one cannot help but fall in love with him. Zaira is the tormented one here. Her past is horrific and she cannot imagine that she can possibly have a happy ending. This book, however, is really about hope and the big difference that one person can make in changing another’s view of themselves. This book is about the transmission of hope and the importance of individual action.

WORTH MENTIONING: Fans of the series will be especially pleased because there are numerous appearances by previous heroes and heroines who are important to the overall plot.

FINAL DECISION: This book feels like a homecoming with appearances by so many previous favorites. The romance between Aden and Zaira is at times dark and at times incredibly innocent. This was a great book for fans although I think that newcomers would be better starting with another book in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SHARDS OF HOPE is the fourteenth book in the Psy-Changling series. This book feels like it needs to be read as part of the series because it wraps up the previous storyline and starts a new part of the overarching story.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.



Review: Shield of Winter

Review: Shield of WinterShield of Winter (Psy-Changeling, #13) by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling #13
Published by Berkley Hardcover on June 3rd 2014
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 431

Awaken the Empaths

“To be an Arrow is to be an island, devoid of attachments that create vulnerability.”

THE STORY: Vasic is an Arrow with the ability to teleport. He believes himself beyond Silence and irredeemable because of what he did to help preserve Silence. He knows he has not future…until he meets Ivy Jane. Ivy is a reconditioned empath who has lived her whole life believing that she is flawed. When the psy-net becomes more infected, the governing coalition realizes that empaths must be awakened to try to restore the psy-net to health. Ivy gives Vasic hope and the two begin a sweet romance.

OPINION: I loved how the darkness of the story and the sadness and pain of Vasic and Ivy’s past was paired with an almost sweet and gentle romance between the two. It was unexpected and gave lightness to a story that could have been dark. SHIELD OF WINTER continues to have much of the humor that is present in most of the Psy-Changeling novels. What was interesting to me is how normal the developing relationship between Vasic and Ivy felt even as they were involved in extraordinary events. That compelled me to keep reading to find out how things would be resolved.

WORTH MENTIONING: There were small scenes with Kaleb and Sahara from HEART OF OBSIDIAN and I really enjoyed seeing how they are dealing with their relationship and how Sahara is keeping Kaleb in line.

FINAL DECISION: I love Vasic and Ivy’s story. In the midst of darkness and death and potential calamity, I found their almost innocent love moving and sweet.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SHIELD OF WINTER is the thirteenth book in the Psy-Changeling series. Singh’s series creates a complicated and intricate world in her series and while this book can be read separate from the series, I think it is best appreciated as part of the collective. Each individual book builds on the world and its mythology so that the characters and events resonate more with the background knowledge of the prior books.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.



Review: Heart of Obsidian

Review: Heart of ObsidianHeart of Obsidian (Psy-Changeling, #12) by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling #12
Published by Berkley Sensation on June 4th 2013
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 360

One of the Best of the Series

“To fight evil, you have to understand the dark.”

WARNING: This review contains spoilers that detract from the wonderful slow revelation of information that Singh has done in the novel. I would recommend reading this book and enjoying the journey. It is fabulous!

THE STORY: Kaleb Krychek is a Psy councilor, a cardinal Tk (Telekenetic) and perhaps the most powerful and dangerous man alive. Throughout the series, it has been unclear whether he is good and evil. Raised by a serial killer, at times helpful to those in need, no one knows what his motives are. For years, Kaleb has had only one motive: to find Sahara Nightstar who may be the only person more powerful than Kaleb and he believes that with her by his side, he will be able to take over the PsyNet. When he finds her, Sahara has been tortured and striped of her identity. This book is all about Kaleb’s motives, his history and his murky history with Sahara.

OPINION: HEART OF OBSIDIAN may be the best written and most complex of the Psy-Changeling novels. Singh keeps the motivations and history of Kaleb hidden for most of the book. Best of all, she doesn’t engage in revisionist history to make him a clearly heroic character. He remains as complex and a creature of the dark at the end as he is in the beginning. His love for Sahara is his redeeming trait and it is she who brings him into the light. I loved their story. For a story that so often strays into the dark, Singh has given them a past that is also sweet and beautiful. I loved every moment of this book. There are some books that end far too quickly — not because of a defect in the story but because the story is so compelling that the reader doesn’t want the book to end. HEART OF OBSIDIAN is one of those books. Having read it once, it is already in my favorites and I know I will revisit it again and again.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book reveals a tremendous amount about what was happening on in the previous novels that the reader was unaware of. I appreciated that Singh has in a way been writing this novel since SLAVE TO SENSATION.

FINAL DECISION: I absolutely loved this book. I am a fan of the dark, mysterious hero who may or may not actually be the villain. Beautifully written, the way the mysteries are revealed are compelling and keep the reader completely engaged.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HEART OF OBSIDIAN is the twelfth book in the Psy-Changeling series. This book finally brings to a close an overarching story that has been going on since the first book of the series. This book can be read independent of the other books of the series because the focus is so much on the couple but it is best appreciated as the culmination of the prior books.




Review: Tangle of Need

Review: Tangle of NeedTangle of Need (Psy-Changeling, #11) by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling #11
Published by Berkley on May 29th 2012
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 422

Book of Transitions

TANGLE OF NEED is unlike any other book in the Psy-Changeling series. While there is a romance in this book between Adria and Riaz, it is also the book of the civil war amongst the Psy and also a continuation of the love story of Hawke and Sienna from KISS OF SNOW.

THE STORY: TANGLE OF NEED is the story of Adria, a wolf changeling who has left a relationship with a less dominant male that lasted a decade but ended in anger and resentment. She meets Riaz, a Snow Dancer lieutenant. While the two are attracted to one another, Riaz is rude and belligerent. He is unhappy about the attraction because he thinks it is a betrayal of he mating bond that he found with a woman but could not realize because she was already happily married to someone else. When the two agree to have a friends with benefits relationship they soon find out that feelings are very complicated. The secondary story is about Hawke and Sienna and there relationship finding its footing as the two approach their mating ceremony.

OPINION: This book for me felt like part two of KISS OF SNOW because the most interesting part was about Hawke and Sienna and the war between the Psy factions. While the romance between Riaz and Adria is billed as the top story, it felt like a secondary romance. I just found the other two stories much more compelling. I thought the twist on the romance between Riaz and Adria was interesting but it was just more interesting to read about the other events in the story.

WORTH MENTIONING: The final reveal in this book made reading the entire book worth it.

FINAL DECISION: I liked this book primarily because of the continuing storyline of Hawke and Sienna. The story of Adria and Riaz while interesting was not sufficient on its own to sustain the book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: TANGLE OF NEED is the eleventh book in the Psy-Changeling series. It is highly dependent upon the overarching storyline of the series. In many ways it feels like part two of KISS OF SNOW.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.



Review: Kiss of Snow

Review: Kiss of SnowKiss of Snow (Psy-Changeling, #10) by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling #10
Published by Berkley on May 31st 2011
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 433

One of the Best of the Series

“You have the power to tear me to pieces, to wound me so deep and true that I’ll never recover.”

THE STORY: KISS OF SNOW continues Singh’s series about the world where humans, changelings (human animal shapeshifters) and Psy (those with psychic abilities) live. As readers of the series will recall, the Psy have been subject to Silence for 100 years. Silence was the stripping of all emotions from the Psy intended to protect them from the damaging effects of emotions. Now Silence is breaking down and there is a struggle for power between factions of the Psy and humans and changelings.

“Nothing about Sienna Lauren had ever been easy.”

Sienna Lauren is Psy. Her family defected to the SnowDancer changeling pack when Sienna was a teenager. Sienna is X-Psy which is a mysterious and rare designation. X-Psy means that Sienna is a living weapon. Most Psy of her designation do not live long and no one has lived longer than 25 years. Sienna is now nineteen and is a soldier for the SnowDancer Pack. Since their first meeting, she has known that she has wanted the Alpha of the SnowDancer Pack.

Hawke is the alpha wolf of the SnowDancer den. He is arrogant and protective and dominant. He has wanted Sienna since he first saw her, but he knows that he cannot do anything about it. He has believed her too young and also he knows that he cannot give her what she needs.

“Hawke’s mate is dead. He buried his heart with her.”

The wolf that Hawke knows would be his mate died as a child. Since wolves love only once, Hawke does not believe that his wolf will allow him to love Sienna in that way. Because he cares about her, he doesn’t want to hurt her. At the same time, Hawke cannot keep away from Sienna.

OPINION: This is the book that readers of the series have been looking forward to because Hawke and Sienna’s relationship has been hinted at in many of the books of the series. I loved the relationship between Hawke and Sienna. He wants her desperately but he cares too much about her to want to hurt her. At the same time, Sienna doesn’t want Hawke to dictate their relationship and demands to be treated as an equal. They are both strong, difficult people and they strike some serious sparks off of one another. Their story is intense and complex and I was enthralled the entire time. Entwined with the culmination of the overarching story of the impending attack on the changeling packs, Singh has created a story that is a suspense story but also a deeply moving romance. This is a story that I immediately wanted to reread. It was my favorite book since SLAVE TO SENSATION and is definitely on par with that story. I think the two can be read together as bookends to a portion of the Psy-Changeling story.

The book also has a sweet secondary romance between Lara, the SnowDancer healer and Walker Lauren, Sienna’s uncle. An addition to the story that doesn’t detract, the story is a sweet contrast to the more angst filled difficult romance between Hawke and Sienna.

WORTH MENTIONING: Fans of the series will be pleased to know that finally Sascha and Lucas’ child is born. Having both Alpha couples in this book was a treat.

FINAL DECISION: I loved this book. I consider it one of the best of the series. Action packed and emotional and written in a way that makes a reader want to keep turning pages, I highly recommend it.

CONNECTED BOOKS: KISS OF SNOW is the tenth book in the Psy-Changeling series. This book brings to a conclusion some of the stories that have been present in the series since the beginning. A reader could enjoy this book apart from the others in the series although I recommend starting at the beginning. Hawke and Sienna’s story has been going on since the beginning of the series and has more meaning having followed their journey.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars!



Review: Play of Passion

Review: Play of PassionPlay of Passion (Psy-Changeling, #9) by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling #9
Published by Berkley on November 2nd 2010
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 356

Changeling Romance Between Two Wolves

In a series that is most often about the romances between Psy, Changelings and humans, PLAY OF PASSION is a rare story between two changelings who are members of the same pack.

THE STORY: Indigo Riviere is the most dominant female wolf in the SnowDancer pack. She is a lieutenant in the hierarchy. Drew Kincaid is the pack’s hunter meaning that he is charged with tracking down and eliminating rogue wolves in the pack. The story begins where Drew has decided to pursue Indigo who he has been interested in for years. Drew has serious challenges, however, because Drew is four years younger than Indigo and she outranks him in the pack and she worries about having a relationship with a wolf who will begin to resent her dominant status. As for the overarching story, the Psy Council has fractured and the different groups are beginning to make moves to seize power which threatens the Psy, the changelings and the humans.

OPINION: I liked the romance in this story, but the attraction of this book for me was the fact that the overarching story regarding the Psy struggle with silence is reaching a critical point. Singh does a great job of creating relationships with strong, independent women and showing relationships where they do not become weak and dependant. This book shows the struggles that women face when having a relationship. I also liked the look into a more “typical” relationship between two wolves. The books of this series usually mix and match the three groups: Psy, changeling and human. I liked getting more information about the SnowDancer wolves who have been part of the series since the beginning and yet have been the more mysterious changeling group.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a great scene in this book where some interesting people are in the same room together for the first time. The overarching story is reaching a critical point.

FINAL DECISION: I liked this book. The romance is interesting and I liked seeing old favorite characters. I especially am interested in the overarching story which has reached a critical point.

CONNECTED BOOKS: PLAY OF PASSION is the ninth book in the Psy Changeling series. While the romance is self-contained, there is an overarching story that reaches an important point in this book. New readers may be lost because there is no recap. Instead, new readers should start with SLAVE TO SENSATION which is a great book!

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.



Review: Bonds of Justice

Review: Bonds of JusticeBonds of Justice (Psy-Changeling, #8) by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling #8
Published by Berkley on July 6th 2010
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 359

Psy-Human Thriller

“We fit, you and I . . . two broken pieces making a whole.”

THE STORY: Detective Max Shannon is assigned to work with Sophia Russo, a J-Psy on some suspicious deaths surrounding one of the Psy Councilors. Max is human but has an unusual natural mental shield. Sophia is a Justice Psy who finds in people’s minds evidence of crimes. Years of touching the worst of the world means that Sophia is falling apart. Her mental shields are breaking down and she knows that soon she will be sent to Rehabilitation where she will be mentally destroyed. Before she falls apart, Sophia realizes that she wants to investigate her attraction to Max. The two are soon involved in one another and investigating plots that threaten the stability of the entire world.

OPINION: I liked this book because it was most concerned with moving the overarching story forward. The book is more of a suspense thriller than the typical Psy-Changeling book. There are three basic stories: the romance, the story of a murderer that Max and Sophia were investigating and the question of who is killing the Councilor’s trusted advisors. Max and Sophia had an interesting relationship. They both come from broken families where they were abandoned by their parents. That similarity allows the two to get close to one another where their instinct is to stay apart. Singh does such an amazing job with the Psy-Changeling novels because they are interesting political dramas and deeply emotional book about love and emotion and what makes us human.

WORTH MENTIONING: The overarching story of the series is clearly reaching a critical point. Readers of the series will be interested to see reveals regarding the murky motives of various recurring characters.

FINAL DECISION: While not one of my favorite books of the series, this book is different because it is more of a thriller. The books spins out more of the overarching story and I especially like the shades of grey of characters that seemed completely evil in the past.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BONDS OF JUSTICE is the eighth book in the Psy-Changeling series. The romantic story is one that is self-contained and can be read by a new reader. The book, however, also makes big moves in the overarching storyline of the series that might be confusing for a new reader.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.



Review: Blaze of Memory

Review: Blaze of MemoryBlaze of Memory (Psy-Changeling, #7) by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling #7
Published by Berkley on November 3rd 2009
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 386

Amazing Emotional Journey

“Nothing is stronger than the will of the human heart.”

THE STORY: Dev Santos who heads the Shine Foundation which protects the descendants of the Psy who chose not to submit to Silence a century ago finds a woman unconscious and tortured. She has no memory of who she is but Dev suspects that she might be a Trojan horse sent to bring him and Shine down. Katya Haas was mentally destroyed by one of the Psy Council members. Her mind was reprogrammed to murder and Katya fears that Dev is correct and that he is the target. Desperately trying to regain her sanity and her identity, Katya is also attracted to the man that she may have been sent to destroy.

OPINION: I loved this book. It was deeply emotional and concentrated intensely on Katya and Dev. It was an intensely beautiful story of two people who cannot trust and yet end up falling in love. The story of what Katya’s purpose was remained a taut and interesting storyline. I fell in love with these characters. Katya is so broken in the beginning of the story that I rejoiced as she struggled to take control of her own life. The story is so well written that even as I knew that there must be a happy ending somewhere, I was completely absorbed into the story such that I could not imagine how the story could end up on a positive note. Such an intense book that never faltered.

WORTH MENTIONING: The journey that this book takes is amazing. I ended up crying for about 50 pages because it was so emotional.

FINAL DECISION: I loved this book. It is one of those books I love despite and because it ripped my heart out.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BLAZE OF MEMORY is the seventh book in the Psy-Changeling series. This book can be read independent of the others in the series although Singh is no longer repeating the basic information about the world she has created so a new reader may not understand the relationships and rules involved.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.