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review 2018-02-22 22:10
A great read, full of fascinating, curious, sad, and even horrifying stories.
A Secret History of Brands: The Dark and Twisted Beginnings of the Brand Names We Know and Love - Matt MacNabb

Thanks to Alex and the whole team at Pen & Sword for providing me with a review paperback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I would not class myself as particularly “brand-aware”. Although when I was younger I wanted to have the latest of everything, especially if all my friends had it (oh, the wonders of peer-pressure, even then), with time I’ve become quite skeptical about it, and I tend to avoid them if I can. (I understand the status thing, but I can’t see why I should have to pay and then, on top of that, be happy to advertise the product by making sure everybody knows what it is). Give me local craft any day! So, of course, I could not resist a book that promised to share with its readers ‘The Dark and Twisted Beginnings of the Brand Names We Know and Love’. And it delivers, for sure. I suspect if you are big authorities on the subject, you might already know a lot of the information contained in this book but if like me, you are just curious, this is a gem.

I’d never read anything by this author before, but his style is engaging and he pitches this volume at the right level for the subject: he includes the adequate amount of historical information about each one of the brands and characters (inventors, creators, public figures…) to make sure that the readers understand the context of each brand and its products, and then focuses on the more intriguing and less publicized aspects of their evolution. Some of them might be more familiar than others (I suspect a lot of readers will know about Coca-Cola and its early cocaine content), but even then, MacNabb manages to unearth elements of the story that are bizarre and less well-known (so Coca-Cola still contains extracts of coca leaves [no actual cocaine though, don’t worry!] supplied by the only lab in the US with a permit to import coca leaves).

While some of the chapters are curious and amusing (like the Coca-Cola one or the chapter on the Kellogg’s ‘war on sex’), some can be quite disturbing. There are many connections to Nazi Germany I was not aware of, like Hugo Boss’s manufacture of Nazi uniforms, Adidas & Puma’s Nazi connections (I had no idea the creators of these two brands were brothers, either), Chanel’s spying for the Germans (and the fact that the information was kept under wraps by the French government). For me, the most shocking were the chapters on Bayer (not so much the Heroin production, even if they seem to have become aware of its addicting properties quite early on, but its direct connection to slave labour and the production of Zyklon B, used in the gas chambers in the concentration camps), and Henry Ford and his anti-Semitic beliefs and writings (that seem to have inspired Hitler). The chapters on Winchester and Bakelite were intriguing (as I didn’t know anything at all about the history of the objects, other than some vague notion of the importance of the rifle) but sad, due to the personal tragedies behind the stories.

This book is a great read, a page-turner, and I suspect most readers will move on to read full accounts on some of the selected topics. Although the brands are chosen for their interesting stories, the author gives credit where credit is due and always tries to offer as balanced an account as possible of the people and the companies, making sure to emphasise how things have changed for most of them. It is a sobering thought to reflect upon the past of some of these household names, and it is important we don’t forget the lessons learned.

I recommend this book to anybody interested in brands, pop culture, history, and it will be a resource of interest to writers and researchers. (The notes contain bibliographical information for those interested in further reading). Another great addition to the publisher’s varied catalogue.


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review 2018-02-13 20:38
Bought by the Boss - Stacey Kennedy

This book is actually two fun, sexy novellas. Liam Maxwell and Jackson Keller used to be best friends and college roommates at law school, but something happened in the past and now neither of them speak to each other. Each of them are successful lawyers in their own right, but they are still connected through their personal assistants, Aria Finley and Mallory Beckett. Liam has been secretly keeping his attraction to Aria, Jackson's assistant, under wraps for far too long. When a charity auction comes up and Aria and Mallory agree to be auctioned off for a date, Liam jumps at the chance to win Aria. Liam and Aria have always had a flirty relationship but have never acted on it since Aria is great friends with Jackson. Liam and Aria's time together was fun, sexy and very enjoyable. I really liked both of these characters. Aria is a strong woman who has no problem putting Liam in his place. Liam has wanted Aria forever and is willing to do anything to make her happy. Their happy ending was great! Unbeknownst to Liam, Jackson bid on Mallory to get back at Liam for bidding on Aria. What started off as a prank quickly turns into something else. Mallory is stuck between wanting to stay loyal to Liam, but also wanting a shot at Jackson. If only the guys could get past their issues and make up it would make Mallory and Aria's life much easier. These were two fun, quick, sexy reads. I thought for sure I knew how the story would finally end, but was wrong. Overall, it was a great read.

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review 2018-02-12 06:10
Brooklynaire - Sarina Bowen

This is book #4, in the Brooklyn Bruisers series.  This book can be read as a standalone novel.  To avoid spoilers, and to fully understand this amazing series, I recommend reading in order.

Rebecca AKA "Becca" has family obligations that come before her own needs.  All. The. Time.  When is it time for her?  She has an amazing job, great friends and co-workers, and she is just too busy to enjoy.

Nate is a busy man.  He owns many successful businesses, including a hockey team.  He has worked with Becca for many years.  Now he feels an attraction he is ashamed to act on.  What would she think? 

This is a long awaited story.  I was so excited to read this book, and could not contain my excitement!  It was everything I wanted and more.  I got more humor,  heat, banter, sexy times, hot hockey players - there is something for everyone!  I just really like these characters and was so glad they were meant to be.  I give this story a 4/5 Kitty's Paws UP!

***This ARC copy was given in exchange for an honest review only.

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review 2018-02-11 18:33
Bought by the Boss by Stacey Kennedy
Bought by the Boss - Stacey Kennedy


When it comes to romance, nobody can set off the sprinklers like Stacey Kennedy. Bought by the Boss is at it's best when It's being decidedly wicked. Alpha males, hot tempered women and scandalous secrets set the stage for naughtiness in this spicy battle of hearts.

His Price - She's his heart's desire. He's her greatest temptation. Instant attraction has repercussions for feuding enemies and any woman brash enough to get in the way. Aria is caught between trusting her heart on a stranger or risking a friendship that means the world to her. Liam is a man with an agenda. He just has to figure out for himself, what he's willing to risk to get it. Liam and Aria are a steamy combination of lust, love and risk.

Dirty Money - Sex, lies and heartache await. Can a romance built on half truths survive? One Night sets off a chain of events that could be their undoing. Mallory wants to be loved. Jackson wants to feel needed. One auction is the beginning of a surprising revelation for both. Too bad their chance may have come too late. Temptation awaits.

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review 2018-02-08 07:30
The romance is missing from this erotic romance
Spanking the Boss (An Office Kink Novella Book 1) - Hunter Frost

Damn this one was a hard book to review.


The first 50% was basically erotica,and exceptionally well done, definitely 4, maybe even 5 stars. I felt their connection even though it was an almost instant romantic attraction.


Then the night ended and I expected some emotional scenes before a a final glorious resolution. Unfortunately this is where I was disappointed.


The first thing Charlie did was act like a douchebag, not once but twice in a couple of pages. Kiss and tell? So not cool. Then to compound that by revealing that what they did was in some way kinky (and I suspect he would have said more if she hadn't said she didn't want to know). Jesus, this was her boss too. Why would you put either person in that position?


And the confrontation and resolution when it came gave me nothing that I'd not had already in the book and provided a very lacklustre finale. I didn't feel the desperation (especially from Charlie) and there wasn't enough build up before the big reveal. Personally I'd have had Trent keep catching glances of people that look like Chaz (leaving the building, or having to deliver a file up to the penthouse suite, in a nearby coffee shop) but after going up to the first few and them not being Charlie he stops chasing them even though they are Charlie. Something to build up the tension there. 

And the forgiveness was too quick. And I didn't like how they resolved things, I didn't need more sexy times. I needed feelings, and I felt I'd been short changed.


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