Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It Takes a Village...

of bloggers.

Excellent Website Alert!

Do you enjoy browsing the Internet, examining author, publisher, and bookstore websites,looking for upcoming books that you just have to have? Is your wish list bigger than your TBR pile? Then you must take a look at Romantic Advances, by readers (and bloggers), for readers.

The brainchild of Jane and Sybil, and ably assisted by a team of brilliant bloggers, RA is the place to go when you want to figure out what to read next. Go to Dear Author for more details, then go forth and take a peek. Jane the coding queen has been working around the clock, and credit must go to Jennie and her very creative Twin for the logo design and nifty button. We are definitely under construction, and open to input and suggestions.

Building the TBR mountain, One book at a time.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Contest Time!

Demon Angel by Meljean Brook was one of my favorite reads so far this year. I'm looking forward to Demon Moon, coming out next month, which features fabulous (in a totally non-gay way) vampire, Colin Ames-Beaumont. I was alerted by KristieJ to a fun contest Ms. Brook is doing at her blog. See here for a glimpse into Colin's psyche. I love stuff like this. Anyhow, to be entered into a contest (three free books!), you must answer seven of the questions in the comments or on your own blog. So here I go--

5. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I'm finally (after many years) able to admit to myself that I have passive-agressive tendencies, which is something I hate.

6. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
There is this certain combination of arrogance and stupidity that I often encounter that drives me insane. You know, people who have no idea what they are talking about but are absolutely convinced that they are right.

10. On what occasion do you lie?
I have the deplorable tendency of lying to my son when I want him to go to sleep. "Dad went to New Jersey, that's why he can't come upstairs", "The television's broken", "Aunt Margee will buy you a pony if you just go to sleep." Horrible, I know.

13. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
From a quick scan of the blog: "fabulous", "meh", "apprehensive", "I can (or can't) buy...", "hot", and I'm sure there are many more.

19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Totally cheesy, but my kids. All else pales in comparison to their awesomeness.

24. Where would you like to live?
Steps from the beach somewhere in the Northeast. Perhaps in NH or RI.

29. What do you most value in your friends?
I don't know how to put it, but people who are "real." People who are just themselves, with real opinions, and interests, and who have something to say. So many people bore or annoy me, and I know I'm horrible for saying that. They don't have to have anything in common with me, they just have to be themselves, not fake or banal.

One down, nineteen to go...

A two-haiku review of Beyond the Edge by Susan Kearney

Poor Little Rich Girl,
Meets Time Cop from the future,
On a tough mission.

A race against time,
Yet he finds time for sex games,
Hot sex, meh plot.

Comments from the Peanut Gallery: The sex scenes were hot, I'll give you that. Even though this was apparently the first "Extreme Blaze" I was still a bit surprised by the frank exploration of a dominant/submissive relationship. Nothing too freaky-deaky, more of a lie-back-and let-me-pleasure-you-as-I-wish sort of thing. Hot. So hot that I was distracted whenever the book returned to the "plot". It was like, "What are they talking about again?" Seriously, the plot was so wafer thin that I barely paid attention.The heroine, Fallon, was pleasant enough, as was the hero, Kane Kincaid (awkward name), although he remained rather enigmatic, almost to the point of being cardboard. In no way, did I believe these two fell madly in love within the week they were together. Had a rockin' good time, yes, twu wuv, no. Lots of time-travel and future technology clap-trap. One eye-roller (spoilers ahead): Kade came to the present carrying technology that can clean and shave a woman head to toe, body-paint her, and create the iluusion of clothing, but he can't put a condom in his pocket? They're too busy playing psychological sex games to use BC, so Fallon gets pregnant within their handful of days together. Not only that, her condition is detected during a physical exam, within days of conception. Whatever.

Hot Sex+Weak Plot+Not buying the HEA=C-. Not awful, but kinda silly, and slow (when they're not getting it on.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

No Humans Involved by Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong is a longtime favorite of mine, and an author I'd immediately recommend to anyone who is apprehensive about reading anything paranormal. I think she's a great writer, with a crisp style, strong characterization, and well moving plots. Her books have a nice blend of the supernatural, mystery and a dollop of romance. Unlike the other writers she's compared to, Armstrong shifts protagonists/narrators from book to book. The shifting point of view works well, as we get to know characters little by little, until they get their turn to speak.

I was apprehensive about an entire book from Jaime Vegas' point of view. Jaime is a necromancer, that is, she can see and speak with the dead, as well as raise and banish spirits. She seems kind of flaky and insecure and makes her living doing stage shows a la John Edward, putting grieving folks "in contact" with dead loved ones. I never warmed up to her all that much and didn't like her mooning over Jeremy. Jeremy Danvers is the Pack Alpha (top dog werewolf), and one of my favorite fictional boyfriends. He's a different kind of Alpha: reserved, quiet, and controlled, but kind. He's also kinda mysterious and delicious. I wasn't too sure she deserved him, and would've preferred seeing him with a different sort of woman. Like say, a suburban mom/librarian, with newly reddish brown hair and a predilection for cardigans and early nineties alternative rock. But C'est la Vie.

No Humans Involved turned out to be one of the strongest in this series (along with Bitten and Industrial Magic), in my opinion. It revolves around a television special that Jaime is to star in, along with two other mediums. Their mission: to raise the spirit of Marilyn Monroe. While trying to navigate the wacky world of Hollywood types, Jaime is also growing nervous about aging and what it means for her career (there's always someone younger and cuter just around the corner) and her talents (many necromancers end up insane). She's also excited and aprehensive about Jeremy's impending visit. Does it mean that he possibly returns her feelings and is willing to take their relationship to another level? Jaime soon discovers that much more disturbing things are afoot at the Brentwood house where the special is being filmed than manipulative directors and spotlight hungry spiritualists. With the help of Jeremy and others, Jaime has to find out what is causing the strange experiences she's having in the back garden.

I don't completely love Jaime now, but I found her dilemma interesting: a woman in her early forties who has been on stage her entire life, only now starting to wonder what she really wants out of life. Her sense of self worth is so deeply tied to her success as a performer (thanks to a bitch of a stage mother), Jaime is only now realizing that she has more to offer the world. She is kind of insecure, but also practical. She knows the ways of the world and how to use them to help herself (without hurting others). I did love seeing Jeremy from her point of view. We usually see him through the point of view of characters who see him as a father figure. His whole life has been shaped by an almost crushing amount of responsibility (for his father, Clay, Elena, the Pack), and he, is now starting to think about life apart from all those responsibilities. Jaime and Jeremy have a mature relationship. And pretty hot too. I want to see more of them. Love Jeremy. Love.

The mystery was good and creepy, with some unsavory villains. I also enjoyed the secondary characters. I like Eve and Kristof, and was glad to see them helping out. Hope and Karl were the high point of last year's Dates From Hell anthology. I liked seeing more of them. I believe Hope will be the next protagonist, and I can't wait. I love grey-area type characters and Karl definitely fits the bill. Hope does also but her leanings toward the dark side are beyond her control, the legacy of her Chaos demon father. Should be some interesting internal/external tension.

A- for you Kelley Armstrong. Minus is because I just don't love Jaime as much as others, and I missed Paige, Lucas, Elena and Clayton. If you've read others in this series, you will enjoy this, and if you haven't, go get one. Really. Now. Start with Bitten.

**Questions I am pondering--Should Apolo have beaten the Fat One? Was the last episode of Veronica Mars a stunning return to the series' noir roots or a disappointing attempt to do so, with little closure? How long will I be sad that both shows are gone? At least Dancing with the Stars will get another season and who knows, perhaps Enrico Colantoni will be a contestant.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Throw your bra at me...

...I'm the Featured Fangirl at Sportsquee! Pretty exciting, given that I'm totally uninterested in sports. Even when I'm trying to pay attention, the mind wanders. I usually look at sports events as an excuse to eat hot dogs and drink (then again, I look at most things that way). Check it out, Sportsquee rocks!

Friday, May 18, 2007

In brief...

I'm watching Howard the Duck. It's a lot worse than I remembered. It was that or Pee Wee's Big Adventure. It's 80's nostalgia night on cable apparently, because First Blood is on too.

I've been all caught up in the newest kerfuffle, rubbernecking as per usual. The comments are flying fast, I can barely keep up. At least some good has come out of this all. Of course by this I mean Mrs. Giggles' Blog Drama Drinking Game. Excellent! Too bad I don't drink no more.

I've been wanting to review Kiss Me Deadly, a novella by Shannon Stacey. I won a download by her at Sybil's, and she was nice enough to send me two!! KMD takes place at the isolated cabin of Bridget Sawyer. When a raven flies into her bedroom, she doesn't realize that it is a messenger of Death, and a sexy shapeshifter. Khail is stunned when she doesn't die, and intensely drawn to Bridget. The two of them want to explore their attraction to each other, but Bridget was marked to die, and the other ravens want to carry out their duties.

This one was okay. I liked the idea of Death as an unkindness of ravens (love that phrase), and the idea of these two stuck in the cabin while the ravens circle the house and tap on the windows, a la The Birds. But it suffers from the curse of the erotic romance novella: how to get two strangers fizz-nucking quickly and also to have feelings develop between them believably. There was definitely a touch of the bamp-chicka-wow-wow factor. A bird shows up in your house, turns into a naked, hot dude, and you're getting it on with him in a matter of hours? Hmmmm...The heroine had isolated herself in the mountains to escape an abusive ex-husband, and memories of a horrible childhood. This made it even rougher for me to believe she'd hop into bed with random werebird so quickly, no matter how undeniably drawn they were to each other. However, I liked Ms Stacey's style of writing, in particular the dialogue and characterization. There were some moments that did reveal a nice chemistry between the two leads. Although I'm giving this a C because I was not able to buy it completely, I am looking forward to reading her 72 Hours. I would imagine that without the length constraints, she will be able to flesh (heh) out the characters and relationship quite nicely.

Okay, now for a very short review of No Rest for the Wicked, by Kresley Cole. In fact, it is a not one, but two Haiku review. Here goes:

Sebastian, sad vamp,
Kaderin kills vampires dead.
Can she be his Bride?

Fast pace and great sex,
Talisman's Hie was cool,
Bitchy chick, hot guy.

For more on this series, see here. I like the array of creatures included. The Valkyries are still kind of annoying, but Cole does soulmates well. I give it a B. For a fun review, which does a great job of illustrating the book, check out the video review at Dear Author.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Catching up with series books, part two...

All Together Dead is the seventh book in Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series, featuring telepathic barmaid Sookie Stackhouse. I enjoy this series quite a bit. I like the tone and the main character,so different than the sometimes manufactured "edgy" "urban" "attitude" (blah, blah, blah) of so many other vampire series. In the further adventures of Sookie and friends, we have now finally reached the vampire summit hinted at in the last two books. Sookie is being paid to be there by the Vampire Queen of Louisiana to act as a sort of human lie-detector. Eric Northmann, the vampire sheriff who shares a complex relationship with Sookie (Eric+Sookie 4eva!) will be there, as will asshole vampire ex Bill, and current beau, the weretiger Quinn (Billy Zane, get outta my head!). Most of Sookie's friends and family are very unhappy with her increasing involvement in the Vampire world. But she's getting paid quite a bit of money, and the girl needs it. Yet again, Sookie is going to find herself up to her armpits in dead bodies, deceit, plotting, general vampire weirdness, and males of various species trying to get with her.

I enjoyed this one more than the previous couple of books, I think because it was more focused on the vampires (Surprise, Surprise!) I just like her vampires, some of whom are big, muscular and gorgeous, and others who are short and dorky, or have names like Cindy Lou or Jodi or Fred. They're pretty dangerous and not very pleasant, for the most part, with values and social mores quite different from humans. In the previous book, Harris thinned the herd of Sookie's suitors somewhat. I appreciated the increased focus on Sookie's involvement with the vampire world, rather than on Sookie's love life. It's pretty much down to Quinn and Eric. I'm stumping for Eric, and there were some interesting developments in their relationship. This one was full of plot and world building, and the insight into the strained relationship between the vamps and humans was interesting. I felt that the villains and some of the events were highly foreshadowed, which made the characters seem a little slow. But the story kept my interest very well. I'm not as invested in this series as I am in others, which is good, because one can only be psycho about so many fictional characters. So I'm willing to see where Harris takes Sookie without sweating it all that much either way. Her journey has been a fun one so far. A B for this one.

Right now I'm reading No Rest for the Wicked by Kresley Cole. So far, so good. After that, I'm gonna hit Dark Need by Lynn Viehl, another Darkyn book. The latter has one of my least favorite paranormal romance premises: the new love as a reincarnation of a long lost love, so I'm a bit apprehensive.

Catching up with series books, part one

I'm a bit behind on reviews, and I've got several books I want to mention. Looking at my sidebar, I can't believe how long I've been in a paranormal mood. And it shows no signs of ending. Usually, as the days grow warmer, I start longing for something light and historical, you know, witty banter, aristocratic titles, house parties, walking gowns, ladies maids, compromising positions, that whole deal. But no, give me creatures of the night, and make it dark.

I recently finished The Demon You Know by Christine Warren. Ms. Warren has not updated her website in a looong time, despite my fangirly plea that she do so, if you want more info about the book than I'm going to give, click on the title for the Amazon link. This addition to "The Others" series takes place six weeks after "The Unveiling", during which the supernatural creatures have made themselves known to the unsuspecting, human public. Not surprisingly, the humans are having a bit of a rough time with this, and tensions are high. When a riot breaks out, shy, unassuming Abby Baker gets caught in the middle. Awkward, inexperienced and "plain" (a former Catholic School girl), the only remarkable thing about Abby is that she has one blue eye and one brown eye. Unfortunately, her mismatched eyes signify some sort of openness to the "Other" world, and in the thick of the riots a fiend named Lou takes the moment to make Abby his new residence. Abby soon finds herself in the thick of the supernatural world, and she doesn't think she likes it, espcially the tall, gorgeous, overbearing Demon named Rule, who wants the information that the fiend inside of her has.

This was another fun, fast paced romance, but I definitely found it to be weaker than the other two books I've read by Warren. I've noticed that this author likes her heroines strong and sassy, and I like the way she writes them, but in this case it didn't work so well. We are told how shy and mousy Abby is, but then she's all mouthy and confrontational with Rule. Now I can imagine that being possessed must really stink, and that it would have an effect on one's personality, but her words and actions sharply contrasted with her description. She also exhibited some TSTL behavior. The chemistry between Abby and Rule was good enough. But Rule didn't quite work either. He was the strong, silent, but somewhat overbearing type, but almost to the extent where he lacked personality. I would've also liked to see the world of the demons fleshed out a bit more. Another concern: once again, an immortal character was paired with a mortal one, but the implications were not addressed, which places a damper on the HEA.

But the pace was good, and the story was interesting, and I liked many of the secondary characters old and new (Abby's older brother was good). So I'll give this one a B-,and I hope there's going to be more. There was no sneak peek, and since the site has been updated, who knows?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

To Bamp-chicka-wow-wow or not...

Or what I like and don't like about erotic romance.

For some reason, lately I've been pondering what makes certain books work better for me than others, from subgenre to subgenre. Erotic Romance is a genre that definitely sticks out. I can easily see the similarities between my favorites, and the things that make me cringe and groan may as well be written in neon.

Now, what I mean by erotic romance (as always, I am speaking only from my own personal experience), are e-published books which contain a number of sex scenes described in frank, explicit language. There are usually quite a few more sex scenes than in more "mainstream" romance, and acts are often included that you won't find on the regular shelves, like anal sex, bondage, and threesomes. Altogether more adventurous. There are certain things that I definitely like about erotic romance. I like there to be sex in my books as the physical expression of the hero and heroine's growing feelings. I also appreciate more straightforward language, as I'm not a big fan of grottoes of love and manroots. Pussy and cock, thank you very much.

But in order to accomodate the amped-up level of sexuality, authors often turn to certain devices that inspire the same reaction in me as when I'm watching a porno: uncontrollable laughter and cringing. Soon after the hero and heroine meet, they are undeniably drawn to each other, and the physical reactions begin. You know, the veritable waterfall from the heroine's nether regions, and the dick so hard it's gonna bust out from the hero's pants. You can hear that Bamp-chicka-wow-wow music begin, and you just know they're going to be getting it on soon, probably in an unusual location with the threat of being interrupted or discovered. But here's the thing: descriptions of biological reactions alone are not sexy if I don't really get why. That means some good physical description, some sparkling dialogue to reveal personality, etc. I've gotta want the hero and heroine to get it on. Just because the author tells me they want to, is not enough. There must be tension or emotion or something.

Many times authors have some kind of history between the hero and heroine, i.e. old friends, former lovers, work colleagues. Now this certainly makes sense, because if they know and care about each other already, the reader might buy their quick jump into the sack a little more. But sometimes this makes for an even bigger shortcut on the author's part. We get to hear about how often the characters think about/fantasize about each other (without glimpses of said thoughts and fantasies), and obligatory hardening and gushing, but the actual backstory is skimped on, as is any sort of character development or relationship development. It's just "Yes! We finally got to the fizz-nucking!"

I guess what I am saying is let me get to know the characters a bit, let me see their interactions, their chemistry (even if it's in dreams or flashbacks), so when we finally get to the no holds barred sexin', I'm interested. Otherwise, it's raunchy and boring. The books that have worked best for me, had characters that were neither cardboard nor blow-up dolls, and the connection between the two (or three) of them, was strong enough that I was excited to see them contort themselves and get up to wacky hijinks, rather than shaking my fist to the sky, angry once again at my impulsive purchase.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Attempting to keep it brief...

I'm trying to get my reviews a little bit shorter. It's tough though, I've always got so much too say. Let's give it a go...

**Step into Darkness by Naomi Bellis, was new to me, though it came out last September. It is the author's publishing debut, and I checked it out based upon the intriguing cover and back blurb, which promised a slightly different historical setting (Georgian England/Revolutionary France) and a hint of the paranormal. Step into Darkness kept my interest pretty well, but a few things kept it firmly in the C range. The hero, "Gentleman Jack" Tremaine, is not actually a thief, but a spy. Sorry for the spoilage, but this is revealed rather quickly. I haven't read too much spy stuff, so the revelation didn't bother me, and Jack's spymaster was the most intriguing character in the book. Jack himself, and the heroine, Sarah, were likable but rather bland, as was their romance. I think they fell in love too quickly for my tastes. The tension had the potential to be really juicy, but it was defused too fast. The love scenes were rushed also, particularly the first one,which should've been a bigger moment. The idea of "The Circle", a group (or groups?) of European Aristocracy who have magic powers, was introduced, but not particularly fleshed out. Who were "The Circle?" Where did they come from? What could they do? What influence (if any) did they have on society? I was left with many questions. I'm not sure if some of the blandness and vagueness is due to this being the first in a series, or if it's due to Ms. Bellis being a novice author, but there was enough that was good to keep me from writing the author off. I'll give the next one a try at some point, see if it's a bit more developed or exciting.

**I finally read If Angels Burn by Lynn Viehl. Ms. Viehl doesn't seem to have a website per se, but her blog is really interesting and has excellent resources for writers, especially. I had never read this series before, because I had read some mixed reviews. But I liked the titles and covers, and the descriptions sounded good. So I gave it a go, and I really liked it. I liked it so much that I dreamt that I was at Fortunoff's to get a dress for my sister's wedding, and there were used copies of all the books on a shelf, and in my haste to get to them, I knocked over a display of Lenox. Fortunoff's sells neither dresses nor books, but there you go. The heroine, Dr. Alex Keller, was prickly, without ever getting too annoying. I liked Michael Cyprien (the hero), as well. I did feel that the development into true love was a bit of a leap, but there was so much going on, I didn't mind. Viehl is building an interesting world here, with an intriguing cast, and good possibilities. Will Phillipe get a book, or is he sidekick material only? I really liked the explanation for the cause of the Darkyn's vampirism. It is very dark, though. Some scenes are not for the faint of heart. Damn, the Brethren (the Darkyn's enemy) are freaky! Although it is marketed as paranormal romance, I could give this one to my husband. In some ways, the love story took a back seat to the worldbuilding. But that was okay, because it was an exciting and intense read. I give it a B+ and I look forward to the next books, though I won't find them at Fortunoff's.

Friday, May 04, 2007

But won't someone think of the poor, innocent Australian booksellers...

...they came to Texas, looking to see the sites, talk shop, maybe meet some cover models,
but then they were shamelessly exposed to blogging of the worst sort!

I should be ashamed of myself, following this with such glee. I'm like a rubbernecker...

It was a busy week in romance blog-land, as many already know. But a brief recap for my two or three readers who don't regularly read romance related blogs, or those folks who came by looking for shirtless pictures of Taylor Kitsch: KarenS reviewed a book and really didn't like it. Conversation ensued, then turned to whether or not the quality at EC is deteriorating. Opinions were strong, for sure. Then Kathryn Falk, the head of High Romantic Times, waded into the fray with a very long and largely nonsensical rant against bloggers in general, and accusing KarenS, specifically, of driving someone to contemplate suicide. Plus there was new-ageyness. It was pretty jaw dropping, especially when it turned out that it was really her, and not a joke, as most thought. No further response ensued, and I thought it had faded away, but then I read that Ms. Falk had an interesting phone conversation with Smart Bitch Sarah. Hee, this shit is crazy! Now I'm sure that Kathryn Falk could care less what anyone thinks (I think that's pretty obvious), but they should really consider not letting her speak in a public forum. It is kinda nice though, that you can be so successful in the media field with such a tenuous grasp on clear communication. And reality. It gives me hope for my future.

Plenty has been said about this all over, and I'm not a really a reader of Romantic Times, nor do I plan to start, as I don't feel that comfortable with their policies as regards gay romance, but I've just got one thing to say. The thing that really bothered me was the accusation involving suicide, which is nothing to bandy about lightly. As her comment was in response to a review, my first thought was that the author was contemplating suicide! After reading through all the discussion, I think that the comment actually referred to an EC staffer. But either way, to write such a thing lacked class, and I hope that Carol Lynne sells lots of books off of this, because it ain't right that things got so crazy and that she may have gotten tarred with the crazy brush. She has remained quite sanely and professionally silent. And now, I think I can move on.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

It's Kelley Armstrong Day!

She's at The Good the Bad and the Unread doing the guest blog thing. The ladies at Twisted Kingdom also have an interview up with her. She just seems like such a nice (and energetic) person, and such a good writer.