Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Exciting News!

Google offered me the "alphaheroes.net" domain for $12, so I jumped on it!  Last time I looked, some individual was squatting on it and wanted $1800, which, no.

The setup was super-easy!  But some stuff is broken, so bear with me while I fix it.

I'm pretty excited about this!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sunday Soup - March 8

Sunday Soup is... Girl Scout cookies, Shiloh Walker's backlist, lots of series catching up...

Soup Dish:  on my mind this week
So March may mean shamrocks and green beer to some of you, but at my house it's all about the Girl Scout cookies.  For the past 6 or 7 years, I've been the troop cookie mom for an enormous "super troop" of more than 30 girls.  Thankfully, starting last year, we've figured a way to split it up so it's gotten a bit easier.  Still, it's pretty much eating my brain.


What I'm reading
I haven't done a Soup in so long!  I have a HUGE backlog...actually, it's been so long, let's not even talk about catching up.  Let's just talk about lately. 
 
I spent quite a few evenings during the holidays catching up on Shiloh Walker's The Hunters series.  I had actually read one or two of the later ones but I hadn't realized that the first ones were mostly novellas and mostly more erotica than PNR.  Lately I'm finding that novellas and shorts are suiting me very nicely.  It probably means bad things about my attention span and brain function, but in the meantime, I am liking shorter pieces more than ever lately.  These definitely follow a distinct pattern, but as it turns out, I like the pattern so I pretty much inhaled these.  I was sorry to come to the end.

After enjoying The Master so much by Kresley Cole, I nabbed The Professional, which was handily on sale at the time (I love this trend of discounting book one in a series, it's so smart, and it hooks me EVERY TIME.) The Professional was, if possible, even hotter than The Master, although I will say the hero made me want to smack him around a little bit. If you don't like controlling alphas, this one might strike a wrong note for you, but the sex scenes burned up the page.


Quite a lot of my reading over the past few months involved series that I've already talked about here and still adore -- Tiffany Reisz' The King, Moira Rogers' Crossroads (Arcana #2), Chloe Neill's last two Chicagoland Vampires series (I gotta get me that new one set in NOLA), and tons more.  I would like to publish this while it's still Sunday in my timezone, so I'll have to come back later and talk about some of my reading detours.

Outlander Watch... Och. I canna wait for the RETURN of Jamie and Claire onscreen.

This was pretty cool:

 



Monday, March 2, 2015

One Sinful Night in Sau Paulo, by Amber Belldene - Review

Information
Title: One Sinful Night in Sao Paulo
Series: N/A
Author: Amber Belldene
Publisher:  Entangled/MacMillan
Release Date: January 5, 2015 
Reviewing: Commercial Kindle edition
Reason for reading: Friendly with author, and also this blog post at Wonkomance. I purchased my copy at retail price.

Tease:
Amber Belldene was my biggest nightmare.

The Blurb (from Belldene's website)
Cassie Wilson has traveled to Brazil for her brother’s wedding; yet she’s the one with cold feet. She’s all set to begin seminary, but she’s sick and tired of being treated like a saint, especially by the best man. What she really needs is one sexy night with him to ease her jitters and give her a taste of normal life.

Adam Forrester crashed and burned at his dream job, screwing up all his hopes for a better life. Now he’s moved home to start over, but first he must confront the irresistible Cass, apologize for whatever happened on that drunken night he can’t remember, and make damn sure it doesn’t happen again. Only she has other plans. He has typecast her as the good girl in his heart. Can she force him to see her as a real woman, desires and all?

Blogger, Explain Thyself
There are all kinds of bloggers and reviewers, and although I indulge in some occasional snark, for the most part I'm a NICE one.  I don't say this in an especially complimentary or superior way.  Mostly I'm not brave enough to post negative reviews, and mostly I don't enjoy posting negative reviews, and mostly I don't enjoy WRITING negative reviews.  If I really dislike a book, I mostly just don't post about it.  I really admire bloggers who are able to be more objective and more courageous.  But as for me, I yam what I yam.

When I ran into Amber online, we clicked pretty well.  I think it was about beer, to begin with.  I find her take on religion in romance fascinating. And she has an amazing brain.  And we had really good beer and really really good conversation last May at RT.

The nightmare is... I didn't like her first book.  There were vampires and wine, and it felt... kind of unoriginal and tl;dr I DNF'd and didn't mention it at that delightful pub in New Orleans. Really, this is my idea of a nightmare.  I know authors are not their books, and I know there are reviewers/bloggers out there who have no trouble at all separating them--but this is just an uncomfortable position for me.

When I saw that she had a non-paranormal contemp story out, I totally jumped on it.  AND IT IS TERRIFIC.

Seriously, Can We Just Talk About This Novella Now?
Right, enough with the angst.

Well, my angst anyway.  The characters do have a bit of that going on.  Although this is a short piece, less than 100 pages, it feels like a complete story, and there is enough character complexity and relationship twistiness to be fully satisfying.  It has a bit of an NA feel, with Cassie getting ready to start seminary school, and the setup is not uncommon for an NA, with a classic big-brother's-best-friend setup. 

But anyway, I liked Cassie a lot.  She has her head on straight, and she knows what she wants.  She's not sure she's going to get it, and doesn't assume she's entitled to it, but she's composed, and level.  She leans a little bit Mary Sue, but in a meta way, that's kind of what the story is about.  Real-life Mary Sues are out there, and they deserve love too.  Not people who never make mistakes, but people who are genuinely motivated to make the world a better place.

One of the things I love about Nora Roberts and Jayne Ann Krentz is the way they write about careers, for both the heroes and heroines.  It's been said that they write the same characters over and over again, which might be true from a trope point of view. And maybe it's that I cut my fiction-reading-teeth on Nancy Drew and they way they embedded educational material* in each book, but I love how I see the world with the context of a photographer, or architect, or decorator, or librarian, or {choose from dozens}.  Ms. Belldene gave me that with this story: an idea of how the world looks to a woman choosing to enter the seminary.  Since it's a romance, it's not surprising that this choice contributes to the conflict.

The hero is a bit muddier to me, but adequate.  He has his backstory and some not-too-OTT demons. Adam (should I assume that's a biblical reference? Hmm... no apples in sight, although Cassie is a bit of a forbidden fruit in his mind...) He's got enough romantic mojo to keep the story going-- but it's clearly Cassie's story.

In perfect doses for a novella, the secondary characters and the exotic locale make a great backdrop.  Cassie's soon-to-be sister-in-law Gabriella, her mother Raquel, as well as Cassie's parents and brother feel real and three-dimensional, without a ton of sequel-baiting (although a Gabriella-Justin prequel might not go amiss).  And the small amounts of scene-setting, from the smog to a visit to the shopping district, gave it a nice texture.

Downside?
I'm not sure I loved what Belldene did with Cassie's sexuality. I loved that Cassie was unapologetic about what she wanted and not inexperienced. I did have a little twinge of "trying too hard" to make her sooo sexually sophisticated.  Which is not a complaint I usually have about romance.  I liked the concept.  I think it mostly worked.  But just not quite perfect-pitch for me.

Bottom Line
All in all, I really loved One Sinful Night, and I hope to see more contemporary work from Amber!

Around the Blogosphere:
Geeks in Highschool (what a cool blog!)
Read Love Blog
You? (as always, if you have reviewed this story, feel free to leave a link in comments and I will edit it in!)


Bonus:
I don't think I managed a photo of Ms. Belldene and myself, but here is what a list of some seriously tasty beverages looks like:


____________
*I don't see reference to the educational material, but I read an article long ago about the Stratemeyer Syndicate that mentioned that each book contained a bit of interesting background on a particular topic, which usually led to clues that solved the mystery.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Master, by Kresley Cole - Review

Information
Title: The Master
Series: Game Maker
Author: Kresley Cole
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books
Release Date: February 17, 2015 
Reviewing: Commercial Trade edition
Reason for reading: Love Kresley Cole, and received print copy from publisher

The Short Answer 
Total rave!

The Blurb (from Cole's website)
A need colder than Siberian winter meets an attitude hotter than the Florida sun in #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole’s sultry new Game Maker novel.

EVERYONE FEARS THE MASTER . . .
Rich, irresistible politician/Mafiya boss Maksimilian Sevastyan prefers tall, obedient blondes to fulfill his…complicated desires. That is, until the icy Russian encounters a disobedient brunette whose exquisite little body threatens his legendary restraint.

EXCEPT HER.
Catarina MarĂ­n was a well-off young wife until her world fell apart. Now she’s hiding out, forced to start working as an escort in Miami. Her very first client is beyond gorgeous, but when he tells her what he plans to do to her, Cat almost walks out of the door.

IF PLEASURE IS A GAME, PLAY TO WIN
After their mind-blowing encounter burns out of control, the lovers crave more. If they escape the deadly threats surrounding them, can Maksim overcome his past–to offer Cat his future? Only then will she tempt him with what he really wants: her, all tied up with a bow.
The Whole Scoop
To be honest, the whole "powerful but angsty young billionaire with BDSM inclinations meets sassy ingenue" erotic romance sub-genre is not necessarily my favorite.  I don't seek it out.  I've read a few here and there and liked some of them OK, but as a group... eh.  They tend to either have not enough character or not enough plot, relying on the erotic scenes to bring the readers.

This one though... if you only read one "powerful but angsty young billionaire with BDSM inclinations meets sassy ingenue" erotic romance this year, it really should be this one.  If you read two, maybe check the first one in the series (I haven't read it yet, but I'm gonna-- plus it's on sale as of this writing).

What really makes this story work for me is the heroine.  She has a fantastic backstory, over the top and yet still believable.  The way she foils the hero's every expectation and every prediction is a genuine pleasure-- she just leaves him reeling at every turn.  She does nothing that she's supposed to, nothing that he wants her to do -- but she's everything he needs.

This is where I would normally pull a favorite quote -- and I love the way they banter -- but the best stuff is imbedded in the very very X-rated erotic scenes and it would make me blush too much to excerpt them here.

Speaking of the sexytimes, I will say that this is another place where the heroine shakes up expectations.  She refuses to conform to Maksim's script--which is pretty much everybody's script since 50SoG came out--and I really love that (I see what you did there, Ms. Cole).  She's not the tiniest bit submissive; she's much more in the mold of the hair-tossing, anachronistically feisty heroines of the old-skool historicals-- but without the TSTL temper tantrums and bad decisions. (Also, no sex-on-horseback scene... although the topic does come up. So to speak.)  He totally reels her in with mind-blowing sex... but then, she does the same to him.  It's just utterly fun and yet still moving and they really are just a perfect match for each other.

Downsides?
I don't love New Adult.  I just don't. I'm 48 years old, I have a teenaged daughter, and sophomoric party-animal behavior like getting drunk and barfing is more of a turn-off than any kind of entertainment for me. There was a bit of that here, and it was a bit of a downside, but it was pretty minimal.

I also felt like Maksimilian's dominance and scariness were mostly in the blurb.  He was verbally cruel to Cat at times, which generated some big-mis style conflict, but I didn't really see him as a ruthless mafiya boss.  Compared to Cat's sizzle and sparkle, he was a bit flat as a character. Although I gotta say, he um, pulls his weight? as a character in the erotic scenes.  Very nice.

Series Handicap
I haven't read the first one, and I didn't find it to be a problem at all.  We do get some time with the first book's couple, at their wedding, so I think fans of  The Professional will be pleased about that, but I didn't feel like I was missing anything important to Maksim and Cat's story.  The third brother got a bit of sequel baiting as The Most Damaged Of Them All, and Natalie's colorful party-girl BFF Jessica got some page time too.  Love the girl-on-girl dialog with those three. 

Bottom Line
This book is not for anyone who is at all squeamish about explicit pillow talk, but whether you're looking for a hot erotic or a snappy fast-paced contemporary with a bit of suspense, a bit of angst, and metric ton of chemistry, you won't be disappointed.

Bonus!
Here's a pic of the gorgeous author and myself from RT14 in N'awlins.



Even Better Bonus: 
Headphones would be a good idea here, if you're at work or have impressionable children around:


Friday, December 26, 2014

Catching Up - No Excuses

Greetings, book people!

I seem to have taken an unplanned hiatus from blogging and nearly all social media.  Life happens, and sometimes the fun stuff takes a back seat for awhile.  I have followed a few of the industry dust-ups from a distance but have avoided getting too emotionally invested, just for the sake of my blood pressure.

So what have I been doing in the meantime?

A few years ago when I decided to change jobs, I posted that job hunting and then the learning curve at the new place seemed to occupy the same brain space as blogging -- or at least, it crowded out what capacity I had for blogging.  I have confirmed that this is a repeatable phenomenon.  I changed jobs again this past September, and part of me thinks I was crazy to do it.  My old job was kind of cushy, with lots of people I really enjoy.  The new job is far more challenging, and the environment is super corporate and formal by comparison.  I'm not totally comfortable.  But at the old job, I was a big (ish) fish in a small pond, and there was nowhere really to go.  I get nervous if I plateau for more than a couple of years; IME that is not good for a career in tech.  So, onward I go!

Another thing that happened this fall was that I signed my daughter up for a First Lego League team.  This has been an incredible experience for her, but wow, is it a lot of work and a lot of time.  We lucked into a really great coach but this activity has literally soaked up 80% of my weekend days for the last three months.  I'm not very productive in the evenings after a workday, so it's been hard to get my normal stuff done.

On top of that, I had a couple of quilting projects that I had been putting off that needed to be done in time for Christmas.  I've pieced several quilt tops and I really enjoy that, but I've never actually quilted the layers together before (I hired that part to be done on the previous projects) and was more than a bit intimidated by the process.  The good news is, both quilts were completed and made the recipients very happy.  I'm divided on whether I would do it again or not.  It's definitely not my favorite part of the process, but I'm the kind of person who dislikes things that I'm not good at.  I was enjoying it more toward the end when I was getting better, but the time crunch made it really stressful.  Ahh well.  Live and learn.

Oh, and we have a new bathroom!  We have been without a tub for longer than I like to admit, with all of us using a small shower stall in the basement 3/4 bathroom.  I was brushing my teeth one day and the heavy soapdish tile just fell right off into the tub.  The tile had allowed moisture behind it, causing the backerboard to become wet and moldy.  So anyway, the tl;dr version is that we finally pulled together the resources to remodel the bathroom and I'm so very pleased with the result.  It took longer than it should have -- as these things always seem to do-- but we have a pretty shiny new tub & shower with beautiful tile work.  And it's not like I did any particular work on it, but it was somehow exhausting anyway.

No excuses, no apologies, just a chat to catch you up on the doings around here.  My reading has been somewhat curtailed too, but since it's been so long, I still have a long list that I could review or at least gab about a bit.

Hope you've all been well and enjoying your various winter (or summer, for those Down Under) end of year holidays!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday Soup -September 7

Sunday Soup is... beatniks, home improvements, and a winner from Jeaniene Frost

Soup Dish:  on my mind this week
I'm still trying to put my house back together. My daughter is reluctantly sorting through large piles of toys and possessions, and I am reluctantly tackling a Defcon 4 Laundry Situation. On the upside, I have implemented a New Penalty for a certain house rule that has been pretty much ignored, which is "if I catch you, you owe me an hour of chores of my choice." So that bought me a nice cleaned up basement room yesterday.  In addition, I managed to partially disassemble a closet system in my master bedroom so that I could fit a shoe organizer onto an upper shelf.  Like that damn mouse with its damn cookie, I need to go back to Home Despot for a shelf bracket to shore up the structure that I demo'd.  Wheeee. On the upside, all my shoes have happy little paired up homes now.  w00t!

I had a fun conversation on Twitter this week that I thought about Storifying, but the disclaimer about using it with Twitter says that you are allowing it to post to your Twitter account. I don't like that, so phooey on Storify. The convo was about beatniks, the high point of which was me posting this youtube clip from Laverne and Shirley, and having it reposted by the Simon and Garfunkle fan account, which totally made my day.

Loved this post from Wendy The Superlibrarian about romance, love, sex, and inspiration.


What I'm reading

I got a copy of The Beautiful Ashes by Jeaniene Frost via RT, and while I sort of missed the boat for an advance review, I hope to put one up soonish. The short story is, I really really liked it. Angel/Demon stories are kind of hit or miss for me (Meljean Brook: Hit; Larissa Ione: Miss) but this one totally worked. I hesitated to read it because I'm not really a fan of the NA genre (does anyone else automatically read "Not Applicable" for NA ?) but I was pleased to find out that the only thing NA about this book was the heroine's age, which is twenty. To me it read as straight-up urban fantasy with a very strong romantic/sexual tension element.  It does have a cliff-hanger, sequel-bait ending, but in a most delicious way.  The story resolves, but the resolution turns out to open up a whole new can of worms.

Katie Porter's Own, the debut in a new Special Ops erotica series. I hit a snag early on with this one, but because the author has a good track record for me, I gave it a second chance and did enjoy how the relationship developed.  Thumbs up.

I'm still slogging through a mediocre contemporary which I am stubbornly refusing to DNF because I have A Plan in mind for a future post. I killed a quick 80 page novella for the same Plan which was OK. End tease.

Outlander Watch... Och. Jamie and Claire onscreen, fnuh.

Still delighted. Last night's cliff hanger kind of outraged me, and I know what happens next.  Sheesh.  I do see why some people are complaining about it being slow. The tensions within the clan are fairly subtle. I think the best part of this series is watching the unspoken interactions -- the heated looks & body language.



Note: this post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Rock Addiction, by Nalini Singh - Review

Information
Title: Rock Addiction 
Series: Rock Kiss, Book 1
Author: Nalini Singh
Publisher:  TKA Distribution/Amazon Digital
Release Date: September 9, 2014
Reviewing: eARC from Netgalley
Reason for reading: Nalini Singh is a huge favorite of mine

The Short Answer 
To be honest, I was a little disappointed.

The Blurb (from Singh's website)
A bad boy wrapped in a sexy, muscled, grown-up package might be worth a little risk…
Molly Webster has always followed the rules. After an ugly scandal tore apart her childhood and made her the focus of the media's harsh spotlight, she vowed to live an ordinary life. No fame. No impropriety. No pain. Then she meets Zachary Fox, a tattooed bad boy rocker with a voice like whiskey and sin, and a touch that could become an addiction.

A one-night stand with the hottest rock star on the planet, that's all it was meant to be…
Fox promises scorching heat and dangerous pleasure, coaxing Molly to extend their one-night stand into a one-month fling. After that, he'll be gone forever, his life never again intersecting with her own. Sex and sin and sensual indulgence, all with an expiration date. No ties, no regrets. Too late, Molly realizes it isn't only her body that's become addicted to Fox, but her heart…
The Whole Scoop 
Just this morning, my Twitter feed included a quote attributed to Henry James: "The only classification of the novel that I can understand is into that which has life and that which has it not."

I checked the quote attribution, because that's how I roll, and it turns out that the actual quote is "the only classification of the novel that I can understand is into the interesting and the uninteresting." (based on two different archives of the full text of "The Art of Fiction").  There are numerous documents that attribute it the other way, but they are not the primary text. Just so you know.

However, the apparently incorrect version of the quote intrigues me more as a reviewer and a reader. And I think it sums up a bit of the difficulty I had with this book. It just didn't have the life, the crackle, that I associate with Singh's paranormal romances.

The characters were on the cardboard side to me; the heroine a meek everyday librarian with a tendency to run when scared, and the hero a blustery, occasionally over-stepping alpha male.  While the characters are technically beyond New Adult age, it had that feel to me because the heroine was quite young and inexperienced, and there was also a surprising amount of sex -- bordering on erotica-level heat and frequency.

The book falls naturally into two sections, the division of which is a bit spoilery, but I I liked the second half better.  The pacing picks up, the action picks up, and I liked the scenes with the other band members.  On the downside, there isn't a compelling plotline here to keep things moving -- it's a very internal, overcoming-our-issues story, which works great when you love the characters, but doesn't help if the characterization isn't working 100%.

The Bottom Line
Lots of people are loving this title so maybe I just had an off day, and I suspect there is no way the average Singh fan is going to bypass it no matter what I say. And honestly, I will most likely pick up the next book in this series, but I have to hope that it works a little better for me.

Around the Blogosphere
Romance Reader At Heart
Book Swoon
Feeding My Addiction

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