December 17, 2015

Holiday Hiatus

Someecard: A red card with a drawing of a man eating a pastry. The card reads: Sorry for eating all the cookies when you offered me one cookie.
Credit/Source: someecards 

I wanted to post my "Favorites" list before the winter break, but time wasn't on my side, so it will have to wait until January, and hey, this time I'm actually letting people know I'm on hiatus instead of disappearing for 6 months!

In the meantime, here's a link to my previous post, which I'm willing to bet you never saw. Yep, it's that time of the year when I find any excuse to promote old reviews.

I wish you all the best, most amazing holidays/break/winter/summer. Be kind to yourselves and don't feel like you have to do everything and be cheerful all the time.

See you next year!

December 7, 2015

The Evolution of the Small Town Romance: Shannon Stacey’s New Series

Image description: e-card with a couple dining and a text that reads: The nice part about living in a small town is that when I don't know what I'm doing someone else always does.
Image source: someecards

It’s no secret that I have a love-hate relationship with Small Town Romance (STR) and that one of the authors on the love side is Shannon Stacey. This year she published two new series, one with Carina, one with Berkley, and I wanted to talk about them, not because I loved them, but because I admire what Ms. Stacey is doing with the familiar sub-genre. Also, I have three review books, and everyone knows that the opinion post is the lazy reviewer’s shortcut to multiple reviews!

December 4, 2015

Mini Review: Star Dust by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner

Source: review copy provided by the authors.

Space Age historical romance, do I need to say more?

This was such a lovely, surprisingly understated (considering the setting) book, and I had a great time reading it.
Cover Description: a man and a woman embrace against a night background where you can see the sky and stars.
It’s set in the early 60’s. The hero is a bit of a womanizing hot-shot astronaut, and the heroine is a recently divorced single mother of two. They butt heads at first. They fall in love. It’s sweet and charming. What’s not to love?

My favorite part about it, though, and the subject of this mini review, is how the story contrasts these two people and their situations to say something about the historical period, society and gender roles. He is an impulsive young man about to do something remarkable and is lauded as a hero for it. She is a young woman who did something remarkable--albeit not as unique as going to space--but by divorcing her cheating husband, putting herself and her kids first, and finding a job, independence and a better partner, she’s seen by everyone else as a villain or as a potential victim of her own recklessness, even though is his recklessness that might get him killed.

On top of that, the book is atmospheric and just plain fun. It brought back memories of being a kid and watching old reruns of I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched, but with, you know, graphic sex *grins*.

December 2, 2015

Buddy Review: Stars of Fortune (Book 1 in the Everything but the Kitchen Sink Series) by Nora Roberts

It's been months since I last blogged, so to make up for it I've invited Ronnie to write a review with me. You may remember Ronnie for such things as being awesome and her reviews at Paranormal Haven. These days you can find her on Twitter and Goodreads. If you don't follow her, you're missing out! 

This review doesn't have a conventional structure, so here's the blurb to give you an idea of the plot.

Cover description: landscape of a Greek island.To celebrate the rise of their new queen, three goddesses of the moon created three stars, one of fire, one of ice, one of water. But then they fell from the sky, putting the fate of all worlds in danger. And now three women and three men join forces to pick up the pieces… 
Sasha Riggs is a reclusive artist, haunted by dreams and nightmares that she turns into extraordinary paintings. Her visions lead her to the Greek island of Corfu, where five others have been lured to seek the fire star. Sasha recognizes them, because she has drawn them: a magician, an archaeologist, a wanderer, a fighter, a loner. All on a quest. All with secrets. 
Sasha is the one who holds them together—the seer. And in the magician, Bran Killian, she sees a man of immense power and compassion. As Sasha struggles with her rare ability, Bran is there to support her, challenge her, and believe in her. 
But Sasha and Bran are just two of the six. And they all must all work together as a team to find the fire star in a cradle of land beneath the sea. Over their every attempt at trust, unity, and love, a dark threat looms. And it seeks to corrupt everything that stands in its way of possessing the stars…

Warning: All the spoilers.

Brie: First of all, no, the series isn’t really named “Everything but the Kitchen Sink” although it should be, and we’re about to tell you why. But let’s go back a bit first and talk about our relationship with Roberts’ books. I don’t know about you, Ronnie, but I have been a fan for years. Sure, there have been more than a few disappointments along the way, but I’m always excited about new releases, and Ms. Roberts remains a beloved author. I have, however, lost any type of expectation when it comes to her trilogies/quartets; in fact, the last one I truly enjoyed was Vision in White. But even for someone who has no expectations, this book still managed to surprise, and not in a good way.

August 18, 2015

Mini Review: Pairing Off by Elizabeth Harmon

Three words: Russian figure skaters! If that's not enough for you, here are some random thoughts that I hope will convince you.

Cover description: On the top half of the cover a man and a woman in winter gear smile at each other and are about to kiss; on the bottom half of the cover and a pair of figure skater are on the ice. The background is red.
The good:

The leads, Anton and Carrie, are smart, kind people who know what they want and work hard to get it. The hero is sweet and vulnerable; the heroine is self-aware and driven. Despite what the prologue suggests, theirs is a slow-burn romance that’s built on mutual respect and friendship. There are lots of interesting details about figure skating and the sport world, yet they are so well integrated into the plot that they never feel obstructive. I don’t know if the author has ever been to Russia (I haven’t, so I’m not a good judge of authenticity) but the story is incredibly atmospheric and evocative. Last but not least, the first half of the book is filled with amazing tension which makes for an emotional and gripping read.

The bad:

This book has an “other woman” and she only functions in one mode: mean. The hero is in a relationship with her for a huge chunk of the book. He doesn’t cheat on her with the heroine, but he’s obviously conflicted on account of her being so damn evil! There’s some mild effort put into justifying her actions, but frankly, those efforts were about making him look good rather than adding nuance to her character.

August 13, 2015

Friendship and Intimacy in Molly O’Keefe’s Tempted

Cover description: A man and a woman dance while backlit so we only see their shapes, and they're placed against a mountain background.This book is good! I don’t know why I’m so surprised since everything Molly O’Keefe writes is magic, but I don’t like westerns, so I didn’t expect to love this one so much or, to be honest, to even read it. But I bought it on release day to support a favorite author, took a look at the first page, and didn’t put it down until I finished it.

Here’s the blurb so I don’t have to describe the plot:

Denver, 1869  
Annie Denoe has fought hard for her independence. She has a new life and new freedom as the assistant to a doctor, and though she risks both propriety and her safety, she is determined to be happy in a life on her own.  
Steven Baywood is trying to rebuild his shattered life, even though the ghosts of his harrowing stay in Andersonville prison still haunt him. He craves Annie and her quiet strength, but he can't give her the love she deserves. When a tragedy changes everything for Annie, can Steven find peace with his past in order to give Annie a future?

August 12, 2015

DNF Review: Brown-Eyed Girl by Lisa Kleypas

Cover description: a brunette, thin woman wearing a a little black dress, partially covers her face with a bouquet.I really liked all three Travis books, but I was never invested in a potential Joe story, because I always got the impression that Ms. Kleypas had no interest in writing it. That didn’t stop me from being really excited when the new book was announced, however. In fact, I was so excited that I was honestly taken by surprise by how half-assed and under-baked this book felt and by how poorly it fits a series that was filled with larger-than-life characters and delicious angst.

Avery, our heroine, is very good at her job as a wedding planner, but emotionally scarred by an irresponsible, philandering father and a failed relationship with her ex. At a wedding where she’s busy doing her job, she meets hunky, yet tender Joe Travis. He pesters her throughout until they have what she believes (and wishes) to be a one-night stand. But Joe, whose main character trait is knowing best, decides that he wants her and proceeds to spend half the book relentlessly and inexplicably pursuing her. She gives in, he introduces her to his family, she’s super insecure so there are a lot of mixed signals indecision on her part, and… I didn’t read the last 15% of the book, but I bet something external happens to make her realize that what she really wants and needs is Joe. I know this because the previous book had a romantic conflict that resolved itself by a shoehorned external circumstance instead of actual communication, so why expect something different here? Also, the event that forces Avery’s hand is set up early on in the book.

August 11, 2015


I put an exclamation mark there to convey a cheerful mood so it doesn’t look like I’m closing up shop, but I am making a couple of changes to the blog, the first one being that I’m back, kind of. But I don’t want to deal with the pressure of writing the more traditional reviews, so I’ll be posting more round-up posts and reviews that don’t follow such a structured format. Or maybe it will all remain the same. All I know is that I really want to blog again, but I didn’t want to just post a random, surprise review tomorrow after months of silence, so hence this mini-post to give you the heads-up that I am, in fact, back. Kind of.

March 26, 2015

Full Disclosure

By now I’m sure everyone knows that Jane from Dear Author came out as author Jen Frederick. This revelation has caused, and will continue to cause a lot of pain, anger, and disappointment (to say the least). So I wanted to come clean about my role in it.

A couple of years ago Jane emailed me to ask if I would help her with a secret project, when I said yes, she explained that she had written a New Adult book and asked if I would read it and told her my thoughts. I was happy for her, so I beta-read the book. After that, I also read the second book she wrote, Unspoken, and some chapters of books 3 and 4. I never had any issues with her writing a book, and I understood the reasons why she wanted to keep her identity secret.

Jane made a lot of mistakes, though, some of them very serious and perhaps unforgivable, and in hindsight, keeping it a secret was one of them. There were things I didn’t know, other things that I wrongly assumed, and some implications that never even crossed my mind until yesterday. I went from surprise to see DA reviewers feeling blindsided by the announcement, to appalled when I read about the times the books appeared on DA, and felt even worse when I read about the authors loops on the Passive Voice letter. And today I’m heartbroken after seeing the effects this is having in people who trusted Jane and Jen and in people who, regardless of how they felt about Jane and DA, are seeing the community suffer so much damage. I’m sad and disappointed for the role I played in this and for not voicing my concerns. I don’t regret supporting a friend, and I believe Jane always had the best intentions, but intentions don’t take away the pain or make the deception less bad.

I accept the consequences this will have for me, the blog, and my relationships with many people I like, admire and respect. And not only do I understand the criticism and anger, I think it’s entirely justified, and in many ways I share the feelings being expressed. I know this is probably a lousy apology/announcement, and you don’t have to believe or trust me, but I don’t want anyone to feel dismissed by what I’m saying here. I’m no longer Jane’s beta-reader, and I’m saddened by how many relationships have been damaged and for the breach of trust. I'm still sorting out my feelings and what this means for me.

Finally I want to make a few clarifications:

I don’t know who else knew. I made some assumptions that were proven wrong yesterday, but I always only discussed the books with Jane alone.

I sincerely like the New Adult... whatever it is (genre, sub-genre, etc.). I have been critical when I thought the book(s) deserved it, and when I've praised a book it had nothing to do with Jane or her books. You can check all my NA reviews here if you're curious. I've also been talking about NA since before I knew Jane had written a book.

I haven’t read the books Jane co-authored with Jessica Clare, in fact, I learned about them when I saw the first one on Goodreads. I also didn’t know about the Berkley deal until the publisher sent me its monthly ARC email. I say this because I’ve talked about how much I like Clare’s Games series, and I want to state as clearly as possible that those tweets and comments were motivated by my enthusiasm and nothing else. I’ve had a couple of interactions with Jessica Clare on Twitter (most of them were me asking her about new releases), but that’s as far as our relationship goes. I also never promoted or mentioned Jane’s books either here on the blog or in social media; I only mentioned the first one on twitter once during release day and I stated that I knew the author and that I had beta-read the book.
I’m not an author (aspiring or secret); I have no issues with authors who also review; I used to review for Heroes & Hearbreakers, which is sponsored by McMillan, but I stopped because I didn’t have the time. I’ve always been honest in my reviews and online interactions. I don’t beta-read for anyone else, and I have no inside information on any other book by any other author. My relationships with the authors and other industry members I follow go as far as what you see on twitter.

One last quick note: I won’t be online much until Sunday night, so I probably won’t have time to reply to comments until then, but I’m not ignoring anyone and you can always reach me through email. If this post seems rushed, is because I wanted to have it out in the open as soon as possible.

Thank you so much for listening.

March 23, 2015

Because It's Never Too Late: My Favorite Books of 2014

Image description: two open books one on top of the other on the foreground and a stack of books on the background.
Image Credit: Abhi Sharma

I don’t know about you, but I always thought that January  February  March needed more “Best of” lists. I mean, why so greedy, December?  Why do you hoard all the lists? Since I’m contrary like that (and didn’t have time to write this thing in December when I should have and then the months kept passing and it became The Beast to Be Defeated! GAH!!!) and because it’s never too late to annoy people with my choices, today I present you with my The Most Memorable List of Bestest Books that Ever Booked in 2014. It’s not going to be predictable or repetitive at all, so get ready to be blown away by so much awesomeness!

On a more serious note I must say that I always have good reading years, so you won’t hear me complain about having a hard time finding good books or coming up with ten titles to put on the list, but this year my productivity was so lacking and my reading so scattered, that even now, after I’ve had time to think about what I read, what I loved and why, I can’t even find the energy to remember. So memorable is a good way to describe these books, because they were the ones that first came to mind when I was having a hard time mustering the enthusiasm to blog.
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FTC Disclaimer

The books reviewed here were purchased by us. If the book was provided by the author or publisher for review, it will be noted on the post. We do not get any type of monetary compensation from publishers or authors.