Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Quick Check In!

Hey everybody, just a note to let you know what's going on -- I skipped the soup last week because I haven't had time to read, and I'm also behind on my Conference Thursday stuff. I am running a multi-troop campout for Girl Scouts this weekend and it's consuming pretty much all my free time. So of course things at work had to get crazy right now too. I probably won't have a Soup for you on Sunday but next Thursday we'll get back in the swing! Muah! I miss you all!


Promise or threat? You decide.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sunday Soup - May Day

In The Soup This Week... Keri Arthur, Chanel Cleeton, Amanda Bouchet, Charlotte Stein

Soup Dish:  on my mind/good links

Fabio has certainly taken more than a fair share of ridicule--even my 6'2" husband, who once sported some flowing locks of his own, does a killer "I can't believe it's not butter" impersonation. But I gotta say, Fabio certainly seem to take it with good grace. His latest appearance at the new romance-only bookstore, The Ripped Bodice, made some definite ripples on Twitter this week.

Controversy broke out this week over Amy Lane's m/m Selfie, where a person of color is referred to as a "chocolate love monkey."  Look here for a Storify capture, courtesy of Julio, and Riptide's subsequent response. It's been a passionate discussion. I'm sorry these kinds of things are still happening, but in some sense, the fact that the conversation is happening, I think is good and hopeful. It's the sunshine as disinfectant, to paraphrase former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (who, by the way, seems to have been a fascinating person. If you were looking for a random internet byway to spend some time in, here you go.)

If you're looking for even more reading, you can always try Violet Blue's weekly roundup of sex-news links. The site is NSFW, but the articles are not aimed at titillation. 

What I'm reading
I'm totally on a roll this week. Great stuff from #RT16, and still can't stop the one-click finger...

Tried and true, Keri Arthur never fails me. City of Light was awesome and I tore through in a single day (and one late night. I love that her heroines are tough but vulnerable, brave in the face of terrifying enemies, and have this unapologetic sexuality that remains orthogonal to morality.

Charlotte Stein's Never Sweeter was an absolute killer. Emotionally wracking. Stein takes situations that we can relate to, but then pushes them and pushes them and then shoves them over a cliff. This story is about a woman who'd been bullied in high school far beyond what most of us ever experience- trying not to spoiler anything, but the phrase "attempted murder" happens. She is terrorized by this person for years. He follows her to college, out of a real desire to make amends. I honestly found the idea that the heroine could have any spark of sexual feeling for him to be pretty dubious, but if you suspend that disbelief, it's it's an intense, romantic, emotional ride.

So then I went back to Fly With Me, by Chanel Cleeton, which was all light and sassy and sexy in the beginning but then had me torn up and weepy at the 80% mark or so. I've read a fair number of books featuring former military characters, but in reading this one, I realized that I haven't read too many that involve currently-active members. I didn't see it coming and it really hit me with some patriotic feels along with the romance.

My last read was another huge winner. It doesn't release until August but I'll give you just a little tease: fantasy/PNR, worldbuilding loosely based on the Greek mythological pantheon, warrior hero reminiscent of Jason Momoa as Khal Drogo and a heroine whose secrets include turning invisible and breathing fire, and those are just the little ones. Watch for a full review of A Promise of Fire, by Amanda Bouchet, later this summer. But if you wanted to pre-order now, I'm saying that wouldn't be a mistake.

2016 Book Goals
So three of my four reads above were physical books, but I got them all at RT, so I'm not sure they count as stash, or at least, they definitely weren't part of the stash as of January 1. Still... it's a little progress? sort of?

No progress at all on the non-fiction. I do have a couple titles on hand, maybe I'll dig into one of them this week.  I've been trying to decide on my next read!

That's it for this week. Happy reading!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sunday Soup - April 24

In The Soup This Week... SM Reine, Pepper Winters, Amber Belldene, Alexa Riley, Rachel Aaron/Bach, Jeffe Kennedy.

Soup Dish:  on my mind/good links

The Word Whores are seeking a new blog name, plus a link to the snarkiest review that never made it to Amazon.

Book Riot's debrief of RT16: less sex, more Vikings?

Really liked this blog post on character development - it's a great framework for reviewing too.

What I'm reading
The great irony of going to the big RT Convention is that there is zero time to read. I didn't even read on the plane on the way, because it was a short flight and early! But I have finished a few books since the last time I wrote a Soup post.

I kept seeing Facebook ads for books by Alexa Riley, so I downloaded a freebie. I got about 2/3s through it and stopped, but when I went looking to find the correct name for the blogger I'd hung with in NOLA, I discovered that her blog was gone and she is now one half of the Alexa Riley writing team. I have to say, I didn't love this title, and several of them look even less appealing. The team has landed on a new-to-me trope: the hero is SO dominant and SO possessive that he needs to impregnate the heroine so she can never be free of him; Romlandia is calling this a "breeder" trope (ugh). Well, everyone's line between alpha and alph-hole is a little different, but that's way over for me. I read Guarding His Obsession, which only included that trope as a side note in the secondary romance. The heroine in this book is apparently on the Asberger/Autism spectrum, although this is never called out by name.  Her dialog reads a little bit like a kindergartner in the body of a 24-year-old-woman discovering sex for the first time. So while I adore Melissa K and her snark, these books are not for me.

Not A Mistake, by Amber Belldene. I do plan a full review, but I confess that I didn't realize the release date was in March. Short answer -- liked it a lot, really wonderful heroine, angsty hero, and church politics. Christian but not inspy.

Debt Inheritance, by Pepper Winters. This one is a super-dark captive/slave fantasy. I did finish it, but it's a serial and I won't be continuing. Competently written and emotional, but much too dark for me; it's a tale of a 5-century family feud that involves some incident so heinous back in the 1600s that king granted one family "the life of the firstborn female" of each generation of the other family to do with as they wish, up to and including murder -- which this heroic family has availed themselves of right up to the hero's father killing the heroine's mother. Includes a scene of non-consensual violation of the heroine by ~20 men including the hero. Not for me.

Cast in Angelfire, by SM Reine. This is one of those authors that I mentioned, that was at RT but I didn't realize until too late. I enjoyed this book quite a lot, as the beginning of a UF series about an extremely powerful woman who has been mysteriously stripped of her memory. The romantic interest is reclusive and powerful, but secretive and reclusive. The worldbuilding is intriguing, borrowing equally from biblical references and popular fae, were-beast and witchy mythology. Currently 99 cents, give it a shot.

2016 Book Goals
My physical-book stash keeps growing! My stash reading is not keeping up. I guess it will stop when I die or my house explodes, whichever comes first. I got some advice from Jeffe Kennedy about tracking my TBR inventory in a spreadsheet, which I might try. Because you know I love a good spreadsheet.

I am sadly behind on my non-fiction goals. I'm consistently running at about half-goal: instead of 1 per month, I've read 2 and here we are at the end of April.

That's it for this week. Happy reading!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

RT16 Debrief - part 1

What DID happen in Vegas?

Just so you know, it's mandatory for all posts about RT16 to include that line somehow, somewhere.  It was in the rules. Sorry about that, but it couldn't be helped.

What do you think of my debut as a cover model? They're going to photoshop in the sunset, galloping horses, and misty floral overlay later. Also, I think I'll be getting more hair. 

It's become a bit of a tradition (if 3x makes a tradition!) to write up my RT Convention experiences. Every time I go, I use a little bit different strategy and it's been kind of interesting to see how it pans out.

Things I did right this year

Look Ma, no blisters!
I consider my shoe choice to be "pretty fancy" if it doesn't involve athletic socks. I rotated between Sketchers with thin socks, cute but comfy sandals, and yes, non-fancy sneakers for one day in the middle and the very last day because my feet and legs just needed it.  Most days I took an hour break in my room with my feet up and the room quiet. For the really dressed up party, I wore some blinged-out flat sandals with zero support for about 2 hours, and not one minute more.

Stayed hydrated.
I carried a water bottle and kept it filled, mostly from the tap. I'll be honest, the price of the drinks in Vegas made me less inclined to overindulge (I'm kind of a cheapskate, it seems) but this definitely helped keep tiredness and possibly conference crud at bay. I also used hand sanitizer much more liberally than I do at home - I don't really believe in it for everyday use, but in this situation, every bit of immunity-bolstering helps.

Planned an outing.
It was a bit small but I planned ahead, and gathered some like-minded friends and headed to a pub with recommended beer flights. I definitely enjoyed that evening very much and hope to make it a tradition at the RTs that I attend. I would like to grow it just a little, to maybe 8 or 10 people. The beer was very tasty, too. We went The Pub at The Monte Carlo, on the advice mainly of this article. I was hoping for a bit more extensive menu, but the food was very tasty.  (Normally I love pub food, but by the time we went, I was a little tired of sandwiches, even very delicious ones.)  I think "Cali' Creamin'" was my favorite, not surprisingly since it was sweet and vanilla-y. They were all very good, actually, and wisely, poured into cute little 5 oz glasses.  Amber had the Dragon Stout, highly rec'd by her husband, and JPBasquill had a flight similar to mine. Non-beer-lover Elisabeth Staab got talked into coming along, drank wine, and provided delightful company.

l-r: Brookly Lager, Cali Creamin, Wasatch Devastator Double Bock, Coconut Porter

Got out of my comfort zone.
My usual conference buddies didn't make it this year, so I made some new friends, one of whom loves to dance. So one night, we spent an hour or two on the rooftop dance floor -- I would say "raising the roof," only a) it sounds really stupid when I say things like that; and b) oops, no roof!  I can't say I loved the music but the view was amazing and the fresh air was very welcome. I returned the favor by corrupting, er, I mean, introducing several new friends to Cards Against Humanity.

The question card states, "I never really understood ____, until I encountered _____."

Things that maybe didn't work as well

Last time, I had such a great time going with the flow, spending significant time in the bar, and just hanging around with whoever showed up, that I really wanted that again. But the Rio wasn't set up for that very well. There were several bars in the hotel, including an over-priced and under-selective cash bar dedicated to the con (not a fan, in case you couldn't tell). There was a fairly central one that seemed to have a lot of RTers in it at any given time, but it wasn't the Grand Central Station effect that we got in NOLA. So not having much in the way of plans meant that a couple of my evenings turned out a little slow.

In the theme of failing to plan, I didn't pay as much attention to the authors and bloggers who were attending and I realized too late that I had missed at least half a dozen people that I really would have liked to meet. I did better at that at NOLA.

More to come

I do want to talk a little bit about the panels and parties, so I'm going to do a two-parter this year. Come back soon for the second installment of What Happened in Vegas.

Overall, I had a wonderful (and exhausting) time at the conference, strengthened my ties to the community of bloggers, reviewers, authors, and others, and I'm really glad I went.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Dandelion Iron, by Aaron Michael Ritchey - Review

Title: Dandelion Iron
Series: The Juniper Wars
Author: Aaron Michael Ritchey
Publisher: WordFire Press
Release Date: April 11, 2016 
Reviewing: eARC for Kindle 
Reason for reading: Author love

The Short Answer
Saddle up folks, we're going on a post-apocalyptic cattle drive where Little House on the Prairie meets the Terminator and Jules Verne meets Louis L'Amour. Mob-style protection wars rage from synthetic-helium-lofted dirigibles, machine guns are a girl's best friend, and every sperm is sacred. The word "rollicking" was invented for this series. It's out next Tuesday and YOU WANT IT.

The Blurb
It is the year 2058. The Sino-American War has decimated several generations of men, and the Sterility Epidemic has made 90% of the surviving males sterile.

Electricity does not function in five western states. Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana are territories once again. Collectively, they are known as the Juniper.

It is the most dangerous place on Earth.

On a desperate post-apocalyptic cattle drive to save their family ranch, Cavatica Weller and her two gunslinging sisters stumble across a rare boy. Sharlotte wants to send him away, Wren wants to sell him…and Cavatica falls in love with him.

Little do they know that an inhuman army is searching for the boy and will stop at nothing to find him.

Welcome to the world of The Juniper Wars.
Author Love
I have always chosen books based on authors. In the old days, I had a short list of auto-buy authors, and if I tried a new author, it was because my list was dry for new releases, and maybe I got a recommendation from a trusted human in person. These days, I find authors through buzz on social media, recs from other bookish people, and more recently, conferences.  Ritchey started out with a warm fuzzy feeling when he opted in to not one, but both of the flash fiction stories that ran on Alpha Heroes in the run-up to RUDCon, and then he was just super fun and nice at the conference with a wicked awesome sense of humor, which is both wicked and awesome. So that's why I'm reading this particular title.

About the Book
In-person humor doesn't always translate to an author's work, and the voice in Dandelion Iron is so unexpected that I would not say they align exactly.  Cavatica does not have the dry, sly humor that the author does, but the book is filled with it, in the references and the linguistic choices- Exhibit A would be the three dogs named Bella, Edward and Jacob. While this story is not a comedy, and touches on some darker themes of alcoholism and abuse, the tongue-in-cheek world-building never takes itself too seriously.

Cavatica's first person narration does a outstanding job of calling to mind the fears and aspirations of youth: the desire to be heroic, the fear of failure, the insecurities and yearning and melodrama. There's a cadence, a musicality and rhythm to her speech that calls to mind the oral tradition of storytelling, of an audience rapt around a flickering campfire or hearth. It's a delight to read, and Cavvy, a delightful character that surprises herself and everyone around her.

It must be said that this story is being published as a 6-book serial. We get through a battle in this book, but are only getting hints of the real conflict behind the war to come. The end is a bit of a cliffhanger, but there's good resolution to the first skirmish in The Juniper Wars, and the following books are expected to release in quick succession.

Favorite quote:
It was raw shakti, but right then it didn't feel like a creative, female energy.

To borrow from the Hindu myths, it was Kali's fury in her eyes.

And what did Kali's fury do?

It destroyed the world.

Well, let the world die. I was going to save the ranch even if at the end of things, it was the only dirt left in the universe.

It was our land, where our parents and baby sisters were buried. It would be ours, forever and ever, amen.

You don't let go of sacred ground. You fight to the death for it.

On a promotional note, I've never heard of humblebundle before, but it's definitely worth checking out. Dandelion Iron is being offered as a part of the third tier of this bundle, with a sliding price scale. Very interesting pricing model, and some great authors in this bundle.

Around the Blogosphere --what others are saying

Dave Butler- a similar assessment
Chessy The Cat - 5 Stars
Awnna Marie Evans - a rave indeed
Lee French - little less enthused, put off by the teen-ish slang & parts of the worldbuilding

Bonus: Me and This Guy!

At super-fun Reading Until Dawn Con last October.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Happy April First!

I confess, I kind of love the internet on April Fools' Day.  Last year, my favorite was the artisan selfie-stick video released by my former employer, Motorola. There's no such thing as "too much quality" when it comes to selfie-sticks. So far this year, I've only seen this one, which is pretty funny, but it's early out here in Seattle.  I'm looking forward to seeing what the internet pranksters come up with this year.

I would love to make an April Fools' post a tradition at Alpha Heroes, but the truth is, I don't get the brainstorm every year, or at the right time of the year.  But maybe if I start thinking about it now, I can come up with one for 2017.

When I announced I was changing over the blog to lit-fic.

When I announced my career as an author.

What's your favorite April Fools' story?

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Sunday Soup - Happy Spring!

In The Soup This Week... Nalini Singh, Lynsay Sands, Jayne Ann Krentz -- some big hitters this week.

Soup Dish:
Hey guys, sorry about the silence there.  Shortly after my last post I came down with a cruddy cough that I'm still trying to kick. I've been doing the bare-minimum function thing to keep my job and maintain some level of civilization in my house just slightly above "feral". On the plus side, I did a bunch of reading, and a fair amount of wardrobe-planning for RT, which takes up a rather ridiculous amount of brain space for me. Related, I started this post last week and am just now finishing.
A nice write-up on the new Romance documentary, Love Between the Covers. I missed the Seattle screening a couple weeks ago because I was so sick. I'm hoping to get another chance to see it, maybe at RT.

Last week there was some buzz about RWA's stance with Pocket Books regarding diversity in their romance line.  RWA published an update on the issue, and Pocket responded. The interesting thing is that Pocket did not seem to respond meaningfully until RWA basically said, "Do you want to sever ties with RWA? because that could happen." I wish I had caught more of the discussion online, if anyone has good links or a Storyfy on it, I'd be interested.

#RT16 is less than 3 weeks away! Eeee! I have no plan this year. I have a few things picked out on the agenda but right now I'm just showing up and que sera, sera.

What I'm reading

Jayne Ann Krentz's Trust No One was really good. Creepy and believable, and no, I did not think that the hero was the bad guy at any point, which is implied a little bit by the blurb, I think. It's classic Krentz romantic suspense, and by now you probably know if you like her style or not. I do, and this was a great read.

Avon was kind enough to send me a copy of the recently-released Runaway Vampire by Lynsay Sands. I've read and enjoyed a few books from this series, but it's not one of my "must-read" series, if you know what I mean. Even so, this was a fun, satisfying vampire romance. There's a larger series arc going on, some bad guys that the hero was escaping from in the first scene, but this book is perhaps a bit of a detour on that arc. I thought the book stood alone just fine, relying on some basic, familiar vampire tropes which the reader is easily caught up on. The only thing that I thought was weird, that my my fellow Avon readers assured me is just normal for the series, is that the erotic scenes included the vampires sucking blood out of plastic bags. I don't know if this is supposed to be tongue in cheek or funny but it was written pretty straight, as though the characters were getting a sexual charge out of consuming blood from the bag, and it definitely threw me out of the erotic moment more than a little bit. Otherwise, a solid read.

I also got an email entitled "DROP EVERYTHING..." and I TOTALLY DID because it was an ARC for Nalini Singh's most recent Psy-Changeling book, Allegiance of Honor. I will be doing a full-length review for it closer to release date, but here's a spoiler: IT WAS AMAZING. So good. So incredibly good. Go ahead and pre-order right now, you won't be sorry.

Just before I came down with the coughing crud, I attended the Microsoft Women's conference, which was a pretty big deal. One of the best talks I went to was on "GenderSpeak" by Tammy Hughes. I got a copy of her book and zoomed through about 90% of it while I was hopped up on cough medicine. Much of the material was covered in her talk, perhaps more charismatically, but I'm glad to have the book on my shelf -- it has some really good insights. Hardball for Women: Winning at Business.

Otherwise, in reading,  I've started a few things that haven't really caught fire for me, but that could be the fact that I'm not feeling 100%.  I have declared anything a DNF, I just keep starting things and moving on to other things.  Meh.


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