Thursday, May 21, 2015

Thursday Thirteen, Edition 35

Last Sunday, I speculated that I might, just possibly, be in a rut with some favorite authors. I asked for some recommendations, and you all came through, on Twitter and a few other sources.

In no particular order, here are

Thirteen Nineteen New (to me) Authors to Try:

1-2. P. N. Elrod & Edie Harris, rec'd by Karina Cooper
3. C.D. Reiss, rec'd by Christy
4. Pucked, by Helena Hunter, rec'd by Tiernan
5. Obsession, by Alice C. Hart, rec'd by Natalie
6-7-8. Lia Riley, Shelley Ann Clark, Shari Slade, all rec'd by Cherri Porter.
9. C. S. Pacat, rec'd by Angie. So much buzz about this series!
10. Mary Renault, rec'd by Tiffany Reisz 
11. Kate Canterbary, rec'd by Shelley
12. Zara Keane, rec'd by Penny Watson
13. Karina Bliss, rec'd by ODitor

But then, the recommendations kept coming! Even more:

14. Claudia Connor, rec'd by Crystal Blogs Books
15. Eva Leigh, rec'd by I Heart Romance
16-17-18. Samanthe Beck, KC Klein, Sara Jane Stone -- rec'd by Defying Tradition
19. Jamie Shaw, rec'd by Save Your Money for Books

There are too many authors and recommenders to tag here, so let me just say thank you so much, and I will read at least a sample from all of the authors in the next few weeks, and post some feedback either in reviews or in the Soup.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunday Soup - May 17

In The Soup This Week... conference news, musing about cross-posting reviews, Karina Cooper, and maybe I'm in a rut?

Soup Dish:  on my mind this week
As expected, I spent the week enviously stalking the #RT15 hashtag. Along with the all of the fun pics of romance lovers boozing it up, reuniting with friends, goofing with cover models and posing against sexy wall cling pics, I saw this tweet and I can't stop thinking about it:

Pam Jaffee (spelled wrong in the tweet) heads up the amazing publicity team that runs the Avon Addicts, the program I've been privileged to participate in for three years now. I've met her at the two RT cons I've attended and I doubt there is a savvier person in the entire "Big 5" romance publishing world.

That's a scary thought.  Change someone's career?  Note that she doesn't specify whether the change would be for better or worse. I tried cross-posting my reviews for awhile, but many of Amazon's policies about reviews (like stripping out the link to my blog) annoyed me.  Perhaps I'm being too selfish though.  I'm giving some serious thought to this.  Those of you that blog reviews more religiously than I -- do you cross-post? what do you think?

I am planning to go to Casey's Reading Until Dawn conference in October, but I need to get going on all the things I agreed to do! I can't believe we're in the second half of May already.  WHAT.

Oh, oh! guess what I found out about?  the Historical Romance Retreat conference for 2016.  This one is drive-able for me, the list of attending authors is STUNNING, and I adore Delilah Marvelle, so this is on my DO WANT list also!

And while we're talking about conferences, next year's RT will be in Vegas, which seems to be a bit of a polarizer, and RT17 is rumored to be in Atlanta.  I might break my every-other-year rule, because Atlanta seems cool. Well, not literally, it's not called Hotlanta for nothin'. But you know what I mean. I might be in the market for a roommate in Vegas, so if you're going too, maybe hit me up in August or September.

What I'm reading

Currently finishing up Engraved, by Karina Cooper.  It's the second to last in this steampunk/alt history/urban fantasy series, and so so interesting.  I love the world and the main character.  I'll be honest though, I'm finding this book a little slow-going.  It might be because I'm coming down with a delightful spring headcold, but it's also a function of the diction, which, in a bit of a nod to nineteenth-century penny-dreadful, is sort of deliberately lurid and ornate. I like it, but (because?) it slows me down.

Can you believe that it has taken me this long to give J.D. Robb a try? I picked up the first book, probably as an Amazon freebie, and I can totally see how addictive it will be.  I'm slightly put off by the gruesomeness of the murder though, which is kind of why I don't read murder mysteries in the first place.  With 30-some books, I need to watch my budget so I need to work out some kinks in my e-library account at the moment before I go glomming on this one.

I guess it's been a bit of a slow week in books because I can't think what else I've got.  A few things I'm looking forward to in the next months:
Maybe I need some new authors in my rotation.  Who's new that you love?

Outlander Watch... Och. I canna wait for Jamie and Claire onscreen.
So I missed an episode due to some traveling, and haven't caught up yet, and I'm kind of afraid to watch the finale. What's wrong me me??!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tuesday Soup - May 12

In the Soup Today:  #RT15 envy; old favorites and a new rave. 
Soup on a Tuesday? Whaaaaaa??? Sorry, it was a busy weekend!

Soup Dish:  on my mind
So, I'm on the "every other year" plan for RT, for a number of reasons, but I'm totally allowed to wallow in envy on my off years and stalk the Twitter feeds of those who are there this year.  Those key cards are to die for, and I heard there are JR Ward ARCs!!  Oh, the humanity!  If you attended the scrapbook session today, I'd love to see some of your pages!

On a related note, I really want everyone to stop posting to Instagram and just put the pics directly into their tweets.  Is that so wrong?  #ClickingThroughIsHARRRD #whine. 

Nalini Singh's latest installment in the Psy-Changeling series is due out on June 2, and you can read the first chapter here... the first paragraph blew me away plot-wise.  GAHHH.  I have no words.  Luckily the release is only a couple weeks away. 

If you haven't started this series, it's absolutely one you should glom onto, and hey, better late than never.  Singh holds a special place in my bloggy heart, because I received my very first ARC, Hostage To Pleasure, that I ever reviewed from a contest on her website.

But my Singh story started even before that.  I wrote a somewhat silly blog post about my "discovery" process, and it still makes me smile a little bit:

This is a love story.

This is a story of how a reader finds a writer to love. There are obstacles. There are questions and uncertainties. But as in all good romances, love triumphs, and the ending is a happily-ever-after. So, reader, settle in with a soft light, a scented candle, and whatever else gets you in the mood.

Once upon a time, there was a romance reader named… oh, let’s call her Nicola (nobody ever said I was subtle). Now, as the heroine of this love story, Nicola doesn’t quite fit the current mores and publisher’s preferences of innocence and youth. No, Nicola has been around. The dew is off the bloom, and she has multitudes of reading partners, not just a few. Frankly, Nicola is a bit of a jaded slut, reading multiple authors and books within days of each other—sometimes even the same day! Thank goodness there are no nasty LTDs (Literarily Transmitted Diseases).

A few months ago, Nicola started blogging about her conquests, dishing with other reading sluts about who gives good dialog and character, and who suffers the occasional (or chronic) plot flaccidity. Now, some people might find this unseemly, but Nicola and her readers consider it a public service.
If you'd like to read more, here you go.

I've also gotten word from the publisher that Joss Ware's post-apocalyptic romance series, The Envy Chronicles, has been re-packaged, and the final book is due out in July (I've been waiting ever so long!)  I did a series review on this one a while ago.  A little taste, in my own words, of these heroes:
Five men, restless, bored, frustratingly purposeless in our times; they're wealthy, athletic, handsome -- but rudderless and reduced to thrill-seeking. Frozen in time for 50 years, their awakening coincides with a culmination of events that lead to some shocking revelations on the depth of human greed and corruption.  The destruction of their world, and the gifts they are given, turn these dilettantes into warriors -- and that's pretty damn hot.

It's easy to lose track of new authors when there are so many old favorites to keep up with, which must be how I missed Erin Satie's first two historical romances.  I believe I have the Smart Bitch's bargain feature to thank for picking up The Orphan Pearl, and it's So. Damn. Good.  The last historical I read that I loved this much was Joanna Bourne's The Spymaster's Lady.  In fact, there are some similarities, I think, in very very good ways, but the characters are just completely different than Bourne's.  (Hmmmm. It might be fun to do a compare and contrast.)  I will hopefully get a review up on this one (how often do I say that?) but if you trust my reading recs at all, don't wait, go read it now.  Meanwhile I'll be glomming the first two by this brilliant author.

I think I'll forgo catching you up on my current reading in favor of not exceeding legal word-count limits.  If you're at RT, I'm super jealous, and hope to see you in Vegas next year....

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Midnight's Kiss, by Thea Harrison - Review

Title: Midnight's Kiss
Series: Elder Races
Author: Thea Harrison
Publisher: Berkely
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Reviewing: advance eARC
Reason for reading: I received an invitation to download the eARC in exchange for a review, and because it's Thea Harrison, I couldn't resist.

The Short Answer:
Another installment in a consistently, relentlessly fabulous PNR series.

The Blurb
From Harrison's website:

Ever since their scorching affair ended years ago, Julian, the Nightkind King, and Melisande, daughter of the Light Fae Queen, have tried to put the past behind them—and distance between them. But when a war breaks out between Julian and Justine, a powerful Vampyre of the Nightkind council, they find themselves thrown together under treacherous circumstances…

Kidnapped as leverage against Julian, Melly is convinced that her former lover won’t be rushing to her rescue. But when Julian gives himself up to save her, they both end up Justine’s captives. Armed only with their wits and their anger, Melly and Julian must work together to escape. But will they be able to ignore their complicated history, or will the fiery passion that once burned them blaze again?

Series Handicap:
On a scale of one to five, where one is "it isn't even a series" and five is "don't even think about starting here in the middle", I'd rate this at a two or three.  Although the series is well along, the Elder Races stories stand alone pretty well.  In my case, I happened to read the last two back to back, and they work really well as a two-fer.  If you haven't read anything in the series, I would suggest backing up just one book to Night's Honor, which is the story of Julian's most successful progeny; and the climax of that story serves as the catalyst for Midnight's Kiss.  Chronologically, they are very tight, with Midnight's Kiss picking up right at the end of Night's Honor. There is a bit of reference in both books to Julian's sire, Carling, but I think if you don't mind rolling with it, you won't be missing anything in plot points and only a bit of background in the way of Carling and Julian's relationship. (Her story is in Serpent's Kiss, novel #3 in the series, but if you're going to go back that far, you might as well start at the beginning.  You won't regret it.)

The Whole Scoop
Well, I totally loved it. It starts out feeling very much like a "damsel in distress" story, but Harrison has a way of boomeranging these kind of things.  Melly is doing OK, in some pretty dire straits, but just when it becomes clear that she's probably not going to be able to extricate herself on her own, Julian finds her. However, this is not a "white knight swoops her off and they ride into the sunset" sort of scenario.  He zooms straight into a big mess, and what I liked best is that it takes both of them to get themselves out of it.  It's one of those excruciating scenarios where they each have to watch the other get pushed to painful limits... on each others' behalf. 

At the risk of exposing myself as a dork on a whole different level than my readers already know, I want to interject a little bit of dorky philosophy that I have found to be pretty useful in my adult life.  The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey, is one of the few, if not the only, self-help books I've found to be really resonant and really applicable.  One of the things he posits is that interdependence is a higher state than independence (which is higher than dependence; interesting in terms of Covey's framework by not my point here).  Western culture and in many ways, romance protagonists of both genders prize their independence above nearly all else in their lives, and finding their way to interdependence is a key theme in romance.  The entire first half of Midnight's Kiss is an object lesson in the protagonists -- both of them-- coming to terms with their interdependence.

Beyond the heart-pounding suspense of the mutual rescue adventure which comprises the first two thirds or so of the story, the remainder will appeal to fans of epic fantasy in the political sense.  Melly and Julian are members of two different, very powerful factions in this world, and their union must be handled delicately.  And those that would challenge their position are dealt with ruthlessly.

I really liked the maneuvering around the power and the politics in this book.  There are big stakes (heh, NPI for this vampire story), and Melly and Julian find their personal and political HEA in a most satisfying way, with a good handful of unexpected twists in the process.

On the meta side, I very much enjoyed the way Harrison gave a nod, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, to the current craze for motorocycle club stories and perhaps THE original romance trope, The Big Mis, in delightful and respectful ways.  Now, if she can work in a secret baby, a MMA fighter, and maybe a sheikh into her next book, we'll have to award some kind of TropeMaster (TropeMistress?) honor.

Bottom Line:
I love this series and everything I've read by Harrison.  There is no series sag here, and the books in general stand along better than many paranormal series.  So if you're already a fan, run don't walk to your bookstore or e-shopping cart; and if you haven't started the series yet, your biggest decision should be whether you want to start at the beginning of the series, or right here with this one.  It's a can't-lose choice.

Around the Blogosphere
If you have reviewed this story, feel free to leave a link in comments or let me know by email, and I'll be happy to edit it in.
Harlequin Junkie -- a new convert to Harrison's series
A Book Obsession gives it four out of five
a mini-review from BadAss Book Reviews (I'm not really sure if "Badass" is one word or two... filed under things I didn't know I needed to know...)


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