Friday, January 30, 2009

Charlaine Harris Boxed Set

Spotted this at Costco today. I passed it by because my TBR pile is way high and my book allowance is alarmingly low right now, but for $32, that's a damn good deal. FYI.

Rachel Vincent Giveaway

Backcover Blurb:
Here's hoping cats do have nine lives.

I’m on trial for my life. Accused of infecting my human ex-boyfriend—and killing him to cover up the crime. I’m not guilty. But tell that to the panel of Alphas sitting in judgment. Infecting a human is one of three capital offenses recognized by the Pride—along with murder and disclosure of our existence to a human.

I’m two for three. A goner.

On top of that, Marc is in danger of being tossed from the Pride, then we discovered a rogue stray terrorizing the mountainside, hunting a wild teenage tabbycat. I think I can protect her from both the ambitious rogue and the scheming of the territorial council.

If I survive my own trial…

I like the play on words for the title.

Rachel Vincent is on my list of New Authors to try this year, but I haven't gotten started yet on her Shifters series.

This works to my advantage, because the latest releases February 1st, so more books with instant gratification potential. Excellent.

On the other hand, it maximizes my wait for the NEXT book.

Hmmm. A dilemma.

Vincent is giving away the three-book series -- check it out.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Anna Campbell’s Untouched -- Review

Nutshell plot: Grace, a poor but well-born widow, is mistaken for a prostitute and kidnapped to a secure manor to supply sexual services to an imprisoned, perhaps mad, nobleman. A gender-reversed Cinderella story, right down to the ugly stepbrothers. (Warning: watch for a mild spoiler ahead).

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I think the circumstances that drive the plot are pre-posterous. True, the treatment of illnesses, physical and especially mental, could really result in almost anything in those days but the kidnapping and the whole “hump or die*” ultimatum delivered to Grace and the sheer evilness of the uncle and his henchmen verged on parody.

There was nothing funny though about the scenes in which Grace was brutalized. It’s a pretty dark book. Frankly I find it pretty hard to believe that a) Our Hero could have survived his imprisonment with so much humanity intact and b) Our Heroine would fall so smack in love in such a strange situation. Maybe it’s some kind of weird permutation of Stockholm Syndrome, I dunno.

Getting past those barriers to the suspension of disbelief however, I love Campbell’s writing and the way her characters unfold. Here’s the v. mild spoiler (highlight to read): When Grace first appears, the bits of information we are given about her background that lead the reader to assumptions about her class and family rank. Eventually, these assumptions take a beating… and then shatter, in a bit of a preview of what Matthew must feel when he finds out. Even though the reveal is a surprise, it’s not an out of the blue, deus ex machina event – enough meaty bits of information are given to us gradually, building over time, so the Big Thing is not such a stretch after all. (Sorry to be cryptic – I’m trying not to spoil too much!)

The most interesting conflict in this story is that, after becoming acquainted, the characters are very inclined to, erm, add benefits to their friendship, but there are major, important reasons for each of them not to. Grace has insisted to The Bad Guys that she is not a woman of loose morals. She can’t win – if she refuses to sleep with Matthew, she’s to be handed over to the horrible Monks and Filey for rape and death. If she does sleep with him, she betrays herself, her upbringing, and eventually she believes, Matthew himself.

Matthew on the other hand, has other demons. He is very nearly powerless against his uncle, the author of his imprisonment, and thus desperately needs to be in control of himself. Not sleeping with Grace is a way of exercising that control and of thwarting his uncle. But at what cost? He has no doubt that the hump-or-die threat to her is not an idle one.

And so, they contrive to sleep together – literally – but not have sex. If it weren’t for the raging attraction between them, this was so crazy it just might have worked. However, this attraction ratchets up the stakes for both of them: contradictorily, it becomes even more important to Grace that Matthew not take her for a whore; and for his part, he has even more reason to treat her well. The strain has an almost Gift of the Magi-esque symmetry to it. Eventually of course, they give in to the attraction. Their passion and odd friendship merge into a true love affair. After additional misadventures, sacrifice and pain, the bad guys are defeated and the devoted couple live happily ever after (I don’t think that counts as a spoiler, do you??).

The emotional growth that these characters go through is the really compelling part of this story. Grace comes to terms with her past, and the scenes of reconciled estrangement are moving and ring true. Once the initial mistrust between Grace and Matthew is overcome, the tenderness between them is exquisite. In fact, the chord that sounds between these two once they profess their love for each other is so profound, it occurs to me that the choice of "Grace" as the name for heroine is not accidental. My theology is weak (coughcoughnonexistentcough) so I peeked at some articles on the theology of the state of grace, which, yeah, interesting but way too deep for me. I still suspect there is an allegory or a parable or something deep and literary like that to be drawn, but that task will have to go to someone who is more knowledgeable about the subject than me. I'm reasonably sure it's in there, though.

It's hard to find a good spot to excerpt, at least I think so, because the scenes are so layered I'd need to snip pages and pages to really give you a good sense of what I love about Campbell's writing. But I'll give it my best shot -- here, Matthew is trying to convince Grace to escape:

"I can't leave you." She wanted to sound strong, invincible, but the words emerged as a choked plea. "Don't make me go."

His face constracted with pain. "Let me save you, Grace. Give me this one gift." Then, in a low, shaking voice, "For God's sake, allow me this if nothing else. I have nothing else."

His last statement cut through her resistance like a knife through butter. She fought back tears. She wouldn't cry. She wouldn't cry.

Acrid shame flooded her. Her defiance tortured him to his limits and he'd already borne so much. She expelled her breath on a muffled sob. "You break my heart."

He understood immediately that she'd acknowledged his right to banish her. He stepped forward to take her in his arms. "I wish to God it could be otherwise, my darling."

"When I'm free, I'll get you out of here," she said fiercely, tilting her head so she could see his face.

I love how instantly and perfectly she understands his need to save her, and puts that above her own desires to stay with him and try to find a way for them both to leave together. There's more, but if I don't stop here I'll end up posting the whole chapter, which is generally not recommended. You can read the first scene on Cambell's website though.

Last month, RNTV ran a spotlight on virgin heroes, and this was one of the featured books. The review includes an interview with Anna Campbell on the topic.

This is for sure a little different from the usual pattern, but in all honesty I didn't find it all that big of a deal. I liked the way Campbell handled it; I think it was right for his character. His learning curve was perhaps a little unrealistically steep, heh, but I'll concede that much and more for the sake of the romance fantasy.

Untouched is the book that put me over the top for dark and tortured. It's very dark. There is enough torture here to be disturbing, if not graphic (ie, most of it takes place "offstage"). So if you're looking for light and breezy, this ain't it. But these are characters that will stay with you for awhile. They're worth the effort. I recommend.

And I have Tempt The Devil in my TBR pile, but I need a break first. I swear, I'm gonna read nothing but fluff for awhile. (Or this. It might make my brain hurt, but it doesn't make my soul ache.)

*If you don't get the reference, go to the link and skip to about 7:00 in the clip. It's good to be the king.

Monday, January 26, 2009

This 'n That


I *thought* about writing a post or two this weekend. I've got a number of done-reading, waiting-for-review items. But, listless and lackadaisical, I poked around on Facebook, some discussion forums, and played a lot of solitaire instead.


I mean, I didn't even deal with the giveaway I was supposed to do Friday. OK, so let's get that out of the way now. <drumroll> ... the magic random number generator says.......... I HEART BOOK GOSSIP, come on down! Or, you know. Email me your snail addy. If you want to be technical.

Thanks for playing, everyone!

Some Other Stuff....

In other book news, I'm really, really trying to read Pride and Prejudice for this week's Weekly Geeks carnival. I think the best I can say about it is that it's a fantastic anti-insomnia aid. I'll do a full post on it later this week, but at this point I think it's safe to say that I'm not a classics kind of gal, at least not any more.

Maybe I should try the movie instead. Though I have to say, the mutton-chop doesn't really do it for me. I am apparently a P&P lost cause.

And Finally....

This has worked for me in the past, so I'm going to try it again-- here are some reviews that I'm hoping to get going in the near future. Which one do you want to see the most?

Kiss of a Demon King -- Kresley Cole
Bitten -- Kelley Armstrong
Magic Bites -- Ilona Andrews
Untouched-- Anna Campbell

Oh, and PS, one more thing...

For those of you who've been considering writing a penis-oriented post just to drive traffic-- not that any of you would do such a thing, nor of course would *I*; however, just hypothetically speaking, if one were interested in the bemusing results-- observe:

Friday, January 23, 2009

Dark and Tortured

I think I've had all I can take, for the moment, of dark and tortured heroes. Dark and tortured plots. Dark and tortured settings. Evil, dark and torturous villains and their filthy, irredeemably awful henchmen.

I just finished Anna Campbell's Untouched. It was good, but argggh. I am officially at my limit for reading about the profoundly horrible things that Our Hero has had to rise above to become The Man He Is Today. I'll do an actual review later-- I want to do it justice.

But for now, I'd really like to read some fluff that's ACTUALLY fluffy. Maybe Jill Shalvis. I have a stack of Julia Quinn's backlist. Maybe it's time for Jenny Crusie re-read. I can't decide.

Any other suggestions?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thursday Thirteen, Edition 7


Oh, and don't forget to throw in for the Kresley Cole Giveaway -- deadline is noon tomorrow PST.

These are blogs that are either new to me, or I’ve been meaning to add to my blogroll for awhile. Check them out, I think there’s something here for everyone:

1. A Blog of Books Book Maniac writes very organized reviews for every kind of book you can think of.

2. Stumbling Over Chaos - Cats, LOLCats, knitting… and books. This is a woman who reads WHILE she knits—that’s dedication! Click on the “Reading” tag to find short, pithy reviews by the batch.

3. Lurv A La Mode Oh, everybody knows KMont, right? I’ve been to Lurv more than once but somehow never added it into my regular routine. Why? Apparently I haz teh dum, that’s why.

4. The Good, The Bad, and the Unread I kind of don't get the duck thing, but the reviews are good. Confession: I have had this blog confused with Good Books, Bad Books, and Every Book In Between. I, um, didn’t realize there were two. To continue with the dum theme.

5. The Book Girl: Lots of contemp reviews and a lovely, serene template.

6. Hey Lady, Whatcha Reading? I met Trish at BookBlogs.ning-- she’s AWESOME, and incredibly generous with tips and advice about blogging.

7. Lizzie, By The Book. From Proust to Plum. Makes me dizzy in a good way.

8. She Reads and Reads: Avisannschild does a ton of memes, interviews, and challenges – fun stuff. And I love the blog name, don’t you?

9. Moonlight to Twilight: Ms. Moonlight writes very thorough and spoilerrific reviews (she has a prominently placed warning) so go here when you want to dish about a book you’ve both read.

10. The Ginger Kid I have a confession. JenB’s blog is not new to me, but I have kept her out of my blogroll because she’s just so delightfully dirty. I know you are all shocked to hear this, but I daily on very rare occasion cruise my blogroll from work, and I could never remember to save The Ginger Kid until I got home. Click with caution (but do click).

11. For The Love of Books MariDarling is passionate about books, and finds time to read and blog on a student’s busy schedule. And her template is gorgeous.

12. Book Binge: A really popular review blog that I want to check out more often.

13. The Book Smugglers: Ditto.

The New Thursday Thirteen Site

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bad Memer

And the latest, from Ciara didn't have a button, but if I were good with p-shop, I'd whip one up that combines images of books, Starbucks, chocolate, and a computer. Heh.

As Ann Landers used to say, forty lashes with a wet noodle for me.

I’m very lucky to have several friends out in the blogosphere who have “adopted” me and helped get the word out about Alpha Heroes. A year ago, I had no idea what a blog meme was. Now, I sort of have a backlog to deal with. I’m going to use the holiday bustle as an excuse. (Is it working?)

I mean, some of these involve effort. For the Six Values one. I started to write my post for it, but it turned into “Six Things People Should Do/Be AND WHY THIS CERTAIN PERSON IN MY LIFE WHO DOESN’T/ISN’T IS DRIVING ME BATSHIT CRAZY RIGHT NOW

<deep breath>… and let’s face it, no one wants to read that. The process of letting that post cool off ended up in more than a month of procrastination.

Then other awards/memes came along but I didn’t want to respond until I had that first one taken care of, and, well, now here we are.

I see these awards as less about how great Alpha Heroes is and more about how loyal these friends are. So, Ciara, and Jackie, and Book Maniac, you have my sincerest appreciation and admiration. And I’m going to knock out all these memes in one go.

Being me, I’m going to put a little bit different spin on it. Most of the blogs I love and read regularly are linked in my sidebar, and thanks to my procrastination, most of them have already received and passed along these awards. Every day I get more and more enjoyment out of the strengthening bonds and friendships in this little blog circle, but now and then I feel the need to expand my boundaries. So my pledge, as the recipient of these lovely awards, is to do a new Thursday Thirteen tomorrow with a list of new(ish)-to-me book blogs. Some of them are fairly new and I know their authors will appreciate you stopping by and leaving a word or two of encouragement. I’ll also be updating my blog roll over the next few days.

In this way, I hope I’m “paying forward” a little bit of the support I’ve received, especially from Ciara and Jackie.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Kresley Cole’s MacCarrick Brothers Trilogy – Review

When I find an author I love, I go to some trouble to find everything they’ve done. Often though, an author’s earlier books are not as good as the more current ones—and hey, there’s a good reason for that; we should all get better at what we do as we get more experienced. So I never know exactly what I’m going to get.

Last spring, I discovered and devoured the Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole. In a happy coincidence, just as the date approaches for the release of Kiss of a Demon King, my favorite used bookstore just happened to have all three of the MacCarrick Brothers books: If You Dare, If You Desire, and If You Deceive. Yoink! Now they are MINE. And I burned through them this past week.

Are they as good as the Immortals After Dark? Well, it’s a bit of apples and oranges. Aside from a small paranormal plot device element, the “If You...” books are straight-up historicals. The MacCarrick brothers definitely read a bit as the proto-Lykae, minus the whole shape-shifting thing. And like the Lykae and vampires—and demons, come to think of it—the MacCarrick men each stumble upon their one and only, pre-destined true love. So if you love Cole’s alphas and the one-and-only trope, with or without the paranormal trappings, you should definitely check this trilogy out. Cole’s trademark humor is more understated as well, but you’ll still find those snicker-out-loud moments.

I rather like the brogue she uses for the brothers, and it’s consistent, but it was pretty pervasive. So if that kind of thing bugs you, it might be annoying. One thing that kind of jumped out at me was in the second book, where Jane’s upper-crust Brit accent was written in explicitly, instead of just being the “default” language. You really never see that, but it makes a lot of sense, since the books are mostly from the Scotsmen’s point of view. The other two heroines were not English, so they each had a bit of dialect too.

Another thing that sets this trilogy apart from the standard regency historical is that it’s set a few decades later, in Victorian mid-nineteenth century. Most of the action takes place away from high society, so it doesn’t play a huge factor, but the second two books had some interesting scenes in what seems to be the Victorian equivalent of a rave. Cool.

The paranormal element is a curse, which goes beyond mere superstition: the book where the curse is recorded cannot be destroyed and tells the fate of ten generations of MacCarricks, all of which have been accurate. As a result, the men believe that they are cursed to be alone, walk with death, and other unpleasant portentous sorts of things. Their lives have been spent in a self-fulfilling prophecy, avoiding women and falling into soul-damaging (yet heroic, of course) work. Cole works very hard to make these men dark, damaged, and in their own minds, beyond redemption—at times, maybe a bit too hard.

The men are not terribly different from each other, but the heroines, oh my. Awesome. From an outcast Castilian princess with repressed sexuality Issues, to a reckless Victorian libertine (my personal favorite), to a plucky orphaned waif from the Parisian slums (OK, that one sounds a little Dickensian but she’s fun to read, trust me), these are interesting, courageous women who call their men on the bullshit and there’s not a TSTL moment in the bunch. Well – there might be one in the first book, but I rather liked how it was handled. YMMV.

The external plot drivers are not especially memorable—in the case of the last book, there actually isn’t one—and the paranormal loophole by which the brothers escape their presumed fate is facile, but you won’t mind too much, because the *real* story is about developing trust (which I think Cole does fantastically well), and struggling to understand when your desire for someone is selfish, and when it isn’t – another way to put it would be struggling to understand where the needs of the individual end and the needs of the relationship begin.

Usually I get very impatient with the “she’s too good for me, I’m staying away for her own good” damaged-hero mentality, but it’s done well in these books. There’s a pretty compelling reason for the men to feel that way. And the vulnerability they show when they come to understand that their partner loves them in spite of their darker side, and even find some parts of that darkness compelling, attractive, and heroic—it’s moving.

Overall I give it a very solid thumbs up; maybe not the runaway genius of the IAD series, but still an entirely satisfying read.

Now, if you've managed to stay with me all this time, you get a reward: I'm going to ***GIVE AWAY*** this whole trilogy to a random commenter. These copies are well-thumbed so if you care about that, don't enter, but if you are interested in the story inside the slightly battered covers, sign right up. I figure I'll use a flat rate postage box which, who knows, might have room for another book or two, so in your comment, tell me if your favorite subgenre is historical, contemp, or paranormal and there might be an extra goodie for you. If it fits.

I'll announce the winner on Friday sometime after noon Pacific time.

edited to add:

Here are some other reviews around the blogosphere for the MacCarricks:

Pearl's World of Books

The Good, The Bad, and The Unread

Smut N Stuff

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thursday Thirteen, Edition 6

I have a pretty healthy TBR pile. I know some of you out there have TBR counts in the triple digits, and I’m not in that league, but you can see I’m not hurting for good stuff to read. And yet even so, there are 2009 releases that I must have anyway. This isn’t a complete list by any means, but here are 13 of them that have me on pins and needles.

Thirteen New Books I Lust For

1. Kresley Cole: Kiss of a Demon King -- NOW!!

2. Lynn Viehl: Stay The Night -- NOW!!

3. Robyn Carr: Second Chance Pass -- Feb 1

4. Patricia Briggs: Bone Crossed -- Feb 3

5. Jennifer Crusie: Dogs and Goddesses -- Feb 5

6. Nalini Singh: Angels' Blood -- Mar 3

7. JR Ward: Lover Avenged -- Apr 28

8. Jo Davis: Under Fire -- May 5

9. Jacqueline Carey: Santa Olivia -- May 29

10. CL Wilson: Queen of Song and Souls -- Jun 2

11. Julia Quinn: (sequel to The Secret Diaries) -- Jul 9

12. Christina Dodd: Storm of Visions -- Aug 4

13. Diana Gabaldon: An Echo in the Bone -- 2009

That's about 4 and a
half feet of books.
Yeah, it could be in
better focus, but
the stack fell over
twice while I was
trying to get this
shot. So sue me.

The New Thursday Thirteen Site

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What Would You Do

for the love of books?

I've been a member of's discussion forum, Table Talk, for over 10 years now. One of my all-time favorite threads was about the lengths we book-lovers go to for books: acquiring them, owning them, shelving them, admiring them, fondling them, and of course, most of all, reading them. The thread is frozen now, a little time capsule of book-love from the end of the last century, but I still go visit every now and then. You can read the thread in its entirety in guest mode here. You can also consider paying a nominal subscription fee and joining up. If you think that conversations in comments around the blogosphere are addictive, you just have no idea what a discussion forum can do to you.

Kat: I read in the bathroom at work.

Rachel: Okay, I'm giving away one of my best secrets here...

During our extremely boring monthly sales meetings, I've passed the time by photocopying twenty pages or so from whatever book I'm reading and adding the photocopies to the stack of papers I normally have to wade through. Thus, I can continue reading my book without holding a book in my hand, and people just think I'm studying up on work.

Kat: In my viciously voracious, no-book-is-spared episodes, I often never really look at the title or the author. Just open the book and start reading. The next day I couldn't tell you who wrote it or what it was called although I usually am able to tell you what it was about. It's the bookish equivalent of a one-night stand in which not only is the stand's name forgotten but even its gender is fuzzy.

Mary: I recently got caught up reading up a book on the subway and wound up in entirely the wrong borough.

Emily: I work one part time job, one full time job, go to school full time, and still read two books per week. I keep my underpaid job at Borders just for the 33% discount.

Stirling: I dated a girl for her access to the Harvard Libraries.

April: I read at stop lights as I drive to work.

Robyn: Before marriage I used to sleep with my books all the time. Now I have brief flings before my hubby gets home from work.

Iain: A guy I was at school with fifteen years ago recognised me on the underground because I had my nose in a book.

Olivia: it has been recently pointed out to me that taking books to the movies (so I can read while I'm waiting for the movie to start) is highly unusual behavior and probably indicative of some sort of neurosis.

Annie: I also have certain criteria when I am purchasing handbags. I can only buy bags which have the capacity to carry big hardback books, (just in case I can't wait for the softback in something and have to buy the hardback. Sometime if I am carrying an especially big book I do a trial run in the store. Friends, shop assistants think I am mad.

Jeff: Does taking the bus or train somewhere, when it is possible to drive, so that you can read in transit count?

Meghan: Or how about taking the local train rather than the express, just to have more reading time. Does that count?

Ted: I sometimes travel with virtually no books. That guarantees that on arrival I head directly for the local bookshops to get my fix. Two years ago, when I was sent to Portland OR., my employer couldn't understand why I insisted on going a day early. He doesn't know about Powell's.

Sky: We wanted to keep our cross-country move as light as possible, so we got rid of our couch, bed, most chairs, tables, etc., and brought only the essentials--close to 80 boxes of books or so, as I remember.

Marya: I only buy books I'm pretty sure I will read again, and I even hesitate to check crap out of the library. But THEN--THEN I have these sordid, stand-up affairs in bookstores and libraries with books I would never, never, introduce to my mother or acknowledge knowing on the street. Sometimes I go as far as lying down on the floor with one, but mostly I just creep into a corner and have my way. Ugh.

Kelly: Strolling through Victoria, BC, my heart missed a beat when I saw a sign that read Book Tours Here. Book Tours? Book Tours?!? Oh, book tours. I don't know what the heck a book tour would be, but it sure sounded terrific.

DG: I once wallpapered a bathroom with the pages from duplicate copies of "Jane Eyre" and "The Picture of Dorian Gray." (Duplicate copies so you get both sides of each page). I did them in neat ascending rows, then varnished the Hell out of them. If you ever got locked in, you could read two complete novels. It was really very very pretty.


These are my people, my kindred spirits. I just love them and I figured you might too. Thus, this post.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lora Leigh - The Military Books - Review

Surely there is an archetype for the flawed hero, the one who drives you crazy and NOT in a good way… but yeah, in a good way, too. He makes so many mistakes. Does stuff that any reasonable heroine could not and should not forgive – maybe they’re small things, but they are so eminently avoidable and it could be SO DAMN GOOD with him if those mistakes weren’t there.

I'm not talking about lovable eccentricities. I’m talking about rolling your eyes, you just made me throw up a little bit, aw-fer-*&$$&%%-sake, didja HAVE to go and do that, kind of mistakes.

But in spite of all the reasons not to love this guy, the heroine—and maybe the reader—still just can’t get enough. Just when you’re completely ready to throw in the towel and go meet that nice guy that your mom’s friend of a friend knows… there’s that little spark. And you stick around just along enough for another spark to come along. There’s just enough there to keep you going.

This is a dysfunctional relationship for sure. And it’s the one I’ve got going with Lora Leigh’s books. I still cannot manage to get interested in the genetically-modified Breeds with their bizarre genitalia and chemical sexual slavery, but the military ones…. hmmm. I can’t seem to leave those alone, even though they drive me nuts.

I’ve read Wild Card, Dangerous Games, and Killer Secrets thus far. In each one, there are enough technical mistakes to make me want to hurl the book across the room. For example, in Dangerous Games, there’s a scene where the hero makes it a point to tell the heroine that he's already ordered room service for himself and the heroine. Two pages later, she digs into “the cheeseburger that she’d ordered.” In Wild Card, an obnoxious potential villain guy starts talking smack to the heroine, saying rude and repulsive things to her. The hero goes all psycho on his ass, pins him by the throat and says “Touch her again and I’ll kill you.” Very dramatic, very alpha – except the Bad Guy never touched her at all in the scene; it was all talk. There’s just no reason for that, it’s pure sloppiness.

I’ll say right up front that I don’t know diddly-squat about military men, military operations, or any of that, much less about SEALs or Special Ops. But a lot of the plotting and action and even the language around these operations rings false and clunky to me. In Dangerous Games, there’s a pivotal scene where they’re expecting a very powerful, very dangerous enemy to make a move, to try to kidnap the heroine from an exclusive club. The hero is sitting around the lounge drinking whiskey. I call that very unlikely. Swirling it around the glass, making a show of drinking, all fine, but no – he’s specifically drinking hard liquor. Stuff like that.

Even the characters start off a little stiff, like they’re fighting their way out of a cardboard box. Fortunately they seemed to generally loosen up by 1/3 or so into the book, and I really liked Sabella in Wild Card right from the start.

So why keep reading? Well, the same reason we all go back to that mythical bad boy: the sex.

I don’t just mean the explicit erotic scenes. Leigh also writes erotica and her love scenes are hot, explicit, x-rated. Although I haven’t read all of her books, I believe it’s safe to say that her trademark is writing relationships with a power struggle, physical and emotional. She writes characters that are fiery, smart and stubborn; the heroines are nobody’s doormat but the sexually dominant partner makes them crazy – and that would be the good kind of crazy.

I make no moral judgment about writing, buying, or reading books *just* for good sex scenes. Which these are. But far more interesting are books with sex scenes that cause the characters some struggle and conflict and growth, and I believe that Leigh’s books do that. For every woman who has worried that “nice girls don’t do that,” this is a believable and important examination. And given that male readership of romances is on a sharp rise, I’ll add that the same goes for any man who has worried that his partner would be shocked, horrified, etc. by some of these, hmmm, earthier pleasures.

THIS is what keeps bringing me back to Leigh’s books – the chance to see her characters struggle through realistic inhibitions and insecurities, and share themselves fully, sexually and emotionally, with a partner who does the same.

Reading order:

Tempting SEALs:
1. Rescue Me*
2. Killer Secrets
3. Hidden Agendas
4. Real Men Do It Better*
5. Dangerous Games
6. Honk If You Love Real Men*

Elite Ops (related to Tempting SEALs)
1. Wild Card
2. Maverick

*Anthology containing a related novella

ps, if you have a review from either of these series or about Leigh in general on your blog, feel free to post a link in comments!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Starting the New Year with a Bang

NO not that kind of bang.

Though given the content of my last post, I suppose you could be forgiven for lingering in the gutter just a bit.

I am more than a little bemused at the result of having sites like IO9 and Dear Author link to my tiny little blog. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that my 15 seconds of internet fame, such as it is, would come as a result of writing on the topic of penises. I confess that even though I’m thrilled about the traffic, I remain a little bit embarrassed. My husband is embarrassed too (sorry honey). I’m also fairly resigned to the notion that this is a flash in the pan and I’ll be back to my usual modest numbers in another couple of days. I would love to see a general increase in my readership, but I suspect I’m looking at a pretty low conversion rate.

Then there was another bang this morning, but also not that kind: fender-bender at the doughnut shop. In my 20+ plus years of driving, this has happened exactly once before – so not a particularly common event. Egads.

I’m pretty much ready to get back to normal.

As you were, people.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Curious Case of the Paranormal Penises

I’ve been reading romance for a long time. Really, really long.

I’ve been reading paranormal romance for a good two or three years now – I’ve covered a lot of ground.

I’ve gone through a number of high fantasy, swords-and-sorcery, Arthurian and pseudo-arthurian fantasy phases.

And I’ve read my share of erotica, too.

Still, it seems I’ve led a sheltered reading life, because just in the last few months I’ve come to recognize a rather disturbing phenomenon.

It started out innocently enough. (OK, perhaps innocently is a poor word choice.) Christine Warren’s wolves are eyebrow-raisingly well-endowed in their human forms. OK. JR Ward’s Brothers are also well-endowed --well, that’s just proportionate, right? They’re big guys. Oh, they also have extreme staying power, multiple orgasms, and apparently large volumes of, erm, jizz. Kind of like regular guys only more so.

This makes sense to me. It works for me.

But then there was this, from Ward’s Lover Enshrined: ”Her tongue snaked out and teased the barb at the base of his erection. That barb was the part of him that she liked best, the one that locked into place when he came and kept them linked.” Erm. Barb?

I was assured by Lora Leigh fans that there was precedent for this: He slammed in deep, his body tightening as she felt an additional erection, an extension swelling from beneath the hood of his cock, locking him inside her, caressing a bundle of nerves high inside…" (From short story “The Breed Next Door.”)

More prosaically, according to "Whole male cats have barbed penises (much like a fishhook), and upon withdrawal, the female cat will often scream (whether from ecstasy or pain is questionable). It is also believed that the barbed penis stimulates ovulation."


Then there's Cheryl Brooks' cat… alien… dude: "…but when I washed it, it blossomed like a rose, the head putting out a wide corona with a scalloped edge…then I noticed something else, which was that he already had plenty of lubrication dripping from the star-like points of the corona.” Said lubrication is later referred to as “orgasmic cock syrup.” I couldn’t bring myself to read much further than that.

Yeah, I’m not so down with that.

Call me old-fashioned, but this kind of stuff is not sexy to me.

Keep the paranormal options package please, I’ll just stick with the basic model.

Though I might go with the, erm, expanded wheelbase.

So to speak.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

What Guilt?

According to the New York Times obituary for Julia Child, “Whenever she was asked what her guilty pleasures were, she responded, ‘I don't have any guilt.’”

I feel that way about my reading. I don’t read to prove anything to anyone – what on earth is there to feel guilty about? Maybe if I were reading white supremacist propaganda, then I’d feel guilty. But romance? Where people fall in love and live happily ever after?

I don’t get why that would make me feel guilty.

Is it a puritan thing? Like, this is too much fun, I should be mortifying the flesh instead?

Eh. Fuck that.

Assuming your responsibilities as an adult (or student, or whatever) are largely done – read what you want. Read something that makes you feel good, whether that’s brain-bending philosophy, seat-of-the-pants suspense, canny-make-me-rich investment books, cry-in-your-hanky drama, improve-my-life self-help, or happily-ever-after romance.

Feel guilty if you’re not reading. If you have kids, feel guilty if you’re not reading to your kids. But for reading?

Don’t have any guilt.

ps, this post was written for the Bookworm Carnival, theme "Guilty Pleasures." Check it out!

New Author Challenge

I've got a couple of posts in progress, but I keep getting stuck somewhere before the "post" button. So I'm going to take the easy way out and give you a quick list of authors that are on my list so far for the 50 new authors challenge:

50 New Authors
1 Ilona Andrews
2 Linnea Sinclair
3 JL Langley
4 Samantha Kane
5 Kelley Armstrong
6 Josh Lanyon
7 Rachel Vincent
8 Karen Chance
9 Justin Gustainis
10 Jeri Smith-Ready
11 Shannon McKenna
12 Katie MacAlister
13 Alexis Morgan
14 Anya Bast
15 Nina Bangs
16 Vicki Pettersson
17 Brunonia Barry
18 Julie James
19 Jacquelyn Mitchard
20 Ivy Alexander
21 Judith James
22 Carrie Lofty
23 Keri Arthur
24 Charlie Huston
25 Virginia Kantra
26 Angela Knight
27 Geralyn Dawson
28 Janice Maynard
29 Shelley Monroe

Not a bad list, although I may have to disqualify Julie James because I sort of gobbled up The Sexiest Man Alive (so to speak. heh.) for my personal rockin' New Year's Eve. Since I finished it at 11:30 pm or so, technically, I think it has to go in the 2008 pile.

My rule about anthology authors: if I've read a short piece of theirs before, but not a full-length novel, they still count as new-to-me.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Thursday Thirteen, Edition 5

OK, because I'm a sucker for lists here's another Last Antholopalooza post.

13 Random Thoughts About Anthologies

1. Verdict? I still don’t like them very much. I’d rather read a full-length story.

2. Unless Meljean Brook is a contributor. *

3. Or if there is a story by another author that is related to a series that I’m addicted to. See also: JR Ward, Kresley Cole, Nalini Singh.*

4. I think it’s a great way to get some “bonus” material about an existing series or “world;” I’ve seen authors say things like “Character X just doesn’t have a full story to him, but maybe a novella…”

5. They can work nicely as prequels too, where perhaps an author realizes that there’s more to a secondary character’s backstory, or an element of world-building that would have to take place out of chronology to make sense.

6. I won’t pay $14 bucks for an anthology, even if there is a Psy-Changeling story in it. Sorry Nalini, it’s a used or library version for me!

7. It’s a bad way for me to get to know a new author, because I’m pre-disposed not to like it. An unknown author could unfairly get onto my “Nah, no good” list, because I might still like their full-length work.

8. On the other hand, if you impress me with a novella, then color me *really* impressed. Angela Knight & Virginia Kantra, I’m lookin’ at you!

9. So in statistically geeky terms, you could say that my novella-test of a new author is biased against a false positive.

10. On an up note, there is a marked absence of novella characters who are TSTL. I think it’s because the short page count doesn’t allow enough room for The Big Misunderstanding to grow to TSTL proportions.

11. Another reason they don’t work for me: a single novella is typically too long for one bus ride, but too short for the round trip. My reading rhythm gets thrown off.

12. On the flip side of that, the other day when I finished a novella, I ended up getting off my butt and starting something productive a lot sooner than if I’d just waited to run out of reading steam or to finish the whole thing. Although I feel compelled to poinr out, one should not expect "reading novellas" to have a causal relationship with "more housecleaning." (I know, again with the statisti-geek).

13. I have learned that if I’m going to write a review of an anthology, I should do it right away because it doesn’t take long for all the relevant details to fall right out of my head. This is true of most of what I read, actually, but more so with the short things.

*In which case I'd still rather read a full length story by that favorite author in that addictive series, but I'll take what I can get.

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

**Note: apparently I'm out of the loop on the official Thursday Thirteen site -- the administrators are no long going to manage the meme. However, there are still plenty of T-Thirteeners out there, posting their Thirteens and tagging them, and they still show up on the Technorati link. So I'll keep playing for a while.


  © Blogger template Coozie by 2008

Back to TOP