Stuck in a Rut: The Dreaded Reading Slump Hits

I've been a little quiet on the blog this last week. And that's due in part to the fact that I haven't managed to finish a book ALL WEEK. I normally read 2-5 books a week, depending on length and what else I have going on in my real life. Not getting even one book read? It's a horrible feeling.

It's not that I don't have plenty to read. I'm in the middle of 6 books right now. I seem to be getting to about the 100-150 page mark and then losing interest. I'm in the home stretch of summer, only 1 more week until school starts for the kids, but I just can't seem to finish *anything*. It's really annoying.

I'm reading all kinds of different genres, so I don't think that's it. Maybe I need a reread or a novella to break me out of this funk.  What do you do when a reading slump hits?

Waiting on Wednesday: Devil's Kiss by Zoƫ Archer (Hellraisers #1)

 Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted over at Breaking the Spine. It highlights books we just can't wait to get our greedy, book-loving hands on.

I adored the Blades of the Rose series by Zoe Archer. I love her writing, period. So, naturally, I can't wait to read her new series: the Hellraisers.

Pub Date: December 6, 2011
Publisher: Kensington
Format: mass market paperback, ebook
Length: 370 pages

The Blurb:
A Handsome Devil
1762. James Sherbourne, Earl of Whitney, is a gambling man. Not for the money. But for the thrill, the danger--and the company: Whit has become one of the infamous Hellraisers, losing himself in the chase for adventure and pleasure with his four closest friends.

Which was how Whit found himself in a gypsy encampment, betting against a lovely Romani girl. Zora Grey's smoky voice and sharp tongue entrance Whit nearly as much as her clever hands--watching them handle cards inspires thoughts of another kind...

Zora can't explain her attraction to the careless blue-eyed Whit. She also can't stop him and his Hellraisers from a fiendish curse: the power to grant their own hearts' desires, to chase their pleasures from the merely debauched to the truly diabolical. And if Zora can't save Whit, she still has to escape him. . .


Waiting on Wednesday: Dark Predator by Christine Feehan

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted over at Breaking the Spine. It highlights books we just can't wait to get our greedy, book-lovin' hands on.

This one is a shout out for my mom, the hopeless Christine Feehan addict. There's a new Dark series book coming out on September 6th. Which means only 2 more weeks of waiting for her. This is the story she's been waiting years for.

Dark Predator
Format: Hardcover, ebook
Pub Date: September 6, 2011
Publisher: Berkley hardcover
Length: 384 pages

The Blurb:

As brutal as the undead he hunted, Zacarias De La Cruz was a master executioner. Now his stark and savage journey has ended. For his brothers, Zacarias had walked to the edge of madness, but with centuries as a killing machine now left to the past and without a hunt to define him, Zacarias wonders, for the first time in his life, who he really is.
The answer awaits him back home, in Peru, in the betrayal of a woman who is readying her trap, in the vengeance of an old enemy, in the inevitable consequences of a bloody family legacy-and in the deliverance of a lifemate he never could have imagined...


Recipe: Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze

Recipe by Tyler Florence (with a few adjustments by moi.)

Blueberry Scones:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut in chunks
1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing the scones
1 cup fresh blueberries

Lemon Glaze:
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 lemon, zest finely grated
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Sift together the dry ingredients; the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Using 2 forks or a pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat the pieces with the flour. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and pour in the heavy cream. Fold everything together just to incorporate; do not overwork the dough. Fold the blueberries into the batter. Take care not to mash or bruise the blueberries because their strong color will bleed into the dough. (I usually end up moving the blueberries around by hand, as the dough is really stiff and not really amenable to "folding.")

Press the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 12 by 3 by 1 1/4 inches. Cut the rectangle in 1/2 then cut the pieces in 1/2 again, giving you 4 (3-inch) squares. Cut the squares in 1/2 on a diagonal to give you the classic triangle shape. Place the scones on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush the tops with a little heavy cream. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until beautiful and brown. Let the scones cool a bit before you apply the glaze.

Mix the lemon juice and confectioners' sugar together in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon zest and butter. Nuke it for 30 seconds on high. Whisk the glaze to smooth out any lumps, then drizzle the glaze over the top of the scones. Let it set a minute before serving. (The glaze has been halved from Tyler's original recipe. It is a thin glaze that disappears into the scone and leaves behind a tart/sweet shiny finish. If you want a thicker glaze, add more powdered sugar.)

These are tender, moist, and not too sweet. 

My self congratulatory picture at left confirms it! 


TBR Challenge Review: Mesmerized by Lauren Dane

Format: Trade Paperback
Publisher: Berkley Heat (Penguin)
Pub Date: April 2011
Length: 294 pages
FTC: Purchased myself

The blurb:
Andrei Solace delivers death on silent feet as an assassin for the Phantom Corps. Mercenary Piper Roundtree thought she was over him. But against the backdrop of an impending war, their passion is rekindled. Now the lovers must join forces- in more ways than one-to save the Known Universe before the Imperialist enemy hurls it into irreversible chaos.

I'm a little late today getting this review written because...um...I just finished the book. Which I started today. This month's TBR Challenge theme was "spicy." I picked this book up at the RT Convention signing back in April. (Along with about 50 other books from the signing and convention.)

I'm struggling to give a grade to this book. It was compelling enough to read off and on all day. I didn't feel the urge to walk away from it. But I also felt really disconnected from the two main characters. I didn't plug-in to their emotions in the way I prefer. I'm not sure if it's something about Lauren Dane's voice that didn't click with me or if I was just too hung up on the Star Wars/Star Trek parallels.

Waiting on Wednesday: To Wed a Wild Lord by Sabrina Jeffries

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted over at Breaking the Spine. It highlights books we just can't wait to get our greedy book loving hands on.

I've read 3 out of 4 of the books in this series and have liked them all. (I will probably go back and read the one I missed, too.) I have to admit, I'm not a fan of this cover, though.

Format: Mass market paperback, ebook
Pub Date: November 22, 2011
Publisher: Pocket
Length: 384 pages

The Blurb: 

Like everything daredevil Gabriel Sharpe does, pursuing Virginia Waverly is a high-stakes game. Ever since her brother Roger died racing Lord Gabriel, Virginia has yearned to take her revenge on the reckless lord by beating him at his own sport. But when she challenges Lord Gabriel to a race, the hellion who has always embraced his dark reputation as the “Angel of Death” counters with a marriage proposal!

Gabe knows Virginia's family is in dire financial straits—why shouldn’t she marry him and solve both their problems? She claims to be appalled by his proposal, but her response to his kisses says otherwise. So when the two of them begin to unravel the truth behind Roger’s death, Gabe takes the greatest gamble of all, offering the cunning and courageous beauty something more precious than any inheritance: true love.


Indie is NOT Self Pubbed

I'm a little irritated this morning. There's been a brief discussion on Dear Author and a lengthier one on Twitter about this issue, but I still feel the need to rant a bit.

Self publishing is the bastard stepchild of the book world. The only thing worse according to many is vanity press. Self publishing has a reputation that makes that term synonymous with a slush pile of unedited, poorly written dreck.

Now that publishing is changing, and self publishing is having a few successes, there are some self published authors who are trying to use the term "indie" to refer to themselves. The problem is that the term is already taken. If self pubbers want to use a different term to describe themselves, more power to them. But they shouldn't do it by preempting a term that has been in use in the publishing business for decades.

An indie author is someone signed with an indie press. An indie press is also sometimes known as a small press, but not always. An independent press is to publishing as an independent record label is to the music industry. It's not owned by a large conglomerate which is then owned by an even larger media company. It's a stand-alone business.

Wiki has several pertinent sentences as well:

The terms "small press", "indie publisher", and "independent press" are often used interchangeably, with "independent press" defined as publishers that are not part of large conglomerates or multinational corporation.

and this

The majority of small presses are independent or indie publishers, this means that they are separate from the handful of major publishing house conglomerates, such as Random House or Hachette. The term 'indie publisher' should not be confused with 'self publisher', which is where the author publishes only their own books.

We don't consider an indie music artist as someone putting out records in his or her basement. We consider them musicians signed with an indie label instead of one of the big music companies like Sony or Warner.  The same concept applies with indie authors and indie pubs.

Why does it matter? It matters because conflating indie with self publication confuses the reader. And confusing/deceiving the reader is a bad thing. I don't care how many extra sales you think you'll get, once deceived, a reader will not only NOT buy your book, they'll tell every other person they can not to buy your book.

Indies are true publishing houses. They are a PRESS. They publish more than the work of a single author. They have editors who acquire or reject based on taste and quality. This is an entirely different thing from self publication.

Most writers I know are aware that words have power. How you use them is important. Using a term that means something specific to many people in the industry and pretending it means something else is a choice. And I'm not going to have a very high opinion of those who engage in that practice.

Don't like the self-pub label? Fine. But don't steal a well known industry term and use it to mask what you're really doing.


It's Fair Time!

If I've been MIA on the blog and Twitter lately, it's because I've been spending all week at our county fair. In the small town universe, the fair is a big deal. Sure, it's old fashioned, but it's also THE place to see everyone. Like a mini reunion. And then there's the bragging rights. We have an "art barn" where everyone enters their paintings, drawings, and photos. There's the Home Arts area that showcases the baked goods, jellies, and quilts. And there's the animal area where local 4H members show off their various animals.

Like this smug guy here.

Our fair is actually a 2 county fair. My county is small (only 20,000 people), but the neighboring county is even smaller. And although we live in the mountains, it's also a big agricultural area with ranches just about everywhere.

And then there's the fair parade which starts with the firing of the anvils. Basically two anvils stuck on top of each other with a little gunpowder or  accelerant in the middle. Then a long pole is heated up in this forge-type thing. Put the super heated pole end on the anvils and BOOM! The sound can be heard over a mile away where the parade starts. (You can tell the veteran parade goers by the fingers in their ears).


Review: Good Girls Don't by Victoria Dahl

Format: Mass market paperback; ebook
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: HQN (Harlequin)
Pub Date: September 1, 2011
FTC: digital review copy courtesy of the publisher
 *Mild spoilers*

Good Girls Don't is the first full length book in Dahl's new Donovan series. In typical Victoria Dahl fashion, it's filled with snappy dialogue, hunky guys, and a heroine that elicits some divisive reactions among readers.

I had some issues with the heroine in this book. I didn't dislike her, but failed to understand the source of her never-ending mistrust and need for keeping secrets. For me, being scared of a rift in the family didn't seem sufficient motivation to go behind her family's back and "fix" something by making a deal that threatened her financial security. And her insistence on covering for her adult brother seemed more than a little bit unhealthy.


Maya Banks Book Video by Tessa Dare

As part of Operation Auction, Tessa Dare offered up a book video (in a similar style to those for her Stud Club trilogy). I laughed myself silly watching this. Congrats to Tessa on a fabulous job and to Maya Banks for an awesome book video. And I say that as someone who doesn't like book videos.


Hump Day Movie: Mr. Frost (1990)

It's hard to believe that this movie is NOT available on DVD. I personally find it one of Goldblum's creepier movies. And it highlights both his appeal and his incredible skills with dialogue. Parts of it are available (potentially infringing) on Youtube. You can find used copies on VHS, if you happen to still have a VCR laying around.

Here's a brief synopsis from wiki:
A police detective named Felix Detweiler visits the palatial French estate of Mister Frost, whose first name is never given, to investigate a report of a dead body. Frost, with very little prompting, cheerfully admits that he has many bodies buried in his yard.Frost is arrested and ultimately placed in an asylum, not having spoken a word for two years. During this time the police are unable to establish his identity. The detective leaves his job and becomes obsessed with Frost and the 24 corpses dug up from his garden. Frost's long silence is broken when he encounters Sarah Day, a doctor at the asylum. Frost refuses to speak with anyone but her, then tells Dr. Day that he is, in fact, Satan. He reveals that he plans to goad her into murdering him.

This came out about a year before Silence of the Lambs, but it is similar in style.  It's a dialogue-driven film, filled with philosophical discussions between doctor and patient. It has a very early 90s/late 80s aesthetic, though, so be warned.

You can watch the trailer here. It's really awful, though, so it's no wonder the public's reception of this movie was tepid.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Bite Before Christmas by Lynsay Sands and Jeaniene Frost

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted over at Breaking the Spine. It highlights books we just can't wait to get our greedy book loving hands on.

The Bite Before Christmas by Jeaniene Frost and Lynsay Sands
Pub Date: October 25, 2011
Publisher: William Morrow
Format: Hardcover, ebook
Length: 352 pages

Sands and Frost write very different paranormal romances, so I'm intrigued to see how well these mesh in this hardcover release.
In Lynsay Sands' "The Gift," Katricia Argeneau knows grey-eyed cop Teddy Brunswick is her life mate. She just needs to convince him they belong together, and being snowbound in a secluded cabin will make this a Christmas neither will forget.

It's "Home for the Holidays" in Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series. Cat and Bones may long to wrap presents and set up a tree, but this Christmas, an evil vampire and long-buried family secrets will threaten to take a bite out of their holiday cheer.


Dishonesty in Romance

I really need to stop reading books where the hero or heroine keeps secrets. I've just been reading too many of them lately, and my tolerance is so low that even a whiff of it sends my blood pressure up.

I know that books need conflict to work well, but there's something about the 'I have a secret agenda' plot that drives me absolutely up the wall. Especially when the hero or heroine is STILL lying midway or later in the novel. For me, it comes down to trust.

Trust is important in a relationship. Without it, I'm not going to believe that a couple will ever have a lifetime Happily Ever After. Chemistry or attraction is all well and good, but without trust, I don't believe love can last.

I guess that makes me old fashioned in a way. But it's why I can't stand cheating in books, either. I'm not saying the 'secret agenda' plot can never work, but it loses its believability for me when it continues past the very beginning of the novel. Because I consider any hero or heroine who forgives someone who has been lying to them for so long as TSTL. How on earth can they ever trust that person to be honest with them when every aspect of their association is based on lie after lie?

Am I the only one who hates this trope with a passion? Are there more dishonest heroines these days or am I just noticing them? Are there any other plot devices that drive you up the wall or lead you to put a book down as a DNF?


Waiting on Wednesday Real Men Will by Victoria Dahl

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event (although I've been slacking of late) hosted over at Breaking the Spine. It highlights books we just can't wait to get our greedy, book-loving hands on. 

I've read the first two in this series via Netgalley. (Yeah, yeah, I broke my NG boycott for them. What can I say? I'm weak).  The first one (out August 30th) is good, the second one is better. I'm unsure how much I'll like the 3rd one. Why? Because I didn't like the prequel story set up contained in the Guy Next Door anthology. And because the oldest brother is a bit of an uptight jerk.

But it's Victoria Dahl, so I want to read it anyway. Like RIGHT NOW. Anyhoo...

Real Men Will by Victoria Dahl
Publisher: HQN (Harlequin)
Pub Date: October 25, 2011
Format:mass market, ebook
Donovan Brothers Brewery #3

The Blurb:
It was meant to be a one-night stand. One night of passion. Scorching hot. Then Beth Cantrell and Eric Donovan were supposed to go their separate ways. That’s the only reason he lied about his name, telling her he was really his wild younger brother. Hiding his own identity as the conservative Donovan. The “good” one.

But passion has its own logic, and Eric finds he cannot forget the sable-haired beauty with whom he shared one night of passion. When Beth discovers that Eric has lied, however, she knows he cannot be trusted. Her mind tells her to forget the blue-eyed charmer. If only every fiber of her being did not burn to call him back.


Monday Crankiness

I have a case of Monday Crankies. Everything seems to be setting me off. Today, two things involved RT Magazine. Well, sort of.

First, there's the giant advertisement in the magazine by Avon promoting its k.i.s.s. and teal awareness campaign for ovarian cancer (September, page 7). That's a good thing, right? Right. But amongst the many participating new release titles, I spotted something odd. Avon had chosen The Deed by Lynsay Sands as a title to include in the program. My problem with that? It's not a new release. It's a reissue of a Sands backlist title that Avon purchased from Dorchester when they (Dorchester) first started having financial problems.

A little sleuthing around online revealed a bit more. While Amazon marks this book as a reissue in the product details, nothing on the front cover gives any clue that it's not a new book. And Barnes and Noble has no mention whatsoever of its "classic" status.