Review: Blade of the Hunt (Goddess with a Blade Book 3)

Format: ebook
Pub Date: November 2014
Publisher: Carina Press
FTC: Purchased myself

After  I finished reading the first book in this series following RT this year, I read the 2nd one sometime over the summer. Finally, in the middle of my reading funk last month, I read this one. I think it's just what I needed, given that it's not a romance book. It's Urban Fantasy for sure. And it's definitely book number 3 in the series and makes no apologies for it. It's not burdened by a boatload of back story. This book assumes you've read books 1 and 2.

Although I did not like this one as much as I liked the previous two, probably due to the nagging reading funk, I did think it was a solid installment in the series. There's definitely far less noir in this one, which bummed me out a little. I like the almost gumshoe feel of the first book the best. Once we veer into European stuff, it becomes less original. Less edgy, to be honest.

There's far more romance, or at least more discussion of feelings, in this book. We get to see an expanded cast of characters. The action that is present is good, although there's far too little of it. Most of the book is planning and traveling, rather than actually doing anything. It's mired in political maneuvering and interpersonal issues. Which is fine, I guess, but I wanted more boots on the ground action and definitely more creep factor.

My Grade: B-

Hump Day Classic Movie: Gaslight (1944)

There are creepy movies, like last week's Wait Until Dark, that show criminality, greed, and desperation. Then there are movies like Gaslight that show just how subtle evil can be.

Ingrid Bergman didn't shy away from challenging roles, and this one is no exception. She plays Paula, a young woman who has suffered trauma upon finding her famous aunt's body as a child. She's sent away to school and returns to London 10 years later. Recently married, Paula is uncomfortable in the house and unsure of her relationship with her husband.

What follows is probably the creepiest, scariest act of evil as Paula is ever-so-slowly isolated from everyone by her husband. He limits her outings, spreading tales of how "fragile" she is. He avoids contact with the neighbors. He lectures and belittles Paula. And then he begins a campaign to slowly drive her insane by pretending that she's forgetting things, losing things.

What makes it so scary is that this is a classic set up for domestic abuse. It's a classic example of emotional abuse. And this was filmed in 1944.

Angela Lansbury, in her first big role,  plays a perfect accomplice. I love how even with her thick accent, she still sounds so very much like Angela Lansbury.

If you haven't seen Gaslight yet, you're missing out. It's a fantastic—if creepy—classic.


Hump Day Classic Movie: Wait Until Dark (1967)

Hey, they're back! It's Hump Day Movies again! Since the summer, I've treated myself to a DVD Netflix account (our internet is too pokey for streaming) and have been indulging in classic movies I can't get anywhere else.  I've come to appreciate Netflix's recommendation tool because it's recommended quite a few movies (new and old) I hadn't heard of before that I ended up really enjoying.

Wait Until Dark is one of those movies that on its surface is really simple. Blind lady gets terrorized by thugs...but what makes this movie so darn creepy is the performances of the stars and the way the story builds on itself. The audience watches as Audrey Hepburn's character, Suzy, is manipulated. Lied to. Threatened. They are in on it. Suzy is not. It's like watching something awful happen to someone and being powerless to stop it. That sense of helplessness the audience feels is what makes this movie work. It's immersive. And Hepburn sells it completely.

Alan Arkin is amazing in this, although he's so young it took me a long time to recognize him. You can find it on Netflix or on Amazon in digital format or DVD.


Recipe: Chocolate Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Bars

I'm a very bad blogger. It has been 2 months since my last post. Never fear, I'm perfectly fine. Obligations with family and our PTO swamped me this fall. Which means not only did I not blog, I didn't read. Which is a travesty I'm correcting.

What I did manage to do was find my new favorite treat to bring to events on the spur of the moment. I know this isn't new to many of you, but for me, these were a revelation.

I've made homemade Rice Krispie Bars for forever. It's not difficult, after all. And the store bought ones suck. Ew. I even knew about various additions or flavors, although I was too lazy or uninterested to try them. Then one day, my husband calls me. He drives across the country for a living, and I figured he'd found a new favorite regional food. He had. It was these. He sent me two links to two recipes, figuring one of them had to work. They sounded ok—peanut butter and chocolate nearly always work for me—but kind of mundane.

Oh. My. God. It's always the simplest things that blow you away with their glory, but these are truly the best things I've had in forever. They are chewy, crunchy, salty, sweet...They hit every one of the perfect snack requirements...and they take 10 minutes or less and produce a 13 x 9 pan of the little darlings.

In the last 2 months, I've made 4 pans of them. I've taken them to my aforementioned PTO meetings where they were devoured. I made them for Oldest to sell at a Family Movie Night event for Student Council.  They sold out before the movie even started. I dropped some off for a friend having a not-so-good day, and she thanked me for saving the crappiest day ever because THEY ARE THAT GOOD.

The only modifications I made to the recipe were peanut butter amounts and subbing in butter for margarine. Butter is always better.


Recipe: Orange Cardamom Loaves

Guess what time it is?! It's Fall Baking Time. Yes, those vanity capitals are on purpose. I love it when the chill in the air "forces" me to start baking. It's too warm for a fire in the wood stove, but too cold to not want it warmed up just a little bit.

Plus the plethora of fall baking ingredients: fresh pears, pumpkin and all of the other "fall" stand-bys. I picked up a baking magazine the other day, an overpriced one that cost about the same as a trade paperback book *winces*, because I wanted to make just about every recipe in it.

The first recipe I attempted was Orange Cardamom Bread for a bake sale fundraiser. The recipe makes 2 loaves: one for me, one for the sale ;) While I liked it a lot, I could not taste the cardamom. So I fiddled with the levels a bit and found a balance between spicy and orange-y. The real sneaky part about this bread is that because cardamom enhances the orange flavor, you really aren't going to get much straight flavor except as an end note. 


Ellora's Cave

I don't have much to add to the current media landscape regarding publisher Ellora's Cave suing blogger Jane Litte and her blog, Dear Author, other than to say I will no longer be reviewing any book published by Ellora's Cave. I rarely did, anyway, because their prices were far beyond what I was willing to pay, but I'm officially done with them.

It's a shame, really, since I have some really cool swag from previous RT Conventions that I loved, but I'm adding my voice to the blogging boycott.


Review: I Want It That Way by Ann Aguirre

Format: Trade Paperback
Pub Date:  Aug 26, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin
Length: 352 pages
FTC: Review copy received for free at RT Convention 2014

I've been fairly outspoken in the past about my dislike of trends and the authors who chase them. I know that's ruffled a few authors' feathers, but from a reader standpoint, it does seem like some authors chase trends more than others. Ann Aguirre isn't really one of them, although she writes both Young Adult and, now, New Adult. In part, I think, because her writing roots are in Sci-Fi/Fantasy, she's always been a genre jumper.

I've also been fairly outspoken about my general disdain for YA and NA as "genres".  To me, they are not genres, but ways to dumb down marketing to the point where marketing departments aren't really needed. It's the self-service, neatly laid out section of the reading market where readers can pick and choose exactly which age group they want to read about in neat little rows. I greatly prefer the messier way it used to be.  When you got too old for the children's section, you moved on to adult literature. And you got to look at a far wider selection of books than is available in those carefully curated age-based marketing sections.

I try not to be a hypocrite, though, so I'm acknowledging that yes, this is an NA book. But it's also a book that used to be (or could be) filed in the regular fiction section alongside the Outsiders or other YA/NA classics. And even better, it's not written in the first person, present tense!


Review: Unbroken by Maisey Yates

Format: mass market, ebook
Pub Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Berkley (Penguin)
Length: 320 pages
FTC: ARC courtesy of the author

It's here!!!!! The book with the heroine named Amber who is NOT a bimbo stripper, buckle bunny etc. Woohoo! It really sucks having a name that somehow ends up being typecast as either the "quirky" bimbo sidekick or a stripper. Hell, even Veronica Mars's dingy undercover name is Amber. *Ahem*

I'm by no means impartial when it comes to this story. I've read (and loved) the previous books in the series, and I've been looking forward to this one for quite awhile. I was predisposed to like it, in other words, but the fact that it really hit all of my reader buttons is the real reason I ended up loving it.

This is a friends-to-lovers story, my very favorite trope in Romancelandia.  And it's funny and sarcastic. Button number 2. And HOT. So no big surprise that this really worked for me.


Review: Looking for Trouble by Victoria Dahl

Format: ebook, mass market paperback
Pub Date: July 29, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin
Length:352 pages
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher

Victoria Dahl writes powerful books. Sometimes they click with me and sometimes they don't. I have DNF'd as many books as I've loved, so I never know which it will be when I start one. This time, I really liked everything about this book.

Although all Dahl heroines are more than a little bit naughty, this one was different from anything else I've read by this author. She was two people: her public persona reminiscent of the stereotypical librarian, and her private love of thrills and apologetically dirty sex.


Summer Craft: Bleach Pen Shirts for the Boys

We're midway through summer already, and unfortunately stuck inside due to an unusually warm July. Like weeks of triple digits...in the Sierras. We normally get exactly 2 days of 100 degree temps in mid-August. We're not used to this :(

Enter: super crafting mom. I'm combating video-game-itis and couch-potato inclinations by making the boys craft with me. But I'm also lazy, so I tend to go with whatever craft looks like the most bang for the buck/time/mess. Pinterest came to the rescue yet again with pages upon pages of bleach pen ideas. Unfortunately, none of the feminine designs appealed to the boys, so we just made up our own.


TBR Challenge Review: No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean

Format: Mass Market, ebook
Pub Date: December 2013
Publisher: Avon
Length: 382 pages
FTC: Received at RT14

Miracle of miracles, I had a book in the easily accessible part of my TBR that fit the theme. This book is a RITA finalist for this year, which means it hasn't been languishing in the pile very long at all...which is probably why it's accessible. Ah, well.

Looking at the list of finalists for this year, I was surprised by how many I have read. My reading time has been severely limited this last year, but I've managed to read 9 finalists. That's more than any other year. Woohoo!

I've read Sarah MacLean before, but I admit I've gotten out of the habit of reading historical romances lately. My tastes have been running to Urban Fantasy, romantic suspense, and small town contemporaries, but I decided to give this one a shot anyway.


Review: Goddess with a Blade by Lauren Dane

Format: paperback, ebook
Pub Date: 2011
Publisher: Carina
Length: 296 pages
FTC: Free copy courtesy of the publisher at RT14

 I've read Lauren Dane's erotic romances before, but this is the first paranormal book I've read by her. It's an unusual concept: the title is quite literal. The protagonist is a Vampire Hunter skilled with a blade, but she's also a vessel for a goddess. Basically, the person who cleans up vampire messes (crimes) if the vampires can't take care of it themselves: usually by killing the offending vampire. 

I know lots of people are suffering paranormal fatigue, but I'm not there yet. I tend to lean more towards the Urban Fantasy side than the romance side which probably helps...and this book is definitely one where the romance is a smaller part of the novel. A subplot, even, despite the explicit scenes.

Every UF/Paranormal romance claims to be different. Goddess With a Blade isn't completely original, but it has enough new ideas to seem fresher than the majority of other offerings. The goddess angle is part of it, but this also has echoes of the old hardboiled detective stories...with a twist. It's set in Vegas and the surrounding desert, and instead of dames in trouble, the dame is the one doing the investigating. It has the glamor vs. seediness element you'd expect, but just as you get a handle on the type of book this is, Dane throws you another curveball.


Summer Crafting: Dish Brush Painting

Fireworks painted by my 8 year old.
I've seen this technique featured all over Pinterest for 4th of July fireworks painting. The  instructions can be found here. Basically, you use an old dish brush as a paint brush, but there's a bit more to the technique than it first appears.

If you can't find an old dish brush, or if your dish brush was gross like mine, you can use a new one from the local dollar store. To get it ready for painting, take a dry brush and (bristles down) squish it against a hard surface with the heel of your hand. You want to separate the bristles.

You'll use the same technique to paint, too.

The second trick is to go easy on the paint. Dip your brush, then dab it either on a paper towel or an empty area of your palette. Then, firmly press on the brush until the bristles are flattened and the paint creates an impression. The dry brush technique gives you that wispy look for the fireworks.

Lastly, use different brushes for each color or thoroughly clean the brush between colors. I'd recommend letting the paint at least partially dry between colors.

The fluffy looking fireworks reminded me of colorful dandelions, so I applied the same technique using white paint and black paper. I also used a bit of gold paint in the center of the dish brush and dotted it in the center.

Now I'm wondering what else I can use this technique on...


Recipe: Striped Tea Sandwiches

I finally caved and signed up with the DVD Netflix service. We lost our local DVD store last year (the owner retired--amazingly, the business was financially healthy), and while most people have gone to streaming, our internet is just not up to snuff enough to reliably do that. So onto Netflix I went, determined to find some older movies that our crappy Redbox just doesn't offer.  We made it a film noir night with Out of the Past. Since my viewing buddies are my mom and her 70-something BFF, I made tiny tea sandwiches to go with. These are adapted from The Book of Afternoon Tea.

Striped Tea Sandwiches
3 oz sliced cooked ham
4 teaspoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
4 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
salt and pepper
1/2 cup (or more) butter, softened*

4 slices white bread
4 slices soft wheat bread

Finely chop ham. In medium bowl, mix ham, mayo and mustard well

In another bowl, mix cream cheese, chives, salt and pepper. Butter 2 slices each (4 total) white and whole wheat bread on one side only and remaining 2 slices each (4 total) white and whole wheat on both sides. *The butter provides a barrier and prevents the sandwiches from becoming soggy. It also helps "glue" everything together.

Spread half of the ham mixture on buttered sides of 2 whole wheat bread slices. (You are making two giant sandwiches). Cover with white bread that has been buttered on both sides. Spread cream cheese over white bread. Cover with brown bread which has been buttered on both sides. Spread with remaining ham mixture and top with white bread, buttered side down.

Cover sandwiches and refrigerate at least 15 minutes.

Remove crusts from bread. Cut each sandwich into 6 pieces. Makes 12.


Review: The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

Format: print, e
Pub Date: 2012
Publisher: Self published
Length: novella
FTC: Print copy received from the author at RT14 in New Orleans

As a general rule, I avoid self published works. There's just been too much reviewer-bashing and an aversion to professional editing in that community. But I'm familiar enough with both Courtney Milan's professionalism AND her writing to set that aside. And I'm glad I did. I really liked this novella.

The Governess Affair is a prequel to her Brothers Sinister series. It's not very long, but it still manages to convey the story, the emotion, and the set up for the series.

Serena Barton is a problem. Her stoic, silent presence outside the Duke of Clermont's home is threatening the financial well being of the duke, and therefore of his problem-solver, Hugo Marshall.
The Duke's finances are tied to his wife's happiness and the duchess would be very, very unhappy if she hears just why Miss Barton is outside on the bench. Hugo, who has been promised a significant sum to help the duke regain his wife's affections, must find a way to solve the problem and get rid of Miss Barton.

This is a condensed version of a classic Regency set up. The main difference here is not the heroine but the hero. Usually this ends up with the governess and the peer. This time, it's the governess and a problem solver working for the very man who wronged the heroine. It's a sticky situation, one that surprisingly awakens Hugo's rarely used conscience.

Despite the short length, the characters are vividly portrayed and the romance is believable and moving. It's a very good prequel to the series and made me interested enough to immediately buy the next in the series.

My Grade: A

The Blurb:

Hugo Marshall earned the nickname "the Wolf of Clermont" for his ruthless ambition--a characteristic that has served him well, elevating the coal miner's son to the right hand man of a duke. When he's ordered to get rid of a pestering governess by fair means or foul, it's just another day at work.

But after everything Miss Serena Barton has been through at the hands of his employer, she is determined to make him pay. She won't let anyone stop her--not even the man that all of London fears. They might call Hugo Marshall the Wolf of Clermont, but even wolves can be brought to heel...


Happy Independence Day!

From the Taylorsville, CA 4th of July Parade. I hope everyone had a safe, happy, and healthy Independence Day!


Recipes: Gourmet Popcorn Party

For an entire week this month (the last week of school), I became obsessed with gourmet popcorn recipes. I bought myself an air popper like this one, and then I scoured the internet looking for recipes. The results were taken to my sons' elementary school and left in the teachers' break room. Partly because the teachers were getting summer-itis too, and partly so I wouldn't eat all of that popcorn. I'm definitely going to do this again and probably tie it in with Staff Appreciation Week.

To no one's surprise, the sweet popcorn recipes were by far the favorite, but there were some other good ones, too! None of these take more than 40 minutes to throw together (including curing time for the caramel corn), although there's some that require time to set up and/or cool. The cinnamon one was my favorite.

The Savory:

Italian Breadstick Popcorn

Chili Lime Popcorn

The Sweet:

Salted Chocolate Caramel Popcorn


Cinnamon Bun Popcorn

S'mores Popcorn 


TBR Challenge Review: Hellfire by Ann Aguirre

Pub Date:April 2010
Publisher: ROC Fantasy
Length: 315 pages
FTC: Received for free at an RT Convention event (no idea which one)

Today is TBR day, but I'm going off script and not following today's theme. I've read Ann Aguirre as Ava Gray, but not in her SFF persona. I'm not sure what prompted me to grab this out of the ole TBR, but I took it with me to read on the never ending plane rides to New Orleans and back.

I started reading this not really aware that it is #2 in the Corine Solomon series. So I was a little taken aback to find a ton of backstory missing. Grrr. My own fault, though, since it says in probably 3 different places that there was a book before this one. Oh well.


RT Convention 2014: Part Two

Yesterday, I highlighted what I think went wrong at the convention. Today, I'm going to dole out some praise.

The Marriott: I checked in Monday night, so I'm not sure how the lines were Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning, but we had zero problems checking in. Our room was ready, check in was smooth and pleasant.

The Marriott also had plenty of security on site.  There were water stations in every hall. The chairs were set up in ways that allowed for aisles (that has not always been the case). And while we didn't have microphones when we really could have used them, they were responsive and polite when asked for help with any logistical problem.

It also took us until Friday morning (and an event on the 41st floor) to jack up the elevators. Other than Friday, I didn't have a problem with waiting on an elevator more than a few minutes. Friday, of course, they rebelled and began refusing to assign elevators to anyone. The escalators managed the heavy loads just fine, too, which was a nice change from when we broke them at the last convention I attended.


RT Booklovers Convention 2014

I'm back from my 3rd RT Convention and finally past that horribly narcoleptic phase of post-convention exhaustion. As always, I wish I had managed to see more of the city, but RT keeps you busy. I have some mixed feelings to this year's convention, but first, I have to annoy you with my travel photos.


Our view from our room in the Marriott.

Canal St. Streetcar that I never got to ride :(

 Marie Laveau's tomb (left) at St. Louis Cemetery #1

The tombs have such intricate ironwork. I loved the patina.

TBR Challenge Review: Lover Reborn by JR Ward

Format: Hardcover (now available in mmpb and ebook)
Pub Date: 2012
Publisher: New American Library
Length: 590 pages
FTC: Purchased myself

There are a ton of reasons for a book to end up in my TBR pile. Sometimes I go on a book buying spree. Sometimes I pick up a book intending to read it, only to be distracted by a shinier title or by real life obligations. Sometimes the mood just isn't right. None of that happened here. This time, the book has languished because of Twitter spoilers. I made the mistake of going onto Twitter on release day before I had received my copy. By the time Amazon delivered my shiny hardcover, several major plot points were spoiled, and I was feeling meh about the book and the series. And Twitter, too.

This month's theme is More Than One (meaning more than one book by this author in the TBR), and yes, despite feeling uninspired by the series and the book, I bought the next book in the series anyway. It's a sickness. 

Ward's books are problematic for me. On one hand, I have to admire her over-the-top writing style. It's ridiculous, really, but still oddly addictive. It's highly consistent, with weird brand name dropping, verb-creation, and improbable dialogue. It's also problematic thanks to the not-so-subtle cultural appropriation, violence and misogyny.


In Progress Review: Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line Audiobook

Format: Audio Download
Length: 8 hrs 42 minutes
Narrator: Kristen Bell

Since life has gotten ridiculously out-of-control busy the last few months, I'm left with just listening to audiobooks to wind down at night. No time to actually read. As a fan of the series, and of mysteries, I was excited that they were coming out with a Veronica Mars mystery. I mean, the series is noir already, right? Unfortunately, it doesn't translate to audio well.

Set just after the recent Veronica Mars movie, the book opens with Keith Mars still recovering from his car accident and Veronica holding down the fort. It's not going well and cases are few and far between. Until the local Chamber of Commerce hires her to find out what happened to missing college coed on Spring Break.

As far as mysteries go, the missing Spring-Breaker isn't all that original. I must have read the same set up a dozen times over the years. I really wanted a lot more character interaction than I've gotten so far. It's dragging! (I'm a little over 3 hrs in).

The absolute biggest mistake the production team made was having Kristen Bell narrate this. No offense meant to Bell. It's not that her voices stink (although they do), it's that the book is written in the third person. After watching 3 seasons and a movie of Veronica Mars being told with Kristen Bell's first-person voice-over, this switch just doesn't work.

I'm not sure if I'm going to finish this book or not. Right now, it's an excellent way to fall asleep, but not really all that compelling otherwise. Meanwhile, I'm hoping that I can actually read a book on the plane to the RT Convention in New Orleans.


Local News

A few weeks ago, I asked everyone on Twitter if they'd heard of Wall's ice cream because the company had decided to film here in my little town in the mountains. Since it's primarily a British company, most had not.

They recently completed the commercial, which has been getting a lot more attention than I for one thought it would. It's been featured on HuffPo and Perez Hilton. It even made it to more mainstream news like this article on ABC.

It's interesting to watch the Negative Nellies in the comments. Some are outraged that cops would "misuse their authority." Some are upset that public resources are being "wasted" for a PR campaign.

Yes, that really is our sheriff. No, he really isn't neglecting anything. He's an administrator. And although we aren't crime-free here, this is an example of what happens around here. A snippet from our actual Sheriff's Blotter (all calls that come into the Sheriff's Office Dispatch Center).

As far as the "misuse of authority" thing, I'm sure Sheriff Hagwood checked this out with our county counsel. And I'm equally sure he covered his rear end by pulling over people for a real violation. It's not difficult to find something: speeding (the speed limit in that area is 25mph), something hanging off their rear view mirror, obscured license plates...

Although I didn't get pulled over, I'm amazed that so many were fooled by this. To be honest, our sheriff doesn't pull people over. We have SO MANY CHP in this county that nearly all traffic issues are handled through them and not our Sheriff's Dept. Parking at the front of the courthouse (where everyone is pulled over) is nearly always filled, but here it's obviously been blocked off. And if people were paying attention, they knew through social media that a commercial was being filmed here.

But what about those who were made late by this stunt? Well, everyone is late here in town. It's almost a cultural thing (that really drives my punctual self batty). But rest assured, no one has to deal with traffic issues: there are a grand total of 2 stoplights and 5500 people in the town.

People here thought it was hilarious. Not only do we nearly all know Sheriff Hagwood, but most of us know at least one person in that commercial. We love our town. We love that we have no traffic and very little crime. Sheriff Hagwood did not receive compensation for this, but Wall's did donate to our local animal shelter and our arts council in his name. I'm calling that a win.


In Defense of TSTL

In Defense of TSTL: or more, accurately, in defense of labeling characters as TSTL (Too Stupid To Live).

Today on Twitter, I stumbled across a series of tweets by Ann Aguirre where she railed against the gendered double standard when it comes to the TSTL label in genre fiction. She also made the claim that TSTL is a useless label because characters are supposed to be flawed and sometimes make poor decisions when scared or angry.

For me and many of my reviewing colleagues, we don't apply TSTL when a character acts in a way we would not. We apply it when the character acts in a way *they* would not based upon the characterization shown.

There's a second, separate application of TSTL, though, that comes directly out of the damsel in distress trope. Many, many readers cannot stand it when a character does something against all common sense that places themselves or others in peril. It's a judgment, absolutely, but it's one I make in real life, too.   For example: I can't stand those people who set out to go hiking ill prepared and end up risking the lives of those who have to come rescue them.

The main reason it's usually the heroine who gets the label is because it's usually the heroine who has been written as having done something that imperiled others. Show me a hero who puts himself or others in danger through poor decision making or a misguided belief in his own abilities, and I will slap him with a TSTL label as well. That includes the men who won't see a doctor when injured, who insist on doing something alone when they really need help etc.

The biggest reason any character gets that label, at least from me, is because the author failed to make me understand why the character made those poor decisions. It was a failure in storytelling. TSTL is a result of the reader being pulled from the story enough to be annoyed, frustrated, incredulous about the progress of the plot. Done right, with sufficient skill, a heroine (or hero) can act like an idiot and no one judges them. That's successful storytelling.


TBR Challenge Review: A SEAL's Seduction by Tawny Weber

Format: mass market, ebook
Pub Date: April 1, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin
Length: 229 pages
FTC: Purchased myself

Since I missed last month's TBR Challenge, I was determined to not miss this one. But of course, spring is crazy busy what with Easter AND Oldest's birthday on the same weekend. Which is why I'm squeaking this review in at the very last few hours of TBR Day. I have no idea when I purchased this; it was in the digital TBR.

A SEAL's Seduction did a much better job skirting my usual issues with Romantic Suspense than most of the books I've tried recently. I liked that the conflict was multi-layered and believable. I liked the characters, even the secondary ones. I really liked that the "sex in dangerous situations" was kept to a minimum although I admittedly skimmed them because as is usual with this line, there are just too many for my personal taste.


Review: Bite Me by Shelly Laurenston

Format: Trade paperback, ebook
Pub Date: March 25, 2014
Publisher: Kensington
Length: 384 pages
ISBN: 9780758265241
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher

I'll be the first to admit that I'm probably not as critical as I should be with Shelly Laurenston's Pride series. I'm a huge fangirl and the books are such unmitigated fun that I let things slide past me that would normally elicit criticism. I have to say, though, that this book was one of the better ones in recent memory. All because of these two word: honey. badger.


Audiobook Review: Night Broken by Patricia Briggs

Format: Digital
Pub Date: March 11, 2014
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Length: 10 hrs 5 min
FTC: Purchased myself

There are very few books I look forward to as much as a new Patricia Briggs book. Sadly, the anticipation was for naught with Night Broken. The story lacked punch and forward momentum, and the secondary characters we know and love pop in and out without much rationale or impact.


CYE: It's Ebook Settlement Day!

Woke up to a very nice email telling me I had over $30 to spend at Amazon thanks to the ebook settlement. Then I went onto Twitter and found out I'm a total slacker in the book buying department. Either that, or I was disciplined enough not to buy a lot of Agency-Priced books during the settlement period.

What are YOU buying with your settlement money?


Review: The Sheikh's Last Seduction by Jennie Lucas (Harlequin Presents)

Sheikh's Last Seduction Review
Format: ebook, mass market
Pub Date: February 2014
Publisher: Harlequin
FTC: e-Review copy courtesy of the publisher

Apologies for the extended radio silence. Real life obligations just got out of control in February! I'm back!!


As part of my January Harlequin Presents reading glom (and crash course in Harlequin Presents styles and tropes), I requested a few HPs from Harlequin. This was one of them.

I can't quite put my finger on what annoyed me most about this book. It is probably the extremely derivative plot. I haven't read a ton of HPs, but I've read enough of 19th century lit to spot the imperialism/exoticism trope a mile away. Yes, it's a sheikh book, but I'm certain there are tons of stories to tell that don't fall back on cardboard characters, tired plots, and the whole arranged marriage/forbidden love conflict.


TBR Challenge Review: Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt

Format: mass market, ebook
Pub Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Length: 384 pages
FTC: Purchased myself
Why it was in the TBR: Picked up at publication intending to read, then promptly forgot it.

This month's TBR Challenge theme is a series you're behind on. And since I'm always a book or three behind in the Maiden Lane series, I picked this one out of the digital TBR.  I don't know why, but I always forget how truly awesome Elizabeth Hoyt is. I have yet to read a book of hers that I haven't at least liked. Every single book I've read is different. Hoyt does not repeat herself, and this one was one of her better ones.


Recipe: Pineapple Pound Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Pineapple Pound Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This is an awesome, dense, bakery-style cake. It's super rich, too. And the secret to that is that you apparently must use nearly a whole carton of eggs. I wish the rum flavor was more pronounced, but this was a hit here. Because it is so heavy, you will get quite a few servings out this!


Review: How to Run with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper

Format: mass market, ebook
Pub Date: December 31, 2013
Publisher: Pocket
Length: 352 pages
FTC: e-ARC courtesy of the publisher

"I was the ass-backward Red Riding Hood."

As much as I like Molly Harper's writing style, I have to admit that her books aren't super memorable. I remember reading both of the previous installments in this series, but I can't tell you anything about them except that they were funny. Which, sometimes, is all you need.


Review: When Falcone's World Stopped Turning by Abby Green (Harlequin Presents)

Format: ebook, mass market
Pub Date: February 1, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher

I admit I requested this book to review without really thinking it through. I dislike Secret Baby plots immensely. I have trouble with the dishonesty involved in violating another person's parental rights, no matter how much of an asshat they are (barring, of course, abuse).  I have a very high bar for suspension of disbelief in these stories, and unfortunately this one didn't make it.

Maybe if there were more of a power imbalance, I could have at least understood Samantha's actions, but this is a smart, educated woman. She knew better. Keeping her son from Rafaele was an act of revenge. Not even her absolute conviction that Rafaele didn't want the baby should have kept her from sending a note. Something.

I probably could have enjoyed this even while gritting my teeth over the SB plot, but the characters failed to come alive for me. There's no real depth to them. I didn't believe in any of their actions or motivations, and I didn't believe in the HEA. It missed the mark on all counts.

My Grade: D

The Blurb:

She has the power to change everything…

Rafaele Falcone runs his luxury auto empire and private life with the same ice-cold ruthlessness. Emotions play no part in his decisions, and he always demands the best, so he doesn't hesitate to ask brilliant engineer Samantha Rourke to join his company—even though he walked away from her years before.

That sexy Italian accent still sends shivers down her spine, but gutsy Sam knows it's not just about her impossible desire to feel his hands on her body once again. Because Falcone is about to discover her deepest secret—one that will send his world into a spin!


Review: Untouched (Silver Creek #2) by Maisey Yates

Format: ebook
Pub Date: January 21, 2014
Publisher: Intermix (Penguin)
Length: 313 pages
FTC: e-ARC provided by the publisher

After reading and enjoying the Harlequin Presents novel just after Christmas by author Maisey Yates, I went looking for anything new by her. Then I stumbled across this title on Netgalley. I'd been seeing vague hints on Twitter about the book that comes after this one...with the heroine named Amber...so I decided  to risk requesting the galley. I'm really glad I did.

The heroine of Untouched is young. Much younger than most of the heroines you'll see outside of YA or NA these days. But this isn't an NA. It's a fully realized romance novel. And while 22 seems incredibly young to me at the ancient age of mid-thirties, I was married at 21. So I'm not going to be too judgey about that. I'm not even going to be judgey about the 10+ year age difference between Lark and Quinn. But that doesn't mean there aren't some problems with the novel.


TBR Challenge Review: Taking Care of Business by Kathy Lyons

Format: mass market, ebook
Pub Date: November 2010
Publisher: Harlequin
Length: 215 pages
FTC: Received for free at an RT Convention
Posted as part of the TBR Challenge

 It starts with some anonymous groping in a crowded elevator...

I've never read a Jade Lee/Kathy Lyons book that I can recall. My issues with this one may be just rural, sheltered naivete. Having someone press an erection against me in a crowded elevator would creep me right out, but hey, maybe I'm in the minority?

Sourcebooks releasing new edition of Anne of Green Gables series

I'm not normally super excited by publisher marketing emails. Some are interesting, but since this is a small little personal blog and not part of the great marketing machine, I rarely do more than the occasional tweet about info I receive. (Sorry, publishers)

BUT! I just got one from Sourcebooks that made me smile. Anne of Green Gables is being rereleased in new editions! I'm a huge L.M. Montgomery fan, so it also brightened my day to see her lesser known books slated for re-release, too.

You can find out more at Sourcebook's L.M. Montgomery page.

Anyone else excited? I admit, I'm more of an Emily of New Moon fan, but I enjoyed all of LMM's books as a young girl.


Quickie Review: Guarding a Notorious Lady by Olivia Parker

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pub Date: June 2011
Publisher: Avon
Length: 372 pages
FTC: Library book sale

It's been a long while since I've read an Avon historical romance. To be honest, I've become a little bitter about the homogeneity of that publisher's offerings. They seem to be a bit like the Borg in that every author who joins them starts to sound exactly like all of the others. Avon has a strong brand and style, which can be helpful for debut and midlist authors, but it comes at a cost of strong authorial voice.   And while I enjoyed Guarding a Notorious Lady by Olivia Parker, I wish it had a more of the pizzazz I found in Parker's debut novel, The Bride Hunt Ball.

The only thing that sets this book apart is the humor. Although not as funny as the author's previous book, there is still a bunch of situational humor here. The main characters are interesting, even if the conflict seems a bit thin. And while the main characters are believably drawn, the secondary characters are little more than names on a page.

I wanted more emotion, more real danger earlier in the book, more of everything. Despite the caper-ish nature of the novel, it's a very passive book. Things happen to the heroine, but she doesn't really DO much. Unfortunately, this is a fun, but forgettable book. 

My Grade: C+

The Blurb:

Exquisite trouble . . .
A woman of pristine breeding, Lady Rosalind Devine is also an unrepentant meddler and snoop—which is why her brother refuses to leave her to her own devices while on his wedding trip. But Rosalind will not make things easy for any unseen,unwanted “nursemaid”—and vows to use her considerable wiles to expose her mystery guardian.
Nicholas Kincaid, the Marquess of Winterbourne, agreed to secretly guard his friend’s spoiled, stubborn sister, though her infuriating penchant for mischief is causing him to question his decision. Though bound by the rules of society—and friendship—Rosalind’s spirit and sensuality have sparked a fierce desire in Nicholas to play a very different role in her life,one that entails passion, ecstasy . . .and unavoidable scandal.


Review: Hajar's Hidden Legacy by Maisey Yates

Format: ebook
Pub Date: December 1, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin
Length: 190 pages
FTC: Was a free promo on Kindle

Despite interacting with the author on Twitter, this is the very first book of hers that I have read. I was waiting for the book with the heroine named Amber *ahem* but this one happened to be free, so there ya go.

Full disclosure: I'm not normally an HP reader. I'm not normally a category romance reader when it comes down to it. So there are probably things that regular readers of this line would notice that I did not.

Hajar's Hidden Legacy is pretty much a straight forward Beauty and the Beast book. It's even part of the "Beasts of the Desert" series, which means it's not trying to be subtle about it. Since it's been so long since I've read a Harlequin Presents novel, I wasn't sure what to expect. But I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of story Yates manages to squeeze into such a short page count.