Review: The Unleashing by Shelly Laurenston

Format: Trade paperback
Pub Date: March 2015
Publisher: Kensington
Length: 400 pages
FTC: Purchased myself

Shelly Laurenston's books are always a bit weird. She has a very unique sense of humor that is the only truly constant thing about her books. You can find it in her GA Aiken dragon books and her shapeshifter books as Laurenston. And it is very present here, too.  The very premise of the Unleashing is weird. You have Norse mythology combined with trademark over-the-top badass women in a way no one else but Laurenston could come close to pulling off. She just writes the craziest thing imaginable, then expects you to just roll with it. And for the most part, it works.

It took me a bit to get over the initial weirdness, but I really ended up liking the book. It wasn't as good as some of the shapeshifter books (I have a soft spot for a few of those), but it was definitely something I'd read again. Placing Kera, the uptight Marine, into the middle of chaos made for some entertaining drama. The romantic element is not the main part of the story, so definitely don't expect most of the tension to be the relationship. Far more time is spent watching Kera acclimate to her new life and abilities. Despite the battle scenes, the conflict is almost entirely between Kera and her fellow Crows. It's essentially a fish out of water story with some weirdness for garnish.  The romance is a distant second, which is the main thing I found disappointing here.

My Grade: B

The Blurb:

Kera Watson never expected to face death behind a Los Angeles coffee shop. Not after surviving two tours lugging an M16 around the Middle East. If it wasn’t for her hot Viking customer showing up too late to help, nobody would even see her die.

In uncountable years of service to the Allfather Odin, Ludvig “Vig” Rundstrom has never seen anyone kick ass with quite as much style as Kera. He knows one way to save her life—but she might not like it. Signing up with the Crows will get Kera a new set of battle buddies: cackling, gossiping, squabbling, party-hearty women. With wings. So not the Marines.

But Vig can’t give up on someone as special as Kera. With a storm of oh-crap magic speeding straight for L.A., survival will depend on combining their strengths: Kera’s discipline, Vig’s loyalty… and the Crows’ sheer love of battle. Boy, are they in trouble.


Review: Cursed Moon (Prospero's War Book 2) by Jaye Wells

Format: Trade Paperback
Pub Date: August 2014
Length: 370 pages
FTC: Borrowed from the library

I read the first book in this series shortly after sitting next to the author in the audience of an RT panel back in May. I really liked it. It's a smooth blend of mystery, police procedural, and urban fantasy. It's very light on the "woo woo" for those who are paranormal-ed out. There's a gritty, noir feel to the whole world which I adored. And I really liked the main character, Kate Prospero, a detective with the Babylon PD, a recovering potion addict, and a struggling guardian to a teenage brother. I finished book 1, and immediately went to download book 2...only to discover that it was a Hachette book and therefore way too pricey for me to buy in e (10!). So I set it aside and moved onto the next book in my list.

Fast forward a few months. I have discovered a nifty program at the library that is grant funded and allows patrons to order books available on Amazon. They ship the book directly to you. When you're finished, you bring it back to the library where they can add it to the collection. Far more cost effective than paying $3-4 in postage for every library loan, and unlike ILL, patrons don't have to front that cost. So, I decided to Zip Books this one and hopefully get it added to our library (which is sorely lacking in UF and romance).

This one was just as good as the first, although I did have a few minor issues with it. It's the Blue Moon, and the city of Babylon is going nuts. To make matters exponentially worse, a criminal "Raven" named Dionysus has stolen a large amount of potion from one of the criminals in the city. The potion makes people sexually aggressive, and leads to numerous incidents of rape and sexual assault. Tied into the thefts are a couple of murders. Kate's two bosses (one from the police department, one from the task force to which she's assigned) spend much of the book jockeying over turf, with Kate and her colleagues caught in the middle.


Hump Day Classic Movie: Blackbeard's Ghost (1968)

Every once in awhile, Netflix coughs up a recommendation for a movie I haven't seen and end up loving. Blackbeard's Ghost is one of those. It features Peter Ustinov as the hilarious Captain Blackbeard, a selfish ghost who likes his rum too much.

I really loved this movie. It has that old-school feel, but because it wasn't made in today's sanitized family movie environment, it gets away with quite a lot. The hero of the story is played  by Dean Jones (of Love Bug fame), and watching him try to balance talking with ghost only he can see with not wanting to be thought bat-shit crazy is fun.

It's filled with quirky characters, a fantastic script, and overall great pacing, but honestly, Peter Ustinov steals the show. He's perfect in this.

Description from Netflix: In this Disney family favorite, Peter Ustinov, Dean Jones and a perky Suzanne Pleshette deliver plenty of laughs. A college track coach is desperate when he faces off against a group of racketeers who plan to turn his house into a casino. Out of options, he calls upon his ancestor, the great pirate Blackbeard, to defeat the motley crew of criminals. The film's special effects were groundbreaking for its time. Robert Stevenson directs.


Review: When A Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare

Format: Mass market, also available in e
Pub Date: Sept 2015
Publisher: Avon
Length: 376 pages
FTC: Purchased myself

Although I normally love Tessa Dare's books, this one just didn't measure up to her normally high standards. It's not terrible. In the sea of fluffy historical romance, it will still stand out. It's just not as deeply emotional as usual, and her distinctive voice has been muted. House style was a little heavy handed this time, Avon. :(

There are some redeeming qualities, for sure. The best of which is the not-yet-mating lobsters. I guess I was hoping for a bit more along the lines of Ravished by Amanda Quick: an almost fanatical devotion to her "hobby." I wanted there to be some real emotional investment in her talent, but I just didn't really get that from the book.  Even the claustrophobia and anxiety around crowds that Madeline suffers from didn't have the same emotional depth that I usually get from Dare's writing.  The confrontation with a soldier experiencing mental problems also failed to have the suspense  I was hoping for.

Maybe it's me, but it feels like this would have been a different, but so much better book, if Dare weren't aiming for the Avon style of light romance.  The humor is here, but it's not balanced with the emotional gut-punch that Dare normally delivers. The genre needs those emotionally resonant books. Fingers crossed for Dare's next book, because she's more than capable of writing that kind of story.

My Grade B-

The Blurb:
On the cusp of her first London season, Miss Madeline Gracechurch was shyly pretty and talented with a drawing pencil, but hopelessly awkward with gentlemen. She was certain to be a dismal failure on the London marriage mart. So Maddie did what generations of shy, awkward young ladies have done: she invented a sweetheart.

A Scottish sweetheart. One who was handsome and honorable and devoted to her, but conveniently never around. Maddie poured her heart into writing the imaginary Captain MacKenzie letter after letter … and by pretending to be devastated when he was (not really) killed in battle, she managed to avoid the pressures of London society entirely.

Until years later, when this kilted Highland lover of her imaginings shows up in the flesh. The real Captain Logan MacKenzie arrives on her doorstep—handsome as anything, but not entirely honorable. He’s wounded, jaded, in possession of her letters… and ready to make good on every promise Maddie never expected to keep.


Banned Books Week

I've missed most of Banned Books Week this year (see my previous post about my blog). But this is too important to let it pass completely by without saying something.

Shining a light on the books that are challenged and/or removed from school and public libraries across the country is so important. It happens nationwide. It happens where you'd least expect it. It happens under the 'think of the children' brigade of well meaning people. It happens. And it shouldn't.

People who are shocked by content in books are often instinctively driven to shield others from that shock. It's understandable. What parents in particular fail to grasp is that not everyone is the same. A cutting scene in a YA book may seem graphic and gratuitous to someone. For a child who cuts herself, it may help her feel less alone. Reading a book that shows kids doing objectionable things isn't going to drive a kid to imitate. It might open eyes and hearts and allow a little empathy to shine through towards that troubled child who does those things. Having books that show the ugliness of racism and bigotry is important, too. So are books about blended families. About homosexuality. About domestic violence. Because those situations and children are in our schools. They are in our communities.

The most frequent challenges are often based on sex and foul language. I find this one especially hilarious, because often those same parents are perfectly fine with that content in movies. But even if they're still restricting their kids to G rated movies at 13, kids will be exposed to that kind of content by living life, by listening to their peers, by being...a teen. 

Bottom line: You can absolutely decide what's appropriate for your child. Sheltering them from the "harsh realities" of life is your right as a parent. But you're also sheltering them from being empathetic. From being able to understand those who different from themselves. And you are NOT allowed to make decisions for what is appropriate for my child. That's what intellectual freedom is all about: choosing what you want to read and letting others do the same.

Review: Cold Burn of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Format: ebook, Trade paperback
Pub Date: May 2015
Publisher: Kensington
Length: 368 pages
FTC: ARC courtesy of the author/publisher at RT 15

Disclaimer: I do not normally read YA. At all. The closest I came to YA were books written before we carved out that demographic as a genre (Outsiders) or the latter Harry Potter books. So what I'm saying is I'm not your average YA blogger/reader. Make of it what you will.

I picked up this book at the RT Booklovers Convention held in Dallas back in May. I've had it in my car pretty much since then, because an emergency book is as important to me as a first aid kit. I have to have something to read and my phone doesn't always have battery life.

Enter soccer season.

I finally had some time where I could actually concentrate enough to read, and despite my misgivings about YA as a whole, this book just sounded fun. Plus it was written in first person *past* which I love. (First person, present is an auto-no for me which is a big reason for my YA resistance). 

This book is the first in the Black Blade series. Unlike a ton of fantasy series' first books, Jennifer Estep does not bore you to tears with the world building. It's there, but it builds organically. No info dumping. No dense explanation of what makes the world different. Nothing to drag you out of the storytelling, which is nothing short of fabulous.


Hump Day Classic Movie: It Happened One Night (1934)

It Happened One Night

This is one of the oldest movies I've really enjoyed.  Normally, some of those before the 1940s are cursed with the overacting that resulted from the switch from stage to screen and silent to talkies. Not so this one. It's fantastic and Clark Gable is a total hottie in it.

The movie also stars Claudette Colbert who nails the clueless, naive, but determined socialite on the run from a wedding she no longer wants.  There is lots of humor and charm in the script. The acting is superb. It's definitely held up well in the 81 years since it was released. 81 years!

You can watch it on Amazon Prime. It's also available on DVD.

The Slowly Withering Blog

Looking at this year, it has been a BAD year for my blogging. But then, it's been a bad year for reading, too. I've watched my reading time dwindle to almost nothing, and to make matters worse, that one book a month I managed to squeeze in just wasn't working for me. None of them were working.  If the choice was between playing Criminal Case on my phone or reading, honestly? I'm picking playing a game. I have no wish to read. No excitement about reading.

Part of this was a result of being overbooked in real life. My oldest just finished up 6th grade and his hugely important watershed program. Which meant all last year was eaten up in nonstop fundraising. Now that that's over, I'm starting to see the light, but the problem remains: there are so few books I care to read. SO FEW BOOKS.

There are hundreds published every month or two in romance, but it seems like most are just not what I'm interested in. I don't like dark romances. I don't like the high concept Regency. I don't care to read New Adult. I'm not fond of YA, although I recently finished one that bucked that trend. (Review to come). The erotic romance/romance line has become so blurred, it really doesn't matter anymore. Basically, the genre has moved far, far away from my reading taste, and as a result? I'm not finding books that get me excited about reading again. So I've scaled back my time in Romancelandia. I'm still reading Urban Fantasy. I'm reading mystery. Romance? Not so much.

All of that is to say that changes are coming to the blog. Hopefully positive ones, since it's FALL BAKING SEASON. I watched a ton of cool classic movies over the summer that I'll be featuring on Wednesdays. And I'll be reviewing some books in genres I've neglected over the last few years. Here's to the fall blog reset.


Hump Day Classic Movie: The Trouble with Harry (1955)

I've been using my DVD Netflix subscription this summer like crazy, catching up on my suspense and film noir queue. (My internet is too pokey to reliably stream). So far, the highlight has been this dark comedy with a very young Shirley MacLaine.

I like to think of this as the original Weekend at Bernies. Poor Harry is dead, and so many people in this small town are trying to cover up his death. He is stumbled upon—literally—by person after person. Instead of getting help, they are all convinced they somehow accidentally killed him. 

The Trouble with Harry is part screwball comedy, part quirky small town, and part mystery. Hitchcock goes a little over-the-top with the physical humor, and the romantic part of the story irritates me. No, wait...that's MacLaine. I've never been a fan. There's enough sly humor, though, to make me chuckle. I really enjoyed how genre-defying the movie was. There aren't many out there like this one.

The Netflix description: Alfred Hitchcock's second American comedy demonstrates the director's flair for gallows humor. The trouble with Harry is ... he's "expired," and the residents of a quaint New England tourist spot just can't seem to get rid of him. Shirley MacLaine makes her film debut, and that's Jerry Mathers (the Beave himself) as the bewildered boy. See if you can spot Hitchcock in his customary cameo (hint: he's strolling past a limo).

You can find it on Netflix or on Amazon here.


TBR Challenge Review: Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennett

Format: mass market
Pub Date: January 2014
Publisher: Berkley Sensation (Penguin Random)
Length: 317 pages
FTC: Received for free at RT15

After last month's outlandishly early scheduling of my TBR Challenge post, I should have known I would fail at being punctual this month. This time, it was me going on vacation and forgetting the darn book at home. Oh well. The theme for the challenge was Lovely RITA, and I was so happy to find one right at the top of the TBR pile from RT back in May.  Bitter Spirits is up for a RITA this month at the RWA conference.

Although this is a paranormal historical romance, I think the "woo woo" stuff would get a pass from some with paranormal fatigue. There are no werewolves or vampires here. There are, as the name hints, some ghosts and spirits. There is also some Chinese mysticism, some seance-y stuff, and other more common paranormal elements. But it is shapeshifter and vamp free.

I've been pretty excited to try this series because it is something fairly outside of the norm in terms of historical romance. It's set in San Francisco which is so very rare. If you can find a US set historical, they're usually New York or Texas. It takes place during Prohibition (yay!) and has all of that jazz age cool going for it. The hero, a bootlegger,  is first generation American from a Swedish family and the heroine is an independent woman making a living as a stage medium. Everything about this book is fresh and appealed to me.


TBR Challenge Review: Dragon Actually by G.A. Aiken

Format: ebook
Pub Date: 2008
Publisher: Samhain/Zebra (print)
Length: 352 pages (includes prequel novella)
FTC: Purchased myself

Ok, so I cheated with this one. I DO have this book in print somewhere in my TBR, but since that book is currently boxed up and inaccessible, I bought a copy last month in e. *hangs head in shame*
But once I do find the print copy, I think I can finally let go of it, share it, pass it on.

I have several G.A. Aiken books in my TBR. The newer ones are *not* boxed up, and I suspect I'll be reading those shortly. This one I picked up because my RT Convention roommate shamed me into it. I LOVE Shelly Laurenston's books. And yet, for some reason, I had not read her as G.A. Aiken. There's no real explanation other than they didn't really appeal the first few times I picked them up. I love funny books, and this author is ALWAYS funny.


Brokedown Cowboy by Maisey Yates

Format: ebook, mass market paperback
Pub Date: May 26, 2015
Publisher: Harlequin
Length: 368 pages
FTC: ARC courtesy of the publisher

It's a happy, happy day when I get to read a book by Maisey Yates. She has a very strong writing voice which is funny, emotional, and not just a little bit sarcastic. Most are also on the lighter side, although that is not the case with this one.  All of that is to say that I tend to start every Maisey book predisposed to like it. It's also a friends-to-lovers story which are like catnip for me.

This is the second book in the Copper Ridge trilogy. I've read the first one, but of course didn't review it because I'm the laziest blogger on the planet. Or busiest. Whatever. We meet most of the characters in book one, but this is definitely a stand alone novel.


RT Convention: Day 3

Friday was kind of a chill day at RT, at least for me. Unlike Thursday, which had so much that appealed on the agenda, there wasn't all that much I wanted to see Friday.

I went to the Shooting Stars Gala where I sat at the lovely Delores Fossen's table. It was basically glorified Bingo (I swear there were 3 reader panels that were bingo related), but it was nice to sit and chat in a more relaxed atmosphere with authors.

Review: Kissing Under the Mistletoe by Marina Adair

Format: ebook
Pub Date: 2012
Publisher: Montlake
Length: 309 pages
FTC: Purchased myself

I am still clawing my way out of the Reading Slump That Will Not Die, so I took to Twitter to find some new-to-me authors who are similar to those whose books nearly always work for me (specifically Jill Shalvis and Maisey Yates).  Twitter, as always, came through. One of the authors suggested was Marina Adair.

I'm not sure how I ended up choosing this particular book, since it's a Christmas book, but it definitely fit the bill for what I was looking for: lighter, FUNNY romance. The set up is pretty simple: single mom Regan lands in Napa Valley with a new job prospect and a huge dollop of hope that things in her life will get easier. Soon she learns that her past has caught up with her and that her own personal nemesis is sabotaging her hopes and dreams again.


RT Convention Day 2

Thursday started out wondering where our morning events went. RT used to hold breakfast events, but this year, there was only one. After braving the epic coffee line, I "crashed" a bookseller/librarian panel with Jill Shalvis and Eloisa James (it was open to everyone, but I was the only blogger/reader there).

The panel was on curating the perfect romance collection and featured some brainstorming about how to get the word out about events, how to gather a good, representational selection of romance, and how to play around with displays to cross sell with other genres.


RT Wrap Up Day 1

I'm officially back from Dallas and the RT Booklover's Convention. As always, it's a truly magical experience to immerse yourself in a sea of other book people—most of whom read the types of books you do. Especially when you read romance and can't find people in your day to day life to talk books with.

This is my 4th RT, and I made a deliberate attempt to go to the more informational panels rather than the social ones. Don't get me wrong, the parties are usually fun, but I love the almost reporter like hat I get to wear as I live tweet the panels where new ideas, writing advice, and publishing updates are shared.

Wednesday's highlight was a Contemporary Romance panel featuring Sylvia Day, Liliana Hart, Jennifer Probst, Jill Shalvis and Julie Ann Walker.

Sylvia Day shared that the death of the mass market and the rise of the audio book were two turns in publishing that surprised her--although she doesn't usually pay too much attention to what's trendy. I'd have to agree (while also lamenting the fact because I LOATHE trade paperbacks.)

As for keeping sex scenes fresh, the entire panel agreed that if you're struggling to write a sex scene, that if it's feeling stale, it's because it doesn't belong there. Sex should move the plot or relationship forward. The story should not make sense without it. I think that's something most readers agree with, also.

More to come...

Review: Cordelia's Corinthian by Victoria Hinshaw

Format: Mass market paperback (OOP, unavailable in e)
Pub Date: May 2004
Publisher: Zebra Kensington
Length: 219 pages
FTC: Purchased used

This month's theme is Kickin' it Old School (at least 10 years old). I have plenty of those in the TBR, but I particularly love the old print Regencies that they don't make anymore. I haven't had a lot of luck finding many new entries of these tame gems in the ebook world. I miss them.

This one falls into the spinster/poor relation category. Corey (WTH is up with *that* name?) decides to help her very pregnant cousin with her children as Corey tries to figure out what to do about her future. Her parents are spending their money bailing her older brother out of trouble, so she feels like she must soon seek employment to better support them. A plot device that had me giving the side eye to this book early on.

It's Corey's bad luck that her cousin's confinement is coinciding with a traditional fishing tournament hosted by her cousin's husband. (Way to support your wife, jackass). The men in attendance are well known pranksters, and Corey is less than thrilled to have her visit interrupted by them.

The main problem with this book is that everyone except the heroine is a gigantic ass. They are self absorbed, deceitful, manipulative, childish... Even the hero. And there's a big pile of fishing filler. Like, everything you never wanted to know about fly fishing in the 19th century in teeny, tiny detail. Right down to which bugs are hatching. ZZZ.

I never really cared about the romance or any of the characters. It was a big pile of meh. This isn't the worst book out there, but there are definitely better ones.

My Grade: D+

The Blurb:
Cordelia Bransford, a spinster at twenty-four, is happy to spend a few months at Lodesham Hall helping her expectant cousin care for her three little children. Among the guests attending the Earl's annual fishing tourney is Lord Matthew Allerton, a man with a reputation for more than his share of youthful scandal. Cory vows to resist his good looks and easy charm, believing his flirtatious manner is nothing more than habit. No dashing rakehell could possibly be tamed by a vicar's unsophisticated daughter...

Matt has spent the last few months recovering from his Waterloo injuries, and is much in need of pleasant diversion. He delights in teaching Corey and the children the fine art of angling, despite her witty dismissal of his flirtatious advances. She is refreshingly unlike the frivolous young ladies he's known--and now that he actually wants a woman to take him seriously, Matt is dismayed by Corey's absolute refusal to do so! But her love is a prize indeed--and her hand is well worth winning...


Headed to RT

Despite my lack of blogging, I'm still going to the RT Booklovers Convention. It's my annual sanity break from the boys. I love them dearly, but let's face it: they're boys.

This year, the convention is being held in Dallas which I'm kind of meh about. I've been there, done that. Next year is Vegas and ditto. So I don't have to worry about any sightseeing while I'm there. I might even get to eat between sessions. (Hahahahahaha).

If you're coming, please try to find me! I usually forget to introduce myself by my blog/twitter handle. I'll be AMBER...before I remember to say my blog name a few minutes later.

The best part of these conventions is that they are made for shy, introverts, too. And if you live in BFE like I do, they give you a rare chance to truly chat face to face with other readers who like what you read. It's a powerful thing.


TBR Challenge Review: Cold Sight by Leslie Parrish

Pub Date: July 2010
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
Format: Mass Market
Length: 345 pages
FTC: Purchased from Borders (*sniffle*)

I remember hearing tons of buzz about this when it first came out, but I was on a non-paranormal kick then. I did grab it up when Borders was liquidating, though, along with the 2nd book and final book Parrish (aka Leslie Kelly and Leslie A. Kelly) published in the series. I had heard the sales of the Extrasensory Agents series were disappointing, which is too bad since I really ended up liking both books.


Hump Day Classic Movie: Double Indemnity (1944)

There are a lot of noir films out there.  Finding a place to start can be intimidating. Fortunately, Google is my best friend. If I find a movie on multiple Top 10 lists, I bump it up in my Netflix queue. Double Indemnity is on just about every list out there. It's iconic, not the least because of Barbara Stanwyck's performance. I spotted a clip featuring her scene in the bath towel playing in the background on NCIS last night.

Fred MacMurray, probably best known for his Disney goofball roles in the Absent Minded Professor and the The Shaggy Dog, plays an insurance agent who winds up getting in over his head with an unhappy housewife who manipulates him into planning the murder of her husband.

Directed by Billy Wilder (who co-wrote the screenplay with Raymond Chandler, based on James Cain's book) the movie has some intricate, razor-sharp dialogue. There's plenty of action, too, but to get the most out of this movie, you have to really listen.


TBR Challenge Review: Like No Other Lover by Julie Anne Long

Format: mass market paperback
Length: 371 pages
Pub Date: 2008
Publisher: Avon
FTC: purchased used

This is one of those series that everyone seems to love...but I honestly can't remember if I've read any of the other entries in it. I may have read I Kissed an Earl, but I have no record of it. It sounds really familiar. I hate my memory sometimes. Anyway, I think this qualifies for this month's theme, since I am *really* behind on the series. I'm especially behind everyone else who has read the series because they're all breathlessly awaiting Lyon's book. I'm back at #2. We'll just call this month's theme "aka Late to the Party."

I love Julia Anne Long's voice. Her writing is so evocative, you just sink into the story. It's sly and witty without being too obvious about it. I found myself smiling at turns of phrase, just because. And the characters were all uniformly well formed. There are no cardboard secondary characters here.


Why high ebook prices are insulting for readers

It's rare that I piggyback onto a Dear Author post. Usually, I just pop into the comment section or hop onto Twitter to chime in, but today's post struck a nerve for me. I'm just going to write my reaction in my usual, meandering style.

I'm reading the Clare Fergusson series by Julia Spencer-Fleming right now. Or rather, I WAS reading it. Until I went to buy the next installment and discovered that Minotaur has set the ebook price at $9.99. The rest of the series is priced at $7.99, but that particular volume is out of print in mass market. $9.99 for a book printed in 2006. I'm not paying that. I can afford to pay it, but I'm simply not going to.


Review: Fountain Filled With Blood by Julia Spencer-Fleming

Format: ebook
Pub Date: April 2010
Publisher: Minotaur (Macmillan)
Length: 348 pages
FTC: Purchased myself

Yes, I'm very late to the Clare Fergusson series. I read In the Bleak Midwinter three years ago, but hadn't picked up any other book in the series. When the Reading Slump That Will Not Die grabbed ahold of me this last year, I decided it was time to bring back mysteries to my reading and the blog. So naturally, I thought of this series and purchased book 2.

I'm a very secular person. I don't attend church. Any church. Ever. And I tend to intensely dislike even the hint of infidelity in my reading. Which is what makes it so improbable that I'd like this series so much, but I really, really do.

Clare Fergusson is an Episcopal priest living in rural New York. A retired army helicopter pilot, she's attracted the danger of Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne's work. She's also reluctantly attracted to the man behind the title...the very married man. To complicate things further, he is reluctantly attracted to her as well. It's there. They're aware of it. But so far (this is book 2, after all) are doing their damnedest to avoid acting on it while trying to stay friends. Because they do click on a personal level that neither one wants to give up.


TBR Challenge Review: How to Misbehave by Ruthie Knox

Format: ebook
Pub Date: January 2013
Publisher: Loveswept (Random House)
Length: 121 pages
FTC: purchased myself

Only 10 days tardy with this post. Yea! This month's TBR Challenge theme was Recommended Reads.  With the Reading Slump That Will Not Die, I'm pretty much stuck in recommended read territory anyway. I've taken to Twitter to help me find anything in my stack of books that is going to be GOOD. And I've been mostly staying away from romance because of the RSTWND. But since I somehow hadn't read Ruthie Knox (that I remember), and this came highly recommended, AND the heroine is named AMBER, I decided this one would do. It happened to be in my digital TBR. Probably was on sale at some point.

How to Misbehave is a prequel novella to Knox's Camelot series. And contrary to previous experiences with characters named Amber, this Amber is a smart, if young and inexperienced, person with a real job and real thoughts. What a refreshing change!


TBR Challenge Review: Imagine Me and You by Maisey Yates

Format: ebook
Pub Date: June 1, 2013
Publisher: HQN (Harlequin)
FTC: purchased by me

You'd think this month's theme would be conducive to me actually getting my review up early, but nope. As usual, I'm squeaking in under the wire. I bought this last year intending to read it because Maisey was nominated for a RITA. I didn't. I suck.

Imagine Me and You was part of an anthology headlined by Lori Foster called Animal Attraction, but I'm honestly (don't hate me) not a huge Lori Foster fan. But since I am really fond of Maisey's voice AND this is another friends to lovers story (I seriously can never get enough of those) I decided to dig this out of the digital TBR.

Samantha and Jace have been friends ever since high school. So it's not that surprising that Sam would turn to Jace when her lease runs out and she needs a place to stay. Even if it means bringing her giant, messy dog into Jace's immaculate house. Things take an unexpected turn, however, when the close quarters makes them both confront the blazing hot attraction they've been ignoring for years.

Jace is an interesting character: his mother was a hoarder, which means he likes things neat, tidy, and sterile. Letting Samantha move in with her dog is a huge concession from him, given his intense dislike of disorder. Sam is a bit of a free spirit, with her only constant in life being her best friend, Jace.

This is one of those stories where I wish it were a longer, full-length book. I wanted more of everything. My only gripe was that Jace seems to "get over" his love of order awfully quickly. Even with love-goggles, that's a bit of a stretch for me.  The best part of the book, as always, is the humor. Maisey Yates writes fantastic dialogue. The story is just intrinsically funny without being obvious about it. Definitely worth a read.

My Grade: B+


Review: Binary Witness by Rosie Claverton

Pub Date: May 2014
Format: ebook
Publisher: Carina (Harlequin/Harper Collins)
Length: 213 pages per Amazon
Why I picked it up: Recommended by several people on Twitter
FTC: Paid for by me

In my continuing efforts to thoroughly vanquish this reading slump, I'm switching up my genres. I recently asked for mystery recs on Twitter, my go-to place for peer recommendations, and several people responded with this series by Rosie Claverton.  After safely making it through the Kindle sample, I bought it. And I managed to read it in 3 days which these days is something of a miracle. Gone are the days I can read a book in a few hours. There's simply too much on my plate to have that much uninterrupted time.

I had hoped to keep up my good luck by sticking with print, but this book is a digital-first one, which means no print copy is available as of yet (if ever).

Although I liked the book, my biggest irritant was not really the book's fault: I kept getting distracted by the British slang throughout the story. I'm a devoted Sherlock watcher. Well, BBC mystery anything, really. I can usually puzzle out most British figures of speech without pausing, but there was so much of it (understandable given the nationality of the author (British) and the setting (Wales) that I was repeatedly dragged out of the story. It broke my reading flow, which in turn caused me to get distracted by the million other things I have going on. Which is why it took me three days to read 200 pages.


How Do You Defeat a Mega Slump?

It's no secret that I've been suffering through a serious reading slump.  The emptiness of the blog last year is a testament to that.

The anatomy of a slump for me is this:

Too many real life obligations (kids, kids' sports, school volunteering etc).
Too many unsatisfying reads in a row
Genre fatigue
Social Media kerfuffle exhaustion

In short, I had no time to read and didn't like what little I managed. I tried mixing up length. I tried doing audio. I tried rereads. I tried limiting my online interactions. Nothing seemed to work. 

And not being able to read was making me bitchy. Not just a little bit, but full on mega-bitch. I wasn't happy about not reading, but I couldn't seem to find my enthusiasm. I'm still struggling to find it. Reading used to be fun, but lately it's become a chore. I've stopped reading ARCs for the most part because it wasn't fair to the authors I was reading. Books that may have worked for me when I was in a normal reading mood were just not cutting it for me. My DNF pile was rivaling my TBR one.

I'm still not back to where I used to be, but I've made some important changes to help ease me back into reading. The first one is seeking out non-romance recommendations. I'm going to try to bring the mystery books back to the blog.

The second one is making better use of my alone time at night. I'm going to try for a blog post per week, even if it's not a review. I have plenty to blather about that isn't just grading a recent read.

The third is to head back to print. I've had better luck lately with physical books than ebooks. I'm not sure if that's because I tend to read on my phone and am easily distracted by texts or calls, or if it's just because the physical book stares at me, reminding me to read it, while the Kindle app is easily hidden.

Has anyone else had this problem? How did you fix it? I'd love to hear some other ideas.


Why Asking Your Readers to Fund Your Creative Process is Wrong

If you've been on social media the last day or two and are part of the book community, you probably saw the kerfuffle about the crowd-funding campaign by author Stacey Jay. In her now-cancelled campaign, she asks her readers to help raise $10,000 to help her produce her next book. But here's the kicker: most of that money was not earmarked for editing, cover art or any of the other admittedly expensive things that must be done to a finished manuscript prior to publication. This money was for LIVING EXPENSES while she sits back and writes the book! It's not written yet.

Here are some of the arguments I've heard that are supportive of the idea:

1. It's like an advance, something traditional publishers used to do all of the time.

2. Artists need to eat like everyone else.

3. It's voluntary. Don't like it? Don't contribute.

4. It's a commission. There is risk involved. All Kickstarter members know this going in.

5. Lots of Kickstarters pay their staff.

To understand what the fuss is about, you need to first understand that this is part of a trend. Most people made uncomfortable about this aren't objecting based on just this Kickstarter. [Full disclosure, I have contributed to two Kickstarters: the Veronica Mars Kickstarter and the Reading Rainbow one]

When I object to this, I do so knowing this is a trend that if sanctioned as an "ok" thing to do will continue to proliferate. It will grow. And I do NOT want to see that happen.


Review: Night Shift by Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Lisa Shearin, Milla Vane

Pub Date: December 2014
Publisher: Berkley (Penguin)
Length: 378 pages
Format: mass market paperback (also available in e)
FTC: Purchased by me at Safeway

Happy New Year! Here's hoping that this year doesn't suck as badly as last year did regarding reading and blogging for me. Ugh, but it was a tough year.

I've managed to finish a book, though, and for the most part was very pleased with it. It's an Urban Fantasy anthology with four stories in it. I went into this without any marketing buzz because I was too busy to procrastinate on Twitter much during the fall. So yea! It wasn't tired by the time I got to it.